Oct 092019
 


Vilhelm Hammershoi Woman Seen from the Back 1888

 

White House Says It Will Refuse To Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry (R.)
Oh My God, They Killed CNY! You Bastards (Every)
Powell Says The Fed Will Start Expanding Its Balance Sheet ‘Soon’ (CNBC)
Trade Wars Lose US Its Competitiveness Top Spot – WEF (AFP)
Boris Johnson Facing No-Deal Brexit Cabinet Rebellion (R.)
EU May Offer To Extend Deadline For Brexit Deal To June (G.)
Brexit Is A Necessary Crisis, Reveals Britain’s True Place In The World (G.)
Time To Reassess CrowdStrike’s Credibility (Kelly)
Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Expands Lawsuit Against Estate, Alleged Enablers (R.)
Refugee Explosion “Greater” Than 2015 To Hit Europe – German Minister (ZH)

 

 

Tried hard to find a nonpartial view, but that just gets harder all the time.

White House Says It Will Refuse To Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry (R.)

The White House said on Tuesday it would refuse to cooperate with an “illegitimate, unconstitutional” congressional impeachment inquiry, setting Republican President Donald Trump on a collision course with the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives. Hours after the administration abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from testifying to congressional panels, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone criticized the decision by lawmakers to proceed with an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote. “You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” he said, adding House Democrats had left Trump “no choice.”


“To fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” he said. [..] White House lawyer Cipollone described the probe as “a naked political strategy” that violated Trump’s due process rights and was designed to reverse the 2016 presidential election and influence the November 2020 election. “Your transparent rush to judgment, lack of democratically accountable authorization, and violation of basic rights in the current proceedings make clear the illegitimate, partisan purpose” of the inquiry, he said.

Read more …

Brilliant both from Michael Every of Rabobank and the South Park crew.

“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”

Oh My God, They Killed CNY! You Bastards (Every)

”The upcoming ‘Top Gun 2’ stars Tom Cruise, still trying to look like he did in the 1980s, but no longer able to do all his own stunts: which is just like US foreign policy “ [..] the most honest commentary on where we now stand under globalisation comes not from the eschatological of intellectuals or politicians telling us democracy is under threat and free trade is great, not spotting Marxist and populist criticism that the two are linked; instead it comes from the scatology of ‘South Park’.[..] the most honest commentary on where we now stand under globalisation comes not from the eschatological of intellectuals or politicians telling us democracy is under threat and free trade is great, not spotting Marxist and populist criticism that the two are linked; instead it comes from the scatology of ‘South Park’


So is the US flailing or retreating like the Romans? No. It is focusing on its mighty financial weapons and physically fighting where it can achieve what matters most…if one is not thinking about Iran, but China. As Trump underlined: “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.” Where does it benefit most fighting, globally? Three guesses… The greatest likelihood is still that if Trump gets past his latest tipping point then at some (tipping) point soon markets are going to cry “Oh my God, they killed CNY!” as the Chinese currency collapses.

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As Big As Japan.

Powell Says The Fed Will Start Expanding Its Balance Sheet ‘Soon’ (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve will soon start growing its balance sheet again, a response in part to the jolt to overnight lending markets in September, Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday. How the Fed will go about expanding the securities it holds will be explained in the coming days, though Treasury bill purchases will be involved, the central bank chief said during a speech in Denver, though Powell stressed the approach shouldn’t be confused with the quantitative easing done during and after the financial crisis. “This is not QE. In no sense is this QE,” he said in a question and answer session after the speech.


On monetary policy more broadly, Powell stuck to his recent script: He and his fellow policymakers view the economy as being strong but susceptible to shocks, particularly from a global slowdown, trade and geopolitics like a potentially messy Brexit. He said the Fed stands committed to supporting the recovery but is data dependent and not on a preset course of cutting rates. The Fed has reduced its benchmark rate twice in 2019 and is expected to approve a third cut late this month.

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Because remember, children: you can never grow fast enough. Just ask the Fed.

Trade Wars Lose US Its Competitiveness Top Spot – WEF (AFP)

The United States fell to second place behind Singapore in the World Economic Forum’s flagship Global Competitiveness Report, with the slippage linked in part to President Donald Trump’s trade wars. The Forum, organisers of the glitzy annual gathering of business and political elite in Davos, have released an annual competitiveness report since 1979 that assesses which economies are well placed to see productivity and long-term growth. While the report noted that the US “remains an innovation powerhouse” and the world’s second most competitive economy, some trouble signs have emerged, the Forum said.


“There are no two ways (about) it. It is important to ensure the countries are being open to trade,” said Saadia Zahidi, a Forum managing director, when asked to comment on the impact of the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. She noted the lack of “hard data” on the impact of US tariffs imposed on several of its main economic partners, as the set of products impacted remains limited compared to overall trade. But, she said, “the sentiment” surrounding investing in the US “has been going down,” she told reporters in Geneva. “That will end up impacting long-term investment; that will end up impacting how decision makers are thinking; that will end up impacting the view of non-American business leaders (of) the United States. So it does matter in the long-term,” she added.

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The EU likes this.

Boris Johnson Facing No-Deal Brexit Cabinet Rebellion (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a new rebellion from his cabinet over concerns of a no-deal Brexit, with a group of cabinet ministers poised to resign, The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, British Minister for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are all on a “resignation watch list”, according to The Times report An unnamed cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a “very large number” of Conservative members of parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.


The Times said that ministers had warned Johnson in a cabinet meeting about the “grave” risk of the return of direct rule in Northern Ireland and raised concerns about Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior adviser. “Cabinet will set the strategy, not unelected officials. If this is an attempt to do that then it will fail”, the report quoted another cabinet minister as saying. The report comes as the European Union accused Britain of playing a “stupid blame game” over Brexit after a Downing Street source told Reuters a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands.

Read more …

“What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk wrote in a tweet directed at the prime minister.”

EU May Offer To Extend Deadline For Brexit Deal To June (G.)

The European Union is poised to extend Brexit talks into as late as next summer after the European council and commission presidents dismissed Boris Johnson’s strategy as a “blame game”. A “range of dates” will now be in play at the meeting of European leaders next week but sources suggested the natural cut-off date would be June. With an extension of the UK’s EU membership now looking inevitable, other diplomatic sources suggested an unlikely outlier for an end date could even be ahead of a possible general election so as to force the Commons into accepting a deal. “But politicians like to keep things off their plates for as long as possible and so pushing it longer seems more realistic,” a senior EU diplomat said.

The negotiations over a deal are said to be effectively dead in Brussels after Downing Street’s extraordinary claims over the substance of a phone call between the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the UK prime minister. Merkel was said by an unnamed UK source to have told Johnson that Northern Ireland had to stay in the EU’s customs union. The official claimed that as a consequence a deal looked “essentially impossible, not just now but ever”. Tusk, the European council president, gave an insight into the frustration at the anonymous briefings over the Merkel call, the alleged content of which described by senior politicians in Berlin as “improbable”. The chancellor’s spokesman declined to comment on “confidential conversations”.

“What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk wrote in a tweet directed at the prime minister. “At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke. Quo vadis? [Where are you going?]” [..] In Berlin Detlef Seif, the point person on Brexit for Merkel’s party, the CDU, rejected the account given by Downing Street of the call between the two leaders. He said: “In my mind it is completely improbable that the phone call between Merkel and Johnson took place in the way it has been reported in the British media. “It would run counter to all the principles the German government has followed for the last three years, namely that the negotiations are led by the European commission.

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“It brings to light, in stunning clarity, Brexiters’ deluded political understanding of the UK’s place in the world.”

“..without it we will remain stuck in the delusional, revivalist politics of a banana monarchy.”

Brexit Is A Necessary Crisis, Reveals Britain’s True Place In The World (G.)

Today much of the capital in Britain is not British and not linked to the Conservative party – where for most of the 20th century things looked very different. Once, great capitalists with national, imperial and global interests sat in the Commons and the Lords as Liberals or Conservatives. Between the wars, the Conservatives emerged as the one party of capital, led by great British manufacturers such as Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain. The Commons and the Lords were soon fuller than ever of Tory businessmen, from the owner of Meccano toys to that of Lyons Corner Houses.

After the second world war, such captains of industry avoided the Commons, but the Conservative party was without question the party of capital and property, one which stood against the party of organised labour. Furthermore, the Tories represented an increasingly national capitalism, protected by import controls, and closely tied to an interventionist and technocratic state that wanted to increase exports of British designed and made goods. A company like Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) saw itself, and indeed was, a national champion. British industry, public and private, was a national enterprise.

Since the 1970s things have changed radically. Today there is no such thing as British national capitalism. London is a place where world capitalism does business – no longer one where British capitalism does the world’s business. Everywhere in the UK there are foreign-owned enterprises, many of them nationalised industries, building nuclear reactors and running train services from overseas. When the car industry speaks, it is not as British industry but as foreign enterprise in the UK. The same is true of many of the major manufacturing sectors – from civil aircraft to electrical engineering – and of infrastructure. Whatever the interests of foreign capital, they are not expressed through a national political party. Most of these foreign-owned businesses, not surprisingly, are hostile to Brexit.

[..] Brexit is a necessary crisis, and has provided a long overdue audit of British realities. It exposes the nature of the economy, the new relations of capitalism to politics and the weakness of the state. It brings to light, in stunning clarity, Brexiters’ deluded political understanding of the UK’s place in the world. From a new understanding, a new politics of national improvement might come; without it we will remain stuck in the delusional, revivalist politics of a banana monarchy.

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High time. But is asking questions about CrowdStrike impeachable?

Time To Reassess CrowdStrike’s Credibility (Kelly)

Days before the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh last year, a former FBI assistant director appeared on MSNBC to suggest the Supreme Court nominee had a major credibility problem. “This is not…an investigation about the sexual allegations, I think it really has moved toward credibility,” Shawn Henry, an NBC News analyst, told Nicolle Wallace on October 1, 2018. “At this point now, there are very clear allegations, and subsequent to the judge’s testimony, people have come out who appear to be credible who…appear to be contradicting his testimony sworn before the United States Senate.” Henry, clearly reciting Democratic talking points to imply Kavanaugh perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his September showdown with Christine Blasey Ford, also referred to Ford as a “victim” and claimed that the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh’s testimony had “fallen short.”

Henry was presented to viewers as the channel’s “national security analyst,” but there was one title the network overlooked: Shawn Henry is a top executive for CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the infamous hack of its email system in early 2016. Perhaps not coincidentally, the firm determined that the Russians were behind the intrusion. CrowdStrike’s June 2016 assessment remains the sole source of evidence to supply the pretext of the government’s Russian election interference claim; later, it would help bolster the Trump-Russia collusion fable. [..] Henry, the president of CrowdStrike’s Washington operation, is a regular contributor to both MSNBC and NBC News programs. (His affiliation with CrowdStrike, however, is never mentioned.)

Although he hasn’t worked for the FBI since 2012, Henry often weighs in as an FBI “expert,” opining on a variety of political issues from government shutdowns to the Kavanaugh debacle. Curiously, his views always come down on the side opposite of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In March 2017, Henry—who worked for Robert Mueller’s FBI during Barack Obama’s first term—participated in a post-inauguration forum to discuss the implications of Russia’s “hacking” the 2016 presidential election. The panel also featured former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and Marc Elias, the general partner at Perkins Coie, a politically-influential law firm based in D.C.. It was a symbolic trio. Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike in the spring of 2016 on behalf of the DNC.

Instead of going directly to the FBI or other law enforcement agency about the breach, Democratic party leaders, working through Perkins Coie, retained CrowdStrike to find the culprits. Very cozy. But that wasn’t Perkins Coie’s only involvement in the Russia-hacked-the-election plotline. The law firm also hired Fusion GPS—who in turn hired British political operative Christopher Steele to author his infamous dossier—on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC around the same time Perkins retained CrowdStrike. According to disclosure reports, the DNC paid Perkins Coie $7.2 million during the 2016 election cycle: The PAC also paid CrowdStrike more than $400,000 during the same time period. (The DNC has paid CrowdStrike nearly $80,000 so far this year.)

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#I’mWithHer.

Jeffrey Epstein Accuser Expands Lawsuit Against Estate, Alleged Enablers (R.)

A New York woman who said Jeffrey Epstein began grooming her for sex when she was 14 and later raped her expanded her lawsuit against his estate, naming several women who allegedly enabled the financier’s abuses and seeking to block the estate from shielding his assets from victims. In her amended complaint filed on Tuesday, Jennifer Araoz accused four women by name who once worked with Epstein of misconduct, and added more than 20 corporate defendants associated with the late financier. Araoz, 32, wants “justice not just against Mr. Epstein’s estate, but the network of enablers that surrounded him, and the network of corporate interests that surrounded him,” her lawyer Daniel Kaiser told reporters on a conference call.

“Every penny of his estate should be available to satisfy the claims of victims,” he added. Epstein, 66, died by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10, two days after signing a will and putting his estimated $577 million estate into a trust. Kaiser said it would be obvious to any judge that this was a fraudulent effort to keep his money away from victims. The four women include Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime confidante; Lesley Groff, a former secretary; Cimberly Espinosa, a former executive assistant; and Rosalyn Fontanilla, a former maid who died in October 2016. All but Fontanilla are named as defendants.

Araoz accused the defendants of conspiring to identify and procure a steady stream of underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse. The defendants “participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting his sex trafficking ring, ensuring that approximately three girls a day were made available to him for his sexual pleasure,” the amended complaint said.

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It’s already started.

Refugee Explosion “Greater” Than 2015 To Hit Europe – German Minister (ZH)

The German government is warning that a number of indicators suggest Europe could be on the brink of witnessing a new refugee crisis explode on its borders. Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said early this week that refugees and migrants are set to flood Europe on a scale even bigger that the peak of the 2015 crisis. “We must do more to help our European partners with controls on the EU external borders. We have left them alone for too long,” he told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper after returning from a visit to Greece and Turkey, where he inspected the renewed refugee crisis first hand. “If we do not do that we will once again face a refugee wave like in 2015 or maybe even greater,” Seehofer warned ominously.

Seehofer further said that if the EU doesn’t unite to find “strength to solve this problem problem” it faces total “loss of control” if and when the next major crisis hits. At the height of the crisis three years ago, which was driven by the vastly destabilizing wars in Syria and Libya, and by the turmoil left in the wake of the Islamic State caliphate in western Iraq, there were near weekly mass drownings and accidents involving migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean, as well as fires and unrest at makeshift refugee camps in France and Greece. It further created turmoil in the domestic politics of multiple EU countries, with a number of right-wing populist figures and parties coming to power on anti-illegal immigration platforms.

And now, with Turkey on the brink of a major military incursion into northeast Syria, the Middle East is about to witness a major new conflagration resulting in potentially millions of new refugees being pushed out of the Turkey-Syria border region. Coupled with that, Turkey’s President Erdogan recently threatened to release one million refugees on Europe if he can’t have his so-called ‘safe zone’ which is to reach some 30km deep (19 miles) inside Syrian territory. He threatened early last month: “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone,” while demanding that European countries give political support to the controversial plan that would end in annexing UN member Syria’s sovereign territory.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Oct 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Head of a bearded man 1940

 

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)
2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)
House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)
Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)
Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)
Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)
China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)
Hong Kong Mask Ban Sparks Violent Clashes, Rail Shutdown (AFP)
PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)
Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)
Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)
Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)
Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

 

 

This is not how US election campaigns used to look.

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)

Just one day after President Trump dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold an impeachment inquiry vote – a move which would open Democrats up to Republican subpoenas, House Democrats slapped the White House with a subpoena first. Addressed to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the subpoena demands documents and communications related to the case being constructed against Trump – namely that his request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption constitutes election interference and endangered national security. Of note, the Justice Department concluded that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky did not violate campaign finance law.

“How the White House, which has routinely rejected congressional requests for information, responds to the demands for documents could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Under normal circumstances, the White House could claim materials referred to in both requests were privileged, using that as a defense in court.” -New York Times. What Democrats aren’t pursuing, by the by, is anything resembling due diligence on Biden – the (still) leading Democratic candidate trying to fend off accusations of nepotism in Ukraine and China while abusing his office as Vice President. As we noted earlier Friday, Vice President Mike Pence was hit with a subpoena as well over, demanding information on “any role you may have played” in helping with the Ukraine effort against Biden.

Pence press secretary Katie Waldman said “given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.” Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) have warned that failure to comply with subpoenas will be viewed as obstruction of Congress – which the Times says is “itself a potentially impeachable offense.” “The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis,” reads the subpoena, demanding information by October 15. “After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.”

Read more …

Also CIA.

2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)

President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry continues to grow, according to a bombshell new report in The New York Times. “A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress,” The Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter. “The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry,” the newspaper explained. “The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.”


“A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point,” the newspaper noted. “Whistle-blowers have created a new threat for Mr. Trump. Though the White House has stonewalled Democrats in Congress investigating allegations raised in the special counsel’s report that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, the president has little similar ability to stymie whistle-blowers from speaking to Congress.”

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If both Trump and Pence are impeached, Nancy Pelosi is next in line to become president.

But the Dems won’t get any documents until they hold a House vote.

House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)

House Democrats on Friday roped Vice President Mike Pence into their investigation into whether President Trump “jeopardized national security” by asking Ukraine to investigate what looks like obvious corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In a letter from Democratic House Committee Chairs Eliot Engel (NY), Adam Schiff (CA) and Elijah Cummings (MD), Pence is given a deadline of October 15 to turn over all documents related to President Trump’s April 21 and July 25 phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The letter also requests all communications between administration officials regarding the calls, as well as information concerning Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate or pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


Of note, the letter danced around a popular lie about the call between Trump and Zelensky: According to the record, President Trump stated, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He also stated, “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.” The letter then jumps to a transcript of the July 25 phone call in which Trump said: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.” Meanwhile, House Democrats purposely conflate Trump’s “favor” – which was actually for the investigation of the DNC servers involving their contractor Crowdstrile – and the Biden investigation.

 

If Pence refuses to comply, the chairmen say it “shall constitute evidence of obstruction” in their impeachment inquiry. For those keeping track – Rep. Schiff lied when he said his office had no contact with the whistleblower (which earned him ‘four Pinocchios’ from the Washington Post). Schiff also fabricated a quote from the Trump-Zelensky call which he read during an official hearing. And now, he and two other House Democratic chairs are doing their best narrative shaping by misrepresenting more facts.

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Not looking good.

Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)

New emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal the details surrounding communications between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the former FBI Director’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe. Mueller would go on to assemble a team comprising “13 Angry Democrats” as Trump called them, due to their obvious animus towards the president. According to the 145 pages of documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Rosenstein and Mueller were discussing just three days after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, and ostenisbly for some time before that.


“The boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” Rosenstein wrote Mueller on May 12, 2017 as the two tried to nail down a time for their next conversation. Four days later on May 16- the day before Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein told former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General and current Kirkland & Ellis Partne, Mark Filip “I am with Mueller. He shares my views. Duty Calls. Sometimes the moment chooses us.” “And on May 17 Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Also, during the same time period, between May 8 and May 17, Rosenstein met with then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other senior Justice Department FBI officials to discuss wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump.” -Judicial Watch

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“..that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.”

Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)

[..] what if it turns out that there actually is no Whistleblower, that the figure was just a fiction, a CGI figment cooked up by Adam Schiff, his lawyers, and sundry other players on the Deep State bench? Sounds outlandish perhaps, but I wouldn’t put it past the congressman from Hollywood. We’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, it appears that the purported Whistleblower and his chief handler, Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson failed to observe the proper procedures in reporting the complaint through channels, not to mention the legerdemain of sketchy paperwork that attested to the complaint.

Remember who Michael Atkinson is: the former legal counsel to John P. Carlin, who was Assistant Attorney General for National Security during the origin months of the RussiaGate operation in the summer of 2016, and before that chief of staff to… wait for it… Robert Mueller, when he was FBI Director. Do you begin to detect a claque of senior bureaucrats scrambling to cover each other’s ass? Interesting days ahead as this feculent blob of malfeasance creepy-crawls through the spooky weeks of October, climaxing in Halloween. These are the weeks when the DOJ Inspector General’s report on FISA court shenanigans comes down. It’s also the month of the Brexit Absolute Deadline.

