Nov 062018
 
 November 6, 2018  Posted by at 10:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Group of dancers. Olga Kokhlova is lying in the foreground 1919

 

What Happened To Stocks After Every Midterm Election Since World War II (MW)
Stocks Surge After Latest Rasmussen Poll Shows GOP Retaining The House (ZH)
US Intelligence: No Evidence Of Any Attempts To Tamper With Midterms (NBC)
US and China To Hold A Top-Level Security Dialogue On Friday (R.)
Exposing China’s Overseas Lending (Reinhart)
EU Lost Over €100 BIllion Due To Its Own Anti-Russia Sanctions – Lavrov (RT)
Eurozone Ministers Line Up Behind EU In Italy Budget Dispute (G.)
The Italian People Must Understand That Their Country Is At War (Gefira)
Australia’s Housing Downturn Could Spark Interest Rate Cut (ABC.au)
UN Investigates Extreme Poverty In UK (CNN)
American Bread & Circus (Mike Maloney)
Large Hydropower Dams ‘Not Sustainable’ (BBC)
US Supreme Court Allows Historic Kids’ Climate Lawsuit To Go Forward (Nature)

 

 

2019 as a great year for stocks as the Fed hikes rates? Hmmm..

What Happened To Stocks After Every Midterm Election Since World War II (MW)

[..] let’s steer clear of opinion and emotion. Instead, I want to focus solely on the facts that are relevant to you as an investor. As you’ll see, you don’t need to waste even one second worrying about which party will win on Tuesday. I was surprised by what we found. Since 1946, there have been 18 midterm elections. Stocks were higher 12 months after every single one. Every single one. That’s 18 for 18. Even though we’ve had every possible political combination in the past 72 years. Republican president with Democratic Congress. Democratic president with Republican Congress. Republican president and Congress. Democratic president and Congress.

Since 1946, stocks have risen an average of 17% in the year after a midterm. And if you measure from the yearly midterm lows, the results are even better. From their lows, stocks jumped an average of 32% over the next 12 months. For perspective, that’s more than double the average performance for stocks in all years. We’re also entering the third year of a presidential term, which is historically the strongest year for stocks. Take a look at this chart. You can see that the performance of stocks in the third year of a presidential term beats all other years by a long shot:

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“Rasmussen was the only major pollster in 2016 to predict a Trump victory..”

Stocks Surge After Latest Rasmussen Poll Shows GOP Retaining The House (ZH)

US equity markets ramped into the green as the final Rasmussen Reports Generic Congressional Ballot before Election Day shows Republicans edging ahead by one point… The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds that 46% would choose the Republican candidate if the elections for Congress were held today. 45% would vote for the Democrat. 3% prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) remain undecided. A week ago, Democrats held a 47% to 44% lead. This is the first poll showing a GOP lead, and it may matter: while often accused of bias, Rasmussen was the only major pollster in 2016 to predict a Trump victory; Rasmussen was also the only major pollster whose prediction was proven correct.

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So no stories afterward?!

US Intelligence: No Evidence Of Any Attempts To Tamper With Midterms (NBC)

U.S. intelligence officials have seen no evidence that any nation state is attempting to tamper with voting systems or election infrastructure ahead of tomorrow’s midterm election, intelligence officials told NBC News Tuesday. “There’s a lot of noise—we see the typical scanning and probing—but we can’t attribute it to any bad actors,” said one official briefed on the intelligence. U.S. officials also told NBC News that last week the White House was sent a top secret assessment of election security produced by a newly created interagency task force.

The assessment, created by NSA and U.S. Cyber Command specialists, also found no evidence that any foreign actors were working to infiltrate election infrastructure in the run up to Tuesday’s midterms, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the assessment. [..] In addition to reviewing possible threats, the task force members are taking an offensive posture, secretly communicating to known operatives in Russia and elsewhere that they are aware of their activities, sources said. A senior U.S. official described the communications with the suspected hackers as, “We know that you’re going to do this. Don’t do it!”

The task force, which was created in May, has built a database of hackers and trolls, as well as Russian government institutions and private entities that have been involved in the U.S., a senior intelligence official said. The assessment on potential election system tampering is consistent with what American officials have been saying publicly all year. They have sounded the alarm about foreign influence campaigns on social media––led by Russia, China and Iran––but they have seen no evidence that any foreign actor was gearing up to hack the vote.

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Mostly about trade? Or is it Iran?

US and China To Hold A Top-Level Security Dialogue On Friday (R.)

The United States and China will hold a delayed top-level security dialogue on Friday, the latest sign of a thaw in relations, as China’s vice president said Beijing was willing to talk with Washington to resolve their bitter trade dispute. The resumption of high-level dialogue, marked by a phone call last week between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, comes ahead of an expected meeting between the two at the G20 summit in Argentina starting in late November. It follows months of recriminations spanning trade, U.S. accusations of Chinese political interference, the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan.

China and the United States have both described last week’s telephone call between Xi and Trump as positive. Trump predicted he’d be able to make a deal with China on trade. In a concrete sign of the unfreezing, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will take part in diplomatic and security talks later this week in Washington. China said last month the two sides had initially agreed “in principle” to hold the second round of diplomatic security talks in October but they were postponed at Washington’s request amid rising tensions over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

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Over 100 countries borrowed from China. Mostly in USD.

Exposing China’s Overseas Lending (Reinhart)

Over the past 15 years, China has fueled one of the most dramatic and geographically far-reaching surges in official peacetime lending in history. More than one hundred predominantly low-income countries have taken out Chinese loans to finance infrastructure projects, expand their productive capacity in mining or other primary commodities, or support government spending in general. But the size of this lending wave is not its most distinctive feature. What is truly remarkable is how little anyone other than the immediate players – the Chinese government and development agencies that do the lending and the governments and state-owned enterprises that do the borrowing – knows about it.

There is some information about the size and timing of Chinese loans from the financial press and a variety of private and academic sources; but information about loans’ terms and conditions is scarce to nonexistent. Three years ago, writing about “hidden debts” to China and focusing on the largest borrowers in Latin America (Venezuela and Ecuador), I noted with concern that standard data sources do not capture the marked expansion of China’s financial transactions with the remainder of the developing world. Not much has changed since then.

While China in 2016 joined the ranks of countries reporting to the Bank for International Settlements, the lending from development banks in China is not broken down by counterparty in the BIS data. Emerging-market borrowing from China is seldom in the form of securities issued in international capital markets, so it also does not appear in databases at the World Bank and elsewhere. These accounting deficiencies mean that many developing and emerging-market countries’ external debts are currently underestimated in varying degrees. Moreover, because these are mostly dollar debts, missing the China connection leads to underestimating balance sheets’ vulnerability to currency risk.

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But … the Russians!

EU Lost Over €100 BIllion Due To Its Own Anti-Russia Sanctions – Lavrov (RT)

The EU is punishing itself for doing Washington’s bidding and sanctioning Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. However, while the restrictions policy does not harm the US, the EU suffers billions in losses. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Lavrov lamented the dismal state of EU-Russia relations, describing them as far from normal. The divisions are being fueled from across the pond, he said. “The mythical ‘Russian threat’ is forced upon the Europeans, primarily, from the outside,” Lavrov said. The main bone of contention between the EU and Russia –sanctions– were imposed by the European nations “on direct orders” from Washington.

With that said, the US has hardly felt any adverse effect from the policy it championed, unlike the EU. “Estimates of losses incurred by the EU states from the sanctions vary. According to some estimates, they might amount to over €100 billion. It’s important that European politicians understand this,” the minister said. Russia, which had to retaliate with tit-for-tat measures, is ready to lift the restrictions it imposed on European goods back in 2014. “We have spoken repeatedly about our readiness to abolish countermeasures,” Lavrov said. However, the EU must make the first step. “We hope that common sense will eventually prevail since, objectively speaking, the sanctions neither benefit Russia nor the EU,” the diplomat added.

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Get in line or else. That’s Brussels for you.

Eurozone Ministers Line Up Behind EU In Italy Budget Dispute (G.)

Several eurozone finance ministers have come out to back Brussels in a row with Italy’s populist government over a budget that has been deemed to break the rules of the common currency bloc.France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, warned that the future of the euro was at stake as he urged the Italian government to reach an agreement with the European commission. “The wise path is the path of dialogue, exchange of views, to find the best solution for the eurozone as a whole, for the Italian government and for our common currency,” he said on Monday as he arrived at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers. “For what is at stake now is our common currency.” Italy doubled down on its refusal to change the budget, a week before a deadline to submit new plans to the European commission.

“No little letter will make us back down. Italy will never kneel again,” Italy’s powerful interior minister Matteo Salvini has said. Italian deputy prime minister Luigi di Maio told the Financial Times the rest of Europe should copy Italy’s expansionary public spending plans. “If the recipe works here, it will be said at a European level, we should apply the recipe of Italy to all other countries.” The commission rejected Italy’s draft 2019 budget last month – although other member states, including France and Germany, have broken the rules in the past without sanction. Italy must submit a new plan by 13 November and will hear Brussels’ verdict on 21 November, when the commission delivers an assessment on the budgets of all eurozone members.

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Not yet, I’d say.

The Italian People Must Understand That Their Country Is At War (Gefira)

To make the euro sustainable, the European financial elites want the Italians to reduce their spending and turn a budget deficit into a budget surplus. However, due to the country’s shrinking population the Italian budget deficit — as we have argued many times – can only increase. The European commission rejects the Italian budget because Rome wants to increase its debt far beyond the limit allowed by the ECB. “This is the first Italian budget that the EU doesn’t like,” wrote Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook. “No surprise: This is the first Italian budget written in Rome and not in Brussels!” Matteo Salvini added: “This (the rejection of the Italian budget plan by the EU) doesn’t change anything.”. “They’re not attacking a government but a people. These are things that will anger Italians even more,” he said.

The country has entered a demographic winter and sustainable economic growth is simply impossible, at least for the foreseeable future. As is the case with the whole of Europe, the continent needs a plan to support an ageing and declining population. As if not aware of it, the Brussels-Frankfurt establishment only wants Italy to stick to their austerity program, i.e. decrease public spending and do away with the current Italian administration, which refuses to comply. To force Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini out of office, the European Union will go to any lengths to destroy the Italian banking sector the way they did it in Greece and Cyprus. In 2015 Greece shut down its banks, ordering them to stay closed for six days, and its central bank imposed restrictions to prevent money from fleeing out of the country.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, former head of the euro group, suggests that the financial markets should try to lower the value of the Italian bonds. A lower bond value will erode the capital of the Italian banks and make them insolvent. Mario Draghi, head of the ECB, warned last week that a recent sell-off of Italian government bonds was set to dent the capital of Italy’s banks which own about €375 billion worth of that paper. The remarks of the ECB’s chairman were carefully prepared as another deliberate attack on the Italian financial system. It is highly unusual for central bankers to warn the bank under their supervision against insolvency, at the same time trying to provoke a preemptive bank run.

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RBA has a third mandate: ensuring Australia’s economic prosperity and financial stability..

Australia’s Housing Downturn Could Spark Interest Rate Cut (ABC.au)

Our politicians now have what they have so publicly yearned for; more affordable housing. Real estate prices nationally are down 4.6 per cent year-on-year. The declines, however, are more pronounced in the two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. And the slump is beginning to spread. According to real estate price monitoring firm CoreLogic, Sydney real estate has fallen 7.4 per cent during the past year — the biggest annual decline since 1990, when the economy was sliding into recession. Melbourne has dropped 4.7 per cent during the same period but the pace is accelerating and, just like Sydney, has begun to spread from high-end property into the suburbs with lower-priced housing also turning negative.

Perth, which took a hit as the mining boom unwound, is also back in decline, down a further 3.3 per cent in the past year. Hobart is the only state capital still experiencing boom times, with a 9.7 per cent lift. So far, and much to everyone’s relief, the price declines have been orderly. But after a year of consistent monthly falls in Sydney, the number of people — particularly first-home buyers — now facing significant capital losses are mounting. The main cause for the contraction on the demand side is that it now is much more difficult to raise finance. Banks simply refuse to lend the kind of money previously being thrown at housing.

[..] Unlike most central banks, our Reserve Bank has three mandates, or briefs, that it must maintain. The first is to ensure inflation remains steady and manageable. That’s pretty much the standard brief for every central bank. But the RBA also has to aim for full employment. Plus, it’s tasked with ensuring Australia’s economic prosperity and financial stability. Some would argue that’s an almost impossible mission. And it partly explains why it deliberately fired up the east coast housing boom — to absorb workers being laid off as the mining boom came to an end, even if it merely delayed the inevitable.

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The shame runs deep. Third world.

UN Investigates Extreme Poverty In UK (CNN)

The United Nations has launched an investigation into extreme levels of poverty in one of the richest countries in the world: the United Kingdom. Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, starts a two-week fact-finding mission Monday, visiting some of the country’s poorest towns and cities to examine the effects of austerity measures on rising levels of hardship. Alston, known for his no-holds-barred critiques, will gather evidence on the impact that changes to welfare benefits and local government funding as well as the rising costs of living have had on British families.

“The Government has made significant changes to social protection in the past decade, and I will be looking closely at the impact that has had on people living in poverty and their realization of basic rights,” Alston said in a statement. “I have received hundreds of submissions that make clear many people are really struggling to make ends meet. [..] CNN reported in September that nearly 4 million children in the UK were living in households that struggle to afford fruit, vegetables and other foods conducive to healthy living, according to a report by the Food Foundation. The long-term policy of austerity in the UK has also had a disproportionate impact on women, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It has been nearly a decade since then-Prime Minister David Cameron committed to cut excessive government spending, declaring in 2009 that “the age of irresponsibility” was “giving way to the age of austerity.”

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Extremely well done.

American Bread & Circus (Mike Maloney)

Long-time Automatic Earth friend Mike Maloney is doing a long series called The Hidden Secrets of Money. This is episode 10 already, the Fall of Rome and the Fall of America. We have some catching up to do.

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Energy use produces waste. It can take many forms.

Large Hydropower Dams ‘Not Sustainable’ (BBC)

A new study says that many large-scale hydropower projects in Europe and the US have been disastrous for the environment. Dozens of these dams are being removed every year, with many considered dangerous and uneconomic. But the authors fear that the unsustainable nature of these projects has not been recognised in the developing world. Thousands of new dams are now being planned for rivers in Africa and Asia. Hydropower is the source of 71% of renewable energy throughout the world and has played a major role in the development of many countries.

But researchers say the building of dams in Europe and the US reached a peak in the 1960s and has been in decline since then, with more now being dismantled than installed. Hydropower only supplies approximately 6% of US electricity. Dams are now being removed at a rate of more than one a week on both sides of the Atlantic. The problem, say the authors of this new paper, is that governments were blindsided by the prospect of cheap electricity without taking into account the full environmental and social costs of these installations. More than 90% of dams built since the 1930s were more expensive than anticipated. They have damaged river ecology, displaced millions of people and have contributed to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases from the decomposition of flooded lands and forests.

[..] In the developing world, an estimated 3,700 dams, large and small, are now in various stages of development. The authors say their big worry is that many of the bigger projects will do irreparable damage to the major rivers on which they are likely to be built. On the Congo river, the Grand Inga project is expected to produce more than a third of the total electricity currently being generated in Africa. However, the new study points out that the main goal for the $80bn installation will be to provide electricity to industry. “Over 90% of the energy from this project is going to go to South Africa for mining and the people in the Congo will not get that power,” said Prof Moran.

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The threats are too new to be part of any constitution, so it becomes a matter of interpretation. That can work both ways.

US Supreme Court Allows Historic Kids’ Climate Lawsuit To Go Forward (Nature)

A landmark climate-change lawsuit brought by young people against the US government can proceed, the Supreme Court said on 2 November. The case, Juliana v. United States, had been scheduled to begin trial on 29 October in Eugene, Oregon, in a federal district court. But those plans were scrapped last month after President Donald Trump’s administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene and dismiss the case. The plaintiffs, who include 21 people ranging in age from 11 to 22, allege that the government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to prevent dangerous climate change.

They are asking the district court to order the federal government to prepare a plan that will ensure the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere falls below 350 parts per million by 2100, down from an average of 405 parts per million in 2017. By contrast, the US Department of Justice argues that “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’” — as the Juliana plaintiffs assert. Although the Supreme Court has now denied the Trump administration’s request to the dismiss the case, the path ahead is unclear. In its 2 November order, the Supreme Court suggested that a federal appeals court should consider the administration’s arguments before any trial starts in the Oregon district court.

[..] Although climate change is a global problem, lawyers around the world have brought climate-change-related lawsuits against local and national governments and corporations since the late 1980s. These suits have generally sought to force the sort of aggressive action against climate change that has been tough to achieve through political means. Many of the cases have failed, but in 2015, a citizen’s group called the Urgenda Foundation won a historic victory against the Dutch government. The judge in that case ordered the Netherlands to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, citing the possibility of climate-related damages to “current and future generations of Dutch nationals” and the government’s “duty of care … to prevent hazardous climate change”. A Dutch appeals court upheld the verdict last month.

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Nov 052018
 
 November 5, 2018  Posted by at 9:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jean-Francois Millet The Young Shepherdess 1870-73

 

Iran Vows To ‘Proudly Bypass’ US Sanctions (AFP)
China Says Its Lawful Trade With Iran Should Be Respected (R.)
Iran Hardline Cleric: We’ll “Instantly” Create $400 Oil By Seizing Tankers (ZH)
The Global US Squeeze On Iran Has Started (EM)
Trump’s War on the Fed (Ellen Brown)
David Stockman: Epic Downturn Is Here, Brace For 40% Market Plunge (CNBC)
The Challenge for Deutsche Bank (Whalen)
The Real Economic Gamble Is Too Little Government Borrowing (Ind.)
Theresa May’s Chances Of Striking Irish Border Deal ’50-50′ – EU (G.)
1,400 UK Top Lawyers Call On May To Give Voters Final Say On Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Saudi Sent ‘Cover-Up Team’ To Dispose Of Khashoggi Body (AFP)
Khashoggi’s Sons Appeal For Return Of His Body (R.)
2nd Kavanaugh Accuser Admits She Lied (ZH)
Senate Judiciary Republicans Say No Evidence Found Against Kavanaugh (Hill)

 

 

Iran remembers the sjah, and US involvement in his reign, and the Savak. Americans forget at their own peril. Painting Iran as the aggressor while siding with the Saudi’s against it is not 100% credible, to say the least.

Iran Vows To ‘Proudly Bypass’ US Sanctions (AFP)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic republic “will proudly bypass sanctions” by the United States that took effect on Monday targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors. “I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it’s against international regulations,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. “We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don’t think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions,” he added. The measures described by Washington as “the toughest sanctions ever” follow US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in May to abandon the multi-nation nuclear deal with Tehran.

The latest tranche aim to significantly cut Iran’s oil exports – which have already fallen by around one million barrels a day since May – and cut it off from international finance. The United States has given temporary exemptions to eight countries – including India, Japan and Turkey – to continue buying oil in a bid to avoid disturbing their economies and global markets. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to push Iran’s oil sales to zero. “Watch what we do. Watch as we’ve already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.


Iranian General Qasem Soleimani posted this

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Clear and concise.

China Says Its Lawful Trade With Iran Should Be Respected (R.)

China said on Monday its lawful trade cooperation with Iran should be respected and expressed regret that the United States re-imposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not directly comment on whether China had been granted exemption from the Iran sanctions by the United States. The restoration of U.S. sanctions on Monday targeting Iran’s oil sales and banking sector is part of an effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes outright, as well as its support for proxy forces in conflicts across the Middle East.

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“The UAE and Saudi Arabia will be destroyed in 60 minutes. After 90 minutes the U.S. will have nothing in this country. And we haven’t even started with Israel. Beware of the day we go after Israel, too.”

Iran Hardline Cleric: We’ll “Instantly” Create $400 Oil By Seizing Tankers (ZH)

Powerful Shia cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda is the Friday Prayer leader in Mashhad, considered Iran’s spiritual capital and among the holiest places in Shia Islam, and sits on the government’s “Assembly of Experts” but has no formal government role or decision-making ability. However, he’s a powerful leader and chief spiritual force behind Iran’s conservative faction who has long been at odds with President Hassan Rouhani. Iranian opposition sources report that Alamolhoda told his followers during his Friday prayer sermon: “If we reach a point that our oil is not exported, the Strait of Hormuz will be mined. Saudi oil tankers will be seized and regional countries will be leveled with Iranian missiles.”

The cleric is further reported to have declared that Iran has the power to “instantly” create conditions for $400 a barrel oil prices if it decides to act in the Persian Gulf. He said as reported in regional opposition media: “If Iran decides, a single drop of this region’s oil will not be exported and in 90 minutes all Persian Gulf countries will be destroyed. The UAE and Saudi Arabia will be destroyed in 60 minutes. After 90 minutes the U.S. will have nothing in this country. And we haven’t even started with Israel. Beware of the day we go after Israel, too. That’s why they want us to round up our missiles.”

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“General Qassem Soleimani has said to President Hassan Rouhani: “You walk and we stand ahead of you. Don’t respond to Trump’s provocations because he is insolent and not at your level. I shall face him myself“

The Global US Squeeze On Iran Has Started (EM)

Today the harshest and highest level economic and energy sanctions that can be imposed on any country are being imposed unilaterally on Iran. The US establishment will try its best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees and Tehran will do its best to cross the US minefield. Whatever the outcome, Iran will never submit to Washington’s twelve conditions.Iran is not a fledgeling country ready to collapse at the imposition of the first tight sanctions, nor will Iran allow its oil exports to be frozen without reacting. In fact, US and UN sanctions against Iran date to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and the fall of the Shah in 1979.No doubt the Iranian economy will be affected. Nevertheless, Iranian unity today has reached new heights.

President Trump has managed to bring reformists and radicals together under the same umbrella! Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has said to President Hassan Rouhani: “You walk and we stand ahead of you. Don’t respond to Trump’s provocations because he is insolent and not at your level. I shall face him myself”. Rouhani believes “US policy and its new conspiracy will fail”. All responsible figures in the Iranian regime are now united under the leadership of Imam Ali Khamenei against the US policy whose aim is to curb the regime. Under the previous worldwide sanctions regime, Iran began developing missile technology and precision weapons. Iran has never yielded in support of its allies because these alliances are an integral part of its ideology.

