Jun 272020
 


BIS/OWI Battle of Britain. Children in an English bomb shelter 1940/41

 

Texas Hospital CEO: Covid Inpatient Count ‘Misinterpreted’ (JTN)
The Many Health Problems Caused By COVID19 (R.)
Museum of Human Rights CEO Resigns After Allegations Of Systemic Racism (CP)
Amsterdam Ejects Airbnb et al From Three Central Districts (TC)
UK to Scrap Quarantine For Travel to Greece (GR)
The Central Bank “Bailout of Everything” Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)
Bait and Switch (Jim Kunstler)
Comey Miniseries Gets Pre-Election Airdate (JTN)

 

 

Sorry I’m late, but I walked away from my machine earlier today and went out for an early beer outside in the still wonderfully still city of Athens, because it is all too depressing to see things getting so much worse fast, not better.

I’m starting to feel like one of those reporters, if not lawyers, who listen to police scanners and chase ambulances for a living. There must have been disaster movies made that depict this kind of pandemic, but I can’t imagine any of them portraying the levels of ignorance and incompetence we’re witnessing in real life here.

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 26 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 194.190.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 46,409
• Brazil + 46,860
• India + 18,002

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had enough of this “it’s not so bad” stuff. Half a million dead people means you be careful with claims like that.

This particular piece wants to tell you that hospitalized people may have some other ailment too, but then if you read on you see that not even everyone who enters a hospital is tested(!) for COVID19.

Which makes it a non-story right there.

Texas Hospital CEO: COVID Inpatient Count ‘Misinterpreted’ (JTN)

Health officials in Texas are logging every single COVID-19-positive hospital patient in the state as a COVID-19 hospitalization, even if the patients themselves are admitted seeking treatment for something other than the coronavirus. That policy may be serving to artificially inflate what ostensibly seems like a significant COVID-19 surge in the state. Texas has lately been the focal point of national anxiety over concerns that a “second wave” of the coronavirus has begun there after the state began reopening nearly two months ago. COVID-19 hospitalizations there have been on a steady upward track for about the last two weeks, per the state’s coronavirus dashboard, which on Thursday recorded about 4,400 coronavirus hospitalizations in the state.


But at least part of that trend may be due to liberal coding policies by state officials. Lindsey Rosales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, confirmed to Just the News this week that the state is categorizing every inpatient in the state with a positive COVID-19 test as a COVID-19 hospitalization. “The number of hospitalized patients includes patients with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 even if the person is admitted to the hospital for a different reason,” Rosales said. Asked if inpatients in the state are tested for COVID-19 whenever they arrive for treatment, Rosales said, “Hospitals set their own protocols for determining when and if to test patients for COVID-19.”

Read more …

“Scientists just beginning to understand…”

I haven’t said it in a while, but it’s still true: we don’t know anything yet.

A lot of infected people who don’t die from COVID19 are not going to recover, and will be incapacitated for years. Who’s going to pay?

The Many Health Problems Caused By COVID19 (R.)

Scientists are only starting to grasp the vast array of health problems caused by the novel coronavirus, some of which may have lingering effects on patients and health systems for years to come, according to doctors and infectious disease experts. Besides the respiratory issues that leave patients gasping for breath, the virus that causes COVID-19 attacks many organ systems, in some cases causing catastrophic damage. “We thought this was only a respiratory virus. Turns out, it goes after the pancreas. It goes after the heart. It goes after the liver, the brain, the kidney and other organs. We didn’t appreciate that in the beginning,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.

In addition to respiratory distress, patients with COVID-19 can experience blood clotting disorders that can lead to strokes, and extreme inflammation that attacks multiple organ systems. The virus can also cause neurological complications that range from headache, dizziness and loss of taste or smell to seizures and confusion. And recovery can be slow, incomplete and costly, with a huge impact on quality of life. The broad and diverse manifestations of COVID-19 are somewhat unique, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. With influenza, people with underlying heart conditions are also at higher risk of complications, Khan said. What is surprising about this virus is the extent of the complications occurring outside the lungs. Khan believes there will be a huge healthcare expenditure and burden for individuals who have survived COVID-19.

Patients who were in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator for weeks will need to spend extensive time in rehab to regain mobility and strength. “It can take up to seven days for every one day that you’re hospitalized to recover that type of strength,” Khan said. “It’s harder the older you are, and you may never get back to the same level of function.” While much of the focus has been on the minority of patients who experience severe disease, doctors increasingly are looking to the needs of patients who were not sick enough to require hospitalization, but are still suffering months after first becoming infected.

Read more …

Picked this because of a new term for me: “othering”.

Is that a noun or also a verb?

Please advise me.

Do I “other” you when I say you’re beautiful?

Museum of Human Rights CEO Resigns After Allegations Of Systemic Racism (CP)

The president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has resigned following recent allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and claims of sexual harassment at the Winnipeg facility. The museum’s board of trustees says John Young has agreed that it is in the best interest of the museum that he step down, effective immediately. “We will act quickly to improve museum processes and our policies, and to rebuild relationships and trust with our staff and those we have let down, especially the Black and Indigenous communities, people of colour and LGBTQ2+ communities,” board chairwoman Pauline Rafferty said Thursday in a news release.“We apologize unreservedly for what has happened and we know that the fight against systemic racism, homophobia, inequality and all forms of othering must be ongoing, and must be a priority.”

Read more …

Fine by me, I’m no fan, but pretty ironic they do it at a time when there are no tourists around.

Amsterdam Ejects Airbnb et al From Three Central Districts (TC)

Another brick in the wall for vacation rental platforms: Amsterdam is booting Airbnb and other such platforms from three districts in the city’s old center from July 1, further tightening its rules for such services. In other districts in the famous city of canals, vacation rentals will only be permitted with a permit from next Wednesday, still for a maximum of 30 nights per year. The latest tightening of the city’s rules on Airbnb and similar platforms comes after a period of consultation with residents and organizations which city authorities say drew 780 responses — a full 75% of which supported banning the platforms from operating in the three central districts. “This [consultation] indicates that the subject is very much alive among Amsterdammers.


What is striking is that no less than 75% are in favor of a ban on holiday rentals in the three districts, said deputy mayor Laurens Ivens in a press release.. Furthermore, Ivens said the consultation exercise showed some support for a citywide ban on such platforms. However current pan-EU rules — notably the European Services Directive — limit how cities can respond to public sentiment against such services. Hence Amsterdam applying the ban to specific districts where it has been able to confirm tourism leads to major disruption.

Read more …

Countries that are not welcome in the EU: US, North Macedonia, Sweden, UK, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

UK to Scrap Quarantine For Travel to Greece (GR)

The UK government confirmed on Saturday that will scrap the requirement for holidaymakers to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK for trips Greece, France and Spain. Britons are among the biggest national groups visiting Greece every year but flights from the UK, which has seen a high rate of Covid-19 infections, are currently barred from Greek airports until at least June 30. The requirement for a 14-day quarantine was a major disincentive for British tourists. Instead of the quarantine there will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus.

The Telegraph reported that as many as 50 countries could be included in the quarantine-free list when it is published on Wednesday, with restrictions lifted as soon as July 6. The move comes as Greek minister of Tourism told Reuters that the country hopes to be able to set up an “air bridge” with Britain that would allow British tourists to visit from mid-July. “I think that the most realistic prospect is around the middle of July to remove barriers from both sides,” minister Harry Theocharis told Reuters, adding that Greece was also waiting European Union guidelines on the issue. “We will keep looking at the (epidemiological) data and confirm this perhaps a few days before the middle of July,” he added.

Meanwhile, Greece’s hopes to welcome American visitors on July 1 are hanging by a thread as the European Union is considering barring tourists from the hard-hit United States at least until July 15. According to Greece’s state broadcaster ERT, the residents of a total of nine countries may be barred from visiting the nation until further notice due to epidemiological data as well as recent spikes in the number of coronavirus cases in these areas. While the information has yet to be officially confirmed by the European Union, the nine countries are reported to be: the United States, North Macedonia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Read more …

Yes, but… Look, at some point it’s not enough just stating the obvious.

Difficult questions aplenty, but let’s see some answers.

The Central Bank “Bailout of Everything” Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)

Despite massive government and central bank stimuli, the global economy is seeing a concerning rise in defaults and delinquencies. The main central banks’ balance sheets (those of the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank, Bank of England, and People’s Bank Of China) have soared to a combined $20 trillion, while the fiscal easing announcements in the major economies exceed 7 percent of the world’s GDP according to Fitch Ratings. This is the biggest combined stimulus plan in history. However, businesses are closing at a record pace and unemployment has reached extremely elevated levels in many countries.

There is an important risk in what I call the “bailout of everything,” or the conscious decision by governments and central banks to provide any needed support to all sectors and companies with access to debt. Most of these stimulus packages and liquidity measures are aimed at supporting current government spending and providing liquidity to companies with assets, with access to debt, and in traditional sectors. It is not a surprise, then, that at the same time as we see the largest fiscal and monetary support plan since World War II, we are already witnessing two dangerous collateral effects: the rise of zombie companies and the collapse of small businesses and startups.

According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the figure of global corporate bond defaults has risen to $50 billion in the second quarter of 2020 despite historic low interest rates and high liquidity. Additionally, according to Deutsche Bank and the Bank of International Settlements, the number of zombie companies in the eurozone and the US, large companies that cannot cover their interest expenses with operating profits, has rocketed to new all-time highs. In 2019 Professors Petroulakis (ECB) and Andrews (OECD) stated, “Europe’s productivity problem is partly due to the rise of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for others”. This problem is only increasing in the current crisis.

Read more …

Kamala Harris is roadkill. All the rest are non-entities.

Bait and Switch (Jim Kunstler)

Suspicious minds may be prompted to wonder whether years of fake news from Wokesterdom’s media allies have finally produced the ultimate hoax: a completely fake candidate for president. Mr. Biden has gone-to-ground for three months since sweeping the Super Tuesday primaries by some strange coup of polling station magic. No campaign glad-handing, baby-kissing, and maiden-sniffing among those virus-saturated crowds for Uncle Joe this time around! And Gawd forbid any press conferences or spontaneous remarks — poor Mr. Biden tends to flub even his scripted statements. It’s a bit hard to imagine how his acceptance speech will go… and… Lordy… the debates! In the immortal words of rap impresario Jay-Z, “Nigga, Please!” (available on Amazon Music, by the way— thank you, Jeff Bezos, humanitarian).


This Joe Biden thang is being set up as some kind of bait-and-switch, but the scheme is a little too obvious, dontcha think? Mr. Biden has obliged himself to choose a “woman-of-color” as his running mate, of course, and so it is assumed that about twenty minutes after the swearing-in on January 20, 2021, Stacey Abrams (or Val Demings, or Kamala Harris, or Tawana Brawley) will become de facto president, and we’ll be off to the races, so to speak. It’s a cute gambit, but I don’t see it playing out. You may be unaware of this but the Democratic Party is actually owned, lock-stock-and-barrel, by the Clinton Foundation. It has something else in mind. Due to the unfortunate last minute discovery of Joe Biden’s incapacity to serve, She Whose Turn Was Thwarted in 2016 will perforce be the party’s nominee for an epic rematch with the Golden Golem of Greatness. Let’s face it: everybody wants to see that contest. And an election with mail-in ballots will cinch her victory.

Read more …

Comey gets to watch it in jail.

Believe me on this one: you have no idea how ugly this election will be. None.

Comey Miniseries Gets Pre-Election Airdate (JTN)

A Showtime miniseries based on former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir has been rescheduled to debut before Election Day, after its creator made an emotional plea for a chance to sway presidential voters. Billy Ray, who wrote and directed “The Comey Rule,” recoiled after learning Showtime originally planned to debut it in late November. Ray wrote an angry letter to his cast and crew about the post-election date obtained by Deadline.com. The note suggests a collective agenda behind the project:

“I know what a disappointment this is to you. It is for me too — because while I’ve made movies about my country before, this was the first time I ever made a movie for my country. We all were hoping to get this story in front of the American people months before the coming election. And that was a reasonable expectation considering that we’d been given a mandate by the network to do whatever was necessary to deliver by May 15. But at some point in March or April, that mandate changed. Word started drifting back to me that a decision about our airdate had been made at the very highest levels of Viacom: all talk of our airing before the election was suddenly a “non-starter.” I and my fellow producers asked for a chance to plead our case on the matter, but we were told that even the discussion itself was a “non-starter.”

Further down in the letter, Ray envisioned billboards screaming, “Comey Vs. Trump” in the heat of the election battle. “The Comey Rule” is based on former FBI director James Comey’s recent memoir, “A Higher Loyalty” and “more than a year of additional interviews with a number of key principals,” according to Showtime PR.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 102020
 


Banksy June 2020

 

WHO Walks Back Claim On Asymptomatic Transmission Of Coronavirus (RT)
Coronavirus Patients Most Infectious When They First Feel Unwell: WHO (R.)
WHO Urges Pakistan To Return To Lockdown As Hospitals Struggle (GH.)
California, Southwest Face New Coronavirus Woes As US Economy Reopens (R.)
Mexico’s Coronavirus Peak Still Weeks Off, 600 New Deaths In One Day (R.)
Widespread Mask-Wearing Could Prevent COVID19 Second Waves (R.)
DC National Guard Members Test Positive After Protests Response (McC)
Chicago Professor Removes Post That Appeared To Call For A Military Coup (Turley)
Tory Minister Says Eating Chlorinated Chicken Should Be Up To Consumer (Ind.)
World Faces Worst Food Crisis For At Least 50 Years – UN (G.)
ECB Prepares ‘Bad Bank’ Plan For Wave Of Coronavirus Toxic Debt (R.)
The Illusion of a Rapid US Recovery (Galbraith)
Misfortune vs. Carelessness (Ben Hunt)
Banksy Reveals Plan For Bristol’s Toppled Colston Statue (CB)

 

 

Worldometer has global new cases for June 8 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 121,751.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 125,033 cases.

The decrease we saw for a few days did not last. New deaths also rose from 2,599 yesterday back up to 5,032.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,056
• Brazil + 30,197
• Russia + 8,595
• India + 9,548
• Pakistan + 5,385

 

 

Cases 7,344,220 (+ 125,033 from yesterday’s 7,219,187)

Deaths 414,140 (+ 5,032 from yesterday’s 409,108)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The WHO keeps on piling on “mistakes”. If it isn’t China, it’s HCQ, and if not that, it’s asymptomatic patients.

WHO Walks Back Claim On Asymptomatic Transmission Of Coronavirus (RT)

The World Health Organization has qualified its bombshell claim that asymptomatic people rarely infect others with Covid-19, scrambling to explain how its earlier statement was misinterpreted and based on a “misunderstanding.” WHO coronavirus lead Maria Van Kerkhove attempted on Tuesday to clear up controversy around her previous claim that asymptomatic transmission was “very rare,” insisting she had been speaking based on the results of just “two or three” studies. To claim asymptomatic transmission is rare globally would be a “misunderstanding,” she explained.

“I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that,” she backpedaled, explaining that asymptomatic transmission estimates come from dubiously-accurate models. “That’s a big open question, and that remains an open question.” Some 16 percent of infected people may be asymptomatic, she said, citing studies – while some scientific models claim as much as 40 percent of global transmission may come from asymptomatic individuals. Given that sloppy disease modeling has been responsible for some of the most disastrous overreactions to the pandemic, Van Kerkhove’s reluctance to include these supposedly scientific speculations in the previous day’s briefing could be forgiven, but WHO emergency director Mike Ryan acknowledged his colleague’s words were likely “misinterpreted.”

[..] Harvard Global Health Institute had flat-out refused to accept Van Kerkhove’s claim, declaring “all of the best evidence suggests that people without symptoms can and do readily spread SARS-CoV-2” in a statement on Tuesday. The institute warned that “communicating preliminary data…without much context can have tremendous negative impact” on public and government responses to the pandemic, and indeed, Van Kerkhove’s comments had touched off a chain-reaction of second-guessing, pearl-clutching, and general existential crises among lockdown proponents as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases continues to climb.

Read more …

A.k.a. the exact moment they should start taking hydroxychloroquine.

Coronavirus Patients Most Infectious When They First Feel Unwell: WHO (R.)

Studies show people with the coronavirus are most infectious just at the point when they first begin to feel unwell, World Health Organization (WHO) experts said on Tuesday. This feature has made it so hard to control spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, but it can be done through rigorous testing and social distancing, they said. “It appears from very limited information we have right now that people have more virus in their body at or around the time that they develop symptoms, so very early on,” Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist and technical lead on the pandemic, told a live session on social media. Preliminary studies from Germany and the United States suggest that people with mild symptoms can be infectious for up to 8-9 days, and “it can be a lot longer for people who are more severely ill”, she said.

Earlier, some disease experts questioned her statement on Monday that transmission of COVID-19 by people with no symptoms is “very rare”, saying this guidance could pose problems for governments as they seek to lift lockdowns. Van Kerkhove, citing disease-modelling studies, clarified on Tuesday that some people do not develop symptoms, but can still infect others. “Some estimates of around 40 percent of transmission may be due to asymptomatic (cases), but those are from models. So I didn’t include that in my answer yesterday but wanted to make sure that I made that clear,” she said.

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, said that the novel coronavirus lodges in the upper respiratory tract, making it easier to transmit by droplets than related viruses such as SARS or MERS, which are in the lower tract. “Now as we look at COVID-19, we have an infectious pathogen that is present in the upper airway for which the viral loads are peaking at the time you are just beginning to get sick,” he said. “That means you could be in the restaurant feeling perfectly well and start to get a fever, you are feeling ok, you didn’t think to stay home, but that’s the moment at which your viral load could be actually quite high,” he said.

Read more …

You try getting 212 million people on a second lockdown.

WHO Urges Pakistan To Return To Lockdown As Hospitals Struggle (GH.)

The World Health Organization has taken the unusual step of urging Pakistan to return to lockdown, suggesting the country implement restrictions in a cycle of two weeks on, two weeks off. While Pakistan has relatively low testing rates, one in four people who are tested return a positive result, the WHO said in a letter to Punjab’s provincial health minister, Yasmin Rashid. Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted a national lockdown, arguing the country cannot afford it, and provinces have instead introduced patchwork lockdowns. Last week Khan said these would be lifted. But, with 108,317 known cases and 2,172 confirmed deaths, hospitals across the south Asian country say they are at or near capacity, with some turning Covid-19 patients away. Globally, the WHO confirmed the biggest ever one-day rise in confirmed cases this week, with 136,000 cases in 24 hours, according to director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Most were from south Asia and the Americas.


[..] Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the US, warned on Tuesday the pandemic was “far from over,” and that he was surprised at how “rapidly it just took over the planet”. Speaking in a videotaped discussion at a Biotechnology Innovation Organization conference, Fauci said: “I mean, Ebola was scary. But Ebola would never be easily transmitted in a global way.” He added: “HIV, as important as it is, was drawn out over an extended period of time.” He warned that the world was still at the start of seeing the coronavirus pandemic’s effects. “Oh my goodness,” Fauci said. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.” On Tuesday, 21 US states reported weekly increases in new cases. Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40% or higher for the week ending Sunday, compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.

Read more …

“21 U.S. states reported weekly increases [..] Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40% or higher for the week..”

California, Southwest Face New Coronavirus Woes As US Economy Reopens (R.)

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are spiking in parts of California and the U.S. Southwest, prompting Arizona to reactivate its emergency plan for medical facilities and California to place counties where half its population lives on a watch list. The uptick in cases, which could lead authorities to reimpose or tighten public health restrictions aimed at slowing the virus’ spread, complicates efforts to reopen the U.S. economy, which has been devastated by shelter-at-home rules. New Jersey, one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic, with over 12,000 deaths, lifted its stay-at-home order on Tuesday. More than 18 million of California’s 39 million residents live in counties now on the watch list, which includes Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Fresno, a Reuters analysis showed.


“Many of the cases that are showing up in hospitals are linked to gatherings that are taking place in homes – birthday parties and funerals,” said Olivia Kasirye, public health director of Sacramento County, one of the nine counties on the state watch list that may eventually require them to roll back reopening efforts. Arizona was among the first states to reopen in mid-May and its cases have increased 115% since then, leading a former state health chief to warn that a new stay-at-home order or field hospitals may be needed. According to a Reuters tally, there were 1,983,825 coronavirus cases in the United States and 111,747 deaths as of Tuesday. On Tuesday, 21 U.S. states reported weekly increases in new cases of COVID-19.

[..] Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40% or higher for the week ended Sunday, compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis. Some of the new cases are linked to better testing. But many stem from loosened public health restrictions that have allowed people to gather in groups and go inside stores to shop, said public health officers in two California counties. Health officials believe other cases have been passed along by people not following social-distancing recommendations. It is too soon to see whether cases will also spike after protests swept the country [..]

Read more …

“The government previously predicted the pandemic would peak in early May, and under U.S. pressure, has begun reopening its carmaking industry..”

Mexico’s Coronavirus Peak Still Weeks Off, 600 New Deaths In One Day (R.)

New coronavirus cases in Mexico are expected to keep rising, a top health official said on Tuesday, even as the government pushes a gradual reopening of the economy launched at the beginning of this month. “We still haven’t reached the maximum point,” Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told a morning news conference. “For several more weeks, we will keep announcing there are more cases today than yesterday.” His assessment was largely echoed by officials from the World Health Organization and its Pan American Health Organization during a webcast news conference later in the day. While Mexico has yet to reach peak infections, they said, officials should boost testing before any wide-scale economic reopening and stick to safety measures, including social distancing.


Government figures released on Tuesday night showed nearly 600 deaths added to the official count as total infections rose to 124,301. Overall, reported deaths stood at 14,649. In recent weeks, Latin America has emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic, with a spike in cases even as the tide of infection recedes elsewhere. Mexican officials have gradually raised the projections of total fatalities and now forecast up to 35,000 deaths through October. A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington last week forecast up to 75,516 deaths by August. The government previously predicted the pandemic would peak in early May, and under U.S. pressure, has begun reopening its carmaking industry, which has since been deemed essential. But plans to further relax social-distancing measures were put on hold as infection rates continued to rise.

Read more …

That this is studied at all tells you how insane the west is. Asians don’t waste money on that, they just wear them.

Widespread Mask-Wearing Could Prevent COVID19 Second Waves (R.)

Population-wide facemask use could push COVID-19 transmission down to controllable levels for national epidemics and could prevent further waves of the pandemic disease when combined with lockdowns, according to a UK study published Wednesday. The research, led by scientists at the Britain’s Cambridge and Greenwich Universities, suggests lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but that even homemade masks can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public. “Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, who co-led the study at Cambridge.

He said the findings showed that if widespread mask use were combined with social distancing and some lockdown measures, this could be “an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity” long before the development and public availability of an effective vaccine against COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The study’s findings were published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society A” scientific journal. The World Health Organization updated its guidance on Friday to recommend that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas where there is a risk to reduce the spread of the disease.

In this study, researchers linked the dynamics of spread between people with population-level models to assess the effect on the disease’s reproduction rate, or R value, of different scenarios of mask adoption combined with periods of lockdown. The R value measures the average number of people that one infected person will pass the disease on to. An R value above 1 can lead to exponential growth. The study found that if people wear masks whenever they are in public it is twice as effective at reducing the R value than if masks are only worn after symptoms appear. In all scenarios the study looked at, routine facemask use by 50% or more of the population reduced COVID-19 spread to an R of less than 1.0, flattening future disease waves and allowing for less stringent lockdowns.

Read more …

But the Dems like the protests! Stopping them would be interfering with the election!

DC National Guard Members Test Positive After Protests Response (McC)

Members of the D.C. National Guard who were responding to protests in the nation’s capital over the death of George Floyd have tested positive for COVID-19, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The service members were part of the 1,300 D.C. National Guard members called up to help law enforcement respond initially to rioting on May 31, that was followed by days of peaceful protests. A Guard spokeswoman did not identify how many positive tests the unit has recorded. “We can confirm that we have had COVID-19 positive tests with the DCNG,” said D.C. National Guard spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Davis. “The safety and security of our personnel is always a concern, especially in light of the COVID-19 era.”


