Sep 142019
 
 September 14, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Kazimir Malevich Spotrsmeny 1931

 

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)
Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)
More Than Ever, Mike Pompeo At Helm Of Trump Foreign Policy (AFP)
Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)
Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)
McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)
Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)
Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)
Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)
Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)
A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)
‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

 

 

Wonder who’s behind this, and who will get the blame. Not the same thing.

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say. Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield. The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said. A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks. The military spokesman told al-Masirah TV, owned by the Houthi movement and based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future. Saudi officials have not yet commented on who could be behind the attacks.


“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported. “The two fires have been controlled.” Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield. The Abqaiq plant turns sour crude into sweet crude, producing up to 7 million barrels a day. Aramco says it is the world’s largest “crude oil stabilisation plant”. Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006. The Khurais oilfield came on line in 2009 and is the nation’s second-largest after Ghawar. Khurais reportedly produces 1.5 million barrels a day with estimated recoverable oil reserves of more than 20 billion barrels.

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A circus of evil clowns.

Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to remain in prison when his jail term ends because of his “history of absconding”, a judge has ruled. He was due to be released on 22 September after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. But Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again. The Australian, 48, is fighting extradition to the US over allegations of leaking government secrets. He will face a full extradition hearing next year, starting on 25 February, after an extradition request was signed by the then home secretary Sajid Javid in June. Assange received a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison, south-east London, after being found guilty of breaching the Bail Act in April.


He was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations – which he has denied. District judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video-link: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. “When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.” She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”. “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

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“Pompeo has risen because he is careful to follow Trump’s lead.”

More Than Ever, Mike Pompeo At Helm Of Trump Foreign Policy (AFP)

Speaking at the White House after John Bolton’s surprise exit as national security adviser, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo couldn’t hide a smile of satisfaction. With the departure of Bolton, Pompeo has become the undisputed king of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy – with the exception, that is, of Trump himself. The former soldier, lawyer and businessman has made a quick ascent in Washington since arriving as a Kansas congressman elected in the 2010 right-wing populist “Tea Party” movement. But many speculate that Pompeo will choose not to stay long in his newly powerful position, enticed by an opening to represent Kansas in the Senate next year – perhaps with an eye on running for the top prize in the 2024 presidential election.


First tapped as CIA director before moving to the State Department last year, Pompeo is so close to Trump that the president last year said he was his only advisor with whom he has never argued. Expectations even rose that Trump would name Pompeo to replace Bolton — a rare dual-role as national security advisor and secretary of state last held by Henry Kissinger. Trump on Thursday ruled out the possibility but called Pompeo “fantastic” and said, “I get along with him so well.” Yet Pompeo’s power, analysts say, comes with a paradox. While Bolton, a Washington insider for over four decades, bulldozed his way to steer US foreign policy to the right on issues from Iran to Venezuela, Pompeo has risen because he is careful to follow Trump’s lead.

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“..what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU..”

Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)

Claiming a no-deal Brexit represents a clean break with the European Union is “nonsensical”, according to Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU. Boris Johnson has promised to extricate the UK from the EU on 31 October “come what may” – and has hinted that he could try to get around legislation mandating him to request a Brexit delay. The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, whose party trounced the Tories in May’s European elections, has been urging the PM to deliver a “clean break Brexit” by leaving without a deal. But Rycroft, who was the most senior civil servant at DexEU until March this year, told the Guardian a no-deal Brexit would mark the beginning of a complex series of negotiations.

“It is not a clean break: what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU, on which so much of our trade as a country depends. And nor would we want to undo all of the close security ties that we have with the EU,” he said. “And because of the importance of those ties both for the EU and the UK, it will remain hugely important to have those expressed through a formal relationship. In other words, we’re going to have to negotiate – and that negotiation on the future relationship starts with citizens, money and the border on the island of Ireland. “So the notion that no deal somehow means that we can turn our backs on the EU and break all our ties is just nonsensical.”


Rycroft spent part of his career at the Scottish Office and in the Scottish Executive before working in Nick Clegg’s office during the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, and helping to coordinate Whitehall’s approach to devolution from the Cabinet Office. He gave a speech on Monday warning that politicians should be thinking carefully about how to protect the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland after Brexit – deal or no deal. “Clearly at the moment, political time has collapsed: everything has become very short term, everyone’s worrying about what’s happening not even next week but tomorrow,” he said. “In those circumstances it’s very different to be lifting their eyes to a more distant horizon. How do we manage as a country, if and when we come out of the EU?”

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Councils are powerless.

Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)

Scores of local councils have said a no-deal Brexit could result in food, medicine and fuel shortages in their constituencies – with many stating that crashing out without an agreement could lead to civil unrest and damage to social care. Official documents from 63 councils uncovered by the People’s Vote campaign have revealed local authorities fear that fundamental services could suffer and others could be cut if the UK crashes out of the EU. It follows the release of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer planning paper, which warned lorries could face delays of up to two and a half days at Dover, and that protest and public disorder would take up “significant” police resources.


Of the councils that released their Brexit “risk registers”, more than two-thirds said food shortages could grip their local area. Many also said this could lead to unchecked contaminated food entering the supply chain. More than half warned of medicine supplies being put at risk, while 59 per cent said fuel could also become scarce leading to a breakdown in their ability to deploy services – on top of the damage caused to the general public. And just under two-thirds said civil unrest, increased tensions between communities and public disorder could be sparked, including Dartford council which warned of an “increase in hate crime” as the area had “always been a target” for extreme right wing groups.

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What do you mean they can’t find evidence?

McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)

A lawyer for former FBI official Andrew McCabe pressed U.S. prosecutors on Friday to drop their politically sensitive case against him, citing reports that suggest they may be having trouble securing criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating McCabe, the FBI’s former No. 2 official, for more than 1-1/2 years over allegations he misled internal investigators about his decision to share internal communications with a reporter at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors and senior officials within the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, have recommended moving forward with criminal charges, according to sources familiar with the investigation.


But they might have encountered another hurdle. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a federal grand jury investigating the case had been called back to consider evidence, but had left without returning an indictment. Grand juries are used in the U.S. legal system to assess the validity of possible criminal charges in major cases. To obtain an indictment, U.S. prosecutors typically need to convince the grand jury there is probable cause that a crime has been committed, which is a lower legal standard than that needed to secure a guilty verdict at trial. Proceedings are conducted in secret.

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How does Flynn pay his legal bills?

Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)

After Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, he moved to appoint General Flynn as his National Security Advisor. Within a few days, FBI director James Comey pulled off an entrapment gambit to incriminate General Flynn over a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — as if incoming high officials for foreign policy are not supposed to associate with foreign ambassadors. You understand now that the government had continued its surveillance of General Flynn for years, including tapping his phone when he moved into his White House office. That enabled Mr. Comey to set up a perjury trap. The General was successfully sandbagged this time, kicked offstage, and conned into a guilty plea. He’s been awaiting sentencing for more than a year.

A few months ago, General Flynn fired his old lawyers and hired Sidney Powell, an attorney who literally wrote the book on discovering prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, whose prosecution over Mickey Mouse comped hotel bills was thrown out of court by the same Judge, Emmet Sullivan, who presides in the US versus Flynn. Ms. Powell has now declared that she intends to prove “egregious prosecutorial conduct” and suppression of exculpatory evidence against the DOJ lawyers who ran the case against General Flynn. The government never would have had a case if they revealed the FBI’s internal memos on General Flynn.


Attorney Powell is seeking to have the case thrown out of court. The FBI and the DOJ lawyers who conducted the prosecution have stonewalled the court on producing the documents at issue. Judge Sullivan may sense that he’s seen this movie before. The case took on a life of its own long before William Barr was confirmed as attorney general and one wonders if he has any role in ending this damaging farce. Legal protocol may require Judge Sullivan to complete the case one way or another. I wrote in this space a year ago that General Flynn had been subject to prosecutorial misconduct. Now, I’ll venture to assert that if Judge Sullivan does not throw the case out, Mr. Trump will step in and pardon General Flynn, and in doing so will make it clear exactly how and why he was run into court in the first place.

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Matt Taibbi on the story I covered early this week in Pulp Fiction Media

Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)

It’s a characteristic of third world countries to have the intelligence world and the media be intertwined enough that it’s not always clear whether the reporters and the reported-about are the same people. When you turn on the TV in Banana Republics, you’re never sure which group is talking to you. We’re now in that same paradigm in America. CNN has hired nearly a dozen former intelligence or counterintelligence officials as analysts in the last few years. Their big get was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but they also now have former deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe, former FBI counsel James Baker, and multiple former CIA, NSA, and NSC officials.


Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan has an MSNBC/NBC gig, as does former CIA and DOD chief of staff Jeremy Bash, and several other ex-spooks. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who doubles as the CEO of one of America’s largest intelligence contractors. This odious situation is similar to 2003-2004, when cable networks were tossing contributor deals to every ex-general and ex-spook they could find while they were reporting on the Iraq invasion. At one point, FAIR.org found that 52 percent of the sources in network newscasts were current or former government officials. The numbers now aren’t quite that skewed, but CNN and MSNBC both employ former senior intelligence officials who comment upon stories in which they had direct involvement, especially the Russia investigation.

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Don’t want to turn into a gossip site, but the difference between 2 weeks and 5 years is a tad much.

Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)

That actress Felicity Huffman will go to jail for only 14 days over college entrance fraud shows there are really two justice systems in the US: one for the rich, famous and politically correct – and another for everyone else.
The ‘Desperate Housewives’ star pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to falsify her daughter Sophia’s SAT – a college admissions test – and was sentenced to two weeks in jail, 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine and a year of supervised release. Altogether, a slap on the wrist to a Hollywood celebrity. It did not take long for her case to be contrasted with the fate of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who falsified a residency document in 2011 to enroll her son in a better school. McDowell ended up getting jailed for five years for first-degree larceny, and would have faced an even longer sentence had she not made a deal with prosecutors.


Comparing the two cases is absolutely apples to apples. That McDowell was later charged with selling drugs to undercover police officers and given a concurrent sentence does not change the severity of her initial punishment – 130 times longer than was meted out to Huffman. Could it be that it’s because Huffman is white and McDowell is black, and the US justice system is irreparably racist, as a lot of people have argued? Another possibility could be Huffman’s fame, fortune – and politics. After her arrest in April, Huffman was revealed to have donated over $10,000 to Democrats, including over $1,500 to the Senate campaign of Kamala Harris – the tough-on-crime prosecutor in San Francisco and California, now running for president.

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What do you guys think, will all regulators comply? How about the public? Do you want to board a 737 MAX?

Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)

As Boeing sets its sights on winning approval to fly its 737 MAX within weeks, following a six-month safety ban, engineers around the world are rolling out plans for one of the biggest logistical operations in civil aviation history. Inside Boeing’s 737 factory at Renton, Washington, south of Seattle, workers have pre-assembled dedicated tool kits for technicians tasked with installing software updates and readying over 500 jets that have sat idle for months, insiders said. Across the globe, Boeing teams are hammering out delivery schedules – and financial terms – with airline customers who have been forced to cancel flights, cut routes and fly aging jetliners while they await the MAX’s return.