Today, Tehran is not standing alone against the US and is waiting to see what course global sanctions will take before reacting. Officials in Tehran, convinced that Trump will win a second term, are preparing for a long siege. Sayyed Ali Khamenei said his country will never strike any deal with the US and won’t be a party to any future agreement because the US is fundamentally untrustworthy. Iran relies on the unity of its own citizens and on the support of its partners in the Middle East, Europe (a crucial strategic ally), and Asia.

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End the Fed. Is that Trump’s endgame?

Trump’s War on the Fed (Ellen Brown)

[..] perhaps the president’s goal is not to subtly affect Fed behavior so much as to make it patently obvious who is to blame when the next Great Recession hits. And recession is fairly certain to hit, because higher interest rates almost always trigger recessions. The Fed’s current policy of “quantitative tightening”—tightening or contracting the money supply—is the very definition of recession, a term Wikipedia defines as “a business cycle contraction which results in a general slowdown in economic activity.” This “business cycle” is not something inevitable, like the weather. It is triggered by the central bank. When the Fed drops interest rates, banks flood the market with “easy money,” allowing speculators to snatch up homes and other assets.

When the central bank then raises interest rates, it contracts the amount of money available to spend and to pay down debt. Borrowers go into default and foreclosed homes go on the market at fire-sale prices, again to be snatched up by the monied class. But it is a game of Monopoly that cannot go on forever. According to Elga Bartsch, chief European economist at Morgan Stanley, one more financial cataclysm could be all that it takes for central bank independence to end. “Having been overburdened for a long time, many central banks might just be one more economic downturn or financial crisis away from a full-on political backlash,” she wrote in a note to clients in 2017. “Such a political backlash could call into question one of the long-standing tenets of modern monetary policy making—central bank independence.”

And that may be the president’s endgame. When higher rates trigger another recession, Trump can point an accusing finger at the central bank, absolving his own policies of liability and underscoring the need for a major overhaul of the Fed. Trump has not overtly joined the End the Fed campaign, but he has had the ear of several advocates of that approach. One is John Allison, whom the president evidently considered for both Fed chairman and treasury secretary. Allison has proposed ending the Fed altogether and returning to the gold standard, and Trump suggested on the campaign trail that he approved of a gold-backed currency.

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At some point David will be right.

David Stockman: Epic Downturn Is Here, Brace For 40% Market Plunge (CNBC)

David Stockman warns a 40 percent stock market plunge is closing in on Wall Street. Stockman, who served as President Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget director, has long warned of a deep downturn that would shake Wall Street’s most bullish investors. He believes the early rumblings of that epic downturn is finally here. It comes as the S&P 500 Index tries to rebound from its worst month since 2011. “No one has outlawed recessions. We’re within a year or two of one,” he said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” He added that: “fair value of the S&P going into the next recession is well below 2000, 1500 — way below where we are today.” This is far from the first time he’s issued a dire warning. But this time, he suggests the latest leg down is an early tremor of the pain that lies ahead.

“If you’re a rational investor, you need only two words in your vocabulary: Trump and sell,” said Stockman, in a reference to President Donald Trump. “He’s playing with fire at the very top of an aging expansion.” According to Stockman, Trump’s efforts to get the Federal Reserve to put the brakes on hiking interest rates from historical lows is misdirected. “He’s attacking the Fed for going too quick when it’s been dithering for eight years. The funds rate at 2.13 percent is still below inflation,” he said. Stockman cited the trade war as another major reason why investors should brace for a prolonged sell-off. “The trade war is not remotely rational,” he said. If the dispute worsens, it “is going to hit the whole goods economy with inflation like you’ve never seen before because China supplies about 30 percent of the goods in the categories we import.”

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The world’s fattest zombie?!

The Challenge for Deutsche Bank (Whalen)

When we first heard news reports about a new investor in Deutsche Bank (DB), we of course assumed that this meant the purchase of new shares and thus an increase in capital. But no, it was merely an “activist investor” taking a stake in existing shares. Is this really news or merely a sign of a top in large bank stocks? The DB common is trading a hair over $10 or just 0.3x book value and has a beta of 1.5. Douglas Braunstein, founder and managing partner of Hudson Executive Capital and J.P. Morgan’s former CFO, said in an interview with CNBC that the firm has taken on the stake over the last few months after studying the stock for a year. We’ve been following DB for a lot longer than that and have great difficulty constructing a bull case for the name. But let’s take a look anyway.

First on the list of concerns is profitability. DB has been struggling for years to find a business strategy to deliver consistent profitability, the key measure of stability for any bank. Through the first nine months of the year, DB delivered net income of less than a €1 billion compared with €1.6 billion a year ago. For the full year 2017 the bank lost €750 million. As yet, no one on the management team – if we may so dignify DB’s executives – have been able to articulate a coherent plan to move forward. Second is capital. DB has just €61 billion or 4% capital to total assets of €1.5 trillion, one of the lowest simple leverage ratios of any major bank worldwide. The bank tries to hide this capital deficiency behind calculations that exclusively use “risk weighted “assets” of just €354 billion. In the bank’s non-GAPP disclosure, there is just €54 billion in tangible capital disclosed for a leverage ratio closer to 3%.

In the Q3 ’18 earnings call, when CEO Christian Sewing said that “we committed to conservative balance sheet management and maintaining a CET1 ratio above 13%,” he was referring to risk weighted assets, not total assets. If one assumes that the entire Basel III/IV framework is a confused mess when it comes to describing risk, then the leverage ratio is what matters. Risk weighted assets is a way to pretend that the rest of the banks in Europe and Asia are solvent. To be fair to DB, most European banks play the game of only referring to “risk weighted assets” in their financial disclosure to investors. The EU bank regulators are entirely complicit in this charade. Indeed, since the end of 2017 DB’s total capital has actually fallen 4%.

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Italy knows. Austerity is under justified pressure. With Merkel leaving, and Juncker too.

The Real Economic Gamble Is Too Little Government Borrowing (Ind.)

With his dad jokes and fetish for spreadsheets, Philip Hammond does not fit the stereotype of a “gambler”. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) nevertheless argues that the chancellor rolled the dice in last week’s Budget and took a rather risky wager. Instead of using his lower borrowing projection “windfall” from the official independent forecaster to reduce the deficit more rapidly, Hammond essentially spent it all on the health service, while leaving the overall path of government borrowing more or less unchanged. He could have had a projected budget surplus in five years’ time, but instead there’s still set to be around £20bn of borrowing in 2023-24.

Virtually the entire UK news media took up this “gambler” theme in their headline coverage of the aftermath of the Budget. Yet we should be extremely wary of this framing. Because it obscures the crucial truth that, in economics, the gamble is sometimes borrowing too little, not too much. The IFS, to be fair, was using the phrase in a narrow sense of the chancellor jeopardising his chances of meeting his own self-imposed fiscal rules. Those Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) borrowing downgrades – whose origins remain mysterious given the official forecaster hasn’t upgraded its nominal GDP or growth forecasts which would be the most obvious explanations for higher than expected tax receipts lately – could very well be reversed in future budgets.

Since 2010, most underlying borrowing revisions have been negative (implying more borrowing than previously expected) rather than positive for the public finances. What the lord of forecasting (in this case OBR director Robert Chote) giveth, he can also taketh away. He even warned as much last week. And what would happen then?

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if only she gives in she can have a deal yesterday.

Theresa May’s Chances Of Striking Irish Border Deal ’50-50′ – EU (G.)

The chances of Theresa May striking a deal with Brussels on the Irish border that she can sell to the cabinet and parliament are said by EU officials to be “50-50” as the fraught talks enter their final stretch. The British negotiating team and the European commission’s taskforce, led by Michel Barnier, are to enter a secretive phase known as the “tunnel” this week, but senior EU figures involved in the talks warned the competing redlines remain “incompatible” in key areas. The British government has set out its stall to make “decisive progress” on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop by Friday, in the hope that Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, could then call an extraordinary Brexit summit for the end of the month to seal the deal.

One Whitehall source said, should sufficient ground be made in the coming days, a tentative new date of 22 November is being floated for a meeting of the EU’s heads of state and government. Downing Street has insisted it does not have a deal ready for signoff, in response to reports over the weekend of there being an agreement in the making. “We are not sitting on powder keg knowledge that we have signed a secret deal,” the No 10 source said. “We are not on the cusp of some seismic shift.” Some at the highest levels of government fear that, unless progress is agreed by Tuesday when May sees her senior ministers and parliament breaks for recess, the cabinet may not have a direct input before a summit announcement is made.

“The reality is that we need a November summit more than the EU do,” a government source said. They suggested that a December deal would mean not only a later parliamentary vote but would require spending on no-deal planning and changes to the roles of hundreds of civil service.

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Hard to see how May can avoid a Final Say.

1,400 UK Top Lawyers Call On May To Give Voters Final Say On Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Fourteen hundred of the UK’s top lawyers have urged Theresa May and MPs to back a second Brexit referendum, saying that democratic government “is not frozen in time”. Labour peer Baroness Kennedy QC, former Court of Appeal judge Konrad Schiemann and David Edward, a former judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, are among those who have called for a people’s vote on EU membership. In a letter to Mrs May, they say parliament should not be bound by the 2016 vote any more than it should be by the 1975 referendum that took Britain into the EU, especially when there are question marks over its validity.

They wrote that voters are entitled to know what they are voting for, and said: “There was a key difference between 1975 and 2016. The earlier referendum was held after negotiations were complete, so voters knew what they were voting for. “In 2016, the nature of the negotiation process and its outcome were unknown. Voters faced a choice between a known reality and an unknown alternative. “In the campaign, untestable claims took the place of facts and reality.” Human rights specialist Jonathan Cooper, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “The current state of the Brexit negotiations is worrying people throughout the UK and the legal profession is no exception to that. “We represent people from across industry and society and we see every day the way the prospect of a catastrophic Brexit deal is already causing real harm.

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First team of 15 to kill him, 2nd team of 11 to get rid of the body 9 days later. Question: what happened during those 9 days? The Turkish probably know.

Saudi Sent ‘Cover-Up Team’ To Dispose Of Khashoggi Body (AFP)

Saudi Arabia deployed a chemist and toxicology expert to Istanbul after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an attempt to cover up evidence of the killing, a Turkish newspaper reported on Monday. The murder of the Saudi royal-insider-turned critic inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul has provoked widespread international outrage. Turkish authorities have released gruesome details of a killing that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said was a targeted hit. While Riyadh officials have admitted the murder was planned, they have so far declined to release details of the whereabouts of the 59-year-old journalist’s missing body.

According to Turkey’s pro-government Sabah daily, Saudi Arabia sent an 11-member “cover-up team” to Istanbul on October 11, nine days after the Washington Post contributor vanished after entering the diplomatic compound to obtain paperwork for his marriage. The paper said chemist Ahmad Abdulaziz Aljanobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya Al Zahrani were among “the so-called investigative team”, which visited the consulate every day until October 17, before leaving Turkey on October 20. Saudi Arabia finally allowed Turkish police to search the consulate for the first time on October 15.

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That might be a tad difficult. you know, between the bone saw and the acid…

Khashoggi’s Sons Appeal For Return Of His Body (R.)

The sons of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Sunday issued an appeal for the return of their father’s body and said they wanted to return to Saudi Arabia to bury him. In an interview with CNN, Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi said that without their father’s body, their family is unable to grieve and deal with the emotional burden of their father’s death. “It’s not a normal situation, it’s not a normal death at all. All what we want right now is to bury him in Al-Baqi (cemetery) in Medina (Saudi Arabia) with the rest of his family,” Salah Khashoggi said. “I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon.”

[..] Khashoggi’s body has not been recovered, and Saudi authorities are conducting an official investigation. Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an international businessman, said on Sunday that the probe will exonerate the country’s leader. Salah Khashoggi on Oct. 24 met in Riyadh with the crown prince and King Salman to receive condolences along with other Khashoggi family members. Salah departed for Washington a day later, and his CNN interview was his first public comments since then. He said King Salman assured him that those involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder would be brought to justice.

“We just need to make sure that he rests in peace,” Salah Khashoggi said of his father. “Until now, I still can’t believe that he’s dead. It’s not sinking in with me emotionally,” he said, adding that there has been a lot of “misinformation” about the circumstances of the death.

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At some point we must ask ourselves: what have we been watching?

2nd Kavanaugh Accuser Admits She Lied (ZH)

A Kentucky woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of rape has been referred to the Department of Justice after she admitted that she lied. The woman, Judy Munro-Leighton, took credit for contacting the office of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as “Jane Doe” from Oceanside, California. Jane Doe claimed – without naming a time or place – that Kavanaugh and a friend raped her “several times each” in the backseat of a car. Harris referred the letter to the committee for investigation. “They forced me to go into the backseat and took 2 turns raping me several times each. They dropped me off 3 two blocks from my home,” wrote Munro-Leighton, claiming that the pair told her “No one will believe if you tell. Be a good girl.”

Kavanaugh was questioned on September 26 about the allegation, to which he unequivocally stated: “[T]he whole thing is ridiculous. Nothing ever – anything like that, nothing… [T]he whole thing is just a crock, farce, wrong, didn’t happen, not anything close.” The next week, Munro-Leighton sent an email to the Judiciary committee claiming to be Jane Doe from Oceanside, California – reiterating her claims of a “vicious assault” which she said she knew “will get no media attention.” Upon investigation, the Judiciary Committee investigators found that Munro-Leighton was a left wing activist who is decades older than Judge Kavanaugh, who lives in Kentucky. When Committee investigators contacted her, she backpedaled on her claim of being the original Jane Doe – and said she emailed the committee “as a way to grab attention.”

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“The witnesses that Dr. Ford identified as individuals who could corroborate her allegations failed to do so, and in fact, contradicted her..”

Senate Judiciary Republicans Say No Evidence Found Against Kavanaugh (Hill)

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee late Saturday released a 414-page report in which the panel members say they found no supporting evidence for any of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation. “Committee investigators spoke with 45 individuals and took 25 written statements relating to the various allegations made in the course of the #SCOTUS confirmation process,” the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted Saturday. “In neither the committee’s investigation nor in the supplemental background investigation conducted by the FBI was there ANY evidence to substantiate or corroborate any of the allegations.”

The committee investigators “found no verifiable evidence that supported” Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed in the early 1980s and attempted to remove her clothes while covering her mouth with one hand. “The witnesses that Dr. Ford identified as individuals who could corroborate her allegations failed to do so, and in fact, contradicted her,” the report notes. It also states that committee investigators “found no verifiable evidence” to support Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they were both at Yale. The report additionally dismisses allegations from Julie Swetnick, forwarded by lawyer Michael Avenatti.

“Indeed, the evidence appears to support the position that Julie Swetnick and Mr. Avenatti criminally conspired to make materially false statements to the Committee and obstruct the Committee’s investigation,” the report writes. Avenatti and Swetnick have both been referred to the Department of Justice for potential criminal investigations into their behavior during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. Avenatti has been referred a second time.

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Nov 032018
 


Winslow Homer Cloud shadows 1890

 

The World Has Two Years To Secure A Deal To Halt Species Extinction – UN (G.)
US Wage Growth Hits Nine-Year High (BBC)
America’s Wealth Bubble Is Boosting Consumer Confidence (Colombo)
Inside The Trump Gold Rush At CNN (VF)
Who’s Really ‘Undermining’ US Democracy? (Stephen Cohen)
Perpetual Hysteria ( Kunstler)
Trump Will Grant 8 Waivers To Buy Iranian Oil (CNBC)
Europe Vows To Defy US Sanctions Against Iran (RT)
Europe’s Top Banks Ease Past ECB’s Latest Stress Tests (CNBC)
Erdogan Says ‘Highest Level’ Saudi Officials Ordered Khashoggi Murder (RT)
Public Prosecutors Charge Catalan Independence Leaders With Rebellion

 

 

The actual headline of this Guardian piece is “Stop Biodiversity Loss Or We Could Face Our Own Extinction”. Mine is better, because it illustrates, providing it’s accurate, how hopeless the situation is. If only because of what’s already in the pipeline. The prospect of 2 more years of meetings doesn’t change a thing.

The World Has Two Years To Secure A Deal To Halt Species Extinction – UN (G.)

The world has two years to secure a deal for nature to halt a ‘silent killer’ as dangerous as climate change, says biodiversity chief

The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief. Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pasca Palmer said people in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals that are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

“The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,” she told the Guardian. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.” Pasca Palmer is executive director of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – the world body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends. Its 196 member states will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month to start discussions on a new framework for managing the world’s ecosystems and wildlife. This will kick off two years of frenetic negotiations, which Pasca Palmer hopes will culminate in an ambitious new global deal at the next conference in Beijing in 2020.

Conservationists are desperate for a biodiversity accord that will carry the same weight as the Paris climate agreement. But so far, this subject has received miserably little attention even though many scientists say it poses at least an equal threat to humanity. The last two major biodiversity agreements – in 2002 and 2010 – have failed to stem the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs. Eight years ago, under the Aichi Protocol, nations promised to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, ensure sustainable fishing in all waters, and expand nature reserves from 10% to 17% of the world’s land by 2020. But many nations have fallen behind, and those that have created more protected areas have done little to police them. “Paper reserves” can now be found from Brazil to China.

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3 days to midterms.

US Wage Growth Hits Nine-Year High (BBC)

Wages in the US grew at their fastest pace for nine years last month, the latest official figures show. The US Labor Department said wages grew at an annual rate of 3.1% in October, accelerating from a rate of 2.8% the month before. The economy also added 250,000 jobs last month, beating expectations, while the jobless rate remained at 3.7%. The report quickly became fodder for political debate ahead of next week’s high stakes congressional election. President Donald Trump celebrated the figures on Twitter as “incredible” and urged his followers to “Vote Republican”. In an unusual move, the White House also organised a briefing call for reporters to promote the gains.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, issued a statement of his own, aiming to redirect voter attention. The latest numbers “may look good” but should be considered alongside other economic policies, he said. “When the average family sees their health care costs go up because of Republican actions, these numbers will mean little,” he said. Among economists, there was wider agreement that the jobs report pointed to strength in the US economy, despite recent worries that weakness may be emerging in some sectors such as housing and trade.

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There’s something wonderfully ironic in this. Getting your confidence from hot air.

America’s Wealth Bubble Is Boosting Consumer Confidence (Colombo)

ZeroHedge posted an interesting chart a few days ago showing how affluent Americans (those making over $50,000 a year) have not been more confident since the dot com bubble. While strong consumer confidence may seem like a good thing when taken at face value, the contrarian in me sees it as a warning of the kind of over-exuberance seen during bubbles like the dot-com bubble and housing bubble.

Unfortunately, I believe that the U.S. is experiencing an unsustainable, artificial household wealth bubble that is causing affluent consumers to be over-optimistic despite the fact that our economic boom is largely driven by cheap credit and is going to end in a painful bust. As I explained in a recent presentation, U.S. household wealth has surged by approximately $46 trillion or 83% since 2009 to an all-time high of $100.8 trillion. Since 1951, household wealth has averaged 379% of the GDP, while the Dot-com bubble peaked at 429%, the housing bubble topped out at 473%, and the current bubble has inflated household wealth to a record 505% of GDP (see the chart below):

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As I’ve said numerous times, Trump sells better than sex, and he’s keeping CNN alive. The suggestion that CNN allows both sides into teh debate is ludicrous, though.

Inside The Trump Gold Rush At CNN (VF)

Zucker was on the phone talking about why Trump sucks up so much of CNN’s oxygen. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, I don’t want to talk about Trump. I’ve had too much Trump,’ ” he told me. “And yet at the end of the day, all they want to do is talk about Trump. We’ve seen that, anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away. So we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.” Zucker, the guy who first brought our president to the small screen when he green-lighted The Apprentice in 2004 while running NBC, had arguably schooled Trump in the art of reality television.

Halfway through Trump’s first term, his instincts remain just as acute. If Fox News represents Trump’s base and MSNBC has become a friendly platform for the resistance, CNN is the arena where both sides show up for cantankerous battle. “On Fox, you rarely hear from people who don’t support Trump,” Zucker told me. “On MSNBC, you rarely hear from people who do support Trump. We want to be home to both those points of view.” He continued, as if rebuking a common critique of the network. “It is true some of these folks are not very good with the facts, but that’s O.K. in the sense that it’s our job then to call them out.”

[..] Even though CNN still trails Fox News and MSNBC in prime-time audience size, its ratings have never been better. The average number of people watching on a given day has been above 700,000 each year since 2016, compared to around 400,000 in the pre-Trump news cycle. That’s also considerably larger than any other time over the past 25 years, an astonishing feat given the ubiquity of news and the decline of cable.

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Russiagate undermines democracy.

Who’s Really ‘Undermining’ US Democracy? (Stephen Cohen)

Even though still unproven, charges that the Kremlin put Trump in the White House have cast a large shadow of illegitimacy over his presidency and thus over the institution of the presidency itself. This is unlikely to end entirely with Trump. If the Kremlin had the power to affect the outcome of one presidential election, why not another one, whether won by a Republican or a Democrat? The 2016 presidential election was the first time such an allegation became widespread in American political history, but it may not be the last. Now the same shadow looms over the November 6 elections and thus over the next Congress. If so, in barely two years, the legitimacy of two fundamental institutions of American representative democracy will have been challenged, also for the first time in history.

And if US elections are really so vulnerable to Russian “meddling,” what does this say about faith in American elections more generally? How many losing candidates on November 6 will resist blaming the Kremlin? Two years after the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton and her adamant supporters still have not been able to do so. We know from critical reporting and from recent opinion surveys that the origins and continuing fixation on the Russiagate scandal since 2016 have been primarily a product of US political-intelligence-media elites. It did not spring from the American people – from voters themselves. Thus a Gallup poll recently showed that 58 percent of those surveyed wanted improved relations with Russia. And other surveys have shown that Russiagate is scarcely an issue at all for likely voters on November 6. Nonetheless, it remains a front-page issue for US elites.

Indeed, Russiagate has revealed the low esteem that many US political-media elites have for American voters – for their ability to make discerning, rational electoral decisions, which is the bedrock assumption of representative democracy. It is worth noting that this disdain for rank-and-file citizens echoes a longstanding attitude of the Russian political intelligentsia, as recently expressed in the argument by a prominent Moscow policy intellectual that Russian authoritarianism springs not from the nation’s elites but from the “genetic code” of its people.

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Certainly looks like the Democrats need to hit some kind of bottom before they can rise again. If that ever happens.