The news follows reports that two members of the Nebraska National Guard who were activated in response to protests in Lincoln, Neb., have also tested positive. The D.C. National Guard was supported by approximately 3,900 additional Guardsmen from Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah to protect national monuments and ensure peaceful demonstrations as tens of thousands of protesters took to district streets last week. In the largest protest Saturday, participants squeezed past each other, some with masks, some not, as they chanted and sang near the White House.

Read more …

“Trump is Hitler” died about 3 years ago. The MSM have brought it back.

Chicago Professor Removes Post That Appeared To Call For A Military Coup (Turley)

Figures from Glenn Greenwald to Tucker Carlson have raised the recent posting by University of Chicago Professor Brian Leiter saying that military leaders should “depose” President Donald Trump and jail him. The posting was either a poor attempt at a coup or comedy. The real problem is that in today’s environment it was unclear and, worse yet, unremarkable. On Reddit, readers were directed to “Brian Leiter (UoC professor) calls for a military coup: “Trump should be deposed and jailed” Leiter removed the statement and blamed the lack of a sense of humor on those who objected. He was not calling for a coup d’état, just musing about the possibility of a coup d’état.

On his site, Leiter discussed the criticism of Trump by General Mattis and stated that Mattis now “needs to encourage his military colleagues who share his respect for American democracy and the rule of law to do what he should have done while in office: Trump should be deposed and jailed.” Leiter later removed the statement with an addendum reading: “I’ve removed my little joke about a military coup in favor of VP Pence. I have, it appears, more faith in the U.S. military, and its commitment to the rule of law, than most readers.” The incident however raises a more concerning problem. Many could not tell. It is now routine for academics to make sweeping and irresponsible statements about how to deal with Trump and his Administration.

This is not a reference to the distortion of the criminal code to declare a host of criminal acts that are unsupportable under controlling case law. It is superheated rhetoric of professors denouncing the Trump Administration as a fascist regime and even endorsing violent protests as a form of speech. Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe retweeted a comparison of Trump to Hitler engaging in similar gestures and calling it “horrifying,” He later took done the tweet and said “I’m not saying Trump is becoming Hitler, so don’t bother tweeting the distinctions.” Many are still making the comparison. Indeed, I have had other professors make the same comparison in conversations.

A professor who said that he teaches a course on fascism insisted that the comparison to fascism is apt and that violence is warranted, including the attack on journalist Andy Ngo: “I don’t have a problem with it. There are children dying of lack of medication in concentration camps in the U.S. If one fascist gets a milkshake thrown at him… And beaten up. I don’t have a problem with it.” This is why people do not get the joke because many academics are not joking. Indeed, we have discussed cases where faculty have been physically attacked and intimidated.

Read more …

Let them eat shit.

Tory Minister Says Eating Chlorinated Chicken Should Be Up To Consumer (Ind.)

A minister has stoked fears that low-welfare American meat could soon be on its way to British supermarkets and cafeterias after suggesting that the government would “trust the consumer” on whether to buy it or not. In the latest exchange in parliament on the issue, Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt refused to say a ban would remain on chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and other US imports after an upcoming trade deal with Donald Trump. The minister said she believed “we should be trusting the consumer” on the issue and suggested some people did not want to “put their faith in government” regulations. Despite the talk of consumer choice, in reality many meat products, such as in restaurants, hospitals, and school cafeterias, do not have a country of origin label, making it impossible for consumers to differentiate.

Where such labelling does currently exist, the US also regards it as an illegitimate barrier to its exports and pushes to have the practice banned as part of trade agreements it signs with other countries. US negotiators have made clear that opening the door to American agricultural exports, which are produced to much lower welfare standards than their European counterparts, is their primary demand in talks with the UK. While the government’s own best-case scenario shows an agreement with the US would lead to a tiny boost to the UK economy of just 0.16 per cent of GDP, failing to sign such a deal would be highly politically embarrassing for Boris Johnson, who has presented such an arrangement as part of the alternative to EU membership.

[..] As recently as January, Theresa Villiers, then environment secretary, reiterated that “we will not be importing chlorinated chicken” – but since then US trade chiefs have put pressure on the UK to change its position, leading the government to change tack. American meat factories use chlorine to wash chickens so that they can operate a less sanitary production environment otherwise, an approach which saves money and allows them to undercut other producers. [..] If US food exports do make it to the UK, British consumers may be denied information about which products are American to help them get a foothold in the market. The US government’s “Foreign Trade Barriers” document for 2019 catalogues policies in countries around the world the US wants ended.

Read more …

We now blame the virus for everything. Next up: corona causes climate change.

World Faces Worst Food Crisis For At Least 50 Years – UN (G.)

The world stands on the brink of a food crisis worse than any seen for at least 50 years, the UN has warned as it urged governments to act swiftly to avoid disaster. Better social protections for poor people are urgently needed as the looming recession following the coronavirus pandemic may put basic nutrition beyond their reach, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said on Tuesday. “Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” he said. “We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.”

Although harvests of staple crops are holding up, and the export bans and protectionism that experts feared have so far been largely avoided, the worst of the impacts of the pandemic and ensuing recession are yet to be felt. Guterres warned: “Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruption in the food supply chain.” About 50 million people risk falling into extreme poverty this year owing to the pandemic, but the long-term effects will be even worse, as poor nutrition in childhood causes lifelong suffering. Already, one in five children around the world are stunted in their growth by the age of five, and millions more are likely to suffer the same fate if poverty rates soar.

Guterres laid out a three-point plan to repair the world’s ailing food systems and prevent further harm. These are: to focus aid on the worst-stricken regions to stave off immediate disaster, and for governments to prioritise food supply chains; to strengthen social protections so that young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and other at-risk groups – including children who are not receiving school meals in lockdown – receive adequate nutrition; and to invest in the future, by building a global recovery from the pandemic that prioritises healthy and environmentally sustainable food systems.

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The ECB is there ONLY for the banks, not at all for anyone else. The bad bank issues bonds with bad loans as collateral, banks buy those, and hand them to the ECB as … collateral. Circle jerk.

“The bad bank would then issue bonds which commercial banks would buy in exchange for portfolios of unpaid loans, neutralising the virus shock for Europe’s lenders. The banks could then lodge those bonds with the ECB as collateral for central bank funding.. “

ECB Prepares ‘Bad Bank’ Plan For Wave Of Coronavirus Toxic Debt (R.)

European Central Bank officials are drawing up a scheme to cope with potentially hundreds of billions of euros of unpaid loans in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The project, which comes as Europe mobilises trillions of euros to bolster the region’s economy, is aimed at shielding commercial banks from any second fallout from the crisis, if rising unemployment chokes off the income needed to repay loans. One of the people familiar with the plan said the ECB had set up a task force to look at the idea of a “bad bank” to warehouse unpaid euro debt and that work on the scheme had accelerated in recent weeks. The amount of debt in the euro zone that is considered unlikely to ever be fully repaid already stands at more than half a trillion euros, including credit cards, car loans and mortgages, according to official statistics.

That is set to rise as the COVID-19 outbreak squeezes borrowers and could even double to one trillion euros, weighing on already fragile banks and hindering new lending, the people familiar with the ECB plans said. While the idea for a euro zone bad bank was discussed and shelved over two years ago, the ECB, under its new President Christine Lagarde, has consulted banks and EU officials about a scheme in recent weeks, one of the people said. As the euro zone’s most powerful institution, ECB backing for the project is critical but it would also require the blessing of Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy. Berlin has long opposed schemes that accept shared responsibility for debts in other countries although it recently had an unexpected change of heart, agreeing to pool EU borrowing for a coronavirus recovery fund.

One blueprint under discussion would involve the European Stability Mechanism, an EU institution which can provide financial assistance to euro zone countries or lenders, standing in as guarantor for the bad bank, the people said. The bad bank would then issue bonds which commercial banks would buy in exchange for portfolios of unpaid loans, neutralising the virus shock for Europe’s lenders. The banks could then lodge those bonds with the ECB as collateral for central bank funding, one of the people said. Major European commercial banks could be called on to join forces to underpin the scheme, the second person said.

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There are calls for Jay Powell to stop supporting the stock markets, because he’s helping Trump.

The Illusion of a Rapid US Recovery (Galbraith)

Furman, Krugman, and the CBO share a mental model. They regard the pandemic as an economic shock, like an earthquake or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a disruption to a solid structure, a deviation from normal growth. To get America moving again, what is mainly needed is confidence, perhaps aided by stimulus. If consumers channel their pent-up demand into new spending, this “shock-stimulus” model dictates, then businesses will revive investment, and soon enough, all will be well once again.This is how mainstream center-left economists and policymakers have thought about recessions and recoveries since at least the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, pushed through tax cuts. But it ignores three major changes in the US economy since then: globalization, the rise of services in consumption and employment, and the impact of personal and corporate debts.

In the 1960s, the US had a balanced economy that produced goods for both businesses and households, at all levels of technology, with a fairly small (and tightly regulated) financial sector. It produced largely for itself, importing mainly commodities. Today, the US produces for the world, mainly advanced investment goods and services, in sectors such as aerospace, information technology, arms, oilfield services, and finance. And it imports far more consumer goods, such as clothing, electronics, cars, and car parts, than it did a half-century ago. And whereas cars, televisions, and household appliances drove US consumer demand in the 1960s, a much larger share of domestic spending today goes (or went) to restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, gyms, salons, coffee shops, and tattoo parlors, as well as college tuition and doctor’s visits.

Tens of millions of Americans work in these sectors.Finally, American household spending in the 1960s was powered by rising wages and growing home equity. But wages have been largely stagnant since at least 2000, and spending increases since 2010 were powered by rising personal and corporate debts. House values are now stagnant at best, and will likely fall in the months ahead. Mainstream economics pays little attention to such structural questions. Instead, it assumes that business investment responds mostly to the consumer, whose spending is dictated equally by income and desire. The distinction between “essential” and “superfluous” does not exist. Debt burdens are largely ignored.

But demand for many US-made capital goods now depends on global conditions. Orders for new aircraft will not recover while half of all existing planes are grounded. At current prices, the global oil industry is not drilling new wells. Even at home, though existing construction projects may be completed, plans for new office towers or retail outlets won’t be launched soon. And as people commute less, cars will last longer, so demand for them (and gasoline) will suffer.Faced with radical uncertainty, US consumers will save more and spend less. Even if the government replaces their lost incomes for a time, people know that stimulus is short term. What they do not know is when the next job offer – or layoff – will come along.

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“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
-Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

Misfortune vs. Carelessness (Ben Hunt)

Back in 2013 – in some of my very first Epsilon Theory notes – I wrote about how unemployment data was chronically misreported during Barack Obama’s first term, with an outrageous bias towards making the employment news flow in the United States look much better in narrative than it was in fact. [..] the skinny is this: for a period of some years in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, initial unemployment claims were systematically undercounted. Amazingly enough, this systematic misreporting in unemployment data stopped after Obama was re-elected for a second term.

Was this an intentional act of malfeasance and corruption by the Obama-era Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who at the time weren’t even responsible for collecting the weekly initial unemployment claims data? Nope. Did the Obama-era BLS recognize the systematic error and direction of bias in the initial unemployment claims data? Absolutely. Could the Obama-era BLS have fixed the systematic error and direction of bias in the initial unemployment claims data if they had wanted to? In a heartbeat.

It’s exactly the same thing with the Trump-era Bureau of Labor Statistics and the reporting of weekly and monthly employment data. The measurement error we’ve seen in the monthly jobs report – and keep in mind that it is exactly the SAME ERROR being made for the past THREE MONTHS – is not an intentional mistake. But the failure to correct these errors – the conscious effort required to allow known and obvious errors to persist and create a market-moving and election-moving cartoon – well, I think that IS intentional.

Accidents happen. Misfortune occurs. Mistakes are made. But when the same accident happens over and over again, in exactly the same way and with exactly the same bias … What’s happening with the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and of course it’s not only the Bureau of Labor Statistics – is an intentional carelessness. It is an intentional, political carelessness that supports status quo cartoons of control, regardless of which political party happens to be championing the status quo today. It’s not a Democrat thing and it’s not a Republican thing. It’s a power thing.

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I see a global industry emerging.

Banksy Reveals Plan For Bristol’s Toppled Colston Statue (CB)

Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been taking place across the world over the last few weeks, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. In one of the most symbolic images from this weekend’s protests, the statue of 18th century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol, and pushed into the harbour. As debate rages over whether the statue should be reinstated, left in the harbour, or pulled out and put in the city’s museum, the mysterious Bristol-based street artist Banksy has proposed a solution (below) to keep “everyone happy”. He suggests putting the statue back on its plinth, but with the addition of other life-size statues of the protestors pulling it down.

“What should we do with the empty plinth in the middle of Bristol? Here’s an idea that caters for both those who miss the Colston statue and those who don’t. We drag him out the water, put him back on the plinth, tie cable round his neck and commission some life size bronze statues of protestors in the act of pulling him down. Everyone happy. A famous day commemorated.”

Read more …

 

 

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May 152020
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Sunflower, New Mexico I 1935

 

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)
America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)
Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)
Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)
United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon
One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)
148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)
ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)
Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)
Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)
Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)
Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)
The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)
Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

 

 

• New US cases 26,740

• New US deaths 1,704 (previous days 1,896, 1,894, 830, 776). Total deaths surpass 85,000.

• Russia reports 10,598 new cases, returning to its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with it broke yesterday with 9,974. Russia will in the next few days pass Spain as the no. 2 in total cases behind the US. But it reports “just” 2,418 deaths to date, vs Spain’s 27,321.

 

 

Endcoronavirus.org numbers presented by Hayes. Not sure that’s something to cheer about. But while he’s waxing ominously that the US has 1/3 of all deaths, these countries all still have a worse case fatality rate: Spain, UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland

 

 


Ranking of countries by total number of reported deaths from #COVID19, and growth of that in the 24 hours before midnight GMT. Brazil fastest grower in this list. Over half of new deaths reported globally now in US, Brazil, and UK.

 

 

 

Cases 4,546,070 (+ 94,844 from yesterday’s 4,451,226)

Deaths 303,863 (+ 5,343 from yesterday’s 298,520)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“..if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them.”

“I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously.”

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)

[..] I am a full-hearted believer in acting from the bottom-up, in bypassing and ignoring the high-functioning sociopaths who dominate our top-down hierarchies of markets and politics. I still believe that. But it doesn’t work with COVID-19. The core problem with any rights-based approach to public policy is dealing with questions of competing rights. Under what circumstances could your right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness come into conflict with my right to life? Under most circumstances, neither of us is forced to compromise our rights, because we have the choice to NOT interact with each other. If my laundromat requires you to wear a mask to enter, but you think wearing a mask is an affront to your liberty, then the solution is easy: go wash your clothes somewhere else. And vice versa if I think your restaurant does a poor job of enforcing social distancing and food safety: I’ll take my business elsewhere.

Let me put this a bit more bluntly. I think that COVID-19 deniers and truthers are idiots. I think that people who minimize or otherwise ignore the clear and present danger that the biology of this virus presents to themselves and their families are fools. And there’s no perfect way to insulate their idiocy and foolishness from the rest of us. But if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them. Yes, there are exceptions. No, this isn’t applicable on all issues, all the time. But I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously. Even self-destructive agency. Even in the age of COVID-19. Especially in the age of COVID-19.

There are three common and important circumstances, however, where this choice to NOT interact doesn’t exist, where the rights of yes, even idiots, to liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they understand it will inexorably come into conflict with the right to life of those who understand all too well the highly contagious and dangerous biology of this virus. Only government can provide the necessary resources and the necessary coordination to resolve these conflicts of rights peacefully and without trampling the rights of one set of citizens or another. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that.

Here’s how a legitimate government would deal with the three inevitable and irreconcilable conflicts of rights in the age of COVID-19:

1) Healthcare workers and first responders have no choice but to risk their right to life in caring for all citizens who are sick, regardless of the agency or lack thereof behind that sickness. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to ALL healthcare workers and social workers and first responders and public safety officers and anyone else who must serve the sick.

2) Workers who believe that their employer does not provide sufficient protection against this virus have no choice but to risk their right to life in their return to work, as unemployment insurance typically is unavailable for people who “voluntarily” quit their job. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By providing a Federal safe harbor to unemployment claims based on COVID-19 safety concerns, AND by maintaining unemployment benefits at the current (higher) CARES Act level throughout the crisis.

3) All citizens who use public transit or use public facilities have no choice but to trust that their fellow citizens share a common respect for the rights of others, even if they may differ in their risk tolerance and private beliefs regarding the biology of the virus. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide ubiquitous rapid testing in and around all public spaces, starting today with symptom testing (temperature checks) and required masking to limit asymptomatic spread, and implementing over time near-instant antigen tests as they are developed.

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Lynn Parramore toches on very valid points here, looking at life vs the economy, and what is valued (more). But the Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice is an American tradition, there’s nothing new, other than this time it takes place on American soil. And even then, look at all the people without health insurance all over the US, look at young blacks getting killed by police, or drug epidemics. But mostly, the experiment takes place in far-away lands, and its victims count in the very many millions.

America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)

“There is no wealth but life.” — John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1860)

A chilling experiment is underway in America, with plenty of unwilling human guinea pigs. Many parts of the country are reopening for business against the warnings of medical experts, flying in the face of grim predictions of sharply rising body counts. Two-thirds of Americans fear that the restart is happening too quickly, and the President himself acknowledges that by easing restrictions, “there’ll be more death.” Yet he presses on, even as his own White House suffers a viral outbreak. News screens flash with tallies of death and tallies of wealth: New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared that lives must be saved “whatever it costs,” insisting that for Americans the choice “between public health and the economy” is “no contest.”

But he did not ask celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who some weeks ago expressed his view that reopening schools could give the country its “mojo back,” and perhaps “only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. (2% sounds conveniently small compared to its equivalent in human lives, 6,560,000. Oz later apologized after public outrage). Meanwhile Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, offered his own assessment of the trade-off between capitalism and the lives of America’s senior citizens, explaining, “there are more important things than living.” Since the days of Adam Smith, free market capitalists have held that human beings are rational actors who pursue economic gain for self-interested motives. But here is Patrick, a free marketer if there ever was one, talking about a gift-sacrifice economy model in which people – some people, at least – lay down their lives to keep the economic engines revved.

Patrick’s words reveal an unspoken truth about capitalism. For the system to work smoothly, there have always been requirements of human sacrifice — a certain portion of the population was expected to act not as self-serving homo economicus, but self-sacrificing homo communis, focused upon what benefits the collective at their own expense. If these people can’t social distance at the workplace, they are expected to show up anyway. If there isn’t enough safety equipment, they are declared essential workers who must put their lives and that of their families at risk for the greater good. But for whom and for what is this sacrifice intended? How much dying will be figured into state budgets and GDP? When ranked by GDP, the U.S. is the wealthiest economy in the world, but is a country’s wealth something totally separate from, or even contrary to, the health and life the majority of its citizens?

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“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority..”

Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)

Even with tens of millions of jobs lost and a historic decline in output projected this quarter, the U.S. economy could still pull off a relatively quick recovery, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday. “If we made a dramatic national initiative for testing – and I mean dramatic …that could help create the V,” he said in an online interview with local public TV station KERA, referring to a recession characterized by a sharp decline in output followed quickly by a steep ramp back up. “The highest return on equity investment we can make in this country is testing.” The U.S. Congress has committed nearly $3 trillion to shoring up an economy gutted by extended shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and buying time for the healthcare systems to build capacity to care for the sick.

“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority,” Kaplan said in the interview, conducted jointly with Dallas Mayor Eric Kaplan. The United States has conducted more than 10 million tests for the coronavirus since the beginning of the crisis, according to the Covid Tracking Project. But in many parts of the country people can only get tested if they have symptoms, and there is no capacity for the kind of mass testing that China is using to screen Wuhan’s 11 million citizens this week to stamp out a recurrence of infections there. After weeks of shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy does need to reopen, Kaplan said.

“We cannot remain shut down indefinitely,” Kaplan said. At the same time, he said, without ubiquitous testing, “people are going to be more hesitant, they are going to be slower to reengage,” and the recovery will be slow and, perhaps, a second wave of infections more likely. [..] “Let’s invest a fraction of what we would have to spend on the second wave in testing, a national approach to it, particularly in dense areas, to prevent that second wave from happening – it will be a fraction of the cost.”

Read more …

There is no vaccine. There may never be one. Take that as the starting point for what comes next, for your acts. A vaccine would be an extra, but it cannot be taken as a given.

Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)

Any vaccine to fight the new coronavirus will not be ready for use for at least two years, the chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which no longer makes vaccines itself, told a German newspaper. Novartis sold its vaccine business in 2015 to GlaxoSmithKline, one of many companies around the world now racing to make a drug. Some companies are already testing vaccine candidates on humans. “The results of the first clinical studies on the vaccine candidates should be available in autumn,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “If everything goes as we hope, it will take 24 months before we have a vaccine.”


For instance, Moderna Inc has sped up plans for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine and said it expected to start a late-stage trial in early summer. But experts have said no vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection. Narasimhan, who headed development at Novartis’s vaccine business before the Basel-based company concluded it was too small to keep and should be unloaded, said producing enough vaccine for the world would also be a challenge. He said building a new factory usually took three or four years. “That’s way too long,” he told FAZ. “We have to use the existing production network to produce large quantities quickly.”

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“..people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said.

Who’s going to accept American visitors unless they’ve been tested negative?

United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon

The U.S. government largely shut down international travel to the United States in March with a series of rapid-fire moves, but restarting it will likely be a longer, more piecemeal process that could be complicated by rising tensions with China. Even as President Donald Trump pushes for U.S states to begin reopening their economies, U.S. borders remain shut to travelers from China and Europe.Any decision on easing travel restrictions will depend in large part on what safety protocols all countries put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and whether those countries in turn grant entry to Americans, U.S. officials told Reuters. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that Trump and U.S. health officials were examining the issue of international travel but did not provide further details.

Trump implemented a temporary ban on most travelers coming from China, the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in January and put similar restrictions on travelers from Europe in March. The United States also halted nonessential travel across its shared borders with Canada and Mexico in March and suspended routine visa services in most U.S. consulates abroad. Some U.S. airlines would like to resume limited service to China – a major market for them – in June, but the possibility of the Trump administration lifting travel restrictions will be complicated by China’s own restrictions on foreign carriers, according to a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. China limits foreign airlines to one flight into the country per week, and planes are only allowed to fly with 75% of passenger capacity.

The discussions within the Trump administration on how and when to reopen the United States to international travel have not yet crystallized into a plan, U.S. officials said, as the situation is still fluid and there are still fears of a resurgence of the virus in countries now reporting lower caseloads. But Washington is clear on one thing – people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said. However, with the virus still rampant in the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world, some countries may be hesitant to accept U.S. travelers any time soon. The European Union on Wednesday pushed to reopen internal borders and restart travel, but recommended Europe’s external borders remain closed for most travel at least until mid-June.

Read more …

Time for an honest worst-case scenario.

One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by almost 3 million last week as virus shutdowns continue to weigh on the US economy. The filings brought the total number of new jobless claims since the middle of March to more than 36 million. That amounts to nearly a quarter of the American workforce. The weekly figures have been falling since the end of March but remain massive by historic standards, eclipsing the prior record of 700,000.


“Today’s unemployment claims continue their epic ascent on a cumulative weekly basis; not since the Great Depression has the US job market been in such a sorry state,” said Richard Flynn, UK managing director at Charles Schwab. The head of America’s central bank warned this week that the economic recovery is likely to be slower than initially hoped. In April, employers cut more than 20 million jobs, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7% and erasing nearly a decade of job gains. While the losses have fallen hardest on minority and low-income households, they have touched every part of the economy.

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They have 10,000 new infections per day and can’t even get down to 5,000. Like that is some noble goal.

148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)

The first national snapshot of Covid-19 rates has revealed that 148,000 people in England were infected with the virus over the past two weeks. The study, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), tested 10,705 people in more than 5,000 households and estimated 0.27% of the population in England were currently positive for Covid-19. The analysis suggests about 148,000 people across the entire population would have tested positive on any day between 27 April and 10 May 2020. The findings will inform the government’s next steps as it considers whether it is safe enough to further ease restrictions on socialising, businesses and schools in the coming weeks. Experts suggest the current rates of infection remain “some way off” what would be needed to lift the lockdown.