Although regulators must still approve the jets for flight, Boeing and airline staff and executives say the world’s largest planemaker is weeks into an elaborate blueprint for production, maintenance and delivery that one source said involves 1,500 engineers – as many as it takes to design a small new jet. Another likened the logistics to a nation “going to war.” Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Engineer John Hamilton called the previously unreported mobilization more like an elaborate “ballet,” which includes synchronizing 680 suppliers of everything from carbon brakes to pilot seatbelts.


[..] Once regulators certify the MAX for flight, Boeing will have to mobilize hundreds of mechanics and pilots to bring the roughly 250 stored aircraft out of hibernation. Airlines estimate the process – which includes installing new software, changing fluids and cycling the engines – will take 100 to 150 hours per jet, and months in total for Boeing. In one example highlighting the minute risks that could upend months of planning, a team of employees is analyzing years of data on December snowfall at an airport in rural Moses Lake, Washington – where Boeing has parked some 100 jets – to predict demand for aircraft anti-freeze and runway performance.

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I know Snowden needs to sell his book, but the Guardian? Really? The paper runs a smear campaign against Assange, without whom Snowden would be in a very different set-up.

A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)

The world’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, says he has detected a softening in public hostility towards him in the US over his disclosure of top-secret documents that revealed the extent of the global surveillance programmes run by American and British spy agencies. In an exclusive two-hour interview in Moscow to mark the publication of his memoirs, Permanent Record, Snowden said dire warnings that his disclosures would cause harm had not come to pass, and even former critics now conceded “we live in a better, freer and safer world” because of his revelations.

In the book, Snowden describes in detail for the first time his background, and what led him to leak details of the secret programmes being run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s secret communication headquarters, GCHQ. He describes the 18 years since the September 11 attacks as “a litany of American destruction by way of American self-destruction, with the promulgation of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts and secret wars”. Snowden also said: “The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition. “An AI-equipped surveillance camera would be not a mere recording device, but could be made into something closer to an automated police officer.”


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Moscow is not such a bad place. It beats Belmarsh.

‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

Book a suite in a luxury hotel in Moscow, send the room number encrypted to a pre-determined mobile number and then wait for a return message indicating a precise time: Meeting Edward Snwoden is pretty much exactly how children imagine the grand game of espionage is played. But then, on Monday, there he was, standing in our room on the first floor of the Hotel Metropol, as pale and boyish-looking as the was when the world first saw him in June 2013. For the last six years, he has been living in Russian exile. The U.S. has considered him to be an enemy of the state, right up there with Julian Assange, ever since he revealed, with the help of journalists, the full scope of the surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency (NSA).


For quite some time, though, he remained silent about how he smuggled the secrets out of the country and what his personal motivations were. Now, though, he has written a book about it. It will be published worldwide on September 17 under the title “Permanent Record.” Ahead of publication, Snowden spent over two-and-a-half hours patiently responding to questions from DER SPIEGEL.

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Vintage Australia map from 1773

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 312019
 


Salvador Dali Cabaret scene 1922

 

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)
Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)
China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)
Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)
UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)
Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)
Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)
Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)
Fish Fry (Kunstler)
WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

 

 

Inevitable.

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)

Protesters in Hong Kong have occupied major roads in several districts on Saturday (Aug 31) amid tighter security as authorities prepare for possible violence after demonstrations have gone ahead despite a ban. As demonstrators flooded roads in the popular Causeway Bay shopping district, the civic district in Admiralty, Wan Chai and the Central business district – a nearly 3km stretch – police issued several warnings for the crowd to disperse. Armed with umbrellas in muggy rainy weather, tens of thousands marched on the roads shouting slogans including “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”.

Security in the city has been ramped up this weekend, with huge water-filled barricades set up around the buildings next to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun – a previous target of some hardcore protesters. Roads in the area have been blocked to cut off access to the office. The police’s new anti-riot water cannons, which were deployed for the first time in Tsuen Wan last Sunday, were also spotted in the area. [..] In an alert to residents in the city, police on Saturday morning warned the public of “severe disruptions” ahead of a “public event this afternoon”.


Fresh calls on Saturday morning circulating via messaging app Telegram urged netizens to assemble in Causeway Bay at 2pm. This follows calls circulated on social media on Friday for people to join a Christian gathering at Wan Chai and to march to Central and Upper Albert Road. By 1pm, thousands have gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai chanting “Hong Kong, gah yau”, or “Hong Kong, keep it up”, as they started marching despite police warnings against unauthorised protests.

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Encrypted spying.

Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)

Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will allow users to cloak their telephone numbers to safeguard Hong Kong protesters against monitoring by authorities, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. The update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau told Reuters it has “been acting responsibly to deal with the current difficult time with a view to restoring the public order”. It declined to comment about whether it had tried to identify protesters by using the Telegram app.

[..] Thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from more than 100 groups on Telegram, according to protest organizers and supporters. Protesters use encrypted apps like Telegram to mobilize swiftly through multiple group chats, with less risk of police infiltration, an in-depth report published by Reuters earlier this month said. The groups are used to post everything from news on upcoming protests to tips on dousing tear gas canisters fired by the police to the identities of suspected undercover police and the access codes to buildings in Hong Kong where protesters can hide.


Some protesters express concern that authorities could use the movement’s reliance on Telegram to monitor and arrest organizers. Telegram chat groups used to organize public protests are often accessible to anyone and participants use pseudonyms. Telegram allows users to search for other users by uploading phone numbers. This function allows a new user to quickly learn whether those in a phone’s contact book are already using the app, the group said. Some protesters say they believe Chinese or Hong Kong security officials have exploited the function by uploading large quantities of phone numbers.

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“Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August..”

China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)

Factory activity in China shrank in August for the fourth month in a row as the United States ramped up trade pressure and domestic demand remained sluggish, pointing to a further slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Persistent weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector could fuel expectations that Beijing needs to roll out stimulus more quickly, and more aggressively, to weather the biggest downturn in decades. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in August, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, versus 49.7 in July, below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.


The official factory gauge showed growing trade frictions with the United States and cooling global demand continued to wreak havoc on China’s exporters. Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August, although at a slower pace, with the sub-index picking up to 47.2 from July’s 46.9. Total new orders – from home and abroad – also continued to fall, indicating domestic demand remains soft, despite a flurry of growth-boosting measures over the past year. Manufacturers in consumption-oriented industries such as the auto sector have been especially vulnerable. Carmakers such as Geely and Great Wall have slashed expectations for sales and profits. The data showed activity at medium and small-sized firms contracted, even as large manufacturers, many backed by the government, managed to expand in August.

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Links tariffs to Hong Kong.

Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump confirmed Friday that steep new tariffs on Chinese goods will kick in on Sunday and said that his economic pressure is forcing Beijing to take a more moderate line in Hong Kong. “They’re on,” Trump told reporters, two days before the levies on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports are set to rise in the latest escalation of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Trump also said that US economic pressure on China was responsible for preventing the authorities from carrying out a harsher crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. “Because of what I’m doing with trade that’s really keeping down the temperature,” he said at the White House.

Trump’s tough line — and his claim that events in Hong Kong are linked to the trade war — follows his insistence over the last week that Chinese negotiators are keener than ever to strike a deal. However, despite repeated hints that high-level communications have been reopened on the standoff, White House officials have sparked skepticism by failing to provide details of those reported talks. His confirmation that the new tariffs will go ahead underlines the reality that the two sides remain at loggerheads.


[..] His comments on Hong Kong could touch political nerves in China, which bristles at anything it sees as outside interference in the restive city. Asked if he saw a connection between the way the Chinese respond to the unrest and the difficulties their economy faces under US pressure, Trump said: “I do, I do.” “If it weren’t for the trade talks Hong Kong would be in much more trouble,” he said, reiterating a call for Beijing to “handle it in a humane fashion.”

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“..up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais..”

UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)

Government officials this week warned food industry leaders that supplies of liquid egg could run out if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a Brexit deal in October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week publicly dismissed warnings that there would be food shortages, telling Sky News that it is “highly unlikely” that food stocks would dry up. However, officials in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs privately warned industry leaders that delays at the border risked causing a shortage of liquid egg, much of which is imported from the EU to make a large variety of food products in the UK.


Liquid egg is egg removed from its shell before being sold to manufacturers, which use it as an ingredient in a range of goods, including cakes, pastries, and sauces. When transported in bulk and sold to the food industry, it has a shelf life of two to three days, according to the European Food Safety Authority. [..] Industry figures were told that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the government expected that up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais, with some lorries potentially having to wait up to two days before crossing the Channel. This in turn would disrupt the flow of liquid egg, plus other foods like soft fruit and vegetables, reaching the UK.

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Encryption? What encryptioin?

Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)

The potential impact of the latest attack on iPhones is massive, not to mention hugely concerning for every user of Apple’s famous smartphone. That simply visiting a website can lead to your iPhone being hacked silently by some unknown party is worrying enough. But given that, according to Google researchers, it’s possible for the hackers to access encrypted messages on WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram and others, the attacks undermine the security promised by those apps. It’s a stark reminder that should Apple’s iOS be compromised by hidden malware, encryption can be entirely undone. Own the operating system, own everything inside.

Among the trove of data released by Google researcher Ian Beer on the attacks was detail on the “monitoring implant” hackers installed on the iPhone. He noted that it had access to all the database files on the victim’s phone used by those end-to-end encrypted apps. Those databases “contain the unencrypted, plain-text of the messages sent and received using the apps.” The implant would also enable hackers to snoop on Gmail and Google Hangouts, contacts and photos. The hackers could also watch where users were going with a live GPS location tracker. And the malware stole the “keychain” where passwords, such as those for all remembered Wi-Fi points, are stored.


Shockingly, according to Beer, the hackers didn’t even bother encrypting the data they were stealing, making a further mockery of encrypted apps. “Everything is in the clear. If you’re connected to an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, this information is being broadcast to everyone around you, to your network operator and any intermediate network hops to the command and control server,” the Google researcher wrote. “This means that not only is the end-point of the end-to-end encryption offered by messaging apps compromised; the attackers then send all the contents of the end-to-end encrypted messages in plain text over the network to their server.” Beer’s ultimate assessment is sobering: “The implant has access to almost all of the personal information available on the device, which it is able to upload, unencrypted, to the attacker’s server.”

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Slow.

Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)

This certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey experienced a major security breach affecting his Twitter account on Friday before the Labor Day weekend. At about 3:45 p.m. ET, Dorsey’s Twitter account began broadcasting several vulgar tweets including those that contained ethnic slurs such as the N-word, as well as the suggestion a bomb had been placed at Twitter headquarters, and used the hashtag ChucklingSquad. In a statement, Twitter said that it is “aware that Jack was compromised and investigating what happened.” It’s not that unusual for someone’s Twitter account to get hacked. In June 2016, the company famously experienced a major security breach that involving hackers taking over accounts of many of its top users such as Katy Perry, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kylie Jenner.