Perpetual Hysteria ( Kunstler)

Back in the last century, when this was a different country, the Democrats were the “smart” party and the Republicans were the “stupid” party. How did that work? Well, back then the Democrats represented a broad middle class, with a base of factory workers, many of them unionized, and the party had to be smart, especially in the courts, to overcome the natural advantages of the owner class. In contrast, the Republicans looked like a claque of country club drunks who staggered home at night to sleep on their moneybags. Bad optics, as we say nowadays. [..] The Republican Party has, at least, sobered up some after getting blindsided by Trump and Trumpism. Like a drunk out of rehab, it’s attempting to get a life.

Two years in, the party marvels at Mr. Trump’s audacity, despite his obvious lack of savoir faire. And despite a longstanding lack of political will to face the country’s problems, the Republicans are being forced to engage on some real issues, such as the need for a coherent and effective immigration policy and the need to redefine formal trade relations. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has become the party of bad ideas and bad faith, starting with the position that “diversity and inclusion” means shutting down free speech, an unforgivable transgression against common sense and common decency. It’s a party that lies even more systematically than Mr. Trump, and does so knowingly (as when Google execs say they “Do no Evil”).

[..] I hope that Democrats lose as many congressional and senate seats as possible. I hope that the party is shoved into an existential crisis and is forced to confront its astounding dishonesty. I hope that the process prompts them to purge their leadership across the board. If there is anything to salvage in this organization, I hope it discovers aims and principles that are unrecognizable from its current agenda of perpetual hysteria.

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Overreach. America’s anti-Iran stance hinges to a large extent on Saudi interests. Which have taken a huge hit.

Trump Will Grant 8 Waivers To Buy Iranian Oil (CNBC)

The Trump administration will grant eight jurisdictions special exceptions to continue importing oil from Iran after U.S. sanctions on the country snap back into place on Monday, according to cabinet members. President Donald Trump gave oil buyers 180 days to wind down purchases of Iranian crude when he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May. The eight waivers will allow the jurisdictions to more gradually reduce their purchases after the Nov. 4 deadline. Oil market watchers have been closely monitoring the situation to determine how forcefully the Trump administration will enforce the sanctions.

State Department officials initially said importers must cut their purchases to zero by November, but administration officials subsequently telegraphed that some exceptions would be made. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday declined to name the eight jurisdictions during a conference call with reporters. The officials said all of the countries or territories have significantly reduced their purchases and will be given more time to further reduce their imports. [..] Japan, India and South Korea are among the countries, and China is still negotiating a waiver, Bloomberg News reported earlier on Friday, citing a senior administration official. Pompeo confirmed on Friday that the EU is not one of the jurisdictions that will receive a waiver.

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Russia and China will stand by Iran. Europe may as well.

Europe Vows To Defy US Sanctions Against Iran (RT)

European countries have vowed to maintain “effective financial channels” and to keep trading with Tehran after the US announced that the EU is not among those spared from its sweeping sanctions against Iran. European countries suddenly discovered that they were not on the list of the ‘lucky ones’ that their ally, the US, decided to exempt from the new wave of all-encompassing sanctions it plans to unleash on Iran. The sanctions, targeting Iran’s shipping, finance and energy sectors, which come into force on November 5, are also designed to punish those countries that dared to do business with the Islamic Republic in defiance of the US pressure.

Only eight nations were graciously granted exemptions by the US, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. However, Pompeo made it clear that the EU as a single entity is not on the list, sparking an angry reaction from the US’ western allies. Washington also specifically mentioned that it plans to target the special mechanism the EU has been creating to circumvent the restrictions, prompting its allies to fight back.

In response, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, together with the foreign and finance ministers of Germany, France and the UK, vowed to maintain “effective financial channels with Iran” and in particular to continue buying the Islamic Republic’s oil and gas. They also said that despite Washington’s pressure the EU is still committed to establishing a “Special Purpose Vehicle” for Iran-EU trade. The European nations will seek to protect its companies engaged in “legitimate business with Iran,” the statement said, adding that the EU will cooperate with Russia and China in particular to achieve these goals.

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Central banks are incapable of doing stress tests that matter.

Europe’s Top Banks Ease Past ECB’s Latest Stress Tests (CNBC)

Results of the stress test of Europe’s bigger banks released Friday revealed that all of the financial institutions in the EU wide examination passed the European Central Bank’s “adverse scenario”. The stress tests were carried out by the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) to gauge the health of the European banking system. The EBA said in findings published on their website that all 48 banks beat the common tier ratio of 5.5 percent under adverse stress. British bank Barclays ranked lowest in the test, scoring a common tier ratio of just 6.37 percent in the adverse scenario. Fellow U.K. bank Lloyds also performed poorly with a score of 6.8 percent.

Commenting after the results, the Bank Of England said the results showed that U.K. banks could absorb the effect of the EBA’s worst scenario. Europe’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, performed better than some forecasters had predicted, registering a core tier of 8.14 percent, again in an adverse scenario. EBA said under their adverse scenario, the capital depletion across the banks at the end of 2020 was 236 billion euros ($268 billion) and 226 billion euros on a “transitional and fully loaded basis respectively.” The ECB added that the EBA test showed that banks in Europe were now “more resilient to financial shocks.”

Italian banks were also under scrutiny but managed to record satisfactory scores according to banking regulators. Unicredit, Italy’s largest lender, scored a common tier ratio of 9.34 while UBI Banca scored 7.42 percent. The lowest score among Italian banks was for Banco BPM which registered 6.67 percent.

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Erdogan was insulted by the Saudi chief prosecutor visiting Ankara/Istanbul.

Erdogan Says ‘Highest Level’ Saudi Officials Ordered Khashoggi Murder (RT)

The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was sanctioned at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, trying to play kingmaker in Riyadh and bolster his credentials in the West. “We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” the Turkish leader wrote in a surprise contribution to Friday’s Washington Post, vowing to “reveal the identities of the puppet masters” behind the murder. “No one should dare to commit such acts on the soil of a NATO ally again,” Erdogan wrote dramatically. “Had this atrocity taken place in the United States or elsewhere, authorities in those countries would have gotten to the bottom of what happened.”

“It would be out of the question for us to act any other way,” he added, noting that Ankara has already “moved heaven and earth to shed light on all aspects of this case.” The Turkish leader also used the opportunity to burnish his credentials in the West, saying that as a responsible NATO member, Turkey will not just leave this case uninvestigated and will act in exactly the same way as the US or any of its allies would in its place. Erdogan openly accused Riyadh of “trying to cover up the murder” by stalling the investigation and refusing to cooperate with the Turkish authorities, singling out the Saudi chief prosecutor Saud Al Mojeb, who visited Turkey earlier this week. “The refusal of the Saudi public prosecutor… to cooperate with the investigation and answer even simple questions is very frustrating,” he wrote, adding that Al Mojeb’s “invitation for Turkish investigators to Saudi Arabia … felt like a desperate and deliberate stalling tactic.”

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Franco’s still alive and kicking.

Public Prosecutors Charge Catalan Independence Leaders With Rebellion

The public prosecution on Friday morning filed its written accusation against Catalan secessionist leaders who are in pretrial detention for their role in the unauthorized referendum of October 1, 2017 and the unilateral independence declaration that followed. As expected, prosecutors are seeking a 25-year prison term for ex-deputy premier Oriol Junqueras for rebellion and misuse of public funds, and they also want the Catalan Republican Party (ERC) leader barred from holding public office for the next 25 years. Prosecutors are also seeking 17-year jail terms for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the former heads of civic associations that campaigned actively for independence, and for Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament.

Other defendants in the upcoming trial face penalties ranging from economic fines to prison terms of 16 years. Meanwhile, Spain’s Solicitor General, who represents the Spanish state in the courts, has not accused Catalan secessionist leaders of rebellion. Instead, the written accusation focuses on the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the referendum and unilateral independence declaration. In its written accusation, the Solicitor General’s Office has called for Junqueras to be sentenced to 12 years in prison and a 12-year ban on holding public office.

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Oct 152018
 
 October 15, 2018  Posted by at 9:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Gauguin Haymaking in Brittany 1889

 

What’s The Point Of Growth If It Creates So Much Misery? (G.)
Don’t Rule Out $400 Oil If The US Sanctions Saudi Arabia (MW)
How Much Damage Can Saudi Arabia Do To The Global Economy? (G.)
Ecuador Partly Restores Assange’s Internet (AAP)
Pages Purged By Facebook Were On Blacklist Promoted By Washington Post (Wsws)
Sears Files For Bankruptcy (CNBC)
The Housing Crisis Will Not Be Solved By Building More Homes (FT)
Violence, Public Anger Erupts In China As Home Prices Slide (ZH)
‘Intense Effort’ Fails To Seal UK-EU Brexit Deal After Sunday Talks (AP)
The EU Wants Fiscal Austerity In A Sinking Economy (CNBC)
Merkel’s Conservative Allies Humiliated in Bavaria Election (G.)
Stephen Hawking Predicted Race Of ‘Superhumans’ (G.)

 

 

The essential discussion of our times.

What’s The Point Of Growth If It Creates So Much Misery? (G.)

The late Prof Mick Moran, who taught politics and government at Manchester University for most of his professional life, had, according to his colleagues, once had “a certain residual respect for our governing elites”. That all changed during the 2008 financial crisis, after which he experienced an epiphany “because it convinced him that the officer class in business and in politics did not know what it was doing”. After his epiphany, Moran formed a collective of academics dedicated to exposing the complacency of finance-worship and to replacing it with an idea of running modern economies focused on maximising social good. They called themselves the Foundational Economy Collective, based on the idea that it’s in the everyday economy where there is most potential for true social regeneration: not top-down cash-splashing, but renewal and replenishment from the ground upwards.

Foundational activities are the materials and services without which we cannot live a civilised life: clean, unrationed water; affordable electricity and gas without cuts to supply; collective transport on smooth roads and rails; quality health and social care provided free at the point of use; and reliable, sustainable food supply. Then there’s the “overlooked economy” – everyday services such as hairdressing, veterinary care, catering and hospitality and small-scale manufacturing – which employ far more people, across a wider geographical range, than the “high-skill, hi-tech” economy with which recent governments have been obsessed.

For the Foundational Economy authors, focusing on the fundamental value of invisible and unglamorous jobs “restores the importance of unappreciated and unacknowledged tacit skills of many citizens”. It’s a way of looking at economics from the point of view of people rather than figures, and doing something revolutionary (yet so blindingly obvious) in the process. What is the point of “growth” if the basic elements of a decent life are denied to a large and growing number?

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A license to kill, then?!

Don’t Rule Out $400 Oil If The US Sanctions Saudi Arabia (MW)

“The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusation,” a government source reportedly told the official Saudi Press Agency. “The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action.” Hence, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel’s general manager Turki Aldakhil, in our call of the day, warned we could see an explosive move in oil prices. “If U.S. sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world,” he wrote in an op-ed.

“If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure.” This mess could ultimately throw the entire Muslim world “into the arms of Iran, which will become closer to Riyadh than Washington,” Aldakhil said. “The truth is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh.”

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Or the end of OPEC?

How Much Damage Can Saudi Arabia Do To The Global Economy? (G.)

Saudi Arabia enjoys a privileged position both in geopolitical and economic terms. It will have a powerful hand to play if tensions with the US and the west escalate and it follows through with Sunday’s warning of retaliation. Its vast oil reserves – it claims to have about 260bn barrels still to extract – afford the most obvious advantage. The kingdom is the world’s largest oil exporter, pumping or shipping about 7m barrels a day, and giving Riyadh huge clout in the global economy because it wields power to push up prices. An editorial in Arab News by Turki Aldhakhil, the general manager of the official Saudi news channel, Al Arabiya, offers a hint of what could be in the offing.

He said Riyadh was weighing up 30 measures designed to put pressure on the US if it were to impose sanctions over the disappearance and presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the country’s Istanbul consulate. These would include an oil production cut that could drive prices from around $80 (£60) a barrel to more than $400, more than double the all-time high of $147.27 reached in 2008. This would have profound consequences globally, not just because motorists would pay more at the petrol pump, but because it would force up the cost of all goods that travel by road.

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Wonder why the UN has acted now. And did it do so after consulting with the US?

Ecuador Partly Restores Assange’s Internet (AAP)

The Ecuadorian government has decided to partly restore communications for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. They were cut in March, denying the Australian access to the internet or phones and limiting visitors to members of his legal team. He has been living inside Ecuador’s embassy in London for more than six years. The Ecuadorian government said in March it had acted because Assange had breached “a written commitment made to the government at the end of 2017 not to issue messages that might interfere with other states”.

WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Ecuador has told WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that it will remove the isolation regime imposed on him following meetings between two senior UN officials and Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno on Friday.” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, added: “It is positive that through UN intervention Ecuador has partly ended the isolation of Mr Assange although it is of grave concern that his freedom to express his opinions is still limited. “The UN has already declared Mr Assange a victim of arbitrary detention. This unacceptable situation must end. “The UK government must abide by the UN’s ruling and guarantee that he can leave the Ecuadorian embassy without the threat of extradition to the United States.”

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Thought PropOrNot was done, but the Atlantic Council did not.

Pages Purged By Facebook Were On Blacklist Promoted By Washington Post (Wsws)

Media outlets removed by Facebook on Thursday, in a massive purge of 800 accounts and pages, had previously been targeted in a blacklist of oppositional sites promoted by the Washington Post in November 2016. The organizations censored by Facebook include The Anti-Media, with 2.1 million followers, The Free Thought Project, with 3.1 million followers, and Counter Current News, with 500,000 followers. All three of these groups had been on the blacklist. In November 2016, the Washington Post published a puff-piece on a shadowy and up to then largely unknown organization called PropOrNot, which had compiled a list of organizations it claimed were part of a “sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign.”

The Post said the report “identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans.” The publication of the blacklist drew widespread media condemnation, including from journalists Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, forcing the Post to publish a partial retraction. The newspaper declared that it “does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet.” While the individuals behind PropOrNot have not identified themselves, the Washington Post said the group was a “collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

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Long expected.

Sears Files For Bankruptcy (CNBC)

After years of Sears Holdings staying afloat through financial maneuvering and relying on billions of CEO Eddie Lampert’s own money, the 125-year-old retailer filed for bankruptcy. The filing comes more than a decade after Lampert merged Sears and Kmart, hoping that forging together the two struggling discounters would create a more formidable competitor. It comes after Lampert shed assets and spun out real estate, all to pay down the debt the retailer accumulated when that plan went askew. The company still has roughly 700 stores, which have at times been barren, unstocked by vendors who have lost their trust.

Many of the stores have never been visited by a generation of shoppers that can barely recall it was once the the country’s biggest retailer. Lampert, who has a controlling ownership stake in Sears, personally holds some 31 percent of the retailer’s shares outstanding, according to FactSet. His hedge fund ESL Investments owns about 19 percent. Ultimately, it was a $134 million payment that did the company in. The company had a payment due Monday it had not the money to pay.

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Why does this still need to be explained?

The Housing Crisis Will Not Be Solved By Building More Homes (FT)

With great flourish, Theresa May last week announced that she was lifting the borrowing cap which constrains local councils’ ability to finance new housebuilding. “We will only fix this broken market by building more homes,” the prime minister said. “Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation. It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it. So today I can announce that we are scrapping that cap.” Nope. In reality, councils – or anyone else for that matter – building more homes will do very little to address the fundamental problem in the housing market, and if you want to understand why, there’s a new book which explains it.

‘Why Can’t You Afford To Buy A Home?’ by Josh Ryan-Collins – a researcher at University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose – is about the phenomenon which he dubs ‘residential capitalism’. It follows on from his less snappily-titled volume ‘Rethinking The Economics of Land and Housing’, which was written jointly with fellow economist Laurie Macfarlane and policy wonk Toby Lloyd and published last year. Both books address the question of why a growing number of people are being priced out of the property market, with rising house prices accelerating away from household incomes. The answer is financialisation – and it is not an aberration, according to Ryan-Collins.

The ‘housing crisis’ needs to be understood primarily as a product of the banking system. For starters it’s not just a British problem; this is a trend which has gripped developed economies across the world over the past three decades. “Two of the key ingredients of contemporary capitalist societies, private home ownership and a lightly regulated commercial banking system, are not mutually compatible,” he writes. Instead they “create a self-reinforcing feedback cycle”. [..] In the early 1980s, business lending equated to around 40 per cent of GDP on average in advanced economies, while mortgage lending was around 25 per cent. By the time of the financial crisis, mortgage lending had grown to 75 per cent of GDP while business lending had only grown slightly, to 45 per cent.

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The Chinese will hold Beijing responsible when their housing bubble bursts.

Violence, Public Anger Erupts In China As Home Prices Slide (ZH)

Last March, we discussed why few things are as important for China’s wealth effect and economy, as its housing bubble market. Specifically, as Deutsche Bank calculated at the time, “in 2016 the rise of property prices boosted household wealth in 37 tier 1 and tier 2 cities by RMB24 trillion, almost twice their total disposable income of RMB12.9 trillion.” The German lender added that this (rather fleeting) wealth effect “may be helping to sustain consumption in China despite slowing income growth” warning that “a decline of property price would obviously have a large negative impact.” Naturally, as long as the housing bubble keeps inflating and prices keep rising, there is nothing to worry about as the population will keep spending money buoyed by illusory wealth appreciation.

It is when housing starts to drop that Beijing begins to panic. Fast forward to today, when Beijing may be starting to sweat because whereas Chinese property developers usually count on September and October to be their “gold and silver” months for sales, this year has turned out to be different. As the SCMP reports, not only were sales figures grim for September, but the seven-day national holiday last week also brought at least two “fangnao” incidents – when angry, and often violent, homeowners protest against price cuts offered by developers to new buyers.

These protests are often directed at sales offices, with varying levels of intensity – from throwing rocks to holding banners and putting up funeral wreaths. The risk, of course, is that as what has gone up (wealth effect) will come down, and as home ownership has remained the most important channel of investment for urban households in China in the past decade, price cuts have become increasingly unacceptable and a cause for social unrest. Just last week, angry homeowners who paid full price for units at the Xinzhou Mansion residential project in Shangrao attacked the Country Garden sales office in eastern Jiangxi province last week, after finding out it had offered discounts to new buyers of up to 30%.

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There is no solution that everyone can accept.

‘Intense Effort’ Fails To Seal UK-EU Brexit Deal After Sunday Talks (AP)

The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator says urgent talks with Britain’s point person did not result in their reaching agreement on outstanding issues. EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open” in the divorce talks between the European Union and Britain. Barnier and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, met in Brussels for surprise talks on Sunday. The discussion prompted rumors that a full agreement might be imminent, but Barnier says the future of the border on the island of Ireland remain a serious obstacle. He says the need “to avoid a hard border” between Ireland and the U.K’s Northern Ireland is among the unsettled issues. An EU official says no further negotiations are planned before an EU leaders summit on Wednesday.

The “Irish backstop” is the main hurdle to a deal that spells out the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU and future relationship with the bloc. After Brexit, the currently invisible frontier between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be the U.K.’s only land border with an EU nation. Britain and the EU agree there must be no customs checks or other infrastructure on the border, but do not agree on how that can be accomplished. The EU’s “backstop” solution — to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union with the bloc — has been rejected by Britain because it would require checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

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Budget was accepted by almost two thirds in Senate and Parliament.

The EU Wants Fiscal Austerity In A Sinking Economy (CNBC)

Over the last three years, net exports shaved 0.5 percent off Italy’s quasi stagnant 1.1 percent GDP growth. And while exports in the first seven months of this year increased 4 percent from the year earlier, that did absolutely nothing to revive the country’s manufacturing output. The industrial production during the January-to-July period dropped at an annual rate of 0.5 percent. That, of course, bodes ill for business investments because the weakness in the manufacturing sector indicates plenty of spare production capacity. In other words, Italian businesses need no new machines and bigger factory floors; they already have what they need to meet the current and expected sales demand.

So, what’s left to support Italy’s jobs and incomes? Nothing — emphatically nothing — keeps screaming the German-run EU: Italy has no independent monetary policy, and, according to the EU Commission, the fiscal stance should remain frozen in a restrictive mode of indefinite duration. Italy knows what that means. Before the onset of the last decade’s financial crisis, and the German-imposed fiscal austerity, Italy’s budget deficit in 2007 was whittled down to 1.5 percent of GDP (compared to nearly 3 percent of GDP in France), the primary budget surplus (budget before interest charges on public debt) was driven up to 1.7 percent of GDP, helping to bring down the public debt to 112 percent of GDP from an annual average of 117 percent in the previous six years.

But then all hell broke loose once the Germans — defiantly rejecting Washington’s call to reason — set out to teach a lesson to “fiscal miscreants” by imposing austerity policies on the euro area’s sinking economies. Italy should never allow that to happen again. What, then, should Italy do? The answer is simple: Exactly what it says it wants to do in the 2019 budget passed last Thursday by an overwhelming majority in the Senate (61 percent of the votes) and in the Parliament’s Lower House (63.4 percent of the votes).

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Not just conservatives, the SPD is going going gone as well.

Merkel’s Conservative Allies Humiliated in Bavaria Election (G.)

Angela Merkel’s conservative partners in Bavaria have had their worst election performance for more than six decades, in a humiliating state poll result that is likely to further weaken Germany’s embattled coalition government. The Christian Social Union secured 37.3% of the vote, preliminary results showed, losing the absolute majority in the prosperous southern state it had had almost consistently since the second world war. The party’s support fell below 40% for the first time since 1954. Markus Söder, the prime minister of Bavaria, called it a “difficult day” for the CSU, but said his party had a clear mandate to form a government.

Among the main victors was the environmental, pro-immigration Green party, which as predicted almost doubled its voter share to 17.8% at the expense of the Social Democratic party (SPD), which lost its position as the second-biggest party, with support halving to 9.5%. Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the Greens, said: “Today Bavaria voted to uphold human rights and humanity.” Andrea Nahles, the leader of the SPD, delivered the briefest of reactions at her party’s headquarters in Berlin, calling the results “bitter” and blaming them on the poor performance of the grand coalition in Berlin.

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But this suggests that gene editing would be very expensive.

Stephen Hawking Predicted Race Of ‘Superhumans’ (G.)