The results are likely to fuel concerns about the potential of opening primary schools on 1 June to fuel transmission in the community, as no evidence was found of differences in the proportions testing positive between the age categories 2 to 19, 20 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 years and over. The numbers testing positive in this first release were small – 33 in total – and so this picture could change and the figures are expected to be tracked closely over the next two weeks. The study also reveals far higher infection rates among those working with patients in healthcare and those in social care roles, with 1.33% of these participants testing positive. The figures do not include people in hospital or care homes where rates of Covid-19 infection – and possibly transmission – are likely to be higher.

Sources close to Downing Street say the target for new daily infections is 5,000 before the lockdown can ease, but other more cautious voices in government are understood to be pushing for fewer than 4,000 new cases a day. There is scepticism within the government that the UK will have reached that figure before 1 June, the first possible date for easing the lockdown. The latest figures would suggest a “crude estimate” of 10,000 new cases each day, according to Hunter. However, a more accurate calculation would take into account the average number of days over which a person would test positive and other factors. And unlike the target of 5,000 cases each day, the latest ONS figures exclude hospital patients, meaning the ONS infection rate is a slight underestimate. So it is difficult to assess from the ONS data how far we are from the 5,000 target.

Read more …

Granted, it would be a unique event, but just this once, the Reuters poll of 80 economists may get it right.

ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)

The euro zone economy’s worst recession on record will be even deeper than predicted less than a month ago, according to a Reuters poll of economists. They also said the European Central Bank will ramp up bond buying next month. An economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 300,000 lives globally, will largely depend on the effectiveness of individual governments in preventing a second wave of infections despite easings of lockdown restrictions. “The biggest uncertainty now is around the pace of the reopening of the economy. There is a series of risks that are still to the downside…we may have a more prolonged period of confinement measures imposed by law or just behaviourally,” Giada Giani, European economist at Citi, said.


The May 11-14 Reuters poll of nearly 80 economists marks the third downgrade to the economic outlook in a little over a month and is despite the ECB’s adding hundreds of billions of euros to its balance sheet and governments announcing stimulus worth trillions of euros. The euro zone economy is expected to contract 7.5% in 2020, more than the 5.4% predicted three weeks ago, with the worst of the blow expected this quarter. After contracting 3.8% in January-March, its sharpest quarter-on-quarter decline since 1995, the latest poll showed the economy shrinking by nearly three times that pace in April-June, by 11.3%, more than the 9.6% predicted last month.

Read more …

Mueller is linked to Flynn is linked to Assange is linked to etc. Pandora’s box has opened.

Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)

Critics of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are turning up the heat amid new revelations in the Justice Department’s handling of the Russian collusion investigation and related cases, like the troubled prosecution of former Trump National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn. “The Mueller probe was launched not to find wrongdoing from the Trump administration, but to cover up wrongdoing by Mueller’s colleagues, by his protege James Comey, by the corrupt Obama administration Department of Justice,” said The Federalist’s Sean Davis on a new episode of Fox Nation’s “Witch Hunt.” Skeptics of Mueller’s investigation have long alleged that the former FBI director knew almost immediately after his appointment in May 2017 that there was no credible evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“Bob Mueller knew the day that he walked in the door there was no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians,” said Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a Fox News interview in May 2019. “We looked at all the intelligence,” continued Nunes in reference to the House Intelligence Committee’s own investigation. “There’s zero evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians — period,” According to Davis, the Mueller probe was never intended to find collusion but had another purpose. “From the beginning, the Mueller investigation existed to not protect the rule of law, but to protect the FBI and DOJ from scrutiny for their crimes,” he argued. Davis said the conduct of the Mueller team suggested that they were hiding something.

“You can actually see it in how it responded to requests for documentation from congressional investigations, both from the Senate Senator Chuck Grassley and from the House from Devin Nunes,” said Davis. In fact, Nunes vowed to send the DOJ a criminal referral on potential obstruction of a congressional investigation. “The House of Representatives… had multiple requests, multiple subpoenas that were out there that effectively were never answered,” said Nunes on Fox Nation, “even though they claim they answered them. Well, now what we learned is that they lied and misled Congress by omission.”

Read more …

Glenn Greenwald.

Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)

[..] the prosecution of Flynn — for allegedly lying to the FBI when he denied in a January 24 interrogation that he had discussed with Kislyak on December 29 the new sanctions and expulsions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration — was always odd for a number of reasons. To begin with, the FBI agents who questioned Flynn said afterward that they did not believe he was lying (as CNN reported in February, 2017: “the FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say”). For that reason, CNN said, “the FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against” him.

More importantly, there was no valid reason for the FBI to have interrogated Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak in the first place. There is nothing remotely untoward or unusual — let alone criminal — about an incoming senior national security official, three weeks away from taking over, reaching out to a counterpart in a foreign government to try to tamp down tensions. As the Washington Post put it, “it would not be uncommon for incoming administrations to interface with foreign governments with whom they will soon have to work.”

What newly released documents over the last month reveal is what has been generally evident for the last three years: the powers of the security state agencies — particularly the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the DOJ — were systematically abused as part of the 2016 election and then afterward for political rather than legal ends. While there was obviously deceit and corruption on the part of some Trump officials in lying to Russiagate investigators and otherwise engaging in depressingly common DC lobbyist corruption, there was also massive corruption on the part of the investigators themselves, exploiting and abusing their vast and invasive investigative and prosecutorial powers for ideological goals, political subterfuge, election manipulation and personal vendettas.

[..] the most critical reason to delve deeply into this case is that it reveals one the most dangerous abuses of power a democracy can suffer: the powers of the CIA, FBI and NSA were blatantly and repeatedly abused to manipulate election outcomes and achieve political advantage. In other words, we know now that these agencies did exactly what Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned they would do to Trump when he appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program shortly before Trump’s inauguration:

Read more …

Election time already?

Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)

In another strange turn of events, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has invited Michael Flynn’s former defense counsel to appear as interested parties in their former clients ongoing case. Sullivan, who did not agree to drop the charges against Flynn as requested by the Department of Justice, did not specify the purpose for inviting the former lawyers to appear in court. John Hall electronically filed the notice on Thursday, as the legal representative for Covington and Burling, Flynn’s former defense counsel. Sidney Powell, Flynn’s defense counsel, didn’t comment on Sullivan’s invitation to Covington and Burling but she noted in previous filings reported on this news site that the previous counsel provided her client ineffectual representation and unrepresented him in his guilty plea, which was in violation of his 6th Amendment rights.


This turn of events has been just one in a series of bizarre decisions unleashed on Flynn and his defense team by Sullivan. Critics of Sullivan’s strange behavior have accused the judge of acting as a prosecutor and crossing the line of his judicial mandate. “Since Sullivan appears to be so invested in trying to force the government to prosecute Flynn, he should step off the bench and apply for a job as an AUSA,” said Jenna Ellis, a constitutional lawyer and Senior legal advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign. “He clearly wants to be a prosecutor, not a judge, so he’s in the wrong branch of government.”

Read more …

On May 12, I wrote: “I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.”

On May 13, Powell published this letter.

Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)

Re: Your Failure to Find Precedent for Flynn Dismissal

Regarding the decision of the Department of Justice to dismiss charges against General Flynn, in your recent call with your alumni, you expressed great concern: “there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.” Here is some help—if truth and precedent represent your true concern. Your statement is entirely false. However, it does explain the damage to the Rule of Law throughout your administration.

First, General Flynn was not charged with perjury—which requires a material false statement made under oath with intent to deceive.1 A perjury prosecution would have been appropriate and the Rule of Law applied if the Justice Department prosecuted your former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for his multiple lies under oath in an investigation of a leak only he knew he caused. McCabe lied under oath in fully recorded and transcribed interviews with the Inspector General for the DOJ. He was informed of the purpose of the interview, and he had had the benefit of counsel. He knew he was the leaker. McCabe even lied about lying.

He lied to his own agents—which sent them on a “wild-goose-chase”—thereby making his lies “material” and an obstruction of justice. Yet, remarkably, Attorney General Barr declined to prosecute McCabe for these offenses. Applying the Rule of Law, after declining McCabe’s perjury prosecution, required the Justice Department to dismiss the prosecution of General Flynn who was not warned, not under oath, had no counsel, and whose statements were not only not recorded, but were created as false by FBI agents who falsified the 302.

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America has two food chains, and they’re not talking.

The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)

A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19. The juxtaposition of images in the news of farmers destroying crops and dumping milk with empty supermarket shelves or hungry Americans lining up for hours at food banks tells a story of economic efficiency gone mad.

Today the US actually has two separate food chains, each supplying roughly half of the market. The retail food chain links one set of farmers to grocery stores, and a second chain links a different set of farmers to institutional purchasers of food, such as restaurants, schools, and corporate offices. With the shutting down of much of the economy, as Americans stay home, this second food chain has essentially collapsed. But because of the way the industry has developed over the past several decades, it’s virtually impossible to reroute food normally sold in bulk to institutions to the retail outlets now clamoring for it. There’s still plenty of food coming from American farms, but no easy way to get it where it’s needed.

[..] When the number of Covid-19 cases in America’s slaughterhouses exploded in late April—12,608 confirmed, with forty-nine deaths as of May 11—public health officials and governors began ordering plants to close. It was this threat to the industry’s profitability that led to Tyson’s declaration, which President Trump would have been right to see as a shakedown: the president’s political difficulties could only be compounded by a shortage of meat. In order to reopen their production lines, Tyson and his fellow packers wanted the federal government to step in and preempt local public health authorities; they also needed liability protection, in case workers or their unions sued them for failing to observe health and safety regulations.

Within days of Tyson’s ad, President Trump obliged the meatpackers by invoking the Defense Production Act. After having declined to use it to boost the production of badly needed coronavirus test kits, he now declared meat a “scarce and critical material essential to the national defense.” The executive order took the decision to reopen or close meat plants out of local hands, forced employees back to work without any mandatory safety precautions, and offered their employers some protection from liability for their negligence. On May 8, Tyson reopened a meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa, where more than a thousand workers had tested positive.

Read more …

Sidney Powell should take Assange’s case.

Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK. The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012.

It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands. In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news. “From now on, we’re going to be playing in the first division,” Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the “dark side” – an apparent reference to US intelligence services. “The Americans will find us contracts around the world,” Morales assured his business partner.

Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA. Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. Following Assange’s imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange’s legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global.

One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that “David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.” A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge. Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange, abusing the publisher’s attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on “the dark side.”

Read more …

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1261223989940236289

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Feb 252020
 


Andreas Feininger Production B-17 heavy bomber at Boeing plant, Seattle Dec 1942

 

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)
40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)
Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)
Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)
How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)
China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)
South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)
Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)
Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)
Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)
Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)
Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)
US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)
Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)
Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)
Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

 

 

Now that the MSM is slowly and finally waking up to the reality of the virus, the information to read and post and comment on, becomes overwhelming. Last week I twice took out the virus-related info to include in separate articles (Virus Rattles if you will), but today I need the extra time doing that involves, for other things.

Still, one observation: yesterday, we saw the highest daily death toll of the entire crisis. Today, we see the lowest. As Xi is pushing hard for the economy. Credibility remains a major issue.

 

Cases 80,328 (+ 621 from yesterday’s 79,707).

Deaths 2,707 (+ 81 from yesterday’s 2,626)

 

From SCMP:

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

Ben Hunt keeps his eyes on the ball:

“..build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required..”

“..protect healthcare professionals before they get sick..”

“..update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped..”

“..bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity..”

The Fall of Wuhan (Ben Hunt)

Last week I wrote about the corrupt political response of the World Health Organization to COVID-19. This week I’m writing about the corrupt political response of the United States to COVID-19. Because it’s happened before. In August 2005, the city of New Orleans fell. New Orleans did not fall because of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans fell because of the corrupt political response to Hurricane Katrina. “We can stabilize the situation. Again, I want to thank you all. Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job!” – President George W. Bush. In January 2020, the city of Wuhan fell. Wuhan did not fall because of COVID-19. Wuhan fell because of the corrupt political response to COVID-19.

“Wuhan is a heroic city, and people of Hubei and Wuhan are heroic people who have never been crushed by any difficulty and danger in history. All regions and departments performed their duties actively and conscientiously.” – Xi the Commander (no, I am not making this up; this is how the Xinhua news service describes him now … “Xi the Commander”) A corrupt political response is always the same. It never changes in form. It never changes in function. A corrupt political response occurs when a political leader sacrifices national interest for regime or bureaucratic interest … when a constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” is maintained for the political benefit of the Leader at the expense of the Led.

Oh, the Leader and his flunkies will convince themselves that the narrative “is in the public interest” … that the narrative will “buy them time” … that the narrative is necessary because “the other side” would do the same or worse if given half a chance. It’s all the excuses that all the Renfields to all the professional politicians tell themselves as they slowly sell their souls. It’s what every President and every Director-General and every Senator and every CEO eventually comes to believe, that their personal interests are identical to “their” people’s interests.

[..] Every once in a very great while, an honest-to-god crisis reveals the political self-interest and mendacity behind your carefully constructed narrative of “Yay, Calm and Competent Control!” . Like the fall of New Orleans revealed George W. Bush. Like the fall of Wuhan revealed Xi Jinping. What we must prevent today is the NEXT city to fall. We must prevent the fall of Daegu. We must prevent the fall of Qom. We must prevent the fall of Milan. Looking ahead, we must prevent the fall of Yokohama. We must prevent the fall of San Francisco. Because containment has failed. What we’re seeing in South Korea, Iran and Italy is what exponential disease propagation looks like in the real world. Real world data is spiky. Real world data is messy. Real world exponential growth looks like nothing, nothing, nothing … then cluster, cluster, cluster … then BOOM!

[..] Containment has failed. And so now we must fight. As individuals that means social distancing. As individuals that means doing what we can to stay healthy and prepare for a storm. As a nation that means a war-footing to build dedicated treatment wards before they’re required, to protect healthcare professionals before they get sick, to update our testing and diagnostic capabilities before they are swamped … to do everything possible to bolster our healthcare systems BEFORE the need overwhelms the capacity. Above all, that means calling out our leaders for their corrupt political responses to date, and forcing them through our outcry to adopt an effective virus-fighting policy for OUR benefit, not theirs. We got this.

Read more …

2nd-3rd scientist saying this. By then mortality rate will likely be 1% or so. But 1% of a huge number is a huge number in itself.

40-70% Of People Will Be Infected With COVID19 – Epidemiologist (Atl.)

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.” [..] Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.” At this point, it is not even known how many people are infected. As of Sunday, there have been 35 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization. But Lipsitch’s “very, very rough” estimate when we spoke a week ago (banking on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other,” he said) was that 100 or 200 people in the U.S. were infected.

That’s all it would take to seed the disease widely. The rate of spread would depend on how contagious the disease is in milder cases. On Friday, Chinese scientists reported in the medical journal JAMA an apparent case of asymptomatic spread of the virus, from a patient with a normal chest CT scan. The researchers concluded with stolid understatement that if this finding is not a bizarre abnormality, “the prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging.” Even if Lipsitch’s estimates were off by orders of magnitude, they wouldn’t likely change the overall prognosis. “Two hundred cases of a flu-like illness during flu season—when you’re not testing for it—is very hard to detect,” Lipsitch said. “But it would be really good to know sooner rather than later whether that’s correct, or whether we’ve miscalculated something.

The only way to do that is by testing.” Originally, doctors in the U.S. were advised not to test people unless they had been to China or had contact with someone who had been diagnosed with the disease. Within the past two weeks, the CDC said it would start screening people in five U.S. cities, in an effort to give some idea of how many cases are actually out there. But tests are still not widely available. As of Friday, the Association of Public Health Laboratories said that only California, Nebraska, and Illinois had the capacity to test people for the virus.

Read more …

The sleight of hand used to argue for factories restarting: “Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46% of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus.”

Xi Jinping Rings Alarm On Economy As China Shifts Priority To Growth (SCMP)

President Xi Jinping has rung the alarm bell on China’s economic growth as worries mount over the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, unemployment and global supply chains. Speaking on Sunday, Xi made it clear that the priority for most of the country was to get the world’s second biggest economy up and running after extensive delays. “It is unavoidable that the novel coronavirus epidemic will have a considerable impact on the economy and society,” said Xi in a lengthy televised address that was watched by as many as 170,000 officials and published by state news agency Xinhua. But Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, added the country’s social and economic system “can’t be paused for a long”.


The edited version of Xi’s speech was published soon after it was delivered, reflecting the urgency of the guidelines. Containment measures including mandatory quarantine for workers, partial shutdowns of factories and transport restrictions have caused significant disruptions to the economy, which was already growing at record low levels before the virus outbreak. Xi said that as many as 1,396 counties and districts, some 46 per cent of the nation’s total, had not reported a single confirmed case of the coronavirus. These low-risk zones, along with areas with only a small number of infections, should “comprehensively restore production” and life as usual, he said. “Medium-risk” regions should resume production in an “orderly manner”, while the priority for hard-hit areas like Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, was still containing the virus, he said.

Read more …

Comments about Wuhan from the video:

• 40 portable incinerators X 30 corpses/incinerator/day = 1,200 corpses/day
• 100 additional portable incinerators ordered
• In addition to 47 crematories running in full capacity
• Another 1MM incinerators on the way!

And people tell me I’m exaggerating!

Confusion In Wuhan As Move To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Is Reversed (SCMP)

Just three hours after announcing that visitors trapped in Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic – could leave on Monday, authorities reversed the decision, saying it had been made without approval. The local government revoked the notice it said had been issued by a subordinate working group from the city’s disease control command centre without approval from their superiors. “The centre, headed by Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang, said the officials who had issued the order without authorisation had been reprimanded. “Wuhan resolutely adheres to the spirit of Chinese President Xi [Jinping] … strictly controls every exit from Wuhan and the management of personnel, in order to prevent the spread of the [coronavirus],” it said in a statement retracting the earlier notice.

Extreme lockdown measures have been in place in Wuhan – capital of Hubei and home to 11 million people – since January 23, with all residential areas quarantined and roads and transport links closed. The retracted order would have allowed non-residents who did not have symptoms of the virus and had not had contact with infected patients to leave the city. It had also said locals involved in disease control efforts or essential daily services such as utilities and the delivery of necessities, as well as those who needed specialist medical treatment outside Wuhan, could leave without permission.

[..] More than 75 per cent of deaths in China from the new coronavirus – which causes a disease known as Covid-19 – have been in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated in December. [..] According to Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper, the earlier notice had been issued by one of Wuhan’s five deputy mayors without authorisation, but it did not name the official.

Read more …

600 “official” cases, 50 deaths. That rhymes with Worldometer’s 9% mortality rate. But sure, it could also mean a huge amount of undetected or unconfirmed cases.

How Iran’s Death Toll Came To Be The Highest Behind Only China (SCMP)

Iran has been thrust to the forefront of rising global concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus after reporting by far the most deaths of any country apart from China. Iranian health officials have confirmed 12 deaths from the Covid-19 disease among 61 cases in the country, while a parliamentarian representing the city at the centre of the outbreak in the country has claimed the death toll stands at 50. Either figure would dwarf death tolls in South Korea, Japan and Italy, until now the most severely-affected countries outside China…

After insisting as recently as last week that the country had no cases of the coronavirus, Iranian authorities on February 19 confirmed the deaths of two elderly people in the city of Qom, about 145km south of the capital Tehran, followed by more fatalities in subsequent days. On February 24, officials raised the death toll to 12, from eight the previous day – making the outbreak in Iran the deadliest outside China. Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker for the city of Qom, said on the same day there had been in fact 50 deaths, claiming the government was late to announce the outbreak and his city was ill-equipped to deal with the public health emergency.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi disputed those claims in a press conference on state television, pledging to resign if the death toll was even one-quarter of the higher figure. [..] After officials earlier speculated about possible sources of the outbreak including Chinese workers and pilgrims from Pakistan, Iran’s health minister Saeed Namaki on Sunday said the contagion was believed to be linked to a merchant from Qom who regularly travelled between Iran and China. The Iranian, who died from the virus, had been using indirect flights to get around a ban on direct flights between the countries introduced at the end of January.

[..] The disproportionately high fatality rate in Iran’s official figures – with about one in five of those infected succumbing to the virus, compared to one in 50 in China – has been taken by some experts as a sign the true number of cases in the country is far higher than currently known. Assuming a fatality rate of about 2 per cent, the official death toll so far would translate into about 600 cases overall in Iran, about 10 times the current count.

Read more …

More sleight of hand. I’ve been saying for a long time that it’s sbout SMEs, not Apple suppliers. Small firms account for at least 80% of jobs.

China Overestimating Economic Recovery By Leaving Out Small Businesses (SCMP)

China’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus outbreak has likely been overstated as data only covers larger companies and excludes the vast majority of the smaller workshops and manufacturers. [..] On Monday, National Development and Reform Commission spokesman Cong Liang said that over 90 per cent of industrial enterprises in Zhejiang province, one of the country’s top manufacturing bases, had resumed operation. According to Cong, over 70 per cent of production in the manufacturing and export hubs of Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Liaoning had also restarted. However, the official figures only cover larger firms, namely enterprises with capacities “above state designated sizes”, which are enterprises that have a minimum annual turnover of 20 million yuan (US$2.85 million), according to the government’s official definition.


China’s state statistics system normally only covers industrial enterprises with an annual turnover above this level as they accounted for around 90 per cent of the nation’s output in terms of value. In addition, the figures concerning firms that have resumed operation overlook the level of production within a specific factory, as the official data classes a factory that may have only resumed slightly more than half of its capacity as having resumed production. [..] The smaller firms, for example, are often unable to met virus prevention conditions set by local governments, including having enough facial masks for employees. A monthly survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China, conducted by Standard Chartered Bank for the period up to the start of last week, found that firms were on average operating at 42 per cent, while only 47 per cent of workers had returned on average.

Read more …

Please imagine how you would test 200,000 people. Do they really have that many test kits? Where do they buy them?

South Korea To Test 200,000 Sect Members As Pandemic Fears Hit Markets (G.)

South Korea has stepped up its “maximum measures” to contain the coronavirus with plans to test around 200,000 members of a secretive church believed to be at the centre of the country’s outbreak. Along with an emergency budget and a crackdown on the hoarding of face masks, the government in Seoul will test members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus after its founder agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in the country. It came as financial markets saw more heavy losses across Asia Pacific on Tuesday over fears the coronavirus was spreading more widely from China and will cause disruption in countries such as South Korea, the world’s 12th biggest economy.

The Nikkei in Tokyo was down 3.3% while the Shanghai Composite sank 2%. Stocks in Australia fell 1.6% and Hong Kong was also in the red although futures trading pointed to a recovery later in the day in European and US markets. In Japan, a fourth person from the Diamond Princess cruise ship died and the country’s education minister said schools with reported coronavirus cases should be temporarily closed. Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Tuesday that education boards of Hokkaido in northern Japan and Chiba City near Tokyo have been told to take this preventive measure, NHK says.

In China, where 71 new deaths and 508 new cases were reported on Tuesday, health officials said strict control and prevention measures would remain in place in Hubei province, the epicentre of the global outbreak. The national health commission added it would also strictly control the outbound movement of people in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province with existing traffic controls. At Tianjin University, near Beijing, scientists said they had developed an oral vaccine for Covid-19. The professor who led the project, Huang Jinhai, said the vaccine could also serve as a potential therapy for infected patients. Chinese state media said the university was looking for partners to run clinical trials.

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” South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus..”

Virus Spreads Despite Best Efforts Of Top Healthcare Systems (Fox)

Fears of a global pandemic continue to grow as coronavirus cases spike in several countries, including Italy, South Korea and Iran, as the U.S. stock market nosedived early Monday. A staggering 50 people died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus in the month of February, Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Monday. The new death toll is significantly higher than the latest number of confirmed cases that Iranian officials had reported just a few hours earlier, which stood at just 12 deaths out of 47 cases, according to state TV. The 50 deaths date back as far as Feb. 13, according to an Iranian official. Iran previously reported its cases and deaths from the virus on Feb. 19.


