Aug 052019
 


Odilon Redon Peyrelebade landscape 1880

 

It’s never easy to gauge what exactly is happening in China, or why the CCP Politburo takes the decisions it does. Today, or overnight, is no exception to that. However, one thing that appears certain, but which I don’t see reflected in all the analyses, is that Beijing pushing the value of the renminbi (yuan) down below 7 to the USD in one fell swoop, is a major setback for Xi Jinping and his government.

Yes, China may have given up hope of reaching positive conclusions in its trade talks with the US. And yes, some may think, even in China itself, that devaluing the currency is a tool that can be useful in a potential currency war. But there’s another side to this coin. It’s not even about the value itself, or the change in it, it’s the heavy-handed way it’s executed.

 

China wants, and desperately needs too, for the yuan to be a force in global financial markets. In very simple terms this is true because if it then wants to buy something, it can simply print the money for it. But only about 1% of global trade today is executed in yuan. That is not nearly enough. It means China needs dollars and euros, all the time. And devaluing the yuan means the country needs even more of those.

You’d almost think: why would you want to do that? What are the long-term prospects for a move like this? You’re telling forex markets that the value of the yuan is not trustworthy, because if Xi or the PBOC decides in the next five minutes that it should go up or down by 10% or 20%, they can do it. The Fed and ECB also have tools to manipulate their currencies (re: interest rates), but none of that magnitude.

 

The crux of the dilemma probably lies in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which I’ve been saying for years is just China’s way to sell its overcapacity and overproduction abroad. Sure, there may be loftier goals, and surely in the glitzy brochures, but the fact remains that China has tried to be an economic miracle, doing in 10 years what took the US a century, and it never slowed down its growth, at least not voluntarily, even if that might have been a wise move.

Already lately, purchases by Chinese citizens and companies of real estate and businesses abroad have been curtailed, and not a little bit, by Beijing. There’s no better way to convince Chinese people of the miracle’s success than to let them travel the world and spend there, but that, too, may well soon be cut. It kills foreign reserves.

If Beijing could charge participating countries in the Belt and Road Initiative in yuan, and they could pay for the overcapacity’s steel and cement and what not in yuan, that could be a game-changing program for the entire planet. But these countries have no reason to hold yuan, other than the BRI itself. And they, too, were watching the overnight move above 7 and must have thought: let’s be careful now.

And to top it all off, China right now needs for these countries to pay in dollars instead of yuan, because its foreign reserves are shrinking so fast. It’s Catch-22 all the way down. China’s need for dollars goes against everything BRI stands for.

 

Could the move hurt the US as well? Absolutely. But the long-term view behind the tariffs, and the talks China appears to have lost faith in, is to move the US away from its near all-encompassing addiction to Chinese production, and to move at least some of that production back home. Problem of course is, that is precisely what China’s miracle growth has been built on.

If the US starts bringing production home, who is Beijing going to sell its (over-)production to? Yes, I hear you, to the BRI countries. But there it runs into the currency problems mentioned before. To Europe? The top of that trade route is also behind us. Europe will have to follow the US to an extent, and also bring factories back to the continent (and not just to Germany either).

China could perhaps sell more than it does today to Russia. But that country still does produce a lot of things, and has been forced to be much more self-sufficient due to US and EU sanctions. It’s also a mighty small market compared to 350 million North Americans and 500 million Europeans, who are on average much richer than your average Russian to boot.

 

There is a way for China to make the yuan more important in global trade (but devaluation is definitely not that way): Beijing could let go of its central and total control over the value of its currency, and let forex markets figure it out. That would give traders -and everyone else- faith in the value. Problem with that is, this is not how central control communist governments think.

Beijing wants both: central total control AND a prominent place in world trade. And it may take them a long time to figure out that is not going to happen, unless of course they first conquer the entire world militarily. That is not an option, at least not for the foreseeable future. Come see me next century.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time for me to say I can see China retreat into itself, into its own borders and culture and market (1.3 billion people!). If the Communist Party wants to remain in power, and there’s no doubt it does, this may be only possible choice going forward. If growth has indeed left the miracle -as many observers think-, it can implode in very rapid succession. And even if growth hasn’t yet evaporated, it may well very soon. Without the growth, there is no miracle anymore.

And if China can no longer grow its exports, its domestic growth will also become a thing of the past. Domestic consumption can only grow as long as exports do too. Seen from that angle, the problems with trade and the currency look downright ominous. If you need dollars that badly, and you notice that you’re already getting fewer of them, not more, you’re in trouble.

Devaluing your currency may afford you some temporary respite, but it can’t possibly solve your troubles. It can make them much worse though.

I think China has wanted too much too fast, got carried away and forgot to take care of a few potential barriers to its growth, in particular the standing its currency had and still has in the world, and the grinding need for dollars that stems from it. And the Communists have no answer to this problem.

 

 

 

 

Jul 152019
 
 July 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano L. Logan, boilermaker at the roundhouse in the Proviso yard in Melrose Park, near Chicago 1942

 

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)
UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)
Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)
China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)
China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)
China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)
US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)
Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)
Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)
Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)
Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)
Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)
Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

 

 

The theme is better than the article, but that’s fine once in a while. Is the Longest Expansion in actual fact the Longest Recession?

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)

I say “It’s been a great recession” because we never actually left the Great Recession. Rather than the longest expansion in US history, we’ve been enduring the longest recession in US history ever since the dot-com bust. The above chart shows the GDP growth rate, and the REAL GDP “growth” rate, which has actually been contraction, not growth, for the past two decades if measured by historic standards. So long as GDP is growing, (above 0 on the chart above), we’re in expansion. Whenever GDP is shrinking (below 0 on the chart below), we’re in recession. So, when you see financial commentators writing or talking about “the longest expansion on record,” this month, translate that in light of this article.

It is only the longest expansion on record if you change the way you calculate GDP from the way previous records were calculated. It’s sort of like saying, “This person ran the longest marathon in history,” but not memtion that we’ve reduced the length of the kilometer or mile by which we measure marathons. The government (and the Fed) love to cook the books. They do it under the guise that old numbers really were not all that accurate, but if that were truly the reason, why is it the “corrections” and “adjustments” always serve to make the present regime’s numbers look better? (Perhaps people doing the calculations in the past were willing to be more conservative in terms of how much they patted themselves on the back for how well they were doing?)

Read more …

Brexit will hit like a hammer. Not because Brexit itself is such a bad idea, but because a bunch of complete wankers have been working it out.

UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)

Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers. Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support. Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read. The survey of 1,290 frontline family support workers from 616 organisations across the UK was published by the poverty grants charity Buttle UK.


It said it was undertaken to provide a “thermometer reading” of the lives of some the UK’s most vulnerable families. It comes amid rising concern that alongside headline increases in relative poverty in recent years – more than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution. Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.

Read more …

Stimulus!

Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)

Chinese growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades in the second quarter with the US-China trade war and weakening global demand weighing on the world’s second-biggest economy, official data showed Monday. The slowdown makes it more difficult for president Xi Jinping to fight back forcefully against the US, which is using tariffs as leverage to try to force Beijing into opening up its economy. The 6.2% figure released by the national bureau of statistics on Monday was in line with forecasts by analysts and down from an expansion of 6.4% in the first quarter. The GDP figures are within the government’s target range of 6.0-6.5% for the whole year, down from the 6.6% growth China posted in 2018.


“Economic conditions are still severe both at home and abroad, global economic growth is slowing down and the external instabilities and uncertainties are increasing,” said bureau spokesman Mao Shengyong. “The economy is under new downward pressure,” he said. Beijing has introduced measures this year to boost the economy, but they have not been enough to offset a domestic slowdown and softening overseas demand made worse by a punishing trade war with its biggest trading partner country, the US. Exports to the world rose only 0.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year. Analysts widely expect Beijing will step up support for the economy in coming months and the prospect cheered investors in China where stocks rose.

Read more …

Chinese factories don’t stop producing when there are no clients. That why there’s Belt and Road.

China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)

China’s daily crude steel output rose to record levels in June, according to Reuters calculations, even as anti-pollution production curbs pushed whole-month production slightly lower, official data showed on Monday. The world’s biggest steel producer churned out 87.53 million tonnes of crude steel last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. That was down from a record 89.09 million tonnes in May – the first monthly drop this year – as the government stepped up its drive to cut smog, but still well above 80.2 million tonnes in June 2018 as daily output grew.


Average daily output of steel was around 2.92 million tonnes, calculations showed, compared with 2.87 million tonnes in May. The monthly drop for June came as the smog-prone northern province of Hebei, which accounts for a quarter of China’s total steel output, ordered local governments to bring forward capacity cuts and anti-pollution measures to meet annual air quality targets. The Hebei cities of Handan and Tangshan extended production curbs until August. Analysts expect the restrictions, if fully implemented, will have a bigger impact than curbs usually imposed in winter to restrict smog, and will trim blast furnace operations by around 40% in the region.

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There were two headlines for this artilce, the one I used and, kid you not: “China home price growth cools in June, but investment quickens”

China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)

Growth in China’s new home prices cooled in June as sales shrank for a second month, but building starts and investment quickened, providing a cushion for the slowing economy while Beijing claims some wins in reducing market froth. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities grew 0.6% in June from a month earlier, easing from a 0.7% gain in May, according to Reuters calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Monday. That marked the 50th straight month of price gains. Most of the cities still reported higher prices. Sixty-three of the total 70 cities surveyed by the NBS reported higher prices in June, down from 67 cities in May.


On an annual basis, home prices increased 10.3% in June, easing from 10.7% in May. The weakness mainly came from tier-1 cities. Prices in China’s four top-tier cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – rose an average of 0.2% from a month earlier, slowing from a 0.3% uptick in May. For tier-2 cities, which include most of larger provincial capitals, home prices grew 0.8% in June, identical with the previous month’s advance. Despite still elevated prices in some of China’s biggest cities, many analysts are still bearish on the market’s overall outlook this year as demand in smaller cities – which account for 70% of sales by floor area – will likely falter, and as Beijing has not indicated it will ease nationwide property curbs anytime soon.

Read more …

Article quotes westerners who say everything’s fine, and also suggests it’s not at all.

China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)

Xinjiang, a fraught region where flare-ups of interethnic violence have led to unprecedented levels of surveillance, is one of the fastest growing areas for tourism in China. Armed police and frequent checkpoints have not dampened the flow of vacationers visiting the region, which in 2018 saw a 40 percent increase year-on-year of visits – mainly from domestic tourists – outstripping the national average by 25 percent, according to official figures. Business has grown steadily over the years mainly because “Xinjiang is very stable”, explained Wu Yali, who runs a travel agency in the region. Though tourists are not used to the high-level of security at first, “they adapt after a few days,” she told AFP. But travellers are barred from witnessing the most controversial part of Xinjiang’s security apparatus: the network of internment camps spread across the vast region.