But what’s most surprising about this latest hack is that the tweets, most of which were crafted specifically to be offensive or alarming, remained on the network for a whole 18 minutes after they were initially tweeted. Jack Dorsey’s unauthorized tweets were broadcast to more than 4 million users and sent Twitter into a frenzy, with many actively tagging Twitter Security and Twitter Communications, hoping to alert them to the problem. It’s unclear how the account was hacked, but the unauthorized tweets were apparently sent from Cloudhopper, a service that Twitter bought in 2010 to improve SMS service. Whether this service is at fault remains to be determined.

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John Solomon is angry.

Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)

A major headline from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest inspector general report is that fired FBI Director James Comey mishandled classified information. But you’d never know it from most of the day-after media reporting on the historic findings. The internal DOJ watchdog documented, irrefutably, that Comey leaked the contents of a classified memo to his legal team, first orally and then by providing a copy of the document. Some of the memo’s content was then leaked to a media organization by one of his lawyers. I first reported this when sources contacted me in late July and told me the inspector general (IG) had referred Comey to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for mishandling classified information.

Attorney General William Barr’s team declined to bring charges. My reporting was directly confirmed when the IG released its final report Thursday. The information I laid out in my July 31 column was laid bare in the IG report’s official timeline. IG Michael Horowitz declared Comey’s conduct so egregious that it created a “dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.” For some reason, not one but two Washington Post columns have emerged, suggesting I misled readers. Media critic Erik Wemple suggested I had “slimed” Comey. Another columnist, Aaron Blake, suggested my reporting led to a misleading narrative on Fox News.


When confronted like this, a professional journalist has an obligation: Either retract and correct what you got wrong, or show the public the facts that affirm the reporting. I will do the latter.

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“I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump..”

Fish Fry (Kunstler)

[..] certain remorseless legal machinery has been set in motion now that could send a whole boardroom of former Obama administration higher-ups into disgrace, infamy, and possibly the federal slammer. Think: former CIA Director John Brennan in his future role as ping-pong round-robin manager at the Allenwood, PA, penitentiary; Loretta Lynch paring turnips at Camp Alderson, WV; James Clapper trying to catch a little tan in the ‘yard’ at Lompoc…. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to point a finger at Mr. Obama and those who were around him in the dear dead days of 2016.

There’s no precedent for this, of course, not even the case of ole Tricky Dick Nixon, who never had to take a witness chair in the Watergate matter and received a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which made the whole tiresome business go away pronto. Wouldn’t it be a kind of poetic justice if Mr. Trump had to do the same for Mr. Obama? The New York Times would surely find a way to spin that as “racist.” CNN would declare war on FlyoverLand and send Don Lemon to Kentucky in a Lincoln Navigator with a light-saber to subdue the Ku Klux Klan and the satanic hosts of White Supremacy. Well, you see how easily this country could lose its shit.

In the meantime, cries of consternation rise from Right at the DOJ’s demurral to actually indict Mr. Comey on any of the charges listed rather explicitly in the new report. The explanation goes something like this: Comey gave an official FBI memo of his own composition to pal (and attorney) Daniel Richman, and instructed him to leak the contents (though not the memo itself) to a New York Times reporter. The memo involved recollections of a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Trump in which the case of General Flynn came up, with Mr. Trump making the case that there was nothing illegal about the National Security Advisor speaking with the Russian ambassador — since, after all, that is precisely what ambassadors from foreign lands are in Washington to do.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump — before the president grokked that he was being personally set-up for an obstruction-of-justice rap and issued Mr. Comey a pink slip. In sum, this particular matter amounted to a rinky-dink charge, where Mr. Barr’s prosecutors are concerned, compared to the greater and darker matter of Mr. Comey’s role in defrauding the FISA judges to get warrants to spy on US citizens. That will likely be Mr. Comey’s true Waterloo. So, he greeted this week’s IG report with a smarmy Twitter tweet celebrating his imagined “exoneration.” Imagine instead what his cortisol level will be in the months ahead as he awaits further moves by Messrs Barr, Durham, and IG Horowitz.

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Insulting millions of people who died in the war.

WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

Having US and former Axis leaders attend the 80th anniversary of WWII, but not inviting Russia, shows the event in Poland has nothing to do with paying respects to history, and everything to do with present-day politics. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 is universally considered as the start of the Second World War. To mark 80 years since that fateful date, the Polish authorities have chosen to invite “present allies and partners in NATO and the EU” to a commemoration that has been moved to Warsaw for the occasion. This means US Vice President Mike Pence will be at the ceremony, alongside the leaders of many countries that were members of the Axis during the war – from Germany and Italy to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania. Yet Russia will not be welcome.


For the past week the media in both Poland and the West have harped on about the non-aggression pact signed by the USSR and Germany on August 23, 1939 and known as Molotov-Ribbentrop, after their respective foreign ministers. The pact “doomed half of Europe to decades of misery,” argued the governments of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania this week, pointing out that its anniversary has since been declared the “European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes,” by which they mean “Nazism and Stalinism.” It’s a bit baffling the Latvians are complaining about Nazism, actually, since they keep celebrating their participation in the Waffen-SS. As for the Romanians, would those “victims” include their 3rd and 4th Armies that got crushed at Stalingrad? Which, for the geographically challenged, is about 1,500 kilometers east of the Romanian border…

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Aug 182019
 


Pablo Picasso Dora Maar 1937

 

A Global Recession May Be Coming A Lot Sooner Than Anyone Thought (Henrich)
Why Negative Rates Will Devastate The World (ZH)
US National Debt Spiked $363 billion in 2 Weeks, $1 Trillion in 12 Months (WS)
UK Parliament Cannot Stop Brexit, Johnson To Tell Macron And Merkel (R.)
Leaked Docs : UK Faces Food, Fuel And Drugs Shortages In No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Jeremy Corbyn Has Called the Extreme Centrists’ Bluff (Jacobin)
The Gall of Ghislaine Maxwell
Hong Kongers Brave Rain To Join Anti-Government Rally (R.)
Kiwi Publishers Face Censorship Demands From Chinese Printers (Stuff)
Denmark Offers to Buy U.S. (Borowitz)
World’s Nations Gather To Tackle Wildlife Extinction Crisis (O.)

 

 

I think it’s not so much the US inverted yield curve that hints at a global recession, but the fact that many countries have such curves.

A Global Recession May Be Coming A Lot Sooner Than Anyone Thought (Henrich)

On Tuesday, equity markets across the globe jumped at the news that the Trump administration would delay some of the new tariffs on China it had announced earlier this month. But just one day later, global stock markets sold off hard due to ever-weakening economic data in Europe and Asia and further yield curve inversions. Call it a major hangover. The reversal in tariffs did not come from a position of strength. It came as a result of global economic reality sinking in and crushing US markets. Turns out trade wars are not easy to win and the global growth picture is not looking good. Last week, the UK announced negative GDP growth for the past quarter.

This week, it’s Germany announcing shrinking GDP with its 10-year bond hitting a record negative 0.62% yield. Then there’s Europe seeing negative industrial production, and China announcing its lowest industrial production growth in 17 years. The collapse in global bond yields has been a theme since October of last year, with 10-year US Treasury bonds dropping to 1.6% from their October 2018 high of 3.23%. Now that the two-year/10-year Treasury yield curve has inverted, the recession alarm bells are ringing. Why? Because every single recession in the past 45 years has seen a yield curve inversion preceding it.

History suggests that on average a recession begins 22 months after a yield curve inversion. It’s not until about 18 months after an inversion that the stock market turns negative. Yet Bank of America Merril Lynch numbers indicate that we have less time. For the 10 yield curve inversions since 1956, the S&P 500 peaked within approximately three months of the inversion six times. Following the other four, the S&P 500 took 11 to 22 months to peak. Twenty-two months of growth vs. three months? That’s quite a big gap. Both of these historical studies suggest there is room for markets to make new highs in the next few months. In fact, one can imagine several scenarios on how these new highs could come about.

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Deflation. Aka “a “Japanification” of every major bond market…”

Why Negative Rates Will Devastate The World (ZH)

It has been a thesis over 20 years in the making, but with every passing day, SocGen’s Albert Edwards – who first coined the term “Ice Age” to describe the state of the world in which every debt issue ends up with a negative yield as capital markets and economies collapse into a deflationary singularity – is that much closer to having the victory lap of a lifetime. Although, we doubt he is happy about it. Commenting on the interest rate collapse he has been (correctly) predicting ever since he first observed Japan’s great bubble bust of the 1980s and which resulted in both NIRP and QE, and which he (correctly) expected would spread across the rest of the world, leading to a “Japanification” of every major bond market…

… Edwards said that what bond markets are telling us is “that the cycle is ending with the central banks having failed to drive core CPI inflation higher. So Japanese-style outright deflation lies ahead at a time when western economies have piled debt sky high.” Needless to say that’s not good, not least of all because we now live in a world in which the bond universe with negative yields continued to grow at an exponential pace, rising rapidly over the past two weeks and reaching a record $16.4 trillion…

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Really? Your pension fund?

US National Debt Spiked $363 billion in 2 Weeks, $1 Trillion in 12 Months (WS)

The US Gross National Debt has jumped by $363 billion in the two weeks since President Trump signed the law that suspended the debt ceiling. This surge pushed the total debt to $22.39 trillion. That’s up by $1.01 trillion from 12 months ago. And these are the good times. Watch this debt balloon during an economic downturn! Whoopee! Note the technical term at the top right of the chart:

The question, “Who the heck is buying all this debt” – because every dime has to be bought by some entity – is becoming increasingly nerve-wracking, particularly as the trade war with China puts the possibility out there that Chinese entities might dump their US Treasury securities, much like Russia has already done. But Russia was only a small-ish holder. China is – or rather was – the largest one. So we got some answers on Thursday when the Treasury Department disclosed in its TIC data how much of this debt was held, bought, and dumped by foreign investors through June. Foreign investors bought hand-over-fist. But not the Chinese!


All foreign investors combined – so “foreign official” holders, such as central banks, and foreign private-sector investors such as banks and Mexican billionaires – held $6.64 trillion in US Treasury bonds and bills, having raised their holdings in the month of June by $97 billion, and over the 12-month period by $411 billion, all of it driven by frantic buying over the past seven months. In dollar terms, this $6.64 trillion held by foreign investors is a record (blue line). In terms of the percentage share (red line) of total debt, it’s a far cry from the record maintained from July 2012 through May 2015, when it maxed out at 34.1% of total Treasury debt. The share dropped to 28.5% at the end of last year. Under the recent surge in buying, it has ticked up to 30.1%:

The chart below shows [the] three big groups of holders of US Treasury securities through June: US government-administered funds, such as the Social Security Trust Fund and US government pension funds (gray), US individuals and entities other than the government (red), and foreign holders (blue):

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They’re not going to take his word for it.