That hairball over in Old Blighty might seem of unconcern over here, but it contains enough explosive power to destabilize the European banking system and, with it, America’s, which would lead to some rather scary action in the bond and equity markets at exactly the time of year when accidents like that happen. And then, deeper in the background, like Hades and Thanatos, stand the grave figures of Barr and Durham, whose very silence lo these many months must be giving the vapors to that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.

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“..no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland.”

Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans look to be falling apart as the European commission said there are no grounds to accept a request from the UK for intensive weekend negotiations two weeks before an EU summit. EU sources said there was no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland. Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, along with a team of a dozen British officials, failed to convince their EU counterparts in Brussels on Friday that he had a mandate from Downing Street to compromise on what the EU sees as major flaws in the UK government’s proposals. Frost had been seeking to rescue the British prime minister’s proposed deal after it was strongly criticised.


The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had told diplomats on Thursday evening that the British needed to “fundamentally amend their position”. A European commission spokeswoman said: “We have completed discussions with the UK for today. We gave our initial reaction to the UK’s proposals and asked many questions on the legal text. “We will meet again on Monday to give the UK another opportunity to present its proposals in detail.” The spokeswoman added that the proposals did not “provide a basis for concluding an agreement”. An EU official said: “The UK often asks for meetings to keep [the] process going; we agree we should leave no stone unturned. But there is nothing useful that could be done this weekend.”

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Muslim silence on Uighurs.

China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)

In July this year, 22 Western-aligned countries issued a joint statement to the high commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council objecting to China’s abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. That’s not unusual: The reports of human rights abuses in the province are coming out thick and fast, and Western countries are more than happy to raise concerns against such abuses, whether out of genuine concern, domestic virtue signaling by political leaders, or the use of any available stick to whack a geopolitical rival.

What was remarkable was the 37 countries issuing a counter letter praising China’s human rights record, from humanitarian luminaries including such as Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea. More interestingly, about half of the signatories of this letter were Muslim-majority countries. If the issues had been about Palestinians or even the Rohingya, one might expect the usual cynical domestic virtue signaling by political leaders around the well-worn claims of Muslim solidarity. Instead, they chose to loudly broadcast their support for Beijing’s policy of eradicating the old Islamic culture of the ancient Silk Road gateway to the Chinese heartland in Xinjiang.

The calculation of such leaders, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto head of government of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is well understood and publicized: “Muslim solidarity” is a convenient and effective slogan to be thrown at domestic audiences, but if your national economy—and the personal profits of the elite—depends on the goodwill of Beijing, then you must defer to China’s supposedly sovereign right to do as it pleases within its borders, and forget about the umma.

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“The government doesn’t listen to us. So we are upping our game…”

Hong Kong Mask Ban Sparks Violent Clashes, Rail Shutdown (AFP)

Hong Kong’s mass transit rail system was suspended and dozens of banks and major shopping malls closed on Saturday after a ban on pro-democracy protesters wearing masks came into effect, sparking widespread anger and violent clashes. The ban, imposed under emergency powers not used in more than half a century, was aimed at quelling nearly four months of unrest. But instead it triggered another wave of mass protests and vows of defiance, with a 14-year-old boy reportedly shot and wounded. Spontaneous rallies broke out across Hong Kong after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the emergency law on Friday, with large crowds of office workers blocking roads in the heart of the Central commercial district.


Across the city demonstrators later vandalised subway stations, started street fires and trashed businesses with mainland China ties as police fired tear gas in multiple locations. “The government doesn’t listen to us. So we are upping our game,” said 32-year-old protester Nathalie, as hardcore demonstrators trashed the MTR station in the previously calm neighbourhood of Tseung Kwan O. In the northern district of Yuen Long, a police officer opened fire when he was surrounded in his car and attacked by protesters, a petrol bomb exploding at his feet. Police said the officer fired one round from his gun in self defence. A teenage boy was shot and wounded in the same district, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a medical source.

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Won’t be the last.

PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)

U.S. payments processor PayPal said on Friday it was leaving Libra Association, the entity managing the Facebook-led effort to build global digital currency Libra, making it the first member to exit the group. PayPal said it would forgo any further participation in the group and would instead focus on its own core businesses. “We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations and look forward to continued dialogue on ways to work together in the future,” PayPal said in a statement. In response, Geneva-based Libra Association said it was aware of the challenges lying ahead in its attempts to “reconfigure” the financial system.


“The type of change that will reconfigure the financial system to be tilted towards people, not the institutions serving them, will be hard. Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else. We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now, rather than later”, Libra Association said in a statement. Facebook declined to comment.

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Now it’s ‘pilot overload’. And software of course. But the pilots were not overloaded, the hardware didn’t work.

Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)

Global regulators are looking at “startle factors” that can overwhelm pilots as they consider revised protocols for the Boeing 737 MAX, Nicholas Robinson, the head of civil aviation for Transport Canada, told Reuters on Friday. Boeing Co’s fastest-selling jetliner, the 737 MAX, was grounded worldwide in March after two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people within five months. Pilot overload appears to have played a role in both crashes, in which crews struggled to regain control of the airplane while a new flight control system repeatedly pushed the nose down amid a series of other audio and sensory alarms and alerts. “What we need to do is ensure that the aircrew in the MAX are able to handle that environment,” Robinson said in an interview with Reuters.

Transport Canada is among a core group of regulators that is evaluating the requirements for the 737 MAX to fly again after a seven-month grounding. It has been convening weekly by phone, video conferences or face-to-face with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and its counterparts in the European Union and Brazil, Robinson said. Their decisions could lead to sweeping changes to pilot flight operating manuals and classroom instruction and even mandates for costly simulator training, industry sources have said. However, no training decisions can be made until Boeing submits software updates to the FAA for review and approval, Robinson said.

Transport Canada is closely aligned with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency on return to service demands and has also raised questions over the architecture behind the 737 MAX’s angle of attack system. “We continue to look for a solution proposed by the manufacturer and the FAA on that area,” he said. Still, Canada’s goal is for the MAX to return in countries across the globe simultaneously, or at least in close succession. “It’s not a necessity, but it’s a goal,” Robinson said.

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What is it about October and whistleblowers?

Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)

An attorney representing families of passengers killed in a Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia said on Friday he will seek sworn evidence from a Boeing engineer who claims the company rejected a proposed safety upgrade to the 737 MAX because it was too costly. The engineer, Curtis Ewbank, said the upgrade could have reduced risks that contributed to two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people, according to two people familiar with the complaint. Ewbank filed the complaint through internal Boeing channels after the March crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, the sources said. The sources described the complaint to Reuters, but Reuters has not seen a copy of the complaint.


Managers rejected the proposed upgrade from Ewbank’s team of engineers, called synthetic airspeed, on the basis of “cost and potential (pilot) training impact,” according to the Seattle Times, which first reported the complaint on Wednesday. Robert Clifford, the lead counsel representing families of victims from the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said in an email the complaint raises fresh concerns about Boeing’s culture and whether the company placed too great an emphasis on cost and schedule at the expense of safety. He said he would take steps to depose Ewbank as quickly as possible.

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Things are getting out of hand again. Hundreds of refugees daily, courtesy of Erdogan. A right wing government is not going to help. Still a dumb headline though.

Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)

The Greek islands are under the spotlight again, as a new wave of tragic events has hit asylum seekers trapped there. On 29 September, a big fire broke out in Moria – the notorious camp on the island of Lesbos – killing one woman, and injuring at least nine more people, including a baby, the health ministry reported. On 24 September, a truck killed a five-year-old Afghan boy who was playing just outside Moria. The number of asylum seekers crossing the Aegean from Turkey is also increasing. With camps already overcrowded, conditions are horrific for asylum seekers and migrants trapped there. According to the government’s most recent figures, 26,753 women, men and children live in camps designed for about 6,300. The number has almost doubled since June.


But while the numbers have increased, neither the horrible conditions nor the flawed policies that cause them are new. Underinvestment, a poorly functioning asylum system, and a deliberate policy choice to confine asylum seekers to islands has left thousands trapped there for months or years in inhuman and degrading conditions. Forcing migrants and asylum seekers to remain on the islands was ostensibly to expedite their return to Turkey under the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal. But on 11 September, Gerald Knaus, head of a research organisation whose ideas inspired the EU-Turkey deal, wrote that: “The situation on Greek islands is unacceptable, the asylum system on the verge of collapse. This is a moment of truth.”

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Abstract of an academic study published at Science Direct.

Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

Cryptocurrency mining uses significant amounts of energy as part of the proof-of-work time-stamping scheme to add new blocks to the chain. Expanding upon previously calculated energy use patterns for mining four prominent cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero), we estimate the per coin economic damages of air pollution emissions and associated human mortality and climate impacts of mining these cryptocurrencies in the US and China. Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China.


The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China. Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases. For example, in December 2018, our results illustrate a case (for Bitcoin) where the health and climate change “cryptodamages” roughly match each $1 of coin value created. We close with discussion of policy implications.

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The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.

– African proverb

 

 

 

 

Sep 272019
 


Salvador Dali Self-portrait in the studio 1919

 

These Once-Secret Memos Cast Doubt On Joe Biden’s Ukraine Story (Solomon)
Democrats Reveal the Real Purpose of the Impeachment Investigation (PCR)
Chelsea, Reality Hope New Approval Of Whistleblowers Will Set Them Free (Onion)
Wall Street To Dems: We’ll Sit Out, Or Back Trump, If Warren Nominated (CNBC)
Fed Will Need To Grow Its Balance Sheet ‘Permanently’ – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)
US Annual Health Insurance Costs Hit Record High Above $20,000 (BBG)
Quarter Of UK Rural Businesses ‘Could Be Bankrupted By No-Deal Brexit’ (G.)
China’s Giant $400 Billion Iran Investment Complicates US Options (F.)
Yemen’s Houthis Are Bringing Down A Goliath (Escobar)
Spanish Security Company Spied On Julian Assange In London For US (El Pais)
Trump Administration Proposes Historically Low Refugee Limit (AP)

 

 

John Solomon’s account is really important in the impeachment hearings.. And everything he says is documented.

Watched quite a lot of the House hearing yesterday, and thought: this is a circus. Everyone knows Trump is guilty or not before they’ve seen anything, just depending on what party they belong to. And no, no fan of Adam Schiff.

These Once-Secret Memos Cast Doubt On Joe Biden’s Ukraine Story (Solomon)

Former Vice President Joe Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has locked into a specific story about the controversy in Ukraine. He insists that, in spring 2016, he strong-armed Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor solely because Biden believed that official was corrupt and inept, not because the Ukrainian was investigating a natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, that hired Biden’s son, Hunter, into a lucrative job. There’s just one problem. Hundreds of pages of never-released memos and documents — many from inside the American team helping Burisma to stave off its legal troubles — conflict with Biden’s narrative.

And they raise the troubling prospect that U.S. officials may have painted a false picture in Ukraine that helped ease Burisma’s legal troubles and stop prosecutors’ plans to interview Hunter Biden during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. [..] Some media outlets have reported that, at the time Joe Biden forced the firing in March 2016, there were no open investigations. Those reports are wrong. [..] the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office still had two open inquiries in March 2016, according to the official case file provided me. [..] In a newly sworn affidavit prepared for a European court, Shokin testified that when he was fired in March 2016, he was told the reason was that Biden was unhappy about the Burisma investigation.

“The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors,” Shokin testified. “On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation,” Shokin added.

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“..keeping him under investigation, at least through the November election, will increasingly erode the support of both Trump and the Republican party brand..”

Democrats Reveal the Real Purpose of the Impeachment Investigation (PCR)

The Democrats know that there is no impeachable offense. What they intend to do is to use the investigation to look into every aspect of Trump’s life and try to make dirt out of things unrelated to his talk with the Ukrainian president. This “impeachment investigation” is a political act to help their candidate win the next presidential election. Democrats themselves describe it in this way. For example, here is how Rob Kall, the director of one of the progressive Democrat websites, described the purpose of the investigation: “The idea should be to keep the impeachment going as long as possible, with new testimonies and new releases of disclosures of alleged corruption and treason on a regular basis.

“Looking at impeachment as a process for removing the president is the wrong way of thinking about it. Looking at it as a key that gives access to investigative tools is the smarter, more strategic, way of looking at it. “Ideally, it will get so bad for Trump that the Republicans will end up putting up someone else to run in the general election. “But keeping him under investigation, at least through the November election, will increasingly erode the support of both Trump and the Republican party brand, making a Democratic takeover of the Senate and the White House, and an increased control of the House even more likely.” In other words, it is a political power play.

The outcome depends on whether Americans see the impeachment investigation as another orchestrated hoax like Russiagate or whether they fall for the hoax as they iniatially did with the Russiagate investigation. The United States does not have a media. It has a propaganda ministry that helps the ruling elites control the explanations that Americans are given. Polls show that Americans have lost confidence in the media. If so, the impeachment investigation will backfire on the Democrats.

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Personally, I’m very much torn between tragedy and comedy.

Chelsea, Reality Hope New Approval Of Whistleblowers Will Set Them Free (Onion)

Following a CIA officer’s much-applauded decision to disclose evidence that President Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to interfere in the 2020 election, former intelligence analysts Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner expressed confidence Thursday that the nation’s newfound appreciation for whistleblowers would get them out of jail. “Now that everyone really seems to like it when wrongdoing is exposed, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they clear my name and let me go,” Winner said by phone from a federal prison in Texas, echoing the sentiments of Manning, who told reporters she expected not only to be released from jail but also to be allowed to return immediately to active duty in the Army.


“Americans recognize that what this anonymous whistleblower did was both courageous and patriotic, so I’m sure to be commended for releasing a report on interference in the 2016 election, right? I was ahead of my time, really. I’m not saying there will be a parade in my honor, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised. I’ll be out of here in a day or two, and then, who knows? Maybe I’ll even run for public office.” At press time, sources confirmed a chipper Edward Snowden had informed officials in the Justice Department that he was finally ready to leave Moscow and fly back home.

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The differences in fund-raising amounts are scary. The DNC is going to need Tulsi just for that.

Wall Street To Dems: We’ll Sit Out, Or Back Trump, If Warren Nominated (CNBC)

Democratic donors on Wall Street and in big business are preparing to sit out the presidential campaign fundraising cycle — or even back President Donald Trump — if Sen. Elizabeth Warren wins the party’s nomination. In recent weeks, CNBC spoke to several high-dollar Democratic donors and fundraisers in the business community and found that this opinion was becoming widely shared as Warren, an outspoken critic of big banks and corporations, gains momentum against Joe Biden in the 2020 race. “You’re in a box because you’re a Democrat and you’re thinking, ‘I want to help the party, but she’s going to hurt me, so I’m going to help President Trump,’” said a senior private equity executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of retribution by party leaders.

The executive said this Wednesday, a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. During the campaign, Warren has put out multiple plans intended to curb the influence of Wall Street, including a wealth tax. In July, she released a proposal that would make private equity firms responsible for debts and pension obligations of companies they buy. Trump, meanwhile, has given wealthy business leaders a helping hand with a major corporate tax cut and by eliminating regulations. Warren has sworn off taking part in big money fundraisers for the 2020 presidential primary. She has also promised to not take donations from special interest groups.

She finished raising at least $19 million in the second quarter mainly through small-dollar donors. The third quarter ends Monday. Trump, has been raising hundreds of millions of dollars, putting any eventual 2020 rival in a bind as about 20 Democrats vie for their party’s nomination. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have raised over $100 million in the second quarter. A large portion of that haul came from wealthy donors who gave to their joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory. In August, the RNC raised just over $23 million and has $53 million on hand. The Democratic National Committee have struggled to keep up. The DNC finished August bringing in $7.9 million and has $7.2 million in debt.

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No Greyerz yesterday, MS today. People do understand. But nobody acts.

Fed Will Need To Grow Its Balance Sheet ‘Permanently’ – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve’s asset purchases likely will total $315 billion over the next six months as it seeks to stabilize overnight funding markets and contain the movements of its target interest rate, according to projections from Morgan Stanley. Those permanent moves will be necessary because the current temporary purchases likely won’t be enough to stabilize the market for overnight purchase agreements, or repos, the bank said. The Fed just a month ago halted a process that saw a more than $600 billion reduction of the balance sheet, which consists mostly of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities that it had acquired in its efforts to pull the U.S. economy out of the financial crisis.


“We maintain that these temporary repo operations will not prove to be a sufficient long-term solution to the recent funding pressure,” Morgan Stanley strategist Kelcie Gerson said in a note. “Ultimately, the Fed will need to increase the size of its balance sheet permanently.” The Morgan Stanley forecast is a bit smaller than one recently from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which estimated balance sheet expansion at $400 billion this year. The balance sheet currently stands about $3.9 trillion, pushed by three rounds of asset purchases in a process known as quantitative easing. Starting in October 2017, the Fed started allowing some proceeds from its maturing bonds to roll off each month, with a corresponding decrease of bank reserves that has taken the total down to about $1.5 trillion, the lowest in more than eight years.

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Another issue that nobody acts upon.

US Annual Health Insurance Costs Hit Record High Above $20,000 (BBG)

The cost of family health coverage in the U.S. now tops $20,000, an annual survey of employers found, a record high that has pushed an increasing number of American workers into plans that cover less or cost more, or force them out of the insurance market entirely. “It’s as much as buying a basic economy car,” said Drew Altman, chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “but buying it every year.” The nonprofit health research group conducts the yearly survey of coverage that people get through work, the main source of insurance in the U.S. for people under age 65. While employers pay most of the costs of coverage, according to the survey, workers’ average contribution is now $6,000 for a family plan.


That’s just their share of upfront premiums, and doesn’t include co-payments, deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing once they need care. The seemingly inexorable rise of costs has led to deep frustration with U.S. health care, prompting questions about whether a system where coverage is tied to a job can survive. As premiums and deductibles have increased in the last two decades, the percentage of workers covered has slipped as employers dropped coverage and some workers chose not to enroll. Fewer Americans under 65 had employer coverage in 2017 than in 1999, according to a separate Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. That’s despite the fact that the U.S. economy employed 17 million more people in 2017 than in 1999.

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Yeah, it’s the Guardian, and yeah, it may be a little less bad than they say, but the Tories’ lack of preparedness for what they themselves promote is nuts regardless.

Quarter Of UK Rural Businesses ‘Could Be Bankrupted By No-Deal Brexit’ (G.)

As many as one in four rural businesses could be left facing bankruptcy in a no-deal Brexit, and the staunchly Conservative rural vote may be in doubt as a result, the head of the UK’s landowners’ group has warned on the eve of the Tory party conference. Farmers are particularly vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit because tariffs would be levied on exports, imports of cheap food could flood the market, and because decisions must be made now which will have an impact for the next year. Arable farmers are putting crops in the ground now for spring, and livestock farmers are preparing to breed sheep and other livestock for next year.


Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said farms and the rural businesses that rely on them were not in a position to absorb the shock of Brexit, and estimates suggested a large number would be in danger. “Agriculture is not making very much money. In many cases, they’re losing [money] without the single farm payment [subsidy]. If you have a tariff to add to your problems, if you have increased costs to add to your problems, it’s only going to make matters worse and tip some businesses over the top,” he told the Guardian. “Now I don’t know whether that’s 15% or 25% but I’m absolutely sure there will be quite a few farming businesses for which it actually just tips them into receivership.”

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China was never going to let Iran fall. But now Trump’s sanctions policies drive it straight into Beijing hands: “Chinese firms will maintain the right of the first refusal to participate in any and all petrochemical projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients and personnel required to complete such projects.”

China’s Giant $400 Billion Iran Investment Complicates US Options (F.)

Amidst historic U.S. – Iran tensions, Beijing is doubling-down on its strategic partnership with Tehran, ignoring U.S. efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic from global markets. Following an August visit by Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Beijing, the two countries agreed to update a 25-year program signed in 2016, to include an unprecedented $400 billion of investment in the Iranian economy – sanctions be damned. The capital injection, which would focus on Iran’s oil and gas sector, would also be distributed across the country’s transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. In return, Chinese firms will maintain the right of the first refusal to participate in any and all petrochemical projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients and personnel required to complete such projects.