Many of these facilities are outside main tourist hubs and are fenced off with razor-wired walls. On a six-day trip to the region last month, AFP reporters encountered roadblocks and were turned away by security forces upon nearing some camps. China describes the facilities as “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking “trainees” learn Mandarin and job skills. “The violence that is being inflicted on the bodies of Uighur and other Muslim people…has been rendered invisible,” said Rachel Harris, who studies Uighur culture and music at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. “For a tourist who goes and travels around a designated route, it all looks nice,” she told AFP. “It’s all very quiet and that’s because there’s a regime of terror being imposed on the local people.”

Read more …

For both the US and EU, the solution to this is clear: help people fix their countries so they can live there and prosper. Unless we do that, the problems will persist and grow.

US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)

The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, then postponed before telling reporters on Friday that it would proceed, was expected to target hundreds of recently arrived families in about 10 cities who had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States. Immigrants and their advocates were bracing for mass arrests, but by Sunday night there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.


“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update. Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta. There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas. “Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.

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It has become their main identity. Like Novichok is a Monty Python skid.

Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)

The British government appears to be more and more aping a Monty Python-type farce with each passing day. Soon the absurd ensemble will be complete if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt becomes the next prime minister. This week the mandarins at the Ministry of Funny Walks ruled that two internationally respected Russian news media channels were banned from attending a global conference on “press freedom”. RT and another Russia-based news outlet Sputnik were refused permission by the British government to participate in the Global Conference for Media Freedom, held in London. A British Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their earlier role in spreading disinformation.”

The irony of it. The British government is peddling unsubstantiated accusations (more accurately, ridiculous slander) against Russian media which is then invoked as “justification” for censorship at a much-vaunted international conference supposedly dedicated to freedom of the press. You could hardly make the farce up. It’s a kind of cross between George Orwell and Monty Python. What the British government is doing is blatantly ramping up the media war against Russia. London is giving a license for further outrageous repression of Russian news media, as well as piling on demonization of Russia as a state.

[..] It is bitterly ironic that an independent journalist like Julian Assange of the Wikileaks website is being currently detained in a maximum security British prison on trumped-up extradition charges to the US for spying – when Assange’s real “crime” is that he exposed American and British war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Arguably, Assange’s credibility and appreciation among ordinary citizens the world over is much higher than either of the US or British governments, or their mainstream media. The same dichotomy applies to the two above-mentioned Russia-based news channels. Not able to cope with hearing the critical message, the British government has resorted to shooting the messenger. However, the British and international public can see what’s going on here, and so the “emperor” is hastily, clumsily trying to cover up the embarrassment from being exposed.

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Spruik. Good word. Good article too. “..bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction..”

Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)

Collective violence, such as torturing a publisher for journalism, requires more than persecuting authorities, mobbing states and media smear campaigns to survive. Those who orchestrate and perpetrate state-sanctioned violence depend crucially and fundamentally upon one other thing. That thing is bystanders. Atrocity does not take place without passive, complacent, compliant bystanders: citizens watching silently, declining to take a stand, even as their leaders say one thing at global media conferences and do precisely the reverse in the real world.

Passive bystanders are the social pillars of atrocity, fashioned from “kindly people, struggling to evaluate the actions they are agents or accomplices in” writes Professor of Philosophy, Adam Morton. The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, who died screaming as neighbours listened on, prompted psychologists to investigate the processes by which kindly people might become agents and accomplices in horror, such torturing a journalist in Belmarsh while elites parse media freedom at exclusive conference dinners, practically next door. A simple and pedestrian psychological culprit emerged, known as diffusion of responsibility. In numerous research paradigms since 1964, when witnessing an emergency among a group of seemingly unconcerned others, most people will fail to intervene.

The more people that are present, and the less alarmed they all appear to be, the less inclined is each individual to act. The ensuing collective stasis is driven partly by a diminished sense of personal responsibility, and partly by conformity, or a reluctance to stand out. Such prosaic group processes, on display in spades at the Global Media Freedom Conference, can paradoxically make it easier to commit violence before a sea of onlookers than before one or two passers-by. Which is just as well for the elites in London holding Julian Assange bound and gagged in Belmarsh, metaphorically speaking, while listening to Amal Clooney and embracing a joint statement by four Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, with a straight face.

Peace psychologist Ervin Staub writes, “The passivity of witnesses, internal bystanders who are part of the population… affirms perpetrators and allows the unfolding of the evolution of violence”. He adds, “bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction”.

Read more …

The EU will have to act. But it’s the last thing they want to do.

Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in waters off Cyprus if the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government does not accept a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriots, Ankara’s foreign minister has said. Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that both parties on the divided island cooperate in exploration and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions in the region have risen after Turkey told energy firms not to work with the Greek Cypriot government, and sent two ships to drill off the island. Cyprus issued arrest warrants for the crew of one of the ships, and the European Union is discussing curbing contacts and funds for Turkey in response.


The dispute stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus, linked to the 45-year-old split of the island and Ankara’s rejection of agreements Cyprus has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones. In an article for the Cyprus Post published on Sunday, Cavusoglu said that until Greek Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akinci on Saturday to work with Turkish Cypriots, Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work, “with determination and without change.”

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The old elites are back in charge, and the country will feel it. So what is the EU going to do? Side with the right wing?

Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras appears confident that the country can enter a “virtuous cycle” of growth, strengthen market confidence and negotiate a deal with its lenders to trim a high primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in exchange for an acceleration of reforms and investments now that a center-right government is in power. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the central banker also said that he would welcome a judicial inquiry into what he describes as a “coordinated effort” by the previous administration to malign his character and prevent him from carrying out his duties.

“Success in restarting the Greek economy… will depend on whether the new government, taking advantage of market confidence, adopts policy measures to attract new investments,” Stournaras said. “If these measures are forward-looking and reliable, the Greek economy will soon enter a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle of reliability, credibility and growth,” the central banker said. This “virtuous cycle” of strengthened credibility, Stournaras said, could lead to rating upgrades, which would be “a key condition to a review of the primary surplus target.” This, he added, would “give the economy the room it needs to grow.”

Commenting on the new government’s plan to introduce a series of tax reductions in order to ease the burden on the middle class, Stournaras said that “changing the fiscal policy mix with a lightening of the tax load (including social security contributions) on workers and businesses is imperative.” He added that while the previous government’s policy of high taxation managed to stem the growth of public debt thanks to large primary surprises, it also suppressed the economy’s growth potential.

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The new PM has promised new agreements with the EU. But they can’t give him any, other than superficial ones.

Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)

The high primary surplus targets may be one of the toughest legacies passed down to the new administration by the Alexis Tsipras government. An agreement with creditors for reducing the target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product is a key priority for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which analysts and economists speaking to Kathimerini say is feasible but only under specific conditions. “The reduction of the targets for the primary surpluses will be a difficult uphill road for the Greek government, mainly because the northern European states are not so willing to accept the idea of a level below 3.5 percent for the medium term,” says Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group. “For the time being no such negotiation is expected, but this is possible for the targets after 2021,” he predicts.


Raffaella Tenconi, an economist at Wood, appears to agree, saying that “the maximum likely is a 0.5 percent of GDP discount for 2021 and 2022 – a short window until it drops to 2 percent,” but reminds that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “again said there is no big reason to change the goals.” Rahman adds that “what Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government have to do is first build a relationship of confidence with the creditors, second proceed with structural reforms so as to send the right message, and third to continue the fiscal policy and adhere to what has been agreed in order to bring to negotiation in Brussels the reductionn of targets. This is an issue concerning 2021.” Teneo Intelligence Co-President Wolfango Piccoli comments that “only a fool would have expected a positive stance from the creditors about reducing the primary surplus target the day after the election.”

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Just about the very first thing the right wing government has done. Count me not surprised.

Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

Labor and Social Affair Minister, Nikos Vroutsis, has cancelled a ministerial decision regarding the issuing of social security number (AMKA) to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied refugee children and non-EU nationals. The decision, in fact a circular signed by three SYRIZA ministers for Health, Migration and Social Solidarity was issued on June 20, less than a month than the general elections. Justifying his decision to block the issue, Vroutsis said that the Issue of AMKA to non-EU nationals will be re-examined and new directives will be published.


The Social security number is essential to access services in Health, Education and Labor. To the immediate and harsh criticism by SYRIZA that conservative New Democracy will implement harsh policies to services provided to refugees and migrants living in Greece, Vroutsis responded with a tweet: “A few days before the election, SYRIZA issued an easily disproved circular, opposed to the law that provides AMKA to third-country nationals in arbitrary way. Labor ministry services were opposing this. I abolished it immediately. Our Country is not an unfenced backyard.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 092019
 
 July 9, 2019  Posted by at 8:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Guernica [Study] III 1937

 

Carnage At Deutsche Bank (Coppola)
Gold Is At A Historical Low (Von Greyerz)
Trump Hits Out At May After Leak Of Damning Cables (AFP)
Barr Talks 2020 Citizenship Question, Recuses Self From Epstein Case (ZH)
I Hear That Train a’Comin’ (Kunstler)
How Syriza Let The Greek Right Escape The Dustbin Of History (Varoufakis)
Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam: Extradition Bill ‘Is Dead’ (CNBC)
Almost Half Of Brits Are Stockpiling Food, Medicine And Clothes (BI)
Russia Prepares S-400 Systems For Delivery To Turkey (AP)
Russia-Gate Blossoms Into Deep-State-Gate (McGovern)
Russia’s RT and Sputnik Barred From UK Conference On Media Freedom (G.)
Juror Urges US Judge To Uphold $80 Million Roundup Verdict Against Bayer (R.)

 

 

No, we’re not going to feel sorry for bankers.

Carnage At Deutsche Bank (Coppola)

The outlook for many of the terminated staff is grim, particularly in the U.K. where Brexit uncertainty is casting a considerable shadow. Not that anyone outside the finance industry cares, much. The British haven’t forgotten the financial crisis of 2008. The business that Deutsche Bank is closing down is bigger than Nissan’s automobile manufacturing plant in Sunderland, the uncertain future of which has hit headlines and led to questions in the U.K. Parliament. But no-one is going to lose any sleep over unemployed investment bankers – even if there are more of them than there are workers at the Sunderland plant. The silence from British politicians about the prospect of up to 8,000 British workers losing their jobs is deafening.

But the woes of terminated staff don’t concern Deutsche Bank’s Chief Executive, Christian Sewing. He has a bank to rescue, and investors to placate. His letter to staff had a distinctly ruthless tone: “I am very much aware that in rebuilding our bank, we are making deep cuts. I personally greatly regret the impact this will have on some of you. In the long-term interests of our bank, however, we have no choice other than to approach this transformation decisively.” “I weep for you, I really do…” while dishing out the redundancy notices. Sewing has all the personnel skills of a crocodile.