UK Parliament Cannot Stop Brexit, Johnson To Tell Macron And Merkel (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one. In his first trip abroad as leader, Johnson is due to meet his European counterparts ahead of a G7 summit on Aug. 24-26 in Biarritz, France. He will say that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and that the British parliament cannot block that, according to a Downing Street source. The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Johnson has repeatedly vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the Brexit divorce.


After more than three years of Brexit dominating EU affairs, the bloc has repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement which includes an Irish border insurance policy that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, agreed in November. The prime minister is coming under pressure from politicians across the political spectrum to prevent a disorderly departure, with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing to bring down Johnson’s government in early September to delay Brexit. It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most significant move since World War Two.

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Apparently older docs, things have improved since. But only to the extent that it’s not “up to 85% of trucks using the main channel crossings “may not be ready“, now it’s ‘just’ 50-60%.

Leaked Docs : UK Faces Food, Fuel And Drugs Shortages In No-Deal Brexit (R.)

Britain will face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a transition deal, jamming ports and requiring a hard border in Ireland, official government documents leaked to the Sunday Times show. The Times said the forecasts compiled by the Cabinet Office set out the most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than the worst case scenarios. They said up to 85% of trucks using the main channel crossings “may not be ready” for French customs, meaning disruption at ports would potentially last up to three months before the flow of traffic improves. The government also believes a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic will be likely as current plans to avoid widespread checks will prove unsustainable, the Times said.


“Compiled this month by the Cabinet Office under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, the dossier offers a rare glimpse into the covert planning being carried out by the government to avert a catastrophic collapse in the nation’s infrastructure,” the Times reported. “The file, marked “official-sensitive” — requiring security clearance on a “need to know” basis — is remarkable because it gives the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit.” The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the Brexit divorce.

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“Healing bitter division is one of two great preoccupations haunting politics in the United Kingdom since the 2016 Brexit referendum — the second is hating Jeremy Corbyn. ”

Jeremy Corbyn Has Called the Extreme Centrists’ Bluff (Jacobin)

Healing bitter division is one of two great preoccupations haunting politics in the United Kingdom since the 2016 Brexit referendum — the second is hating Jeremy Corbyn. On Wednesday, the Labour leader wrote a letter to the other main opposition parties proposing an alliance to block a No Deal Brexit, a prospect that has now become uncomfortably plausible with Boris Johnson as prime minister. Under the proposal, Corbyn would call a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government; once the motion is carried he would step in to become a caretaker prime minister for a brief term. Corbyn’s powers would be limited; he couldn’t introduce new legislation. The sole purpose of his tenure as prime minister would be to negotiate a postponement of the Brexit deadline and call a general election.

Labour would then campaign for a new EU referendum with a Remain option on the ballot. The suggestion is calm, serious, and thoughtful. Most importantly, it includes a promise of a campaign for that second vote that so many centrists have loudly rallied for; the election everyone on the Left has longed for; and as mentioned, it severely limits Corbyn’s powers, but importantly, also blocks No Deal. It should bring everyone on board. Sensible parties were furtively positive: Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) and the Scottish National Party said they were interested in discussing the idea when they appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

But with this proposal, Corbyn has called the bluff of the extreme centrists and the obsessive Remainers. Since his scheme involves an election in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum, with Remain on the ballot, attacking Corbyn now means attacking the very ideas they claim to be fighting for. Sure enough, the Liberal Democrats shot the proposal down immediately, stating they would never countenance backing Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, even if it meant stopping a No Deal Brexit ..

[..] the hideous truth is now revealed, confirming what many on the Left have long been saying about the Liberal Democrats, the Independent Group, and a huge number of highly vocal centrist ultras on social media: for all their yelling that stopping Brexit is their sole concern, as long as stopping Brexit means Corbyn in a position of power — however minor and effectively powerless — they would prefer economic obliteration. Given the choice between Corbyn spending a few weeks merely acting out a pre-agreed script, on the one hand, and medicine and food shortages, a tanked pound, an economy in ruins, and widespread social panic, many centrists would choose the latter. Their hatred for Corbyn really does expand to fill so much of their mind as to incapacitate them.

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Interesting thing here is not the article, but the wider setting of the photo. C’mon Bill Barr, have her picked up. Your credibility melts away while you sleep.

The Gall of Ghislaine Maxwell

On Thursday afternoon, the New York Post published a picture that, the newspaper reported, was taken at an In-N-Out Burger in the San Fernando Valley, on Monday, and sent in by an anonymous source in Los Angeles. The photo showed Ghislaine Maxwell sipping a shake and munching on fries and a burger while sitting alone at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables. [..] the central figure of the Epstein affair in the past week has been Maxwell. The youngest of Robert Maxwell’s nine children, and reportedly his favorite, Ghislaine attended Marlborough, a boarding school in England, and Oxford. Her father sent her to New York as his emissary, in 1991, to foster the Daily News, which he had recently purchased.

After his ignominious death, she was left with a mere hundred thousand dollars per year to live on. She began to sell real estate, and soon started dating Epstein, who was well connected. A multitude of pictures from the past three decades in which the socialite is seen beaming, cheek to jowl, wearing gaudy Upper East Side-lady finery, with a variety of bold-faced names at various galas, give the impression that she would have attended the opening of an envelope as long as it was gold-embossed. But, in 2016, not long after Giuffre’s defamation suit, Maxwell abruptly disappeared from public view. On Wednesday, the Daily Mail reported that she was residing in a mansion outside Boston, in Manchester-by-the-Sea. But before the surprise of that revelation had abated, the picture from Los Angeles delivered a new jolt.

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8.18

Hong Kongers Brave Rain To Join Anti-Government Rally (R.)

Thousands of protesters, most clad in black, gathered under a downpour for an anti-government rally at a Hong Kong park on Sunday, in the eleventh week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub. The turnout for the rally could show whether the movement still has broad-based support after the ugly scenes witnessed during the past week when protesters occupied the city’s airport, for which some activists apologized. Anger over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China erupted in June, but the rising unrest is fueled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.


“Hong Kongers are tired of protesting, this is really the last thing they want. It’s bloody hot and it’s raining. It’s a torture just to turn up, frankly,” said a 24-year-old student named Jonathan. “But we have to be here because we have no other choice. We have to continue until the government finally shows us the respect that we deserve,” he said. Seated on concrete soccer fields in the sprawling Victoria Park in the city’s bustling Causeway Bay district, protesters held placards with slogans including “Free Hong Kong!” and “Democracy now!”, and umbrellas to shield them from the heavy rain.


Victoria Park almost completely filled up as of 2pm, the official starting time of the rally.

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Print your own books.

Kiwi Publishers Face Censorship Demands From Chinese Printers (Stuff)

It seems innocent enough: a map of the US on the inside cover of a young adult novel. The kind that teenagers would use to trace a fictional character’s journey. But a China-based printer told Kiwi publisher One Tree House that there would be a one-month production delay while the map was vetted by Chinese authorities. In order to get Brian Falkland’s Cassie Clark: Outlaw published in time to ship an Australian order, One Tree House had to get the book printed in Auckland at double the cost. It’s one example of several Stuff uncovered of publishers running into hold-ups as Chinese printers get maps checked over to ensure they adhere to Beijing policy – whether they’re textbooks or works of fiction.


Printing books in China is cheaper than in other countries, with quality and service also said to be first-rate. But Chinese printing companies are subject to censorship laws, with books combed for references that might be politically sensitive to Beijing, such as Taiwan and Tibet. One Tree House co-director Jenny Nagle, who’s also the NZ Society of Authors chief executive, said the policy meant her business had to take a cost hit when Cassie Clark: Outlaw was printed late last year. “I was surprised because it’s such an innocuous thing. It’s a simplified map showing a fictional character’s journey across America,” said Nagle. Mary Varnham, editor-in-chief at publisher Awa Press, also met with a one-month production delay during a 2018 re-print of the travel book Antarctica Cruising Guide.


Young adult novel Cassie Clark: Outlaw contains a map of the US that a Chinese printer took exception to.

Again, the offending item was a map. “The book has a map of Antarctica which doesn’t mention China at all, but it still had to go through this vetting process,” Varnham said. “I’m assuming they’re checking references to Taiwan and things, but obviously they want to check all maps.” She said it was “much more expensive” to print books in Australia or New Zealand, but the quality was also much better in China. “It’s obvious that you just wouldn’t send a book to China if it’s highly critical of China in some way, because they would definitely, I imagine, refuse to print it. So there’s a kind of self-censorship there.”

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Not bad. But Trump made his offer mostly in jest, and only when he heard Denmark had trouble meeting its obligations (whether that’s true I don’t know). Also, US congress tried to buy Greenland in 1867, and Harry Truman tried again in 1946.

Denmark Offers to Buy U.S. (Borowitz)

After rebuffing Donald J. Trump’s hypothetical proposal to purchase Greenland, the government of Denmark has announced that it would be interested in buying the United States instead. “As we have stated, Greenland is not for sale,” a spokesperson for the Danish government said on Friday. “We have noted, however, that during the Trump regime pretty much everything in the United States, including its government, has most definitely been for sale.” “Denmark would be interested in purchasing the United States in its entirety, with the exception of its government,” the spokesperson added.


A key provision of the purchase offer, the spokesperson said, would be the relocation of Donald Trump to another country “to be determined,” with Russia and North Korea cited as possible destinations. If Denmark’s bid for the United States is accepted, the Scandinavian nation has ambitious plans for its new acquisition. “We believe that, by giving the U.S. an educational system and national health care, it could be transformed from a vast land mass into a great nation,” the spokesperson said.

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Guaranteed failure. The same world’s nations want economic growth.

World’s Nations Gather To Tackle Wildlife Extinction Crisis (O.)

From giraffes to sharks, the world’s endangered species could gain better protection at an international wildlife conference. The triennial summit of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), that began on Saturday, will tackle disputes over the conservation of great beasts such as elephants and rhinos, as well as cracking down on the exploitation of unheralded but vital species such as sea cucumbers, which clean ocean floors. Extraordinary creatures being driven to extinction by the exotic pet trade, from glass frogs to star tortoises, may win extra protection from the 183-country conference. It may even see an extinct animal, the woolly mammoth, get safeguards, on the grounds that illegal elephant ivory is sometimes laundered by being labelled as antique mammoth tusks.


The glass frog is among the species being driven to extinction by the exotic pet trade. Photograph: Alamy.

Ivonne Higuero, the secretary general of Cites, said: “Cites is a powerful tool for ensuring sustainability and responding to the rapid loss of biodiversity – often called the sixth mass extinction – by preventing and reversing declines in wildlife populations.” The destruction of nature has reduced wildlife populations by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists. In May, the world’s leading researchers warned that humanity was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the planet’s natural life-support systems, which provide the food, clean air and water on which society ultimately depends.

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Carol Steele “Dancing On Ice – Dalmatian Pelican” 2019. Location: Lake Kerkini, Northern Greece

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 242019
 


René Magritte The black flag 1937

 

One thing I am not is an expert on Venezuela. What I know is the country has the world’s largest oil reserves, mainly in the Orinoco Belt, but they come in a form of tar sands that while they are not as hard to exploit as Canada’s (viscosity), they’re far from easy, and buried deep. And I know Venezuela had Hugo Chávez as its president, who, for a socialist, was quite successful at what he did (depending who you ask).