According to an exclusive interview with Petroleum Economist, a senior source in Iran’s petrochemical sector had this to say about the new agreement: “The central pillar of the new deal is that China will invest $280 billion developing Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors… there will be another $120 billion investment in upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, which again can be front-loaded into the first five-year period and added to in each subsequent period should both parties agree.” This comes at a time when Washington is exerting its so-called ‘maximum pressure’ strategy against Iran, which aims to change its international behavior by bringing oil exports down to zero.

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Makes me think of how Britain fought back vs Germany, and Viernam vs the US. Once your entire economy moves into self-defense mode, -almost- anything is possible.

Yemen’s Houthis Are Bringing Down A Goliath (Escobar)

“It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.” The statement above was not written by Franz Kafka. In fact, it was written by a Kafka derivative: Brussels-based European bureaucracy. The Merkel-Macron-Johnson trio, representing Germany, France and the UK, seems to know what no “ongoing investigation” has unearthed: that Tehran was definitively responsible for the twin aerial strikes on Saudi oil installations. “There is no other plausible explanation” translates as the occultation of Yemen. Yemen only features as the pounding ground of a vicious Saudi war, de facto supported by Washington and London and conducted with US and UK weapons, which has generated a horrendous humanitarian crisis.

So Iran is the culprit, no evidence provided, end of story, even if the “investigation continues.” Hassan Ali Al-Emad, Yemeni scholar and the son of a prominent tribal leader with ascendance over ten clans, begs to differ. “From a military perspective, nobody ever took our forces in Yemen seriously. Perhaps they started understanding it when our missiles hit Aramco.” [..] “Past Yemeni governments had missiles, but after 9/11 Yemen was banned from buying weapons from Russia. But we still had 400 missiles in warehouses in South Yemen. We used 200 Scuds – the rest is still there [laughs].”

Al-Emad breaks down Houthi weaponry into three categories: the old missile stock; cannibalized missiles using different spare parts (“transformation made in Yemen”); and those with new technology that use reverse engineering. He stressed: “We accept help from everybody,” which suggests that not only Tehran and Hezbollah are pitching in. Al-Emad’s key demand is actually humanitarian: “We request that Sana’a airport be reopened for help to the Yemeni people.” And he has a message for global public opinion that the EU-3 are obviously not aware of: “Saudi is collapsing and America is embracing it in its fall.”

On the energy front, Persian Gulf energy traders that I have relied upon as trustworthy sources for two decades confirm that, contrary to Saudi Oil Minister Abdulazziz bin Salman’s spin, the damage from the Houthi attack on Abqaiq could last not only “months” but even years. As a Dubai-based trader put it: “When an Iraqi pipeline was damaged in the mid-2000s the pumps were destroyed. It takes two years to replace a pump as the backlogs are long. The Saudis, to secure their pipelines, acquired spare pumps for this reason. But they did not dream that Abqaiq could be damaged. If you build a refinery it can take three to five years if not more.

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“The secret probe is the consequence of a criminal complaint filed by Assange himself, in which he accuses Morales and the company of the alleged offenses involving violations of his privacy and the secrecy of his client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery and money laundering.”

Spanish Security Company Spied On Julian Assange In London For US (El Pais)

Undercover Global S. L., the Spanish defense and private security company that was charged with protecting the Ecuadorian embassy in London during the long stay there of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, spied on the cyberactivist for the US intelligence service. That’s according to statements and documents to which EL PAÍS have had access. David Morales, the owner of the company, supposedly handed over audio and video to the CIA of the meetings Assange held with his lawyers and collaborators. Morales is being investigated for this activity by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional.

The judicial investigation into the director of UC Global S. L. and the activities of his company were ordered by a judge named José de la Mata, and they began weeks after EL PAÍS published videos, audios and reports that show how the company spied on the meetings that the cyberactivist held in the embassy. The secret probe is the consequence of a criminal complaint filed by Assange himself, in which he accuses Morales and the company of the alleged offenses involving violations of his privacy and the secrecy of his client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery and money laundering.

Morales, a former member of the military who is on leave of absence, stated both verbally and in writing to a number of his employees that, despite having been hired by the government of then-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, he also worked “for the Americans,” to whom he allegedly sent documents, videos and audios of the meetings that the Australian activist held in the embassy. “We are playing in another league. This is the first division,” he told his closest colleagues after attending a security fair in the US city of Las Vegas in 2015 where he supposedly made his first American contacts. Despite the fact that the Spanish firm – which is headquartered in the southern city of Jerez de la Frontera – was hired by Senain, the Ecuadorian intelligence services, Morales called on his employees several times to keep his relationship with the US intelligence services a secret.

The owner of UC Global S. L. ordered a meeting between the head of the Ecuadorian secret service, Rommy Vallejo, and Assange to be spied on, at a time when they were planning the exit of Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy using a diplomatic passport in order to take him to another country. This initiative was eventually rejected by Assange on the basis that he considered it to be “a defeat,” that would fuel conspiracy theories, according to sources close to the company consulted by this newspaper. The meeting took place on December 21, 2017 in the meeting room of the diplomatic building and was recorded both on video and audio by cameras installed by Morales’ employees.

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This is absolutely nuts. You need 100,000 at the very least, or mayhem will ensue. And the US can easily absorb those numbers. There are a million people coming, minimum, each year.

Trump Administration Proposes Historically Low Refugee Limit (AP)

The Trump administration wants to cap the number of refugees admitted into the United States to the lowest number since the resettlement program was created in 1980. A State Department proposal released Thursday would put a cap on the number of refugees at 18,000 for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Of those refugee admissions spots, 5,000 would be set aside for persecuted religious minorities — an attempt to bolster President Donald Trump’s heightened focus on global religious freedom — and 1,500 would be set aside for nationals of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who are seeking asylum in the United States in far greater numbers.


Last year, the administration placed the cap at a record low of 30,000. The historically low limits have drawn protests from human rights groups as well as government officials. “To cut the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to this low of a number reflects nothing more than this administration’s attempts to further hate, division and prejudice in a country that once valued dignity, equality and fairness,” said Ryan Mace, Grassroots Advocacy and Refugee Specialist at Amnesty International USA. The group dismissed arguments that the U.S. lacks the capacity to adequately vet and settle refugees, calling this “a purely political decision.”

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Whistleblowers: WikiLeaks has never revealed a source.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 172019
 


Odilon Redon The boat 1900

 

Iran Supreme Leader Rules Out Negotiations With US (AFP)
UK Supreme Court To Rule On Parliament Recall (BBC)
DOJ Labels JPMorgan’s Precious Metals Trading Desk A Criminal Enterprise (ZH)
New York Times’ Botched Kavanaugh Story Latest In Series Of Blunders (CNN)
New York Prosecutors Subpoena Eight Years Of Trump Tax Returns (G.)
Epstein Accusers Cannot Recoup Damages Over Lenient Plea Deal – US Judge (R.)
The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded (Murray)
Apple Takes Fight Against €13 Billion EU Tax Order To Court (R.)
A View from the Brink (Kunstler)
Edward Snowden Implores Macron To Grant French Asylum (ZH)
Aid Workers Warn Of Catastrophe In Greek Refugee Camps (G.)
Amazon Deforestation Is Driven By Criminal Networks (G.)
Attenborough Documentaries Mislead Us Into Thinking Wildlife Doing Fine (Ind.)

 

 

They’ll talk.

Iran Supreme Leader Rules Out Negotiations With US (AFP)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with the US, as tensions mount between the arch-foes after Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil installations. “The policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against the Iranian nation is worthless and all Islamic Republic of Iran officials unanimously believe there will be no negotiations with the US at any level,” he said, quoted on his official website. The White House said on Sunday that US President Donald Trump could meet Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

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What happens if the Supreme Court, too, says it’s a matter for Parliament to decide, not the courts?

UK Supreme Court To Rule On Parliament Recall (BBC)

Boris Johnson has said he will “wait and see what the judges say” before deciding whether to recall Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear two appeals that will determine whether the prime minister acted lawfully in suspending Parliament for five weeks. Edinburgh’s Court of Session said the shutdown was unlawful and London’s High Court said it was not a court matter. On Monday the PM visited Luxembourg for Brexit talks, but the EU said it was yet to see concrete proposals.


Mr Johnson pulled out of a joint press conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, blaming noisy protesters, but Mr Bettel went on to criticise Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit. The suspension of Parliament, a process known as proroguing, began a week ago. MPs are not scheduled to return until 14 October, when there will be a Queen’s Speech outlining Mr Johnson’s legislative plans. The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October. Opposition parties have called for Parliament to be recalled.

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Will they go to jail? And if so, how many of them? What about Blythe Masters?

DOJ Labels JPMorgan’s Precious Metals Trading Desk A Criminal Enterprise (ZH)

Who would have thought that JPMorgan’s precious metals trading desk is the functional equivalent of the mafia, and that its one-time leader, Blythe Masters, was the mafia’s don? Well, almost everyone who didn’t mind being designated a conspiracy theorist for years. And now comes vindication, because this has just been confirmed by the DOJ, which accused the PM trading desks at JPMorgan of being deeply involved in what prosecutors described as a “massive, multiyear scheme to manipulate the market for precious metals futures contracts and defraud market participants.” In an indictment unsealed on Monday morning, the DoJ charged Michael Nowak, a JPMorgan veteran and former head of its precious metals trading desk and Gregg Smith, another trader on JPM’s metals desk, in the probe. (Blythe Masters was somehow omitted).

“Based on the fact that it was conduct that was widespread on the desk, it was engaged in in thousands of episodes over an eight-year period — that it is precisely the kind of conduct that the RICO statute is meant to punish,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski told reporters. Here’s where it gets extra interesting: according to Bloomberg, the unusually aggressive language language embraced by prosecutors reminds legal experts of indictments utilizing the RICO Act – a law allowing prosecutors to take down ‘criminal enterprises’ like the mafia by charging all members of the organization for any crimes committed by an individual on behalf of the organization.


Prosecutors charged the head of JP Morgan’s global metals trading operation and two other traders with “conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise involved in interstate or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity” – language that is typically used to describe a RICO charge. This hints at the possibility of a deeper prosecution for JP Morgan. Already, 12 people have been charged in the precious metals market-rigging conspiracy. “We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead, whether it’s across desks here or at any other bank or upwards into the financial institution,” Benczkowski said.

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Blunder? It got everyone talking about impeachment again. Maybe that was the whole idea.

New York Times’ Botched Kavanaugh Story Latest In Series Of Blunders (CNN)

The New York Times was reeling on Monday after its Opinion section fumbled a high-profile story about an allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, drawing widespread criticism and condemnation of the newspaper. It was the latest in a series of high-profile blunders that has caused embarrassment to James Bennet since he was appointed in 2016 as the editor overseeing The Times’ Opinion section. Bennet’s tenure has been marked with several mishaps that have generated controversy, drawn criticism, and spurred at least one lawsuit.

[..] The Times’ Sunday Review, which falls under Opinion, published an essay based on a forthcoming book written by two Times reporters, detailing a previously unreported allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which he denied. The allegation in the book hinged on the recollection of a Yale classmate who The Times reported contacted the FBI and lawmakers during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. The Yale classmate, who is now a prominent lawyer, has declined to comment publicly, according to The Times But the book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” included a key detail that the essay published by the Times was lacking: The woman at the center of it, who’d been a student at the time of the incident, declined to be interviewed.


Moreover, her friends said she did not recall the incident. In addition to that omission of vital information, The Times’ Opinion desk also came under fire over a tweet it had published promoting the story. The tweet said that “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” By Sunday night, The Times had not only apologized for the “offensive” tweet, but also appended to the essay an editor’s note addressing the glaring omission in its original story. “The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident,” the editor’s note read, in part. “That information has been added to the article.”

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Did they find the trick?

New York Prosecutors Subpoena Eight Years Of Trump Tax Returns (G.)

Donald Trump faces a new battle over the release of his tax returns after New York prosecutors issued a subpoena for them. Trump is the first US president in nearly 40 years not to release his tax information, despite having promised to do so during his 2016 election campaign. He has resisted pressure from Democrats and watchdogs demanding greater transparency. But on Monday, the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, investigating hush money payments to the pornographic actor Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election, subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, according to media reports. Mazars USA, which prepares Trump’s tax returns, said in a statement that it would “fully comply with its legal obligations”.


Democrats welcomed the move. The Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a candidate for president, tweeted in response: “One way or another, we will get Donald Trump’s tax returns.” Another 2020 candidate, Julián Castro, the former housing secretary under Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter: “The president is not above the law. The American people deserve to know if he deceived them in hopes of winning an election. He must comply with this subpoena.” A federal investigation into the hush money payments led to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, pleading guilty to campaign finance violations which, along with tax fraud and making false statements to Congress, resulted in three-year prison sentence.

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“..rejected the women’s bid to void the non-prosecution agreement..” Does this mean Ghislaine Maxwell is fully off the hook?

Epstein Accusers Cannot Recoup Damages Over Lenient Plea Deal – US Judge (R.)

A group of women who said Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them are not entitled to money damages from the United States even though federal prosecutors kept them in the dark about the financier’s lenient non-prosecution agreement more than a decade ago, a Florida judge ruled on Monday. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach also rejected the women’s bid to void the non-prosecution agreement, which had barred prosecutions of Epstein and some alleged accomplices, saying Epstein’s death last month made the issue moot. Marra also denied a request for attorneys’ fees. Brad Edwards, a lawyer for the accusers, said they may appeal.


Marra ruled seven months after finding that prosecutors had violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not telling Epstein’s accusers they had agreed not to pursue serious charges against the financier, in exchange for Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea to Florida state prostitution charges. Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in jail, but allowed to leave regularly to go to his office. The non-prosecution agreement was negotiated by the office of then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, who resigned in July as U.S. labor secretary as Epstein’s agreement drew fresh scrutiny.

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Magnitsky is a fairy tale promoted by Bill Browder. He fooled a lot of people.

The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded (Murray)

The conscientious judges of the European Court of Human Rights published a judgement a fortnight ago which utterly exploded the version of events promulgated by Western governments and media in the case of the late Mr Magnitskiy. Yet I can find no truthful report of the judgement in the mainstream media at all. The myth is that Magnitskiy was an honest rights campaigner and accountant who discovered corruption by Russian officials and threatened to expose it, and was consequently imprisoned on false charges and then tortured and killed. A campaign over his death was led by his former business partner, hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who wanted massive compensation for Russian assets allegedly swindled from their venture.


The campaign led to the passing of the Magnitskiy Act in the United States, providing powers for sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses, and also led to matching sanctions being developed by the EU. However the European Court of Human Rights has found, in judging a case brought against Russia by the Magnitskiy family, that the very essence of this story is untrue. They find that there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed engaged in tax fraud, in conspiracy with Browder, and he was rightfully charged. The ECHR also found there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed a flight risk so he was rightfully detained. And most crucially of all, they find that there was credible evidence of tax fraud by Magnitskiy and action by the authorities “years” before he started to make counter-accusations of corruption against officials investigating his case.

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“..Margrethe Vestager pointed to a 0.005% tax rate paid by Apple’s main Irish unit in 2014..”

Apple Takes Fight Against €13 Billion EU Tax Order To Court (R.)

Apple will launch a legal challenge on Tuesday to a European Commission order to pay 13 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in Irish back taxes in a landmark case in the EU’s crackdown on tax avoidance by multinational companies. The iPhone maker is expected to send a six-man delegation headed by Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri to the two-day court hearing at the Luxembourg-based General Court, the EU’s second highest court. In August 2016, the Commission said tax rulings by Ireland in 1991 and in 2007 had artificially reduced Apple’s tax burden for over two decades, effectively making it illegal state aid.


European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager pointed to a 0.005% tax rate paid by Apple’s main Irish unit in 2014 as an example of the unusually low payments by the company. Apple is expected to argue that it did nothing wrong as it had followed Irish and U.S. tax laws. It made similar arguments in a blog following an EU tax ruling a couple of years ago. It will tell the court that the bulk of its taxes are owed to the United States because the majority of the value in its products including design, engineering and development, is created there. Ireland, which has accused the Commission of exceeding its powers and interfering with the EU member’s national sovereignty over tax affairs, is also challenging the EU ruling.

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“..this makes necessary a high volume of oil swapping around the world…”

A View from the Brink (Kunstler)

President Trump is trumpeting America’s “energy independence,” meaning whatever happens over there won’t affect us. Well, none of that is true. We still import millions of barrels of oil a day, though much less from Saudi Arabia than before 2008. The shale oil “miracle” is hitting the skids these days. Shale oil production has gone flat, the rig-count is down, companies are going bankrupt, and financing for the debt-dependent operations is dwindling since the producers have demonstrated that they can’t make a profit at it. They’re trapped in the quandary of diminishing returns, frontloading production, while failing to overcome steep decline curves in wells that only produce for a couple of years.


It’s also the case that shale oil is ultra-light crude, containing little heavier distillates such as diesel and aviation fuel (basically kerosene). Alas, American refineries were all built before shale oil came along. They were designed to crack heavier oil and can’t handle the lighter shale. The “majors” don’t want to invest their remaining capital in new refineries, and the many smaller companies don’t have the ability. So, this makes necessary a high volume of oil swapping around the world. Without diesel and aviation fuel, US trucking and commercial aviation has a big problem, meaning the US economy has a big problem.

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“They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong.”

Edward Snowden Implores Macron To Grant French Asylum (ZH)

US whistleblower Edward Snowden has called on French President and former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron to grant him political asylum from the United States. Speaking with France’s Inter radio on Monday as part of a press junket to promote his new memoir, the former NSA contractor said “Protecting whistleblowers is not a hostile act,” adding “Welcoming someone like me is not an attack on the United States.” “I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense,” Snowden told CBS This Morning.


“Again, I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass. What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require. We don’t want people thrown in prison without the jury being able to decide that what they did was right or wrong. The government wants to have a different kind of trial. They want to use special procedures they want to be able to close the courtroom, they want the public not to be able to go, know what’s going on. And, essentially, the most important fact to the government and this is the thing we have a point of contention on, is that they do not want the jury to be able to consider the motivations. Why I did what I did. Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us or did it cause harm? They don’t want the jury to consider that at all. They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong. And I’m sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial,” Snowden told CBS.

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Never. Ending.

Aid Workers Warn Of Catastrophe In Greek Refugee Camps (G.)

Children being bitten by scorpions, rats and snakes; hundreds being forced to use a single shower; the stench of human excrement never far away; and food shortages becoming the norm. One by one, Sophie McCann lists the degradations of life for refugees detained on Lesbos, the Greek island on the frontline of a new surge of asylum seekers desperate to reach Europe. McCann, a British advocacy manager with Médecins Sans Frontières, like other aid workers, is now raising the alarm: at least 24,000 men, women and children trapped in vastly overcrowded Aegean island camps are being subjected to conditions so harrowing they bear all the hallmarks of humanitarian catastrophe. Four years after the greatest migration crisis in modern times, there are fears history is repeating itself.


“The level of human suffering is just indescribable,” says McCann, adding that incidents of self-harm, even among toddlers, have risen sharply. “I struggle to find the right words because none can convey the sheer misery and inhumanity of a situation that in Europe is frankly unbelievable.” The drama unfolding on Europe’s south-eastern periphery follows the abrupt rise in numbers making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey. With a brazenness unseen since the EU struck a controversial accord with Ankara to stem flows in 2016, smugglers are again landing boatloads of would-be asylum seekers on the beaches of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios. In July and August more than 13,000 people landed on Greek shores, more than half of all sea arrivals to the country in 2019.

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Who else did you think was doinng it?

Amazon Deforestation Is Driven By Criminal Networks (G.)

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a lucrative business largely driven by criminal networks that threaten and attack government officials, forest defenders and indigenous people who try to stop them, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. Rainforest Mafias concludes that Brazil’s failure to police these gangs threatens its abilities to meet its commitments under the Paris climate deal – such as eliminating illegal deforestation by 2030. It was published a week before the UN Climate Action Summit. Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister in the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, has argued that poverty drives degradation, and that development of the Amazon will help stop deforestation.