The late physicist and author Prof Stephen Hawking has caused controversy by suggesting a new race of superhumans could develop from wealthy people choosing to edit their and their children’s DNA. Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time, who died in March, made the predictions in a collection of articles and essays. The scientist presented the possibility that genetic engineering could create a new species of superhuman that could destroy the rest of humanity. The essays, published in the Sunday Times, were written in preparation for a book that will be published on Tuesday. “I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” he wrote.

“Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.” In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking’s final thoughts on the universe, the physicist suggested wealthy people would soon be able to choose to edit genetic makeup to create superhumans with enhanced memory, disease resistance, intelligence and longevity. Hawking raised the prospect that breakthroughs in genetics will make it attractive for people to try to improve themselves, with implications for “unimproved humans”. “Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,” he wrote. “Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”

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 August 21, 2018  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Henri Matisse The painter and his model 1916-17

 

China’s Biggest Risk May Be Its Property Market – Not The Trade War (CNBC)
Why Do American CEOs Get Paid So Much? (Galbraith)
Trump Says It Is ‘Dangerous’ For Twitter, Facebook To Ban Accounts (R.)
Trump Worries That Mueller Interview Could Be A ‘Perjury Trap’ (R.)
Trump Demands Fed Help On Economy, Complains About Interest Rate Rises (R.)
UK’s Hunt To Call On Trump To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia (G.)
‘Secret Directive’ Bans UN Agencies From Helping Rebuild Syria – Lavrov (RT)
UK Household Debt Balloons To £19bn As Bailiff Problems Multiply (Ind.)
NHS Leak Warns Of Brexit Drug Shortages And Disease Risk (G.)
Jacinda Ardern Freezes New Zealand MPs’ Pay To Tackle Rich-Poor Divide (G.)
Salvini Refuses To Let In Refugees After Coastguard Ship Docks (G.)
What Being Back in the Markets Actually Means for Greece (TPP)
The Winners Will Lose and the Losers Will Win (Kunstler)
The Inescapable Weight Of My $100,000 Student Debt (G.)

 

 

“Real estate investment accounts for about two-thirds of Chinese household assets..”

China’s Biggest Risk May Be Its Property Market – Not The Trade War (CNBC)

China’s hot real estate market remains a challenge for authorities trying to maintain stable economic growth in the face of trade tensions with the U.S. In fact, property is the country’s biggest risk in the next 12 months, much greater than the trade war, according to Larry Hu, head of greater China economics at Macquarie. He said he is especially watching whether the real estate market in lower-tier, or smaller, cities will see a downturn in prices or housing starts after recent sharp increases. Real estate investment accounts for about two-thirds of Chinese household assets, according to wealth manager Noah Holdings. The property market also plays a significant role in local government revenues, bank loans and corporate investment.

As a result, a sharp slowdown in the real estate market’s growth and drop in prices would have a negative affect on overall economic growth. So far, the market has been hot: The average selling price for newly built non-governmental housing in 60 tier-three and tier-four cities tracked by Tospur Real Estate Consulting rose 28.1 percent from January 2016 to May 2018. [..] Last week, Nanjing, a tier-two city, announced a ban on corporate purchases of residential properties, following similar moves to limit speculation by Shanghai and some other cities. That’s a good move for controlling risk, according to Joe Zhou, real estate and investment management firm JLL’s regional director for China capital markets. He said the government is not likely to loosen its policy soon and that prices could decline on average.

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“The reliance of tech firms on venture capital and bubble psychology, rather than cash flow..”

Why Do American CEOs Get Paid So Much? (Galbraith)

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute calls attention to the hardy perennial of how much America’s corporate titans make: bosses of the top 350 firms made an average of $18.9m in 2017. That’s a ratio of 312-1 over the median worker in their industries. Big bucks to be sure. And a big change since 1965, when the ratio was just 20-1. But what does it mean? And if there’s a problem, what is it, exactly? What it means, as the EPI economists carefully document, is that the top US corporate chiefs are paid overwhelmingly with stock options, and their income fluctuates with the market. About 80% of the pay packet is in stocks, and the rise of 17% in 2017 after two flat years surely suggests that the top CEOs (not unreasonably) sensed the market peaked last year.

So they cashed in. On the other 20% of the pay packets, no gains occurred. The US numbers have shock value. But bear in mind that they reflect not only the way companies are run, but also changes over decades in the structure of the US economy and tax law, specifically the rise of market valuations in technology and finance at the expense of the major industrial corporations, and a corresponding decline in unions, which held down the ratios in the sectors the industrial firms dominated a half century back. Plus, there is the radical decline in top marginal tax rates on income and capital gains, beginning in 1978, which gave executives strong reasons to restructure their pay away from inside-the-corporation perks (the penthouses and country clubs of yore) and toward cash and capital assets.

The reliance of tech firms on venture capital and bubble psychology, rather than cash flow, deepened this trend. Note also that there is something a bit artificial about the resulting “wealth.” Jeff Bezos may have a net worth of over $150bn, mostly in Amazon stock, but he couldn’t convert it into cash if he wanted to, neither by selling nor by borrowing. Any effort to sell would demolish Amazon’s valuation and hence his own fortune. The rich aren’t like us – they have more money, true, but some of it isn’t really money and it can disappear, by the billions, pretty fast.

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As I wrote yesterday, this will have to change.

Trump Says It Is ‘Dangerous’ For Twitter, Facebook To Ban Accounts (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it is “very dangerous” for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to silence voices on their services. Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters come as the social media industry faces mounting scrutiny from Congress to police foreign propaganda. Trump has made his Twitter account – with more than 53 million followers – an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics. Trump previously criticized the social media industry on Aug. 18, claiming without evidence in a series of tweets that unnamed companies were “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

In the same post, Trump said “too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad.” Those tweets followed actions taken by Apple, Alphabet, YouTube and Facebook to remove some content posted by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones’ own Twitter account was temporarily suspended on Aug. 15. “I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” said Trump.

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Also mentioned yesterday. Chances of a sitdown in the next 10 days don’t look good.

Trump Worries That Mueller Interview Could Be A ‘Perjury Trap’ (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was worried that any statements under oath he provides to Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be used to bring perjury charges against him as part of the probe into Russia’s electoral interference. In an interview with Reuters, Trump echoed the concerns of his top lawyer in the probe, Rudy Giuliani, who has warned that any sit-down with Mueller could be a “perjury trap.” The president expressed fears that investigators could compare his statements with that of others who have testified in the probe, such as former FBI Director James Comey, and that any discrepancies could be used against him.

“So if I say something and he (Comey) says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good.” Despite his concerns, Trump did not comment on whether he would ultimately agree to an interview with Mueller, who is, among other things, investigating whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russians during the 2016 election and whether Trump has obstructed justice in the probe. Trump also declined to say whether he might strip Mueller of his security clearance, as he did last week to former CIA Director John Brennan, who had repeatedly criticized Trump’s handling of foreign policy and national security issues.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” he said. [..] Trump asserted that he retained the power to intervene in the probe, but that he had chosen not to do so for the moment. His administration, Trump said, was “a smooth-running machine, except in that world. And I’ve decided to stay out. Now I don’t have to stay out. “I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” he said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

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Whatever the predictable comments on this, what he really does is confirm the Fed’s independence.

Trump Demands Fed Help On Economy, Complains About Interest Rate Rises (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he was “not thrilled” with the Federal Reserve under his own appointee, Chairman Jerome Powell, for raising interest rates and said the U.S. central bank should do more to help him to boost the economy. In the middle of international trade disputes, Trump in an interview with Reuters also accused China and Europe of manipulating their respective currencies. American presidents have rarely criticized the Fed in recent decades because its independence has been seen as important for economic stability.

Trump has departed from this past practice and said he would not shy from future criticism should the Fed keep lifting rates. The president spooked investors in July when he criticized the U.S. central bank’s over tightening monetary policy. On Monday he said the Fed should be more accommodating on interest rates. “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump said, referring to Powell.

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Nobody Hunt goes to Washington with veiled criticism of Trump. Good luck with that.

UK’s Hunt To Call On Trump To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia (G.)

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is to urge Donald Trump to face down Moscow’s threat to western values by imposing wider economic sanctions against Russia and agreeing new rules to protect the legitimacy of democratic elections. In a speech in Washington on Tuesday during his first visit since taking over from Boris Johnson as the UK’s most senior diplomat, Hunt will specifically call for tighter regulation of online political advertising and new measures to prevent cyber attacks on electoral machinery. Hunt will also throw out a challenge to Trump’s protectionist policies by warning a weakening of free trade will only damage western economies, and ultimately western political power.

He will say the emergence of an international order based on the application of law rather than might had led to an exponential growth in trade, leading to extraordinary advances in economic and social prosperity across the globe. He will also call for Nato to set clearer red lines about Russia’s use of chemical weapons and incursions into foreign territory such as the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Without directly challenging the legitimacy of Trump’s election as president in 2016, he will point to the drawbacks in many recent democratic outcomes, saying: “The heart of any democracy is freedom of expression, which allows citizens to access independent information to help decide who to vote for. But the ubiquity of fake news, social media targeting and foreign attempts to manipulate elections have undermined confidence that this can actually happen.”

Any tarnishing of Trump’s electoral mandate is highly perilous territory for a foreign politician, and Hunt will temper his criticism by saying western leaders should not deceive themselves that populism is merely a byproduct of social media spreading fake news.

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Rebuilding Syria can solve a large part of Europe’s refugee problem, and US and UN are holding it back?

‘Secret Directive’ Bans UN Agencies From Helping Rebuild Syria – Lavrov (RT)

Washington’s “absolutely deconstructive” stance is hampering the rebuilding of Syria and constricts the UN in aiding the country until a so called ‘political transition’ takes place, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said.
“We addressed UNESCO on how they plan to implement the longtime talks, the longtime understanding on attracting the potential of this organization to rebuilding Palmyra,” an ancient city, regarded by the agency as a World Heritage Site, Lavrov said. “From the explanations of why UNESCO has still been unable to get involved in this process actively, we took that there was some kind of a directive from the United Nations headquarters in New York.”

He said that the UN Secretariat, which is the organizations’ executive arms, has “actually issued and distributed a secret directive throughout the UN system in October last year that prohibited the agencies included in this system from participating in any kind of projects aimed at restoring the Syrian economy.” Only humanitarian aid and nothing more” was allowed, the minister told the journalists after talks with Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, in Moscow. “A term was put forward that restoration of Syria would only be on the agenda after a certain progress is made in the so-called political transition” in the country, he added. The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that due to the “absolutely deconstructive” stance of the US one also shouldn’t expect any positive decisions on rebuilding Syria and return of refugees to the country from the UN Security Council.

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“People can face having their essential services cut off, be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax..”

A country moving backwards.

UK Household Debt Balloons To £19bn As Bailiff Problems Multiply (Ind.)

UK households have fallen behind on essential bills such as council tax and electricity by as much as £18.9bn, according to Citizens Advice, which says it helps someone with bailiff-related problems every three minutes. The total outstanding debt includes almost £7.5bn in tax credit overpayments, £2.84bn owed in council tax and £2.2bn owed to water companies. Household debt has now overtaken consumer credit as the main money problem people contact Citizens Advice about, and the charity said that falling behind on household bills “has more severe consequences than missing consumer credit repayments”, such as overdrafts and personal loans.

“People can face having their essential services cut off, be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax,” Citizens Advice warned. The charity said it had seen a 24 per cent increase in bailiff problems since the government introduced reforms in 2014 that were meant to protect people from unfair bailiff practices. Under the reforms, bailiffs are no longer allowed to make late-night visits to collect debts, and are prevented from using force against people who owe money, amongst other rules.

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Since there is no progress on many essential Brexit elements, this is not some doom fantasy.

NHS Leak Warns Of Brexit Drug Shortages And Disease Risk (G.)

Hospitals face running out of drugs in a chaotic no-deal Brexit, the group that represents NHS hospital and ambulance service has privately warned. Poor co-ordination by ministers and health service bosses means there has been a failure to prepare for the UK to be left without a Brexit deal, a leaked letter from NHS Providers said. “Public health and disease control co-ordination could suffer,” said NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, setting out how a hard Brexit or no deal could negatively effect “the entire supply chain of pharmaceuticals” and “jeopardise” the EU citizens making up the “workforce on which the NHS relies”. Hopson’s letter, sent to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and NHS Improvement chief Ian Dalton on Friday, was leaked to the Times.

Hopson said the possibility of a no-deal or hard Brexit “with minimal regulatory alignment appears to be growing … For as long as that risk remains it is important that detailed operation planning is undertaken across the NHS. “Yet trusts tell us that their work in this area is being hampered by the lack of visible and appropriate communication. “Our members have begun planning … but they have hit a problem, in that some activities are clearly best done at a national level and, in the view of trusts, are best co-ordinated by NHS England and NHS Improvement. “However there has been no formal communication to trusts from either of your organisations on this issue.”

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Always risky to cut your immediate colleagues, but makes a ton of sense.

Jacinda Ardern Freezes New Zealand MPs’ Pay To Tackle Rich-Poor Divide (G.)

Jacinda Ardern has frozen the salaries of New Zealand’s MPs, saying the pay rises were out of step with the wider workforce and were adding to the rich-poor divide. The radical move has cross-party support from Ardern’s coalition partners, as well as the opposition National party. MPs’ salaries and allowances would be frozen till July 2019, Ardern said, while “a fairer formula for future pay increases” is developed for those in politics, who earn between NZ$163,000 ($108,000) to more than NZ$450,000 ($300,000). Ardern said the freeze was “the right thing to do” and was not about cost-cutting, but making New Zealand a more equitable nation.

The PM was prompted to take action after the Remuneration Authority recommended MPs receive a 3% pay rise, in a year that is seeing widespread strike action by teachers, nurses and other workers across New Zealand. Ardern earns more than NZ$450,000 a year, making her the fifth-highest paid leader in the OECD, and better paid than Canada’s Justin Trudeau and the UK’s Theresa May. According to a survey by Stuff, 62% of New Zealanders think the country’s prime ministers are paid too much. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull earns the largest salary of any leader in the OECD. “It’s about whether or not it’s right that we receive a 3% pay increase that continues to extend that gap between those on the highest incomes and those on lower and more modest incomes,” Ardern told Radio NZ today.

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The EU MUST come up with a plan.

Salvini Refuses To Let In Refugees After Coastguard Ship Docks (G.)

An Italian coastguard ship with 177 people on board has docked in the Sicilian seaport of Catania, but Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has not given authorisation for the refugees and migrants to disembark. The passengers, who have been stuck on the coastguard boat Ubaldo Diciotti for five days will not be allowed on land until “Europe steps in to help’’, Salvini said. The Diciotti picked up 190 refugees and migrants last Wednesday from an overcrowded boat about 17 sea miles from the island of Lampedusa. Thirteen of them were evacuated for emergency medical treatment. Since then, Rome has insisted that Malta should take the group because their boat first passed through its search-and-rescue area.

But Malta has refused, claiming that the migrants wanted to reach Italy. Questioned by the Italian authorities, the 13 evacuated migrants claimed that the Maltese had escorted them outside its search-and-rescue zone. On Monday afternoon, after three days of negotiations, Italy’s transport minister Danilo Toninelli announced finally on Twitter that “The Diciotti ship will dock in Catania.” But shortly afterwards, sources close to Salvini said he had not given the authorisation to disembark, suggesting the boat was granted permission to dock but the migrants will have to remain on board. Salvini said on Italian TV: “The ship may land in Italy, as long as the 177 migrants are distributed, in a spirit of solidarity by the EU.”

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What does it mean? More debt.

What Being Back in the Markets Actually Means for Greece (TPP)

The devil, as they say in English, lies in the details. Being ‘back in the markets’, ‘turning a page,’ even declaring ‘the end of the Greek Crisis’ have all become commonplace expressions over the past few weeks. But what does this substantively mean? It means that an economy that has shrunk by around 25% saw, due to that shrinkage, its debts go up by about the same amount, despite near 100 billion Euro in debt being wiped off in 2012. Current outstanding Greek debt stands at 343 billion Euro. It now needs to pay a large chunk of that back to get back to where it was in 2008, with 109% debt to GDP.

The years of the Greek crisis (2010-2018) were the years that former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis famously described as the years of ‘extend and pretend.’ The EU would extend more credit (debt) to Greece that Greece would pretend to pay back. While most of the bailout cash prior to 2013 went through Greece back to Northern Banks, after 2013 most of the Debt was held by an opaqueprivate financial institution housed in Luxemburg called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). It’s the debts held by the ESM, and the loans disbursed by the ESM, that have been the focus of the new game of extend and pretend that is called variously ‘debt-relief’ and Greece ‘being back in the markets.’

Consider the following. The ESM lent 86 Billion Euro to Greece between August 2015 and July 2018. The final tranche of these loans will not be paid back until 2060, with payments beginning in 2034. This ten year deferral of payments along with an interest rate reduction to an average of 1.62% across issues is the much heralded debt relief agreement of June 21st 2018. All things considered, and given real ‘go to the market’ alternatives if you have Greece’s bond rating, this is not a bad deal – on paper. These measures, plus the final bailout cash being added to cash reserves, means that Greece will actually not have to return to the markets for funding for almost two years. Given this, the ‘return to the markets’ comes with some pretty large airbags, all of which makes buying Greek debt more attractive, hence recent bond rating upgrades. So, we are extending, but what are we still pretending?

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“..Pabst Blue Ribbon by the case!”

The Winners Will Lose and the Losers Will Win (Kunstler)

What a revoltin’ development, as Chester A. Riley used to say on “The Life of Riley” TV show back in 1955, when America was great (at least that’s the theory). Riley was an original deplorable before the concept even emerged from the murk of early pop culture. He worked in an aircraft factory somewhere in southern California, which only a few decades prior was the mecca of an earlier generations of losers: the Oakies and other Dust Bowl refugees who went west to pick fruit or get into the movies. Chester A. Riley supported a family on that job as a wing-riveter. All the male characters in the series had been through the Second World War, but were so far removed from the horror that the audience never heard about it.

That was the point: to forget all that gore and get down with the new crazes for backyard barbeque, seeing the USA in your Chevrolet, enjoying that healthful pack of Lucky Strikes in the valley of the Jolly Green Giant… double your pleasure, double your fun… and away go troubles down the drain…. As Tom Wolfe pointed out eons ago, the most overlooked feature of post-war American life was the way that the old US peasantry found themselves living higher on the hog than Louis the XVI and his court at Versailles. Hot and cold running water, all the deliciously engineered Betty Crocker cake you could eat, painless dentistry, and Yankees away games on Channel 11, with Pabst Blue Ribbon by the case! By 1960 or so, along came color TV and air-conditioning, and in places like Atlanta, St. Louis, and Little Rock, you barely had to go outside anymore, thank God! No more heat stroke, hookworm, or chiggers.

It was a helluva lot better than earlier peasant classes had it, for sure, but let’s face it: it was kind of a low-grade nirvana. And a couple of generations beyond “The Life of Riley” the whole thing has fallen apart. There are few hands-on jobs that allow a man to support a family. And what would we even mean by that? Stick the women back in kitchen and the laundry room? What a waste of human capital (even for socialists who oppose capital). The odd thing is that there is increasingly little for this class of people to do besides stand near the door of the WalMart, and if the vaunted tech entrepreneurs of this land have their way with robotics, you can be sure there would be less than nothing for them to do… except crawl off and die quietly, without leaving an odoriferous mess.

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Long read. Steve Keen comments: This will doom the USA to stagnation: a generation with too much debt and no prospect of using credit like the previous generation.

The Inescapable Weight Of My $100,000 Student Debt (G.)

On Halloween in 2008, about six weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, my mother called me from Michigan to tell me that my father had lost his job in the sales department of Visteon, an auto parts supplier for Ford. Two months later, my mother lost her job working for the city of Troy, a suburb about half an hour from Detroit. From there our lives seemed to accelerate, the terrible events compounding fast enough to elude immediate understanding. By June, my parents, unable to find any work in the state where they spent their entire lives, moved to New York, where my sister and I were both in school. A month later, the mortgage on my childhood home went into default.

After several months of unemployment, my mother got a job in New York City, fundraising for a children’s choir. In the summer of 2010, I completed my studies at New York University, where I received a BA and an MA in English literature, with more than $100,000 of debt, for which my father was a guarantor. My father was still unemployed and my mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She continued working, though her employer was clearly perturbed that she would have to take off every Friday for chemotherapy. To compensate for the lost time, on Mondays she rode early buses into the city from the Bronx, where, after months of harrowing uncertainty, my parents had settled. She wanted to be in the office first thing.

In January 2011, Chase Bank took full possession of the house in Michigan. Our last ties were severed by an email my father received from the realtor, who had tried and failed to sell the property, telling him he could now cancel the utilities. In May, I got a freelance contract with a newspaper that within a year would hire me full-time – paying me, after taxes, roughly $900 every two weeks. In September 2011, my parents were approved for bankruptcy, and in October, due to a paperwork error, their car was repossessed in the middle of the night by creditors. Meanwhile, the payments for my debt – which had been borrowed from a variety of federal and private lenders, most prominently Citibank – totalled about $1,100 a month.

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Aug 102018
 
 August 10, 2018  Posted by at 8:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


John French Sloan Sunset, West Twenty-Third Street 1905-6

 

The Myth Of Market Cap (Berversdorf)
The Looming Threat of a Yuan Depreciation (Magnus)
Russia Blasts New US Sanctions As ‘Theatre Of The Absurd’ (G.)
US Curbs On Russian Banks Would Be Act Of Economic War – Medvedev (R.)
US Must Turn to Russia to Contain China (Rickards)
Pakistan Is On The Brink Of Economic Disaster (CNBC)
Tesla Board Plans To Tell Elon Musk To Recuse Himself (CNBC)
US, EU Laying Groundwork For New Trade Deal (CNBC)
US Judge Orders Deportation Plane Turnaround (BBC)
Germany Inks Deal With Spain To Return Registered Migrants (AFP)
New Zealand To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags (AFP)

 

 

Apple does record buybacks. Amazon invests in becoming a better company.

Hadn’t heard from Thad Beversdorf for quite a while. Good to see you, my friend!

The Myth Of Market Cap (Berversdorf)

Why do CEO’s distribute cash to secondary market speculators? These speculators haven’t provided any capital to the balance sheet and haven’t added to the income statement or cash flow statement of the companies they are speculating on. So why do CEO’s spend so much effort and capital appeasing them? Market cap is the benchmark by which a company distributes cash (i.e. div yield). But market cap, as determined in the secondary markets, is a theoretical asset that doesn’t generate revenue, profit or cash flow for the firm. Meaning cash payments are tied to an ‘asset’ that has no relevance to a firm’s operations. Paying dividends against an non-producing asset i.e. market cap that generates no return for the company is incredibly destructive.