Just how little concern Sewing has for the feelings of the staff he is letting go became apparent at 9.30 am London time. While hundreds of staff in the London office were being sacked, executive management held a conference call – from the London office. During that call, the Chief Executive, Christian Sewing, announced that the bank still plans to maintain a large presence in London. In fact it is intending to move into shiny new offices on Moorgate. It is not hard to imagine how the sacked staff felt about this. It amounted to rubbing their noses in it.

Read more …

“..the peak price for gold in 1980 at $850, today would be $18,160 adjusted for inflation.”

Gold Is At A Historical Low (Von Greyerz)

[..] when we entered our physical gold investment in 2002, I had certainly been “sitting” for a very long time. Gold started the current bull market in 1971 at $35, made a temporary top in 1980 at $850 and then spent 20 years correcting. But the gold bull certainly hadn’t finished, central banks saw to that. They continued their irresponsible monetary policy, leading to a chronic credit expansion, debasement of currencies and thereby permanently underwriting the gold price. Looking at gold on an inflation adjusted basis, 2000 was the lowest point since 1971 when the price was $35 per ounce (based on Shadow Government Statistics inflation calculation).


The gold chart below, adjusted for real inflation, shows this amazing insurance can be bought today at an all-time historical low. Gold priced currently at $1,400 is cheaper than in 2000 at $280, cheaper than in 1970 when gold was $35 or in 1780 when gold was traded in London at £4 per ounce. What the chart also shows is that the peak price for gold in 1980 at $850, today would be $18,160 adjusted for inflation. There is no reason why gold wouldn’t reach that level in the next few years, especially as the gold paper market implodes.

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Which government is more inept?

Trump Hits Out At May After Leak Of Damning Cables (AFP)

Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack Monday on outgoing British premier Theresa May, following the leak of diplomatic cables highly critical of his presidency. London has been scrambling to stem the damage caused by the weekend release of confidential telegrams in which its envoy to Washington, Kim Darroch, described the US leader as “inept” and his White House as “uniquely dysfunctional.” Visibly angered by May’s continuing support for her ambassador — which Downing Street reiterated on Monday — Trump assailed the prime minister over her handling of fraught Brexit negotiations, and welcomed her impending departure from office.


“What a mess she and her representatives have created,” Trump fumed in a series of tweets. “I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.” “The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister,” he wrote. As for London’s man in Washington, Trump declared he would have no further contact with him. “I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S,” the president said, doubling down on weekend comments claiming his administration were “not big fans” of Darroch. “We will no longer deal with him,” Trump vowed. But even after Trump’s remarks, a government spokesman said that “Sir Kim Darroch continues to have the prime minister’s full support.”

Read more …

“..he used to work for one of the law firms representing Epstein “long ago..”

Nothing else about Epstein for now, but I find the reports interesting about no-one knowing where his money comes from. Financiers leave traces of their work, he did not.

Barr Talks 2020 Citizenship Question, Recuses Self From Epstein Case (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that the Trump administration can legally add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which had been excluded for the first time in US history by President Obama. Barr told the Associated Press that he has been in regular contact with President Trump over the matter. “I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong,” said Barr – referring to the USSC’s June Decision to block the citizenship question, adding that there is “an opportunity potentially to cure the lack of clarity that was the problem and we might as well take a shot at doing that.” According to the report, President Trump is likely to issue a presidential memorandum to the Commerce Department over the next several days ordering it to include the citizenship question.

Last week the Justice Department appeared to cave to legal pressure to keep the question off the census, only for President Trump to reverse course the next day – tweeting that the efforts to print the question would move forward. “The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the president has tweeted,” DOJ attorney Joshua Gardner told a federal judge during a Wednesday teleconference, adding “But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.” The DOJ on Sunday also announced that it would be replacing its entire legal team dealing with the citizenship issue – replacing them with other government attorneys.

On Monday, Barr told reporters that he had recused himself from the case involving billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of sex-trafficking minors, according to the Washington Times. Barr says that he used to work for one of the law firms representing Epstein “long ago,” though he did not name the firm.

Read more …

Didn’t Jim used to be a Democrat?

I Hear That Train a’Comin’ (Kunstler)

The Republican Party is a train of booby-trapped freight cars that can blow at any time. The engine is running on the fumes of the financialized economy. The engineer, Mr. Trump, only has his eye on the gauge that represents the stock market, which produces the gaseous emanations running his train. But the tank cars are leaking. The vapors are highly flammable. Any little spark can set it off, and surely will.

The Democratic Party is carrying seventeen gondola cars of the worst political scandal in US history: RussiaGate, the attempted coup d’état by national gaslighting, which will expose dozens of party officers and foot-soldiers in an actual criminal conspiracy, and subject them to ignominious prosecution in the heart of the election year. The damage could run as high as former President Obama when all is said and done, with Mrs. Clinton dragged under the wheels in the ensuing train wreck. It will be ugly and embarrassing to the max.

The Dem’s train also includes the circus cars of its identity politics hustlers, Reps AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley plus the sideshow of so-far-suppressed Joe Biden scandals concerning massive cash payoffs from Ukraine and China to his entrepreneurial son, Hunter — conveniently arranged during his Dad’s official trips to those places as Vice-president. There is reason to believe that a majority of voters are good and goddam sick of identity hustling and the tiresome racket of political correctness that spawned it. They see its bottomless appetite for grievance and complaint — against a reality in which life is difficult for everybody, not just self-proclaimed victims of oppression.

They smell the odor of bad faith in the party’s campaign for an open border with Mexico and its abject refusal to legislate immigration law reform — while grandstanding about the alleged mistreatment of people who cross the border illegally. Most of all, they are sick of the endless moral instruction and coercion, especially over “gender” issues and sexual boundary-stretching, the parades of freaks in dog masks, ball gags, and S & M get-ups, not to mention the utter insanity of the drag queen story hour, in which men perform as monstrous caricatures of women for impressionable six-year-olds. That is what it’s come to for the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy.

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“..on one side, apparatchiks connected to vulture funds and failed banks and, on the other, ultra-nationalist former fascists.”

How Syriza Let The Greek Right Escape The Dustbin Of History (Varoufakis)

The Greek right is back: greedier, uglier and more focused than ever. The incoming New Democracy government is determined to reclaim full control of the state on behalf of the most parasitic segment of Greece’s oligarchy and, of course, of our country’s ruthless creditors. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the new prime minister, is a scion of one of the dynasties responsible for Greece’s perpetual bankruptcy, corruption and subservience to the Atlanticist oligarchy-without-borders. Tellingly, he has surrounded himself with, on one side, apparatchiks connected to vulture funds and failed banks and, on the other, ultra-nationalist former fascists.

Together, Mr Mitsotakis’ motley reactionaries plan to unleash a fresh class war against a people who have already lost almost everything, against minorities, against our environment, against common decency. How did this happen? Four short years ago, Greek voters gave Syriza, the party of the radical left, a mandate to unseat the oligarchs and confine New Democracy to its rightful place — the dustbin of history. On 25 January 2015, caught up in the moment’s excitement, I quoted from Dylan Thomas to convey a message of hope to progressives across the globe: “Greek democracy,” I wrote, “today chose to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light.”

So, what went wrong? What was it that allowed the restoration of an authoritarian, incompetent regime that wrecked Greece before turning it into a harsh debtor’s prison from which emigration was, and remains, the only escape? When did my fellow Greeks stop raging against the long night of our debt bondage? The answer is: the night of Sunday 5 July 2015.

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But she won’t withdraw it.

Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam: Extradition Bill ‘Is Dead’ (CNBC)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the controversial extradition bill that has led to mass protests in the city is “dead.” Addressing the weeks-long drama during a news conference, she reiterated that there is no plan to restart the legislation. She described the work to amend the bill as a “total failure.” Lam, meanwhile, said she took full responsibility for what has happened in the city, according to a translation of her address. Political tensions in Hong Kong have risen in recent weeks amid protests over an extradition bill that would have allowed some arrested in the city to be sent for trial in mainland China.


The bill had been suspended after a first round of demonstrations, but protesters continued taking to the street with calls for it to be withdrawn completely. “I have almost immediately put a stop to the (bill) amendment exercise, but there are still lingering doubts about the government’s sincerity, or worries whether the government will restart the process in the legislative council, so I reiterate here: There is no such plan, the bill is dead.” Notably, Lam did not say that she is officially withdrawing the bill, raising questions about to what extent the measure could be revived in the future.

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Halloween is less than 4 months away.

Almost Half Of Brits Are Stockpiling Food, Medicine And Clothes (BI)

Four out of ten Brits are stockpiling items including food, medicine and clothes in preparation for the growing prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal later this year. 40% of people in the UK have started stockpiling goods in fear that there will be shortages in a no-deal Brexit scenario, according to research into consumer behaviour carried out by intelligence company, Blis. The most commonly stockpiled item is food. 56% of those Brits who are stockpiling are doing so with food items. 44% are building up supplies of household items, and well over a third (37%) are doing so with medicine. The public is even stockpiling clothing. Over a quarter of Brits (28%) have bought extra clothes and shoes to prepare for shortages and higher prices in aftermath of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.


Both candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have promised to take the UK out of the EU this year, with or without a deal, with Johnson insisting that leaving on October 31 is “do or die.” The revelation that nearly half of British people are stockpiling goods like food and medicine in their own homes comes as British businesses ramp up preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit on October 31. Business Insider reported earlier this year that there was an even greater risk of supermarket shelves going empty due to shortages in October, than there was in the run-up to the original Brexit deadline in March. That’s because most of the warehouse space that companies used to stockpile goods in the run-up to March is not available in October, as it’s already booked up for the busy Christmas period when demand for goods rockets.

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How big will this blow up?

Russia Prepares S-400 Systems For Delivery To Turkey (AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Russia’s S-400 air defense missiles are currently being prepared to be flown to Turkey. Speaking to reporters before leaving for Bosnia on Monday, Erdogan wouldn’t say, however, when the Russian missile defense system would reach Turkey or where they will be deployed. The delivery of the systems could bring Turkey closer to US sanctions. US officials have warned that Turkey would face economic sanctions as well as being expelled from a program to produce the F-35 fighter jets. Turkey has refused to pull back from the deal. Erdogan said: “The preparations for the journey, the loading [of the S-400] is continuing … The S-400 will arrive by planes. May it be beneficial for our country, our region and especially for the world.”

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“And sure enough, now, three months later, where are the criminal referrals?”

Russia-Gate Blossoms Into Deep-State-Gate (McGovern)

That the Deep State retains formidable power can be seen in the repeated Lucy-holding-then-withdrawing-the-football-for-Charlie Brown treatment experienced by House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, Devin Nunes (R-CA). On April 5, 2019, in the apparent belief he had a green light to go on the offensive, Nunes wrote that committee Republicans “will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved … in the abuse of intelligence for political purposes. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.”