But the report’s author, Cesar Muñoz Acebes, argues that Amazon needs to be better policed. “As long as you have this level of violence, lawlessness and impunity for the crimes committed by these criminal groups it will be impossible for Brazil to rein in deforestation,” he said. “These criminal networks will attack anyone who stands in their way.” The report documents 28 killings in which it found evidence that “those responsible were engaged in illegal deforestation and saw their victims as obstacles”.

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Nothing is pristine anymore.

Attenborough Documentaries Mislead Us Into Thinking Wildlife Doing Fine (Ind.)

Nature documentaries could be “actively misleading audiences” by showing nature as something pristine that is not being damaged by humans, researchers warn. Scientists looked at the scripts from the four most recent David Attenborough-narrated BBC and Netflix nature series and said they did not show the extent to which nature is being threatened by human activity. “Nature is still mostly shown as pristine, and the presence or impacts of people on the natural world very seldom appear,” researchers wrote in the paper published in People and Nature. Scientists from the universities of Oxford, Newcastle, Kent and Bangor found the Netflix series Our Planet dedicated 15 per cent of the script to environmental threats and conservation. This far exceeded the BBC series Planet Earth II and Dynasties.


However, they said it still failed to visually show how threatened the natural world is. “One could argue that by using camera angles to avoid showing any sign of people, nature filmmakers are being disingenuous, and even actively misleading audiences,” said lead researcher Professor Julia Jones from Bangor University. “The viewer may be led to believe that things cannot be that bad for biodiversity as what they are seeing on the screen shows nature, for the most part, doing fine. “The inextricable link between threats to the natural world and the high consumption of western lifestyles would be more difficult to ignore if the presence, or even dominance, of commercial agriculture, mining and transport infrastructure were more visible in the landscapes, reducing the space for the awe-inspiring wild spectacles shown.”

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In 1935, Congressman Thomas O’Malley introduced a bill mandating that in case of war the Army draft the wealthiest men in the country and put them near the greatest posts of danger by order of income.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 102019
 
 September 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Marc Chagall The painter to the moon 1917

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

 

 

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)
Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)
Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)
MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)
Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)
Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)
Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)
And The Word Was God (Kunstler)
How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)
Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

 

 

At this stage, what’s the difference between 1,000% and 2,000%?

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)

Total potential debt for the U.S. by one all-encompassing measure is running close to 2,000% of GDP, according to an analysis that suggests danger but also cautions against reading too much into the level. AB Bernstein came up with the calculation — 1,832%, to be exact — by including not only traditional levels of public debt like bonds but also financial debt and all its complexities as well as future obligations for so-called entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and public pensions. Putting all that together paints a daunting picture but one that requires nuance to understand. Paramount is realizing that not all of the debt obligations are set in stone, and it’s important to know where the leeway is, particularly in the government programs that can be changed either by legislation or accounting.


“This conceptual difference is important to acknowledge because this lens is often used by those who wish to paint a dire picture about debt,” Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, chief U.S. economist at AB Bernstein, said in the report. “While the picture is dire, such numbers don’t prove we are doomed or that a debt crisis is inevitable.” Crisis measures cut both ways — sometimes a seemingly smaller level of debt can cause outsized problems during times of economic stress, such as during the financial crisis. And larger levels of debt can be sustained so long as other conditions, like leverage levels, or debt to capital, are manageable.

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He lost all 6 of his first 6 votes. Unique.

Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has lost his second attempt to trigger an early general election in his sixth humiliating Commons defeat since becoming prime minister. Ahead of parliament being suspended by the government for five weeks, MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit again deprived the prime minister of the required votes for an early poll in the last major showdown of the current session. Less than a week after his first bid to seek an election was scuppered, Mr Johnson again asked the Commons to vote on a motion to bypass a law setting out that the next vote should not take place until 2022.


From Dutch newspaper NRC

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5 whole weeks, But trust me, they won’t be silent weeks.

Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)

Parliament has officially been suspended for five weeks, with MPs not due back until 14 October. Amid unusual scenes in the House of Commons, some MPs protested against the suspension with signs saying “silenced” while shouting: “Shame on you.” It comes after PM Boris Johnson’s bid to call a snap election in October was defeated for a second time. Opposition MPs refused to back it, insisting a law blocking a no-deal Brexit must be implemented first. In all, 293 MPs voted for the prime minister’s motion for an early election, far short of the two thirds needed. Parliament was suspended – or prorogued – at just before 02:00 BST on Tuesday.


As Speaker John Bercow – who earlier announced his resignation – was due to lead MPs in a procession to the House of Lords to mark the suspension, a group of angry opposition backbenchers appeared to try to block his way. It is normal for new governments to suspend Parliament, but the length and timing of the prorogation in this case has sparked controversy.

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Wonder how they’re going to go about not complying.

MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s government has suffered another humiliating Commons defeat, as MPs ordered the release of internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over the decision to suspend parliament. The emergency motion – passed by 311 to 302 votes – means the government will also be forced to publish its no-deal planning documents under Operation Yellowhammer. Put forward by the ex-Tory MP Dominic Grieve, the motion orders ministers to surrender the documents by Wednesday and includes the private communications of Mr Johnson’s chief-of-staff, Dominic Cummings. It demands “all correspondence, whether formal or informal in both written and electronic form” relating to the prorogation sent by officials since the day before Mr Johnson’s arrival in office on 24 July.


And their emergency motion makes clear this should include messages sent via the WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal apps, by text or iMessage and from “private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted”. It lists nine individuals in Mr Johnson’s administration, including Mr Cummings, Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain and Beatrice Timpson. Mr Grieve, who is now sitting as an independent MP after losing the Tory whip, said public officials had given him information relating to prorogation that informed him “they believed the handling of this matter smacked of scandal”.

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Europe at least pretends it has bigger fish to fry. Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France will be hit, but many others truly don’t care much.

Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)

Reason No. 1: the economy, and an end to uncertainty. Trust Macron to come back swinging at the next EU council meeting mid-October, when a possible request for an extension might be discussed if U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson abides by the law voted by Parliament. In March, the French president argued that it would be a waste of time. Others were in favor of granting the U.K. a longer extension, of up to a year. The irony is that Macron defends the same line as the hardest Brexiteers — mainly that there is a cost to uncertainty that at some point may exceed the cost of a no-deal Brexit. [..]

Reason No. 2: Diplomacy, and an EU desire to move on. A new European Commission is taking over on Nov. 1 — the day after the Brexit deadline — and Europe has challenges of its own to focus on. The influence of euroskeptic governments and movements on the EU’s deliberations is the first challenge, just as the EU has embarked on the tough discussions over its multiyear budget. Europe also needs to come together on the many challenges it is facing: whether to boost joint defense capabilities or what policy to adopt toward Russia, for example, in addition to optimizing its positioning vis-à-vis U.S. President Donald Trump. [..]

Reason No. 3: Politics, and the fact that Brexit isn’t a European domestic problem. For EU leaders, there is little political capital to lose by playing hardball with London. Brexit has never been a European problem, and it never figured as a topic in the many national electoral campaigns that have taken place since the Brexit referendum in 2016. EU leaders don’t even really care about the possible blame game that would follow a hard Brexit, if they appear to have slammed the door on London.

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Facebook is the opposite of privacy, that’s its business model.

Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)

A federal judge on Monday ordered Facebook to face most of a nationwide lawsuit seeking damages for letting third parties such as Cambridge Analytica access users’ private data, calling the social media company’s views on privacy “so wrong.” While dismissing some claims, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said users could try to hold Facebook liable under various federal and state laws for letting app developers and business partners harvest their personal data without their consent on a “widespread” basis. He rejected Facebook’s arguments that users suffered no “tangible” harm and had no legitimate privacy interest in information they shared with friends on social media.


“Facebook’s motion to dismiss is littered with assumptions about the degree to which social media users can reasonably expect their personal information and communications to remain private,” Chhabria wrote. “Facebook’s view is so wrong.” A Facebook spokeswoman said the company considered protecting people’s information and privacy “extremely important,” but believed its practices were consistent with its disclosures and “do not support any legal claims.” Lesley Weaver and Derek Loeser, two of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in a joint statement that they were pleased with the decision, and “especially gratified that the court is respecting Facebook users’ right to privacy.”

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“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters.

But for many Hong Kongers, China is that country.

Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)

Hong Kong’s embattled leader warned the United States on Tuesday not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing. Millions of people have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain in 1997. Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.


The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status. But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits”. “It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters. “I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.” [..] Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.

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Jim standing up for teaching proper language skills.

And The Word Was God (Kunstler)

Enough about me. Obviously, the racial shuffle has been going on for decades in the New York City school system, but in these times of white privilege and intersectionality, the escape routes of G & T and SP must be plugged. No extra gruel for you! But I have a remedy for the persistent problem of underperformance, one that has not really been tried: intense concentration, starting in preschool and going forward as long as necessary, in spoken English. Language is the foundation of learning, certainly of reading skill, and too many children just can’t speak English. Without it, they’ll be unable to learn anything else, including math. The reasons for their poor language skills are beside the point.


Whether they are newcomers from foreign lands or the descendants of slaves, they need to learn how to speak English and to do it correctly, with all the tenses and correct verbs. They need to be intelligible to others and to themselves to make sense of the world. The resistance to this idea would be mighty and furious, I’m sure. Some people will always be smarter than others, but the disparities at issue are badly aggravated by poverty in language. We don’t even pretend to want to take the obvious steps to correct this, even though it is obviously correctable. Learning anything puts people out of their comfort zone, so that can’t be used as an excuse. Diversity in language is a handicap, and it does not make you specially abled. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

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I used to rant a lot against the Fauxbel, haven’t for a bit. But my friend Steve Keen is involved in this round.

How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)

Who shaped our world more Neil Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, or the King of Sweden? By any standards, 1969 was a momentous year. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, half a million people came to Woodstock to hear Jimi Hendrix, and the Stonewall riots kicked off the gay liberation movement. The same year, less well remembered, an event in Stockholm arguably shaped our world today even more. And not for the best. Fifty years ago this year, the King of Sweden presented with royal pomp the first ever Nobel medals in economics. The prize has been dogged by controversy ever since. Alfred Nobel the founder of the awards never wanted an economics prize, his descendants want it scrapped and the economist F.A. Hayek said it was dangerous.

That’s not the half. Serious thinkers argue that the prize in ‘economic sciences’, as it’s called, has given economic ideas which favour the rich and powerful the gloss of scientific truth. The prize, still paid for every year by Sweden’s Central Bank, has helped weaken democratic control of money, they argue, and helped one school of economic thought – known as neoclassical – dominate the rest. It has contributed to a crisis of conformity in economics and trouble well beyond the ivory tower. This narrow economic thinking celebrated by the Nobels has often ignored, and exacerbated, the multiple crises staring us in the face: ecological breakdown, financial crashes, and politically toxic inequality.

Take the 2018 winner William Nordhaus: his models may have delayed action on climate change. Or consider the 1997 winners Robert Merton and Myron Scholes: their hedge fund had to be bailed out to the tune of $3.6 billion less than a year after they won the prize. Or wrap your head around the equations of the 1996 winner, James Mirrlees, whose work contributed to plummeting tax on the super-rich around the world. All of these “contributions” are described as economic science: the political values and choices inherent in the models are rarely acknowledged or discussed. Debate is closed down.

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It may have started again. Erdogan is threatening to send over 5.5 million refugees and migrants if a safe area in northern Syria in not funded by the west.

Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

At east 207 migrants landed just on the island of Lesvos early on Monday, bringing the total number of illegal migrants landing on all Aegean islands over the weekend to 726. As migrant flows increase, Greek premier Mitsotakis said that Turkey should not try to coerce either Greece or Europe in its attempts to receive support for a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria. Turkey is currently proposing to resettle one million refugees there, and it may reopen the route for illegal immigrants to flow into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.


“Mr. Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee (issue),” Mitsotakis told a news conference in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. “Europe has given a lot of money, six billion euros in recent years, within the framework of an agreement between Europe and Turkey and which was mutually beneficial,” the Greek PM said.

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Nov 022018
 
 November 2, 2018  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Bathers 1918

 

Trump Plans ‘Meeting Plus Dinner’ With Xi Jinping After G20 Summit (SCMP)
Shares Soar As Trump Hints At Possible US-China Trade Deal (G.)
The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion (WS)
Debt Is Back But This Time It’s Corporate (GolemXIV)
The ‘True State’ Of Americans’ Financial Lives (MW)
The American Dream Feels Further Off Than Ever For Millennials (G.)
The Lesson of 2018 (Strassel)
1 in 5 Germans Is ‘At Risk Of Poverty’ Despite Record Employment (RT)
Brexit Campaigner Arron Banks Faces Criminal Inquiry (G.)
EU Fisheries Row Threatens May’s Customs Union Plan (G.)
Groundskeeper In Monsanto US Weed-Killer Case Accepts Reduced Award (R.)
Thousands Of Europe-Bound Migrants Have Simply Vanished (ZH)

 

 

This would only happen if there’s progress in talks….

Trump Plans ‘Meeting Plus Dinner’ With Xi Jinping After G20 Summit (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump has offered to host a dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 1 in Buenos Aires after the G20 leaders summit, an invitation Beijing has tentatively accepted, people familiar with the arrangement have told the South China Morning Post. The Post reported two weeks ago that Trump and Xi had agreed to meet on November 29, the day before the official opening of the summit, but the meeting was rescheduled and upgraded into a “meeting plus dinner” at Trump’s request, the people said, who declined to be identified as the information is still classified.

A “Western-style” sit-down dinner after the G20 summit could offer the two leaders more time to talk than a chat on the sidelines of the summit and could offer a more conducive atmosphere for negotiations. “Trump originally planned to leave Buenos Aires as soon as the G20 agenda finished, but he has decided to postpone his departure to make this dinner happen,” a source said. It is not yet known what specific issues will be on the agenda. The two leaders had a call on Thursday, officially agreeing to meet in Argentina and laying the ground for further discussions on trade and North Korea.

Trump said in a tweet that he had a “long and good [phone] conversation” with Xi, adding: “We talked about many subjects, with a heavy emphasis on Trade. Those discussions are moving along nicely with meetings being scheduled at the G20 in Argentina. Also had good discussion on North Korea!” The Chinese side issued a much longer statement about the phone call. According to the official Xinhua news agency, Xi told Trump that “both of us have good intentions for the healthy and steady development of Sino-US relations and for growth in Sino-US trade cooperation, and we shall make efforts to turn these intentions into reality.”

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….but this may still be wishful thinking.

Shares Soar As Trump Hints At Possible US-China Trade Deal (G.)

Asian shares have surged on reports that Donald Trump wants to reach an agreement with Chinese president Xi Jinping about the trade dispute that has dogged markets for months. The US president spoke to Xi on Thursday and later tweeted that trade talks with China were “moving along nicely” ahead of face-to-face talks between the pair at the G20 summit in Argentina later this month. But Bloomberg later reported that the phone call – in which Trump and Xi both expressed optimism about resolving their bitter trade disputes – prompted Trump to ask officials to begin drafting potential terms. The report lit a fire under stock markets that have beset by fears of a full-blown trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

The Nikkei was up 2.3% in Tokyo, the Hang Seng climbed 3.35% in Hong Kong and the Shanghai Composite was up 3%. There was a also a strong gain of 3% for the export-oriented Kospi index in South Korea. US stock futures rose 0.7% and the FTSE100 is set for a jump of almost 1% when it opens in London on Friday morning. The US and China’s tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s goods have rumbled on for months as Trump pledges to help create more US manufacturing jobs. The tariffs have been blamed for a weakening of China’s mighty manufacturing sector which this week showed a marked slowdown in activity.

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Shedding $50 billion a month. Mayhem in dollar markets.

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion (WS)

Over the four-week period from October 3 through October 31, the Federal Reserve shed $35 billion in assets, according to the Fed’s weekly balance sheet released Thursday afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to $4,140 billion, the lowest since February 12, 2014. Since October 2017, when the Fed began its QE unwind, or “balance sheet normalization,” it has now shed $321 billion. The Fed acquired Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) as part of QE, which ended in 2014. Between the end of QE and the beginning of the QE Unwind in October 2017, the Fed replaced maturing securities with new securities to keep their levels roughly the same.

In October last year, the Fed kicked off the QE unwind and began shedding those securities. But the balance sheet also reflects the Fed’s other activities, and the amount of its total assets is always higher than the sum of Treasury securities and MBS it holds. October was a new milestone: the QE unwind left the ramp-up phase and entered the cruising-speed phase, according to the Fed’s plan. In the cruising-speed phase, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month, for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month. From October 3 through October 31, the Fed’s holdings of Treasury Securities fell by $23.8 billion to $2,270 billion, the lowest since February 19, 2014. Since the beginning of the QE-Unwind, the Fed has shed $195 billion in Treasuries:

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The amount of high risk debt owned by pension funds is something else. As I always say, remember the days of AAA?

Debt Is Back But This Time It’s Corporate (GolemXIV)

On Wednesday Feb 7th 2007 HSBC issued a profit warning. It was the first in its 142 year history. The bank told its share holders it would have to take an unprecedented charge of $10.5 billion because one of its units, its sub prime lender, was in deep trouble. And so began the sub prime crisis. Today GE issued a profit warning and cut its dividend to share holders from 12 cents to 1 cent. It is only the third time since the Great Depression that GE has reduced its dividend in this way. It told its share holders it would be taking a $22 Billion charge because one of its units, its power unit, is in deep trouble. GE has about $116 billion in debt. In 2007 the banks had flooded the global market with sub-prime loans.

The banks were also holding many of those same loans themselves or had transferred them to Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) they had set up, staffed and lent money to. Today it is not the banking world which stands at the centre of the storm but the corporate world. In the last years they have flooded the market with junk rated bonds. At the same time they are also burdened with high yielding, leveraged and covenant- lite loans. Taken together they are about $2.4 Trillion of debt. 2007 sub prime loans. 2018 corporate junk bonds and leveraged loans. 2007 banks and SPVs funded by the banks. 2018? Where is this sub-prime corporate debt sitting today? Nearly half sits in Insurance Companies and Pension funds. Given the close ties between insurance and pensions this is not a happy picture.

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“Some 44% of people said their expenses exceeded their income in the past year and they used credit to make ends meet.”

The ‘True State’ Of Americans’ Financial Lives (MW)

The finances of Americans may not be as good as they look from the outside. Despite optimistic metrics like a nine-year-long bullish, if volatile, stock market, low unemployment levels, and consumer confidence levels nearing record highs, millions of Americans continue to struggle, a study released Thursday from financial consultancy nonprofit the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) found. Only 28% of Americans are considered “financially healthy,” according to a CFSI survey of more than 5,000 Americans. “Financial health enables family stability, education, and upward mobility, not just for individuals today but across future generations,” the CFSI says.

“Many are dealing with an unhealthy amount of debt, irregular income, and sporadic savings habits.” Some 44% of people said their expenses exceeded their income in the past year and they used credit to make ends meet. Another 42% said they have no retirement savings at all. Meanwhile, 17% of Americans are “financially vulnerable,” meaning they struggle with nearly all financial aspects of their lives, and 55% are “financially coping,” meaning they struggle with some but not all aspects of their financial lives. The recent volatility in the Dow Jones Industrial and S&P 500 has not helped Americans feel secure, experts say.

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Can’t afford to start a family.

The American Dream Feels Further Off Than Ever For Millennials (G.)

From adolescence to our mid-30s, my wife and I have followed every common precept of responsible young adulthood – what conservatives venerate as “the success sequence”. We finished high school (then college, then grad school). We charged into the labor market and have stayed there. We had kids in a stable marriage. Neither of us quit our jobs or took a year off to “find ourselves”. We cut coupons and buy food in bulk. We did this, in part, because we trusted what we believed was America’s basic bargain: work hard, play by the proverbial rules, and you’ll enjoy a healthy middle-class life. You’ll have a decent job, stable housing, affordable education and healthcare, and a clear route to retirement.