There becomes a dangerous disconnect between the return on capital the company raised/invested and the cash distribution. In this sense, market cap is a massive hindrance to the firm’s capacity for productive investment as capital is eaten up paying out against an asset that hasn’t generated any return. The destructive force of this connect is exacerbated by the stock buy backs whose sole purpose is to drive market cap higher. And for what benefit? What does a higher market cap or a higher valuation do to improve the operation and long term success of the business? Historically market cap was a represenation of operational performance and expected future growth but it has now become the objective. Apple’s numbers are mediocre. But they are distributing $110 billion in cash this year so it doesn’t matter.

They hit a trillion dollar market cap. That puts its price-to-sales in line with Amazon, which has a 3 year revenue growth rate 7x higher than Apple’s (32% vs. 4.5%). Amazon’s growth rate continues to accelerate while Apple actually lost overall marketshare dropping from second largest to the third largest seller of smartphones, something that hasn’t ever happened. And so why would a firm that is losing marketshare not be putting its capital to work? The proof is in the pudding. Amazon doesn’t distribute cash to speculators. It attracts speculators by driving expected future growth. The rest of the market is attracting speculators by paying them cash. In effect, CEO’s are investing in market cap today rather than growth tomorrow. The result is that Amazon is in a league of its own, trouncing incumbants in any sector it enters because it invests in being better.

The moral of the story is that when market cap becomes the objective of capital rather than a representation of productive capital allocation, productive investment is replaced with financial investment. When market cap is being driven by something other than expected future growth derived from productive investment it is coming at the cost of expected future growth due to lack of productive investment. Read that again.

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The netire region depends on China to a huge degree.

The Looming Threat of a Yuan Depreciation (Magnus)

When the Asian financial crisis occurred 20 years ago, many nations in East and Southeast Asia succumbed because they were following inconsistent domestic and international economic and financial policies. But one trigger was the 50% fall in the Japanese yen against the dollar between the end of 1995 and the summer of 1998 amid the American stock market’s bull run that lasted until 2002. Fast forward to today, and the dollar is on a roll again, thanks to a strong economy and tensions between its fiscal and monetary policies. Higher U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar are already raising debt interest costs for Asian borrowers, but this time the falling Chinese yuan looms as a proximate cause of trouble.

Asia’s vulnerability to developments in U.S. financial markets has been widely noted. It is true that unlike the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, most countries in the region have stronger foreign exchange reserves. They are better positioned when measured against important indicators such as months of import cover, short-term debt and foreign debt ratios. Most Asian countries have current account surpluses, and even those with deficits, such as India, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines do not look overly challenged. But while the sensitivity to shocks is lower than it was 20 years ago, there is no cause for complacency. And there is still a potential spoiler, the yuan, which is now under downward pressure, but which was an agent of calm in the last Asian crisis.

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The US wants access to Russian facilities. Sure. They’re going to see OK, if we get access to yours.

Russia Blasts New US Sanctions As ‘Theatre Of The Absurd’ (G.)

Russian officials reacted with outrage and markets slumped on Thursday morning following the announcement of tough new US sanctions over Russia’s alleged use of a nerve agent in the Salisbury attack. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the sanctions were “absolutely unlawful and don’t conform to international law”, as politicians vowed to respond with countermeasures, which could include bans on the exports of rockets or resources for manufacturing. “The theatre of the absurd continues,” tweeted Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN. “No proofs, no clues, no logic, no presumption of innocence, just highly-likelies. Only one rule: blame everything on Russia, no matter how absurd and fake it is. Let us welcome the United Sanctions of America!”

A member of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, said Russia could block exports of RD-180 rocket engines to the US as a potential countermeasure, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. The United States announced on Wednesday that it would impose restrictions on the export of sensitive technology to Russia because of its use of a nerve agent in the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. The State Department said the new sanctions would come into effect on 22 August and would be followed by much more sweeping measures, such as suspending diplomatic relations and revoking Aeroflot landing rights, if Russia did not take “remedial” action within 90 days.

Moscow is not expected to agree to the response required by US legislation, which includes opening up Russian scientific and security facilities to international inspections to assess whether it is producing chemical and biological weapons in violation of international law.

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Russia is losing patience.

US Curbs On Russian Banks Would Be Act Of Economic War – Medvedev (R.)

Russia would consider any U.S. move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings a declaration of economic war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday. The United States announced a new round of sanctions on Wednesday targeting Russia that pushed the rouble to two-year lows and sparked a wider sell-off over fears Russia was locked in a spiral of never-ending sanctions. Separate legislation introduced last week in draft form by Republican and Democratic senators proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States and restrictions on their use of the dollar.

Medvedev said Moscow would take economic, political or other retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington targeted Russian banks. “I would not like to comment on talks about future sanctions, but I can say one thing: If some ban on banks’ operations or on their use of one or another currency follows, it would be possible to clearly call it a declaration of economic war,” said Medvedev. “And it would be necessary, it would be needed to react to this war economically, politically, or, if needed, by other means. And our American friends need to understand this,” he said, speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East.

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Someday people will recognize how well Russia is coping with all the nonsense.

US Must Turn to Russia to Contain China (Rickards)

Vladimir Putin stands accused in the media and global public opinion of rigging his recent reelection, imprisoning his political enemies, murdering Russian spies turned double-agent, meddling in Western elections, seizing Crimea, destabilizing Ukraine, supporting a murderous dictator in Syria and exporting arms to terrorist nations like Iran. At the same time, the country of Russia is more than Mr. Putin, despite his authoritarian and heavy-handed methods. Russia is the world’s 12th-largest economy, with a GDP in excess of $1.5 trillion, larger than many developed economies such as Australia (No. 13), Spain (No. 14) and the Netherlands (No. 18). Its export sector produces a positive balance of trade for Russia, currently running at over $16 billion per month.

Russia has not had a trade deficit in over 20 years. Russia is also the world’s largest oil producer, with output of 10.6 million barrels per day, larger than both Saudi Arabia and the United States. Russia has the largest landmass of any country in the world and a population of 144 million people, the ninth largest of any country. Russia is also the third-largest gold-producing nation in the world, with total production of 250 tons per year, about 8% of total global output and solidly ahead of the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Russia is highly competitive in the export of nuclear power plants, advanced weaponry, space technology, agricultural products and it has an educated workforce.

Russia’s government debt-to-GDP ratio is 12.6%, which is trivial compared with 253% for Japan, 105% for the United States and 68% for Germany. Russia’s external dollar-denominated debt is also quite low compared with the huge dollar-debt burdens of other emerging-market economies such as Turkey, Indonesia and China. Under the steady leadership of central bank head Elvira Nabiullina, the Central Bank of Russia has rebuilt its hard currency reserves after those reserves were severely depleted in 2015 following the collapse in oil prices that began in 2014. Total gold reserves rose from 1,275 tons in July 2015 to about 2,000 tons today. Russia’s gold-to-GDP ratio is the highest in the world and more than double those of the U.S. and China.

In short, Russia is a country to be reckoned with despite the intense dislike for its leader from Western powers. It can be disliked but it cannot be ignored. Russia is even more important geopolitically than these favorable metrics suggest. Russia and the U.S. are likely to improve relations and move closer together despite the current animosity over election meddling and the attempted murders of ex-Russian spies. The reason for this coming thaw has to do with the dynamics of global geopolitics. There are only three countries in the world that are rightly regarded as primary powers — the U.S., Russia and China. These three are the only superpowers. Some analysts may be surprised to see Russia on the superpower list, but the facts are indisputable.

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China exports the Silk Road. And creates dependencies that way.

Pakistan Is On The Brink Of Economic Disaster (CNBC)

Pakistan is on the brink of economic disaster, experts say. Foreign exchange reserves are at four-year lows, pressuring the local rupee and triggering worries that Islamabad may soon be unable to finance monthly import bills. The developing country is also awash in external debt, having taken on loans from China for the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. To avoid a full-blown balance of payments crisis, Islamabad needs outside help. It has two options: the IMF or Beijing. Neither, however, may solve its economic woes in the long run. The South Asian nation is no stranger to IMF bailouts — it has gone through 21 programs in total, with the most recent one ending two years ago.

If the administration of incoming Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks out another loan, estimated at $10 billion, the country will be subject to the IMF’s strict austerity measures that’re likely to hurt growth. It also wouldn’t bode well politically for Khan, who called on the campaign trail for Pakistan to become self-sufficient. The U.S., meanwhile, has taken issue with the idea of IMF funds going toward Pakistan’s Chinese debt obligations. “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars — and associated with that, American dollars that are part of the IMF funding — for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC last week.

In response, Pakistan’s finance ministry has refuted Pompeo’s linkage of IMF assistance with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Alternatively, Khan’s government could turn to China for fresh loans. But that would mean Islamabad wading even deeper into the so-called “Chinese debt trap” — a frequent criticism of Beijing’s infrastructure spending spree that’s known as the Belt and Road Initiative, of which the CPEC is a part. Last month, the Asian giant loaned Pakistan $1 billion to boost its shrinking foreign currency reserves. For the current fiscal year thus far, China’s lending to Pakistan is set to exceed $5 billion, according to Reuters.

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They’ve never seen an actual plan.

Tesla Board Plans To Tell Elon Musk To Recuse Himself (CNBC)

The Tesla board of directors plans to meet with financial advisors next week to formalize a process to explore Elon Musk’s take-private proposal, according to people familiar with the matter. Musk announced via Twitter this week that he hopes to take the automaker private, in what would be one of the biggest such deals in history. The board is likely to tell Musk, the Tesla chairman and CEO, to recuse himself as the company prepares to review his take-private proposal, according to these people, who asked not to be named because the conversations are private. The board has told Musk that he needs his own separate set of advisors, one of the people said. Tesla’s board will likely develop a special committee of a smaller number of independent directors to review the buyout details, the people added.

Musk previously talked with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund about a take-private deal, said one of the people. Saudi’s Public Investment Fund bought a 3% to 5% stake in the electric car maker, The Financial Times reported earlier this week. It isn’t yet known whether Saudi’s Public Investment Fund has agreed to commit money to the transaction. It also still isn’t clear if Tesla has committed financing. Musk tweeted he had “funding secured” on Tuesday when he said he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share. Tesla has declined to comment on funding for the transaction, leading to speculation Musk doesn’t have committed financing and drawing a request for more information from the SEC.

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US involvement in Nordstream 2?

US, EU Laying Groundwork For New Trade Deal (CNBC)

Two weeks after reaching a handshake agreement to calm trade talks and back off new tariffs, the United States and European Union are beginning to lay the formal groundwork underpinning any deal. On Tuesday, the State Department sent a cable to U.S. embassies across Europe, directing them to identify business areas ripe for lowering of tariffs or cutting of red tape, according to a readout of the cable provided to CNBC. The communication placed particular emphasis on deals that would increase U.S. energy and soybean exports, two areas highlighted in a joint statement the U.S. and the EU put out following the July 25 meeting.

One of the ideas that had been discussed is potential American involvement in a Russian natural gas pipeline into Germany that President Donald Trump had criticized. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Trump at the White House last month that “most” EU countries disagreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to broker the deal with Russia, according to a senior administration official. The State Department declined to comment, citing a policy not to confirm or deny internal communications. But the move represents an effort to source deliverables for talks set to take place when a delegation from the European Union visits Washington later this month.

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It’s a good idea to hold Sessions in contempt. But he’s the AG!.

US Judge Orders Deportation Plane Turnaround (BBC)

A federal judge has ordered a mother and her daughter be flown back to the United States, after learning they had been deported mid-appeal. The two were being represented in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who said they had fled “extreme sexual and gang violence”. The judge said it was unacceptable they had been removed during their appeal. He reportedly also said Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be held in contempt of court for the deportation. The mother and daughter were part of a case filed by the ACLU and the Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies on behalf of 12 mothers and children who said they had fled violence, but were at risk of deportation.

A tightening of rules in June by Mr Sessions means victims of domestic abuse and gang violence no longer generally qualify for US asylum. The government had pledged not to deport anyone in the case before Friday at the earliest, ACLU said. But ACLU said they learned during Thursday’s emergency hearing that the mother and daughter had already been put on a flight back to El Salvador by US authorities. Washington DC District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said that it was unacceptable that people claiming asylum had been removed while lawyers argued their case. He branded the situation “outrageous” and ordered the pair be returned immediately, according to reports. An official from the Department of Homeland Security told the Reuters agency that the agency worked to comply with the court’s order.

“Upon arrival in El Salvador, the plaintiffs did not disembark and are currently en route back to the United States,” the department said in an emailed statement. The mother and daughter are said to have arrived back in Texas, where they were being held, by Thursday night.

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It’s a market place. Supply and demand.

Germany Inks Deal With Spain To Return Registered Migrants (AFP)

Berlin has concluded a deal with Madrid for Spain to take back migrants who had been registered by Spanish authorities, a German interior ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday, as Germany seeks to curb new arrivals. Under the accord, which will enter in to force on Saturday August 11, the migrants “could be sent back to Spain within 48 hours,” said interior ministry spokeswoman Eleonore Petermann, adding that Madrid did not lay down any condition in exchange. The deal is part of a series of bilateral agreements that Germany is seeking with EU partners, after a broader accord for the bloc proved elusive.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been under pressure to reduce the number of new arrivals after a record influx of a million asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016 unsettled Germany. Besides Spain, Greece – another key arrival country for migrants who had undertaken the perilous sea journey crossing the Mediterranean – has also in principle agreed to such a deal, Berlin said in June. Italy’s new right-wing government has been more reluctant, as it is putting its focus on boosting controls at the EU’s external borders. Discussions with both Athens and Rome are “not over,” said Petermann. But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had said in an interview published Sunday that talks with his Italian and Greek colleagues were ongoing “in a good atmosphere”.

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“10 million plastic bags per minute.”

New Zealand To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags (AFP)

New Zealand became the latest country Friday to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying they will be phased out over the next year as a “meaningful step” towards reducing pollution. New Zealand uses “hundreds of millions” of single-use plastic bags each year, many of which end up harming marine life, Ardern said. “We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start,” she said. “We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation.”

Ardern said her coalition government, which includes the Green Party, was facing up to environmental challenges and “just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.” Single-use plastic bags are among the most common items found in coastal litter in New Zealand and the environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the decision to outlaw them. “This could be a major leap forward in turning the tide on ocean plastic pollution and an important first step in protecting marine life such as sea turtles and whales, from the growing plastic waste epidemic,” Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Emily Hunter said. A United Nations report in June said up to five trillion grocery bags are used globally each year, which is nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.

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Aug 092018
 
 August 9, 2018  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Eugène-Louis Boudin Laundresses on the Beach at Étretat 1892

 

Behold The ‘Scariest Chart’ For The Stock Market (MW)
US Senate Calls On Julian Assange To Testify (ZH)
Senate Democrats Circulate Plans for Government Takeover of Internet (Reason)
US To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia Over Salisbury Attack (Ind.)
Russia Calls New US Sanctions Draconian, Rejects Poisoning Allegations (R.)
Trump’s Sanctions Admit the End of US Military Dominance (Luongo)
Saudi Arabia Is Selling Off Its Canadian Assets As Row Intensifies (CNBC)
‘Dark Cloud’ Of Trade War Hovers Over Chinese Yuan’s Globalization (CNBC)
Trump Is Giving Protectionism a Bad Name (Moseley)
SEC Questions Tesla Over Elon Musk’s Tweets (WSJ)
Brexit And Housing Crisis Combining To Cause Exodus From London (Ind.)

 

 

Cycles, but distorted.

Behold The ‘Scariest Chart’ For The Stock Market (MW)

A lot has changed since the stock market crash of 2000. Apple Inc. has gone from being just another computer brand to becoming the most valuable company in the world, Amazon.com Inc. went from being an e-book retailer to a byword for online shopping and Tesla’s Elon Musk has risen from obscurity to Twitter stardom. Yet some things never change and Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, has been on a mini-campaign highlighting the parallels between 2000 and 2018. Among the numerous similarities is the elevated valuation of the S&P 500 then and now, which Ramsey illustrates in a chart that he has dubbed as the “scariest chart in our database.”

“Recall that the initial visit to present levels was followed by the S&P 500’s first-ever negative total return decade,” he said in a recent blog post. Price-to-sales ratio is one measure of a stocks value. It isn’t as popular as the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E, but is viewed as less susceptible to manipulation since it is based on revenue. He also shared a chart which he claims is “unfit for a family-friendly publication” that shows how in terms of median price to sales ratio, the S&P 500 is twice as expensive as it was in 2000.

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Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) pops up all over the place. Involved in killing off talks with Assange in spring 2017, a year later calls for Assange’s asylum to be revoked, then weeks later wants him to testify.

US Senate Calls On Julian Assange To Testify (ZH)

Julian Assange has been asked to testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee as part of their Russia investigation, according to a letter signed by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) posted by the official WikiLeaks Twitter account. The letter, delivered to Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, reads in part “As part of the inquiry, the Committee requests that you make yourself available for a closed interview with bipartisan Committee staff at a mutually agreeable time and location.” Wikileaks’ says their legal team is “considering the offer but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard,” after which the whistleblower organization added a tweet linking to a list of 10 Democratic Senators who demanded in late June that Assange’s asylum be revoked in violation of international law:

[..] Last August, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher travelled to London with journalist Charles Johnson for a meeting with Assange, after which Rohrabacher said the WikiLeaks founder offered “firsthand” information proving that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, and which would refute the Russian hacking theory. After Trump denied knowledge of the potential deal, Rohrabacher raged at Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, for constructing a “wall” around President Trump by “people who do not want to expose this fraud.” And in January of 2017, Julian Assange’s legal team approached Clinton-linked D.C. lobbyist Adam Waldman to reach out and see if anyone in the Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder – only to have James Comey kill the deal.

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More from Sen. Mark Warner. h/t Tyler

Senate Democrats Circulate Plans for Government Takeover of Internet (Reason)

A leaked memo circulating among Senate Democrats contains a host of bonkers authoritarian proposals for regulating digital platforms, purportedly as a way to get tough on Russian bots and fake news. To save American trust in “our institutions, democracy, free press, and markets,” it suggests, we need unprecedented and undemocratic government intervention into online press and markets, including “comprehensive (GDPR-like) data protection legislation” of the sort enacted in the E.U.

Titled “Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms,” the draft policy paper—penned by Sen. Mark Warner and leaked by an unknown source to Axios—the paper starts out by noting that Russians have long spread disinformation, including when “the Soviets tried to spread ‘fake news’ denigrating Martin Luther King” (here he fails to mention that the Americans in charge at the time did the same). But NOW IT’S DIFFERENT, because technology. “Today’s tools seem almost built for Russian disinformation techniques,” Warner opines. And the ones to come, he assures us, will be even worse.

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Evidence is so last century.

US To Impose Fresh Sanctions On Russia Over Salisbury Attack (Ind.)

The US government has said it will impose fresh sanctions on Russia after determining it used a nerve agent in the attack against a former Russian spy in Salisbury. The State Department said the sanctions will be imposed on Moscow because it used a chemical weapon in violation of international law in the attack on former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 33. The pair were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent called novichok in Salisbury, UK, in March. Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, the new US sanctions will take effect on or around 22 August, according to a statement.

[..] State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said it had been determined Russia had “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.” “Following the use of a Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal, the United States, on 6 August, 2018, determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” a statement said.

The sanctions will cover sensitive national security goods, a senior State Department official said. There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be allowed on a case by case basis, the official added. A second batch of “more draconian” sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gives “reliable assurances” that it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations.

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Russia should stop trying to deny anything, it makes no difference anyway.

Russia Calls New US Sanctions Draconian, Rejects Poisoning Allegations (R.)

Russia’s embassy in the United States on Thursday called new U.S. sanctions draconian and said the reason for the new restrictions — allegations it poisoned a former spy and his daughter in Britain — were far-fetched. The United States on Wednesday announced it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia after Washington determined Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain. Russia has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack, and Russia’s embassy in Washington said in a statement that Washington’s findings against it in the case were not backed by evidence.

“On August 8, 2018 our Deputy Chief of Mission was informed in the State Department of new ‘draconian’ sanctions against Russia for far-fetched accusations of using the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent against a UK citizen,” the embassy said in a statement. “We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence.” The U.S. announcement fueled already worsening investor sentiment about the possible effect of more U.S. sanctions on Russian assets and the rouble slid by over 1 percent on Thursday against the dollar, a day after falling toward its lowest level in nearly two years. The Russian embassy said Moscow continued to advocate for an open and transparent investigation into the poisoning.

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Talked about this a while ago. Unwinnable wars.

Trump’s Sanctions Admit the End of US Military Dominance (Luongo)

On March 1st Russian President Vladimir Putin changed the geopolitical game. During his speech he unveiled new weapons which instantly made obsolete much of the U.S military’s physical arsenal. And the panic in Washington was palpable. Since that speech everything geopolitical has accelerated. The US government under Trump has shifted its strategies in response to this. No longer were we threatening North Korea with military invasion. No, Trump sat down with Kim Jong-un to negotiate peace. On Russia, Iran, China, Turkey, Venezuela and even Europe Trump’s war rhetoric has intensified. Trump is only talking about economic sanctions and tariffs, however, leveraging the dollar as his primary weapon to bring countries to heel.

There’s no hint of US invasion, no matter how much John Bolton whispers in his ear or Bibi Netanyahu bangs his shoe on the table. Why? Because US military dominance has always been enforced not by technology but by logistics. Those bases, while expensive, are also the real strength of the US military. They are a financial albatross which the ‘Axis of Resistance’ is using to win a war of attrition against US hegemony. And now, Putin’s new weapons rendered them obsolete in a moment’s time. Once fully deployed there will be no going back to the old world order. So, that’s why Trump talked to North Korea yesterday and why he will talk with Iran tomorrow.

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Friends no more. There are large Jewish communities in Canada. Wonder what they think.

