Mar 282017
 
 March 28, 2017  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
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Dorothea Lange Abandoned cafe in Carey, Texas 1937

 


A Nation of Landowners – But For How Long? (M.)
Middle-Class, Even Wealthy Americans Sliding Inexorably Into The Red (MW)
Italy’s Monte Paschi Bailout Has Some ECB Supervisors Grumbling
NY Fed: “Oil Prices Fell Due To Weakening Demand” (ZH)
Why Did Preet Bharara Refuse to Drain the Wall Street Swamp? (Bill Black)
A Detailed “Roadmap” For Meeting The Paris Climate Goals (Vox)
In UK Access To Justice Is No Longer A Right, But A Luxury (G.)
The Curse of the Thinking Class (Jim Kunstler)
Tensions Flare As Greece Tells Turkey It Is Ready To Answer Any Provocation (G.)
Erdogan Races Against the Dollar in Campaign for Unrivaled Power (BBG)
Tillerson Will Not Meet Turkey Opposition In Ankara Visit This Week (R.)
Troika Pushes Greece To Sell Up To 40% Of State-Controlled Power Utility (R.)
Fraport Greece Signs Funding Deal With 5 Lenders (K.)
Contraction Of Credit Continues Unabated In Greece (K.)
Mikis Theodorakis: ‘In Tough Times, Greeks Become Heroes or Slaves’ (GR)
Nearly 1,200 Migrants Picked Up Off Libya, Heading To Italy (R.)
Italy Calls For Investigation Of NGO Supported Migrant Fleet (Dm.)

 

 

“To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced.”

A Nation of Landowners – But For How Long? (M.)

Land occupies a unique position in the economy because it is essential for any activity and, given its fixed supply, an increase in demand for it can only increase its price. Meanwhile finance, which facilitates that demand, has been available in ever-greater abundance since the deregulation of mortgage lending in the 1970s and 1980s. The interaction between the inelastic supply of land and the highly elastic supply of mortgage lending lies at the heart of the house price boom over the past few decades. But while the finance part of the story is relatively new (before the 1970s mortgages were harder to get and lending restricted by the conservative practices of the building societies), the land question has been around for centuries.

Ever since Henry VIII seized the monastery lands in the early 16th century a market has been evolving in land as a privately-owned tradable commodity. What is crucial to the contemporary housing debate, and what this book illustrates brilliantly, is how the control of land is, or has at least been allowed to become, fundamental to economic and political power relations. Because land is permanent and immovable, those who own the exclusive rights to its use are able to siphon off the value of any economic output that is dependent on it. The value of a piece of land therefore reflects the level of activity conducted on or around it, as well as any speculation arising from expectations about its potential future use. This price does not reflect the efforts or ingenuity of its owner, and so it does not reward productive activity but rather penalises it in the form of rent.

This ability of landowners to extract economic rent from productive activity, or the unearned increment, was once at the centre of political discourse. It was an issue that troubled classical economists ranging from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. As the industrial revolution advanced in the 18th and 19th centuries, productivity levels improved, and so the owners of land began to enjoy the fruits of the community’s labour. A land reform movement gathered momentum towards the late 19th century and the writings of the American economist Henry George advocating a land value tax attracted a following. In 1909, a young Winston Churchill (then 35, and a Liberal) decried the land monopolist’s free ride in what remains one of the best descriptions of the dilemma:

“Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced.”

Churchill was careful to stress that it was the system he was attacking not the landowner himself (‘We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law’). But the law was as it was because landowners controlled parliament and indeed the Liberals’ plan for a land value tax in the People’s Budget, in support of which Churchill had been speaking, was thrown out by the House of Lords.

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How to kill a city part 832.

Middle-Class, Even Wealthy Americans Sliding Inexorably Into The Red (MW)

Not even a high six-figure salary is enough to keep New York City families out of the red. But spare a thought for the average American family, whose costs easily outpace the average income. A recent analysis from Sam Dogen at his personal finance website Financial Samurai showed how difficult it is for high earners to escape the rat race in New York City, one of the priciest places to live in the world. He analyzed a mock budget for an imaginary family of four in which the two 35-year-old breadwinners each make $250,000 a year. After factoring in taxes, 401(k)contributions, home and child care costs, the family was left with just $7,300 for the year — as if they were living “paycheck to paycheck.”

Perhaps nobody is crying for lawyers making $500,000 a year or even $250,000, but the analysis shows just how easy it is for spending habits to take a high salary and turn it into table scraps. Dogen said pressure from peers to spend more is a big contributing factor, adding “everywhere I go, and I’ve been all over the world, high income earners are secretly feeling the same squeeze.” “They are unhappy, getting divorces, and always comparing themselves to wealthier and wealthier people,” he said. “Heck, even a friend who is worth over $200 million after founding and taking public a company feels like he needs to continue working because he has to ‘keep up with the Zuckerbergs.’”