Authorities are struggling to contain and understand the outbreak in those countries, where infected cases have skyrocketed as they have increased over 2,000 percent in the past couple of weeks. Italy is considered the site of Europe’s first major outbreak and the largest outside of Asia. The number of infected cases jumped to 152, compared to just three 10 days ago. Siegel told anchor Ed Henry that it’s even “more concerning” to hear there are more than 800 cases reported in South Korea. “I’ve been saying that it’s all about health care infrastructure, that China doesn’t have it, we have it, other Western countries have it. Well, guess what, South Korea has a fantastic health care system. They tested over 20,000 people and ended up with over 800 positive cases. That’s showing that this is a highly contagious virus that is spreading despite the best efforts of top health systems to contain it,” he said.

Read more …

China is also the main market for many endangered species from elsewhere in the world. Can we please stop that too? Just boycott the country for allowing rhino, tiger and elephant body parts trade. Full boycott. Here’s our chance..

Closures Reveal Vast Scale Of China’s Secretive Wildlife Farm Industry (G.)

Nearly 20,000 wildlife farmsraising species including peacocks, civet cats, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese and boar have been shut down across China in the wake of the coronavirus, in a move that has exposed the hitherto unknown size of the industry. Until a few weeks ago wildlife farming was still being promoted by government agencies as an easy way for rural Chinese people to get rich. But the Covid-19 outbreak, which has now led to over 1,800 deaths and more than 72,000 known infections, is thought to have originated in wildlife sold at a market in Wuhan in early December, prompting a massive rethink by authorities on how to manage the trade. China issued a temporary ban on wildlife trade to curb the spread of the virus at the end of January and began a widespread crackdown on breeding facilities in early February.


The country’s top legislative officials are now rushing to amend the country’s wildlife protection law and possibly restructure regulations on the use of wildlife for food and traditional Chinese medicine. The current version of the law is seen as problematic by wildlife conservation groups because it focuses on utilisation of wildlife rather than its protection. “The coronavirus epidemic is swiftly pushing China to reevaluate its relationship with wildlife,” Steve Blake, chief representative of WildAid in Beijing, told the Guardian. “There is a high level of risk from this scale of breeding operations both to human health and to the impacts on populations of these animals in the wild.” Further instructions from the National People’s Congress are expected next week to give authorities more tools to enforce the ban and restrict trade until the law is amended.

Read more …

“The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. ”

Why Didn’t We See That Coming? (Kunstler)

And now the Corona virus steps onstage to ramify that situation, beginning with a virtual shut-down of the excessively complex, over-engineered, just-in-time global economy. Things are not being produced and supply lines are shutting down. Car-makers outside China have a couple of weeks before their production lines halt for a lack of parts. But, of course, every other industry will have similar problems and stoppages. Many working Americans are barely getting by from one paycheck to the next. How many missed paychecks will it take for genuine hunger to kick in and desperation with it? We don’t know because the US news media has been busy conjuring the many loves of Vlad Putin.

This is getting serious now. Some of you may have noticed this morning that the stock indexes are heading into the worst open in years. Today, Mr. Market woke up, like Rip Van Winkle, and discovered that the world changed while he was sleeping. There’s a fair chance that the conditions of daily life in America will deteriorate sharply in the months ahead. We’ve been remote-viewing the empty streets of Wuhan and other Chinese cities since January, thinking it was like one of our cable-network horror shows. It’s not inconceivable that an American City, or more than one, will be subject to quarantine, or that a whole lot of people just won’t leave their houses for a period of time. Will the truckers still truck things that people need? We don’t know. How do you hold a political convention in a situation like that, or even an election?

The situation in China may be too far gone already. The country’s finances were a gigantic game of pretend. In the old Soviet Union, beloved by Bernie, the joke was, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work” — not a great formula for enduring prosperity. In China, the updated joke was “we pretend to make loans, and you pretend to pay them back.” The China boom was a lot like the shale oil “miracle.” They were both great stunts. They produced a lot of stuff by borrowing from the future. Now we have all that stuff and we have to maintain it, keep if running, borrow more money to make that happen… and suddenly, that’s no longer plausible. The entire industrialized world has fallen for the debt stunt. Observers have been waiting to see what would finally provoke the unwinding of massive false promises. Looks like the wait is over.

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Gee, what a surprise.

Airline Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Spreads Outside Of China (CNBC)

Airline stocks fell Monday as fears about the spread of the coronavirus beyond China added to worries about travel demand and the broader economy, despite a drop in fuel prices. American Airlines shares led the S&P 500 lower with an 9.8% slide in midday trading, hitting a more than four-month low. Delta Air Lines’ stock lost 7.2% to the lowest price in nearly four months, while United Airlines was off 4.3%. All U.S. airline stocks were down more sharply than the broader market. The S&P 500 fell 2.6%. Close to 80,000 cases of the virus, now known as COVID-19, have been reported along with at least 2,621 deaths. Cases outside of China, where most of the infections are located, have increased, with Italy reporting more than 220 and South Korea confirming more than 830.


Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned citizens not to travel to affected areas, helping drive down shares of European carriers. Budget airline easyJet lost more than 16% while rival Ryanair was down 12%. Deutsche Lufthansa fell 8.8%, British Airways’ parent, International Consolidated Airlines Group, was off 9% and Air France-KLM fell 8.4%. More than 200,000 flights to, from and within China have already been canceled because of the virus, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium, and more disruptions are possible if the virus continues to spread. The coronavirus is expected to eat into carriers’ revenue this year. Air travel demand globally is set to fall for the first time since 2009 and cost airlines some $29 billion — mostly in the Asia-Pacific region — in revenue, the International Air Transport Association warned last week.

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Weinstein still has plenty money to pay for whoever he wants. They couldn’t get him on the most serious charges. Just throw away the key.

Weinstein To Face 8 More Allegations After New York Verdict (G.)

The verdict in the New York case against Harvey Weinstein is only the beginning of the movie mogul’s prosecution, with separate charges against the disgraced producer ahead in Los Angeles. In the most high-profile trial of the #MeToo movement yet, a New York jury on Monday found Weinstein guilty of third-degree rape for an attack in a New York hotel and guilty of a criminal sex act for forcing oral sex on a former television production assistant. The fallen titan of Hollywood, who was taken away in handcuffs, could face 25 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender. Next, Weinstein is due to face a criminal case in LA, which stems from investigations by law enforcement in southern California into eight allegations.


LA prosecutors have filed charges for two incidents that allegedly occurred within a two-day period. Those charges include forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint, carrying a potential 28-year prison sentence. It’s not yet clear how LA prosecutors plan to proceed following Monday’s verdict in New York. Weinstein could be immediately brought to California after his 11 March sentencing in New York. He could pursue a plea deal in LA after his guilty verdict in Manhattan, or he could end up facing a second trial, said Laurie Levenson, criminal law professor at Loyola Law School. Either way, it’s an uphill battle for the former movie producer, she said: “When he heads to LA, he’s already a convicted rapist.”

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Putin is about to hand Erdogan an ultimatum or two. The US must go home.

US Proposals To Whitewash Idlib Terrorists Unacceptable – Lavrov (RT)

Moscow will resist any attempts to whitewash the terrorists holed up in Idlib, Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, adding that engaging in talks with them as the US is hinting is out of question. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda offshoot previously known as Al-Nusra, which controls Idlib, has been designated as a terrorist organization not only by the UN, but by the US itself, Lavrov said. However, officials in Washington, including the special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, “allow themselves statements, from which a conclusion can be made that ‘it’s not such a terrorist organization anymore’ and that dialogue with it can be established under some circumstances,” he said. “It’s not the first time we hear such hints and we consider them absolutely unacceptable.”


The foreign minister also said that another round of consultations between Russia and Turkey is currently being prepared in ordered “to agree on ways of turning Idlib into a real de-escalation where the terrorists aren’t in charge.” Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey sent troops to Idlib a few weeks ago amid a large-scale offensive by the Syrian military on the last terrorist stronghold in the country. The move provoked clashes between the Turkish and Syrian forces, with casualties on both sides. Ankara is demanding that Moscow pressure Damascus into ceasing its operation, while Russia has told Turkey that its promise to separate the ‘moderate opposition’ from the terrorists still remains unfulfilled.Lavrov insisted that it was no surprise for the Turkish military that the terrorists were being targeted. Earlier Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib never envisaged that strikes against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would stop, he added.

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“Edward Fitzgerald QC: Mental state of Assange deteriorating such that there is possibility he may not be able to participate in his own trial. Defense outlines why they believe it’s unjust an oppressive to pursue trial so long after alleged offenses..”


“Julian Assange faces life in prison for publishing true information that was in the public interest..if truth becomes treason we are all in trouble.”

Still, making it all against Trump doesn’t seem the wisest move. Try US Intel. Obviously, Trump’s role is terrible as well, but Assange went into the Embassy in 2012. Trump became president in 2017.

Julian Assange ‘Suicide Risk’ If Extradited From UK To US – Lawyer (SCMP)

Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States as he would not get a fair trial and would be a suicide risk, his lawyer told a British court hearing on Monday. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said extradition would expose Assange to inhumane and degrading treatment by a disproportionate sentence and prison conditions. Fitzgerald said the extradition request was motivated by politics rather than any genuine crimes. He said it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite him because of his mental state and risk of suicide. He said the US attitude to Assange had changed when Donald Trump came to power and that the US president wanted to make an example of his client.


Fitzgerald said in 2013 the US government under former President Barack Obama had decided that Assange should not face any action. But that in 2017, after the 2016 election of Trump, an indictment was brought against Assange. Why the change? “The answer is President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech and a new hostility to the press amounting effectively to declaring war on investigative journalists,” Fitzgerald said. The indictment was brought, “not on the basis of new revelations, but because it had become politically expedient and desirable,” Fitzgerald said.

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The background Assange’s lawyers will provide. They promise big surprises.

Assange Fight Draws In Trump’s New Intel Chief (Pol.)

Attorneys for Julian Assange [..] plan to introduce evidence in the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing involving President Donald Trump’s new intel chief Richard Grenell. Gareth Peirce, a lawyer representing Assange in his extradition proceedings in London, plans to argue this week that the process to try to extradite her client was abused from early on. Representatives for Assange’s defense team say they expect to introduce recordings and screenshots of communications of a close Grenell associate, including a secondhand claim that Grenell was acting on the president’s orders. Grenell’s sudden embroilment in Assange’s extradition fight comes at an inconvenient time, as Democrats and national security veterans criticize him as ill-suited and unqualified to be the acting director of national intelligence.

And it threatens to spotlight his close relationship with President Trump, feeding the widespread perception that the president is politicizing intelligence work for partisan ends. At the heart of the Assange team’s argument is an ABC News report from last April alleging that, while serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Grenell told Assange’s Ecuadorean hosts that the U.S. government would not pursue the death penalty for Assange if Ecuador allowed British officials to enter its embassy in London and arrest him. Assange’s legal team will claim that Grenell’s role was more extensive than previously known, and that it corrupted the extradition process early on. The suggestion will be that the U.S. was so desperate to get Assange in its custody that American officials, via Grenell, agreed in advance to take a particular sentence off the table before even allowing a trial and sentencing to play out.

The WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys are also expected to present evidence that they believe shows Trump explicitly tasked Grenell with making the offer, thereby politicizing the process. One of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald, hinted at this argument in his opening statement on Monday, when he said that Assange’s prosecution was “not motivated by genuine concerns for criminal justice but politics.” The evidence submitted this week will include new materials submitted to Assange’s legal team by political activist and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, a staunch defender of Assange who has worked for the Russian state-run news site Sputnik and the far-right outlet Gateway Pundit. She is expected to be listed as a formal witness in the case.

Fairbanks recorded two phone calls she had with one of Grenell’s close associates, Arthur Schwartz, and took screenshots of their conversations about Assange and Grenell. [..] Schwartz appeared to grow frustrated and fearful after Fairbanks tweeted, on Sept. 10, 2019, that Grenell “was the one who worked out the deal for Julian Assange’s arrest.” “I don’t want to go to jail,” Schwartz told Fairbanks in a September 2019 phone call, accusing her of posting “classified information” in the tweet. Fairbanks posted the tweet around the time Grenell’s name was being floated to replace John Bolton as Trump’s national security adviser. “Please. I’m begging you,” Schwartz says in the recording. “They look at you, they see that we speak, that’s bad.”

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The US is trying to make this about the risk Assange has exposed sources to. But in 2013, even anti-Assange paper the Guardian said

The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.

Not only did none of them die, they weren’t even hurt. It’s all a fable, coming from US intel hiding behind state secret veils. The actual story for at least some of the releases is more or less the opposite: that Assange spent entire sleepless nights redactingout namea and details in docs that sources like the Guardian wanted to publish in full.

Julian Assange ‘At High Risk Of Suicide’ If Extradited To US -Lawyer (Ind.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at “high risk of suicide” if he is sent to the US to face claims he endangered the lives of whistleblowers around the world, a court has heard. At an extradition hearing in London, Assange’s lawyers argued he is the victim of a politically motivated prosecution that forms part of Donald Trump’s “war on investigative journalists”. But the US government claimed some sources had “disappeared” after the WikiLeaks founder put them at risk of “serious harm, torture or even death” by leaking classified information. James Lewis QC, opening the case against Assange, said on Monday that information published by WikiLeaks was useful to enemies of the US.Mr Lewis told Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court, that most of the charges related to “straightforward criminal activity” in a “conspiracy to steal from and hack into” the Department of Defence computer system.


“These are ordinary criminal charges and any person, journalist or source who hacks or attempts to gain unauthorised access to a secure system, or aids and abets others to do so, is guilty of computer misuse,” the barrister said. “Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws.” Mr Lewis said that the US identified hundreds of “at-risk and potentially at-risk people” around the world due to WikiLeaks’ actions and made efforts to warn them of the danger they faced. “The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks,” he added.

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Size matters.

 

 

 

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Oct 182018
 
 October 18, 2018  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Glass 1914

 

Bondholders Lost Nearly $1 Trillion Since September 26 (CR)
The US Housing Recovery Is Built On Quicksand (MW)
Fed Indicates It’s Staying The Course On Rate Hikes (CNBC)
Trump Is Completely Misguided On Interest Rates (Colombo)
China Not Manipulating Currency But Lacks Transparency – Mnuchin (AFP)
Bank of England Raises Alarm Over Surge In High-Risk Lending (G.)
Theresa May Opens Door To Longer Brexit Transition Period (Ind.)
Germany And France Start To Draw Up No-Deal Brexit Contingency Plans (G.)
Congress Members Pen Letter Demanding Ecuador Hand Over Julian Assange (GWP)
Stephen Hawking: Time Travel More Likely Than The Existence Of God (F.)
Largest, Oldest ‘Living Thing’ On Earth Is Dying (Ind.)

 

 

Interest rates.

Bondholders Lost Nearly $1 Trillion Since September 26 (CR)

At the Daily, we’ve been warning readers for months that rising interest rates will lead to an exodus of investors from the bond markets. Income Exodus (or Income Extermination) is when bond investors get “exterminated” by rising interest rates. As interest rates rise, bond prices drop. So when interest rates rise rapidly (like they are now), bond prices drop a lot. Now, we’re seeing this exodus play out in real time. Since September 26, bondholders lost nearly $1 trillion according to the Bloomberg Barclays Multiverse Index… This index tracks the market value of publicly traded bonds around the world. The reason it’s down is simple: The rate on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury has risen from 2.8% to 3.2% since August 24.

Bloomberg says the bond rout could spark an even worse sell-off than in 1976, the worst year for bond returns over the last four decades. And there’s good reason for fear… The Federal Reserve has already hiked rates three times in 2018… with plans for one more rate hike before the end of the year. And Fed chair Jerome Powell has indicated at least three more rate hikes in 2019 and one more in 2020. We’ve warned you that higher rates were coming for more than a year now. Hopefully, you’ve followed our steps and prepared for Income Exodus… because it’s here.

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On debt.

The US Housing Recovery Is Built On Quicksand (MW)

Home price gains since 2013 have been much less impressive than you think. While reports show that home prices have recovered nationwide, the increase has been uneven and not as strong as you have been led to believe. Consider RealtyTrac’s latest report on 148 major U.S. metropolitan areas. The average gain on the sale of property was 30%. Not bad, except the average holding period was just over eight years. That comes to an annual price increase of 3.75%. High-yield corporate bonds would have earned you considerably more. Taken together, the average gain for all metros is deceptive. While the average price gain in booming Silicon Valley was a remarkable 116%, it was a pitiful 2% in El Paso, Texas, 10% in Cleveland, and 15% in Chicago. Even the price rise in the New York City metro area was just 25%. The table below shows the great disparity:

At the same time, I am greatly troubled by the consistently weak volume of home sales. During the insane bubble years, sales volume rocketed along with prices. In the hottest metros, desperate buyers dove into the market in record numbers. This has not happened since 2013. Statistics from brokerage Trulia.com show that sales volume has declined substantially in all major metros from the torrid pace of 2005-2006. Most analysts have attributed the weak sales, as well as rising prices, to a lack of available inventory. The number of homes listed for sale has indeed fallen dramatically over the past five years, but look closer: Trulia’s Inventory and Price Watch, first published in March 2016, divides homes for sale into three segments: (1) starter homes — the least-expensive homes for first-time buyers; (2) trade-up homes, and (3) premium homes.

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What will a normal economy look like?

Fed Indicates It’s Staying The Course On Rate Hikes (CNBC)

Federal Reserve officials remain convinced that continuing to gradually increase interest rates is the best formula to preserve a steady economy, according to minutes released Wednesday of the central bank’s most recent policy meeting. That may not please President Donald Trump, who has been vocal in his criticism of the central bank’s actions. A summary of the Sept. 25-26 Federal Open Market Committee session reflected both confidence in the rate of economic growth and some hesitancy over the impact that tariffs might have on the future path.

Ultimately, the committee unanimously voted to approve a quarter-point hike to its benchmark rate target, with members indicating that more increases are on the way. The increase took the Fed’s overnight target to a range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent. “With regard to the outlook for monetary policy beyond this meeting, participants generally anticipated that further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would most likely be consistent with a sustained economic expansion, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near 2 percent over the medium term,” the minutes read.

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“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.”

Trump Is Completely Misguided On Interest Rates (Colombo)

President Donald Trump has been making a big stink about the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes lately. Last week, after the Dow plunged nearly 2,000 points, he blamed the Fed for it, saying “I think the Fed is making a mistake. They’re so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy…” On Tuesday, Trump said that the Federal Reserve is “my biggest threat.” Since he became president, Trump has been praising the soaring stock market (something I said was very dangerous to do), viewing it as evidence of the success of his administration’s policies. Trump is worried that rising interest rates will put an end to the stock market boom, which will make him look bad.

Unfortunately, the president is extremely misguided about how interest rates work and the role they play in creating booms in the stock market and economy. As I’ve explained in great detail, the U.S. stock market has been booming because the Fed held interest rates at record low levels for a record length of time after the Great Recession. This Fed-driven stock market boom is an unsustainable bubble instead of a genuine, organic boom. The fact that the Fed held rates at record low levels and inflated a credit and asset bubble meant that a crisis was already “baked into the cake” whether the Fed raised interest rates or not. Once a credit expansion or bubble is already in motion, the actions of the central bank from that point on can only determine what type of crisis occurs when the credit expansion ends – not whether a crisis will occur or not.

The Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises said it best in his book Human Action: “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

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Negotiating.

China Not Manipulating Currency But Lacks Transparency – Mnuchin (AFP)

Beijing is not a currency manipulator but China’s exchange rate practices and the yuan’s recent decline are of “particular concern,” US Treasury Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday. In putting Beijing and five other US trading partners on notice, the Treasury again refrained from escalating a fight over China’s currency as US President Donald Trump had once pledged to do on the campaign trail. “Of particular concern are China’s lack of currency transparency and the recent weakness in its currency,” Mnuchin said in releasing a twice-yearly report to Congress on how country’s manage exchange rates and trade.

“These pose major challenges to achieving fairer and more balanced trade and we will continue to monitor and review China’s currency practices, including through ongoing discussions with the People’s Bank of China.” Washington has long argued that China keeps its currency artificially low to make its exports more competitive but in recent years the yuan or renminbi (RMB) has strengthened and is viewed by economists as more in line with economic fundamentals. Still, as US interest rates have risen, the US dollar has strengthened further, which makes American exports more expensive.

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Yield.

Bank of England Raises Alarm Over Surge In High-Risk Lending (G.)

The Bank of England has issued a stark warning over the rapid growth in lending to indebted companies around the world, drawing parallels with the US sub-prime mortgage market that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. Threadneedle Street said Britain was not immune from a global boom in risky lending that had alarmed financial regulators around the world this year, with the US market for such loans more than doubling since 2010 to surpass $1tn (£763bn). “The global leveraged loan market was larger than – and was growing as quickly as – the US sub-prime mortgage market had been in 2006,” the central bank said of the rapid growth in leveraged loans, which are defined as loans to firms that already have debts worth more than four times their earnings.

The Bank’s financial policy committee (FPC), set up after the crisis to assess the risks to UK financial stability, noted that lending standards were falling and that it would more closely monitor the risks to Britain. Though far from the scale of the US market, which is the largest in the world, gross issuance of leveraged loans by UK companies reached a record £38bn in 2017, while a further £30bn has been issued so far this year. Taken together with high-yield bonds, which are debts of firms with weaker credit ratings, the Bank estimates the total stock of debt to riskier firms in Britain was worth about a fifth of all lending to UK companies.

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Which of course the Brexiteers don’t want. Ministers will leave her government.

Theresa May Opens Door To Longer Brexit Transition Period (Ind.)

Theresa May has opened the door to an even longer Brexit transition period, setting herself on yet another collision course with Tory Eurosceptics and potentially growing the EU divorce bill by billions. The prime minister brought up the possibility of an extension during meetings with EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday as she sought to find a way to break the deadlock in negotiations. The period – during which the UK would stay completely tied to EU rules without any say on them – is hugely unpopular with Brexiteers, who believe it would make Britain a “vassal state” of the bloc. European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, who was in the room while Ms May spoke with leaders, said the prime minister had listed a longer transition as a possible solution to the current impasse.

“It was mentioned – both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of a transition period as one possibility that is on the table and would be looked into,” Mr Tajani told reporters after Ms May’s address. “Theresa May during her speech said it’s possible to achieve an agreement also on a transition period, but not with a clear position on the timing.” With a smile, he added: “This Council is the transition Council.” The prime minister is also understood to have brought up an extension to the period in a private bilateral meeting with Council president Donald Tusk earlier in the afternoon. One Brussels official told The Independent that the UK’s negotiators had been sounding out a possible extension to the transition “for months” in talks.

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“Britons would be “obliged to present a visa to enter French territory and to hold a residence permit to remain there..”

Germany And France Start To Draw Up No-Deal Brexit Contingency Plans (G.)

Germany and France are starting to step up their preparations for a no-deal Brexit even though both publicly insist an agreement with the UK over the terms of its departure from the EU can still be achieved. Angela Merkel revealed for the first time on Wednesday that Germany was drawing up contingency plans, saying the government had started making “suitable preparations” for the possibility of Britain leaving with no accord. While there was there was still a chance for a deal, it was “only fitting as a responsible and forward-thinking government leadership that we prepare for every scenario”, the German chancellor told MPs in Berlin. “That includes the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without an agreement.”

France has published a draft bill that would allow the government to introduce new legal measures to avoid or mitigate the consequences of a hard Brexit by emergency decree, as opposed to parliamentary vote, within 12 months of the law being passed. It said those consequences would include include Britons needing visas to visit and UK nationals resident in the country being in an “irregular” legal situation. Without emergency measures, British citizens living in France would become third-country nationals, the draft bill states, which would prevent them from holding jobs restricted to EU nationals and limit their access to healthcare and welfare.

Britons would be “obliged to present a visa to enter French territory and to hold a residence permit to remain there”, the bill’s preamble says. A no-deal Brexit would also mean “British citizens with a work contract under French law with a French employer could be asked for a document authorising them to work in France”.

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But Rand Paul still wants him to testify.

Congress Members Pen Letter Demanding Ecuador Hand Over Julian Assange (GWP)

Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chair Emeritus of the Committee, have sent a letter to Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno demanding that Julian Assange be handed over to authorities. The firm stance against press freedom comes as Ecuador is preparing to restore Assange’s communications — with strict limitations that will not allow him to properly continue his work as a publisher. The letter threatens that the United States will be unwilling to provide economic cooperation with Ecuador unless the WikiLeaks founder and political refugee is handed over.