And I know of course that the US yesterday recognized an opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as the ‘real’ president of Venezuela, instead of the elected Nicolas Maduro, whom Chávez picked as his successor. Soon as I read that, I thought: CIA. If Chávez, and Maduro, are hated in one place in the world, look no further than Langley, Virginia.

So I looked up a few articles I though would be interesting to read. The first comes from a site called Venezuela Analysis, an entity recommended for Venezuela news. They had the article below, but also this enlightening picture:

Note: in 2002, coincident with the attempted coup against Chávez, half the employees at state oil company PDVSA went on strike. They must have felt like clowns, too, 48 hours later.

The article explains what happened in terms you can find everywhere (but are perhaps good to note), except for the last bit:

 

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido Declares Himself President, Recognized by US and Allies

Opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as “interim president” of Venezuela on Wednesday, a move which was immediately recognized by the United States and regional allies. “As president of the National Assembly, before God and Venezuela, I swear to formally assume the competencies of the national executive as interim president of Venezuela,” he declared before an opposition rally in eastern Caracas.

Guaido had already proclaimed on several occasions that he was “ready” to assume the responsibilities of the executive branch, as the US was reportedly considering recognizing him as “interim president.” US authorities reacted swiftly, with President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio immediately voicing their recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in a statement. Washington’s regional allies, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and other members of the so-called Lima Group, were quick to follow suit, giving their backing to the 35-year-old opposition politician.

The Lima Group had set the tone in early January with a statement refusing to recognize Maduro’s second term. Meanwhile, Cuba and Bolivia expressed their support for Maduro, while Uruguay and the new Lopez Obrador government in Mexico refused to recognize Guaido as president and called for dialogue to “avoid an escalation of violence.” Russia and Turkey likewise indicated that their relations with Maduro administration were unchanged.

This last paragraph may be the most important and revealing bit of news we see today:

[..] Torino Capital Chief Economist Francisco Rodriguez, who advised defeated opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon last year, wrote on Twitter that the recognition from the Trump administration makes it possible for Guaido, or a presumed transition government, to take charge of Venezuelan assets on US soil, such as state oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary, CITGO. It could also prevent the Venezuelan government from invoicing payments for oil shipments.

Without CITGO life becomes hard for Maduro, very hard. The company has extensive refining and chemicals capacity in the Houston area, but the US hasn’t been able to touch it until now. If they get enough allies to recognize their CIA puppet as president, they can close it down, sell it off to Exxon, anything they want. But we’re not there yet.

Russia has been very outspoken in its opinions about what’s going on. Its Rosneft oil company has large assets in Venezuela. Just like China has huge loans outstanding in the country. And though it’s hard to gauge how strong the people’s support is for Maduro (don’t believe everything you read), there’s no doubt where the army stands. The whole top brass was on TV today pledging loyalty to the government.

Turkey also came out strong in favor of Maduro. A Turkish site named Yeni Safak talks about social media as an intelligence tool:

 

CIA Launches Media Campaign To Ignite Protests Against Venezuela’s Maduro

The CIA is backing Washington’s decision to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as president by manipulating the public opinion against democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro and the legitimate government over social media platforms. [..] Millions of posts designed to instigate Venezuelans against the country’s legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, were shared in a very short time to kindle a social unrest against Maduro.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Levent Eraslan unveiled the striking details of the U.S’s perception and deception strategies [..] Stressing the U.S. national intelligence’s strategy report in 2019 that consists Pentagon’s intervention in Venezuelan politics, Eraslan said, “The role of ‘machine learning’ and providing data to decision makers by determining political instabilities through social media were emphasized in the report.”

Noting that thousands of tweets that have been shared from different accounts in the last two days, “People are being called to take streets to overthrow the elected president. The efforts to trigger rebellion and push this process into a bloody situation through social media networks such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook can be observed,” he concluded.

This is from Volkan at DutchTurks; nothing is new (except Facebook as a regime change instrument):

 

 

Hugo Chávez was president of Venezuela from 1999 to his death of cancer in 2013. Whatever you may think of the man, and you don’t have to think hard to know what the CIA thought of him, have you ever wondered why the rampant runaway inflation the country has suffered lately, and which has been blamed by many on ‘socialism’, was not happening while socialist Chávez was alive? This from a site named War Is Boring provides at least some ideas as to why.

 

To Understand Venezuela’s Crisis, Look to the Past … and the CIA

Chavez died of cancer in 2013, and now five years later it seems that his socialist dream, like Allende’s, has failed. Under his successor Pres. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has descended into economic and political chaos. Hyperinflation has beset the country, with prices rising at an annualized rate of 1,000,000 percent.

Shortages of basic necessities such as toilet paper and bread have caused mass unrest, culminating in violent protests. Now there is open talk about the need to overthrow Maduro or remove him from power, perhaps through U.S. military intervention.

[..] In Venezuela the figure of Chavez precluded an overthrow of the government there. We know this for a fact because a coup against him in 2002 lasted a matter of hours before mass uprisings and a lack of support from the military forced the plotters to surrender. Chavez was a controversial figure, hated by significant elements of Venezuelan society, but beloved by a majority of the largely poor country and respected by the military.

Chavez announced the return of his cancer in the fall of 2012 and died in March 2013. The current economic crisis kicked into high gear in the late summer of 2012, with inflation — typically high, but manageable — suddenly growing at an exponential rate. The cause typically cited by Western media — a precipitous fall in oil prices — occurred a full two years after the crisis began.

 

[..] Since 2012 Venezuela has faced a twin plague of shortages and rampant inflation. Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio makes the case in her 2016 book The Visible Hand of the Market: Economic Warfare in Venezuela that both phenomena cannot be explained through normal economics, but rather by political causes.

Shortages have been a feature of Venezuelan life since Chavez came to power in 1999, with their magnitude growing over time. Yet over the course of years when Venezuela saw steadily and then sharply increasing shortages both imports and domestic production were also rising. If more products are being brought into the country, and more are being produced, but consumers are experiencing shortages, it begs the question of where the stuff went.

[..] As for inflation, the factors typically involved with currency devaluation–a shortage of foreign reserves or increased liquidity–have not coincided with inflation spikes. Nor has the state hoarded foreign currency as many claim. Curcio shows that 94 percent of foreign reserves were distributed to the private sector, and these distributions have grown over time.

It appears that manipulation of currency black markets — a phenomenon that happened in Chile under Allende as well — and then adoption of this inflated exchange rate by importers to spike the costs of necessary goods, services, and industrial inputs neatly produces the sort of induced inflation plaguing Venezuela today.

Russian foreign minister Lavrov put it nice and succinctly:

The US, which is paranoid about somebody interfering in their elections, even though they have no proof of that, themselves are trying to rule the fates of other peoples. What they actually do is interfere in their internal affairs. There is no need for [US special counsel Robert] Mueller to determine that.

American regime change in other countries is something that perhaps the rest of the world is getting tired of. America instigating chaos in its own southern backyard, like it has for years in the Middle East and North Africa, is getting old in the eyes of many. And the CIA can get Trump to support their puppet, but Trump knows nothing about Venezuela, other than that there’s lots of oil there, and that makes him a CIA puppet too.

Not a good idea.

A lot of what has led up to the present coup has been the US flexing its financial muscle. But the American economy isn’t doing all that great, so it’s not just flexing that muscle, it’s also stretching it. And yeah, there’s an old set of Venezuelan domestic interests that has been faithful, just like there was one in Cuba, but that’s all in the past. That was way back when the US could get away with bullying the whole neighborhood.

And it shouldn’t want to do that anymore. Neither the bullying nor the living in the past.

Not good ideas either.

 

 

Mar 102015
 
 March 10, 2015  Posted by at 6:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


NPC Ford Motor Co., McReynolds & Sons garage, L Street, Washington DC 1926

S&P 500 Can’t Fight The Market’s Selloff Forever (MarketWatch)
China’s ‘Money Garrote’ May Choke Us All (MarketWatch)
Three Reasons Japan Will Get More Stimulus (Bloomberg)
Central Bank Blues (Deutsche Welle)
Japan’s Not So Golden Oldies Tighten Their Purse Strings (CNBC)
ECB Starts Buying German, Italian Government Bonds Under QE Plan (Bloomberg)
Presenting The Buyers Of Over 100% Of New German And Japanese Bond Issuance (ZH)
Aftershocks, Part 1: That Austrian Bank (John Rubino)
Billionaire Greek Ship Owners Surface on Tax-Exempt Overseas Profit (Bloomberg)
EU, Greece To Start Technical Loan Talks Wednesday (Reuters)
Draghi Urged Greece to Allow Officials Back Before It’s Too Late (Bloomberg)
Eurozone Calls On Greece To Come Up With Credible Economic Reforms (Guardian)
Greece Sees First Shortages In Imported Goods (Kathimerini)
Liquidity Fears Slow Greek Government Payments (Kathimerini)
Creditors Reject Greece’s Reform Proposals (Bloomberg)
Spain’s Post-Franco Elite Under Attack From Popular Podemos Party (Bloomberg)
truthinesslessness (Jim Kunstler)
US Deploying 3,000 Troops To The Baltics (DW)
The Isolation of Donetsk: A Visit to Europe’s Absurd New Border (Spiegel)

“Something is wrong with this picture.”

S&P 500 Can’t Fight The Market’s Selloff Forever (MarketWatch)

Investors have reached a fork in the road. Should they follow the rally in the S&P 500, or the selloff in two key components and a much broader market index? One chart watcher believes the road with more travelers could prove to be right. The chart below compares the S&P 500, the NYSE Composite Index and the shares of General Electric and Exxon Mobil. “More and more stocks no longer are in uptrends, even as the S&P 500 manages to maintain its uptrend,” said Carter Braxton Worth, chief market technician at Sterne Agee. “Unsustainable divergence, we’d say.”

Worth believes it is important to view the performance of the NYSE Composite, which is composed of more than 2,000 stocks, because it is“one of the broadest (and oldest) indices in existence.” He also believes GE and Exxon are among the most important stocks within the S&P 500, given GE’s broad reach into all corners of the economy, and Exxon’s sheer size and the economic importance of the oil and gas markets. “Something is wrong with this picture. Either the S&P 500 accurately depicts the state of the world, or GE and Exxon do,” Worth said. “One or the other, but it cannot be both.

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“China’s money supply is already 372% of what it was at the beginning of 2006.”

China’s ‘Money Garrote’ May Choke Us All (MarketWatch)

— In this new era of all-powerful central banks, it is hard for investors to look past who will be next to take out the big gun of quantitative easing. This week, all eyes are on the European Central Bank, which follows the Bank of Japan as the latest of the major monetary-policy makers to embark on its own aggressive bond-buying program. In contrast, China appears to be entering a “new normal” era, in which its central bank only has a pea-shooter. While most headlines at the ongoing National Peoples Congress meeting focused on the “approximately 7%” economic growth target, the benchmark money-supply growth target of 12% was also the lowest in decades. Another part of China’s new normal is not just lower growth, but also an era where the central bank is no longer able to magically speed its money-printing presses.