Saudi Arabia Is Selling Off Its Canadian Assets As Row Intensifies (CNBC)

Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic spat with Canada looks set to escalate following a report that the Middle Eastern country has instructed its brokers to sell Canadian assets. Anger between the two countries erupted last week when Canadian officials urged Riyadh to “immediately release” women’s rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. Now the Financial Times has reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds have instructed third party asset managers to sell Canadian bonds, stocks and cash. The selling is said to have begun on Tuesday. In a sign of its rage, Saudi Arabia has already expelled the Canadian ambassador, frozen trade and investment between Riyadh and Ottawa and halted flights to and from Canada.

Saudi rulers have also stopped all medical treatment programs in Canada and are coordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients currently receiving care in Canadian hospitals to be moved outside of the country. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that “Canada will always stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world, and women’s rights are human rights.” But on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said there was nothing to mediate between the two countries and that Canada knew what it needed to do to “fix its big mistake.”

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Long as it doesn’t trade freely, forget it.

‘Dark Cloud’ Of Trade War Hovers Over Chinese Yuan’s Globalization (CNBC)

The Chinese yuan’s slide is creating challenging headwinds for Beijing’s push to promote its currency globally — a key element in the broader liberalization of the world’s second-largest economy. China wants its currency, also known as the renminbi, to play a leading role in global trade and finance in line with its economic clout. While Beijing has scored some significant milestones, the yuan has been declining, assailed by a weakening economy and a trade war with the United States. One major achievement was in 2016 when it joined the ranks of the dollar, euro, yen and British pound as part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Right (SDR), an international reserve asset.

But there have been bumps as well, most notably in 2015 when authorities suddenly devalued the currency after steadily nudging it higher for years, triggering a sell-off in global markets. The renminbi, or literally “people’s currency,” is now being buffeted by a new challenge as China’s economy is under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff assault. Analysts say its push to become a global currency is likely to suffer a setback. “Renminbi internationalization could be slowing down temporarily in the second half of this year,” Ken Cheung, senior Asia foreign exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong, told CNBC, citing the disruption caused by the trade war.

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This is much more about Africa, and the US pre-Trump, than it is about Trump himself.

Trump Is Giving Protectionism a Bad Name (Moseley)

While it might not seem like it now, President Donald Trump is a gift to free market-oriented economists and policymakers. His clumsy approach to protectionism has ignited a trade war that inevitably will harm the U.S. economy. When the pendulum inexorably swings the other way after the Trump fiasco, free trade ideology will return with a vengeance. This is a potential tragedy for left-leaning policy analysts who have long been concerned about the excesses of neoliberalism and argued for a more measured use of tariffs to foster local economic development. As such, it critical that we distinguish between Trump’s right-wing nationalist embrace of tariffs and the more nuanced use of this tool to support infant industries.

As a development geographer and an Africanist scholar, I have long been critical of unfettered free trade because of its deleterious economic impacts on African countries. At the behest of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the majority of African countries were essentially forced, because of conditional loan and debt-refinancing requirements, to undergo free market–oriented economic reforms from the early 1980s through the mid-2000s. One by one, these countries reduced tariff barriers, eliminated subsidies, cut back on government expenditures, and emphasized commodity exports. With the possible exception of Ghana, the economy of nearly every African country undertaking these reforms was devastated.

This is not to say that there was no economic growth for African countries during this period, as there certainly was during cyclical commodity booms. The problem is that the economies of these countries were essentially underdeveloped as they returned to a colonial model focused on producing a limited number of commodities such as oil, minerals, cotton, cacao, palm oil, and timber. Economic reforms destroyed the value-added activities that helped diversify these economies and provided higher wage employment, such as the textile, milling, and food processing industries. Worse yet, millions of African farmers and workers are now increasingly ensnared in a global commodity boom-and-bust cycle. Beyond that cycle, they are experiencing an even more worrying long-term trend of declining prices for commodities.

One of the consequences of the hollowing out of African economies has been the European migration crisis. While some of this migration is clearly connected to politics, war, and insecurity in the Middle East and Africa, a nontrivial portion is related to grim economic prospects in many African countries.

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Predicted and predictable. It’s like if Trump can do stuff via twitter, can Musk do the same?

SEC Questions Tesla Over Elon Musk’s Tweets (WSJ)

Securities regulators have inquired with Tesla Inc. about Chief Executive Elon Musk’s surprise announcement that he may take the company private and whether his claim was factual, people familiar with the matter said. The Securities and Exchange Commission has asked whether Musk’s unusual announcement on Tuesday was factual, the people said. The regulator also asked Tesla TSLA, -2.43% about why the disclosure was made on Twitter rather than in a regulatory filing, and whether the company believes the announcement complies with investor-protection rules, the people said. Musk on Tuesday proposed taking Tesla private at $420 a share, about 11% higher than the day’s closing stock price.

He called the funding “secured” for what would be the biggest-ever corporate buyout, but he hasn’t disclosed details. A group of Tesla board members on Wednesday said Musk spoke to them last week about taking the company private. The SEC’s inquiries, which originated from its San Francisco office, suggest Tesla could come under an enforcement investigation if regulators develop evidence that Musk’s statement was misleading or false. It wasn’t immediately clear on Wednesday whether the regulator had opened a formal enforcement investigation based on the answers it received from the company.

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This is going to get so much worse. It’s only 7 months away, but no-one has actually woken up yet.

Brexit And Housing Crisis Combining To Cause Exodus From London (Ind.)

A combination of unaffordable housing and Brexit has led to an “exodus” from London, with an increasing number of young people moving elsewhere to live and work, according to new research. Analysis by think tank Centre for London showed that job numbers in the capital reached 5.9 million at the end of June this year, up 1.9 per cent compared with the same month in 2017 – and the highest level since records began in 1996. However, the group warned that this was driven by a “significant growth” in the number of people moving away from London to rest of the UK, and a slowdown in international migration, suggesting that the city is become a less desirable place to live and work.

London recorded the slowest rate of population growth in over a decade, at almost half the rate of the previous year, the research revealed. A spokesperson for Centre for London said: “The continuing affordability crisis and the prospect of Brexit are dampening the city’s appeal, with the former seen as driving the rise in the number of people in their mid-twenties to thirties leaving the capital.” In July the average rent for London rose above £1,600 for the first time on record, according to the latest Homelet Rental Index, and while house price growth in London has slowed in recent months, the average price in the second quarter of this year was £468,845 – more than double the national average of £214,578.

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Aug 072018
 
 August 7, 2018  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Eugène-Louis Boudin Beach at Étretat 1890

 

Petition To Trump: Pardon Julian Assange (Infowars)
Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship (CJ)
The Myths Of Stocks For The Long Run – Part X (Roberts)
Germany’s Huge Trade Surpluses Are A Burden On Its EU Partners (CNBC)
EU Acts To Protect Firms From Donald Trump’s Sanctions Against Iran (G.)
Mattress Firm Considers Bankruptcy to Get Out of its Real Estate Scams
UK To Run Out Of Food A Year From Now With No-Deal Brexit – Farmers (G.)
Record Number Of UK Police Officers Forced To Take Second Job (Ind.)
Chinese Newspaper: Trump’s Claim Of Winning Trade War ‘Wishful Thinking’ (R.)
China Bans Winnie The Pooh Film After Comparisons To President Xi (G.)
US Coalition Cooperates With Al-Qaeda In Yemen, AP Confirms (ZH)
Brazil Closes, Then Reopens Border To Venezuelan Migrants (AFP)
Humans Are About to Unleash an Irreversible “Hothouse Earth” (Science Alert)

 

 

Yes, Infowars, and I know. But this is about Julian Assange, and about Alex Jones getting thrown out of social media the moment he launched this petition. Please go to Infowars for once and sign!

Petition To Trump: Pardon Julian Assange (Infowars)

Whereas Journalist Julian Assange and his media organization, Wikileaks has, in the respected tradition of American journalism obtained and published information that is classified and newsworthy, a practice shared with the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others and

Whereas in the eleven years of its existence the authenticity and accuracy of materials published by Wikileaks has ever been questioned or in dispute and

Whereas the material regarding Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee published by Wikileaks served the national interest by exposing the corruption of the Clintons, the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton campaign and the Obama Justice Department and

Whereas assertion by the American Intelligence Services that Julian Assange is the agent of a ‘Hostile Foreign State” or the Russian government are politically suspect and completely unproven and denied by Assange and

Whereas Julian Assange has consistently denied that material obtained from the Democratic National Committee and published by Wikileaks came from the Russian State and has repeatedly offered to prove this for US authorities and

Whereas Assange, now in failing health, has been a veritable prisoner in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for six years, with the media now reporting Equador is preparing to hand Assange over to British authorities who will presumably extradite Assange to the United States for trial and

Whereas Julian Assange is an impeccably-honest, incredibly-brave, humanitarian journalist, who provides an invaluable platform for whistleblowers exposing corruption and criminality infesting governments, nullifying democracy and obliterating human rights, around the world and

Whereas there are absolutely no legitimate legal grounds to prosecute Assange and, as the U.S. DOJ admitted in 2013, that doing so would expose ALL U.S. journalistic and news outlets to similar criminal jeopardy.

Therefore- we the undersigned urge President Donald J. Trump to issue a full and unconditional pardon to the journalist Julian Assange in the interests of both justice and mercy.

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“Assange’s mother also reports that this mass removal of Infowars’ audience occurred less than 48 hours after she was approached to do an interview by an Infowars producer.”

Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship (CJ)

Last year, representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and Google were instructed on the US Senate floor that it is their responsibility to “quell information rebellions” and adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord.” “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words,” the representatives were told. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.” Yes, this really happened.

Today Twitter has silenced three important anti-war voices on its platform: it has suspended Daniel McAdams, the executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, suspended Scott Horton of the Scott Horton Show, and completely removed the account of prominent Antiwar.com writer Peter Van Buren. I’m about to talk about the censorship of Alex Jones and Infowars now, so let me get the “blah blah I don’t like Alex Jones” thing out of the way so that my social media notifications aren’t inundated with people saying “Caitlin didn’t say the ‘blah blah I don’t like Alex Jones’ thing!” I shouldn’t have to, because this isn’t actually about Alex Jones, but here it is:

I don’t like Alex Jones. He’s made millions saying the things disgruntled right-wingers want to hear instead of telling the truth; he throws in disinfo with his info, which is the same as lying all the time. He’s made countless false predictions and his sudden sycophantic support for a US president has helped lull the populist right into complacency when they should be holding Trump to his non-interventionist campaign pledges, making him even more worthless than he was prior to 2016. But this isn’t about defending Alex Jones. He just happens to be the thinnest edge of the wedge.

As of this writing, Infowars has been censored from Facebook, Youtube (which is part of Google), Apple, Spotify, and now even Pinterest, all within hours of each other. This happens to have occurred at the same time Infowars was circulating a petition with tens of thousands of signatures calling on President Trump to pardon WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who poses a much greater threat to establishment narratives than Alex Jones ever has. Assange’s mother also reports that this mass removal of Infowars’ audience occurred less than 48 hours after she was approached to do an interview by an Infowars producer.

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At some point we’ll have to acknowledge that there is no market.

The Myths Of Stocks For The Long Run – Part X (Roberts)

In early 2017, Byron Wien was asked the question of where we are in terms of the economy and the market to a group of high-end investors. To wit: “The one issue that dominated the discussion at all four of the lunches was whether or not we were in the late stages of the business cycle as well as the bull market. This recovery began in June 2009 and the bull market began in March of that year. So we are more than 100 months into the period of equity appreciation and close to that in terms of economic expansion.“ His point is that markets rotate between bullish and bearish phases. When he made that statement he was simply saying the current economic recovery and the bull market are very long in the tooth. As shown below why shouldn’t we expect a market decline to follow, it has every other time?

[..] There are two problems facing investor outcomes. First, you don’t have 100+ years to invest in the market to get the “average” long-term returns. Second, your “long-term” investment horizon is simply the time you have between today and when you retire. As I stated above, for most people that is about 15 years. So, for argument sake, let’s be generous and assume you have 20-years from today until retirement. As we discussed previously, we know that based on current valuations in the market, forward real total returns in the market will likely be, on average, fairly low to negative.

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Germany and Holland live off the labor of their neighbors. There is no bigger threat to the EU.

Germany’s Huge Trade Surpluses Are A Burden On Its EU Partners (CNBC)

While few European states can pretend to share Germany’s distinction of being a “country of poets and thinkers,” none can rival German abilities to extract so much wealth from the rest of the European Union. Last year, Germany posted a 159.3 billion euro surplus on its goods trade with other countries in the EU — one of the world’s largest free-trade areas and a region with privileged access to German goods and services. That’s the way it’s been since 1958, when Europe’s common market opened up. Germany’s enormous EU bounty consistently accounts for two-thirds of its net foreign trade income in a market structure where Berlin remains an undisputed leader and a principal regulator.

This year looks set to mark another record-high EU trade income for Germany. The surplus during the January-April period was running at an annual rate of 175 billion euro — a 10 percent increase on the country’s EU trades in 2017 — according to statistics from Germany’s Bundesbank. A country representing 28 percent of the monetary union’s economy and living so grandly off the rest of its partners is a structurally destabilizing factor. To this day, economists pointing out that fundamental problem have been ridiculed as hopelessly naive because, as the mantra goes, the European project has always been, and always will be, a political construct to keep the Europeans off each other’s throats.

That charge is not only false, but it also bears the seeds of its own destruction. Taking hundreds of billions of euros of purchasing power out of the monetary union, Germany makes it virtually impossible for other euro area economies to grow and create jobs as they struggle to bring down their public debts and deficits. Instead of accumulating enormous wealth on the back of its euro partners, Germany should stimulate its domestic spending to buy more goods and services from them. [..] Recycling some of last year’s roughly $300 billion trade surplus — through direct investments in the rest of the EU — Germany would boost economic growth and employment in other countries in the bloc, solve the problem of its shrinking manpower and adjust its overflowing external accounts.

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The only choice firms have is who they want to be sanctioned by.

EU Acts To Protect Firms From Donald Trump’s Sanctions Against Iran (G.)

The EU has launched an attempt to protect European businesses from Donald Trump’s sanctions against Iran as the US administration voiced its intent to apply maximum pressure on Tehran by vigorously applying its punitive measures. The sanctions are to enter into force at midnight (US east coast time). At the same time, a blocking statute – last used to protect EU firms from US sanctions against Cuba – will be brought into force in an attempt to insulate firms and keep alive a deal designed to limit the Iranian government’s nuclear aspirations. European firms have been instructed that they should not comply with demands from the White House for them to drop all business with Iran.

Those who decide to pull out because of US sanctions will need to be granted authorisation from the European commission, without which they face the risk of being sued by EU member states. A mechanism has also been opened to allow EU businesses affected by the sanctions to sue the US administration in the national courts of member states. Trump announced his intention to hit firms doing business with Iran when he reneged on a deal struck in 2015 designed to help curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in return for limited sanctions relief.

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Sharing a laugh with Wolf Richter.

Mattress Firm Considers Bankruptcy to Get Out of its Real Estate Scams

This is so thick it’s hard to believe. It’s far beyond just a Brick & Mortar Meltdown. “I recently sold a small strip center with my last Mattress Firm,” a relieved real estate developer told me earlier this year. “It traded at a 7.1% cap rate, which is just astonishing to me. During due diligence, the buyer’s lawyers focused on every minute risk and mentioned nothing about their parent company once. So crazy.” Mattress Firm’s parent company is Steinhoff, now a familiar name in the Enron lexicon. “Mattress Firm’s strategy is to have multiple stores on the same intersection in every town,” this developer had told me last fall.

“This was accomplished by design and not just mergers. As a developer, I was literally asked to find sites across the street from existing stores in almost every town. Mattress Firm was able to get these sites because they would overpay market rent by up to $10 per square foot in every market that I was focused in, but it is the same all over,” he said. To get out of these leases, and for other reasons, Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the US, is now considering a bankruptcy filing, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. Restructuring in bankruptcy court would allow Mattress Firm to shut down unprofitable and excess stores and get out from under their over-priced leases. Mattress Firm, which was founded in 1986, is a classic example of a private-equity pump-and-dump that has turned into an alleged real estate scam by insiders. Here is the turn of events:

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Better plant some more tomatoes in your gardens.

UK To Run Out Of Food A Year From Now With No-Deal Brexit – Farmers (G.)

Britain would run out of food on this date next year if it cannot continue to easily import from the EU and elsewhere after Brexit, the National Farmers’ Union has warned. Minette Batters, the NFU president, urged the government to put food security at the top of the political agenda after the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was talked up this week. “The UK farming sector has the potential to be one of the most impacted sectors from a bad Brexit – a frictionless free trade deal with the EU and access to a reliable and competent workforce for farm businesses is critical to the future of the sector,” she said. Batters’ warning comes a fortnight after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, said Britain would have “adequate food supplies” after Brexit.

While Downing Street has insisted it is confident an agreement can be made in time, the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, warned over the weekend that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was now at “60-40”, fuelling fears at the NFU and among food importers. Food security in Britain is in long-term decline, with the country producing 60% of what it needs to feed itself, compared with 74% 30 years ago, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In a statement issued by the NFU, Batters expressed concern that Britain would not be able to meet its food needs if Brexit was mismanaged. Research showed 7 August 2019 would be the nominal day that Britain would run out of food if it were asked to be wholly self-sufficient based on seasonal growth, the NFU said.

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The blessings of austerity.

Record Number Of UK Police Officers Forced To Take Second Job (Ind.)

A record number of police officers are being forced to take on second jobs because they cannot afford essentials on their wages, a survey has found amid warnings the service is “in crisis”. The Police Federation said some officers were resorting to food vouchers and welfare schemes, while dealing with “unprecedented” demand, rising violent crime and terrorism. Almost 8 per cent of the 27,000 members who responded to the association’s annual pay and morale survey said they had taken up a second job, compared with 6 per cent the previous year. The roles included becoming driving instructors, personal trainers or leasing properties.

A further 45 per cent of officers said they worry about finances on a daily basis, 12 per cent said they do not have enough money to cover essentials and 88 per cent do not feel fairly paid. John Apter, the new chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, warned that some officers were in “dire straits”. “Our members are under immense pressure to deliver, with dwindling resources and rising crime, particularly violent crime, leading to a demand for our services that has never been higher,” he said. “All they want is to be adequately paid for the job that they do. “We know officers are struggling and some have had to resort to food vouchers and other welfare schemes. This clearly cannot be right or acceptable that those employed to keep the public safe cannot make ends meet or put food on tables for their families.

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These kinds of things show that China is nervous.

Chinese Newspaper: Trump’s Claim Of Winning Trade War ‘Wishful Thinking’ (R.)

Chinese state media kept up their criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies, with a newspaper on Tuesday describing as “wishful thinking” Trump’s belief that a fall in Chinese stocks was a sign of his winning the trade war. As the world’s two biggest economies remained locked in a heated tariff dispute, Beijing and Washington have kept up a blistering rhetoric with threats and counter-threats of more punitive trade measures. The editorial in the official China Daily underscored an increasingly aggressive stance adopted by Chinese state media against Trump, a shift from their previous approach of tempering any direct criticism against the U.S. president.

On Monday, the overseas edition of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper singled out Trump, saying he was starring in his own “street fighter-style deceitful drama of extortion and intimidation”. [..] The China Daily referred to a Saturday Tweet by Trump which said “Tariffs are working far better than anyone anticipated. China market has dropped 27 percent in last four months.” China’s stock market was performing poorly before the U.S. administration imposed tariffs, said the English-language newspaper, asserting that the downturn was partly due to Beijing’s attempts to cut corporate debt. The paper said Trump’s claim that “tariffs are working big time” was undermined by data showing the U.S. trade deficit climbed $3 billion to $46.3 billion in June, the first increase in four months.

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Catchy, but not too likely. So you get the whole build-up and then towards the end: “China only allows 34 foreign films to be released in cinemas each year..”

China Bans Winnie The Pooh Film After Comparisons To President Xi (G.)

Who’s afraid of Winnie the Pooh? The Chinese government, apparently. Chinese censors have banned the release of Christopher Robin, a new film adaptation of AA Milne’s beloved story about Winnie the Pooh, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Winnie the Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for people across China to mock their president, Xi Jinping, but it seems the government doesn’t find the joke very funny. It started when Xi visited the US in 2013, and an image of Xi and then president Barack Obama walking together spurred comparisons to Winnie – a portly Xi – walking with Tigger, a lanky Obama. Xi was again compared to the fictional bear in 2014 during a meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who took on the part of the pessimistic, gloomy donkey, Eeyore.

As comparisons grew and the meme spread online, censors began erasing the images which mocked Xi. The website of US television station HBO was blocked last month after comedian John Oliver repeatedly made fun of the Chinese president’s apparent sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie. The segment also focused on China’s dismal human rights record. Another comparison between Xi and Winnie during a military parade in 2015 became that year’s most censored image, according to Global Risk Insights. The firm said the Chinese government viewed the meme as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself”.

[..] Another reason for the film’s rejection by the authorities may be that China only allows 34 foreign films to be released in cinemas each year. That leaves Hollywood summer blockbusters, family films and contenders from across the world jockeying for a tiny number of spots.

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Like we didn’t know already.

US Coalition Cooperates With Al-Qaeda In Yemen, AP Confirms (ZH)

Perhaps we could simply shrug our shoulders and say it’s better late than never for the mainstream media. A new Associated Press report confirms what was long ago detailed by a number of independent investigative journalists, and even in some instances buried deep within sporadic mainstream reports of past years: the US-coalition in Yemen is actually cooperating with al-Qaeda terrorists in the campaign to dislodge Shia Houthi militants. The AP report begins dramatically as follows:

“Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West. Here’s what the victors did not disclose: many of their conquests came without firing a shot. That’s because the coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.”

And contrary to the normative response of US officials to such allegations, which as in the case of US support to jihadists in Syria typically runs something like “we didn’t know” while hiding behind a system of ‘plausible deniability’ — in the case of Yemen officials involved have now admitted to the AP that coalition allies knowingly allowed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to survive and flourish. Somewhat surprising for the AP, its report underscores this with zero ambiguity, even illustrating for the reader the terrorists’ linkage to 9/11:

“These compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day — and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes.” Similar to the US role in Syria, American officials are now apparently quite comfortable admitting they are willing to utilize designated terrorist groups ultimately as a weapon against pro-Iran interests.

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“It is not justified to take the easy path to ‘close the doors’ because of difficulties in hosting refugees,” Supreme Court justice Rosa Weber said..”