“Many of us in the United States Congress are eager to move forward in collaborating with your government on a wide array of issues, from economic cooperation to counternarcotics assistance to the possible return of a United States Agency for International Development mission to Ecuador. However, in order to advance on these crucial matters, we must first resolve a significant challenge created by your predecessor, Rafael Correa – the status of Julian Assange,” the members wrote in their letter.

“Most recently, we were particularly disturbed to learn that your government restored Mr. Assange’s access to the Internet. On numerous occasions, Mr. Assange has compromised the national security of the United States. He has done so by publicly releasing classified government documents along with confidential materials from individuals connected to our country’s 2016 presidential election. As you yourself have noted, he has repeatedly used his standing in the international media to meddle in the affairs of foreign governments such as Spain and the United Kingdom. This has frayed Ecuador’s relations with like-minded governments. Mr. Assange also remains wanted by British authorities for a bail violation. It is clear that Mr. Assange remains a dangerous criminal and a threat to global security, and he should be brought to justice,” the letter states.

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“These laws may or may not have been decreed by God, but he cannot intervene to break the laws or they would not be laws.”

Stephen Hawking: Time Travel More Likely Than The Existence Of God (F.)

In Stephen Hawking’s universe there was no room for God, because the famous cosmologist came to believe that the entirety of existence was created out of, well… nothing. As he explains in his final book, “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” before the Big Bang there was nothing, not even a God to create the universe. “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing according to the laws of science,” Hawking writes. “There is no time for a creator to have existed in.” He goes on to explain that the only God who could be consistent with the laws of physics would be a deity who never directly influences the workings of the universe. “These laws may or may not have been decreed by God, but he cannot intervene to break the laws or they would not be laws.”

While the existence of God makes little sense to Hawking, he’s more open to the possibility of something that most people might consider much more far-fetched: time travel. Hawking famously held a party for time travelers but did not send out the invitations until after the party. No one showed up for the festivities. But the scientist writes that there is still some hope that traveling back in time could be possible according to the laws of the universe. He pegs this notion on the promise of something called “M theory” that suggests the universe may contain seven hidden dimensions in addition to the familiar four dimensions of space-time. “Rapid space travel and travel back in time can’t be ruled out according to our present understanding,” he writes. “Science fiction fans need not lose heart: there’s hope in M theory.”

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40,000 tree clones.

Largest, Oldest ‘Living Thing’ On Earth Is Dying (Ind.)

Scientists have warned that an ancient forest widely considered the largest single living thing in the world is dying, despite efforts to preserve it. The Pando aspen is an enormous expanse of 40,000 trees, all of which are clones with identical genetic compositions, meaning they are classified together as one individual. Thought to be up to 80,000 years old, the colony known as the “trembling giant” is a contender for the oldest organism as well as the heaviest and largest. In total the trees, which originate from a single underground parent clone, cover 43 hectares of Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. But in recent years a tragedy has been quietly unfurling. Despite their best efforts, scientists think this natural wonder that has lasted millennia may not survive a few decades of human interference.

“While Pando has likely existed for thousands of years – we have no method of firmly fixing its age – it is now collapsing on our watch,” said Professor Paul Rogers, an ecologist at Utah State University. After analysing Pando’s condition comprehensively, Professor Rogers and his colleague Professor Darren McAvoy examined a 72-year aerial photo sequence that revealed its steady decline. [..] As it has often proved difficult to measure the true extent of such enormous organisms, Pando has some contenders for the largest living thing – including massive fungi growing in Oregon and clonal colonies of underwater Neptune grass.

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Oct 132017
 
 October 13, 2017  Posted by at 7:45 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630

 

“The Cost of Missing the Market Boom is Skyrocketing”, says a Bloomberg headline today. That must be the scariest headline I’ve seen in quite a while. For starters, it’s misleading, because people who ‘missed’ the boom haven’t lost anything other than virtual wealth, which is also the only thing those who haven’t ‘missed’ it, have acquired.

Well, sure, unless they sell their stocks. But a large majority of them won’t, because then they would ‘miss’ out on the market boom… Some aspects of psychology don’t require years of study. Is that what behavioral economics is all about?

And it’s not just the headline, the entire article is scary as all hell. It reads way more like a piece of pure and undiluted stockbroker propaganda that it does resemble actual objective journalism, which Bloomberg would like to tell you it delivers. And it makes its point using some pretty dubious claims to boot:

 

The Cost of Missing the Market Boom Is Skyrocketing

Skepticism in global equity markets is getting expensive. From Japan to Brazil and the U.S. as well as places like Greece and Ukraine, an epic year in equities is defying naysayers and rewarding anyone who staked a claim on corporate ownership. Records are falling, with about a quarter of national equity benchmarks at or within 2% of an all-time high.

If equity markets in places like Greece and Ukraine, ravaged by -in that order- financial and/or actual warfare, are booming, you don’t need to fire too many neurons to understand something’s amiss. Some of their companies may be doing okay, but not their entire economies. Their boom must be a warning sign, not some bullish signal. That makes no sense. Stocks in Aleppo may be thriving too, but…

“You’ve heard people being bearish for eight years. They were wrong,” said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at St. Petersburg, Florida-based Raymond James, which oversees $500 billion. “The proof is in the returns.” To put this year’s gains in perspective, the value of global equities is now 3 1/2 times that at the financial crisis bottom in March 2009.

If markets crash by, pick a number, 20-30-50% next week, will Mr. Saut still claim “The proof is in the returns”? I doubt it. Though this time he might be right. As for the ‘value’ of global equities being 250% (give or take) higher than in March 2009, does that mean those who were -or still are- bearish were wrong? Or is there some remote chance that the equities are part of a giant planetwide bubble?

Aided by an 8% drop in the U.S. currency, the dollar-denominated capitalization of worldwide shares appreciated in 2017 by an amount – $20 trillion – that is comparable to the total value of all equities nine years ago. And yet skeptics still abound, pointing to stretched valuations or policy uncertainty from Washington to Brussels. Those concerns are nothing new, but heeding to them is proving an especially costly mistake.

$20 trillion. That’s a lot of dough. It’s what all equities in the world combined were ‘worth’ 9 years ago. It’s also, oh irony, awfully close to the total increase in central bank balance sheets, through QE etc. Might the two be related in any way?

 

 

Clinging to such concerns means discounting a harmonized recovery in the global economy that’s virtually without precedent – and set to pick up steam, according to the IMF. At the same time, inflation remains tepid, enabling major central banks to maintain accommodative stances.

‘Harmonized recovery’ is a priceless find. But you have to feel for anyone who believes it. And it’s obviously over the top ironic that central banks are said to be ‘enabled’ to keep rates low precisely because they fail to both understand and raise inflation. Let’s call it the perks of failure.

“When policy is easy and growth is strong, this is an environment more conducive for people paying up for valuations,” said Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley. “The markets are up in line with what the earnings have done, and stronger earnings helped drive a higher level of enthusiasm and a higher level of risk taking.”

Oh boy. He actually said that? What have earnings done? He hasn’t read any of the warnings on P/E (price/earnings) for the (US) market in general –“the Shiller P/E Cyclically Adjusted P/E, or CAPE, ratio, which is based on the S&P 500’s average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years, is above 30 when its average is 16.8”– or for individual companies (tech) in particular?

The CAPE ratio has been higher than it is now only twice in history: right before the Great Depression and during the dotcom bubble, when tech companies didn’t even have to be able to fog a mirror to attract billions in ‘capital’. And the chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley says markets are in line with earnings? Again, oh boy.

No, it’s not earnings that “..helped drive a higher level of enthusiasm and a higher level of risk taking.” Cheap money did that. Central banks did that. As they were destroying fixed capital, savings, pensions.

 

 

The numbers are impressive: more than 85% of the 95 benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg worldwide are up this year, on course for the broadest gain since the bull market started. Emerging markets have surged 31%, developed nations are up 16%. Big companies are becoming huge, from Apple to Alibaba.

Look, emerging markets and developed economies have borrowed up the wazoo. Because they could. Often in US dollars. That may cause a -temporary- gain in stock markets, but it casts a dark spell over the reality of these markets. If it’s that obvious that a substantial part of your happy news comes from debt, there’s very little reason to celebrate.

Technology megacaps occupy all top six spots in the ranks of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization for the first time ever. Up 39% this year, the $1 trillion those firms added in value equals the combined worth of the world’s six-biggest companies at the bear market bottom in 2009. Apple, priced at $810 billion, is good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500.

To cast those exact same words in a whole different light, no, Apple is not ‘good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500’. Yes, you can argue that Apple’s ‘value’ has lifted other stocks too, but this has happened in a time of zero price discovery AND near zero interest rates. That means people have no way to figure out if a company is actually doing well, so it’s safer to park their cash in Apple.

Ergo: Apple, and the FANGs in general, take valuable money out of the stock market. At the same time that they, companies with P/E earnings ratios to the moon and back, buy back their stocks at blinding speeds. So yeah, Apple may be ‘good’ for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500, but at the same time it’s not good for that value at all. It’s killing companies by sucking up potential productive investment.

And Apple’s just an example. Silicon Valley as a whole is a scourge upon America’s economy, hoovering away even the cheapest and easiest money and redirecting it to questionable start-up projects with very questionable P/E ratios. But then, that’s what you get without price discovery.

 

 

Overall, U.S. corporate earnings are expected to rise 11% this year, on track to be the best profit growth since 2010. And after years of disappointments, European profits are set to climb 14% in 2017, Bloomberg data show. The expectations for both regions are roughly in line with forecasts made at the beginning of the year, defying the usual pattern of analysts downgrading their estimates as the months go by.

Come on, the European Central Bank has been buying bonds and securities at a rate of €60 billion a month for years now. How can it be any wonder that officially stock markets are up 14%? Maybe we should be surprised it’s not 114%. Maybe the one main point in all of this is that the ECB is still buying at that rate, and thereby signaling things are still as bad as when they started doing it.

Meanwhile, Asia is home to some of the world’s steepest rallies, led by Hong Kong stocks that are up 29% this year. Shares in Tokyo also hit fresh decade highs this week, bolstered by investor confidence before the local corporate earnings season and a snap election this month. “Asia will benefit from continued improving regional growth, stable macroeconomic conditions and undemanding valuations,” said BNP Paribas Asset Management’s head of Asia Pacific equities Arthur Kwong. Any pullback in Asian equities after the year-to-date rally presents a buying opportunity for long-term investors, he wrote in a note.

In Japan, so-called investor confidence is based solely on the Bank of Japan continuing to purchase anything that’s not bolted down. In China, the central bank buys the kitchen sink as well. How, knowing that, can you harp on about increased investor confidence? As if central banks taking over entire economies either isn’t happening, or makes no difference to economies? Buying opportunity?

Global economic growth has been robust in most places, with Europe finally joining the party and the euro-area economy on track for its best year since at least 2010. The region’s steady recovery has eclipsed worries about populism, which a few years ago would have been enough to derail any stock market rally.

No, global economic growth has not been ‘robust’. Stock market growth perhaps has been, but that’s only due to QE and buybacks. Still, stock markets are not the economy.

“I’ve never been so optimistic about the global economy,” said Vincent Juvyns, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Ten years after the financial crisis, Europe is recovering and we have synchronized economic growth around the world. Even if we get it wrong on a country or two, it doesn’t change the big picture, which is positive for the equity markets.”

Oh man. And at that exact moment the ECB announces it wants to cut its QE purchase in half by next year.

Nowhere is the shifting sentiment more pronounced than in Europe, where global investors began the year with a election calendar looming like a sword of Damocles. Ten months later, the Euro Stoxx 50 Index is up 10%, Italy’s FTSE MIB Index is up 17% and Germany’s DAX Index is up 13%. The rally is even stronger when priced in U.S. dollars, with the Euro Stoxx 50 up 23% since the start of the year.

Sure, whatever. I don’t want to kill your dream, and I don’t have to. The dream will kill itself. You’ll hear a monumental ‘POP’ go off, and then you’re back in reality.

 

 

Note: Rembrandt painted the portrait above when he was just 23-24 years old.

 

 

Aug 262017
 
 August 26, 2017  Posted by at 7:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait with Straw Hat Aug-Sep 1887

 

Draghi Warns Of Serious Risk To Global Economy From Rising Protectionism (CNBC)
Yellen and Draghi Both Defend Post-Crisis Financial Regulation (BBG)
Central Banks’ Pursuit Of Inflation Has Turned Sisyphean (CNBC)
IMF: We See A Broad-Based Global Recovery (CNBC)
Rickards: September Meltdown Ahead (DR)
Negative Interest Rates Have Come To America (Black)
Adults Take Over at Uber, Cost Cutting Starts (WS)
Sears Revenues to Hit Zero in 3 Years. But Bankruptcy First (WS)
Health-Care Costs Could Eat Up Your Retirement Savings (BBG)
Schaeuble Defends Tough Line On Greek Reforms (K.)
Minister: Young Greeks Fleeing A ‘Debt Colony’ (K.)

 

 

Only globalization can save you. In other news: all your base are belong to us.

Draghi Warns Of Serious Risk To Global Economy From Rising Protectionism (CNBC)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said protectionist policies pose a “serious risk” for growth in the global economy. At a gathering of central bankers, economists and others in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, Draghi said the global economy is firming up. He told the audience in a speech that “a turn towards protectionism would pose a serious risk for continued productivity growth and potential growth in the global economy.” The comments come at a time when President Donald Trump is taking a hard look at the U.S.’s trade agreements around the world, pushing to reduce trade deficits and make conditions more favorable for American manufacturers.

Trump also came to office promising American business leaders he would break down regulations, which he said have constrained economic growth. The financial industry in particular seems poised to benefit if Obama-era regulations on banks and Wall Street get dismantled or diluted. On Friday, Draghi, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said “there is never a good time for lax regulation” especially because it can create incentives that lead to higher risk-taking. “By contrast, the stronger regulatory regime that we have now has enabled economies to endure a long period of low interest rates without any significant side-effects on financial stability, which has been crucial for stabilizing demand and inflation worldwide,” Draghi said. “With monetary policy globally very expansionary, regulators should be wary of rekindling the incentives that led to the crisis.”

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MO: make a godawful mess, then switch to being sensible.

Yellen and Draghi Both Defend Post-Crisis Financial Regulation (BBG)

The world’s two most powerful central bankers on Friday delivered back-to-back warnings against dismantling tough post-crisis financial rules that the Trump administration blames for stifling U.S. growth. ECB President Mario Draghi, speaking at the Federal Reserve’s annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, said it was a particularly dangerous time to loosen regulation given that central banks are still supporting their economies with accommodative monetary policies. That warning followed earlier remarks by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who offered a broad defense of the steps taken since the 2008 financial-market meltdown and urged that any rollback of post-crisis rules be “modest.” The combined effect was “a subtle shot across the bow of those who seek deregulation,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays in New York.

The complementary speeches come at what may be the tail end of Yellen’s tenure at the Fed’s helm. President Donald Trump is not expected to reappoint her when her leadership term expires in February, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Gapen said that by delivering overlapping messages, Yellen and Draghi could help amplify their points, but “in practice that’s not the agenda the Trump administration is likely to seek.” In a talk aimed broadly at defending the merits of globalization, Draghi said it’s crucial to make sure open policies on trade and global finance should be safeguarded with regulations designed to make globalization fair, safe and equitable. “We have only recently witnessed the dangers of financial openness combined with insufficient regulation,” Draghi said, referring to the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

Any reversal of the regulatory response to that crisis, he added, “would call into question whether the lessons of the crisis have indeed been learnt – and thus whether financial integration can still be considered safe.” That point was all the more important given that central banks are continuing to provide stimulus to their economies. “With monetary policy globally very expansionary, regulators should be wary of rekindling the incentives that led to the crisis,” Draghi said.

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Blind as bats.

Central Banks’ Pursuit Of Inflation Has Turned Sisyphean (CNBC)

Central banks globally have spent years fruitlessly trying to awaken long-dormant inflation, and some analysts say it’s time to stop trying. Anemic inflation has become a bugaboo for global central banks, with frequent mentions in the meeting minutes. It’s been a speed bump in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s path toward normalizing interest rates, with members voting at the July meeting to keep the current target rate in a 1% to 1.25% range. Minutes from that July decision show some policymakers were pushing for caution on rate hikes due to low inflation. The Fed’s target is for 2% inflation, and its preferred measure of inflation is at about 1.5%. It’s not limited to the U.S. by any stretch: Japan’s colossal struggle to goad inflation to life has been a stalemate at best. Since the Bank of Japan launched a massive quantitative easing program in 2013, the country has exited deflation.

But even the September 2016, introduction of a “yield-curve control” policy, seen by markets as essentially a “whatever it takes” stance on boosting inflation, hasn’t seemed to move the needle much. Japan’s core consumer price index, which includes oil products and excludes fresh food, rose 0.5% year-on-year in July, Reuters reported on Friday. That compared with the BOJ’s goal for inflation to meet or exceed its target of 2% “in a stable manner.” It also was oddly jarring compared with Japan’s economy growing a better-than-expected annualized 4% year-on-year in the April-to-June quarter. Some analysts have said the persistently low inflation was a signal that central banks shouldn’t be using inflation to guide monetary policy. “If we’ve got growth at trend, which most places appear to have, if we’ve got the unemployment rate at full employment, which most places appear to have, then we shouldn’t even worry about what inflation is doing,” Rob Carnell, head of research for Asia at ING, said recently.

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The future’s are so bright you just got to wear shades.

IMF: We See A Broad-Based Global Recovery (CNBC)

The global economy is doing well, the chief economist for the International Monetary Fund told CNBC on Friday. The IMF’s new forecast on the world’s economy is expected in about five weeks, Maury Obstfeld said. And while he wouldn’t divulge what that may be, he did say the organization “certainly” isn’t going to lower the number from its last projection. In July, the IMF forecast global economic growth of 3.5% for 2017 and 2.5% for 2018. “We see broad-based recovery. The importance is that it’s really broad-based in a way that it hasn’t been in a decade,” Obstfeld said in a “Closing Bell” interview from the sidelines of the Federal Reserve’s symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be concerns ahead. While there are not any immediate downside risks, there are longer-term ones, he noted. “One risk is just continuing tepid growth. What we’re seeing now is a cyclical upswing, but potential growth remains slow,” Obstfeld said. “That brings with it political tensions which we’ve seen spilling over into protectionist rhetoric, for example.” Earlier Friday, ECB Mario Draghi told the audience at Jackson Hole that protectionist policies pose a “serious risk” for growth in the global economy. The comments come at a time when President Donald Trump has been scrutinizing U.S. trade agreements around the world in a push to reduce trade deficits and boost conditions for American manufacturers.

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Ice-9.

Rickards: September Meltdown Ahead (DR)

Jim Rickards joined Alex Stanczyk at the Physical Gold Fund to discuss current destabilizing factors that could drastically impact investors. During the first part of their conversation the economic expert delved into gold positioning for the future, the expanding threats from North Korea and liquidity in global markets. To begin Rickards’ was prompted on his latest analysis over North Korea and the international threat the country poses going forward. The currency wars expert urged, “The fact is, the threats from North Korea, even if not to the mainland, still threaten U.S territory. There are a lot of Americans living there. As this escalation continues in sequence the problem is not new.” “The threat of North Korea has been going on for decades and has escalated since the mid 1990’s. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both offered sanctions relief for the country in exchange for program reductions.

The Obama administration essentially did nothing for eight years. I do think the Trump administration at least deserves credit for clarity.” “Trump has identified that he is not willing to negotiate to arrive at negotiations. They have indicated to North Korea that if the regime wishes to come to the table what the White House must see is a verified cessation of weapons programs. In exchange they could offer potential sanctions relief and even the possibility of integrating the North Korean economy into the global economy. The North Koreans are actually very rich in natural resources and could be a commodity driven exporter.” “The U.S is not going to be bullied. It will continue to operate in South Korea with joint military exercises. One by one the North Koreans have come to understand missile technology and it seems like they are within the final steps toward miniaturization of weapons.”

[..] The author of Road to Ruin highlighted the severity of the debt ceiling and what it means for the economy. Rickards went on, “There are two really big, but separate, deadlines converging on September 29th. The first is the debt ceiling. This has to deal with the borrowing authority of the U.S Treasury and to be able to pay the bills of the government.” “That authority includes the money to cover social security, medicare, medicaid, military and all of the operations within the budget. Until it is authorized, the Treasury is essentially running on fumes. They are running out of cash. They need Congress to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling so they can borrow money so they can pay for their bills. The problem is that Congress is not functional right now.”

[..] Rickards then turned to warn how liquidity can be frozen by governments. “In October 1987, the major U.S stock market, and in particular the Dow Jones, fell 22% in one day. That kind of a drop would be 4,000 Dow points. When I explain that move to investors they typically respond that there are measures in place to freeze the market and stop such a loss.” “My immediate reaction is, which makes you feel more concerned; thousand point drops, or a closed exchange? At least with a significant point drop you can still get out at a price. If you shut the market down, that’s Ice-9. My thesis is that if you shut down one market the demand for liquidity then just moves to another market, requiring another sector shutdown.”

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“..in principle there’s nothing wrong with paying a bank a reasonable fee to safeguard your money. But that’s not what banks do.”

Negative Interest Rates Have Come To America (Black)

Negative interest rates are particularly prominent in Europe. Starting back in 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed its main interest rate to below zero. One bizarre effect of this policy is that some banks have passed on these negative interest rates to their retail depositors. This trend has persisted across Europe, Japan, and many other parts of the world. Yet at least Americans were able to breathe a sigh of relief that negative interest rates hadn’t crossed the Atlantic. Well, that’s not entirely true. Recently I was reading through Bank of America’s most recent annual report; it’s filled with some shocking facts about the -real- level of wealth in the Land of the Free… which I’ll tell you more about next week. But here’s one of the things that caught my eye: Bank of America has $592.4 billion in deposits from retail customers, i.e. regular folks who bank at BOA.

And according to its annual report, BOA paid its retail depositors an average interest rate of 0.04% last year. Seriously. That’s a tiny, laughable amount of interest. But hey, at least it’s positive. That 0.04% average rate means the bank paid its retail depositors a total of $236 million in interest. Yet at the same time, Bank of America charged those very same retail depositors $4.1 BILLION in fees. So in total, small depositors forked over a net sum of $3.8+ billion to Bank of America last year for the privilege of holding their money at the bank. Based on the bank’s total consumer deposits of $592.4 billion, it’s as if the bank had charged its customers a negative interest rate of 0.64%. What’s the point? It’s one thing to pay fees to a bank that will safeguard your capital and act in the most conservative way possible.

People pay fees to storage companies to safeguard their wine collections, baseball card collections, all sorts of stuff. We even pay fees for safety deposit boxes to store important documents. So in principle there’s nothing wrong with paying a bank a reasonable fee to safeguard your money. But that’s not what banks do.

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It’s time for competition.

Adults Take Over at Uber, Cost Cutting Starts (WS)

[..] now the adults have taken over at Uber. And money has become an objective. A 14-member executive committee is running the show since there’s no CEO, no CFO, no number two behind the CFO, and no COO. A gaggle of other executives and managers left or were shoved out in the wake of scandals, chaos, and lawsuits. And the adults have decided to bring the expenses down. One of the steps is to unload Uptown Station. According to the San Francisco Business Times: The possible sale of Uptown Station means Uber can move the asset and development costs off its books, which could put it in a better financial position. That was a key motivator for exploring the sale, spokesperson MoMo Zhou told the Business Times. Uber was looking “to strengthen our financial position so we can better serve riders and drivers in the long term,” she said.

So they’re starting to concentrate their efforts and prioritize their spending where it matters: riders and drivers. In March already, Uber had decided to scale down its move to Uptown Station. Instead of migrating 2,500 to 3,000 employees into the building, it said it would move just a few hundred, and lease out the remaining space. Uber has booming sales – in Q2, “adjusted net revenue” soared by 118% year-over-year to $1.75 billion – but it also has booming expenses and losses, and sooner or later something has to give. In 2016, it booked an “adjusted” loss of $3.2 billion (not including interest, tax, employee stock compensation expenses, and other items). In the first two quarters of 2017, it booked an “adjusted” loss of $1.4 billion: $4.6 billion in “adjusted” losses in six quarters. It has $6.6 billion in cash. At this pace, it’ll be gone quickly.