On April 7, Nunes was even more specific, telling Fox News that he was preparing to send eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice “this week,” concerning alleged misconduct during the Trump-Russia investigation, including leaks of “highly classified material” and conspiracies to lie to Congress and the FISA court. It seemed to be no-holds-barred for Nunes, who had begun to talk publicly about prison time for those who might be brought to trial. Except for Fox, the corporate media ignored Nunes’s explosive comments. The media seemed smugly convinced that Nunes’s talk of “referrals” could be safely ignored — even though a new sheriff, Barr, had come to town. And sure enough, now, three months later, where are the criminal referrals?

There is ample evidence that President Trump is afraid to run afoul of the Deep State functionaries he inherited. And the Deep State almost always wins. But if Attorney General Barr leans hard on the president to unfetter Nunes, IG Horowitz, Durham and like-minded investigators, all hell may break lose, because the evidence against those who took serious liberties with the law is staring them all in the face.

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Clowns.

Russia’s RT and Sputnik Barred From UK Conference On Media Freedom (G.)

Russia’s RT and Sputnik news organisations have been banned by the Foreign Office from attending a global conference on media freedom in London because of their “active role in spreading disinformation”. Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the meeting, co-hosted with Canada, on Wednesday and Thursday. “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “While it’s not possible to accommodate all requests for accreditation, journalists from across the world’s media are attending the conference, including from Russia.”


The Russian embassy previously condemned the decision relating to RT as “direct politically motivated discrimination” and said it had complained to the Foreign Office. In a statement on Friday, it said RT had been told there was no space for its journalists at the conference. After the Foreign Office comments on Monday, RT said in a statement: “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.” In December, British media regulator Ofcom found that RT had broken impartiality rules with several programmes broadcast after the nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury. Moscow has denied claims by London that it approved the attack on a former Russian double agent in March last year.

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Interesting legal arguments. Juror tells judge what the law actually says. And Monsanto getting personal about jurors.

Juror Urges US Judge To Uphold $80 Million Roundup Verdict Against Bayer (R.)

A juror who was part of a panel that delivered an $80 million award against Bayer AG after finding that its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup caused a man’s cancer has urged the presiding judge to uphold the decision. A letter from the juror written on July 4 was posted to the court docket on Monday as part of legal filings by Bayer. The company accused the juror of bias and called on the judge to disregard the letter in his decision making. In the letter, the unidentified juror told U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco that the $80 million in awards “were no accident” and the result of “meticulous planning” by the jury.


The letter was a response to statements by Chhabria during a court hearing last week, when the judge said he would have to reduce the $75 million punitive damages portion of the award on constitutional grounds. Following a four-week trial, a federal jury on March 27 awarded $5 million in compensatory and $75 million in punitive damages to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. U.S. Supreme Court rulings limit the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages to 9 to 1, which in this case would put the maximum for punitive damages at $45 million. In the letter, the juror said higher damages ratios were allowed in extraordinary cases, echoing arguments Hardeman’s lawyers made during Tuesday’s hearing, when they urged Chhabria to affirm the total award.

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Jul 042019
 
 July 4, 2019  Posted by at 7:14 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.

 

 

 

 

Jun 302019
 
 June 30, 2019  Posted by at 9:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)
China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)
Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)
Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)
The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)
UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)
Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)
Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)
Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)
Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)
Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

 

 

Big moment no matter what. The situation at the DMZ has changed a lot in the past year. It’s like the DMZ has been dimilitarized. Far fewer weapons, guards don’t even wear helmets anymore.

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)

Donald Trump has invited Kim Jong Un to the White House, after he became the first serving American President to step over the North Korean border and shake hands with a North Korean leader. Trump crossed over from the demilitarized zone to shake hands with Kim Jong Un, after earlier offering the meeting on Twitter. “When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up he would have made me look very bad,” Trump told reporters. Kim Jong Un responded that “I was very surprised to hear about your offer on the tweet and only late in the afternoon I was able to confirm your invitation.”

The US president described his relationship with the North Korean leader as a “great friendship.” “This was a special moment, a historic moment,” Trump told reporters. “Stepping across that line was a great honour. A lot of progress has been made and a lot of friendships have been made and this in particular is a great friendship.” Following their handshake, the two men took part in a press conference during which the US president confirmed that he was extending an invite to Kim Jong Un to the White House. Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for meeting him. “I want to thank the chairman. You’ve got to hear that powerful voice.”

Read more …

But at least talks are back on.

China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)

China and the United States will face a long road before they can reach a deal to end their bitter trade war, with more fights ahead likely, Chinese state media said after the two countries’ presidents held ice-breaking talks in Japan. The world’s two largest economies are in the midst of a bitter trade war, which has seen them level increasingly severe tariffs on each other’s imports. In a sign of significant progress in relations on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, agreed to a ceasefire and a return to talks.


However, the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world, warned while there was now a greater likelihood of reaching an agreement, there’s no guarantee there would be one. “Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” it said in an editorial late Saturday. “Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

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What else could they do?

Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)

Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to extend the OPEC oil production cuts deal by another six to nine months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the G-20 leaders summit in Japan on Saturday. The OPEC+ group — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus Russia and other producers — meet on July 1-2 to renegotiate the pact which expires June 30. In 2016, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to try to jointly manage global oil output to support prices in what became known as the OPEC+ coalition and the current deal called for production cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia,” Putin said at a news conference in Osaka, Reuters reported.


“As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin said, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. “In any event we will support the continuation of agreements, both Russia and Saudi Arabia, in the volumes previously agreed.” The announcement marks the first time a leader from the OPEC+ group has indicated the curbs could be needed into 2020. That reflects a gloomy outlook for oil demand next year due to a combination of slowing global economic growth and rising U.S. shale oil output.

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“For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)

Perhaps it is a problem of language. The dictionary lacks a necessary word: UKish. Northern Ireland is not in Britain but it is in the UK. The porous boundary that divides it from the rest of Ireland is not, strictly speaking, a British frontier. So it is called “the Irish border”, making it, for the Brexiters, someone else’s problem. The terrain where a post-Brexit UK meets the remaining 27-member EU bloc is, as the miserable Tory leadership debate shows yet again, somewhere over there. For Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, its troubles are, as Neville Chamberlain might put it, “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. They might have to know more about it if only we could call it what it is: the UKish border.

Hunt and Johnson both agree that a no-deal Brexit must be kept alive as a serious proposition. Both also agree that once in Downing Street they will reopen negotiations with the EU with the primary aim of ditching from the withdrawal agreement the so-called Irish backstop, which is also, of course, the UKish backstop. Hunt puts this in more emollient terms than Johnson, but makes up for this weakness by promising to include on his negotiating team representatives of the famously emollient Democratic Unionist party, which does not represent most voters in Northern Ireland. All of this is so drearily familiar (this hobbyhorse comes round and round on the non-stop Brexit carousel) that it is hard to remember how surreal it is.

It is weird not just because the backstop was designed around British demands; not just because Hunt and Johnson were in the cabinet when it was negotiated; not just because they both voted for it in parliament; and not just because the EU has repeated, over and over, that, in the words of the European council in January: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” That should be enough to be going on with, but there is an even deeper absurdity. On 4 April last, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, flew to Dublin [..] she said: “For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

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Crazy enough that these two people are mentioned in the same sentence.

The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)

In October 1998, Pinochet, whose regime became a byword for political killings, “disappearances” and torture, was arrested in London while there for medical treatment. A judge in Madrid, Baltasar Garzón, sought his extradition in connection with the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile. Citing the aging Pinochet’s inability to stand trial, the United Kingdom in 2000 ultimately prevented him from being extradited to Spain where he would have faced prosecution for human rights abuses. At an early point in the proceedings, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, made an argument in his defense that had nothing to do with age or poor health.

“States and the organs of state, including heads of state and former heads of state, are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal proceedings in the national courts of other countries,” the Guardian quoted Montgomery as saying. She argued that crimes against humanity should be narrowly defined within the context of international warfare, as the BBC reported. Montgomery’s immunity argument was overturned by the House of Lords. But the extradition court ruled that the poor health of Pinochet, a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would prevent him from being sent to Spain. Though the cases of Pinochet and Assange are separated by more than two decades, two of the participants are the same, this time playing very different roles.

Montgomery reappeared in the Assange case to argue on behalf of a Swedish prosecutor’s right to seek a European arrest warrant for Assange. Her argument ultimately failed. A Swedish court recently denied the European arrest warrant. But as in the Pinochet case, Montgomery helped buy time, this time allowing Swedish sexual allegations to persist and muddy Assange’s reputation. Garzón, the Spanish judge, who had requested Pinochet’s extradition, also reappears in Assange’s case. He is a well-known defender of human rights, “viewed by many as Spain’s most courageous legal watchdog and the scourge of bent politicians and drug warlords the world over,” as the The Independent described him a few years ago. He now leads Assange’s legal team.

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Melzer is not planning to let go. Now where’s his support?

“When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.”

UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)

The UN rapporteur on torture told RT about the fanciful excuses Western media used to avoid publishing his damning op-ed on the extreme pressure Julian Assange was exposed to – despite covering every wild allegation against him. A host of reputed Western media outlets turned a deaf ear to Nils Melzer and his op-ed in which he said Julian Assange was exposed to enormous psychological trauma and isolation while in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and afterwards in the UK high-security prison. “Some of them said it wasn’t high enough on their news agenda, some of them said it wasn’t within their core area of interest.”

“The explanations seem awkward given that the same newspapers – the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post, the Telegraph, and others – have been running news stories about Assange “when it was about his cat and his skateboard and… allegations that he smeared excrement on the walls.” “But when you have a serious piece that actually tries to de-mask this public narrative and to actually show the facts below it, then they’re not interested.”

In his piece, which was eventually published on blogging website Medium, Melzer admitted he “had been blinded by propaganda” and didn’t believe Assange was being dehumanized through isolation, ridicule, and shame. He even asked himself how could “life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture.” “I didn’t know Assange, so I took with me experienced medical experts, a psychiatrist and a forensic expert that have worked for decades in examining torture victims,” he told RT. These experts, he said, found that Assange showed “all the symptoms that are typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture.”

He has been exposed to public mobbing. Now, that’s the slippery slope… When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.

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Criminal investigation next.

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg. In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India. Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code.”


Rabin said: “…it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.” In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017. That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus. HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX’s flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its “suppliers of the year”. One HCL employee posted online: “Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing).”

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Does Merkel really want to risk things getting worse?

Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)

If there is one thing that Deutsche Bank executives agree on, it is the efficacy of medieval medicine. Bloodletting, to be precise. Successive Chief Executives have bled the patient, but it hasn’t recovered: profits remain disappointing, and the share price has continued to decline. So the latest incumbent is going to bleed it again – on a much larger scale. On Friday, June 28, the Wall Street Journal revealed plans to slash up to 20,000 jobs worldwide. This would reduce full-time headcount to just over 70,000, the lowest since the financial crisis. The WSJ says the staff cuts will fall “across all divisions and business lines.” But the largest cuts are expected to fall on the investment bank and the troubled U.S. arm. Deutsche Bank has been trying – and largely failing – to reduce its staff costs for years.