But that old, potholed path doesn’t deliver like it used to, even for responsible rule-followers like us. Here in our mid-30s, my wife and I are still chasing homeownership, that final, elusive piece of middle-class life. Today’s young families started to hit the labor market during the great recession. We’re buried in educational debt, and college costs for our kids are predicted to be even higher than ours. Housing near good-paying jobs is wildly expensive. Healthcare costs are uncertain. We’re less likely to have a guaranteed retirement pension through work, and current signals suggest that government-funded retirement supports will be significantly smaller, if they’re there at all. These are bread-and-butter issues.

While national political leaders are gridlocked on how to address the crises of widening inequality and limited upward mobility, we’re struggling to simply provide our children with the same opportunities that came relatively easily to earlier generations. Most young families aren’t cynical because the rich have private helicopter fleets and offshore bank accounts, per se. We’re frustrated because the American bargain we believed in is broken.

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I don’t often disagree with Kimberley Strassel, but I do disagree with “the ascendant progressive movement blew an easy victory for Democrats.” It’s the old guard that blew it, Clinton, Pelosi, Waters, Feinstein.

The Lesson of 2018 (Strassel)

In a few days the U.S. will have its midterm results, and the Beltway press corps will lecture us on the lessons. Don’t expect to hear much about the one takeaway that is already obvious: that today’s preferred progressive politics—of character assassination, mob rule, intimidation and wacky policies—is an electoral bust. It is not what is winning Democrats anything. It is what is losing the party the bigger prize. Six weeks ago, Democrats were expecting a blue wave to rival the Republican victory of 2010, when the GOP picked up 63 House seats. Everything was in their favor. History—the party in power almost always loses seats. Money—Democrats continue to outraise Republicans by staggering amounts.

The opposition—some 41 GOP House members retired, most from vulnerable districts where Donald Trump’s favorability is low. Democrats were even positioned to take over the Senate, despite defending 10 Trump-state seats. Democrats obliterated their own breaker in the space of two weeks with the ambush of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The left, its protesters and its media allies demonstrated some of the vilest political tactics ever seen in Washington, with no regard for who or what they damaged or destroyed along the way—Christine Blasey Ford, committee rules, civility, Justice Kavanaugh himself, the Constitution. An uncharacteristically disgusted Sen. Lindsey Graham railed: “Boy, y’all want power. God, I hope you never get it!”

A lot of voters suddenly agreed with that sentiment. The enormous enthusiasm gap closed almost overnight as conservative voters rallied to #JobsNotMobs. Even liberal prognosticators today forecast that Republicans will keep the Senate and Democrats will manage only a narrow majority in the House, if that. It’s always possible the polls are off, or that there is a last-minute bombshell. But it remains the case that the ascendant progressive movement blew an easy victory for Democrats.

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Thanks, Mutti. Or in other words: now you know why Merkel lost so much support.

1 in 5 Germans Is ‘At Risk Of Poverty’ Despite Record Employment (RT)

Germany may be Europe’s biggest and strongest economy and is enjoying record employment, but one fifth of its citizens are struggling to make ends meet, a new study reveals. Some 15.5 million people or 19 percent of the population in Germany were “at risk of poverty” or “social exclusion” in 2017, the Federal Statistics Office said. Even though the unemployment rate in Germany has fallen to record lows, many people still do not earn enough to pay their bills and keep themselves above the poverty line. Some 13.1 million Germans, roughly 16.1 percent of the population, are threatened by poverty precisely because of their low monthly income, the federal statistics bureau says.

According to the criteria introduced in the EU, people are considered to be at risk of poverty if their total income amounts to less than 60 percent of an average income in their country. In the case of Germany, it amounts to €1,096 ($1,243) for a single person per month and €2,302 ($2,611) for a family of two adults and two children under 14. 3.4 percent of the population were considered as threatened by poverty as they struggled to pay their rent on time, heat their homes adequately, travel on vacation or even to regularly get a substantial meal due to a lack of financial resources.

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This has been known for a long time, why investigate only now? And the Guardian blows its coverage of the topic by bringing Russia into the discussion. But then that’s Britain’s new favorite pastime. Another piece today on this, also in the Guardian, is by Luke Harding, career Assange and Putin basher.

Brexit Campaigner Arron Banks Faces Criminal Inquiry (G.)

The National Crime Agency is to investigate allegations of multiple criminal offences by Arron Banks and his unofficial leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, prompting calls from some MPs for the process of departing the European Union to be suspended. The NCA would look into suspicions that a “number of criminal offences may have been committed”, the Electoral Commission said in a statement, saying there were reasonable grounds to suspect Banks was “not the true source” of £8m in funding to the Leave.EU campaign. The commission said the cases involve Banks, the insurance millionaire who heavily backed leave; Elizabeth Bilney, one of his key associates; Leave.EU itself; the company used to finance it; and “other associated companies and individuals”.

News of the investigation prompted anti-Brexit campaigners to call for a delay to the process of leaving the EU. The Labour MP David Lammy said Brexit “must be put on hold until we know the extent of these crimes against our democracy”. A series of other Labour MPs echoed the call, while the Lib Dems said Brexit could not go ahead based on “a leave campaign littered with lies, deceit and allegations of much worse”. Downing Street said it could not comment on a live investigation, but dismissed the idea of a pause: “The referendum was the largest democratic exercise in this country’s history and the PM is getting on with delivering its result.” Banks and Bilney, who chaired the Leave.EU campaign, said they rejected any allegations of wrongdoing, and argued the investigation was motivated by political considerations.

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Spending time talking fisheries is entirely useless as long as the Irish border issue is still out there.

EU Fisheries Row Threatens May’s Customs Union Plan (G.)

Theresa May is facing fresh opposition from EU countries that have large fishing communities to her demands for an agreement before Brexit day on a temporary customs union to solve the Irish border problem. [..] The prime minister has said she wants the “backstop” solution in the withdrawal agreement, under which Northern Ireland would in effect stay in the single market and customs union alone, to be scrapped in favour of the whole of the UK staying in a customs arrangement temporarily. In the latest development, the European commission has floated a plan in which the full terms of a “bare bones” customs union for Great Britain would be laid out in the withdrawal agreement, so there would be no need for negotiations on it after Brexit. Northern Ireland would stay under the full EU customs code.

The backstop would come into force at the end of the transition period should a comprehensive trade deal to ensure there is no need for a hard border on the island of Ireland not be agreed in time. A senior EU official conceded that the proposal would not remove the need for a Northern Ireland-specific backstop that would keep the province in the single market as the UK gave up its membership. The issue of what to do about fisheries would also remain with member states likely to reject to any deal that undermines the “trade-off” envisioned in the bloc’s negotiating position papers in which British exporters were only given access to the single market in exchange for European fishing boats keeping access to the seas around the UK.

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Monsanto saved itself $200 million. But they’ll apeal again.

Groundskeeper In Monsanto US Weed-Killer Case Accepts Reduced Award (R.)

The school groundskeeper who won a jury trial against Bayer’s Monsanto unit over allegations that the company’s glyphosate-containing weed-killers caused his cancer, accepted a court-mandated reduced punitive damages award on Wednesday. The decision by Dewayne Johnson, who sued Monsanto in 2016, brings the total award to $78 million, down from the jury’s verdict on Aug. 10 of $289 million – $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages. Johnson’s law firm said in a statement that he accepted the reduction “to hopefully achieve a final resolution within his lifetime.”

Judge Suzanne Bolanos of San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, who oversaw the trial, earlier this month affirmed the liability portion of the verdict, but ordered punitive damages to be slashed to concur with California and federal law. Bayer denies allegations that glyphosate can cause cancer and said it will appeal the decision as the verdict was not supported by the evidence presented at trial. The verdict, which marked the first such decision against Monsanto, wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and shares have since dropped nearly 30 percent from their pre-verdict value.

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Thanks Mutti. And Europeans will just focus on the US-Mexico border of course. Is that double morals or no morals at all?

Thousands Of Europe-Bound Migrants Have Simply Vanished (ZH)

Tens of thousands of migrants undertaking dangerous journeys in search of greener pastures throughout the world are dead or missing, according to an AP tally – nearly doubling estimates from the N’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). At least 56,800 migrants worldwide have simply vanished since 2014 by AP’s count – eclipsing the IOM’s October 1 estimate of around 28,500. This year alone, the IOM has documented over 1,900 deaths in and around the Mediterranean. “A growing number of migrants have drowned, died in deserts or fallen prey to traffickers, leaving their families to wonder what on earth happened to them,” reports Fox News. “At the same time, anonymous bodies are filling cemeteries around the world.”

Focusing on Europe alone, AP found almost 4,900 migrants whose families can’t account for their lived ones – nearly half of which are children who have been reported missing to the Red Cross. “… many of those who go missing are uncounted, including boatfuls [sic] of young Tunisians or Algerians and children whose parents lost track of them in the chaos of land border crossings. In all, The Associated Press found nearly 4,900 people whose families say they simply disappeared without a trace in Europe or en route, including more than 2,700 children whose families reported them missing to the Red Cross.” -Fox News

Meanwhile, efforts to identify those who have died in shipwrecks trying to make it to Europe have fallen flat. Of the 400 or so remains interred in a Tunisian cemetery for unidentified migrants, for example, only one has ever been identified since its opening in 2005. “Their families may think that the person is still alive, or that he’ll return one day to visit,” said one unemployed sailor, Chamseddin Marzouk. “They don’t know that those they await are buried here, in Zarzis, Tunisia.”

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Aug 292018
 


Pablo Picasso In “Le Lapin Agile” or harlequin with a glass 1905

 

Almost Half Of Americans Can’t Pay For Their Basic Needs (CBS)
White House Probes Google After Trump Accuses It Of Bias (R.)
Trump Unblocks More Twitter Users After US Court Ruling (R.)
Facebook Censorship, Mad Ben Nimmo and the Atlantic Council (Craig Murray)
The Greatest Fake Bull Ever (Stockman)
China’s Building-Boom Hits A Wall As Shadow-Banking System Collapses (ZH)
A Senator Masquerading as a Gas Station (Dmitry Orlov)
Brazil Sends Army To Border As Venezuelans Flee Crisis At Home (R.)
Syria Ready To Take One Million Returning Refugees – Moscow (AFP)
Just 10 Rivers Carry 95% Of All Plastic Into The Ocean (BT)
Bees Develop Preference For Pesticides (PA)

 

 

Now imagine a shrinking economy thrown in.

Almost Half Of Americans Can’t Pay For Their Basic Needs (CBS)

Four in 10 Americans are struggling to pay for their basic needs such as groceries or housing, a problem even middle-class households confront, according to a new study from the Urban Institute. Despite the U.S. economy being near full employment, 39.4 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old said they experienced at least one type of material hardship in 2017, according to the study, which surveyed more than 7,500 adults about whether they had trouble paying for housing, utilities, food or health care. The findings surprised researchers at the Urban Institute, who had expected to find high levels of hardship among poor Americans but hadn’t predicted so many middle-class families would also struggle to meet their basic needs.

That may illustrate that a middle-class income “is no guarantee” of protection from hardship, said Michael Karpman, research associate at the Urban Institute’s health Policy Center and a co-author of the report. Against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s boasting about low unemployment and strong economic growth, the research adds nuance to the problems facing American families. Middle-class households tend to struggle with paying their health care bills rather than utilities, for instance. Health care costs have outpaced wages and inflation, pushing more Americans into high-deductible plans, which can backfire when serious health problems arise.

“A lot of people are looking at the fact that wages aren’t keeping up with household costs as one reason families are having difficulty making ends meet,” Karpman said. “Even for families with health insurance, they may be facing high deductibles that leave them facing high costs.”

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The bias is obvious. How to fight it is not.

White House Probes Google After Trump Accuses It Of Bias (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of promoting negative news articles and hiding “fair media” coverage of him, vowing to address the situation without providing evidence or giving details of action he might take. Trump’s attack against the Alphabet Inc unit follows a string of grievances against technology companies, including social media Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc, which he has accused of silencing conservative voices, and Amazon.com Inc, which he has said is hurting small businesses and benefiting from a favorable deal with the U.S. Postal Services. He frequently berates news outlets for what he perceives as unfair coverage.

Google denied any political bias, saying in a statement that its search engine is “not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.” Trump said in several tweets on Tuesday that Google search results for “Trump News” were “rigged” against him because they showed only coverage from outlets like CNN and not conservative publications, suggesting the practice was illegal. “I think Google is really taking advantage of our people,” Trump said on Tuesday in the Oval Office. “Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

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A pattern emerges. Trump violates 1st amendment when blocking users, but Twitter “retains authority to revoke access”. That cannot stand.

Trump Unblocks More Twitter Users After US Court Ruling (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday unblocked some additional Twitter users after a federal judge in May said preventing people from following him violated individuals constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled on May 23 that comments on the president’s account, and those of other government officials, were public forums and that blocking Twitter Inc users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on August 10 sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that had remained blocked from Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump account. The seven users who filed suit had their accounts unblocked in June.

The 41 blocked users include a film producer, screenwriter, photographer and author who had criticized President Trump or his policies. At least 20 of those individuals said on Twitter that Trump had unblocked them on Tuesday. The 41 users were not a comprehensive list of those blocked by Trump. Rosie O’Donnell, a comedian, said on Twitter late Tuesday that she remained blocked. [..] The ruling has raised novel legal issues. The Internet Association, a trade group that represents Twitter, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com, and Alphabet Inc, filed a brief in the case earlier this month that did not back Trump or the blocked users but urged the court to “limit its decision to the unique facts of this case so that its decision does not reach further than necessary or unintentionally disrupt the modern, innovative Internet.”

[..] The Internet Association said the court “should make clear that this case does not implicate the overwhelming majority of social media accounts throughout the Internet.” “Despite any First Amendment status that this court might find in the ‘interactive spaces’ associated with President Trump’s account, Twitter retains authority to revoke access to both his account and the account of any user seeking to comment on President Trump’s account,” the group said.

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Facebook deletes posts from a former UK ambassador.

Facebook Censorship, Mad Ben Nimmo and the Atlantic Council (Craig Murray)

Facebook has deleted all of my posts from July 2017 to last week because I am, apparently, a Russian Bot. For a while I could not add any new posts either, but we recently found a way around that, at least for now. To those of you tempted to say “So what?”, I would point out that over two thirds of visitors to my website arrive via my posting of the articles to Facebook and Twitter. Social media outlets like this blog, which offer an alternative to MSM propaganda, are hugely at the mercy of these corporate gatekeepers.

Facebook’s plunge into censorship is completely open and admitted, as is the fact it is operated for Facebook by the Atlantic Council – the extreme neo-con group part funded by NATO and whose board includes serial war criminal Henry Kissinger, Former CIA Heads Michael Hayden and Michael Morrell, and George Bush’s chief of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, among a whole list of horrors.

The staff are worse than the Board. Their lead expert on Russian bot detection is an obsessed nutter named Ben Nimmo, whose fragile grip on reality has been completely broken by his elevation to be the internet’s Witchfinder-General. Nimmo, grandly titled “Senior Fellow for Information Defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab”, is the go-to man for Establishment rubbishing of citizen journalists, and as with Joseph McCarthy or Matthew Clarke, one day society will sufficiently recover its balance for it to be generally acknowledged that this kind of witch-hunt nonsense was not just an aberration, but a manifestation of the evil it claimed to fight.

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“..the generational fiscal catastrophe that looms in the 2020s as 80 million baby-boomers pile onto the social security/medicare wagon.”

The Greatest Fake Bull Ever (Stockman)

the Wall Street stock indices have vastly out-run the meager gains in the main street economy since the pre-crisis peak; and that at this late stage of the business cycle—merely 10 months from the prior record—there is absolutely no plausible risk/reward equation left. That’s because earnings will plummet in the next recession—by 40% or more if history is any guide. And that’s likely to be conservative in view of the elephant in the casino that Wall Street stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. To wit, back in June 2007, the S&P 500 earnings peaked at $85 per share, but that reflected fully $55 per share of after-tax interest expense. Fast forward to the LTM period ending in December 2017 when earnings per share posted at $110 per share, but reflected only $19 per share of after-tax interest expense.

In other words, more than 100% of the gain over the past 11 years was due to the drastic financial repression of the central banks and its impact on corporate interest expense. Yet the central banks of the world—led belatedly by the Fed—have made an epochal pivot to QT (quantitative tightening) and interest rate normalization, even as the value of the interest expense deduction has been reduced to chump change owing to the new effective tax rate of about 15%. So interest expense is marching back up the hill, and it’s not remotely priced-in—not any more than the next recession or the generational fiscal catastrophe that looms in the 2020s as 80 million baby-boomers pile onto the social security/medicare wagon.

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Xi has let the shadows grow to fake the growth, and will have a hard time tackling them now.

China’s Building-Boom Hits A Wall As Shadow-Banking System Collapses (ZH)

Beijing wants to shore up growth without inundating the economy with cheap credit. But, as WSJ’s Walter Russell Mead pointed out previously, it’s not easy… “Chinese leaders know that their country suffers from massive over-investment in construction and manufacturing, that its real-estate market is a bubble that makes the Dutch tulip frenzy look restrained, that both conventional debt and debt in the shadow-banking system are too large and growing too rapidly. But even as the Communist Party centralizes power and clamps down on dissent, it dithers when it comes to the costly and difficult work of shifting China’s economic development onto a sustainable track. Chinese authorities have tried to tackle some of these problems, but often retreat when reforms start to bite and powerful interests push back.”

To see how hard that will be, The Wall Street Journal’s Nathaniel Taplin takes a look at China’s roads and railways. “China is the 800-pound gorilla of global infrastructure. Its building prowess has permeated popular culture, as in the disaster movie “2012” where China constructs giant ships to help humankind escape rising seas. Recently, however, China’s infrastructure build has all but ground to a halt.” Here’s why… The central government last year started to crack down on unregulated, opaque – so-called ‘shadow-bank’ borrowing – alarmed at its vast scale, and potential for corruption.

For five straight months, the shadow banking system has contracted under this pressure, sucking the malinvestment lifeblood out of economic growth and construction booms as Chinese local governments, which account for the bulk of such investment, set up as so-called local-government financing vehicles (off balance sheet), or LGFVs, and have seen an unprecedented net $19 billion outflow in recent months. As WSJ’s Talpin notes, these days Beijing prefers that local governments borrow on-the-books, through the now legal municipal bond market. The problem is that lower-rated and smaller cities are mostly shut out, even though they do most actual capital spending. As a result, investment has kept slowing even though China’s net muni bond issuance in July was three times higher than it was in March.

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“Other Americans just marched around ineffectually, waving banners and shouting antiwar slogans, but not McCain!”

A Senator Masquerading as a Gas Station (Dmitry Orlov)

John McCain is dead, and many people are celebrating whereas they should be sad. He wasn’t a friend of mankind—he was its enemy, but a really bad one. But with such grossly incompetent enemies—who needs friends? McCain did a great deal to destroy America. He devoted his entire lifetime to American destruction. To start with, he was quite effective as a protester against America’s genocidal war on the people of Vietnam. Other Americans just marched around ineffectually, waving banners and shouting antiwar slogans, but not McCain! His own father had a lot to do with starting that war, but McCain made up for that by destroying 26 American war planes. That’s quite something! If every American flyer crashed as many planes, countless innocent lives would have been saved.

Of course, he could have done even better—and he did try. He almost managed to destroy the US aircraft carrier Forrestal by setting it ablaze. To top off his illustrious military career, he surrendered to the enemy and spent five years in a Vietnamese prison. This made him a hero—in Americans’ eyes only, while the rest of the world saw in him a murderer of Vietnamese children. His “martyrdom” as a POW helped pave his way to a political career, first in Congress, then in the Senate. During his obscenely long career in national politics, McCain did what he could to make American “democracy” look like a complete joke and to hasten America’s collapse. This, by the way, wasn’t a tall order: American “democracy” had long been a cesspool—a playground for lobbyists and political technologists based on a fully gerrymandered system of fake elections. But he did his thing, and is therefore twice the hero.

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Fast getting out of hand.

Brazil Sends Army To Border As Venezuelans Flee Crisis At Home (R.)