Uber is now trying to cut its losses and reach profitability, a “person with knowledge of the matter” told the Business Times. And given the chaos surrounding Uber, it might be a better idea to concentrate employees in one place rather than scattering them all over the landscape. This comes after the adults have also decided to shut down Uber’s subprime auto leasing program that was started two years ago. “Xchange Leasing” put their badly paid drivers with subprime credit into new vehicles they couldn’t afford. The leases allowed drivers to put “unlimited miles” on their cars without consequences and return the cars after 30 days with two weeks’ notice. No one in the car business would ever offer this kind of lease. But the folks at Uber simply didn’t need to do the math. Uber invested $600 million in this program. Now the adults found out they’re losing $9,000 per car. With 40,000 cars in the fleet, it adds up in a hurry. So they decided to shut down that program.

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Sears is toast.

Sears Revenues to Hit Zero in 3 Years. But Bankruptcy First (WS)

In its fiscal year 2017, it already closed about 180 stores and expects to shutter an additional 150 stores in the third quarter. Those closings had been announced previously. But in its earnings release, it announced the closing of 28 more Kmart stores “later this year.” Liquidation sales will begin as early as August 31, it said. The rest of the plunge was caused by same-store sales (sales at stores open longer than one year) which dropped 11.5%. “Softness in store traffic” the company called it. But the trend is falling off a cliff: In Q2 2016, same-store sales had dropped “only” 5.2%. Now they’re plunging at more than double that rate. Despite the ceaseless corporate rhetoric of operational improvements, this baby is going down the tubes at an ever faster speed. How does that $4.37 billion in revenues stack up? They’re down by nearly two-thirds from Q2 2007. This is what the accelerating revenue shrinkage looks like:

[..] Over the past three years, the momentum of the revenue decline has accelerated sharply. Q2 revenues have plummeted from $8.0 billion in 2014 to $4.37 billion in 2017. A decline of $3.6 billion, or 45% in three years. This chart shows Q2 revenues from 2014 to 2017, with the trend line (purple) extended until it hits zero. This is the same track that Q1 revenues are on. As I’d postulated three months ago, at this rate, revenues of the once largest retailer in the US will be zero in three years, or by 2020. Zero is the inevitable result of a hedge-fund strategy of asset-stripping and cost-cutting at a retailer that had already been struggling before the takeover, and that now finds itself embroiled without effective online strategy in the American brick-and-mortar retail meltdown. But revenues won’t drop to zero. Sears won’t last that long.

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But who actually has the required $275,000? And what happens to those who don’t have it?

Health-Care Costs Could Eat Up Your Retirement Savings (BBG)

In a perfect world, the largest expenses in retirement would be for fun things like travel and entertainment. In the real world, retiree health-care costs can take an unconscionably big bite out of savings. A 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $275,000 to cover health-care costs throughout retirement, Fidelity Investments said in its annual cost estimate, out this morning. That stunning number is about 6% higher than it was last year. Costs would be about half that amount for a single person, though women would pay a bit more than men since they live longer. You might think that number looks high. At 65, you’re eligible for Medicare, after all. But monthly Medicare premiums for Part B (which covers doctor’s visits, surgeries, and more) and Part D (drug coverage) make up 35% of Fidelity’s estimate.

The other 65% is the cost-sharing, in and out of Medicare, in co-payments and deductibles, as well as out-of-pocket payments for prescription drugs. And that doesn’t include dental care—or nursing-home and long-term care costs. Retirees can buy supplemental, or Medigap, insurance to cover some of the things Medicare doesn’t, but those premiums would lead back to the same basic estimate, said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president for Fidelity Benefits Consulting. The 6% jump in Fidelity’s estimate mirrors the average annual 5.5% inflation rate for medical care that HealthView Services, which makes health-care cost projection software, estimates for the next decade. A recent report from the company drilled into which health-care costs will grow the fastest.

It estimates a long-term inflation rate of 7.2% for Medigap premiums and 8% for Medicare Part D. For out-of-pocket costs, the company estimates inflation rates of 3.7% for prescription drugs, 5% in dental, hearing, and vision services, 3% for hospitals, and 3.4% for doctor’s visits and tests. Cost-of-living-adjustments on Social Security payments, meanwhile, are expected to grow by 2.6%, according to the HealthView Services report.

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“One day they will build a statue in my honor in Greece in a show of gratitude..”

Schaeuble Defends Tough Line On Greek Reforms (K.)

As Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prepares to present a positive narrative at next month’s Thessaloniki International Fair about how the country is turning a corner ahead of the next review by international creditors in the fall, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has reportedly suggested that Athens should be grateful to him for his tough stance on economic reform and austerity. “One day they will build a statue in my honor in Greece in a show of gratitude for the pressure that I imposed in order for necessary reforms to be carried out,” the outspoken minister was quoted as saying by German newspaper Handelsblatt. According to the same newspaper, Schaeuble aims to turn the European Stability Mechanism into a European version of the IMF, one of Greece’s creditors.

The concept is that of a European monetary fund that would help eurozone states in financial crisis but subject to strict terms, such as those that underpinned the IMF’s support to Greece and other countries in recent years. Other ideas, such as the possibility of introducing growth-inducing measures in such countries, were reportedly rejected by Schaeuble. French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile has suggested that the eurozone should have its own central budget which it could tap if necessary to support member-states in financial difficulty. He is also said to back the idea of a eurozone finance minister, another idea opposed by Berlin. Macron is due in Athens in the first week of September for an official visit that government sources hope will bolster Tsipras’s positive narrative while there are also signs that French firms might confirm their interest in investing in the Thessaloniki Port Authority.

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When you’re bled dry of your young and their energy, you’re not going to recover.

Minister: Young Greeks Fleeing A ‘Debt Colony’ (K.)

In comments to Skai TV on Friday, Deputy Education Minister Costas Zouraris said he understood why large numbers of young Greeks are abandoning the country for better employment opportunities abroad, noting that Greece is “a debt colony” that is “slightly worse” than India. “For now, it’s understandable that kids are saying they want to leave,” Zouraris told Skai. “Let’s hope they return because we are, as you know, bankrupt and a debt colony.” He added that the Greek state has invested about 1 million euros in its top graduates who are now leaving the country. “We are now giving this as a gift to foreign countries for a few years,” he said.

Read more …

Jul 232017
 


Vincent van Gogh Women Picking Olives 1889

 

Lock Them Up! (David Stockman)
This Recovery Isn’t All That Resilient (DDMB)
Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant? (Adair Turner)
EU Sounds Alarm, Urges US To Coordinate On Russia Sanctions (R.)
EU Will Hit Poland With Deadline To Reverse Curbs On Judicial Freedom (G.)
EU’s Car Regulator Warns Against Car Diesel Ban In Cities (R.)
100 British Tenants A Day Lose Homes On Rising Rents And Benefit Freeze (G.)
Australia and Its Volatile Future as an LNG Superpower (Nikkei)
Fukushima Robot Images: Massive Deposits Thought To Be Melted Nuclear Fuel (G.)
US Continues Supporting Terrorists in Syria (Lendman)
Meow (Jim Kunstler)
Europe Seeks Long-Term Answer To Refugee Crisis That Needs Solution Now (G.)
Indigenous Australians Take Carbon Farming To Canada (G.)

 

 

Watch out. Stockman’s had enough.

Lock Them Up! (David Stockman)

We frequently hear people say they have nothing to hide—-so surrendering privacy and constitutional rights to the Surveillance State may not be such a big deal if it helps catch a terrorist or two. But with each passing day in the RussiaGate drama we are learning that this superficial exoneration is dangerously beside the point. We are referring here to the unrelenting witch hunt that has been unleashed by Imperial Washington against the legitimately elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. This campaign of lies, leaks and Russophobia is the handiwork of Obama’s top national security advisors, who blatantly misused Washington’s surveillance apparatus to discredit Trump and to effectively nullify America’s democratic process.

That is, constitutional protections and liberties were systematically breached, but not simply to intimidate, hush or lock up citizens one by one as per the standard totalitarian modus operandi. Instead, what has happened is that the entire public debate has been hijacked by the shadowy forces of the Deep State and their partisan and media collaborators. The enabling culprits are Obama’s last CIA director, John Brennan, his national security advisor Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power. There is now mounting evidence that it was they who illegally “unmasked” NSA intercepts from Trump Tower; they who confected the Russian meddling narrative from behind the protective moat of classified intelligence; and they who orchestrated a systematic campaign of leaks and phony intelligence reports during the presidential transition—-all designed to delegitimize Trump before he even took the oath of office.

So all three of them should be locked up -that’s for sure. But the more urgent solution would be to unlock and make public all the innuendo, surmises, assessments, half-truths and boilerplate intelligence chatter on which the entire false narrative about Russian meddling and collusion is based. Stated differently, without the nation’s massive intelligence apparatus and absurd system of secrecy and classified information to hide behind, the RussiaGate witch hunt would have never gotten off the ground. In truth, as we will essay below, there is no there, there. So what this new chapter in McCarthyite hysteria actually demonstrates is that the Imperial City’s far-flung, 17-agency, $75 billion Intelligence Behemoth is a plenary threat not just to individual liberty, but to the very constitutional democracy on which the latter depends.

To appreciate the severity of the threat, it is necessary to recognize that the post-9/11 Deep State has lowered a double whammy on our system. That is, it unconstitutionally collects the entirety of all internet based communications of America’s 325 million citizen, while at the same time it has effectively disenfranchised 98% of the 535 members of the House and Senate who have been elected to represent them. Accordingly, behind the Surveillance State’s vast wall of secrecy and so-called “classified” information, there operates a Dark Government that is unaccountable to the public and largely unconstrained by normal constitutional limits, which the Patriot Act and secret FISA courts have more or less suspended. [..] Unfortunately, the Donald doesn’t seem to recognize that he is actually President. If he did, he would have the Justice Department launch a prosecution against the faithless officials—-Brennan, Rice and Power—-who concocted the whole RussiaGate defamation in the first place.

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No, Danielle. It’s not about resilience. It’s simply not a recovery. No series of numbers, no matter how impressive looking can change that.

This Recovery Isn’t All That Resilient (DDMB)

Are Federal Reserve stress tests leading economic indicators? That certainly seems to be the case. Just ask Capital One. As of the first quarter, credit card loss provisions at Capital One were above 5%, a six-year high. The company recorded some improvement for the second quarter, yet Fed stress tests of the bank’s overall loan portfolio in a deep downturn show losses topping 12%. That explains Capital One’s “conditional” passing score, a black eye that prompted a reduced share buyback plan and no increase in its dividend. Most economists today applaud the resilience of the current recovery, which has stretched into its eighth year, the third-longest in postwar history. Resilience and rising household defaults, though, don’t tend to go hand in hand. Pressures have been building in the background for some time.

When adjusted for inflation, credit card usage has grown faster than incomes for 18 months. According to Fed data, that time frame coincides with the upturn in revolving credit, a proxy for credit card debt. In November 2015, outstanding revolving credit crossed above the $900-billion threshold for the first time since December 2009. By May of this year, annual growth was clocking 8.7%. Meanwhile, credit card balances hit $1.02 trillion, the highest level in almost eight years. Whether by choice or force, the aftermath of the financial crisis prompted households to ratchet back their usage of credit cards. As the recovery got underway, frugality prevailed, punctuated by an increase in debit card purchases. It is thus notable that Bank of America data find debit card usage has weakened in recent years as households grew more comfortable rebuilding their credit card balances.

“Confidence” is the term most associated with the rising credit card debt. But it’s fair to ask why confident households would choose to pay so dearly for the privilege. At 15.83%, the average rate on credit card balances is at a record high. It is more likely that households are increasingly tapping their credit cards to cover the cost of necessities, that they are less confident and more anxious about their future finances. The latest University of Michigan consumer confidence data suggest anxiety is indeed setting in. At 80.2, the expectations component is at the lowest since October and running below the 2016 average of 81.8.

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Productivity in a so-called service economy. A mirage.

Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant? (Adair Turner)

Our standard mental model of productivity growth reflects the transition from agriculture to industry. We start with 100 farmers producing 100 units of food: technological progress enables 50 to produce the same amount, and the other 50 to move to factories that produce washing machines or cars or whatever. Overall productivity doubles, and can double again, as both agriculture and manufacturing become still more productive, with some workers then shifting to restaurants or health-care services. We assume an endlessly repeatable process. But two other developments are possible. Suppose the more productive farmers have no desire for washing machines or cars, but instead employ the 50 surplus workers either as low-paid domestic servants or higher-paid artists, providing face-to-face and difficult-to-automate services.

Then, as the late William Baumol, a professor at Princeton University, argued in 1966, overall productivity growth will slowly decline to zero, even if productivity growth within agriculture never slows. Or suppose that 25 of the surplus farmers become criminals, and the other 25 police. Then the benefit to human welfare is nil, even though measured productivity rises if public services are valued, as per standard convention, at input cost. The growth of difficult-to-automate service activities may explain some of the productivity slowdown. Britain’s flat productivity reflects a combination of rapid automation in some sectors and rapid growth of low-productivity, low-wage jobs – such as Deliveroo drivers riding around on plain old-fashioned bicycles. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that eight of the ten fastest-growing job categories are low-wage services such as personal care and home health aides.

The growth of “zero-sum” activities may, however, be even more important. Look around the economy, and it’s striking how much high-talent manpower is devoted to activities that cannot possibly increase human welfare, but entail competition for the available economic pie. Such activities have become ubiquitous: legal services, policing, and prisons; cybercrime and the army of experts defending organizations against it; financial regulators trying to stop mis-selling and the growing ranks of compliance officers employed in response; the huge resources devoted to US election campaigns; real-estate services that facilitate the exchange of already-existing assets; and much financial trading. Much design, branding, and advertising activity is also essentially zero-sum. It is certainly good that new fashions can continually compete for our attention; choice and human creativity are valuable per se. But we have no reason to believe that 2050’s designs and brands will make us any happier than those of 2017.

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The new House sanctions under fire from Merkel AND Trump.

EU Sounds Alarm, Urges US To Coordinate On Russia Sanctions (R.)

The European Union sounded an alarm on Saturday about moves in the U.S. Congress to step up U.S. sanctions on Russia, urging Washington to keep coordinating with its G7 partners and warning of unintended consequences. In a statement by a spokeswoman after Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress reached a deal that could see new legislation pass, the European Commission warned of possibly “wide and indiscriminate” “unintended consequences”, notably on the EU’s efforts to diversify energy sources away from Russia. Germany has already warned of possible retaliation if the United States moves to sanction German firms involved with building a new Baltic pipeline for Russian gas.

EU diplomats are concerned that a German-U.S. row over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom could complicate efforts in Brussels to forge an EU consensus on negotiating with Russia over the project. “We highly value the unity that is prevailing among international partners in our approach towards Russia’s action in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions. This unity is the guarantee of the efficiency and credibility of our measures,” the Commission said in its statement. “We understand that the Russia/Iran sanctions bill is driven primarily by domestic considerations,” it went on, referring to a bill passed in the U.S. Senate last month and to which lawmakers said on Saturday they had unblocked further obstacles.

“As we have said repeatedly, it is important that any possible new measures are coordinated between international partners to maintain unity among partners on the sanctions that has been underpinning the efforts for full implementation of the Minsk Agreements,” the Commission said, referring to an accord struck with Moscow to try to end the conflicts in Ukraine. “We are concerned the measures discussed in the U.S. Congress could have unintended consequences, not only when it comes to Transatlantic/G7 unity, but also on EU economic and energy security interests. This impact could be potentially wide and indiscriminate, including when it comes to energy sources diversification efforts.

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The heavy hand tactics will backfire at some point, it’s just a matter of time.

EU Will Hit Poland With Deadline To Reverse Curbs On Judicial Freedom (G.)

The EU is expected to give Poland’s rightwing government until September to reverse a controversial set of laws that give the country’s politicians control over its supreme court. The Polish senate defied international condemnation early on Saturday and mass demonstrations in Warsaw to approve a law that allows the firing of its current supreme court judges, except those chosen by the justice minister and approved by the president. Protests continued in Poland on Saturday. But despite increasing dismay at developments, the European commission knows it needs time to build support before moving towards what is regarded as the nuclear option – of suspending a country’s voting rights in the EU for the first time. Last week the first vice-president of the EU’s executive, Frans Timmermans, warned that Brussels was “very close” to triggering the sanction, which would spark a major confrontation with one of the EU’s most populous member states.

The legislation passed on Saturday is only one of a series of contentious legal reforms being pursued by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) which have prompted thousands to take to the streets in protest against what many claim is the death of Polish democracy. The new law gives the president the power to issue regulations for the supreme court’s work. It also introduces a disciplinary chamber that, on a motion from the justice minister, would handle suspected breaches of regulations or ethics. The law now requires only the signature of the president, Andrzej Duda, who was previously a member of PiS, to become binding. With Brexit negotiations in full flow, there is unease in Brussels at taking any action that could be seen as heavy-handed in relation to a member state.

With the EU engaged in a difficult balancing act, it is understood Timmermans will suggest at a meeting of commissioners on Wednesday that Poland be given until the next general affairs council of EU ministers, on 25 September, to respond to claims that its measures are a systemic threat to the rule of law. While Poland has ignored the commission when it has previously set deadlines on this issue, the move would at least give the commission the summer months to garner the support required to impose tough sanctions. The EU believes, however, that it will be in a position to launch two infringement proceedings against Poland as soon as this week, in an attempt to slow the country’s drift towards what Brussels regards as authoritarianism.

[..] The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said on Saturday that Budapest would fight to defend Poland. “The inquisition offensive against Poland can never succeed, because Hungary will use all legal options in the European Union to show solidarity with the Poles,” he said.

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So both Berlin and brussels are in bed with the automakers. Lovely.

I have a question: why are cities full of cars in the first place?

EU’s Car Regulator Warns Against Car Diesel Ban In Cities (R.)

Banning diesel cars in European cities could hamper automakers’ ability to invest in zero-emission vehicles, the European Union’s commissioner for industry has warned the bloc’s transport ministers. In a letter seen by Reuters, Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said there would be no benefit in a collapse of the market for diesel cars and that the short-term focus should be on forcing carmakers to bring dangerous nitrogen oxide emissions into line with EU regulations. “While I am convinced that we should rapidly head for zero-emission vehicles in Europe, policymakers and industry cannot have an interest in a rapid collapse of the diesel market in Europe as a result of local driving bans,” Bienkowska said. “It would only deprive the industry of necessary funds to invest in zero-emissions vehicles,” she said in the letter, dated July 17.

Germany’s three major carmakers have invested heavily in diesel technology, which offers more efficient fuel burn and lower carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline-powered cars. But since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on U.S. emissions tests, worries about vehicle pollution have left the entire auto industry under scrutiny. A particular concern is emissions by diesel cars of nitrogen oxide, which is blamed for causing respiratory diseases. In the letter, Bienkowska told ministers she was concerned that the latest emissions violations at Audi and Porsche (PSHG_p.DE) were discovered by prosecutors and not Germany’s vehicle and transport authorities. Bienkowska’s letter also called for all cars with excessively high levels of nitrogen oxide emissions to be taken of European roads, but said carmakers should act on a voluntary basis. The commissioner did raise the prospect of an EU testing agency if national regulators failed to spot more emissions-test cheats.

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Once again: what a society. Makeover!

100 British Tenants A Day Lose Homes On Rising Rents And Benefit Freeze (G.)

A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants. More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.

High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant. The study found that changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to claimants in many areas. Housing benefit was no longer covering the cost of renting in some cases, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 a month outside of London, and between £124 and £1,036 in inner London. Housing benefit has not risen in line with private rents since 2010, and a current freeze means the rates paid will not increase until 2020. A series of interviews with private renters who are struggling to meet their bills exposed the pressure some low-paid tenants are now under.

One man said that the £50 shortfall he had suffered was “almost a week’s money in itself”. “And then you’ve got the other bills…I just couldn’t make it work. I had to choose, what do I pay this month – do I pay the rent? Do I pay the electricity? Do I buy some food? And it just snowballed.” A single mother in her 20s said: “I paid it as much as I could, but my youngest child has been quite sickly … If my kids are sick, I don’t get paid.” The problem is particularly acute in London and the south-east. Four out of every five repossessions using Section 21 orders are in London, the east of England and the south-east. Nearly two-thirds are in London. Within the city, Section 21 repossessions are concentrated in the boroughs of Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Brent and Croydon. Of the 40,000 evictions, there were 19,019 repossessions in the social housing sector, and 22,150 in the private rented sector.

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Burn baby burn! But not all of it. Maybe. Or not right now.

Australia and Its Volatile Future as an LNG Superpower (Nikkei)

Australia is expected to overtake Qatar to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in 2019, but a political risk has emerged that is casting a dark cloud over the resource-rich nation’s future as an LNG export superpower. The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a new energy policy this month to prioritize the domestic gas supply and regulate LNG exports. Australian oil and gas major Santos has seen its stock price decline as the company is expected to be subjected to the regulations as early as next year. Australia’s conservative ruling coalition, whose approval rating is languished since a narrow election win a year ago, is aiming to allay public discontent with rising electricity and gas bills. But the new energy policy has sparked confusion across corporate Australia.

On April 27, the Turnbull government announced the introduction of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism, or ADGSM. According to details released on June 20, the Australian resources minister every summer will discuss plans for the following year’s domestic g

as supplies by consulting gas companies, industry regulators and other parties. The resources minister is to then determine by Sept. 1 – or Nov. 1 at the latest – whether the country will face a gas shortage the following year. LNG export controls will be imposed in the event of a supply shortage at home. Three LNG projects in the eastern state of Queensland will be subject to the new regulations for the time being. They are the world’s first projects to extract coal bed methane, also known as coal seam gas in Australia, and export the gas in the form of LNG.

The three LNG projects, which include the Santos-operated Gladstone LNG, or GLNG, project, went on stream over 2014 and 2015 in anticipation of swelling Asian demand. They have a combined annual production capacity of 25.3 million tons. The resources minister is to take into account the volume of exports and that of domestic shipments from each project and determine whether each project is denting the domestic supply, including through emergency procurements for export purposes. If any of the projects is deemed to be harming domestic supplies, the project operator will be required to take measures, such as cutting exports and increasing domestic shipments.

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Fukushima. Where robots go to die.

Fukushima Robot Images: Massive Deposits Thought To Be Melted Nuclear Fuel (G.)

Images captured by an underwater robot on Saturday showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1m on the bottom inside a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima’s Unit 3 reactor, said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day investigation of Unit 3 ended on Saturday.

Locating and analysing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant’s three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels. During this week’s probe, cameras mounted on the robot showed extensive damage caused by the core meltdown, with fuel debris mixed with broken reactor parts, suggesting the difficult challenges ahead in the decades-long decommissioning of the plant. TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said it would take time to analyse the debris in the images to figure out removal methods.

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Will the CIA destroy Trump and Putin’s ceasefire?

US Continues Supporting Terrorists in Syria (Lendman)

It’s naive to believe otherwise. It’s central to US strategy since launching war for regime change. Tactics alone changed from then to now, not Washington’s objective – allied with Israel and other rogue states to topple Syria’s legitimate government. In response to Trump’s announced end to covert CIA-arming and training of so-called “moderate rebels” (aka terrorists like all other anti-government groups), Russia’s Information and Press Department deputy director Artyom Kozhin said the following: “We have not heard anything regarding this decision from the official sources. Neither do we know about the status of other similar programs that could be implemented by other US agencies.” “(W)e have expressed how we feel when it comes to the US flirting with militants in Syria more than once. We have forewarned that this flirtation could have unpredictable military and political consequences.”

“We repeatedly pointed to the Americans’ unscrupulous actions taken in Syria in the pursuit of their self-seeking geopolitical interests.” “It is an open secret that a substantial number of militants who have been trained under the US Train and Equip program ultimately joined ISIS and al-Nusra.” “We regard this as a repetition of the tragic story of Afghanistan and Libya. The potential consequences of this should be obvious to everyone.” On Friday, Sergey Lavrov minced no words, saying Washington continues arming anti-government terrorist groups in Syria, euphemistically called the moderate opposition. It has illegal bases in the country, established without Security Council or Damascus authorization. According to CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel, US forces will remain in Syria after the battle for Raqqa is over – on the phony pretext of stabilizing the region.