It may surprise people to learn that despite repeated cuts, Deutsche Bank’s headcount is significantly higher than it was in 2008. This is mainly due to the acquisition of PostBank in 2010, which added 18,000 employees. Back in 2016, Deutsche Bank announced plans to cut its headcount to 77,000, largely through disposing of PostBank. But when the PostBank disposal evaporated, so too did the headcount reductions. The bank now intends to integrate PostBank with its own retail bank, and says this will achieve “synergies” (i.e. cost savings). Presumably that will mean headcount reductions, though it is not clear whether these are included in the plans leaked to the WSJ.

But there has also been a gradual increase in headcount in other divisions, notably the investment bank. Frankly, given the bank’s awful performance in recent years, it is hard to see what benefit this has brought. It looks suspiciously like empire-building to me. Or perhaps gambling. “Recruit some star performers, they’ll soon turn this business round….” [..] Deutsche Bank’s high cost-income ratio isn’t caused by clerks in retail branches. No, it is due to the insanely high salaries and bonuses Deutsche Bank pays to traders and analysts in its investment bank. And above all, it is due to executive management’s head-in-the-sand attitude to business lines in terminal decline. In 2016, despite glaringly poor performance in its equities division, Deutsche Bank recruited more equities analysts. Now, it appears to be intending to sack them all.

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Larry Sanger is a co-founder of Wikipedia. This is a very detailed declaration.

Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)

Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old. We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security.


Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them. The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

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The international Law of the Sea makes it obligatory to rescue people in peril. Salvini is breaking that law.

Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)

Italian police arrested on Saturday the German captain of a migrant-rescue ship at the center of a standoff with the Italian government, after she docked at the island port of Lampedusa. The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, has been at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board. After waiting in international waters for an invitation from Italy or an EU state to accept the ship, German captain Carola Rackete decided this week to sail for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa but was blocked by Italian government vessels. The ship eventually entered the port in the early hours of Saturday morning amid a heavy police presence.


Live television video showed the 31-year-old Rackete being taken off Sea-Watch 3 by tax police and driven away amid applause and barracking from bystanders gathered at the port. She has been arrested for “resisting a war ship”, a charge which, according to media reports, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. After Rackete was taken away, 40 Africans on board the ship were allowed to disembark and were taken to a reception center on the island. Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is taking a tough line against migrant rescue ships, previously said he would only allow Rackete to dock when other European Union states agree to immediately take the migrants. “Outlaw arrested. Pirate ship seized. Big fine on foreign NGO. Migrants all redistributed in other European countries. Mission completed,” Salvini said in a tweet on Saturday.

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Suicide. Or murder, since it’s about babies.

Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) just announced intriguing findings which describe cellular changes that develop when neuronal stem cells are exposed to elevated levels of a chemical typically found in processed foods. The study serves as an example of the importance of the food pregnant women eat, and how it may potentially affect development of the fetal brain. The study describes how elevated levels of the preservative, propionic acid (PPA)–used to extend shelf life and reduce mold in packaged foods, breads and cheeses—can adversely affect the development and differentiation of neurons in fetal brains in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

From clinical experience, healthcare providers have observed for many decades how children with ASD are often afflicted with gastrointestinal ailments, including chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The mechanism behind this association is unclear, but ongoing research suggests that the gut microbiome plays an important role in brain development. One of the key questions is how the gut microbiome–the bacteria that live in our intestines–may be unique in those with ASD compared to those without the condition. Previous studies have demonstrated increased levels of PPA, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the feces of children with ASD; we also know that the gut microbiome in these children is also quite distinct in terms of the type of bacteria that inhabit their intestines.

Clostridia, Bacteriodetes, and Desulfovibrio bacteria are unique to patients with ASD. What’s interesting is that these bacteria are also known to be fermenters of carbohydrates that produce PPA, and other SCFAs as well. Ironically, while PPA is the most common compound produced by bacteria in ASD patients, it is also widely used in the food industry as a preservative due to its ability to inhibit growth of fungi (mold). In the current study, Saleh Naser, PhD and her team at UCF found that when neural stem cells were exposed to high levels of PPA, the neurons incurred multiple changes resulting in cellular damage and inflammation.

One of the major effects of PPA they noted was the overproduction of glial cells , the protective outer cells making up the sheath covering neurons, with a corresponding reduction in the number of neurons themselves. An excess of glial cells may disrupt the connectivity between the neurons and induce inflammation, a common finding in the brains of children with ASD. While prior studies have suggested the role of genetic factors and environmental influence in ASD, this study, according to the authors, is the first to note a molecular link from elevated levels of PPA, overproduction of glial cells, disruption of neural connections and autism.

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Wednesday is Julian’s birthday.

 

 

 

 

Jun 262019
 
 June 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The muse 1935

 

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)
Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)
NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)
Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)
A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession
Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)
Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)
Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)
Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)
Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

 

 

“How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?”

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)

Following Iran’s statement that diplomacy with the United States is “closed forever” after Washington sanctioned the Supreme Leader and other key officials, including on the foreign minister himself – making it practically hard to actually “do” diplomacy given sanctions also have the impact of restricting travel for the nation’s top diplomat – FM Javad Zarif slammed America’s track record with nukes. “You were really worried about 150 people? How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?” Zarif said Tuesday in reference to Trump’s calculus that he refrained from ordering last Thursday night’s readied military strike against Iran when informed 150 people would die.


“It is us who, because of our religious views, will never pursue a nuclear weapon,” Zarif added. Indeed it’s been long understood that since Iran’s Islamic revolution the Ayatollahs have been consistently against nuclear weapons on moral grounds, citing Koranic principles. The US remains the only country in the world to have ever deployed nuclear weapons in a wartime situation, dropping two on Japan at the end of WWII. Though scholars generally agree that the overwhelming destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made counting impossible, conservative estimates tend to be at over 200,000 dead and wounded total wrought by the twin atom bombs dropped over those cities. And of course, the overwhelming majority of the Japanese dead and wounded were civilians.

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How dare he.

Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of plotting for war against Iran in a tweet on Tuesday. “Wanna know why those with proven record of detesting diplomacy are suddenly interested in talks? Just read @AmbJohnBolton’s 2017 recipe for destroying the #JCPOA,” Zarif wrote, adding a link to a 2017 article written by Bolton in the National Review. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is the landmark 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers. “Iran never left the negotiation table. #B_Team dragged the U.S. out, while plotting for war,” Zarif added. Zarif has in the past said that a “B-team” including Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.

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An excuse for more rockets on Russia’s border.

NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)

NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region. NATO defense ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said.


He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defense ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race. Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles.

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Brought to you by the Trump 2020 re-election committee.

Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)

Former US special counsel Robert Mueller is to testify in public about his report into Russian electoral interference, paving the way for a historic television moment in which Democrats will attempt to make the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment before the American people. The scrupulously tight-lipped Mueller will appear at back-to-back hearings on July 17 of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, which announced Tuesday that the prosecutor had agreed to abide by subpoenas for his testimony. “Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Twitter.


“As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.” Trump’s apparent response to the announcement came swiftly in a two-word tweet in which he complained, without referring to Mueller, of “Presidential Harassment!” The Mueller report released in April outlined numerous contacts between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and government-linked Russians, as well as evidence that the president tried on several occasions to stymie the investigation. The Democrats have been split on whether to launch impeachment proceedings against the Republican president but — fearing that much of the country is unaware of the Mueller report’s contents — have been asking major figures in the probe to testify in public on its findings.

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He says it will be mild.

A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession

Gary Shilling, an economist and financial analyst who is credited with predicting several recessions over the past 40 years, thinks the U.S. is in a relatively mild slump. “I think we’re probably already in a recession but I think it will probably be a run-of-the-mill affair, which means real GDP would decline 1.5% to 2%, not the 3.5% to 4% you had in the very serious recessions,” Shilling, president of economic and financial research firm A. Shilling & Co., said in a recent interview broadcast this week by Real Vision. In such a tempered slide, he says, “Stocks probably wouldn’t fall” but if they did, they likely would tumble about 22% — similar to other recent recessions. That, he says, would take the Standard and Poor’s 500 index about 200 points below it’s Christmas Eve nadir of 2,351.


His view is at odds with the vast majority of economists who expect the economy to grow a solid 2% to 2.5% this year after expanding at about a 3% clip last year and in the first quarter. Shilling points to: • Declining industrial production, a result of a weak global economy and the Trump administration’s trade war with China. • Feeble job growth of 75,000 in May, along with downward revisions to prior months. • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s recession probability chart, which shows about a 30% chance of a downturn the next 12 months, up from about 10% early this year. That data is based on an inversion of the yield curve, which has shown rates on 3-month Treasury bonds topping 10-year notes recently – a sign that investors don’t have much faith in the longer-term outlook. Inversions do herald recessions but often two years in advance.

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China: $6.8 trillion in household debt, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago.

Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)

The global housing market is showing cracks. Those fissures could spread throughout the world-wide economy, potentially sending world-wide gross domestic product, or GDP, to its lowest annual pace of in 10 years, according to research from Oxford Economics, led by economists Adam Slater, and John Payne in a research report dated June 24. “A combined slump in house prices and housing investment in the major economies could cut world growth to a 10-year low of 2.2% by 2020 – and to below 2% if it also triggered a tightening in global credit conditions.” the Oxford Economics researchers wrote.

A decade since the 2008-09 U.S. housing bubble imploded, sparking a global financial crisis, worries about the health of the global housing market persist. An Oxford Economics’ proprietary gauge of housing conditions in the globe shows that home prices have declined by 10% and investments in houses have shrunk by 8%. Housing prices across the globe have come in to focus as a protracted tariff squabble between the U.S. and China ripples throughout the global economy, compelling a number of central bankers to entertain the idea of lowering benchmark borrowing costs in an effort to stimulate, or just maintain, economic expansion.

The Federal Reserve last Wednesday signaled a willingness to lower federal-funds rates, currently at 2.25%-2.50%, if financial conditions worsen. In China, a decade long housing boom has sent home values to the lofty levels, with buying in the region underpinned by some $6.8 trillion in household debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago, with much of that tied to residential mortgages. Oxford Economics says data show that residential investment in China is slowing as are starts for new construction also ebb

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Nopbody goes to jail, nobody even pays a fine. A broken system indeed.

Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)

On Tuesday after the close, the CFTC announced that Merrill Lynch Commodities (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange Inc.). The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. In other words, if the Merrill Lynch Commodities group was an individual, he would have gotten ye olde perp walk.

As MLCI itself admitted, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market. They did so in the now traditional market manipulation way – by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution. In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so.

Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders. Of course, since we are talking about a bank, and since banks are in charge of not only the DOJ, and virtually every other branch of government, not to mention the Fed, nobody will go to jail and MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a combined – and measly – $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits.