Brazil said it was sending armed forces to keep order near the Venezuelan border area, while Peru declared a health emergency, as a regional crisis sparked by thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse escalated on Tuesday. In Brazil, where residents rioted and attacked Venezuelan immigrants in a border town earlier this month, President Michel Temer signed a decree to deploy the armed forces to the border state of Roraima. He said the move was aimed at keeping order and ensuring the safety of immigrants. Peru, meanwhile, declared a 60-day health emergency in two provinces on its northern border, citing “imminent danger” to health and sanitation.

The decree, published in the government’s official gazette, did not give more details on the risks, but health authorities have previously expressed concerns about the spread of diseases such as measles and malaria from migrants. The exodus of Venezuelans to other South American countries is building toward a “crisis moment” comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations said this week. Temer blamed the socialist Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro for the migration crisis. “The problem of Venezuela is no longer one of internal politics. It is a threat to the harmony of the whole continent,” Temer said in a televised address.

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If the US lets Syria rebuild.

Syria Ready To Take One Million Returning Refugees – Moscow (AFP)

Russia’s defence minister said on Tuesday that war-torn Syria would be ready to accept one million returning refugees, following Moscow-backed reconstruction work. “Since 2015, when towns and villages gradually started to be freed, more than one million people have returned home,” Sergei Shoigu said in comments reported by Russian news agencies. “Now every opportunity has been created for the return of roughly one million (more) refugees,” he told journalists. “Huge infrastructure reconstruction work is ongoing, the rebuilding of transport routes and security points so that Syria can begin accepting refugees.”

Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, launched a military intervention in 2015 to support the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a move that changed the course of the war. Assad and his allies have since recovered swathes of territory and the government is turning its attention to post-conflict reconstruction, with the aid of Moscow. The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria’s population, including more than five million beyond its borders. Most of them fled to neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

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It’ll take a gargantuan effort to stop this.

Just 10 Rivers Carry 95% Of All Plastic Into The Ocean (BT)

Cheap, durable and multifunctional, plastic is one of humanity’s most successful inventions. From the 1950s to 2015, we’ve produced 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff. By now, it’s everywhere. It’s also non-biodegradable. And that’s devastating the environment. Only 9% of all plastic waste has been recycled, and another 12% has been incinerated. That means that almost 80%—nearly 6.3 billion tons—has turned into waste with no half-life to speak of: condemned to an eternity as landfill, litter or ocean-clogging junk. Every year, plastic kills around 1 million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals and inestimable numbers of fish. The volume of plastic trash in the world’s oceans is currently estimated to be around 150 million tons. No less than eight million tons are added to that every year—that’s one truckload every minute.

Between 0.5 and 2.75 million tons come from rivers alone. Large rivers are particularly efficient conveyors of plastic waste to the oceans, especially in countries lacking a well-developed waste management infrastructure. Up to 95% of river-borne plastic comes from just 10 rivers, scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany have found. The scientists analysed data on both microplastic debris (<5mm) such as beads and fibres, as well as microplastic objects (plastic bottles, bags, etc.) from 79 sampling sites on 57 of the world’s largest rivers, singling out the 10 mapped out here as the biggest culprits, due to “mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds”.

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Nicotine addiction.

Bees Develop Preference For Pesticides (PA)

Bumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food that can be compared to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists. The more of the nicotine-like chemicals they consume, the more they appear to want, a study has shown. The findings suggest that the risk of potentially harmful pesticide-contaminated nectar entering bee colonies is higher than was previously thought. In a series of studies, a team of British researchers offered bumblebees a choice of two sugar solutions, one of which was laced with neonicotinoid pesticides. They found that over time the bees increasingly preferred feeders containing the pesticide-flavoured sugar.

Dr Richard Gill, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: “Given a choice, naive bees appear to avoid neonicotinoid-treated food. However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it. “Interestingly, neonicotinoids target nerve receptors in insects that are similar to receptors targeted by nicotine in mammals. “Our findings that bumblebees acquire a taste for neonicotinoids ticks certain symptoms of addictive behaviour, which is intriguing given the addictive properties of nicotine on humans, although more research is needed to determine this in bees.” Controversial neonicotinoid pesticides are chemically similar to nicotine, the addictive compound in tobacco.

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Aug 272018
 


Hasui Kawase Moon at Megome (woodblock print) 1930

 

BIS Warns Of “Perfect Storm” For Global Economy (ZH)
BIS’s Carstens Warns Of Economic Risks Of Protectionism (R.)
No-Deal Brexit Thrusts UK Into ‘Legal Vacuum’ – Labour (G.)
Britain Prepares for War Against Russia (SCF)
UK’s Biggest Payday Lender Wonga ‘On The Brink Of Collapse’ (G.)
Malaysia’s Reaction Shows China Needs To Review Belt And Road Plan (SCMP)
China To Block More Than 120 Offshore Cryptocurrency Exchanges (SCMP)
Michael Cohen’s Attorney Backpedals On Trump-Russia Claims (ZH)
Becoming Serfs (Chris Hedges)
Former Top Vatican Official Says Pope Should Resign Over Abuse Crisis (R.)
‘Foreign Specialists’ May Stage Chemical Attack In Syria In 2 Days – Russia (RT)
Greece Tops Eurozone In Overtaxation (K.)
Lesbos Refugees Pushed To ‘Absolute Breaking Point’, Warns Report (Ind.)

 

 

Carstens’ comments on letters of credit are interesting. Non-US banks will need access to dollars, or trade stops. Not sure where Tyler got that quote.

BIS Warns Of “Perfect Storm” For Global Economy (ZH)

Carstens highlighted the potential catalysts that could unleash the “perfect storm” he highlighted as the key risk resulting from the interaction of real and financial risks, namely: the trillions in outstanding dollar-denominated debt – whereby a dollar-shortage threatening to cripple international trade – and the growing risk of currency wars:

Consider that non-US banks provide the bulk of dollar-denominated letters of credit, which in turn account for more than 80% of this source of trade finance. The Great Financial Crisis highlighted the fragility of this setup, since non-US banks depend on wholesale markets to obtain dollars. Ten years on, we should not forget how the dramatic fall in trade finance in late 2008 played a key part in globalising the crisis. Any dollar shortage among non-US banks could cripple international trade. On top of that, trade skirmishes can easily escalate into currency wars, although I hope that they will not.

As we saw earlier with Mexico, imposing tariffs on imports tends to weaken the target country’s currency. The depreciation could then be construed as a currency “manipulation” that seemingly justifies further protectionist measures. If currency wars break out, countries may put financial markets off-limits to foreign investors or, on the other side, deliberately cut back foreign investment, politicising capital flows. In addition, we must be mindful of long-observed knock-on effects from tighter US monetary conditions, given the large stock of dollar borrowing by non-banks outside the United States, which has now reached $11.5 trillion.”

His conclusion: “Policymakers in advanced economies should not shrug off the growing evidence that abrupt exchange rate depreciations reduce investment and economic growth in emerging market economies. This has implications for everybody, in that weaker economic activity reduces demand for exports from advanced economies.” “In the long term, protectionism will bring not gain but only pain,” Carstens said, echoing a familiar talking point of establishment economists. “Not just for the United States, but for us all.”

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Yeah, well, so called free trade is their thing.

BIS’s Carstens Warns Of Economic Risks Of Protectionism (R.)

Agustin Carstens, general manager of the Bank of International Settlements, on Saturday delivered a scathing critique of rising protectionism, a not-so-subtle rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump’s use of tariffs and trade talks to wring concessions from China, Mexico and many other countries. Reversing globalization “could increase prices, raise unemployment and crimp growth,” Carstens, the former head of Mexico’s central bank, told fellow former and current central bankers at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s annual economic symposium here. Higher tariffs could drive up U.S. inflation and force the Fed to raise rates, driving up the dollar and hurting both U.S. exporters and emerging market economies in the process, Carstens said

Protectionism also threatens “to unsettle financial markets and put a drag on firms’ capital spending, as investors take fright and financial conditions tighten,” he said. The BIS released a research paper at the same time as Carstens’ speech that estimated revoking the North American Free Trade Agreement, as Trump has threatened, would mean a loss to GDP of $37 billion in Canada, $22 billion in Mexico, and $40 billion in the United States, with non-tariff trade barriers accounting for the lion’s share of the losses. Wages would also fall across North America, the research found.

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It’s already a given. There’s no time left.

No-Deal Brexit Thrusts UK Into ‘Legal Vacuum’ – Labour (G.)

Theresa May and the government would face a race against time to pass a slew of new laws, or risk creating an “unsustainable legal vacuum”, if Britain plunged out of the EU without a deal, Labour’s Keir Starmer has warned. Dominic Raab insisted last week that the government had the legislation in place to cope, if Britain is forced to leave in March 2019 without a withdrawal agreement. “Our laws will be on the statute book, the staff will be in place, the teams will be in post and our institutions will be ready for Brexit – deal, or no deal,” the Brexit secretary said. But Labour’s analysis suggests new legislation would have to be passed hastily in four key policy areas: • EU citizens’ rights. • Immigration rules for EU travellers entering Britain. • Criminals held under the European arrest warrant. • The Irish border.

The government has long promised an immigration bill – but has not yet even published a white paper. The home affairs select committee warned recently that “if there’s no deal, [the immigration system] is going to be completely chaotic as no one will know what the arrangements will be until the very last minute and there is going to be no time for anyone to plan at all”. The government has long promised an immigration bill – but has not yet even published a white paper. The home affairs select committee warned recently that “if there’s no deal, [the immigration system] is going to be completely chaotic as no one will know what the arrangements will be until the very last minute and there is going to be no time for anyone to plan at all”.

Several new regulators or other public bodies would also have to be created, including in medicines and aviation, Labour claims. The withdrawal bill gives ministers some powers to do this, but they are tightly curtailed. Starmer described last week’s release of 24 technical notices on how the government is preparing for a no deal as a “poorly executed PR stunt designed to convince Tory MPs to back the prime minister’s discredited Chequers proposal”. He said the government has “barely scratched the surface” of what would need to be done to prepare the UK for a no-deal scenario, and there was a serious risk of an “unsustainable legal vacuum”.

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Britain and the military-industrial complex impoverish the population.

Britain Prepares for War Against Russia (SCF)

The Brexit pantomime is taking place in an era in which it is recorded that “As benefits are cut and rents soar, Britain has seen a staggering rise in homelessness: the number of rough sleepers in England alone has more than doubled since 2010. Almost 1.2 million older people in Britain, as well as another one million disabled people, are living without the social care they need for basics such as eating, dressing and washing. It’s horrific: severely ill people forced to wait 14 hours to go to the toilet or wheelchair users who, with no assistant to help them cook, are now malnourished.” But this dreadful state of affairs means nothing to those who lack for nothing — which includes politicians of the governing Conservative Party who demand that more taxpayers’ money must be spent on military hardware.

The previous defence minister, Michael Fallon (who had to resign because he was found out to have indulged in some sexual shenanigans), told the BBC last year that “we will be adding to defence, there will be new equipment and the budget will grow every year” and the present one, Gavin Williamson (the man who said that Russia should “go away and shut up”), demanded in June that Britain increase its annual military spending by about $25 billion. The strange thing about agitating to spend more money on armaments is that, apart from an indubitable terrorist menace, there is no military threat whatever to Britain. On the other hand, there is a social crisis of the most serious magnitude.

As the New York Times reported in May, “the protracted campaign of budget cutting, started in 2010 by a government led by the Conservative Party, has . . . yielded a country that has grown accustomed to living with less, even as many measures of social well-being — crime rates, opioid addiction, infant mortality, childhood poverty and homelessness — point to a deteriorating quality of life.” But the government’s answer lies in buying missiles and whooshing new aircraft, and two aircraft carriers of incalculable expense and nuclear submarines that the BBC reports are to cost “£31 bn (including inflation), with a contingency of a further £10 bn, spread over 35 years…”

[..] So on August 18 the UK’s Daily Express newspaper, a sad wreck of its former self, and now competing with the Daily Mail in publicising ‘celebs’ and headlining articles of ultra-nationalist tripe, ran a piece headlined “Royal Navy’s £3bn warship launches to tackle ‘frightening’ Russians.” Just how it’s going to deter anyone is not explained, because it hasn’t any aircraft and won’t be operational until 2021. It cost over 4 billion dollars and its yet-to-arrive 36 F-35 aircraft will cost a minimum of 90 million dollars each. This is in a country where the Joseph Rowntree Foundation records that some 14 million people live in poverty – more than one in five of the population.

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Payday loans are the lowest point in a society. If that doesn’t even work anymore….

UK’s Biggest Payday Lender Wonga ‘On The Brink Of Collapse’ (G.)

Britain’s biggest payday lender, Wonga, is teetering on the brink of collapse following a surge of customer compensation claims in recent weeks that could cause it to call in administrators. The short-term loan provider has reportedly lined up accountancy firm Grant Thornton to handle a potential administration of the company should its board believe it is unable to avoid falling into insolvency. The report from Sky News said Wonga could appoint Grant Thornton as soon as this week. The flood of claims facing the company relate to loans taken out before 2014, when Wonga was the poster child for outrage in the payday lending industry that resulted in rules capping the cost of borrowing.

Campaigners claimed the firm and others in the industry fleeced consumers with high interest rates and targeted vulnerable customers with slick marketing. Wonga has shown signs of mounting difficulties in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it emerged the company received a £10m emergency cash injection from shareholders to save it from going bust. At the time, a spokesman said the firm was facing “a marked increase in claims related to legacy loans, driven principally by claims management company activity”. Should the company fall into administration, it would signal a remarkable fall from its previous status as one of the fastest-growing financial companies in the UK. The company was once touted for a stock exchange listing that could have valued it at more than $1bn (£780m) but was recently reported to be worth just $30m.

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Don’t even remember when I first said BRI is a Chinese scheme to export overcapacity and make others pay for it. Others who, of course, will become debt slaves because of it.

Malaysia’s Reaction Shows China Needs To Review Belt And Road Plan (SCMP)

Five years ago in September, during a visit to Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping first proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt, which included countries along the ancient Silk Road leading through Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe. In October that year, while visiting Indonesia, he followed up by suggesting a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, tracing the old trading routes that took Chinese merchants to Southeast Asia, Arabian countries and all the way to eastern Africa. Since then, Xi’s proposals – collectively known as the “Belt and Road Initiative” – have promised trillions of US dollars worth of investments in infrastructure to enhance connectivity and boost trade in more than 60 countries.

[..] From last month, state media have ramped up propaganda to mark the fifth anniversary of the grand plan and catalogue achievements ranging from China-built railways in Ethiopia to the China-owned Greek port of Piraeus. But the celebratory mood was somewhat marred by Malaysia’s decision last week to cancel two China-financed mega projects in the country, the US$20 billion East Coast Rail Link and two gas pipeline projects worth US$2.3 billion. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his country could not afford those projects and they were not needed at the moment. Interestingly, Mahathir announced the decision even before leaving China, and said both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang understood the reasons behind the cancellations and accepted them.

The Chinese government put on a brave face in response, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying it was inevitable there would be problems or different points of views between any two countries. But Mahathir’s announcement has transcended bilateral cooperation, and should serve as a timely warning to the Chinese leadership about the importance and urgency with which they should conduct a comprehensive review of the belt and road strategy and recalibrate it by reining in its ambitious investment plans. Indeed, Mahathir’s decision is just the latest setback for the plan, as politicians and economists in an increasing number of countries that once courted Chinese investments have now publicly expressed fears that some of the projects are too costly and would saddle them with too much debt.

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Volume is way down, as is price. Wyy the heavy hand now?

China To Block More Than 120 Offshore Cryptocurrency Exchanges (SCMP)

China is poised to block more than 120 foreign cryptocurrency exchanges as part of the government’s broader crackdown on activities related to digital money, according to state media. Authorities will block access in China to 124 websites operated by offshore cryptocurrency exchanges that provide trading services to citizens on the mainland, the Shanghai Securities News, a newspaper affiliated with the country’s financial and markets regulators, reported on Thursday. It said authorities will also continue to monitor and shut down domestic websites related to cryptocurrency trades and initial coin offerings (ICOs), and ban payment services from accepting cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

The newspaper cited people close to the Leading Group of Internet Financial Risks Remediation, which was set up by China’s cabinet in 2016 and headed by Pan Gongsheng, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China – the country’s central bank. The report marks the latest effort by Beijing to intensity the clampdown on cryptocurrency activities because of concerns about financial instability. Censors recently shut down at least eight blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused online media outlets, some of which raised several million dollars in venture capital. These entities found their official public accounts on WeChat blocked on Tuesday evening, owing to violations against new regulations from China’s top internet watchdog.

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I dealt with Lanny David a few days ago in Fixers. No surprise he turns out to lie about this too. I asked in that article if Cohen was sure he wanted him as his lawyer. He must be asking himself that now.

Michael Cohen’s Attorney Backpedals On Trump-Russia Claims (ZH)

Lanny Davis – the attorney for Michael Cohen, has massively backpedaled on “confident assertions” that Cohen would share information with investigators that President Trump knew of Russian efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – a lifelong friend of Davis’. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Davis said in an interview that he is “no longer certain about claims he made to reporters on background and on the record in recent weeks about what Cohen knows about Trump’s awareness of the Russian efforts.” “Davis told The Washington Post that he cannot confirm media reports that Cohen is prepared to tell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Trump had advance knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting” -WaPo

CNN reported in July that Cohen claimed to have witnessed Trump approving the meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, arranged by an associate of opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The day after CNN’s report, the Washington Post – using an “anonymous source” they now admit was Davis, peddled the same story that “Cohen had told associates that he witnessed an exchange in which Trump Jr. told his father about an upcoming gathering in which he expected to get information about Clinton,” however the Post didn’t say Trump Jr. told Sr. it was the Russians. “I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis said, adding perhaps the most difficult four words for an attorney to utter: “I regret my error.”

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“..The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91%..”

Becoming Serfs (Chris Hedges)

We live in a new feudalism. We have been stripped of political power. Workers are trapped in menial jobs, forced into crippling debt and paid stagnant or declining wages. Chronic poverty and exploitative working conditions in many parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, replicate the hell endured by industrial workers at the end of the 19th century. The complete capture of ruling institutions by corporations and their oligarchic elites, including the two dominant political parties, the courts and the press, means there is no mechanism left by which we can reform the system or protect ourselves from mounting abuse. We will revolt or become 21st-century serfs, forced to live in misery and brutally oppressed by militarized police and the most sophisticated security and surveillance system in human history while the ruling oligarchs continue to wallow in unimagined wealth and opulence.

“The new tax code is explosive excess,” the economist Richard Wolff said when we spoke in New York. “We’ve had 30 or 40 years where corporations paid less taxes than they ever did. They made more money than they ever did. They have been able to keep wages stagnant while the productivity of labor rose. This is the last moment historically they need another big gift, let alone at the expense of the very people whose wages have been stagnant. To give them a tax bust of this sort, basically reducing from 35% to 20%, is a 40% cut. This kind of crazy excess reminds you of the [kings] of France before the French Revolution when the level of excess reached an explosive social dimension. That’s where we are.”

When capitalism collapsed in the 1930s, the response of the working class was to form unions, strike and protest. The workers pitted power against power. They forced the oligarchs to respond with the New Deal, which created 12 million government-funded jobs, Social Security, the minimum wage and unemployment compensation. The country’s infrastructure was modernized and maintained. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alone employed 300,000 workers to form and maintain national parks. “The message of the organized working class was unequivocal,” Wolff said. “Either you help us through this Depression or there will be a revolution.” The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91%.

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True, but it won’t make any difference.

Former Top Vatican Official Says Pope Should Resign Over Abuse Crisis (R.)

Pope Francis said on Sunday he would not respond to a former top Vatican official who accused him of having known for years of allegations of sex abuse by a prominent U.S. cardinal, calling on the pontiff to resign in an unprecedented broadside against the pope by a Church insider. Francis, speaking to reporters on the plane returning from a trip to Dublin, said dismissively that a statement containing the accusations “speaks for itself”. In a detailed 11-page bombshell statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the pope’s visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused a long list of current and past Vatican and U.S. Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.

In remarkably blunt language, Vigano said alleged cover-ups in the Church were making it look like “a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia”. “Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church,” wrote Vigano, who has criticized the pope before. “In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, his extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” Vigano said.