Washington wants northern Syrian territory occupied, along with other areas it’s able to gain control over – a scheme risking direct confrontation with Russia and Damascus. Trump wants increased funding for US military bases in Iraq and Syria, reflecting plans for permanent (illegal) US occupation. Saying it’s to continue combating ISIS is willful deception, concealing America’s support for the terrorist group and likeminded ones. On July 19, Russia’s upper house Federation Council ratified a January protocol agreed on in Damascus to establish the legal presence of Russian aerial forces and support personnel in Syria for 49 years – to be automatically extended for subsequent 25-year periods. The move aims to secure and protect Syrian sovereignty. It continues longstanding mutually cooperative bilateral relations. It signifies Russia’s intention to challenge US, NATO and Israeli imperial designs on the country.

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” And then the US Treasury will destroy the dollar trying (again) to save the banks. And the bank accounts will be frozen. And the loans will stop being paid.”

Meow (Jim Kunstler)

I’d actually go further now than the “soft coup d’état” scenario that has Trump run over by the 25th amendment. It will happen, of course, but it will not satisfy anybody. Mike Pence will prove to be as ineffectual and unpopular as Trump, and he will be drowning in financial and fiscal problems, and he will get no help from the legislature in resolving any of it, and before too long there may be a general in the White House – or attempting to run things from someplace else, if he can. The whole nauseating spectacle will be attended by violent popular revolt of region against region and tribe against tribe in a great civil explosion of long-suppressed angst. Too many nasty forces are vectoring in on the scene to overthrow the dream state America has been languishing in.

Most of them involve money (or “money”) and the questions of how can we possibly keep paying for the way we live in this country, and who exactly has been fobbing off with the former wealth of every rusted and busted community in the land? It’s going to start in the stock and bond markets and it will be soon. And then the US Treasury will destroy the dollar trying (again) to save the banks. And the bank accounts will be frozen. And the loans will stop being paid. And the SNAP cards are going to stop working, and pretty soon the just-in-time deliveries to the supermarkets, and the resupply to the gas stations, and there won’t be much that Mike Pence can do about it. He’ll be shoved aside and the military will have to try to restore order in the land. When they do, it will not be the same land we sang about back in the fifth grade. Up in a cloud somewhere over Ohio, maybe, Schrödinger’s Cat will be gazing down on us, grinning.

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Europe only seeks a way to not have to deal with it.

Europe Seeks Long-Term Answer To Refugee Crisis That Needs Solution Now (G.)

European efforts to deal with the influx, hastily enacted two years ago at the height of Syria’s civil war, are faltering. A burden-sharing deal agreed by all 28 EU states in 2015, when Germany took nearly 1 million people, has arguably never worked. Of 160,000 refugees due to be accepted under the scheme, fewer than 21,000 have been relocated. Europe is split down the middle. Poland and Hungary have refused to take anyone. The Czech Republic initially accepted 12 people but has since slammed the door. The European commission has begun legal action against all three. Italy and Greece, so-called “frontline states”, are at odds with their northern neighbours, notably France and Austria. Dashing hopes of a new approach, the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, is proving inflexible on the issue.

As we report today, hundreds of migrants are effectively kettled in Ventimiglia on the Italian side of the border with France. Paris is preventing vessels carrying rescued migrants docking in French ports. Nor has France met its share of the European Union relocation quota. Austria is paying refugees to leave, amid a rise in far right and neo-Nazi attacks. The Vienna government says it will close the Brenner Pass if Italy issues temporary travel visas for the migrants. The Italian government, facing elections in 2018 and under pressure from the populist Five Star movement opposition, is furious about perceived French hypocrisy. “After saying they understand our problem, it doesn’t seem like France wants to help us concretely … we need more solidarity,” says Mario Giro, Italy’s deputy foreign minister.

The new refugee crisis is playing into a bigger, EU-wide battle about respect for national sovereignty. Hungary’s rightwing prime minister, Viktor Orbán, says he will “not give in to blackmail from Brussels”. Poland says the EU relocation scheme encourages more migrants, arguing most refugees do not genuinely fear persecution but are economic migrants seeking a better life. [..] Confusion and division also characterise Europe’s policy towards Libya, the main stepping-off point for migrants. Much of Libya is ungoverned following the US, British and French-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, and UN-led efforts to restore order are floundering. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers, Italy has been trying to limit its at-sea rescue efforts. But as elsewhere, political and humanitarian responses are in conflict.

About 3,000 people from Libya were picked up in one day in May in more than 20 rescue operations mounted by the Italian coastguard and navy, ships from the EU’s Mediterranean mission, its Frontex border agency, and merchant vessels. Merkel was widely praised for her open-door response in 2015 but public attitudes have hardened, and she faces a general election in September. Her focus now is her new “compact with Africa”, showcased at the Hamburg G20 summit, which seeks more state and private investment in Africa to combat poverty and the effects of climate change, and thereby deter mass migration to Europe. But Merkel’s solution is long-term. Europe’s new refugee crisis is happening now, as British beach-goers may soon testify.

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Love it. The wiser peoples of the world working together.

Indigenous Australians Take Carbon Farming To Canada (G.)

Australia’s world-leading Indigenous land management and carbon farming programs are spreading internationally, with a formal agreement signed to help build a similar program in Canada. A chance meeting between Rowen Foley from the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and a Candian carbon credit businessman at the 2015 Paris climate conference spawned a relationship that led to an agreement this week that will help Canadian First Nations peoples learn from the Australian Aboriginal carbon farming success. “Sometimes chance meetings are a form of karma or synchronicity at play,” Foley says. Foley set up the Aboriginal Carbon Fund in 2010 to help other Indigenous organisations make money by managing land in such a way that it sequesters carbon in the soil.

One of the most successful types of Indigenous carbon farming in Australia has been savannah burning, in which regular small fires are lit, replicating ancient Aboriginal practices and helping to prevent larger fires that release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The projects are often managed by workers in the Indigenous ranger program, which a recent government review concluded were enormously effective, increasing employment, building stronger communities and reducing violence, while also increasing income tax and reducing welfare payments. “Sustainable Indigenous land management, such as savannah burning, not only reduces carbon emissions but also builds communities by offering meaningful jobs for local traditional owners as rangers and an independent income,” Foley says.

One project – run by the Karlantijpa North Kurrawarra Nyura Mala Aboriginal Corporation – was awarded a contract for carbon credits under the Australian government’s Emissions Reduction Fund. By burning the savannah early in the season, it secured payments for sequestering 24,100 tonnes of carbon, in an auction where the average value for such abatement would have been $257,629. The Aboriginal Carbon Fund works with similar groups to produce carbon credits that can be bought by corporations as carbon offsets. Now the lessons learned in Australia are set to be taken to Canada, with an agreement between the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and the Canadian First Nations Energy and Mining Council. “It feels like the idea is coming of age,” Foley says.

Foley travelled to Vancouver to meet David Porter, the chief executive of the First Nations Energy and Mining Council, to sign the agreement. It notes the “strong similarities” between the First Peoples of Canada and the Indigenous people of Australia in relation to land management and climate mitigation.

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Feb 032017
 
 February 3, 2017  Posted by at 11:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Return of the Boating Party 1862

Trump’s Economic Policy Makes Perfect Sense: Albert Edwards (CNBC)
Big Clash Looming (Kath.)
The IMF Should Get Out of Greece (Ashoka Mody)
Italians Are Outright Economic Losers in the Era of the Euro (BBG)
China Net 2016 Outflows At Record $725 Billion (R.)
Reality Vs. The “Recovery” Narrative (Mises)
Markets Are Experiencing Cognitive Dissonance (Rickards)
Scots to Vote on Tuesday on May’s Draft Law to Trigger Brexit (BBG)
America’s Student Loans Problem Is Much Bigger Than Anybody Realized (TAM)
Originalism: Neil Gorsuch’s Constitutional Philosophy (G.)
Angela Merkel Lectures Turkish President Erdogan On Upholding Freedoms (SMH)
Turkey Refugee Deal With EU at Risk, Erdogan Adviser Warns (BBG)
Small Steps Taken To Improve Conditions At Lesvos Migrant Camp (K.)

 

 

“The only things where the US excels are the ability of companies to get credit and resolving insolvency. So US companies excel at leveraging up and going bust – great!”

Trump’s Economic Policy Makes Perfect Sense: Albert Edwards (CNBC)

As the early days of the Donald Trump administration draw global opprobrium, Societe Generale’s famously bearish strategist Albert Edwards is offering unlikely support. “A lot of what he says on the economic front makes perfect sense to me.” Edwards claimed in his latest note published Thursday. Edwards said the new administration might be a “neo-liberal nightmare” but when the controversial topic of immigration was removed, there was clarity in Trump’s thinking. “We have long written on these pages that Germany is one of the biggest currency manipulators in the world. Germany aggressively refutes any criticism, let alone does anything about it (unlike China),” penned Edwards.

Trump’s team has attacked Germany for using the “grossly undervalued” euro to gain unfair trade advantages with the U.S. as well as trading partners within the European Union. The comments, published Tuesday, sent the euro to an eight-week high against the dollar. Edwards wrote that unless Germany changes its current position it “will have huge implications for both financial markets and the sustainability of the euro zone.” He said while the U.S. Treasury and the European Commission appeared unwilling to take on Berlin, it looked like the Trump administration would act assertively. Edwards, a self-described socialist, also said Trump’s plan to strip back regulation affecting U.S. corporates “rings true”.

“US corporate competitiveness is poor and deteriorating. The World Bank, for example, ranks the US a derisory 51st on how easy it is to start a business,” he wrote. “The only things where the US excels are the ability of companies to get credit and resolving insolvency. So US companies excel at leveraging up and going bust – great!” Edwards described America as a low tax and spend nation that has strangled its corporate sector. He said small business, traditionally the growth engine for jobs, is particularly burdened by regulation and concluded “There is much work indeed for The Donald.”

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Can Greece break from the EU and rebuild its “traditional alliances with the US and the UK”?

Big Clash Looming (Kath.)

The United States and Germany are gearing up for a serious clash. Washington’s aim this time is not Germany’s military defeat, as was the case twice last century, but curbing its economic hegemony. Before being sworn in as US president, Donald Trump said that he believed Berlin was using the European Union as a vehicle for its further economic expansion, and the tycoon was right on the money. Speaking to the BBC a few days ago, the man tipped as America’s new ambassador to the European Union, Ted Malloch, expressed his belief that the euro could collapse within the next 18 months. It was a risky prediction, but suggestive of the views prevailing in Washington right now.

The third worrying statement came from the head of the US president’s National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, who told the Financial Times that the euro is a German currency in disguise – an apt observation – that is “grossly undervalued” so that Germany can retain a competitive edge over the United States. His comment is nothing short of a direct challenge and a sign of a more serious confrontation waiting to happen. What is extremely interesting is that Wolfgang Schaeuble, the most fervent of champions of monetary stability and the euro, has so far avoided making a response. Maybe he is aware that when it comes to the US, his firepower is somewhat limited, so he contains his barbs to judgmental comments against Greece and terrorizing Europe’s south.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel muttered something about the European Central Bank’s independence and European Council President Donald Tusk said Trump is a threat to the EU – this is Europe; these are its political leaders, people waiting in fear for America to unfold its policy. This would all be a matter of academic interest were it not for the fact that the looming clash between a US-British alliance and the European establishment poses a major threat to regional stability, and of course to Greece. Bad luck and political imprudence have resulted in Greece being cut off from its own traditional alliances with the US and the UK, now especially so. Given the recent tension with Turkey and the fact that in previous difficult periods Europe stood by as conflict was avoided only thanks to the US’s intervention, it is evident that there are more important issues than the pending bailout review that Athens should be focusing on.

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Germany should get out of Greece too. And Brussels. Take a hike and get paid back in drachma. Or better yet, pay back your own gambling banks instead of letting Greeks do it.

The IMF Should Get Out of Greece (Ashoka Mody)

The IMF’s involvement in Greece has been an unmitigated disaster: Time and again, its failure to heed crucial lessons has visited suffering upon the Greek people. When the fund’s directors meet on Monday, they should agree to forgive the country’s debts and get out. The IMF should never have gotten into Greece in the first place. As late as March 2010, with concerns about the Greek government’s ability to pay its debts roiling markets, Europe’s leaders wanted the IMF to stay away. Europeans feared that the fund’s financial assistance to one of their own would signal broader weakness in the currency union. As Jean-Claude Juncker famously put it: “If California had a refinancing problem, the United States wouldn’t go to the IMF.”

Nonetheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided that the IMF’s presence was the signal needed to persuade German citizens that Greece needed urgent financial support and that strict discipline in the use of those funds would be enforced. Merkel’s political priorities coincided with the interests of Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn, who was desperate to pull the IMF out of irrelevance. From that moment on, the IMF became Europe’s – mainly Germany’s – instrument in Greece. Then came the cardinal error: At the IMF’s Board, over the fierce opposition of several executive directors, the Europeans and Americans pushed through a bailout program that, contrary to the fund’s rules, did not impose losses on Greece’s private creditors. The decision was based on a spurious claim that “restructuring” private debt would trigger a global financial meltdown.

Thus, European governments and the IMF lent Greece a vast sum to repay its existing creditors. Greece’s debt burden remained unchanged and onerous, and the most vulnerable Greeks were forced to accept crippling austerity to repay the country’s new official creditors. The economy quickly and predictably went into a tailspin. Even when the IMF recognized the error of its ways, it didn’t change course. An internal “strictly confidential” report, later made public, acknowledged that the program was riddled with “notable failures,” including the lack of private debt restructuring and excessive austerity. But the IMF never took responsibility. Instead, it demanded even more austerity throughout 2014.

In December, the public rebelled and brought the opposition Syriza party to power, which only made the IMF’s demands more insistent. At this point, the evidence that the strategy was pushing Greece to economic and financial collapse was overwhelming. It was like requiring a trauma patient to run around the block before being admitted to intensive care. Yet as usual, the inevitable suffering was blamed on Greece’s unwillingness to cooperate.

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“[Italy] GDP per capita in real terms shrank 0.4% in the last 18 years..” “In Germany, the euro region’s largest economy, per-capita output rose by 26.1% since 1998.”

Italians Are Outright Economic Losers in the Era of the Euro (BBG)

Almost two decades after the creation of the euro single currency, Italians are proving to be the big losers among the 19 member countries. GDP per capita in real terms shrank 0.4% in the last 18 years, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the European Union statistics office up to 2015 and estimates for 2016. While Italy’s economy expanded 6.2% since 1998, its population increased by 6.6% over the period – thus accounting for the per-head drop. “The comparison with other countries clearly shows that the Italian economy has expanded at too-slow a pace over the period,” said Loredana Federico, an economist at UniCredit Bank AG in Milan. “It will be very difficult for Italy to close, in the years to come, the gap with other economies that already returned to the pre-crisis level or even surpassed it.”

Eleven members of the EU introduced the euro as an accounting currency in January 1999; they were later joined by Greece. The actual notes and coins were introduced in January 2002, and expansion of the zone has since continued, with Lithuania becoming the 19th member in 2015. Italy’s per-capita GDP has fared even worse than Greece, which was severely hit by the financial crisis. The value of all goods and services produced in that country rose in the last 18 years by 4% on an individual basis, Bloomberg calculations show. In Germany, the euro region’s largest economy, per-capita output rose by 26.1% since 1998. That makes the citizens of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s nation the winners among all of the bloc’s main economies.

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“If U.S.-based multinational corporates start to repatriate their profits from China, outflows could worsen further in 2017..”

China Net 2016 Outflows At Record $725 Billion (R.)

Capital outflows from China surged last year to a record $725 billion and could pick up further if U.S. firms face political pressure to repatriate profits, the Institute of International Finance said on Thursday. The Washington DC-based group, one of the most authoritative trackers of capital movements in and out of the developing world, estimates net Chinese outflows last year were $50 billion higher than in 2015, dwarfing the inflows other emerging economies received. Net outflows in 2014 had been just $160 billion from China, which has seen capital flight pick up in the past couple of years from local businesses and households, partly on expectations that the yuan would weaken against the dollar.

The outflows, which caused a $320 billion decline last year in Chinese foreign exchange reserves, have prompted authorities to strengthen capital curbs. The yuan fell 6.5% against the dollar last year, the biggest ever yearly fall. The IIF estimated China outflows at a heavy $95 billion in December and noted that a rise in protectionism, especially in the United States after the election of President Donald Trump, could exacerbate the situation. Trump and his top trade adviser this week criticised Germany, Japan and China, saying the three key U.S. trading partners were devaluing their currencies to the detriment of U.S. companies and consumers. “If U.S.-based multinational corporates start to repatriate their profits from China, outflows could worsen further in 2017,” the IIF said, referring to pledges of tax breaks to U.S. firms that bring overseas profits back to the country.

But excluding China, the picture for emerging markets appeared brighter, the IIF said, noting net capital inflows last year had amounted to $192 billion, versus $123 billion in 2015. In January, inflows into the stocks and bonds of a group of big emerging economies stood at a five-month high of $12.3 billion, the group added. “January was a much better month for emerging markets but it is too early to tell if this reflects hope for a better outlook – or this is just the eye of the storm,” the IIF note added. The capital exodus from China, however, dominates the picture – the IIF last November forecast the developing world would suffer net capital outflows of $206 billion in 2017, with the vast majority accounted for by China.

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“Needless to say, Yellen’s credibility, to use a word of the mainstream, should be absolutely shattered.”

Reality Vs. The “Recovery” Narrative (Mises)

As Jeffrey Lacker leads the pack on the Fed’s “concern of overheating” front, last Friday’s 2016 fourth quarter GDP numbers completely contradict the narrative. Coming in at a paltry 1.85% growth rate, the Fed was handed yet another excuse to push off the so-called “normalization of interest rates” further into the future. The Fed’s FOMC again confirmed as much at its February meeting. The Fed has stated for years – since 2008 – that it needed to keep interest rates low in order to support a sustainable recovery. The Fed was allegedly paying close attention to it’s Congressionally-sourced dual mandate to determine when it could start allowing rates to rise. But now it is 2017 and the Fed’s bureaucratic statistics relating to unemployment and price inflation say things are just dandy.

But the GDP numbers, which purport to measure growth, scream the opposite. This is the Fed’s predicament. They’ve held that the dual mandate was their only guide, but it’s becoming quickly evident how irrelevant those numbers are. As it turns out, the third quarter’s 3.5% GDP number was not a sign of coming paradise, but was rather a mocking anomaly. In the past six quarters, only once (third quarter 2016) did the GDP growth rate come in above 2%. Moreover, things are getting worse, not better. 2016’s average growth rate was worse than both 2014 and 2015. Needless to say, Yellen’s credibility, to use a word of the mainstream, should be absolutely shattered. Stimulus and quantitative solutions have been an epic failure.

In light of this, the Fed’s decision to raise the target Federal Funds rate over the coming months is especially painful. Should they choose to do so, they do it in the face of a growth rate that is barely treading water. But if they choose to prolong these target rate hikes, they do so as their own dual mandate components tell them they should be normalizing monetary policy by now.

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“The problem with a financial panic is that panicked investors don’t care if the president is a Democrat or a Republican; they just want their money back.”

Markets Are Experiencing Cognitive Dissonance (Rickards)

Despite Trump’s best efforts and positive policies, a collapse could happen any day unless radical steps are taken to prevent it — such as breaking up big banks and banning derivatives. I’ve been warning about this for a while, but now mainstream economists see the danger too. Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller, for example, sees a stock market crash coming that could be worse than 1929 or 2000. I hope he’s wrong. The problem with a financial panic is that panicked investors don’t care if the president is a Democrat or a Republican; they just want their money back. The same dynamic applies to natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. Once the disaster starts, the dynamics have a life of their own and don’t care if the victims are liberals or conservatives.

Everyone gets hurt just the same. I’m not hoping for it, but this is a lesson Trump may learn the hard way. Above I said collapse means a violent stock market correction, a falling dollar and major rallies in bonds and gold. I expect the latter. The long-term trends favor gold if U.S. growth continues disappoint. The strong dollar story can’t last, so it won’t. The Trump administration has clearly signaled that the day of the strong dollar is over. When you see a coordinated attack on the dollar from the White House, the Treasury and the Fed, you can bet the dollar will weaken. That means a higher dollar price for gold. The dollar may get one last boost from a Fed rate hike in March, but after that, even the Fed will acknowledge that they got it wrong again and start another easing cycle with happy talk and forward guidance.

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Starting to look like a run-up to a Mexican stand-off.

Scots to Vote on Tuesday on May’s Draft Law to Trigger Brexit (BBG)

The Scottish Parliament will vote Tuesday on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft law to formally trigger Brexit, a signal that the Scots want their views to be considered as the premier prepares to embark on two years of talks to leave the EU. May’s bill, which would allow her to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal trigger for exit discussions, passed its first vote in Parliament in London on Wednesday. The draft law will now undergo three days of line-by-line debate in a so-called Committee Stage starting on Monday. Members of Parliament have so far filled a 128-page document with scores of proposed amendments to the 137-word bill, which will then be put to its final vote in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, before being sent up to the House of Lords.

“It is now essential that the Scottish Parliament’s views are heard prior to the end of the committee stage of the Article 50 bill in the House of Commons, so we will lodge a motion to allow Parliament to express its view,” Scottish Minister for U.K. Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell said on Thursday in an e-mailed statement. “I believe that Parliament will send a resounding message that Scotland’s future is in Europe.” The plan by Russell’s Scottish National Party amounts to a political warning to May to heed its concerns as she prepares to negotiate a so-called “hard” Brexit, pulling Britain out of the EU’s single market and customs union, which allow free trade within the bloc. The Scottish vote has no power to affect whether May triggers Brexit because the Supreme Court ruled last month that the semi-autonomous legislature doesn’t get to vote on the process.

The SNP produced a detailed plan for Brexit before Christmas that seeks to force May to negotiate to keep Scotland in the single market, even if the rest of the country pulls out. SNP leaders have repeatedly said that Brexit may lead to another independence referendum in Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. May had aimed to trigger Brexit by the end of March without consulting with the central Parliament in London, but was forced to do so after losing a court ruling and subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court. She still aims to stick to her timetable, and is fast-tracking the Article 50 bill through Parliament, aiming to complete its passage through the Lords in early March.

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Institutionalization: The idea that success comes exclusively through attending a university has created a stigma against some of the most valuable occupations.

America’s Student Loans Problem Is Much Bigger Than Anybody Realized (TAM)

The Department of Education recently released a memo admitting that repayment rates on student loans have been grossly exaggerated. Data from 99.8% of schools across the country has been manipulated to cover up growing problems with the $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans. New calculations show that more than half of all borrowers from 1,000 different institutions have defaulted on or not paid back a single dollar of their loans over the last seven years. This comes in stark contrast to previous claims and should call into question any statistics provided by government agencies. The American people haven’t fully grasped the long-term implications of loaning a trillion dollars to young people who have no credit or assets.

Increases in tuition seen over the past two decades have become a point of controversy and angst for those who don’t fully understand the contributing factors. Between 1995 and 2015, the average cost of a public, four-year university skyrocketed by well over 200%. Although federal student aid programs are often championed as a necessity, they have been instrumental in making higher education unaffordable. The opportunity to pay for college by working a part-time job evaporated as soon as huge sums of money were handed out to anyone with a pulse. Since students no longer pay their tuition upfront, colleges are able to raise prices in perpetuity, knowing the government will step in and make credit easier and easier to obtain. As an added bonus, outstanding student loans account for 45% of the government’s financial assets.

Subsidizing the lives of an entire generation has turned personal growth and advancement into a choice instead of a necessity. After all, why take risks or work your way up from the bottom when with just a signature, the life you’ve always wanted could be laid at your feet? It’s not hard to figure out why so many people are tempted to take advantage of the instant gratification that comes from student loans, but like everything else in life, they have a price. The same safety net that delays the anxiety of the future also ensures that monthly payments will be owed for decades to come. Procrastinating when faced with pivotal life decisions is an instinct that used to be overcome as a teenager, but today it is worn like a badge of honor well into adulthood.