So how would the average American family fare by the same lifestyle? MarketWatch crunched the numbers and found they would be racking up approximately $27,000 in debt a year if they spent the average of what Americans spend on the same activities. This vast difference in economic stability comes even after adjusting for cheaper housing costs and lowering the number of vacations to one a year — the average in the U.S.

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Beware of any central bank announcements made the day after Christmas.

Italy’s Monte Paschi Bailout Has Some ECB Supervisors Grumbling

When the European Central Bank declared Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena solvent last December, the first step toward a state-funded rescue, some members of the 19-nation Supervisory Board weren’t fully on board. Confronted with what they saw as a political agreement to bail out the world’s oldest lender, dissenters went along with the consensus despite their concerns about the bank’s health…[..] To make sense of the Monte Paschi debate, you have to start with a 2014 law known as the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, which sets out the EU’s bank-failure rules. The law assumes that if a firm needs “extraordinary public financial support,” this indicates that it’s failing and should be wound down. In that process, investors including senior bondholders can be forced to take losses.

An exception, known as a precautionary recapitalization, is allowed for solvent banks if a long list of conditions is met. As the name suggests, this tool isn’t intended to clear up a bank’s existing problems, such as Monte Paschi’s mountain of soured loans. This temporary aid is allowed to address a capital shortfall identified in a stress test. Daniele Nouy, head of the ECB Supervisory Board, reiterated in an interview on Monday that Monte Paschi and other Italian banks in line for a bailout are “not insolvent, otherwise we would not be talking about precautionary recapitalization.” Not everyone is convinced the bank, whose woes date back many years, qualifies for this special treatment.

“It is unclear if Monte Paschi meets the BRRD’s exemption criteria, and their use has the appearance of promoting national political concerns over a stricter reading of the newly established European rules,” said Simon Ainsworth at Moody’s. “The plan could risk damaging the credibility of the resolution framework, especially given that it would mark its first major test case.” The ECB’s decision on Monte Paschi’s solvency and capital gap was announced by the lender the day after Christmas. The ECB published an explanation of the precautionary recapitalization process a day later, but said little else publicly. On Dec. 29, the Bank of Italy issued a statement that broke down the €8.8 billion rescue into its parts. Solvency in the case of a precautionary recapitalization is determined based on two criteria, the ECB said: the bank meets its legal minimum capital requirements, and it has no shortfall in the baseline scenario of the relevant stress test.

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I’ve been talking about falling oil demand for so long that when other bring it up now it seems all new again.

NY Fed: “Oil Prices Fell Due To Weakening Demand” (ZH)

[..] one aspect of price formation that is rarely mentioned is demand, which is generally assumed to be unwavering and trending higher with barely a hiccup. The reason for this somewhat myopic take is that while OPEC has control over supply, demand is a function of global economic growth and trade (or lack thereof) over which oil producers have little, if any control. And yet, according to the latest oil price dynamics report issued by the Fed, it was declining global demand that pushed prices lower in the most recent, volatile period. As the New York Fed report in its March 27 report, “Oil prices fell owing to weakening demand” and explains as follows: “A decline in demand expectations together with a decreasing residual drove oil prices down over the past week.”

While there was some good news, namely that “in 2016:Q4, oil prices increased on net as a consequence of steadily contracting supply and strengthening, albeit volatile, global demand” offsetting the “modest decline in oil prices during 2016:Q3 caused by weakening global demand expectations and loosening supply conditions,” the Fed’s troubling finding is that the big move lower since 2014 has been a function of rising supply as well as declining demand: Overall, since the end of 2014:Q2, both lower global demand expectations and looser supply have held oil prices down. And while this trend appeared to have reversed in 2016:Q2 and 2016:Q4, recent indications suggest that demand may once again be slowing, which in turn has pressured oil prices back to levels last seen shortly after OPEC’s Vienna deal.

It is curious that according to the NY Fed, at a time when OPEC vows it is cutting production, the Fed has instead found “loose” supply to be among the biggest contributors to the latest decline in oil prices. But what may be concering to oil bulls is that as the decomposition chart below shows, while oil demand was solidly in the green ever since Trump’s election victory, in recent weeks it appears to have also tapered off along with the supply contribution to declining oil prices. This seems to suggest that along with most other “animal spirits” that were ignited following the Trump victory, only to gradually fade, oil demand, and thus price, may be the next to take another leg lower unless of course Trump manages to reignite the Trumpflation trade which, however, over the past month appears to have completely faded.

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“Indeed, Bharara never mustered the courtesy to respond to Bowen’s offers to aid his office.”