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Stock manipulation

Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)

Apple again led S&P 500 companies in buybacks, spending a new record $23.8 billion in Q1, more than doubling its spend from the previous quarter, data from S&P Global shows. Apple has long been a buyback behemoth. The company holds 8 of the 10 all-time records for quarterly buybacks, and has spent more than $75 billion on buybacks over just the past year. It has spent $234.7 billion over the most recent 5-year period, and $284.3 billion over the last 10-year period. Apple accounted for 23% of share buybacks made by the top 20 S&P 500 companies. The big picture: While Apple has increased its buyback spending, other S&P 500 companies have slowed from 2018’s record pace.


Companies bought back just $205.8 billion worth of their own shares, a 7.7% decline from Q4 2018, S&P reported. That ended the streak of 4 consecutive quarters of record buybacks. Yes, but: Buybacks rose 8.9% from Q1 2018, which set a record at the time. Outside analysis of the broader stock market, beyond just the S&P, shows announced buyback spending was higher in Q1 2019 than Q4 2018. Ratings agency Moody’s warned last month that companies are spending more on share buybacks and dividends than they were paying in taxes before the 2017 tax cut. The tax savings “can be wiped out entirely by even a modest change in share buybacks,” Christina Padgett, senior vice president at Moody’s, told Axios at the time.

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Italy has quite a lot of it.

Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)

As the squabbling over Italy’s populist government’s plans to blow out its budget deficit to finance an agenda of tax cuts and social spending (including a ‘citizen’s income’ that’s essentially UBI-lite) crowded the headlines, the issue of who owns the 2,451 metric tons of gold reserves held by the Bank of Italy has been quietly ignored – at least, outside of Italy. But that might be about to change. On Tuesday, the ECB asked the League, the dominant party in Italy’s ruling coalition, to remove a reference to the Bank of Italy holding gold as an “exclusive title of deposit” according to Bloomberg. Translation? If Italy is not allowed to have title to Italian gold, then Italy’s gold now belongs to the ECB.

Today’s escalation over Italy’s gold “title” comes two months after the WSJ reported that Italy’s ruling populists pushed ahead with efforts to seize control of the central bank and its gold reserves. Complaining that hundreds of thousands of small individual investors lost billions of dollars after several Italian banks failed in recent years, the current Italian government depicted the central bank as a symbol of a technocratic elite aloof from the needs of ordinary Italians. “We need a change of course at the Bank of Italy if we think about what happened in the last years,” said Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5 Star Movement. Shortly thereafter, 5 Star lawmakers asked parliament to pass two draft laws.

One law would instruct the central bank’s owners, most of them private banks , to sell their shares to the Italian Treasury at prices from the 1930s.The other law would declare the Italian people to be the owners of the Bank of Italy’s reserve of 2451.8 metric tons of gold, worth around $102 billion at current prices. “The gold belongs to the Italians, not to the bankers,” said Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, a far-right opposition party that supports both bills. “We are ready to battle everywhere in Italy and to bring Italians to the streets if necessary.” So far there has been no fighting but if indeed Draghi just told Italy that its gold now belongs to the Frankfurt-based central bank we expect that to change..

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So how much are they willing to pay?

Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week. In an open letter to the “governments of the world” seen by Reuters, groups representing 477 investors stressed “the urgency of decisive action” on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement target. Almost 200 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Current policies put the world on track for at least a 3C rise by the end of the century.


The letter comes ahead of a June 28-29 G20 summit in Japan and as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges countries to back more ambitious climate goals. “There is an ambition gap… This ambition gap is of great concern to investors and needs to be addressed, with urgency,” a statement from the investors accompanying the letter said. Governments were urged to strengthen their Paris Agreement targets by 2020; phase out thermal coal power and fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines; set a robust global carbon price by 2020 and improve climate-related financial reporting. “It is vital for our long-term planning and asset allocation decisions that governments work closely with investors to incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into their policy frameworks and energy transition pathways,” the statement said.

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Arundhati Roy:

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 252019
 


Caravaggio Conversion on the way to Damascus 1600-01

 

Something’s been nagging me for the past few days, and I’m not sure I’ve figured out why yet. It started when Donald Trump first called off the alleged planned strikes on targets in Iran because they would have cost 150 lives, and then the next day said the US would do sanctions instead. As they did on Monday, even directly targeting Trump’s equal, the “Supreme Leader Khameini”.

When Trump announced the sanctions, I thought: wait a minute, by presenting this the way you did, you effectively turned economic sanctions into a military tool: we chose not to do bombs but sanctions. Sounds the same as not doing a naval invasion but going for air attacks instead. The kind of decisions that were made in Vietnam a thousand times.

However, Vietnam was all out war (well, invasion is a better term). Which shamed the US, killed and maimed the sweet Lord only knows how many promising young Americans as well as millions of Vietnamese, and ended in humiliating defeat. But the US is not in an all out war in Iran, at least not yet. And if they would ever try to be, the outcome would be Vietnam squared.

Still, that’s not really my point here. It’s simply about the use of having the world reserve currency as a military weapon instead of an economic one. And I think that is highly significant. As well as an enormous threat to the US. The issue at hand is overreach.

While you could still argue that economic sanctions on North Korea, Venezuela and Russia are just that, economic and/or political ones, the way Trump phrased it, comparing sanctions one on one with military strikes, no longer leaves that opening when it comes to Iran. The new Iran sanctions are a preliminary act of war. Simply because of how he presented them. He explicitly stated that he swapped one for the other.

 

There are quite a few people who have been harping on the demise of the USD as reserve currency for a long time, and I always think: look, nobody wants the yuan, let alone the ruble. There’s no trade being executed in these currencies. So taking over from the USD is a pipe dream.

But that may very well change, and perhaps very fast too, if the US uses the dollar not as an economic weapon (and there are plenty issues with that already), but as a military one. That would potentially hugely speed up any efforts to move away from the buck in international trade.

For the simple reason that it becomes unreliable. Traders hate that, they can’t have that. A reserve currency must be neutral -to a point-. The world of trade doesn’t want the yuan because Beijing controls it and can therefore change conditions and values overnight. But if and when the US uses the USD as a military tool, it essentially risks doing exactly the same: it deneutralizes the USD.

Using the USD as an economic weapon is ugly, but something global trade can deal with. A military weapon, though, is something else altogether. And I see no sign that Trump understands this. The thing is, using your currency, which also happens to be the world reserve currency, as a military tool, means you’ve become a threat to everyone, the entire globe, overnight.

And people don’t want to live that way. Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Europe, no-one. It’s one thing to use the USD for sanctions. But it’s a real different thing to use it as just a military alternative to “bombing a country into obliteration”.

 

What Trump did comes awfully close to signing the death warrant for the USD as the global reserve currency. And it’s really only because he and his people weren’t paying attention. He could have phrased the entire thing differently, and it would have been business as usual, a business that Moscow and Beijing are actively trying to undermine, but they could have waited a bit longer reacting.

Now, however, their plans have to be sped up. They’re going to be buying a lot of gold, as they’ve already been doing, they’ll try to do their mutual business in their own currencies backed by this gold, and they’ll speed up alternatives-to-USD plans with other countries in their neighborhood. Because they have no choice anymore.

I see Tyler Durden reporting that the US threatens to throw a Chinese state-owned bank out of the SWIFT system, and I think: great idea. Why not force China to quit the reserve currency system, the petrodollar, outright?! Why not force it to hasten the Asian/Russian alternative trade model into existence? What a great and lovely idea.

The US should today make friends. It should preserve the reserve currency status of the USD for as long as it can, by convincing allies and foes alike that it will protect its neutrality in global trade. But Trump and his people are doing the exact opposite, they’re playing all-on-red.

The US no longer has the economic, political or military might to dictate to the entire world any terms it wants to. Those days are long gone. That ended in Vietnam. Trump’s living in the last century, while Bolton and Pompeo, they live in their own time and world.

 

But yeah, sure, perhaps this is what the dying days of an empire MUST look like. Maybe there’s a model to follow and there’s no escape, maybe it’s all written in the stars. Like Rome and Greece and Genghis Khan. Maybe things simply just have to play out. Still, looking at that Trump statement about the new Iran sanctions that started me off, it doesn’t feel all that smart.

 

 

 

 

Jun 212019
 
 June 21, 2019  Posted by at 8:24 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Femme aux bras leves- Tête de Dora Maar- 1936

 

As a nation, you’re certifiedly (is that a word?!) in deep trouble if and when Donald Trump is your most peaceloving man. But nevertheless, that is America today. It all harks back to the days when Trump was first -grudgingly and painstakingly- recognized as an actual presidential candidate.

He campaigned as a man who would end the costly and neverending decades-old and counting US wars far away from American shores and territory. He hasn’t lived up to those campaign goals at all, far from it, and he hired doofuses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to show everyone that he didn’t, but in the early hours of June 21 2019 he apparently decided at the last minute that it just didn’t add up.

You don’t kill 150 people because someone destroyed a piece of machinery, he got that right. I vividly remember writing a hundred times that a country of 320 million people that can’t come up with a better president than Trump has a behemoth problem. I also remember saying that Trump himself is not that problem, it’s the system that gave rise to him and his popularity. A war-hungry-system, that is, which has pervaded Washington DC.

And there is absolutely nothing that tells me anything has changed in that system. There are hearings and investigations all over the place, right now from Hope Hicks to Jerry Nadler, but none of them are geared towards trying to make peace with Iran or Russia or China, or anyone else. None.

 

Trump’s domestic opponents don’t appear to want peace, not those in the Democratic party, and not those in the MSM, or at least not anyone I’ve seen, other than Tulsi Gabbard. I haven’t seen a word from Nadler or Pelosi trying to coax Trump away from bomb bombing Iran, and diddly squat from the NYT or WashPo either. But sure, tell me what you’ve seen that contradicts that.

Which means he’s on his own, fighting off not only Bolton and Pompeo, but the entire opposition as well. So far he’s done just that. But how much longer can he, when both sides of the aisle continue to call for blood? I find that a hard call to make. I don’t think Trump wants his presidency to be about starting WWIII, but there are so many others calling on him to make it just that.

I said a while ago to a friend that the US invading Iran would be the end of the US, not in 2 days or week, or even 2 years, but in 20 years surely. Because doing so would change the entire power structure in the Middle East so much it would become unrecognizable.

The terribly odd couple of Benjamin Netanyahu and MBS may think they can conquer the region if only Trump sends Americans kids to die there, but they’re as wrong as they are about anything else. Iran is where it is, and it won’t move or budge. It’s just 40 years ago the country rid itself from the US-installed Shah and his SS-like Savak secret services.

Iranians, Persians, have a very deep-seated aversion and -to put it exceedingly mildly- hatred of the US, and they have good reason to. The Shah unleashed pure terror upon “his” entire people, at the benefit of US Big Oil.