The policies of intervention haven’t stopped at federal aid, and loan forgiveness is now being offered to those willing to work in the public sector or at a non-profit for ten years. This perverse incentive only serves to drive those desperately in debt further towards government dependence. Productive jobs are created when the needs of others are met in the free market, not by joining the ranks of the state for self-preservation. The idea that success comes exclusively through attending a university has created a stigma against some of the most valuable occupations. The lack of real skill sets has lead to a shortage of welders, electricians, carpenters, and other trade workers. Instead of learning through experience with apprenticeships, many students have embraced four years of sleeping in, drinking heavily, and getting an increasingly useless degree.

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Makes law look like religion.

Originalism: Neil Gorsuch’s Constitutional Philosophy (G.)

At his unveiling on Tuesday night as Donald Trump’s choice to fill the US supreme court vacancy, Neil Gorsuch paid homage not to the man standing beside him, who had just nominated him to one of the most powerful judicial positions in the country, but to a document written 230 years ago. Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge based in Denver, promised that should he get through the confirmation process he would act as a “faithful servant” to what he called “the greatest charter of human liberty the world has ever known”. He was referring to the US constitution, the supreme law of the land drafted in 1787. He was not being rhetorical. Gorsuch describes himself as an “originalist”, indicating that he places overwhelming importance on the original meaning of the constitution as it was understood by “we the people” at the time it was written.

That puts him in a very select group of judges – maybe no more than 30 – who identify themselves as “originalists”. What unites them is that they put as much emphasis on the original understanding of the US constitution as Christian fundamentalists say they put on the original wording of the Bible. Until his death last year, one of the most prominent members of the group was Antonin Scalia, the supreme court justice whom Gorsuch is now lined up to replace. Scalia helped spread the word of originalism among conservative judges in the 1980s as a way of pushing back on what he considered to be the increasingly outlandish opinions of his progressive peers. Judges were there, Scalia argued, not to make up their own laws or politically motivated judgments, but to cleave faithfully to the meaning of the framers’ writings as they were understood back in the 18th century by the American people.

“Originalists ask what the constitution meant at the time it was written, and then argue that the meaning is fixed – it doesn’t change because the world has changed and we now have new problems to deal with,” said Lawrence Solum, a professor at Georgetown Law who is a leading theorist of constitutional originalism. David Feder, a Los Angeles-based lawyer, had first-hand experience of what that meant to Gorsuch in practice when he worked as his law clerk on the federal 10th circuit court of appeals. “Whenever a constitutional issue came up in our cases, [Gorsuch] sent one of his clerks on a deep dive through the historical sources. ‘We need to get this right,’ was the motto – and right meant ‘as originally understood’,” Feder recalled recently in the Yale Journal of Regulation.

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Yeah, Erdogan really strikes me as a guy who would take kindly to being lectured by a woman.

And if the US are actually going to extradite Gulen, they will lose a lot of support in the region.

Angela Merkel Lectures Turkish President Erdogan On Upholding Freedoms (SMH)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of freedom of opinion in talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a visit meant to help improve frayed ties between the two NATO allies. In her first trip to Ankara since a failed military coup in Turkey last year, Dr Merkel said she had agreed with Mr Erdogan on the need for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Germany and Turkey have been at odds over Ankara’s crackdown on dissidents since the abortive July 15 coup, as well as its allegations – rejected by Berlin – that Germany is harbouring Kurdish and far-left militants.

“With the [attempted] putsch, we saw how the Turkish people stood up for democracy and for the rules of democracy,” Dr Merkel told a news conference on Thursday, when asked about concern over proposed constitutional changes that would strengthen Mr Erdogan’s powers. “In such a time of profound political upheaval, everything must be done to continue to protect the separation of powers and above all freedom of opinion and the diversity of society,” she said, adding she had also raised the issue of press freedom. “Opposition is part of democracy,” Dr Merkel said.

[..] Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said on Wednesday that Berlin was sheltering members of what Ankara calls the “Gulenist Terrorist Organisation” (FETO), referring to the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the coup bid. “If the Gulenists involved in the coup are fleeing to Germany, the Justice Ministry may send information and documents,” Mr Erdogan said, adding that the United States should take quicker action on an extradition request for Mr Gulen. US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser,Michael Flynn, has in recent months suggested that Mr Gulen might be extradited as a show of Washington’s support for its Middle Eastern NATO ally. Turkey’s defence minister has urged Berlin to reject the asylum applications and warned that a failure to do so could damage relations. Berlin has said the applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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Nothing good will come on continuing Europe’s current ‘policy’ with regards to Turkey. It will take Trump or Putin to tell Erdogan to shut up.

Turkey Refugee Deal With EU at Risk, Erdogan Adviser Warns (BBG)

An accord meant to stem the flow of refugees into Europe could collapse if Greece and Germany don’t extradite fugitive Turkish military officers involved in the botched July coup, a chief adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to throw open Turkey’s borders, accusing the European Union of failing to keep its side of the deal, which has run into turbulence following the Turkish government’s crackdown over the coup. Under the agreement, Turkey agreed to block the flow of refugees across its border into Europe in exchange for cash assistance and eased visa requirements for Turkish citizens.

“If Greece and Germany continue their negative attitude toward Turkey, then Turkey has no other option but to relax its hold on migrants,” Erdogan aide Ilnur Cevik said in an interview shortly before Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel sat down with Erdogan in Ankara, in part to discuss the accord. “Turkey has nothing to lose because Turkey has not gained anything” from the agreement, Cevik said. Greece has refused to extradite eight fugitive Turkish officers while about 40 others Turkey accuses of involvement in July’s failed coup sought asylum in Germany. “Merkel is coming to explain the unexplainable,” Cevik said. “We see that Germany continues to harbor those who have staged a coup in Turkey, he said.

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There are 57(!) NGOs ‘active’ on Lesbos.

Small Steps Taken To Improve Conditions At Lesvos Migrant Camp (K.)

Following the deaths of three migrants in less than a week and criticism from humanitarian groups, the government has started making progress in improving conditions at the Moria processing center on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos. Steps have included moving 300 people, mostly families, to another facility at Kara Tepe and providing winter tents to 700 camp residents who were staying in shelters designed for summer despite the cold weather. Plans are also under way to develop a plot right beside the Moria center that has been leased by the Danish Red Cross but left unutilized because of reactions by locals against any initiatives to expand the camp. Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders has accused the government of failing to provide migrants and refugees with basic necessities. The Moria camp is a “death camp for refugees and migrants,” the NGO said in an announcement on Thursday.

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Jan 072017
 
 January 7, 2017  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Highway marker in Polk County, Florida 1937

Here Is The US Intel Report Accusing Putin Of Helping Trump Win (ZH)
A Case Study in the Creation of False News (Paul Craig Roberts)
Obama Set For Pardon Frenzy As He Leaves Office (AFP)
Worst. Recovery. Ever. (ZH)
How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2016? (CFR)
Le Pen Says Brexit Isn’t a Disaster and France Should Be Next (BBG)
Economics Is Driven By Ideology, Not Science (Pettifor)
The Labor Market: The End Of The Innocence? (DiMartino Booth)
Canadian Woman Arrested In Turkey For Saying Erdogan Jails Journalists (CBC)
Giant Iceberg Poised To Break Off From Larsen C Antarctic Shelf (G.)

 

 

I’m so tired of this. No, ‘trust us’ is not good enough anymore. That is why Trump won, because it’s no longer enough to say ‘because we say so’. People don’t trust CIA et al. And you can’t turn that back on its head and demand trust now. You lost! I get so frustrated they even locked up my Facebook account again. There’s always people who want to complain about those who don’t toe lines.

Here Is The US Intel Report Accusing Putin Of Helping Trump Win (ZH)

The farce is complete. One week after a joint FBI/DHS report was released, supposedly meant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia intervened in the US presidential election, and thus served as a diplomatic basis for Obama’s expulsion of 35 diplomats, yet which merely confirmed that a Ukrainian piece of malware which could be purchased by anyone, was responsible for spoofing various email accounts including that of the DNC and John Podesta, moments ago US intelligence agencies released a more “authoritative”, 25-page report, titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, and which not surprisingly only serves to validate the media narrative, by concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘ordered’ an effort to influence U.S. presidential election.

Specifically, the report concludes the following: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” What proof is there? Sadly, again, none. However, as the intelligence agencies state, “We have high confidence in these judgments”… just like they had high confidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And while the report is severely lacking in any evidence, it is rich in judgments, such as the following:

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments. “We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment.”

At this point a quick detour, because the intel agencies responsible for drafting the report then explain how “confident” they are: “CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.” What do these distinctions mean? High confidence generally indicates judgments based on high-quality information, and/or the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgment. However, high confidence judgments still carry a risk of being wrong. Moderate confidence generally means credibly sourced and plausible information, but not of sufficient quality or corroboration to warrant a higher level of confidence. In other words, while not carrying the infamous DHS disclaimer according to which last week’s entire joint FBI/DHS report is likely garbage, the US intel agencies admit they may well be “wrong.”

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“Trump is supposed to side with the CIA which is trying to destroy him.”

A Case Study in the Creation of False News (Paul Craig Roberts)

For many weeks we have witnessed the extraordinary attack by the CIA and its assets in Congress and the media on Donald Trump’s election. In an unprecedented effort to delegitimize Trump’s election as the product of Russian interference in the election, the CIA, media, senators and representatives have consistently made wild accusations for which they have no evidence. The CIA’s message to Trump is clear: Get in line with our agenda, or we are going to mess you over. It is clear that the CIA is warring against Trump. But the CIA’s media assets have turned the facts on their head and are blaming Trump for having a negative view of the CIA. Consider the January 4 Wall Street Journal article by Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes, which begins: “President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies . . .”

The two presstitutes set up their false news story by putting the shoe on the other foot. It is Trump who is the harsh critic rather than the victim of the CIA’s harsh accusations. Set up this way, the story continues: “White House officials have been increasingly frustrated by Mr. Trump’s confrontations with intelligence officials. ‘It’s appalling,” the official said. “No president has ever taken on the CIA and come out looking good.’” Now that the story is Trump taking on the CIA and not the CIA taking on Trump, the case can be built against Trump: Analysts accustomed to more cohesion with the White House are “jarred” by Trump’s skepticism of the CIA’s assessment that Putin got him elected. Trump is supposed to respond to the allegation by saying: I am not legitimate. Here take back the presidency.

WikiLeaks’ Assange has stated unequivocally that there was no hack. The information came to WikiLeaks as a leak, which suggests that it came from inside the Democratic National Committee. That Trump sees it this way means, according to one unidentified official that “It’s pretty horrifying to me that he’s siding with Assange over the intelligence agencies.” You see, Trump is supposed to side with the CIA which is trying to destroy him. Has the CIA shot itself in both feet? How can the agency control policy by manipulating the information fed to the President when the President does not trust the agency?

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Leonard Peltier has been in jail for 40 years for a set-up. Forget about Snowden and Chelsea. Not going to happen.

Obama Set For Pardon Frenzy As He Leaves Office (AFP)

A Rastafarian prophet, a former Taliban captive and thousands of minor drug traffickers have one thing in common: Their names have been submitted to President Barack Obama for clemency before he leaves office in two weeks. Some US presidents have used this regal power of leniency in a pointed way near the end of their term in office. On the last day of his term in 2001, Democratic president Bill Clinton granted pardon in a highly controversial move to late fugitive trader Marc Rich, whose ex-wife had been a major donor to Democrats. Sixteen years later, Obama is fielding pressure from all sides to grant unlikely pardons or commutations of sentences to people whose supporters say have been unjustly sentenced or sought out by the justice system.

Among them is Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army sergeant held captive for five years by the Taliban before his release in a prisoner swap, who is due to be court-martialed for desertion. Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist convicted for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents in what his supporters say was a setup, is also hoping to enjoy Obama’s good graces. Then there’s Edward Snowden, who made the shattering revelation in 2013 of a global communications and internet surveillance system set up by the United States. The 33-year-old, a refugee in Russia, is backed by numerous celebrities like actress Susan Sarandon and singer Peter Gabriel, as well as Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union. If Obama fails to pardon Snowden, his supporters say he may face the death penalty under the incoming administration of Republican Donald Trump, who has called him a “terrible traitor.”

In another leak case, Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year sentence in solitary confinement for handing 700,000 sensitive military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, some of them classified. Activists say her sentence is excessive and point to the psychological frailty of the transgender soldier who has already made two suicide attempts. Even though the White House has dismissed a possible pardon for Snowden and Manning, their supporters are still hoping for a final magnanimous gesture from a president about to leave the constraints of his high office on January 20.

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We know.

Worst. Recovery. Ever. (ZH)

As the champagne glasses clink in Washington over a record-breaking streak of job growth on record (as the percent of the population employed slumped), and the fastest wage growth since the start of the recovery (for managers), we just wanted to remind a few blinkered media types that Obama’s “recovery” has officially been the worst recovery in US history (despite adding almost $10 trillion to the national debt)… When ‘fake news’ and ‘peddling fiction’ meet fact… Not quite as rosy an economic handover to Trump as The White House would like everyone to believe.

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Peace, man!

How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2016? (CFR)

As President Obama enters the final weeks of his presidency, there will be ample assessments of his foreign military approach, which has focused on reducing U.S. ground combat troops (with the notable exception of the Afghanistan surge), supporting local security partners, and authorizing the expansive use of air power. Whether this strategy “works”—i.e. reduces the threat posed by extremists operating from those countries and improves overall security and governance on the ground—is highly contested. Yet, for better or worse, these are the central tenets of the Obama doctrine.

In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,027 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.

Most (24,287) were dropped in Iraq and Syria. This number is based on the percentage of total coalition airstrikes carried out in 2016 by the United States in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the counter-Islamic State campaign. The Pentagon publishes a running count of bombs dropped by the United States and its partners, and we found data for 2016 using OIR public strike releases and this handy tool.* Using this data, we found that in 2016, the United States conducted about 79% (5,904) of the coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which together total 7,473. Of the total 30,743 bombs that the coalition dropped, then, the United States dropped 24,287 (79% of 30,743).

To determine how many U.S. bombs were dropped on each Iraq and Syria, we looked at the percentage of total U.S. OIR airstrikes conducted in each country. They were nearly evenly split, with 49.8% (or 2,941 airstrikes) carried out in Iraq, and 50.2% (or 2,963 airstrikes) in Syria. Therefore, the number of bombs dropped were also nearly the same in the two countries (12,095 in Iraq; 12,192 in Syria). Last year, the United States conducted approximately 67% of airstrikes in Iraq in 2016, and 96% of those in Syria.

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Quick, Carney, cause chaos, or Le Pen will win…

Le Pen Says Brexit Isn’t a Disaster and France Should Be Next (BBG)

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said the U.K. economy is weathering Brexit, giving her confidence to seek an immediate renegotiation of France’s relationship with the European Union if elected. “Brexit has not been a disaster,” Le Pen said at a meeting with English-language reporters in Paris on Friday. “The economic signals are good.” National Front leader Le Pen, who polls suggest will reach the presidential runoff in May, said she would seek talks with France’s EU partners “the day after my election” and put the result to a national referendum. She said the goal is to take back what she called “the four sovereignties”: control of borders, economic policy, money and legislation. France should dump the euro and return to a national currency, though the exchange rate could be linked to some sort of European currency mechanism, Le Pen said.

“I’ll give six months to these talks, and if at the end we have won back our sovereignty, I will tell the French to vote to stay in this Europe of nations and liberty,” she said. “If we don’t, I’ll suggest that they vote to leave.” Polls suggest Le Pen would finish second in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23, and lose a May 7 runoff to center-right candidate Francois Fillon. An Elabe poll released Thursday showed independent Emmanuel Macron gaining on Le Pen, taking second place in some hypothetical matchups. Le Pen, whose party received a $8.5 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014, said she doesn’t fear Russian meddling in France’s election. That follows U.S. intelligence findings that Russian officials directed hacking attacks to help elect Trump, whom she said she supports because his anti-globalist views were better for France.

“Every time big corporations, big finance don’t get what they want, they say it’s a conspiracy of the Russians,” she said. “It makes one laugh.” While the U.S. shouldn’t lecture anyone given its history of spying on allies, improved ties between Russia and the U.S. are in France’s interest, especially if they can cooperate on combating Islamic militants, Le Pen said. “I think that Mr. Trump and Putin can repair ties, and I hope so,” she said. “We don’t want to see an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Russia for a very selfish reason: we are in the middle.”

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Should we let economists ‘heal’ their own field, or is it too late for that?

Economics Is Driven By Ideology, Not Science (Pettifor)

As someone who correctly predicted the financial crisis (first in 2003 and later in a 2006 book) I support Andy Haldane’s assertion that the economics profession is “to some degree in crisis”. He is not the first to argue this. The retiring head of the UK Treasury admitted in 2016 that economists failed to spot the build-up of risk before 2007 and were guilty of what he called “a monumental collective intellectual error”. It is a collective intellectual failure that I believe has played a key role in the rise of political populism. The Bank of England’s chief economist was also right to compare the challenges facing economists to the famous “Michael Fish” moment, where everyone was assured that a hurricane wouldn’t hit before it did, bringing with it much devastation, in 1987.

Meteorologists have since transformed their field and improved forecasts. But that is not true of the economics profession. The dominant economic model of financial liberalisation, monetary policy dominance and fiscal austerity remains intact. In their defence, economists can’t be faulted for getting forecasts wrong. Political events such as Brexit are not easy to predict. But unlike economists, meteorologists have a deep understanding of the major forces shaping outcomes in their fields, even when they get precise forecasts wrong. Mainstream economists, by contrast, lack that deep understanding of the economic forces driving outcomes. The reason is not hard to understand. The field of meteorology is not underpinned by policy or by an agenda. Economics, by contrast, is dogged by ideology.

It is ideology, not science, that leads economists to wrongly assert that the market in money is like the market in widgets, and must not be regulated or tampered with by governments. That financial flows across borders must be “free”, regardless of whether they cause instability. That bankers are simply intermediaries between savers and borrowers – and do not create credit out of thin air. That monetary and fiscal policies that serve the finance sector with bailouts are tolerable, while those that serve the poor must be resisted. That the reasoning that informs the micro-economy can be extrapolated to reach conclusions about the macro-economy. In other words, the fallacy that the budgets of households (the micro-economy) can be aggregated and compared to the budgets of governments (the macro-economy).

Unsurprisingly, these flawed theories and models are a great comfort to financial elites – which is why so many economists are hired and funded by big banks, corporations and the wealthy. And it explains why their words and ideas are repeated by the media outlets that faithfully serve the status quo or “the establishment”. Very little has been done to transform the dominant economic model of financial and trade liberalisation or to limit economists’ almost religious belief in the efficiency of markets and hostility to public intervention.

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“Let me take a long last look, before we say goodbye..”

The Labor Market: The End Of The Innocence? (DiMartino Booth)

One of the first of life’s lessons we all learned is that we need not rush life; it will do that for us and in the end against our will. The inspiration for this wisdom could well have sprung from Ecclesiastes wherein we read these peaceful words: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Co-writers Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby embraced the spirit of this message as the 1980’s were coming to a close. You must agree 1989’s The End of the Innocence, that haunting and mournful ballad, was just the coda needed to move on to the last decade of the last century. “Let me take a long last look, before we say goodbye,” the song asks of the listener who can’t help themselves but to listen.

Many veteran investors, those who don’t need to be reminded about the Reagan era because they were there, may be feeling a bit more wistful as they peer over the horizon. They have lived through extraordinary economic times and maybe even recall the early 1970’s, the last time initial jobless claims were at their current historically low levels. They know, in other words, this can’t go on forever, that we are nearing the end of our own innocence. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has been adamant that economic cycles can’t die of old age. At the end of this month, we can proclaim to be living through the third longest expansion in postwar times. The parlor game occupying those on the Street these days entails devising scenarios that can push us into the second, or dare we dream, longest expansion of all.

The Wall Street Journal perfectly captures the infectious optimism, the yearning to keep that dream alive, by asking this in a headline: How Low Can the Unemployment Rate Go? Rather than keep you in suspense, the article’s answer is as follows: “Assuming the economy adds around 200,000 jobs a month in 2017 and the labor-force participation rate stays relatively constant, the unemployment rate would fall to 3.9% by the end of the year, according to a model maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.” If we do get there, a big if, we are sure to be staring down the barrel of appreciably higher interest rates and a flat, if not by then, inverted yield curve. The only precedent is, you guessed it, that which occurred in 2000, when the unemployment rate hit 3.6% as the longest cycle of all time was finally flaming out. Economics 101 teaches one tenet above all – that the unemployment rate is the most lagging within the data universe.

A recent visit with Dr. Gates, that steel-eyed sleuth, corroborated this maxim. “The unemployment rate is the single, most visible economic indicator for households. It’s easy to understand, black and white. Up is bad, down is good,” Gates observed. “If we keep getting downside surprises, it will feed even more consumer optimism. That happens late in the cycle.” What goes hand in hand with these late cycles guideposts? Since you asked, that optimism Gates cites tends to correlate with households overreaching their paychecks, which is exactly what we’re seeing. When adjusted for inflation, credit card borrowing is up 4.5% over last year, a full two percentage points above wage income, which is up 2.5% over the same period. That’s a new high for the current cycle. At 2.9%, inflation-adjusted spending is also running ahead of wage income.

These data are validated by separate data that shows state withholding tax collections are way off last year’s figures. “Vulnerabilities in household demand don’t happen overnight; they take time to rise to the surface,” Gates cautioned. “Households aren’t overstretched yet, but they’re getting there. Just like corporations substitute debt for profits late in the cycle, households also are starting to do just as they ride the wave of Trump optimism. Eventually this will run its course.”

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So is Canada going to stand up to him?

Canadian Woman Arrested In Turkey For Saying Erdogan Jails Journalists (CBC)

A Canadian woman has been arrested in Turkey for allegedly insulting the country’s president in comments posted on Facebook, her Turkish lawyer said Thursday. Ece Heper, 50, was arrested in the city of Kars in northeastern Turkey, and charged on Dec. 30, Sertac Celikkaleli told The Canadian Press. Heper, a dual Canadian-Turkish citizen, had been in the country since mid-November, according to her friends. “She is intense and opinionated, for sure,” Birgitta Pavic said from her Toronto home. “But everything is intense over there right now, especially criticizing the government.” At issue, her friends and lawyer said, are several recent Facebook posts about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In one posted on Dec. 28, Heper accused Erdogan of jailing journalists who suggest there is evidence Turkey is supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS or ISIL. Global Affairs Canada said they are aware of a Canadian citizen detained in Turkey and are providing consular assistance, but wouldn’t divulge further information, citing privacy laws. Heper has a log home in Norwood, Ont., about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, Pavic said, where she lives with five dogs she rescued from Turkey “that are like her children.” Her parents are dead and she is estranged from her brother, Pavic said, so her friends are taking up the cause to help her out.

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We’re just going to watch it happen, ain’t we? That’s all we’re capable of.

Giant Iceberg Poised To Break Off From Larsen C Antarctic Shelf (G.)

A giant iceberg, with an area equivalent to Trinidad and Tobago, is poised to break off from the Antarctic shelf. A thread of just 20km of ice is now preventing the 5,000 sq km mass from floating away, following the sudden expansion last month of a rift that has been steadily growing for more than a decade. The iceberg, which is positioned on the most northern major ice shelf in Antarctica, known as Larsen C, is predicted to be one of the largest 10 break-offs ever recorded. Professor Adrian Luckman, a scientist at Swansea University and leader of the UK’s Midas project, said in a statement: “After a few months of steady, incremental advance since the last event, the rift grew suddenly by a further 18km during the second half of December 2016. Only a final 20km of ice now connects an iceberg one quarter the size of Wales to its parent ice shelf.”

The separation of the iceberg “will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula” and could trigger a wider break-up of the Larsen C ice shelf, he added. “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed,” Luckman told BBC News. Ice shelves are vast expanses of ice floating on the sea, several hundred metres thick, at the edge of glaciers. Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves will destabilise the frozen continent’s inland glaciers. And while the splitting off of the iceberg would not contribute to rising sea levels, the loss of glacial ice would. Martin O’Leary, also of Swansea University, said: “It just makes the whole shelf less stable. If it were to collapse there would be nothing holding the glaciers up and they would start to flow quite quickly indeed.”

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