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Russia is getting very specific, as per the time, location, chemicals used etc.

‘Foreign Specialists’ May Stage Chemical Attack In Syria In 2 Days – Russia (RT)

“Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.
Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.” Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”

The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.” The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago. On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

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Lowest incomes, highest taxes. That’s recovery. And there’s much more to come.

Greece Tops Eurozone In Overtaxation (K.)

Greece has taken the lead among eurozone countries in the taxes-to-GDP ratio, rising from 13th place in 2008, before the country requested a bailout to stabilize its finances, to first place as of 2016. A tax-to-GDP ratio of over 27% is unprecedented in the country, at least since the restoration of democracy in 1974. At the same time, Greece set a record in terms of the speed with which the “taxation shock” was implemented, with the tax-to-GDP ratio jumping by 7 percentage points over eight years of bailouts.

Direct or indirect overtaxation has been the main driver for the reduction of the huge deficits Greece had to tackle at the beginning of the economic crisis. In 2008, taxes on production and imports accounted for 12.6% of GDP, while in 2017 the figure rose to 17.5%, according to data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Taxes on income stood at 8.1% in 2008 and 10.2% in 2017. In social security contributions the ratio stood at 12.7% in 2008, reaching 14.6% in 2017.

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Give it some time, and it’ll get as bad as Nauru. If Merkel and Juncker would have wanted to stop this, they’ve had plenty time. They didn’t and they don’t.

Lesbos Refugees Pushed To ‘Absolute Breaking Point’, Warns Report (Ind.)

Thousands of refugees are living in perpetual fear and at risk of developing serious illnesses as the situation on the Greek island of Lesbos reaches “absolute breaking point”, new research shows. A report by Refugee Rights Europe warns that physical and mental health problems are rife on the island, as unsanitary conditions contribute to the spread of disease and growing desperation grips the men, women and children who are stuck there. Reports of violence and racially motivated attacks on refugees by police have also become commonplace, with nearly half of the 311 asylum seekers surveyed for the report saying they had been attacked by officers – usually with tear gas.

There are currently an estimated 8,000 refugee men, women and children on Lesbos, making it the largest host out of the Greek islands. A third come from Syria, 27% are from Afghanistan, 13% are Iraqi and the remaining are mainly from African countries. A series of accounts from asylum seekers in the report exposes the squalor and dangers they endure, including only having access to a shower once every few weeks and being unable to access medical care for their sick children. Respondents also reported being too afraid to leave their tents at night due to lack of security in the camps. Others expressed suicidal thoughts, with one refugee telling researchers: “I prefer to die than be here”.

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Aug 252018
 


Henry Bacon Étretat 1890

 

The Dogs of Vengeance (Jim Kunstler)
Chemical Attack Being Staged To Frame Damascus – Russia MoD (RT)
Half Of Millennials Take Out Car Finance To Match Social Media Dreams (Ind.)
Majority Of Young Americans Live In A Household Receiving Welfare (ZH)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey To Testify On Conservative “Shadowbans” (ZH)
UK Immigration Minister Blocks Britons Who Sought Help On Twitter (G.)
Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor (New Yorker)
Tesla To Remain A Public Company, CEO Musk Says (AFP)
The Great Chinese Art Heist (GQ)
Drought In Central Europe Reveals Cautionary ‘Hunger Stones’ (NPR)
The Water Crises Aren’t Coming – They’re Here (Esq.)
Venezuela Heads For Refugee Crisis Moment Comparable To Mediterranean (R.)
Ecuador Opens “Humanitarian Corridor” For Venezuelan Migrants (AFP)
‘Begging To Die’: Succession Of Critically Ill Children Moved Off Nauru (G.)

 

 

The only thing today that mentions Trump.

The Dogs of Vengeance (Jim Kunstler)

History has a velocity of its own, and its implacable forces will drag the good, the bad, the clueless, the clever, the guilty, the innocent, the avid, and the unwilling to a certain fate. One can easily see a convergence of vectors shoving the nation toward political criticality this autumn. Mr. Trump is like some unfortunate dumb brute of the ancient Teutonic forests with a bulldog clamped to his nose, the rest of the pack close behind snapping at his hamstrings and soft, swaying underbelly. His desperate bellowing goes unanswered by the indifference of the trees in forest, the cold moon above, and all the other furnishings of his tragic reality.

As these things tend to happen, it looks like the exertions of Robert Mueller have turned from the alleged grave offenses of a foreign enemy to the sequela of consort with a floozie. Down goes Mr. Trump’s private attorney, Michael Cohen, in his personal swamp of incriminating files and audio recordings. Enter, stage left, one David Pecker, publisher of the venerable National Enquirer — the newspaper of wreckage — on his slime-trail of induced testimony. And there is your impeachable offense: an illegal campaign contribution. One way or another, as Blondie used to sing, I’m gonna getcha, getcha, getcha.

Some in this greatest of all possible republics may be asking themselves if this is quite fair play, given the hundreds of millions of dollars washed-and-rinsed through the laundromat known as the Clinton Foundation, and related suspicious doings in that camp of darkness. But remember, another president, Jimmy Carter, once declared to the shock of official Washington that “life is unfair.” What I wonder is what these dogs of vengeance reckon will happen when they achieve their goal of bringing down the bellowing bull and pulling his guts out. Perhaps a few moments of tribal satisfaction, one last war dance around the fire, and when the fire dies out, they will find themselves under the same cold indifferent moon with blood on their snouts and an ill wind blowing in the tree tops.

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Why there’s still support for the White Helmets.

Chemical Attack Being Staged To Frame Damascus – Russia MoD (RT)

The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes. The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added. The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry.

A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase. The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria, In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.

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Instagram shapes the world.

Half Of Millennials Take Out Car Finance To Match Social Media Dreams (Ind.)

Forget fashion, music or gadgets. The desire to live up to social media aspirations has pushed more than half of millennials to buy a car for its status value, new figures suggest, and almost 40 per cent said Instagram or Facebook played a part in deciding which motor they went for. With two thirds of younger drivers reliant on credit to fund the purchase – twice the number of 37- to 54-year-old generation Xers – research from Admiral has revealed the new, expensive face of social media influencing. Younger drivers were found to be more reliant on credit, with 64 per cent taking car finance to fund a purchase compared with 38 per cent of 37- to 54-year-olds.

The consequences have financial implications on younger generations too, as more than half of drivers aged 19 to 36 admit feeling pressure to buy a specific car for status or prestige. More than one in 10 millennials said famous faces played a part in their choice of car, compared with just 4 per cent of gen-X drivers. They may currently own a Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Golf or Polo, but millennials dream of BMW i8s, Audi R8s, Ford GTs and Aston Martin Vantages.

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Car finance and food stamps?

Majority Of Young Americans Live In A Household Receiving Welfare (ZH)

New analysis from CNS News finds that the majority of Americans under 18 live in households that take “means-tested assistance” from the US government. The study, based on the most recently available data from the Census Bureau, leads with the question: Will they be called The Welfare Generation? The data presented by CNS editor Terrence Jeffrey shockingly reveals that in 2016 “there were approximately 73,586,000 people under 18 in the United States, and 38,365,000 of them — or 52.1 percent — resided in households in which one or more persons received benefits from a means-tested government program.”

It’s a slim majority, but a majority which nonetheless presents an extremely worrisome trend regarding the number of young Americans and possibly young families who’ve experienced some level of government dependency. To put it in another, perhaps more alarming way, if you’re under 18 the data shows you are more likely that not to be living in a home that receives some form of taxpayer-financed largesse. In terms of the country’s total population of 319.9 million Americans, the data finds that 114.8 million, or about 36 percent, lived as part of a household in which someone collected welfare. Jeffrey continued, “When examined by age bracket persons under 18 were the most likely to live in a household receiving means-tested government assistance (52.1 percent), while those 75 and older were least likely (18.8 percent).”

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You can’t have banning and shadowbanning on social media decided by opaque terms overseen by geeks. Just like you can’t ban people from having a phone, radio, TV just because you don’t like them.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey To Testify On Conservative “Shadowbans” (ZH)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to appear before the House Energy & Commerce committee on September 5th, after several GOP lawmakers demanded action in response to reports of conservatives being “shadow banned” by the San Francisco-based social media giant. “Twitter is an incredibly powerful platform that can change the national conversation in the time it takes a tweet to go viral,” wrote committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) in a Friday statement. “When decisions about data and content are made using opaque processes, the American people are right to raise concerns. This committee intends to ask tough questions about how Twitter monitors and polices content, and we look forward to Mr. Dorsey being forthright and transparent regarding the complex processes behind the company’s algorithms and content judgement calls,” the statement continues.

Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Walden, requesting that he be allowed to publicly grill Jack Dorsey over recent allegations that the platform limits the reach of some conservative accounts. “Any solution to this problem must start with accountability from companies like Twitter, whose platforms have enormous potential to impact the national conversation — and unfortunately, enormous potential for abuse,” McCarthy said in the letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden. “In particular, I would like to request a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so that the American people can learn more about the filtering and censorship practices on his platform.” -Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy, who has worked on tech issues for years, has been investigating reports of Silicon Valley tech giants injecting their admittedly liberal bias into the way they enforce speech on their platforms. McCarthy and other Republican leaders met with Facebook staffers in June over their concerns, and as recently as last month McCarthy was running ads on Facebook inviting supporters to join him “and President Trump in defending our conservative voice against social media censoring,” according to the platform’s public database of political ads. This action follows Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Twitter after he discovered that his account was being ‘shadowbanned’ – the practice of excluding or reducing the visibility of one’s tweets from normal circulation on the platform.

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Didn’t we already have this with Trump? This lady needs some educating.

UK Immigration Minister Blocks Britons Who Sought Help On Twitter (G.)

The immigration minister blocked at least two British citizens on Twitter when they asked for her assistance after the Home Office failed to respond to their complaints or appeals from their MPs. Caroline Nokes’ action, which means the people concerned are unable to read her tweets or contact her, were described by a leading immigration lawyer as suggesting “complete indifference”. Stephen Buck was blocked from following Nokes or seeing her tweets on 11 August after he sent her three tweets in four months, asking for help to prevent his long-term partner, Rusty Goodall, from being deported to Australia. It took the Home Office 13 months to refuse Goodall’s application to extend his visa, during which time the couple received no update on his case.

“I was nothing but polite in my approaches, but having tried all other avenues available to us (ie contacting the Home Office directly, asking our MP for help) and still feeling as though we were in a position where nobody was doing anything and nobody cared about us, contacting Nokes on Twitter felt like the only option left to try and get somebody in power to listen,” Buck said. “The fact that the only response to these pleas to one of the few people who could make a difference in our case was to block me, was truly upsetting, frustrating and insulting.” John Holden, a British citizen who lives in the UK with his Filipino wife, son and three adopted children, was blocked by Nokes on the same day as Buck after also asking for help.

“The Home Office have refused to issue my British children with British passports: they say we need to change the children’s Philippine passports to their new adopted surnames first,” he said. “The problem is that the Philippine authorities won’t do that unless we take the children out of school and return to the Philippines for a process that could take up to 18 months, during which I would have to readopt children who are already mine and are already British.

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Singer bankrupts countries.

Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor (New Yorker)

In 1995, Singer started working with a trader named Jay Newman, who specialized in the government—or sovereign—debt of developing countries. The collaboration led to the legal battle that would publicly define Singer: his fourteen-year fight with the government of Argentina. Like Singer, Newman was a lawyer by training, and, also like Singer, he had no problem making money using methods that others might find distasteful. For many years, sovereign loans were treated by banks and other lenders much the way that subprime mortgages were prior to 2008—as highly desirable, relatively low-risk investments.

But many countries, particularly poorer ones with fragile economies or corrupt governments, borrowed far more than they could realistically repay, and, during the nineteen-eighties, approximately fifty countries defaulted or had to restructure their debt, including Mexico, most of Latin America, Poland, the Philippines, Vietnam, and South Africa. In most cases, the International Monetary Fund would come in, impose budget cuts and other austerity measures, and help the governments renegotiate what they owed. The countries’ debt holders generally traded their old bonds for new ones under reduced terms, which allowed the country to exit default.

Newman saw an opportunity in these financial crises: purchase the defaulted debt at a very low price and then try to negotiate for, or sue the country for, full repayment on the original terms. An investor who pursued this strategy came to be known as a “rogue creditor.” The tactic could prove extremely profitable—as long as you had the stomach for it. Newman said that he never sued a country that couldn’t afford to pay, but critics argue that rogue creditors interfere with a country’s ability to return to the financial markets, exacerbating the poverty and suffering of its citizens. Singer hired Newman, initially offering him thirty thousand dollars a month and 20% of the profits on investments he recommended.

The Republic of Peru had defaulted on its debt in 1984; in 1996, the government initiated a debt exchange, and more than ninety per cent of Peruvian debt holders traded in their old bonds for new ones, taking a fifty-per-cent discount on the original value. Singer purchased eleven million dollars of defaulted Peruvian bonds, and then began a protracted legal battle to force the government to pay back the full value. In 1998, after a trial, a federal court found Elliott to be in violation of the Dickensian-sounding Champerty laws, which prohibit buying debt with the sole purpose of bringing legal action. Elliott appealed the case and won. The company later engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to change the Champerty laws in New York State.

It also filed a lawsuit in Brussels, attempting to prevent Peru from paying interest on any of its new bonds until it had paid Elliott. Peru was left with an unpalatable choice: default, again, on its new bonds, or pay what it viewed as a ransom to a New York hedge fund.

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What say ye, SEC?

Tesla To Remain A Public Company, CEO Musk Says (AFP)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Friday that the company would continue to be publicly traded, weeks after suggesting that he would take the electric carmaker private. Musk met with Tesla’s board of directors on Thursday “and let them know that I believe the better path is for Tesla to remain public. The Board indicated that they agree,” he wrote on the company blog. Musk surprised markets on August 7 by announcing on Twitter he wanted to take Tesla private at $420 a share. But shares fell more than 20 percent since the announcement. After the announcement the controversial entrepreneur came under extensive scrutiny over his Twitter statements related to the proposal, especially a claim that Tesla had “secured” funding for the move.

However, Musk said Friday that based on talks with current shareholders, as well as an assessment by financial advisers Silver Lake, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, “it’s apparent that most of Tesla’s existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company.” Even though the majority of shareholders “said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was ‘please don’t do this,'” he wrote. “I knew the process of going private would be challenging, but it’s clear that it would be even more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated.”

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Insane story. Hollywood must have already bought the rights.

The Great Chinese Art Heist (GQ)

The patterns of the heists were evident only later, but their audacity was clear from the start. The spree began in Stockholm in 2010, with cars burning in the streets on a foggy summer evening. The fires had been lit as a distraction, a ploy to lure the attention of the police. As the vehicles blazed, a band of thieves raced toward the Swedish royal residence and smashed their way into the Chinese Pavilion on the grounds of Drottningholm Palace. There they grabbed what they wanted from the permanent state collection of art and antiquities. Police told the press the thieves had fled by moped to a nearby lake, ditched their bikes into the water, and escaped by speedboat. The heist took less than six minutes.

A month later, in Bergen, Norway, intruders descended from a glass ceiling and plucked 56 objects from the China Collection at the KODE Museum. Next, robbers in England hit the Oriental Museum at Durham University, followed by a museum at Cambridge University. Then, in 2013, the KODE was visited once more; crooks snatched 22 additional relics that had been missed during the first break-in. Had they known exactly what was happening, perhaps the security officials at the Château de Fontainebleau, the sprawling former royal estate just outside Paris, could have predicted that they might be next. With more than 1,500 rooms, the palace is a maze of opulence. But when bandits arrived before dawn on March 1, 2015, their target was unmistakable: the palace’s grand Chinese Museum.

Created by the last empress of France, the wife of Napoleon III, the gallery was stocked with works so rare that their value was considered incalculable. In recent years, however, the provenance of those treasures had become an increasingly sensitive subject: The bulk of the museum’s collection had been pilfered from China by French soldiers in 1860 during the sack of Beijing’s Old Summer Palace. In the low light before daybreak, the robbers raced to the southwest wing and shattered a window. They climbed inside, stepping over broken glass, and swiftly went to work dismantling the empress’s trove. Within seven minutes, they were gone, along with 22 of the museum’s most valuable items: porcelain vases; a mandala made of coral, gold, and turquoise; a Chimera in cloisonné enamel; and more.

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History lessons: “If you see me, weep.”

Drought In Central Europe Reveals Cautionary ‘Hunger Stones’ (NPR)

A lengthy drought in Europe has exposed carved boulders, known as “hunger stones,” that have been used for centuries to commemorate historic droughts — and warn of their consequences. The Associated Press reports that hunger stones are newly visible in the Elbe River, which begins in the Czech Republic and flows through Germany. “Over a dozen of the hunger stones, chosen to record low water levels, can now be seen in and near the northern Czech town of Decin near the German border,” the AP writes. One of the stones on the banks of the Elbe is carved with the words “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine”: “If you see me, weep.” A team of Czech researchers described that stone in detail in a 2013 paper about the history of droughts in Czech lands.

The stone is also chiseled with “the years of hardship and the initials of authors lost to history,” the researchers wrote: “It expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices and hunger for poor people. Before 1900, the following droughts are commemorated on the stone: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, and 1893.” That particular stone is now a bit of a tourist attraction; it’s one of the oldest hydrological landmarks in central Europe. Also, because of a dam on a tributary of the Elbe, it’s seen more often now than it used to be, according to a Decin tourist site — although the current river levels are still exceptional.

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We have 1% of all earth’s water. So of course we’re rapidly poisoning it.

The Water Crises Aren’t Coming – They’re Here (Esq.)

Water cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be damaged. When Gleick says we’ll never run out, he means that at some point, millions of years ago, there was all the water there is, a result of the law of the conservation of matter. Having evaporated from lakes and rivers and oceans and returned as snow and rain, the water we consume has been through innumerable uses. Dinosaurs drank it. The Caesars did, too. It’s been places, and consorted with things, that you might not care to think about. In theory, there’s enough freshwater in the world for everyone, but like oil or diamonds or any other valuable resource, it is not dispersed democratically. Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, and Russia have an abundance—about 40 percent of all there is.

America has a decent amount. India and China, meanwhile, have a third of the world’s people and less than a tenth of its freshwater. It is predicted that in twelve years the demand for water in India will be twice the amount on hand. Beijing draws water from an aquifer beneath the city. From being used faster than rain can replenish it, the aquifer has dropped several hundreds of feet in the last forty years, and in places the city is sinking four inches every year. As for the world’s stock, however, nearly all of the water on earth is salty; less than 3% is fresh. Some of that is in rivers, lakes, aquifers, and reservoirs—the Great Lakes contain one fifth of the freshwater on the earth’s surface—and we have stored so much water behind dams that we have subtly affected the earth’s rotation; but two thirds of all the freshwater we have is frozen in the earth’s cold places as ice or permafrost, leaving less than 1% of the world’s total water for all living things.

Much of that gets a rough ride. American ponds and streams and lakes and rivers contain fungicides, defoliants, solvents, insecticides, herbicides, preservatives, biological toxins, manufacturing compounds, blood thinners, heart medications, perfumes, skin lotions, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, germs, oils, viruses, hormones, and several heavy metals. Not all of these are cleansed from water before we drink it.

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It’s already there.

Venezuela Heads For Refugee Crisis Moment Comparable To Mediterranean (R.)

The exodus of migrants from Venezuela is building toward a “crisis moment” comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean, the United Nations migration agency said on Friday. Growing numbers are fleeing economic meltdown and political turmoil in Venezuela, where people scrounge for food and other necessities of daily life, threatening to overwhelm neighbouring countries. Officials from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week to seek a way forward. In Brazil, rioters this month drove hundreds back over the border. Peru tightened entry rules for Venezuelans, requiring them to carry passports instead of just national ID cards, though a judge in Ecuador on Friday rolled back a similar rule enacted there.

Describing those events as early warning signs, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Joel Millman, said funding and means of managing the outflow must be mobilised. “This is building to a crisis moment that we’ve seen in other parts of the world, particularly in the Mediterranean,” he said. On Thursday, the IOM and UN refugee agency UNHCR called on Latin American countries to ease entry for Venezuelans, more than 1.6 million of whom have left since 2015.