 

The only constructive thing the US can do at this point in time is to go talk to Iran, in open and honest discussions. The US will want to do that because Iran is the heart of the Middle East. Just ask Russia and China, they understand that point. Very well even.

Bombing Iran won’t lead to anything at all, other than the demise of the US, down the road. These people will not succumb, and Russia and China will make sure they won’t have to. And Trump’s declaration of US military capabilities being “superior” is just words (or as they say stateside “hogwash”).

The US military ceased being “superior” a long time ago, simply because Raytheon and Boeing et al develop weapons for profit, whereas Russia and China develop them for defense purposes, and at 10% of the price. That single “little” difference will do the US in. Promise.

America needs to start talking. About trade, about weapons, about everything. Maybe Trump can do that. Maybe not. But he won’t be able to do anything by threatening countries like iran who already have nothing left but their backs to a wall.

Trump appears to have some good points vis-a-vis China and trade talks. He has some very bad points vs Russia and the sanctions. He MUST retreat when it comes to Iran, because it would become a much deeper swamp than Washington could ever be.

And it would end any idea of a positive legacy of his presidency. And his grand kids would be far worse off. And and and. But if he would do it regardless, it would only be an extension of US presidential politics as it has has been going on for many decades. So what’s to win, and what’s to lose? You trust a 73-year old burger flipper with that assessment?

 

 

 

 

Jun 202019
 
 June 20, 2019  Posted by at 6:42 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Caravaggio I musici 1595-96

 

The investigation into the crash of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane in East Ukraine was always compromised, right from the start. The crash on July 17 2014 came shortly after the “Euromaidan revolution” in Kiev – which first began in November 2013 and culminated in the ousting of elected president Yanukovich on 23 February 2014, happily helped along by John McCain, Victoria Nuland and then-US ambassador to Ukraine (now ambassador to Greece) Geoffrey Pyatt for the USA, as well as various EU actors.

Russia reacted by “annexing” Crimea – a large majority of whose people had voted for Yanukovich, thereby safeguarding its access to its only warm water port. Not a shot was fired there, but it was very different in East Ukraine (Donbass), where people -of Russian origin- also didn’t want to be subjected to a new regime under Nuland’s puppet Yatsenyuk -and later Poroshenko. They started a civil war which continues to this day.

It was in that heated political climate that the MH17 came down, killing all its 298 passengers, 196 of whom had the Dutch nationality. 3 weeks later, on August 8, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed, which was to be led by Holland, and to also include representatives from Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Which is odd, since at that time, Ukraine certainly was a potential perpetrator of the downing.

Malaysia joined only in December, allegedly because only then did it finally agree to allow Ukraine, a nation that was a suspect, a veto over any conclusions that the team would publish. Malaysia had already been handed the black boxes by pro-Russian rebels in the area, and passed them on to the team in August. Summarized, the way the JIT was formed was highly curious. The countries even signed a secret agreement.

 

Immediately after the crash, people like then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as Frans Timmermans, then-Dutch Foreign Minister and today candidate for the EU top job, pointed the finger at Russia as the party responsible for shooting down the plane. Also curious, since there had been no investigation and the plane crashed in a civil war zone where access was almost impossible. There was talk at the time of the US having satellite images, but none have ever been produced.

In that atmosphere, the JIT yesterday, June 19 2019, held another press conference, in which it accused four men, three from Russia and one from Ukraine, of being “involved” in shooting down the plane. But again, almost 5 years after the incident, the team produced no evidence for its accusations, saying it will only be presented 9 months from now when a trial will start in the Netherlands.

It also again accused Russia of refusing to cooperate, though Russia has offered its help ever since the MH17 came down. It’s just not the help the people want who have accused the Russians since before there was any hint of evidence it was involved. And there still is no evidence. Russia has filed long and detailed reports on the incident despite being ignored, but these reports have been … ignored.

 

The trial will take place starting March 9 2020 without the accused, since Russia doesn’t extradite its citizens, and neither does Ukraine. Moreover, the one Ukrainian who is accused is thought to be in the Donbass, where the government has no access.

So this will be a show trial. And one must wonder why it is staged. What’s the use of a trial where defendants don’t defend themselves? Sure, the official line is they would love to have the men provide a defense, but that smells a bit too much like what has happened to Julian Assange. What are the odds of a fair trial when so many conclusions have been drawn at such early times?

There is not a soul in Europe west of the Russian border who doesn’t believe the Russians did it. The media take care of that. Nor is there in the US. But the Malaysian PM himself yesterday, again, said the team has proven nothing, and only provided hearsay. I kid you not, I read a piece on the BBC today that asked if the 93-year-old who lost 43 of his countrymen only said that because he wanted to sell palm oil to Russia.

And in the meantime, the evidence is not there, and won’t be for another 9 months, if ever, and the EU today added another year to its Russia sanctions over Crimea, and 4 men can deny their involvement all they want, but they can make their case only in March 2020, and only at a show trial, with international search warrants hanging over their heads.

 

The four men in question, by the way, are not accused of firing the BUK missile that supposedly downed the MH17. They are only accused of facilitating the transport of the missile and launcher from Russia to Ukraine -and back. The JIT Ukrainian team bases the entire story of that transport on serial numbers it says it has found.

On September 17 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense in a YouTube response to a May 24 2018 JIT exhibition, said it had tracked down those serial numbers, 8868720, and 1318869032, and 9M38, and said both the launcher and missile corresponding to the numbers were purchased by Ukraine from Russia as far back as 1986, transferred there, and had never left the country since.

I get that information from a lengthy, deep-digging and highly recommended essay by Eric Zuesse, from December 2018, MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven, which I’ve been reading the past few days, in which Eric says: “…if the JIT’s supplied evidence is authentic — which the Ukrainian team asserts it to be — then it outright convicts Ukraine. This is an evidentiary checkmate, against the Ukrainian side.”

Zuesse also details, in that article, contentions from multiple sources that, while the MH17 may have been hit with a BUK missile, it certainly wasn’t the only thing that hit it. There was at least one fighter jet seen close to the plane before it came down, as multiple eye-witness reports claim, and it is alleged that they fired on the cockpit for sure and perhaps other parts of the plane. It is an excellent article that is very well researched and chock-full of links to prove its points.

 

There are many things wrong with the MH17 investigation. Having the PM of one of your member investigative countries complain that after 5 years you produce only hearsay and no evidence may be the least of the worries. The Netherlands, as main victim, leading the investigation, is strange. How neutral could they be? Their Foreign Minister blamed Russia way before any investigating was done. And Holland was a main sponsor in the “Euromaidan revolution”, i.e. the ousting of an elected president.

Still, Ukraine’s position in all this must be the biggest warning sign. They stood a lot to gain from committing atrocities and then blaming Russia for them. Plus, Yatsenyuk and Nuland and the US and the EU were mightily angry that Russia had outsmarted them all over Crimea.

But instead of keeping Ukraine out of the investigation, they became a major contributor, and were even given veto rights on anything that came out of it, as far as we know the only party with such rights. If you present a crime novel or movie with ingredients like that, nobody would believe you. Such things don’t happen in real life.

 

 

 

 

Jun 192019
 
 June 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The circus 1933

 

The Fed Just Released a Damning Indictment of Capitalism (NYMag)
Russia to US: Drop Middle East Troop Plan And Stop Provoking Iran (R.)
Iran At The Center Of The Eurasian Riddle (Escobar)
The Sino-Russian Masterplan To End US Dominance In Middle East (Bodansky)
Russia, China, Block US Effort To Halt North Korea Fuel Deliveries (AFP)
US Lawmakers Call For Facebook To Pause Cryptocurrency Project (R.)
Japan Exports Slide For 6th Straight Month (R.)
Japanese Businesses See Economy Peaking Out, Want More Stimulus (R.)
The Truth vs Your Truth (Jim Kunstler)
Canada Approves Contentious Oil Pipeline Expansion (R.)
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada (CP)
Canadian Permafrost Thaws 70 Years Early (R.)

 

 

“The fundamental challenge in combating inequality is that wealth begets more wealth.”

The Fed Just Released a Damning Indictment of Capitalism (NYMag)

In 2011, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University published a study on Americans’ views of how wealth was distributed in their society, and how they felt it should be distributed. They found that, in the average American’s ideal world, the richest 20 percent would own 32 percent of national wealth. In reality, the top quintile owned 84 percent as of 2011. And that share has grown in the intervening years. Today, the one percent alone commands roughly 40 percent of all America’s wealth. Given all this, any politician who insists that American capitalism is “already great” is clearly a far-right extremist whose indifference to inequality puts him or her wildly out of step with ordinary people. But is it the case that Warren and Sanders would take things too far in the other direction?

Not remotely. I do not have the relevant data or skills to project precisely how the full implementation of either candidate’s agenda would influence America’s wealth distribution. But neither candidate is calling for a series of reforms that would place the United States far outside the Western European norm. In fact, both Warren and Sanders have cribbed their signature policies from European nations. As the 2018 World Inequality Report demonstrated, policy choices do matter — and income inequality is much lower in Western Europe than it is in the U.S.

But even Scandinavia’s social democracies feature far more inequitable distributions of wealth than Americans think to be fair, according to Ariely and Norton’s survey. What’s more, it will take a lot of redistribution just to prevent America’s current wealth gap from growing even larger. The fundamental challenge in combating inequality is that wealth begets more wealth. Those who can afford to invest in bonds get to collect annual interest payments; those who invest in stocks or real estate typically see their capital assets annually appreciate. Thus, most years, our nation’s collective capital stock directs loads of passive income to America’s wealthiest citizens.

Read more …

Things are shifting. And not a little bit.

Russia to US: Drop Middle East Troop Plan And Stop Provoking Iran (R.)

Russia told the United States on Tuesday to drop what it called provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East and to cease actions that looked like a conscious attempt to provoke war with Iran. The comments, from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Russian news agencies, followed an announcement from Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan a day earlier who said Washington planned to send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would not wage war against any nation and the Kremlin called for restraint from all sides.


Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow had repeatedly warned Washington and its regional allies about what he called the “unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region.” “Now what we see are unending and sustained U.S. attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way. They (these actions) cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war,” Ryabkov was cited as saying. If Washington did not want war it had to show it, he said. “If that’s really how it is then the U.S. should step back from reinforcing its military presence,” said Ryabkov.

Read more …

“Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”.

Iran At The Center Of The Eurasian Riddle (Escobar)

With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Virtually unknown across the West, the SCO is the foremost Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It’s not a Eurasian NATO. It’s not planning any humanitarian imperialist adventures. A single picture in Bishkek tells a quite significant story, as we see China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan aligned with the leaders of four Central Asian “stans”. These leaders represent the current eight members of the SCO. Then there are four observer states – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and, crucially, Iran – plus six dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, crucially, Turkey.