Conventional wisdom holds that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has a gargantuan monetary arsenal, given that the country has the world’s largest stash of foreign reserves at $3.89 trillion. This cash mountain is routinely used to justify how Beijing has nearly unlimited firepower to backstop its economy. But according to some analysts, this reserve accumulation is merely a byproduct of another form of quantitative easing. Rather than strength, its size indicates just how staggeringly large China’s domestic credit expansion has become in recent decades. According to strategist Albert Edwards at Société Générale, such foreign-reserve accumulation — which typically takes place in emerging markets — is equivalent to quantitative easing.

The PBOC’s historic mass-printing of money to buy foreign currency and depress the yuan’s value is little different from what the Federal Reserve and others have done, Edwards said. This would mean that China has already embarked on a major monetary expansion after three decades of trade surpluses and reserve accumulation. Furthermore, the recent reversal in such reserve accumulation points to a significant turning point in monetary conditions. Indeed, Joe Zhang, author of “Inside China’s Shadow Banking System,” argues that China’s credit expansion has in fact been far more aggressive than the quantitative easing attempted in the U.S. or Europe.

Zhang, a former PBOC official, calculated that China’s money supply is already 372% of what it was at the beginning of 2006. And if you add up official data between 1986 and 2012, China’s benchmark M2 money supply has grown at a compound rate of 21.1%. While 7% economic growth is slow for China compared to the double-digit rates of the past, such data makes 12% money-supply growth looks positively measly. Another reason to believe that China is at the tail end of a huge monetary expansion is found in a recent study by McKinsey. They estimated that total credit in China’s economy has quadrupled since 2008, reaching 282% of gross domestic product.

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Do or die.

Three Reasons Japan Will Get More Stimulus (Bloomberg)

Two years after Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, declared his team will “do whatever it can” to end deflation, it’s painfully clear their efforts aren’t working. Stocks are up, bond yields are down and people are buzzing about Japan for the first time in years. What’s still missing, though, is any hint of the self-sustaining recovery Kuroda hoped to be touting by now. With annualized growth of 1.5% between October and December after two straight quarters of contraction, Japan is hobbling out of recession far more slowly than hoped. A third dose of quantitative easing is almost certain. Here are three reasons why.

First, the initial rounds of QE weren’t potent enough. “In order to escape from deflationary equilibrium, tremendous velocity is needed, just like when a spacecraft moves away from Earth’s strong gravitation,” Kuroda recently explained. “It requires greater power than that of a satellite that moves in a stable orbit.” Although the Bank of Japan managed to lower the value of the yen by more than 20% beginning in April 2013, that clearly hasn’t provided enough of a boost to the economy. (Net exports, for example, added just 0.2% to fourth quarter GDP.) Meanwhile, the bank’s 2% inflation target looks more and more distant. The BOJ’s main inflation gauge slowed to just 0.2% in January, down from 1.5% in April last year.

The trouble with the first two rounds of QE was both the size and the strategy. While undoubtedly huge, neither injection was aggressive enough to, at Kuroda puts it, “drastically convert the deflationary mindset.” Also, the BOJ must get more creative than just hoarding government debt. This time, the BOJ should pledge bond purchases of closer to $1 trillion a year and buy bigger blocks of asset-backed, mortgage-backed and corporate securities; load up on distressed assets, including property in rural areas; and prod the government to tax excessive bond holdings by banks and households.

Second, the Federal Reserve is complicating Kuroda’s job. With U.S. unemployment falling to 5.5% in February, the lowest level in almost seven years, U.S. interest rates will soon be heading higher. On Friday, Fed Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker employed his own cosmic imagery when he declared: “June would strike me as the leading candidate for liftoff.” Monetary largess isn’t exactly a zero-sum game, but the Fed’s QE experiment supported asset markets from London to Tokyo as much as it’s enlivened U.S. demand. As the Fed withdraws, Kuroda will face pressure to make up the difference.

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“..experts question whether a flood of central bank reserve money, pumped into the hands of players in secondary financial markets, can generate a stimulus at all. ”

Central Bank Blues (Deutsche Welle)

On Monday (09.03.2015), the European Central Bank begins its long-anticipated program to buy sovereign bonds on secondary bond markets – i.e. previously issued government bonds held by institutional investors like banks or insurance funds. In central bankers’ jargon, this is called “quantitative easing,” or QE. The ECB’s plan is to pump 60 billion euros ($65 billion) into the financial markets each month, by trading central bank reserve money (a form of electronic cash) for bonds. That’s set to continue until at least September 2016, which means at least 1.1 trillion euros will be put into the hands of investment managers – who will have to find some alternative investments to make with the money. The bond-purchasing program’s goal is to push inflation back up to just under two% – at the moment, there’s consumer price deflation averaging 0.3% across the eurozone.

The ECB appears confident that QE will succeed in this aim. On Thursday last week, at the ECB’s governing board meeting in Nicosia on Cyprus, the central bank revised its projections for both GDP growth and inflation in the eurozone upward: The inflation rate is projected to go up to 0.7% for this year, and GDP growth from 1.0 to 1.5%. But are the new projections just a case of whistling in the dark? There are in fact serious doubts as to whether the ECB will actually be able to meet its targets, or if, instead, the bond-purchasing program will have effects that will make a structural recovery of the eurozone more difficult. For a start, many observers doubt whether the ECB will even be able to find willing sellers for €60 billion a month of bonds. Sovereign bonds – especially those of the core eurozone member states, like Germany – may soon become rather scarce on secondary markets.

Neither domestic banks and insurance funds, nor foreign central banks, will have much incentive to sell their government bond holdings to the ECB. The older bonds with long maturities and decent interest rates, in particular, will probably be held rather than sold. Moreover, experts question whether a flood of central bank reserve money, pumped into the hands of players in secondary financial markets, can generate a stimulus at all. It probably won’t lead to any boost in their lending activities to real-economy businesses or households, for two reasons: First, banks have recently been obliged to increase their core capital reserves – the amount of shareholders’ money, including retained earnings, which is available to cover possible loan losses – and they’re still adjusting their balance sheets accordingly. That means they’re being cautious about lending.

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Done spending long ago. Abenomics is just a mirage that only works as long as people believe in it. Abe himself has urged them to believe. But they’re not that crazy.

Japan’s Not So Golden Oldies Tighten Their Purse Strings (CNBC)

Rising prices are forcing Japanese pensioners to reduce spending, undercutting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to boost economic growth and pay down the hefty public debt burden in one of the world’s fastest aging nations. “There is no solution to the structural problem: the government is running a huge budget deficit, but the only way to coax the elderly into spending more is by increasing public spending on them,” said Dai-ichi Life Research Institute (DLRI) chief economist Hideo Kumano. Japan limped out of a technical recession in the fourth quarter of 2014, but consumers are still struggling. A 3-percentage-point tax hike to 8% last April continues to weigh on consumption, while higher import prices have exacerbated the situation due to the yen’s over 40% decline against the U.S. dollar since Abe’s return to power.

In January, Japanese household spending fell 5.1% on month – its 10th consecutive decline, marking the longest losing streak since the global financial crisis. Meanwhile retail sales fell 2.0% – their first decline in 7 months. The elderly are reducing spending the most. “The average Japanese is suffering because of a weaker yen,” said Keio Business School associate professor Seki Obata, but “pensioners are suffering the most from the rising prices because there is no prospects of their incomes rising.” Whether a pensioner can afford to spend or has to cut back depends on their ability or willingness to work, according to according to DLRI’s Kumano figures, citing government data. The 37.8% of households with no income from paid work cut back spending by 1.5% in 2014 – and nearly all (95%) of these households are over 60 years old, according to DLRI’s Kumano.

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“They have just switched on the heat and we will need some time for the pressure to mount.”

ECB Starts Buying German, Italian Government Bonds Under QE Plan (Bloomberg)

With the first purchases of government bonds under a broader stimulus plan, the European Central Bank showed willingness to be patient in its efforts to reignite the euro area’s economy. The ECB and national central banks started buying sovereign debt on Monday under the 19-month plan to inject €1.1 trillion into the economy. While purchases included bonds from at least five countries, the size of individual trades — at between 15 million euros and 50 million euros — was small relative to the program’s goals, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. “The amount bought may be small to start with, but this will be like a pressure cooker,” said Ciaran O’Hagan, head of European rates strategy at SocGen in Paris. “They have just switched on the heat and we will need some time for the pressure to mount.”

Euro-area bonds extended a 14-month rally fueled by speculation that buying €60 billion of debt a month will create a scarcity of government bonds among buyers of the securities. Yields already fell to record lows across the region as the Frankfurt-based bank follows in the quantitative-easing footsteps of the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan. Germany’s 10-year yield fell the most in six weeks. Gains in Italian bonds were smaller, with the yield on similar-maturity debt slipping four basis points to 1.28%. That widened the yield gap between the two securities by four basis points to 97 basis points, after it shrank to 90 basis points on Friday, the narrowest spread since 2010. “We will see more spread compression ahead,” SocGen’s O’Hagan said. National central banks purchased Belgian, French, German, Italian and Spanish debt..

The buying of bonds will be made roughly in proportion to the capital that each member central bank has contributed to the ECB, though that guideline doesn’t have to be strictly followed every month. There’s also flexibility on what maturity of bonds will be bought by the central banks to reach their target, and acquisitions of asset-backed securities and agency debt are also included in the plan. Some holders of government securities have indicated an unwillingness to sell, sparking concern that there will be a scarcity of available debt for the ECB to buy. There’s also a risk that flexibility and limited information on the plan stirs market volatility. “They know it will not be easy to purchase €60 billion a month including covered bonds and ABS, so they have to deal very cautiously,” said Patrick Jacq at BNP Paribas. “The market remains in positive territory but there is no further acceleration, which means that apparently there is no squeeze on any paper.”

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“.. please don’t tell your average Hinz and Kunz that more than all German bond issuance in 2015 will be monetized. It will bring back some very unpleasant memories.”

Presenting The Buyers Of Over 100% Of New German And Japanese Bond Issuance (ZH)

Back in December, when the total amount of annual ECB Q€ was still up in the air and and consensus expected a lowly €500 billion annual monetization number, we calculated that based on Germany’s capital key contribution of about 26%, the ECB would monetize some €130 billion of German gross Bund issuance, or about 90% of the total scheduled issuance for 2015. Subsequently, the ECB announced that the actual amount across all ECB asset purchasing programs, will be some 44% higher, or €720 billion per year (€60 billion per month). So what does that mean for the revised bond supply and demand across two of the most important developed markets?