Brazil Closes, Then Reopens Border To Venezuelan Migrants (AFP)

Brazil briefly closed then reopened its northern border to Venezuelans on Monday as it struggled to contain mass migration from the South American country saddled with a crippling political and economic crisis, police said. A Supreme Court justice overturned a lower court judge’s decision that had suspended for a few hours the entry of more Venezuelans until other immigrants from the country were transferred elsewhere in Brazil. “It is not justified to take the easy path to ‘close the doors’ because of difficulties in hosting refugees,” Supreme Court justice Rosa Weber said in her ruling issued shortly before midnight.

The border had remained open to Brazilians and other nationalities, as well as to Venezuelans seeking to return to their home country. It’s a main crossing point for tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants, an influx that has increased dramatically over the past two years. President Michel Temer was opposed in a “non-negotiable” way to the border closure, Human Rights Minister Gustavo Rocha was quoted as saying by state-run Agencia Brasil. Roraima state’s capital Boa Vista has hosted the largest number of Venezuelan immigrants in the country — around 25,000 out of a total of 330,000 city dwellers. An estimated 500 Venezuelans cross the land border into Brazil each day.

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Feedback loops. Methane is becoming a bigger factor all the time.

Humans Are About to Unleash an Irreversible “Hothouse Earth” (Science Alert)

The coasts are gone. The waves crash high into what were once mountains. Many have perished, for food is scarce, and the deadly heat is inescapable. This bleak future scenario – called a “Hothouse Earth” – could be realised sooner than we think, scientists warn, if the planet breaches a pivotal climate threshold from which there may ultimately be no coming back. The worst part? Scientists say we could exceed this threshold even if we meet the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement – and manage to keep global temperatures to 2°C above pre-Industrial levels. Achieving that goal would be a global success story. But it might not be the end of the story.

“Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth,” says Earth system scientist Will Steffen from the Australian National University. “Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called ‘feedbacks’, that can drive further warming – even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases.” In a new perspective study, Steffen and an international team of researchers outline a number of these ‘positive feedback’ systems that exist on Earth and can “amplify a perturbation and drive a transition to a different state”. One example is permafrost thaw. As the world gets hotter due to heat-trapping carbon emissions, there’s worrying evidence that melting permafrost soils are releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere – making a bad situation potentially catastrophic.

Read more …

May 142018
 
 May 14, 2018  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis 1956

 

S&P 500 Should Be 1,000+ Points Lower Than Today – David Rosenberg (MW)
Why I Think the Stock Market Cannot Crash in 2018 (WS)
Italy’s Nascent Government Has Tough Economic Circles To Square (R.)
US Threatens European Companies With Sanctions After Iran Deal Pullout (G.)
May Faces Deadlock Over Brexit Customs Rules As Both Options Rubbished (Ind.)
Shoppers Desert UK High Streets (G.)
UK Metropolitan Police’s Facial Recognition Technology 98% Inaccurate (Ind.)
UK To Host Summit On Why Six Other Countries Should Join The EU (Ind.)
Xi Might Join Trump And Kim In Singapore (MS)
Prosecutors Seek Complete Media Ban On Cardinal George Pell Trial (NM)
Greek Pensions Under €1,000 Will Also Be Cut In 2019 (K.)
Greece Considers Boosting Capacity Of Refugee Centers

 

 

“..there are some serious people out there saying some very serious things about the longevity of the cycle..”

S&P 500 Should Be 1,000+ Points Lower Than Today – David Rosenberg (MW)

A reversion to the mean in U.S. stock prices could mean the market will fall by at least 20%, according to David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff and Associates, who gave his prediction at the Strategic Investment Conference 2018 in San Diego. Rosenberg, the chief economist and strategist at Toronto-based Gluskin Sheff, said this is one of the strangest securities-market rallies of all time. That’s because all asset classes have gone up, even ones that are inversely correlated. He thinks a breaking point is a year away, and so investors should start taking precautions now.

The beginning of this year started off great for investors. The S&P 500 Index hit record highs at around 2,750 points, and stocks had their best January since 1987. As if that was not enough, Rosenberg pointed out, many Wall Street strategists raised their target to 3,000. The media extrapolating record returns only added to the rise in investors’ unreasonable expectations. However, increasingly more hedge fund managers and billionaire investors who timed the previous crashes are backing out.

One of them is Sam Zell, a billionaire real estate investor, whom Rosenberg says is a “hero” of his. Zell predicted the 2008 financial crisis, eight months early. But, essentially, he was right. Today, his view is that valuations are at record highs. Then we have Howard Marks, a billionaire American investor who is the co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. He seconds Zell’s view that valuations are unreasonably high and says the easy money has been made. “And I don’t always try to seek out corroborating evidence. But there are some serious people out there saying some very serious things about the longevity of the cycle,” said Rosenberg.

According to Rosenberg’s calculations, the S&P 500 should be at least 1,000 points lower than it is today based on economic growth. In spite of this, equity valuations sit at record highs. Another historically accurate indicator that predicts the end of bull cycles is household net worth’s share of personal disposable income. As you can see in the chart below, the last two peaks in this ratio almost perfectly coincided with the dot-com crash and the 2008 financial crisis.

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There is no market.

Why I Think the Stock Market Cannot Crash in 2018 (WS)

The 85% of S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far disclosed they’d bought back $158 billion of their own shares in Q1, according to the Wall Street Journal. The quarterly record of $164 billion was set in Q1 2016. If the current rate applies to all S&P 500 companies, they repurchased over $180 billion of their own shares in Q1, thus setting a new record. At this trend, including a couple of slower quarters, S&P 500 companies are likely to buy back between $650 billion and $700 billion of their owns shares in 2018. This would handily beat the prior annual record of $572 billion in 2007.

Here are the top buyback spenders in Q1: Apple: $22.8 billion, Amgen: $10.7 billion, Bank of America: $4.9 billion, JPMorgan Chase: $4.7 billion, Oracle: $4 billion, Microsoft: $3.8 billion, Phillips 66: $3.5 billion, Wells Fargo: $3.34 billion, Boeing: $3 billion, Citigroup: $2.9 billion. Buybacks pump up share prices in several ways. One is the pandemic hype and media razzmatazz around the announcements which cause investors and algos to pile into those shares and create buying pressure. Since May 1, when Apple announced mega-buybacks of $100 billion in the future, its shares have surged 11%. The magic words.

Other companies with big share buyback programs have also fared well: Microsoft shares are up 14% year-to-date. And if buybacks don’t push up shares, at least they keep them from falling: Amgen shares are flat year-to-date. Shares of the 20 biggest buyback spenders in Q1 are up over 5% on average year-to-date, according to the Wall Street Journal, though the S&P 500 has edged up only 2%.

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Basic income AND a parallel currency. How can this fit inside the eurozone?

Italy’s Nascent Government Has Tough Economic Circles To Square (R.)

The Italian coalition taking shape 10 weeks after March’s inconclusive election has made economic promises that seem incompatible with Europe’s fiscal rules and will be hard, if not impossible, to keep. These include slashing taxes for companies and individuals, boosting welfare provision, cancelling a scheduled increase in sales tax and dismantling a 2011 pension reform which sharply raised the retirement age.The marriage being sealed between the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League was seen as an unlikely and worrying prospect by most analysts before the March 4 election ended in a hung parliament.

The pre-election adversaries have spent the last few days trying to fuse their very different programs into a “contract” of mutually acceptable policy commitments. What they have in common is that they are extremely expensive. On the face of it their plans, which they say may also include a form of parallel currency, could push the budget deficit far above targets agreed with the EU, setting up a clash with the European Commission and Italy’s partners. “We will need to renegotiate EU agreements to stop Italy suffocating,” League leader Matteo Salvini said on Saturday after a day of talks with his 5-Star counterpart Luigi Di Maio.

5-Star’s flagship policy of a universal income for the poor has been costed at around 17 billion euros ($20 billion) per year. The League’s hallmark scheme, a flat tax rate of 15 percent for companies and individuals, is estimated to reduce tax revenues by 80 billion euros per year. Scrapping the unpopular pension reform would cost 15 billion euros, another 12.5 billion is needed to head off the planned hike in sales tax, and the parties are also considering printing a new, special-purpose currency to pay off state debts to firms. “If implemented, it would be the biggest shake-up of the Italian economic system in modern times,” said Wolfgang Munchau, head of the London-based Eurointelligence think-tank.

[..] olfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence, said taking on Brussels would be popular with Italian voters, and the new government had little to fear from a European Commission which “is very weak and on its way out”. The Commission, with just a year of its term remaining, “can’t really do much other than put Italy’s finances under greater scrutiny, and markets don’t care about that”, he said.

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Bolton.

US Threatens European Companies With Sanctions After Iran Deal Pullout (G.)

Donald Trump is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies that do business in Iran following his withdrawal of the US from the international nuclear deal, his administration reiterated on Sunday. Trump’s most senior foreign policy aides signalled that the US would continue pressuring allies to follow Washington in backing out of the pact, which gave Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for halting its nuclear programme. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union whether that meant the Trump administration would impose sanctions against those firms, Bolton said: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.” US sanctions on Iran reimposed following Trump’s withdrawal not only block American firms from doing business in the country, but also bar foreign firms that do business there from accessing the entire US banking and financial system. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, said on Sunday wealth created in Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal “drove Iranian malign activity” in the region. He declined to rule out sanctions against European firms. “The sanctions regime that is in place now is very clear on what the requirements are,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday.

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Britain better get rid of her.

May Faces Deadlock Over Brexit Customs Rules As Both Options Rubbished (Ind.)

Theresa May faces deadlock over the key controversy of customs rules after Brexit, after senior politicians rubbished both of the options being studied by her warring cabinet. Michael Gove – picked by the prime minister to examine her preferred “customs partnership” model – warned there were “significant question marks over the deliverability of it”. Meanwhile, the Irish deputy prime minister insisted Dublin would block a Brexit withdrawal agreement if she pursued an alternative technology-based solution, saying: “It won’t work.” The warnings left Ms May with few apparent options to resolve the impasse, with a deadline set by the EU just six weeks away.

Two working groups of key ministers have been set up to study both the customs partnership – under which the UK would collect tariffs on behalf the EU – and the tech-based “max-fac” proposal. Mr Gove, the environment secretary, speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, declined to back Boris Johnson’s description of the partnership model as “crazy”. But he said: “Boris pointed out that because it’s novel, because no model like this exists, there have to be significant question marks over the deliverability of it on time.” Crucially, Mr Gove also suggested the proposal would break Ms May’s key promise – stated again today – to ‘take back control” of borders and laws.

“What the customs partnership requires the British government to do is in effect to act as the tax collector and very possibly the effective deliverer of regulation for the European Union,” he claimed. A proposal to seek EU agreement to keep the UK in the single market and customs union past the end of 2020, while a solution is found, was also stamped on by Mr Gove. “I don’t believe in an extension,” he said – arguing it was “critical to meet that deadline” of ending the post-Brexit transition period after 21 months.

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Slowly, people are starting to get very afraid of Brexit.

Shoppers Desert UK High Streets (G.)

Shoppers are deserting the high street in greater numbers than during the depths of the recession in 2009, creating a brutal climate that is putting thousands more retail jobs at risk. The coming days will be crucial to the future of a handful of household names, including Mothercare and Carpetright, which are trying to persuade investors to make vital cash injections so they can jettison unwanted stores. There is also the spectre of job losses at Poundworld, the struggling discount chain, which is being cut adrift by its American owners. Dwindling shopper numbers tally with weak spending figures for April, which show Britons slashed spending on gadgets, furniture and even nights out.

Consumer spending dropped 2% last month, according to Visa’s consumer spending index, which has recorded declines in 11 of the past 12 months. “With inflation beginning to fall and wages growing faster than expected in recent months, it would have been easy to assume we might be over the worst of the consumer squeeze,” Mark Antipof, the chief commercial officer at Visa, said. “Yet there has been no corresponding improvement in spending. It is clear that consumers remain in belt-tightening mode.” High street visits declined 3.3% in April, according to the BRC-Springboard monthly tracker, which also highlighted nearly one in 10 town centre shops are lying empty.

The drop in footfall came on the back of a disastrous performance in March, when shopper numbers declined by 6%. Taken together there has been an unprecedented 4.8% drop over the two months – a bigger decline than was recorded in the same months of 2009 when the UK was mired in recession. “Not since the depths of recession in 2009 has footfall over March and April declined to such a degree, and even then the drop was less severe at -3.8%,” said the Springboard analyst Diane Wehrle. “Much could be made of the adverse impact on April’s footfall of Easter shifting to March but even looking at March and April together still demonstrates that footfall has plummeted.”

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Priceless.

UK Metropolitan Police’s Facial Recognition Technology 98% Inaccurate (Ind.)

Facial recognition software used by the UK’s biggest police force has returned false positives in more than 98 per cent of alerts generated, The Independent can reveal, with the country’s biometrics regulator calling it “not yet fit for use”. The Metropolitan Police’s system has produced 104 alerts of which only two were later confirmed to be positive matches, a freedom of information request showed. In its response the force said it did not consider the inaccurate matches “false positives” because alerts were checked a second time after they occurred. Facial recognition technology scans people in a video feed and compares their images to pictures stored in a reference library or watch list. It has been used at large events like the Notting Hill Carnival and a Six Nations Rugby match.

The system used by another force, South Wales Police, has returned more than 2,400 false positives in 15 deployments since June 2017. The vast majority of those came during that month’s Uefa Champion’s League final in Cardiff, and overall only 234 alerts – fewer than 10 per cent – were correct matches. Both forces are trialling the software. The UK’s biometrics commissioner, Professor Paul Wiles, told The Independent that legislation to govern the technology was “urgently needed”. He said: “I have told both police forces that I consider such trials are only acceptable to fill gaps in knowledge and if the results of the trials are published and externally peer-reviewed. We ought to wait for the final report, but I am not surprised to hear that accuracy rates so far have been low as clearly the technology is not yet fit for use.

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Irony is dead.

UK To Host Summit On Why Six Other Countries Should Join The EU (Ind.)

The British government will host a summit encouraging six European countries to join the EU for the sake of their “security, stability and prosperity”, months before it is due to sign its own Brexit withdrawal deal with Brussels. London will in July play host to Western Balkans governments including Serbia and Albania, as well as existing EU member states, to discuss reforms to pave the way to future EU enlargement. The summit is part of the so-called Berlin Process – a series of meetings aimed at supporting the region towards joining the bloc and described by the European parliament’s research arm as “bringing a new perspective and impetus to the enlargement process”.

Critics said the UK government must have “a sense of humour” for hosting a conference on EU enlargement and extolling the benefits of accession as Britain itself headed towards the exit door. The leaders of EU candidate countries Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia will attend, as well as those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo – two states who have both expressed an interest in joining the bloc but have not yet been accepted as candidates. They will be joined by representatives of the governments of EU countries with an interest in the region such as Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria.

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Makes sense.

Xi Might Join Trump And Kim In Singapore (MS)

The prospect of China’s president Xi Jinping coming to Singapore on June 12, 2018 to meet with United States President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has been raised. This is according to mainstream media reports in Singapore on May 11, which re-reported a Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun, that cited American diplomatic sources. In the Friday report, Mainichi Shimbun quoted a senior international negotiator with the National Security Council saying that “there is a possibility” the leader of a third country may take part. It is understood that this leader is Xi. The suggestion that the three leaders will descend upon Singapore at the same time is not without merit.

On Tuesday, May 8, Trump spoke to Xi about Kim’s recent visit to China. The Chinese president and North Korean leader met Monday and Tuesday, May 7 and 8, in China again in a second meeting. This meeting followed Kim’s first visit to Beijing in March. However, as of Friday morning, there were no news reports on North Korean media outlets of the date and venue of Kim’s meeting with Trump, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. Previously, Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in issued a joint declaration to say that both sides aim to realise complete denuclearisation for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, at the historic inter-Korea summit on April 27. They also agreed to pursue three-way talks involving the two Koreas and the US, or four-way talks involving the two Koreas, the US and China.

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People no longer have a right to know?

Prosecutors Seek Complete Media Ban On Cardinal George Pell Trial (NM)


On Friday, the Victorian Department of Public Prosecutions lodged an application with the Country Court of Victoria for a ‘super injunction’ against media coverage of the trial of Cardinal George Pell, who is accused of a number of historical sexual offences. Cardinal Pell – the Vatican’s treasurer and the third highest ranked Catholic in the world – was committed to stand trial a fortnight ago. The orders being sought by the DPP, which will be decided on Wednesday morning in the County Court in Melbourne before Chief Judge Peter Kidd, are:

(1) Publication is prohibited of any report of the whole or any part of these proceedings and any information derived from this proceeding and any court documents associated with this proceeding. (2) The prohibition on publication applies within all States and Territories of Australia and on any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia. (3) For the purpose of this order, ‘publication’ has the meaning attributed to it by s3 of the Open Courts Act, that is to say, it means the dissemination or provision of access to the public by any means including, publication in a book, newspaper, magazine or other written publication, or broadcast by radio or television; or public exhibition; or broadcast or electronic communication. (4) The order will expire upon a jury verdict in respect of the charges on the final indictment, or by further order of the court.

Ordinarily, an injunction against media reporting of a trial prevents outlets from reporting the details of the trial. But they can report the existence of the injunction and explain to readers why they’re not reporting the matter. The order that the DPP is seeking in the Pell matter is so broad that it will operate as a super injunction. The suppression order would be ‘any part of’ the proceedings, meaning the trial could not be reported, nor could media report the fact they’re not allowed to report. If Wednesday’s application for a super injunction is successful, this story will have to be removed from publication. [..] Cardinal Pell, aged 76, is the most senior Catholic charged with sexual offences anywhere in the world. Cardinal Pell has strongly denied the allegations levelled against him.

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We’re on a road to nowhere..

Greek Pensions Under €1,000 Will Also Be Cut In 2019 (K.)

The planned pension cuts for people who have already retired and which will be implemented as of January 2019 will also affect pensions under 1,000 euros, Deputy Minister for Social Security Tasos Petropoulos admitted on Sunday. “In October we will see the exact cuts in pensions […] and will improve them,” he told broadcaster Skai. “We have seven months ahead.” Petropoulos said the 18 percent cut in pensions includes benefits, and estimated that about 25-30 percent of pensioners will be affected by the new reductions. He also pledged to pay all pending main pensions by August, “except in some particular cases.”

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Now Turkish citizens fleeing Erdogan are added.

Greece Considers Boosting Capacity Of Refugee Centers

The Migration Policy Ministry is reportedly considering increasing the capacity of existing refugee and migrant centers on the mainland as a first step in managing a recent spike in arrivals from neighboring Turkey, in a plan ministry sources say the European Union agrees with. “Practically, this means tents will be set up between the containers, exacerbating the already difficult situation for the residents,” a nongovernmental organization official said. Increasing capacity also means that the current logistics involved in running the camps will have to be adjusted. For example, if daily food costs are €3.50 per person per day (according to the specifications cited in official announcements), an additional 16,478 additional refugees will mean an extra €57,673 per day.

According to official data, 6,632 refugees crossed into Greece in April alone and 16,478 people in the first five months of the year, of whom 9,375 arrived on the islands and 7,103 from the Evros border in northeastern Greece. The government is also hoping to reduce arrivals and overcrowding on the islands by investing in diplomacy with Turkey and speeding up the asylum process through a bill which is being discussed in Parliament. At the same time, the reactions of residents on the islands that have borne the brunt of migration, even if they do not reflect the views of the entire population, show their patience is wearing thin. Authorities have also recorded increased arrivals of Turkish nationals from Evros. About 30 Turks have been arriving on a daily basis since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called elections for next month, versus zero arrivals previously.

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Apr 102018
 
 April 10, 2018  Posted by at 8:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Acme Storm over Manhattan 1950

 

Trump Blasts “Disgraceful” FBI Raid Of Lawyer’s Office (ZH)
Xi Vows To Further Open China Economy As US Trade Spat Simmers (AFP)
Global Debt Jumped to Record $237 Trillion Last Year
US Deficit to Surpass $1 Trillion Two Years Ahead of Estimates – CBO (BBG)
Global Trade Is Broken, And Trump Is Sparking The Crisis Needed (Morici)
Russian Firms And Rouble Hit Heavily By Trump Sanctions (G.)
Bitcoin, the Biggest Bubble in History, Is Popping – BofA (BBG)
Bots, Good Or Bad, Dominate Twitter Conversation (AFP)
Black Lives Matter Facebook Page With 700,000 Followers Exposed As Fake (G.)
10 New Zealanders Download App On Facebook, Expose 63,714 Friends (G.)
Your Facebook Data Is Only Worth $5.20 On The Dark Web (MW)
Jerome Is The New Janet: Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky (Stockman)
Yulia Skripal Discharged From Hospital (G.)
No Trace Of Chemical Weapons In Douma, Photos Are Fake – Russia (RT)
“Weapons Of Mass Destruction,” And All (Kunstler)
In 2020, German Society Will Start Collapsing (GEFIRA)
Fishing Boat Caught With Illegal 18-Mile-Long Nets (Ind.)

 

 

“..the fact that the FBI likely seized privileged material between the president and his lawyer is certainly troubling.”

Or is it just a promotion campaign for Comey’s book tour?

Trump Blasts “Disgraceful” FBI Raid Of Lawyer’s Office (ZH)

Update II: As many probably suspected, Trump attorney Michael Cohen is under investigation for possible fraud and campaign finance violations, the Washington Post reported. The FBI has seized documents – including emails, tax documents and other records – related to Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Meanwhile, President Trump has stepped up to defend his longtime personal attorney, calling the raid “a whole new level of unfairness” and going as far to say it was an “attack on our country, on what we stand for before heading into a meeting with top military leaders.” He also described the special counsel’s team as “the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever met” and said the raid was “a disgraceful situation.”

Trump added that the raid happened after Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein – who is supervising the Mueller probe – approved a referral that Mueller brought to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Jeff Sessions also came under fire as the president bashed him once again for recusing himself from the Mueller probe. Trump also exclaimed that “no one is looking at the other side” referring to Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails. “I have this witch hunt constantly going on,” he said. Of course, Trump has every reason to defend Cohen. As Trump’s longtime lawyer, Cohen knows where the bodies are buried. And the fact that the FBI likely seized privileged material between the president and his lawyer is certainly troubling.