The SCO is bound to significantly expand by 2020, with possible full membership for both Turkey and Iran. It will then feature all major players of Eurasia integration. Considering the current incandescence in the geopolitical chessboard, it’s hardly an accident a crucial protagonist in Bishkek was the ‘observer’ state Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played his cards masterfully. Rouhani speaking directly to Putin, Xi, Modi and Imran, at the same table, is something to be taken very seriously. He blasted the US under Trump as “a serious risk to stability in the region and the world”. Then he diplomatically offered preferential treatment for all companies and entrepreneurs from SCO member nations committed to investing in the Iranian market.

[..] Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”. Iran is a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s clear for the leadership in Tehran that the way forward is full integration into the vast, Eurasia-wide economic ecosystem. European nations that signed the nuclear deal with Tehran – France, Britain and Germany – can’t save Iran economically.

Read more …

“..advance negotiations with all key oil producers – including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran – on substituting the petrodollar with a basket of currencies where the yuan, the euro and the ruble dominate.”

The Sino-Russian Masterplan To End US Dominance In Middle East (Bodansky)

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s early June 2019 summit in Moscow with People’s Republic of China (PRC) Pres. Xi Jinping seems likely to have a disproportionate influence on the next phases of the crises unfolding in the greater Middle East, and therefore on the future of the region. The escalating confrontation between Iran and the US is both influencing and influenced by the mega-trends set by Russia and the PRC. Although the key meetings took place on June 5, 2019, the seeds of the new joint strategy were already planted during the May 13, 2019, summit in Sochi between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They went over all the key topics in preparation for the Putin-Xi summit.

On June 5, 2019, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Moscow and decided to not only markedly upgrade the bilateral relations and alliance of their countries, but to use the new relations in order to shape the long-term posture of the entire Eastern Hemisphere in their favor. Emphasis was to be put on the Eurasian Sphere (the Kremlin’s high priority) and the New Silk Road (the Forbidden City’s high priority), as well as the Korean Peninsula which is most important for both. One of the first major confrontations with the US by Russia and the PRC was to be over the greater Middle East. The main reason was the advance negotiations with all key oil producers – including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran – on substituting the petrodollar with a basket of currencies where the yuan, the euro and the ruble dominate.

Using the currency basket would enable the sellers and buyers to go around the US-imposed sanctions and quotas. Indeed, Beijing and Moscow were now enticing the oil producers with huge, long-term export deals which were both financially lucrative and politically tempting by offering guarantees for the well-being of the participating governments. The crux of the proposal is regional and includes flagrant disregard of the US sanctions on Iran. However, the key to the extent of the commitment of both Beijing and Moscow lies in the growing importance and centrality of the New Silk Road via Central Asia. Persia had a crucial rôle in the ancient Silk Road, and both the PRC and Russia now expect Iran to have a comparable key rôle in the New Silk Road.

The growing dominance of heritage-based dynamics throughout the developing world, including the greater Central Asia and the greater Middle East, makes it imperative for the PRC to rely on historic Persia/Iran as a western pole of the New Silk Road. It is this realization which led both Beijing and Moscow to give Tehran, in mid-May 2019, the original guarantees that Washington would be prevented from conducting a “regime change”.

Read more …

Hands off Iran. Hands off Korea.

Russia, China, Block US Effort To Halt North Korea Fuel Deliveries (AFP)

Russia and China on Tuesday blocked an American initiative that aimed to halt fuel deliveries to North Korea, which Washington accuses of exceeding its annual ceiling for 2019, diplomatic sources said. Moscow and Beijing said more time was needed to study the US request, which was backed by 25 UN members including Japan, France and Germany, according to the sources. A week ago, the United States, in a report, accused North Korea of breaching the United Nations-imposed ceiling on fuel imports by carrying out dozens of ship-to-ship transfers this year.


The cap on fuel imports is among a series of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests. The United States insists that “maximum pressure” from the sanctions must remain on North Korea until it agrees to dismantle its weapons program. Washington had asked that a United Nations sanctions committee rule that the annual cap of 500,000 barrels had been exceeded and order all countries to halt fuel deliveries. Countries on the sanctions committee, including Russia and China, had until Tuesday to raise objections to the request to cut off fuel shipments to North Korea.

Read more …

They simply don’t understand.

US Lawmakers Call For Facebook To Pause Cryptocurrency Project (R.)

Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said Facebook should halt development of the product, dubbed Libra, until Congress and regulators can review the issue, and called on company executives to testify before Congress. “Facebook has data on billions of people and has repeatedly shown a disregard for the protection and careful use of this data,” she said in a statement. “With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users.” Her comments came after Representative Patrick McHenry, the senior Republican on her panel, also sought a hearing on Facebook’s new initiative. A Facebook representative said the company looked forward to answering lawmakers’ questions.


Facebook’s announcement was met with immediate backlash from U.S. lawmakers and regulators across the globe, who are concerned that Facebook is already too massive and careless with users’ privacy. “Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, in a statement. [..] French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for more regulation of tech companies. “This instrument for transactions will allow Facebook to collect millions and millions of data, which strengthens my conviction that there is a need to regulate the digital giants,” he said in an interview on Europe 1 radio.

Read more …

Meanwhile, Japan is sinking.

Japan Exports Slide For 6th Straight Month (R.)

Japan’s exports fell for a sixth straight month in May as China-bound shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipment and car parts weakened, in a sign of a deteriorating outlook for growth as the trade-reliant economy faces persistent pressure from slowing external demand. Sluggish exports have been a source of concern among Japanese policymakers, especially as a bruising U.S.-China tariff war has upended supply chains and hit global growth, trade and investment.


“The business sentiment of Japanese firms, and in particular exporters, is falling depending on the extent of U.S.-China trade tensions, and that will suppress exporters’ capital expenditure,” said Hiroshi Miyazaki, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. “I think that will be a negative for Japan’s economy.” Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Wednesday that exports declined 7.8% in May from a year earlier, down for the sixth straight month. The fall in shipments compared with a 7.7% annual decrease expected by economists in a Reuters poll, and followed a 2.4% year-on-year fall in April.

Read more …

But the BOJ already owns half the country…

Japanese Businesses See Economy Peaking Out, Want More Stimulus (R.)

Japan’s economy is likely to stop expanding this year and into next with the Sino-U.S. trade war and a planned sales tax hike expected to crimp activity, a Reuters poll of Japanese companies found, with most calling for fresh stimulus to prop up growth. The gloomy outlook suggests that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reflationary policy mix, known as “Abenomics”, is sputtering. “A combination of the U.S.-China trade friction and the tax hike in October will almost certainly tip Japan into recession,” an electric machinery maker wrote in the monthly survey.The Corporate Survey found 42% of respondents see the economy contracting into next year, while 52% believe growth will remain stagnant.


Just 5% foresee it expanding, the June 4-13 poll showed. China and United States, the world’s two largest economies, have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff war for nearly a year, which has curbed global trade and upended supply chains, pressuring Japan’s exports and factory output. Some 55% of Japanese firms said harsher U.S. punitive tariffs against China were affecting their business profits, with much higher proportions of transport machinery firms and chemicals makers taking a hit, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed. [..] To keep the economy from faltering, nearly two-thirds of companies called for fresh stimulus, with a quarter of respondents wanting an individual income tax cut and nearly as many demanding the government postpone the sales tax hike.

Read more …

“..America is too far gone intellectually to sort all this out.”

The Truth vs Your Truth (Jim Kunstler)

America’s relationship with authority is in grievous disrepair with Robert Mueller as exhibit-A — a would-be Moses-like figure, only with feet of clay and a head rotting like the proverbial fish of institutional corruption. He announced in his May 29th “news conference” — in which he refused to entertain questions — that he preferred not to testify in any further inquiries about his Special Counsel investigation. What a cheeky fellow! It was, perhaps, a message to Reps. Nadler, Schiff, and comrades on the various congressional committees to (hint hint) not even bother calling him. But Mr. Mueller was, after all, a mere employee of the US Department of Justice, not a herald of God Almighty.

I rather imagine that the Attorney General, Mr. Barr, has a few additional questions he would like to ask his “old friend.” Will Mr. Mueller, this Greta Garbo of jurisprudence, coyly demur? And on what basis, exactly? I don’t think he can get away with it. The complexities of RussiaGate make all previous government scandals look as simple as Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The Internet will prove to be both its doing and its undoing. The much abused and perverted official “truths” of the matter were amplified by the Internet. And, of course, these “truths” were enlisted in service of Mrs. Clinton and the rogue bureaucracy looking to defend her (and themselves) at all costs. The cost turns out to be the dismemberment of thinking itself in America.

It is now taken for granted that anyone who persists in thinking for him/her/zheself will be tossed out of the Internet’s large “social media” arenas in Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jack Dorsey’s quest to purify history. They will not succeed. But they have certainly succeeded in needlessly antagonizing Russia, shoving foreign policy debate into sequestered game rooms that are at once halls-of-mirrors and echo chambers, and making the world a much more dangerous place. There is also a pretty fair percentage chance that America is too far gone intellectually to sort all this out.

Read more …

Justin trying to lose the next election.

Canada Approves Contentious Oil Pipeline Expansion (R.)

Canada on Tuesday approved as expected a hotly contested proposal to expand the western Canadian crude oil pipeline it bought last year, providing hope for a depressed energy industry but angering environmental groups. Construction on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is scheduled to resume this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that Ottawa expected legal challenges to the approval. The project would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast, alleviate congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States.


Trudeau, who faces a tough fight in a national election scheduled for October, has been under pressure both from western Canadian politicians who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups, which see the oil sands as a highly polluting source of crude production. “This isn’t an either/or proposition. It is in Canada’s national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today,” he said, adding he knew some people would be disappointed.

Read more …

Make Canada a colony again.

Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada (CP)

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few joining the dots. For example, no media reports that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral and illegal embargo against oil-competitor Iran. A cynical reply is that this is predictable. Canada attacks any designated US Enemy in junior partnership with global corporate command. But this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself without knowing it. A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition are well advanced in a Canada campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, first-nations negotiations, and bring down the government of Canada.

Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots. Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar-sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and almost all its raw product is controlled for refining and sale in the US. What is especially kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers have a dominant stake in the toxic crude of the Alberta tar-sands seeking a massive BC-pipeline out to their US refineries.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their near $100-billion fortune from the tar-sands and deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US. The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no government regulations or interferences in the way.

Read more …

Methane. Running around my brain.

Canadian Permafrost Thaws 70 Years Early (R.)

Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared. A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilized the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia. “What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.” With governments meeting in Bonn this week to try to ratchet up ambitions in United Nations climate negotiations, the team’s findings, published on June 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, offered a further sign of a growing climate emergency.

The paper was based on data Romanovsky and his colleagues had been analyzing since their last expedition to the area in 2016. The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned Cold War-era radar base more than 300 km from the nearest human settlement. Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognizable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier. The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

Read more …

 

God in his wisdom made the fly.
And then forgot to tell us why.

– Ogden Nash