Well, we already know that the Bank of Japan will monetize 100% or just over of all Japanese gross sovereign bond issuance (source). As for Germany, on a run-rate basis, and assuming allocation based on the abovementioned capital key, it means that for the next 12 month period, assuming no major funding changes in Germany, the ECB will swallow more than a whopping 140% of gross German issuance! Or, said otherwise, the entities who will buy more than all gross German and Japanese issuance for the next 12 months, are the ECB and the Bank of Japan, respectively.

This also means that to fulfill its monthly purchase mandate, the ECB will have to push the price to truly unprecedented levels (such as the -0.20% yield across the curve discussed previously, or even lower) to find willing sellers. That said, please don’t tell your average Hinz and Kunz that more than all German bond issuance in 2015 will be monetized. It will bring back some very unpleasant memories.

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“The result is a bunch of banks, pension funds and hedge funds whose balance sheets are stuffed with paper that has value only if 1) accounting rules continue to support “mark to fantasy” bookkeeping and 2) governments (via taxpayers) stand ready to convert that bad paper to newly-created currency upon demand.”

Aftershocks, Part 1: That Austrian Bank (John Rubino)

It’s amazing how fast credit ratings revert to their intrinsic value when artificial government support is removed. And the list of potential victims so far doesn’t even include the counterparties on whatever credit default swaps are out there on Heta-related bonds. So more scary headlines are coming. It’s also important to note just how tiny these numbers are. Not a single amount mentioned in the above article is over €25 billion. That’s chump change in today’s mega-bank world. Yet in the absence of a government backstop it’s enough to cause cascading credit downgrades and maybe even the bankruptcy of an entire Austrian state.

So Austria and by implication the rest of the eurozone now face a tricky choice: Stick with the bail-in program and risk a highly-unpredictable cross-border contagion. Or go back to the tried-and-true bail out, with the higher deficits and rising debt — and angry voters — that that implies. Over the past couple of decades, governments have generally blinked when confronted with the prospect of actually letting markets clear bad debts and other misallocated capital. Starting in the mid-1990s with the what came to be known as the “Greenspan put” governments around the world have made it clear to the financial sector that no mistake is too egregious to be unworthy of a central bank backstop. So leverage up, roll the dice, collect those bonuses, and don’t worry about the consequences.

The result is a bunch of banks, pension funds and hedge funds whose balance sheets are stuffed with paper that has value only if 1) accounting rules continue to support “mark to fantasy” bookkeeping and 2) governments (via taxpayers) stand ready to convert that bad paper to newly-created currency upon demand. As taxpayers and voters have caught onto the scam, they’ve raised the political costs for governments, forcing Austria’s leaders to have to decide which group — unstable financial markets or an appalled electorate — is more dangerous to cross heading into the next election. Either choice brings its own series of aftershocks and systemic risks.

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Big fight coming up, or are they just going to change the flags on their ships to Panamese?

Billionaire Greek Ship Owners Surface on Tax-Exempt Overseas Profit (Bloomberg)

The Hellenic fleet is the world’s most valuable at $106 billion, according to VesselsValue.com, accounting for 19% of the world’s tankers. Greece’s seafaring mastery is a remarkable feat for the world’s 42nd-largest economy, where economic and political turmoil has left a quarter of the population unemployed. “This is a business that’s part of their soul,” Matt McCleery at ship finance consultancy Marine Money International, said in a phone interview. “It’s so important to their culture, to their identity, and to their history.” It’s also made billionaires of the country’s four largest ship owners by tonnage: John Angelicoussis, George Prokopiou, Peter Livanos and George Economou. The quartet control a combined fortune of $7.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. None of them appear individually on an international wealth ranking. [..]

The value of the vessels are discounted by 60% to approximate the typical level of financing Greek ship owners can obtain today, according to Anthony Zolotas, chief executive officer of ship financing adviser Eurofin SA. Greeks have long dominated the shipping business. The nation’s fleet, 3,669 vessels in 2013, is the largest in the world, according to the Union of Greek Shipowners, making up more than 7% of the Greek economy and providing 192,000 jobs in 2013. Greece’s shipping magnates control 23% of the world bulk carrier fleet, according to the report, even as their home country accounts for less than 0.4% of the world economy.

Their success in one of the most global industries stands in contrast to their country’s domestic troubles, where 36% of the population was at risk of poverty or exclusion from social benefits at the end of 2013, according to Eurostat, the statistics agency of the European Commission. “There is a humanitarian crisis,” said Spyros Economides, a professor in international relations and European politics at the London School of Economics. “It’s not just the problems on the street, it’s much more endemic and deeper than that with people fearing they might get evicted from their homes, who can’t pay their electricity bills, who are having problems feeding their families.”

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At least something. But even this could get ugly.

EU, Greece To Start Technical Loan Talks Wednesday (Reuters)

Warning Greece it had “no time to lose”, euro zone ministers agreed technical talks between finance experts from Athens and its international creditors would start on Wednesday with the aim of unlocking further funding. “We’ve talked about this long enough now,” an impatient-sounding Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after chairing Monday’s meeting of euro zone colleagues, their first since Feb. 20, when they extended Greece’s bailout deal to June. “We only have four months,” he said. “Let’s get it done.” The new left-wing Greek government, keen to show voters it is keeping election promises to break with EU-imposed austerity, has tried patience among its EU peers by arguing over the form and venue for detailed talks required to establish its needs and whether it has met conditions the creditors have set on reforms.

In a compromise, Dijsselbloem said the negotiations among financial experts from Greece and the creditor institutions – the EC, ECB and IMF – would start in Brussels on Wednesday, not in Athens as has been normal for EU bailout programs so far. Those talks, however, would be “supported” by international teams working in Athens to obtain and check information. The Greek government has insisted it will no longer deal with the “troika”, as the three institutions have been called in a term that is now anathema for many Greeks who associate it with massive cuts in public spending. It has also said it will not tolerate irksome foreign inspection visits to Athens. The Eurogroup now calls the troika “the institutions” and the talks will, formally at least, be based in Brussels. EU ministers say they do not want “semantics” to get in the way of negotiations intended to prevent Greece going bankrupt and potentially being forced to abandon the single currency.

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Is the Troika back for real?

Draghi Urged Greece to Allow Officials Back Before It’s Too Late (Bloomberg)

ECB President Mario Draghi told Greek officials they face a critical situation and must let euro-area representatives return to Athens if they are ever going to obtain more aid, according to two European officials. Draghi told Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis at a meeting on Monday in Brussels the government’s books needed to be examined to determine its financing shortfall, said the people, who asked not to be named because the conversation was private. Representatives from the European Commission and IMF had a similar message, one of the officials said.\ Greece agreed to allow experts representing the commission, ECB and IMF to start work in Athens on Wednesday, the Netherlands’s Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, after chairing the meeting of euro-region finance ministers.

With financial markets closed, and the central bank keeping its banks on a tight leash, the Greek treasury could face a cash crunch in one, two or three weeks, a different euro-area official said Monday. Without getting access to the books, it’s impossible to know for sure, the official added. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to access European bailout funds for Greece without completely ditching the anti-austerity agenda that won him election seven weeks ago. So far he’s dropped demands for a writedown on Greek debt, abandoned his plan to halt privatizations and accepted that he won’t get “bridge financing” without signing up to conditions. In return he’s won concessions to shift some meetings to Brussels and persuaded European officials to describe the country’s official creditors as “institutions” rather than “the troika.”

“The troika is a cabal of technocrats that used to arrive in Athens and enter the ministries with a kind of power play that smacked of a colonial attitude,” Varoufakis said at a press conference after the meeting. “That practice is finished. We shall endeavor to do whatever it takes to provide the institutions with whatever information they need.” Greece won’t get any more cash from its €240 billion rescue program until its official creditors are satisfied that Tsipras is committed to all the economic fixes needed to meet its conditions, Dijsselbloem said. It’s impossible for Greece’s creditors to adequately audit the government’s accounts without sending officials to Athens, a troika official said. The government would need to fly hundreds of Greek officials to Brussels for the work to be done there, he added.

As Draghi pressed Varoufakis to accept the return of the troika officials, the minister said that the idea that Greece was opposed to such a move was a misunderstanding, according to one of the officials with direct knowledge of the exchange. Can they start soon? Draghi asked. Varoufakis agreed. Wednesday? And the deal was done.

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“Wolfgang Schäuble declared that the outcome of the fractious negotiations would be decided by the “troika”. He repeated the term several times, despite the new Greek government’s insistence that the troika is dead.”

Eurozone Calls On Greece To Come Up With Credible Economic Reforms (Guardian)

Greece’s eurozone creditors have stepped up the pressure on Athens over reforms that might unleash billions more in bailout loans and save the country from bankruptcy over the next three months. Finance ministers from the single currency area broke off a discussionabout Greece on Monday, after little more than one hour in Brussels. The Greek finance minister, Yannis Varoufakis, was told to come up with what the creditors view as a realistic programme of economic and fiscal reforms. The chair of the eurozone finance ministers’ group displayed his frustration at the pace of the Greek government response since Athens secured a bailout extension last month. “Little has been done since the last Eurogroup [meeting two weeks ago] in terms of talks, in terms of implementation,” he said before the talks. “We have to stop wasting time and really start talks seriously.”

The Greek government led by prime minister Alexis Tsipras reached an agreement on extending the eurozone bailout by four months a fortnight ago, but it has to commit to a programme of reforms credible to its creditors by the end of April to access more than €7bn (£5bn) still available in loans. Ministers voiced impatience and irritation with Greece’s efforts to deliver a reform menu that would satisfy the lenders. Varoufakis was uncharacteristically silent going into the meeting after delivering two separate lists of vague reforms over the past fortnight, including a proposal to employ students and tourists to snoop on tax-dodgers and report them to the authorities.

It was clear that key eurozone policymakers were less than impressed with the suggestions from Greece, which faces a financing gap in the coming months and has to repay or redeem billions of euros in debts. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, who has been feuding with Varoufakis for weeks, declared that the outcome of the fractious negotiations would be decided by the “troika”. He repeated the term several times, despite the new Greek government’s insistence that the troika is dead. It refers to the triumvirate of officials from the ECB, the EC, and the IMF, which has run the €240bn bailout of Greece since 2010, dictating the country’s fiscal policies and a massive programme of austerity.

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Will this turn vs Syriza or vs Germany?

Greece Sees First Shortages In Imported Goods (Kathimerini)

The first occurrences of shortages in imported goods and raw materials have arisen as a result of Greek enterprises’ inability to pay with cash in advance for the entire cost of the commodities they import, and the situation is even worse than in 2012. Market professionals have told Kathimerini that there are already some problems in the cases of mechanical equipment and electronic appliances, while in the food and drinks sector there are shortages in certain premium products such as a well-known Belgian beer.

Difficulties have also been noted in imports of chemical commodities, both end products and raw materials, which is hampering the production of fertilizers and pesticides. Even reliable clients have been hit with the same demands from foreign suppliers, while the phenomenon is creating a chain reaction across other sectors as well. “A number of tourism companies wanted to renew their equipment ahead of the new season but now face a serious problem,” Ioannis Papageorgakis, the president of the Athens Association of Commercial representatives and Distributors (SEADA), told Kathimerini.