Update: Michael Cohen’s lawyer says the FBI seized privileged communications between Cohen and his clients – a group that notably includes President Trump. And thus, we have what could quite possibly be an ulterior motive for the search. While initial reports suggested the raid on Cohen’s home wasn’t related to the Mueller probe, CBS is reporting that it’s unclear whether the raid was in relation to Stormy Daniels, the Mueller probe or something else. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen’s office in Rockefeller Center was searched along with his home and hotel room. The search was executed by the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office which is carrying out an independent investigation in coordination with Mueller. Cohen has of course already turned over his emails to the special counsel.

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For now it’s just words. But his tone could have been different.

Xi Vows To Further Open China Economy As US Trade Spat Simmers (AFP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Tuesday to lower car tariffs this year and take other steps to further open the world’s number two economy, indirectly addressing major complaints by the United States in a simmering trade row. Promising a “new phase of opening up”, Xi told an economic forum on the southern island of Hainan that Beijing “does not seek a trade surplus” and hopes to increase imports. He said China will take measures to liberalise automobile investment, significantly reduce tariffs on cars this year and protect intellectual property – all areas that have been high on the list of demands by Washington. “Economic globalisation is an irreversible trend of the time,” Xi told the Boao Forum for Asia.

“The door of China’s opening up will not close, it will only open wider and wider.” Xi pushed measures in areas that have been high on the list of US President Donald Trump’s ire at China. “When a car is sent to the United States from China, there is a Tariff to be paid of 2.5%. When a car is sent to China from the United States, there is a Tariff to be paid of 25%,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Does that sound like free or fair trade. No, it sounds like STUPID TRADE – going on for years!” Without directly responding to Trump, Xi promised China would lower import tariffs for vehicles and other products, but he gave no details or an exact date for taking the measures.

[..] Xi also pledged specific measures to address IP protection. “This year, we will reorganise the State Intellectual Property Office to strengthen law enforcement,” he told the forum, an Asian version of the World Economic Forum, which draws global leaders to its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. “We encourage Chinese and foreign companies to carry out normal technical exchanges and cooperation to protect the legitimate intellectual property rights of foreign-funded enterprises in China,” he said.

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This will be important: “Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50%.

Global Debt Jumped to Record $237 Trillion Last Year

Global debt rose to a record $237 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017, more than $70 trillion higher from a decade earlier, according to an analysis by the Institute of International Finance. Among mature markets, household debt as a percentage of GDP hit all-time highs in Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. That’s a worrying signal, with interest rates beginning to rise globally. Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50%. Still, the ratio of global debt-to-GDP fell for the fifth consecutive quarter as the world’s economic growth accelerated. The ratio is now around 317.8% of GDP, or 4 percentage points below the high in the third quarter of 2016, according to the IIF. Among emerging markets, household debt to GDP is approaching parity in South Korea at 94.6%.

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And the Fed wants to raise rates?!

US Deficit to Surpass $1 Trillion Two Years Ahead of Estimates – CBO (BBG)

The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously estimated, as tax cuts and spending increases signed by President Donald Trump do little to boost long-term economic growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Spending will exceed revenue by $804 billion in the fiscal year through September, jumping from a projected $563 billion shortfall forecast in June, the non-partisan arm of Congress said in a report Monday. In fiscal 2019, the deficit will reach $981 billion, compared with an earlier projection of $689 billion. The nation’s budget gap was only set to surpass the trillion-dollar level in fiscal 2022 under CBO’s report last June.

Deficits are growing as the Trump administration enacted a tax overhaul this year that will lower federal revenue and Congress approved a roughly $300 billion spending increase. The fresh CBO estimates could heighten investor worries as they weigh the potential impact that tariff threats between the U.S. and China may have on the world economy. The report includes new projections for the effects of the tax legislation – saying it will increase the deficit by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 11 years, when accounting for its macroeconomic effects and increased debt-service costs. In December, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation had said the tax package would reduce federal revenue by almost $1.1 trillion over a 10-year period.

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The WTO and democracy.

Global Trade Is Broken, And Trump Is Sparking The Crisis Needed (Morici)

[..] It may be time to recognize that China is not a market economy — and is not likely to become one anytime soon. Over time, the WTO membership encompassed increasingly diverse nations. For example, Saudi Arabia joined in 2005, is not a democracy and hardly has a market economy. It’s a monarchy and dependent on oil, its government seeks to rig petroleum markets through OPEC. Nondemocratic, nonmarket economies were admitted on the premise that participation in the system would encourage reforms but as Saudi Arabia demonstrates — similar to Mexico in the 1980s — political and economic progress mostly happens when autocratic regimes are threatened by financial crisis.

For the oil kingdom, it took the U.S. shale boom and prospects of oil permanently depressed at about $65 a barrel to inspire House of Saud to select a progressive crown prince. China joined the WTO in 2002 but has hardly liberalized. Beijing is perfecting Orwellian mechanisms to monitor its citizens’ activities and squash political dissent. President Xi Jinping is enhancing the role of state-owned enterprises, extending state influence over private firms and foreign subsidiaries, and compelling the latter to form joint ventures with Chinese firms and embrace Beijing’s propaganda strategies.

China’s state capitalism clearly creates unfair advantages, imposes trade deficits and job losses on other nations, and has been the target of many unfair trade complaints in the WTO, but Beijing has invested in top flight U.S. lawyers — for example, Steptoe & Johnson. And the activities of its complex mix of state-owned and state-supported private enterprise have proven difficult to discipline under WTO rules, which were written to constrain governments operating in a market context.

From 2011 to 2017, the United States was frustrated in many dispute settlement processes covering nearly 50 industries. In 2016, the administration aides cited a long list of complaints in an effort to block the reappointment of a South Korean judge to the appellate body. Since then, Mr. Trump has been criticized — as he seems to be for every principled action — for continuing this policy by blocking the appointment of other judges to compel reform. It may be time to recognize that China is not a market economy — and is not likely to become one anytime soon. And it is not likely possible to rewrite the WTO rules just to suit its peculiar system.

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Talk is better.

Russian Firms And Rouble Hit Heavily By Trump Sanctions (G.)

The Trump administration’s new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and top government officials began to bite on Monday as the rouble suffered its biggest daily fall in more than three years, the main Russian stock index slumped and investors dumped shares in businesses controlled by Oleg Deripaska. Russia’s currency briefly dipped more than 4% before recovering slightly to trade at 60.42 to the dollar on Monday evening, down 3.8%, its biggest daily percentage fall since January 2015. The value of Deripaska’s aluminium producer Rusal halved in Hong Kong and more than 40% was wiped off the value of his London-listed EN+ as investors took fright at the potential impact.

Shares in Rusal and EN+ had already fallen sharply on Friday in response to the sanctions, which were announced towards the end of trading in London. The Russian stock market also fell heavily. The main RTS index dropped 11%, affecting companies not caught by the sanctions. The price of aluminium jumped as traders worried Rusal would be excluded from supplying the market. The firm, which produces almost 6% of the world’s aluminium, said the sanctions could cause technical defaults on bank loans and some credit obligations. Both Rusal and EN+, Deripaska’s holding company, said the sanctions could be “materially adverse to the business and prospects” of the companies.

Rusal and seven other companies linked to Deripaska were the main targets when the US imposed sanctions designed to punish Vladimir Putin’s inner circle for “malign activity”, including support for Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria and interfering with the US election in 2016. Rusal sells more than 10% of its aluminium to the US.

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Not my words. But nice graph.

Bitcoin, the Biggest Bubble in History, Is Popping – BofA (BBG)

The greatest bubble in history is popping, according to Bank of America. The cryptocurrency is tracking the downfalls of the other massive asset-price bubbles in history less than one year out from its record, analysts lead by Chief Investment Strategist Michael Hartnett wrote in a note Sunday. The cryptocurrency has fallen more than 65% since peaking in December at $19,511. Bitcoin rose 2.2% to $6,750 on Monday.

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“..accounting for two-thirds of tweets linking to popular websites..”

Bots, Good Or Bad, Dominate Twitter Conversation (AFP)

Automated accounts or “bots” play a big role in disseminating information on Twitter, accounting for two-thirds of tweets linking to popular websites, a study showed Monday. The Pew Research Center report found bots were a major source for diffusing information on news, sports, entertainment and other topics. The researchers found that of all tweeted links to popular websites, 66% were shared by accounts that appeared to be automated rather than human users. While bots have gained attention due to concerns over Russian-sponsored manipulation of social media during the 2016 political campaign and for other hot-button topics, the researchers said they made no effort to distinguish between “good” or “bad” bots.

“The study does not find evidence that automated accounts currently have a liberal or conservative ‘political bias’ in their overall link-sharing behavior,” the researchers wrote. Twitter’s policy on automated accounts, last updated in November, allows bots to operate but with limitations. The policy allows for bots to “automatically broadcast helpful information” or “run creative campaigns that auto-reply to users.” But Twitter’s rules forbid automatic posts about trending topics or using automation “to attempt to influence or manipulate trending topics.” It also bans the use of multiple accounts to generate more activity.

“These findings illustrate the extent to which bots play a prominent and pervasive role in the social media environment,” says Pew researcher Aaron Smith. “Automated accounts are far from a niche phenomenon: They share a significant portion of tweeted links to even the most prominent and mainstream publications and online outlets. Since these accounts can impact the information people see on social media, it is important to have a sense their overall prevalence on social media.”

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“.. upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which was directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.”

One thing: Facebook could have known this.

Black Lives Matter Facebook Page With 700,000 Followers Exposed As Fake (G.)

A high-ranking Australian union official has been suspended amid reports he ran a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page that solicited donations from the movement’s supporters. CNN reports that Ian MacKay – an official with the National Union of Workers – helped set up and run a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter as well as other domain names linked to black rights. The page, which was removed by Facebook after CNN’s queries, had almost 700,000 followers – more than double the official Black Lives Matter page. MacKay – who is white – did not respond to calls or emails but denied running the page when contacted by CNN. A statement given to the Guardian by the NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the union had launched an investigation into the claims made in the CNN report.

He said the union had suspended “the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation”. “The NUW is not involved in and has not authorised any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” he said. The Guardian understands MacKay and one other NUW official has been suspended. In 2015 Mackay was appointed vice president of the NUW’s general branch and the union’s public office records state that he still holds the position. The investigation quoted sources who said the page may have garnered upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which was directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.

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This happened 4 years ago! And only now Facebook is “..in the process of alerting New Zealanders..”?!

10 New Zealanders Download App On Facebook, Expose 63,714 Friends (G.)

Ten New Zealanders who downloaded an app on Facebook could have exposed up to 63,714 of their compatriots to the data mining tactics of Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has told the country’s privacy commissioner that it is in the process of alerting New Zealanders who were affected by the breach, which occurred when ten users downloaded a personality quiz app. “For New Zealand, we estimate a total of 63,724 people may have been impacted – 10 are estimated to have downloaded the quiz app with 63,714 friends possibly impacted,” said Antonia Sanda, head of communications for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand’s privacy commissioner, John Edwards, said he was urgently seeking further information from Facebook on how New Zealanders data was used by Cambridge Analytica, and is working closely with his counterparts in the US, UK Australia and Canada to establish the severity and ramifications of the privacy beach. “I think we have some real information deficits that I hope my colleagues in the UK and the US will uncover … I am not sure New Zealanders were ‘targeted’ but I think there is a level of complacency [in New Zealand]. And when you say we’re so far away, we’re only one click away really,” Edwards said.

Edwards deleted his own Facebook account shortly after the revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica broke, and said New Zealanders should seriously consider doing the same and then resetting their profile. “I am actually quite concerned about the drip-feed of information [from Facebook]. These events occurred four years ago. There was knowledge about Cambridge Analytica targeting tactics a good two years ago, yet we are really only seeing Facebook confront this issue now,” Edwards said.

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This, too, is Facebook. Supply and demand.

Your Facebook Data Is Only Worth $5.20 On The Dark Web (MW)

Were you impacted by Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data? An estimated 87 million Facebook users will find out Monday whether the group improperly used their data, the social-media company said. All 2.2 billion Facebook users will get see a message on Facebook called “Protecting Your Information,” that lays out which third-party apps have access to your individual Facebook profile. Whether or not you were impacted by the Cambridge Analytica incident, there’s a depressing aspect of many recent privacy violations: The most important parts of your identity can be sold online for just a few dollars.

Consumers have to spend hours of their time — and, sometimes, their own money — when they find out their driver’s license, Facebook “likes” or Social Security number have been exposed to hackers. But those who sell them are making only petty cash. That’s according to a new report from the content marketing agency Fractl, which analyzed all the fraud-related listings on three large “dark web” marketplaces — Dream, Point and Wall Street Market — over several days last month. The “dark web” is part of the internet that people can only access by using special software. To create this report, Fractl accessed the dark web through the browser Tor.

People buy other risky or illegal substances on the dark web, including drugs, pirated content like movies or music and materials that help with scams, including credit-card “skimmers.” Facebook logins can be sold for $5.20 each because they allow criminals to have access to personal data that could potentially let them hack into more of an individual’s accounts. The credentials to a PayPal account with a relatively high balance can be sold on the dark web for $247 on average, the report found. One’s entire online identity, including personal identification numbers and hacked financial accounts, can be sold for only about $1,200 on the dark web, Fractl found. That’s because so much personal information may already available to hackers, after repeated data breaches across a range of industries.

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“..fiscally incontinent government..” Great line.

Jerome Is The New Janet: Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky (Stockman)

The election of 2016 was supposed to be the most disruptive break with the status quo in modern history, if ever. On the single most important decision of his tenure, however, the Donald has lined-up check-by-jowl with Barry and Dubya, too. That is to say, Trump’s new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, amounts to Janet Yellen in trousers and tie. In fact, you can make it a three-part composite by adding Bernanke with a full head of hair and Greenspan sans the mumble. The overarching point here is that the great problems plaguing American society – scarcity of good jobs, punk GDP growth, faltering productivity, raging wealth mal-distribution, massive indebtedness, egregious speculative bubbles, fiscally incontinent government – are overwhelmingly caused by our rogue central bank.

They are the fetid fruits of massive and sustained financial repression and falsification of the most import prices in all of capitalism – the prices of money, debt, equities and other financial assets. Moreover, the worst of it is that the Fed is overwhelmingly the province of an unelected politburo that rules by the lights of its own Keynesian groupthink and by the hypnotic power of its Big Lie. So powerful is the latter that American democracy has meekly seconded vast, open-ended power to dominate the financial markets, and therefore the warp and woof of the nation’s $19 trillion economy, to a tiny priesthood possessing neither of the usual instruments of rule.

That is to say, never before in history has a people so completely and abjectly surrendered to an occupying power – even though its ostensibly democratic government already possessed all the votes and all the guns. So it is no exaggeration to say, therefore, that the Fed is an alien state unto itself. That was powerfully symbolized most recently by the appointment of John Williams, a lifetime apparatchik at the San Francisco Fed, to the job of head satrap at the central bank’s Liberty Street outpost in the heart of Wall Street. In the scheme of things, the President of the New York Fed is #2 in the whole central banking apparatus, and as such is immensely more powerful than any Senate Committee Chairman or House Speaker. But Williams’ appointment was not reviewed or passed upon by a single elected official accountable to any voter anywhere in the US of A.

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Hard to tell what the next steps are.

Yulia Skripal Discharged From Hospital (G.)

Yulia Skripal, the daughter of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, has been discharged from hospital, according to reports. Just over one month after she and her father were found in Salisbury in Wiltshire after being poisoned with a nerve agent, the BBC reported that Skripal had left Salisbury district hospital. Skripal, 33, flew to the UK on 3 March, the day before she and her father are believed to have been poisoned by a novichok nerve agent. She released a statement on Friday to say her strength was “growing daily”. The BBC reported on Tuesday morning that Skripal had been taken to a secure location, though a hospital spokesman declined to comment on the reports. Christine Blanshard, the hospital’s deputy chief executive, and Lorna Wilkinson, the director of nursing, are to make a statement later on Tuesday morning.

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It’s the White Helmets again.

No Trace Of Chemical Weapons In Douma, Photos Are Fake – Russia (RT)

The Russian military has found no trace of chemical weapons use after searching parts of Syria’s Douma allegedly targeted by an “attack.” Photos of victims posted by the White Helmets are fake, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Experts in radiological, chemical and biological warfare, as well as medics, on Monday inspected the parts of the Eastern Ghouta city of Douma, where an alleged chemical attack supposedly took place on Saturday, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said in a statement. The specialists “found no traces of the use of chemical agents” after searching the sites, the statement said. The center’s medical specialists also visited a local hospital but found no patients that showed signs of chemical weapons poisoning.

“All these facts show… that no chemical weapons were used in the town of Douma, as it was claimed by the White Helmets,” the statement said, referring to the controversial “civil defense” group that was among the first to report about the alleged attack. “All the accusations brought by the White Helmets, as well as their photos… allegedly showing the victims of the chemical attack, are nothing more than a yet another piece of fake news and an attempt to disrupt the ceasefire,” the Reconciliation Center said. On Saturday, some rebel-linked groups, including the White Helmets, accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack that, allegedly, affected dozens of civilians in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma.

The reports have already provoked a wave of outrage in the West, as the US and the EU rushed to put the blame for the incident on Damascus and Moscow. US President Donald Trum hastily denounced the perceived attack as a “mindless” atrocity and a “humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever,” warning of a “big price” to be paid. Syria and Russia have dismissed the accusations and called the reports fake news, aimed at helping the extremists and at justifying potential strikes against Syrian forces. In the very early hours of Monday, Israeli fighter jets targeted Syria’s T-4 airbase in Homs province, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Israel has not commented on the strike. Earlier, a number of Israeli officials had called on the US to strike Syria as a response to the reported chemical attack.

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Like is the case with Russia, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has declared Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal destroyed.

“Weapons Of Mass Destruction,” And All (Kunstler)

[..] a joint mission of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was called in to supervise the destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons, and certified it as accomplished in late 2014. Yet, poison gas incidents continued – most notoriously in 2017 when President Donald Trump responded to one with a sortie of cruise missiles against a vacant Syrian government airfield. And now another incident in the Damascus suburb of Douma has provoked Mr. Trump to tweetstormed threats of retaliatory violence, just days after he proposed a swift withdrawal from that vexing corner of the world.

Surely by now the American public has developed some immunity to claims of nefarious doings in foreign lands (“weapons of mass destruction,” and all). The operative sentence in that New York Times report is “…Syrian forces hit a suburb of Damascus with bombs that rescue workers said unleashed toxic gas.” Yeah, well, how clear is it that the toxic gas was contained in the bombs, or rather that the bombs dropped by the Syrian military blew up a chemical weapon depot controlled by anti-government Jihadis? Does that hodgepodge of maniacs show any respect for the UN, or the Geneva Convention, or any other agency of international law?

As in many previous such incidents, we don’t know who was responsible — though there is plenty of reason to believe that parties within the US establishment are against Mr. Trump’s idea of getting the hell out of that place, and might cook up a convenient reason to prevent it. Lastly, how is it in Bashar al-Assad’s interests to provoke a fresh international uproar against him and his regime? I’d say it is not the least in his interest, since he is on the verge of putting an end to the awful conflict. He may not be a model of rectitude by Western standards, but he’s not a mental defective. And he has very able Russian support advising him in what has been so far a long and difficult effort to prevent his state from failing — or being failed for him.

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Germany, Japan, China.

In 2020, German Society Will Start Collapsing (GEFIRA)

The next crisis is just a couple of years away, and Germany will be its largest victim. Economies grow, driven by capital and labour. The ECB monetary policy is currently providing the German economy with enough funds, but the country is experiencing a catastrophic lack of youth, and its ageing labour force is not being replaced as a result of which workforce is already in short supply. Since the German population is declining at a staggering pace, before the end of the century there will only be 22 million indigenous Germans left. Currently the working population has already begun to shrink. This drop is still moderate compared to what will come after 2020.

The disappearing of the nation that has just begun will have catastrophic consequences. The German government recorded a large budget surplus last year, a sign that the authorities are not willing or able to invest in their own country. Germany lacks health care professionals, road construction workers and teachers, but allocating more tax money to this sector makes no sense because there are simply no people available. For that reason road construction sites have come to a standstill and road maintenance is postponed. In order to find consumers and labourers, the German industry is investing in new factories abroad.

In the past, the German economy was able to attract employees from Southern, Eastern and Central Europe, but at present the demographic situation in states such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland – which have long provided Germany with workforce – has worsened, so for all practical purposes these sources of labour have all but dried out. Poland for instance has lost a large number of young people to the West European labour market and the loss has not been made good because of extremely low fertility.The financial sector depends on a growing economy, but – apart from periods of temporary increase – there is no significant growth, and banks have to unwind their positions by selling their assets and returning cash to their clients. When the ageing population tries to sell its investments – stocks, obligations or companies – after 2020 they will find a declining working age population that is willing and able to buy these assets. It is already difficult for German business owners to find successors.

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Tragic species, mankind.

Fishing Boat Caught With Illegal 18-Mile-Long Nets (Ind.)

A fishing ship carrying 600 illegal nets stretching up to 18 miles has been seized after it escaped Chinese authorities, while using the flags of eight different countries to evade capture. The vessel, STS-50, had targeted a cod species called Antarctic toothfish that plays an important role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem, according to Indonesia‘s fisheries ministry. Its hundreds of gillnets had walls of fine mesh and could expand to a distance of 18 miles. Gillnetting has been banned in Antarctic waters since 2006 and is described by Australia as posing a “huge risk to almost all marine life, including marine mammals due to [its] indiscriminate nature”.

The use of the nets also harm seabirds including endangered albatrosses, the country’s environment department said on its website in 2011. Indonesia was acting on a request from Interpol when it seized the officially stateless craft. It had eluded authorities by flying eight different flags at different times, including those of Sierra Leone, Togo, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Micronesia and Namibia, the ministry said in a statement. Interpol contacted Indonesia last week with a request to investigate the vessel, fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti said in the statement. “Navy ship Simeuleu conducted a ‘stop, investigate and detain’ operation on Friday and successfully seized the vessel,” she said.

The STS-50 had previously been detained by China, but escaped and was caught in the port of Maputo in Mozambique before fleeing again, Ms Pudjiastuti said. Prior to its capture off the Indonesian island of Weh in the northwestern province of Aceh, the vessel had also operated under several other names including Sea Breeze, Andrey Dolgov, STD No. 2 and Aida, the statement said. Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows the 54m-long, 452-tonne vessel was built in 1985.

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