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Millions of people moving to Peru and Chile? Maybe helping them at home is a better idea. Get the CIA out of Caracas first.

Ecuador Opens “Humanitarian Corridor” For Venezuelan Migrants (AFP)

Desperate Venezuelan migrants who made it across the border in time were breathing a sigh of relief hours before Peru’s tightened controls came into effect Saturday, preventing those not carrying passports from entering. “We have been on the road for five days. We traveled by bus and saw people, Venezuelans, walking along the road,” Jonathan Zambrano, 18, told AFP. Thousands of migrants fleeing the crippling economic crisis in their homeland had faced a race against time to cross into Peru from either Ecuador or Colombia after last week’s announcement from Lima that they had one week to enter before a passport would be required.

Until Saturday, a simple identity card was enough for Venezuelans heading south to escape food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation and failing public services back home. At one border crossing, Peruvian officers handed out balloons to exhausted children, but many Venezuelans feared it would be a different story once the new rules come into force. “People arrive with very few resources and after having traveled, five or six days being the shortest. There are people who’ve been traveling for months,” Regine de la Portilla of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR told AFP.

Ecuador opened a “humanitarian corridor” on Friday and lifted its own entry restrictions to facilitate the Venzuelans’ travels to Peru, one of the region’s fastest growing economies with 4.7 percent growth projected for next year. Ecuadoran Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini said Friday that 35 busloads of migrants were on the move along the route authorities had opened to Peru.

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This is Australia. Forget about housing bubbles and yokel PM’s. This is Australia.

‘Begging To Die’: Succession Of Critically Ill Children Moved Off Nauru (G.)

A girl suffering “resignation syndrome” and who is refusing all food and water has been ordered off Nauru by an Australian court, as a succession of critically ill children are brought from the island. At least three children have left the island since Thursday, and reports from island sources say at least three more children, as young as 12, are “on FFR” – food and fluid refusal. The current crisis on the island is overwhelming medical staff, who are referring dozens of children for transfer off the island, only to have their decisions rebuffed by Australian Border Force officials on the island or department of home affairs bureaucrats in Canberra. Two children were moved off the island with their families on Thursday.

Early on Friday morning, a 14-year-old refugee boy suffering a major depressive disorder and severe muscle wastage after not getting out of bed for four months, was flown directly from Nauru to Brisbane with his family. There are concerns, doctors say, he may never be able to walk normally again. Later on Friday, in the federal court, Justice Tom Thawley ordered another girl – given the designation EIV18 by the court – to be moved to Australia for urgent medical treatment. Court orders prevent publication of the girl’s age – other than the fact she is a child – her name or country of origin. [..] The girl has been inside the supported accommodation area of the regional processing centre for three weeks, and has been refusing food and water for much of that time.

Before she, too, fell into acute depression and “resignation syndrome”, and refused to eat or drink anything, she had been one of the brightest and most articulate of the refugee children on Nauru. “Before she got sick, she was the best-performing student,” a source familiar with the girl and her condition told the Guardian. “She had a dream to be a doctor in Australia and to help others. Now, she is on food-and-fluid refusal and begging to die as death is better than Nauru.”

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Aug 242018
 
 August 24, 2018  Posted by at 7:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Café, le soir, Arles 1888

 

Thoughts On The ‘Longest Bull Market Ever’ (Black)
New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon (Rickards)
UK Tells Drug Companies To Stockpile Medicine In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
Big Oil Asks Government To Protect It From Climate Change (AP)
Scott Morrison New Australian PM As Turnbull Denounces ‘Insurgency’ (G.)
Saudi Modernisation Drive Is Reflected In Aramco’s Faltering Sale (G.)
Libya Refuses To Take Migrants Rejected By Italy (AFP)
Italy Threatens To Stop EU Funding Unless Other States Accept Refugees (ZH)
Inflation Adjusted Gold Is At Historical Lows (von Greyerz)
Monsanto Faces A Surge In Lawsuits Following Cancer Ruling (BBC)
‘Monsanto’s History Is One Full of Vast Lies’ (Spiegel)
After 70 Years, Korean Father, Son Share A Drink For First, Last? Time (H.)

 

 

“..a full SIXTY PERCENT of corporate debt issued by companies in the Russell 2000 is rated as JUNK..”

Thoughts On The ‘Longest Bull Market Ever’ (Black)

Well, it happened. Yesterday the US stock market broke the all-time record for the longest bull market ever. This means that the US stock market has been generally rising for nearly a decade straight… or even more specifically, that the market has gone 3,453 days without a 20% correction. That’s a pretty big milestone. And there’s no end in sight. So it’s possible this market continues marching higher for the foreseeable future. But if you step back and really look at the big picture, there are a lot of things that might make a rational person scratch his/her head. For example– the Russell 2000 index (which is comprised of smaller companies whose shares are listed on various US stock exchanges) is currently right at its all-time high.

Yet simultaneously, according to the Wall Street Journal, a full SIXTY PERCENT of corporate debt issued by companies in the Russell 2000 is rated as JUNK. How is that even possible– a junk debt rating coupled with an all-time high? It’s as if investors are saying, “Well, there’s very little chance these companies will be able to pay their debts… but screw it, I’ll pay a record high price to buy the stock anyhow.” It just doesn’t make any sense. Looking at the larger companies in the Land of the Free (which make up the S&P 500 index), the current ‘CAPE ratio’ is now the second highest on record. ‘CAPE’ stands for ‘cyclically-adjusted price/earnings ratio’. Essentially it refers to how much investors are willing to pay for shares of a company, relative to the company’s long-term average earnings.

And right now investors are willing to pay 33x long-term average earnings for the typical company in the S&P 500. The median CAPE ratio based on data that goes back to the 1800s is about 15.6. So at 33, investors are literally paying more than TWICE as much for every dollar of a company’s long-term average earnings than they have throughout all of US market history. And it’s only been higher ONE other time– just before the 2000 stock market crash (when the dot-com bubble burst). 33 is higher than right before the 2008 crisis. It’s even higher than it was before the Great Depression.

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Building zombies for the future.

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon (Rickards)

There’s no denying China’s remarkable economic progress over the past thirty years. Hundreds of millions have escaped poverty and found useful employment in manufacturing or services in the major cities. Infrastructure gains have been historic, including some of the best trains in the world, state-of-the-art transportation hubs, cutting edge telecommunications systems, and a rapidly improving military. Yet, that’s only half the story. The other half is pure waste, fraud and theft. About 45% of Chinese GDP is in the category of “investment.” A developed economy GDP such as the U.S. is about 70% consumption and 20% investment. There’s nothing wrong with 45% investment in a fast-growing developing economy assuming the investment is highly productive and intelligently allocated.

That’s not the case in China. At least half of the investment there is pure waste. It takes the form of “ghost cities” that are fully-built with skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, clubs, and transportation networks – and are completely empty. This is not just western propaganda; I’ve seen the ghost cities first hand and walked around the empty offices and hotels. Chinese officials try to defend the ghost cities by claiming they are built for the future. That’s nonsense. Modern construction is impressive, but it’s also high maintenance. Those shiny new buildings require occupants, rents and continual maintenance to remain shiny and functional. The ghost cities will be obsolete long before they are ever occupied.

Other examples of investment waste include over-the-top white elephant public structures such as train stations with marble facades, 128 escalators (mostly empty), 100-foot ceilings, digital advertising and few passengers. The list can be extended to include airports, canals, highways, and ports, some of which are needed and many of which are pure waste. Communist party leaders endorse these wasteful projects because they have positive effects in terms of job creation, steel fabrication, glass installation, and construction. However, those effects are purely temporary until the project is completed. The costs are paid with borrowed money that can never be repaid. China might report 6.8% growth in GDP, but when the waste is stripped out the actual growth is closer to 4.5%. Meanwhile, China’s debts grow faster than the economy and its debt-to-GDP ratio is even worse than the U.S.

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It’s beginning to hit home that time has run out. Wait till the days shorten for real.

UK Tells Drug Companies To Stockpile Medicine In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

Health secretary Matt Hancock has told drug companies to ensure they have six weeks additional supplies of medicines on top of their normal stockpiles to avoid disruption caused by a possible no-deal Brexit. The remarks from Mr Hancock came as Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, released the first tranche of technical notes outlining the government’s preparations and warnings to businesses if Britain crashes out of the bloc without a deal. Among the 24 detailed papers it was also revealed that credit card users could be hit with a new “Brexit tax” amounting to £166m, UK citizens living in Europe face the prospect of losing access to pension income and new red tape could delay foreign sperm donations arriving in Britain.

In one of the most stark warnings, Mr Hancock told NHS staff and service providers that the move to increase pharmaceutical companies’ stockpiles was necessary “in case imports from the EU through certain routes” are affected if Theresa May fails to strike a deal with negotiators in Brussels. The request, according to the chief executive of the UK Bioindustry Association, Steve Bates, would be a “massive challenge” for the industry to deliver in less than 200 days. But Mr Hancock also warned that hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies should not hoard or stockpile additional drugs “beyond their business” as usual levels.

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Priceless.

Big Oil Asks Government To Protect It From Climate Change (AP)

As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

That followed Hurricane Harvey, which roared ashore last Aug. 25 and swamped Houston and parts of the coast, temporarily knocking out a quarter of the area’s oil refining capacity and causing average gasoline prices to jump 28 cents a gallon nationwide. Many Republicans argue that the Texas oil projects belong at the top of Washington’s spending list. “Our overall economy, not only in Texas but in the entire country, is so much at risk from a high storm surge,” said Matt Sebesta, a Republican who as Brazoria County judge oversees a swath of Gulf Coast. But the idea of taxpayers around the country paying to protect refineries worth billions, and in a state where top politicians still dispute climate change’s validity, doesn’t sit well with some.

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Another rightwing anti-immigrant yokel. That’s all they have down under.

Scott Morrison New Australian PM As Turnbull Denounces ‘Insurgency’ (G.)

Australia will have a new prime minister in Scott Morrison – the socially conservative architect of Australia’s hardline anti-asylum seeker policies – after he mounted a late challenge during a drawn-out struggle for power in the governing Liberal party. On Friday, incumbent Malcolm Turnbull failed in his attempt to stare down a challenge from hard right MP Peter Dutton, with insurgents in his party gathering enough signatures to call for a “spill” of the leadership. It led to a three-way challenge that included Morrison, Turnbull’s treasurer, and Julie Bishop, the foreign minister. Turnbull himself stood aside from the contest.

In a party room ballot, Bishop was eliminated in the first round, and Morrison won against former home affairs minister Dutton in a subsequent run-off, 45 votes to 40, suggesting the party is still deeply divided. There appears no end in sight to the civil war consuming the ruling Liberal-led coalition government. The country may be headed to an election, with Turnbull saying he will not stay in parliament. His resignation in between general elections would erase the government’s single-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Australia has now had five prime ministers in just over five years. Since 2010 four prime ministers have lost office not at the ballot box, but torn down by their own parties, earning Canberra the unhappy appellation “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

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Selling 5% of Aramco was supposed to finance ‘diversification’.

Saudi Modernisation Drive Is Reflected In Aramco’s Faltering Sale (G.)

For the Saudis, the implications of the Paris agreement were obvious: the drive to decarbonise the world economy would mean that a considerable part of their oil reserves would have to stay in the ground. This made a warning at the turn of the millennium by the former Saudi energy minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, seem suddenly urgent. “Thirty years from now, there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers”, Yamani said. “Oil will be left in the ground. The stone age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

It was not long before Saudi’s rulers responded to this twin challenge. In the short term, they sought to persuade fellow oil producing nations to agree production curbs that would limit supply, drive up crude prices and so ease the pressures on the public finances. At the current oil price of around $70 a barrel, the Saudis can make their budget arithmetic stack up. In the longer term, there was a plan to diversify the economy away from oil. Saudi Vision 2030 was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April 2016, shortly after the oil price reached its trough. The idea was to make Saudi Arabia a global investment giant, to turn the country into a hub linking the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa and to be the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The proposed sale of part of the state-owned oil company – Saudi Aramco – was a key part of this attempt to transform and modernise the economy. Proceeds were earmarked for the country’s sovereign wealth fund so it could continue investing in companies such as the electric car company Tesla and the ride-hailing app Uber.

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Thank you Barack and Hillary.

Libya Refuses To Take Migrants Rejected By Italy (AFP)

Libya has refused to take in a group of 177 migrants stranded on an Italian coastguard boat off a Sicilian port after Rome insisted they would not be allowed to disembark. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened earlier this week to return the migrants to the North African country unless other European governments offered to take some of them in. But Mohamed Siala, foreign minister of the UN-backed Libyan unity government, said that “Libya does not accept this unjust and illegal measure because it already has more than 700,000 migrants” on its territory.

In a statement late Wednesday, he called on the international community “to put pressure on the countries of departure to repatriate their nationals”, adding that Libya had only served as a transit point. The Italian boat “Diciotti” arrived on Monday night off the Sicilian port of Catania. Plunged into chaos following the fall and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Libya has become a prime transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants making dangerous clandestine bids to reach Europe. The country takes in migrants whose boats are intercepted in its waters by the Libyan coastguard, but it has repeatedly rejected those rescued by foreign navies or by humanitarian organisations off its coast.

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Who’s going to blame them?

Italy Threatens To Stop EU Funding Unless Other States Accept Refugees (ZH)

On Thursday, out of the blue, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio threatened to stop financial contributions to the European Union next year unless other states agreed to take in migrants being held on a coastguard ship in Sicily. The Italian’s ultimatum comes less two months after Europe triumphantly announced a “vaguely worded” deal on how to resolve the continent’s migrant influx. “If tomorrow at the meeting of the European Commission nothing is decided on the redistribution of migrants and the Diciotti ship, I and the entire Five Star Movement are not willing to give 20 billion to the European Union,” Di Maio said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

He echoed statements by Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, who has refused to allow 177 migrants to leave the Italian coastguard ship Ubaldo Diciotti, which is docked in the Sicilian port of Catania. While Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into the detention of the migrants and 29 children were allowed to disembark, Salvini still won’t allow the rest of the people to come ashore and has attacked the EU for its “cowardly silence.” Salvini described those aboard as “illegal immigrants,” and said they won’t be allowed to step foot on Italian soil. Instead, he insisted fellow European Union nations take in some of the asylum-seekers. “Italy’s no longer Europe’s refugee camp,” he tweeted. “Upon my authorization, no one is disembarking from the Diciotti.”

Salvini, who is also interior minister, was defiant in the face of a criminal probe into possible kidnapping charges for forcing the migrants to remain on the vessel. The chief prosecutor from the Agrigento court, Luigi Patronaggio, on Wednesday boarded the Diciotti and said afterwards he had opened a probe against “unknown” persons for holding the migrants against their will. “There’s a court that is investigating whether those illegally on board the ship have been kidnapped,” Salvini said in a radio interview. “I’m not unknown. My name is Matteo Salvini… I’m the Interior Minister and I think it is my duty to defend the security of this country’s borders.”

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Just liked the graph, don’t want to tell anyone to buy anything.

Inflation Adjusted Gold Is At Historical Lows (von Greyerz)

Gold at $1,220, adjusted for real inflation, is almost as cheap as it was in 1999 at the $250 low. More importantly, inflation adjusted gold is now very near the 300 year low of 1999. So right now gold is again unloved and undervalued and therefore a bargain. On an inflation adjusted basis, the 1980 high of $850 would today be $16,650. Long before we get hyperinflationary gold prices, that $16,600 level should be easily reached. Owning physical gold for wealth protection purposes is the best preserved secret in the West. In this part of the world, virtually nobody holds gold. At the same time, the wise people in the East continue to buy all the gold that is produced annually. China, India, Iran, Turkey, Russia and many more Eastern nations understand history and economics. That is why they are accumulating major gold reserves at these levels.

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Bayer really didn’t see this coming.

Monsanto Faces A Surge In Lawsuits Following Cancer Ruling (BBC)

American agro-chemicals company Monsanto is facing a surge in lawsuits that may cost its new owners, Bayer, billions in damages. Monsanto manufactures glyphosate-based weedkillers which some believe are carcinogenic. Last month it lost a $289m (£225m) court case that alleged its products Roundup and RangerPro had led to a Californian man’s terminal cancer. Bayer said the number of outstanding cases had risen from 5,200 to 8,000. The German firm’s shares have lost 11% of their value since it lost the case in a California court to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed Monsanto herbicides containing glyphosate, had caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Bayer shares fell another 1.7% on Thursday. Chief executive Werner Baumann said that when it bought Monsanto, Bayer “could not foresee the scope of the current lawsuits.” The $63bn deal was completed earlier this month. “In the course of the acquisition, we carried out due diligence as is standard practice when taking over a listed company. In doing so, we of course also considered the legal risks,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper. In a conference call on Thursday, Mr Baumann added: “Our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs’ cases”.

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“..Another program is called “Freedom to Operate.” Its purpose is to eliminate everything that might disrupt sales of their products – laws, scientific articles, they go after everything.”

‘Monsanto’s History Is One Full of Vast Lies’ (Spiegel)

On Aug. 10, lawyer Brent Wisner, 34, scored a landmark verdict on behalf of his client, cancer patient Dewayne Johnson. A court in San Francisco ruled that Monsanto was guilty of concealing the potential health risks associated with its weed killer glyphosate, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Round Up. The jury ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages to the plaintiff, who had used Round Up at his job as a janitor for a school district. The court said Monsanto should have labeled the product’s possible dangers for consumers. Monsanto, which was recently acquired by German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has denied any link between the product and the disease. Wisner spoke to DER SPIEGEL about the case in an interview.

[..] DER SPIEGEL: How much does Monsanto have to do with the fact that a verdict was reached only now? Wisner: A lot! Monsanto has an internal program called “Let Nothing Go.” The aim of this program is to attack scientists who are critical of Monsanto products. They go after people directly and discredit them. They also pay others to do so. DER SPIEGEL: Are there other such PR strategies? Wisner: Another program is called “Freedom to Operate.” Its purpose is to eliminate everything that might disrupt sales of their products – laws, scientific articles, they go after everything. As part of that effort, they also engage lobbyists – scientists who Monsanto pays for their opportunism. Such programs reflect a corporate culture that shows no interest whatsoever in public health, only in profits.

DER SPIEGEL: Monsanto continues to dispute that it tried to influence scientific research. What was the critical factor for jurors in reaching the verdict? Wisner: I believe it was the scientific findings themselves. The 12 jurors were not lightweights after all. There was a molecular biologist, an environmental engineer, a lawyer. Some colleagues told me: “Be careful Brent, so much intelligence can be an impediment.” But I was certain that the arguments in the critical studies, parts of which were suppressed, were the strongest evidence we had.

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Sad and joyful. Why Korea’s really want peace.

After 70 Years, Korean Father, Son Share A Drink For First, Last? Time (H.)

As soon as 91-year-old Lee Gi-sun got up on the morning of Aug. 22, he pulled out one of the bottles of soju, a potent distilled liquor, that he’d stashed in the bottom of his suitcase. He’d brought this precious liquor to accompany a ceremony for which he’d waited his entire life – a daytime drink with his son! At 10 am on Aug. 22, the final day of the three-day reunion for families divided by the Korean War, family members met in the banquet hall on the second floor of the Mt. Kumgang Hotel to say their goodbyes. A few hours hence, they would return to their respective homes in South and North Korea, with no guarantee of seeing each other again. The father filled a cup with the soju he’d brought.

After taking a sip himself, he silently passed the cup to his son. Gi-sun’s North Korean son, Gang-son (69 years old himself), was also silent as he took the cup and brought it to his lips. This was the first drink shared by the white-haired father and son, and it very well might be their last. It was a heartrending moment when the father’s lifelong dream came true. “We were separated when he was two years old. Two years old,” the father said, letting the last phrase linger in the air. In Jan. 1951, he and his older brother had left their families behind in their home of Yonbaek County, Hwanghae Province, fleeing south with UN troops beaten back by the Chinese onslaught. Gi-sun had assumed he would soon be able to return.

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