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Serious enough as well.

Liquidity Fears Slow Greek Government Payments (Kathimerini)

Payments to state procurers have stopped as the General Accounting Office has blocked any state expenditure not related to salaries and pensions as a part of the efforts being made toward optimum cash management during the state’s current liquidity crisis. Coming up with cash appears particularly difficult, increasing concerns regarding a possible “accident” over the course of this month. Sources say that the Accounting Office is examining every detail of public spending and putting off payments that are not pressing or even curtailing other spending considered excessive. Its officials say the budget has 4,772 expenditure categories that are not salary-related and concern procurements and operating expenses, among others.

Their review has already saved some €180 million that can be used to finance the program aimed at fighting the humanitarian crisis, they add. The Accounting Office is also trying to postpone obligations in the coming months so as to secure a cushion for the state’s needs. Payments to procurers, subsidies and other obligations are being postponed till later in a bid to lighten the March spending program. Even the heating oil benefit has not yet been credited to recipients’ bank accounts in its entirety.The state’s liquidity remains marginal: The 500 million euros from the HFSF bank bailout fund has not yet yet been drawn as it requires a special law amendment.

The directors of social security funds have not approved the utilization of their cash reserves in commercial banks, meaning the state cannot use that liquidity which amounts to €2 billion. In this context the Finance Ministry’s projections regarding the flow of revenues and expenditure show that there may be a shortfall of €1 billion toward the end of March. This week the ministry has to cover two debt maturities, concerning the repayment of €350 million to the International Monetary Fund on Friday and treasury bills worth €1.6 billion that mature on the same day, with a fresh T-bill auction to that amount expected tomorrow. Officials say these obligations will be fulfilled normally.

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Rhetoric.

Creditors Reject Greece’s Reform Proposals (Bloomberg)

Greece’s provisional agreement with creditors to avert a default started to crack as European officials said the country’s latest proposals fell far short of what was put forward two weeks ago and Greek ministers floated the prospect of a referendum if their reforms are rejected. The list of measures Greece’s government sent to euro-region finance ministers last Friday, including the idea of hiring non-professional tax collectors, is “far” from complete and the country probably won’t receive an aid disbursement this month, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Sunday. German Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter said ministers are not expected to advance on Greece today.

“It’s not enough to exchange letters with non-committal statements,” Kampeter told Deutschlandfunk radio. “What’s needed is hard work and tough discussions.” Greece’s anti-austerity government, elected in January on a promise to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion bailout, has to present detailed proposals to European creditors or risk running out of cash as soon as this month. The renewed tensions threaten to temper a rally in Greek bonds sparked by optimism over the provisional accord. “It seems their money box is almost empty,” Dijsselbloem said at an event in Amsterdam. Greece must adhere to its commitments as a “first step to restore trust” among its euro-area peers, Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission vice-president for euro policy, said.

Greek bonds fell, with the yield on 10-year government bonds gaining 40 basis points to 9.8%. The Athens Stock Exchange index declined 3% as of 11:33 a.m. local time. The country is seeking the disbursement of an outstanding aid tranche totaling about €7 billion. Without access to capital markets, its only sources of financing are emergency loans from the euro area’s crisis fund and the IMF. Its banks are being kept afloat by an Emergency Liquidity Assistance lifeline, subject to approval by the European Central Bank.

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“Corruption is not just the scoundrels who put their hands in the till, it’s also the rich 1% who own as much as 70% of the population,”

Spain’s Post-Franco Elite Under Attack From Popular Podemos Party (Bloomberg)

Pablo Iglesias was a foreign exchange student in Italy when reports of the 1999 protest riots at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle inspired him to switch to political science from law. Today, leading Spain’s most popular party less than a year before a general election, he’s aiming to clear out the political old guard and set the country’s economy on a new path. The eruption of Iglesias’s group, Podemos, over the past year is part of a tectonic shift stemming from the seven-year slump that destroyed more than 3 million jobs and threatens to unseat the political and economic elite that emerged to control Spain after the death of Francisco Franco 40 years ago. If the rupture gives Iglesias a chance to implement his program, the shock waves will be felt far beyond the Iberian peninsula.

At the center of the Podemos’s platform is a plan to force a restructuring of Spain’s €1 trillion of government debt in what would be the biggest sovereign reorganization in history. The proposal has helped Podemos top 10 opinion polls in Spain since November.
Iglesias’s project, which would potentially affect five times more securities than Greece’s 2012 default, the current record holder, has yet to sink in with financial markets. Spain’s €21 billion of January 2016 bonds were yielding less than 0.1% last week. By the time that debt comes due, Iglesias could be prime minister. Investors are being “complacent,” Alastair Newton at Nomura in London, said in an interview. “We’re going to start getting some choppiness.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party and his main parliamentary opposition, the Socialists, have governed Spain since 1982, transforming an isolated economy that had lagged behind most of Europe under Franco. Under their rule, the country consolidated its democracy after an attempted coup, joined the European Union and NATO, and saw the economy more than double in size. Spain’s benchmark stock index, the Ibex-35, rose 500% between 1988 and its 2007 peak, almost double the gains on the U.K.’s FTSE 100. But since 2008, that model has unraveled, with the pain of the crisis compounded for many Spaniards by reports of widespread graft at both the main parties and the network of public savings banks they controlled.

Iglesias captured that narrative with a single expression: “the caste.” For his supporters, the caste is a corrupt elite that kept most of the gains from the boom years and left ordinary people to shoulder the cost of the crisis. “Corruption is not just the scoundrels who put their hands in the till, it’s also the rich 1% who own as much as 70% of the population,” Iglesias told hundreds of thousands of supporters gathered in downtown Madrid on Jan. 31. “Rajoy’s policies don’t create jobs, they spread misery.”

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“The whole ZIRP and QE game, for instance, can be boiled down to a basic wish to get something for nothing, that is, prosperity where nothing of value is created”

truthinesslessness (Jim Kunstler)

Finance is complicated, but not as complex as the wizards employed in it would have you believe. They would have you think it is an order of magnitude more abstruse and recondite than particle physics, when, in fact, it is often not much more than a Three Card Monte switcheroo. The whole ZIRP and QE game, for instance, can be boiled down to a basic wish to get something for nothing, that is, prosperity where nothing of value is created. Now, that’s not so hard to understand, is it? Until the economics wardrobe team comes in and dresses it up in martingales and bumrolls of metaphysics and you end up in a contango of mystification.

More galling and worrisome, though, is the failure of anyone even remotely in authority to stand up and publically object to the tidal wave of lies washing over this dying polity, actually killing it softly with truthinesslessness. The code of anything goes and nothing matters is turning lethal and the more it is kept swaddled in lies, the more perverse, surprising, and destructive the damage will be. The more our leaders lie about misbehavior in banking — including especially the actions of the Federal Reserve — the worse will be the instability in currencies. The more central bankers intervene in price discovery mechanisms, the more unable to reflect reality all markets will become. The more that the US BLS lies about the employment picture in America, the worse will be the eventual wrath of citizens who can’t get paid enough to heat their houses and feed their children.

An economist (sic) named Richard Duncan last week proposed the interesting theory that Quantitative Easing can go on virtually forever in an endless chain of self-canceling debt. Government spends money it doesn’t have and cannot raise, issues bonds to “investors,” buys its own bonds and stashes them in a storage vault so deep that the sun will not shine on them until it becomes a blue dwarf — long after the cockroaches have taken charge of Earthly affairs. Duncan forgets one detail: consequences. The consequence of this behavior will not be eternal virtual prosperity, but rather a wrecked accounting system for the operations of civilized human life. We’ve stepped across the event horizon of that consequence, but we just don’t know it yet. My bet is that we start feeling the effects sooner rather than later and when it is finally felt, all the Kardashian videos in this universe and a trillion universes like it will not avail to distract us from the flow of our own blood.

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Purely defense.

US Deploying 3,000 Troops To The Baltics (DW)

The United States is sending 3,000 troops to the Baltic states to partake in joint military exercises with NATO partners in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania over the next three months, US defense officials announced Monday. The mission, part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve” is designed to reassure NATO allies concerned over renewed Russian aggression amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Around 750 US Army tanks, fighting vehicles and other military equipment arrived in Latvia Monday, and US ground troops are expected to begin arriving next week, US Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters. According to a US military source speaking on condition of anonymity, the military equipment will remain in the Baltics even after the US troops return to base.

The deployment is designed to “demonstrate resolve to President (Vladimir) Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together,” US General John O’Connor said. Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine have raised concerns the Russian President could act against other eastern European countries. The military equipment, including the tanks and fighting vehicles will stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression,” O’Connor said. Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea and its support of anti-government rebels in Ukraine has sparked fears that Moscow might pursue similar actions against the Baltic nations, which have little military equipment of their own.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon recently said Putin represented a “real and present danger” to the Baltic nations, warning that the Russian leader could launch an undercover campaign to destabilize Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Putin was quoted in September as saying, “if I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kyiv in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too.” The US deployment also comes amid reports Putin made the decision to annex Crimea after a night-long meeting at the Kremlin following the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The Baltic nations have been members of NATO since 2004, and the military alliance is seeking to counter potential Russian aggression by developing a rapid reaction force of 5,000 troops, to be stationed in the Baltic states as well as Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania.

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The dark side of the moon.

The Isolation of Donetsk: A Visit to Europe’s Absurd New Border (Spiegel)

One can argue whether the separatists are to be blamed or whether Kiev is exacting revenge. But either way, Donetsk is now just as isolated as West Berlin once was. Even from the east, where the border to Russia lies nearby, hardly any goods are allowed through. The rebels control the border, and they only allow the propaganda-driven aid shipments from Moscow to pass. Everything from milk to meat and vegetables is becoming scarce in the city. And the Ukrainian government has all but sealed off access to the “People’s Republic.” More recently, anyone wishing to cross the line between the two warring camps must present a “propusk,” a small, white identity card with a large “B” printed on it.

The Ukrainians have divided the demarcation line between their forces and the separatists into sections. The propusk is the Open Sesame for crossing the line in “zone B.” Since January, no one has been able to cross the line without this propusk. The problem is that it’s difficult to get. There is currently a two to four-week waiting period to obtain the propusk, which is issued in Velyka Novosilka, a village 90 kilometers west of Donetsk. But a “Sector B” propusk is required to reach Velyka Novosilka from Donetsk in the first place. The result is that people from Donetsk are in a paralyzing catch-22. Even in divided Berlin, such problems were more effectively solved. West Berliners were able to obtain travel permits from East Berlin officials in West Berlin so that they could cross the Wall. It was a small gesture of goodwill in the Cold War.

“It’s a theater of the absurd,” says Yevgeny, while another driver calls the situation at the border Kafkaesque. “Just look at the people over there, who have come from Donetsk. They give their documents to Ukrainian soldiers, hoping that the documents will somehow reach Velyka Novosilka. And then they come back, two weeks later, and spend days standing outside in the cold here to get their propusk.”

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