Why Did Preet Bharara Refuse to Drain the Wall Street Swamp? (Bill Black)

The New York Times’ editorial board published an editorial on March 12, 2017, praising Preet Bharara as the “Prosecutor Who Knew How to Drain a Swamp.” I agree with the title. At all times when he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (which includes Wall Street) Bharara knew how to drain the swamp. Further, he had the authority, the jurisdiction, the resources, and the testimony from whistleblowers like Richard Bowen (a co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United (BWU)) to drain the Wall Street swamp. Bowen personally contacted Bharara beginning in 2005.

“You were quoted in The Nation magazine as saying that if a whistleblower comes forward with evidence of wrongdoing, then you would be the first to prosecute [elite bankers]. I am writing this email to inform you that there is a body of evidence concerning wrongdoing, which the Department of Justice has refused to act on in order to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued.” Bowen explained that he was a whistleblower about Citigroup’s senior managers and that he was (again) coming forward to aid Bharara to prosecute. Bowen tried repeatedly to interest Bharara in draining the Citigroup swamp. Bharara refused to respond to Bowen’s blowing of the whistle on the massive frauds led by Citigroup’s senior officers.

Bharara knew how to drain the Wall Street swamp and was positioned to do so because he had federal prosecutorial jurisdiction over Wall Street crimes. Whistleblowers like Bowen, who lacked any meaningful power, sacrificed their careers and repeatedly demonstrated courage to ensure that Bharara would have the testimony and documents essential to prosecute successfully some of Wall Street’s most elite felons. Bharara never mustered the courage to prosecute those elites. Indeed, Bharara never mustered the courtesy to respond to Bowen’s offers to aid his office. [..] Bharara knew how to drain the Wall Street swamp. He had the facts, the staff, and the jurisdiction to drain the Wall Street swamp. Bharara refused to do so.

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We all realize that this is never ever going to happen, right?!

A Detailed “Roadmap” For Meeting The Paris Climate Goals (Vox)

To hit the Paris climate goals without geoengineering, the world has to do three broad (and incredibly ambitious) things: 1) Global CO2 emissions from energy and industry have to fall in half each decade. That is, in the 2020s, the world cuts emissions in half. Then we do it again in the 2030s. Then we do it again in the 2040s. They dub this a “carbon law.” Lead author Johan Rockström told me they were thinking of an analogy to Moore’s law for transistors; we’ll see why. 2) Net emissions from land use — i.e., from agriculture and deforestation – have to fall steadily to zero by 2050. This would need to happen even as the world population grows and we’re feeding ever more people. 3) Technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere have to start scaling up massively, until we’re artificially pulling 5 gigatons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere by 2050 — nearly double what all the world’s trees and soils already do.

“It’s way more than adding solar or wind,” says Rockström. “It’s rapid decarbonization, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].” So, uh, how do we cut CO2 emissions in half, then half again, then half again? Here, the authors lay out a sample “roadmap” of what specific actions the world would have to take each decade, based on current research. This isn’t the only path for making big CO2 cuts, but it gives a sense of the sheer scale and speed required:

2017-2020: All countries would prepare for the herculean task ahead by laying vital policy groundwork. Like: scrapping the $500 billion per year in global fossil fuel subsidies. Zeroing out investments in any new coal plants, even in countries like India and Indonesia. All major nations commit to going carbon-neutral by 2050 and put in place policies — like carbon pricing or clean electricity standards — that point down that path. “By 2020,” the paper adds, “all cities and major corporations in the industrialized world should have decarbonization strategies in place.”

2020-2030: Now the hard stuff begins! In this decade, carbon pricing would expand to cover most aspects of the global economy, averaging around $50 per ton (far higher than seen almost anywhere today) and rising. Aggressive energy efficiency programs ramp up. Coal power is phased out in rich countries by the end of the decade and is declining sharply elsewhere. Leading cities like Copenhagen are going totally fossil fuel free. Wealthy countries no longer sell new combustion engine cars by 2030, and transportation gets widely electrified, with many short-haul flights replaced by rail.

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Brexit hardly seems Britain’s biggest problem. It’s the gutting of an entire society that is.

In UK Access To Justice Is No Longer A Right, But A Luxury (G.)

Laws that cost too much to enforce are phoney laws. A civil right that people can’t afford to use is no right at all. And a society that turns justice into a luxury good is one no longer ruled by law, but by money and power. This week the highest court in the land will decide whether Britain will become such a society. There are plenty of signs that we have already gone too far. Listen to the country’s top judge, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who admits that “our justice system has become unaffordable to most”. Look at our legal-aid system, slashed so heavily by David Cameron and Theresa May that the poor must act as their own trial lawyers, ready to be skittled by barristers in the pay of their moneyed opponents. The latest case will be heard by seven supreme court judges and will pit the government against the trade union Unison. It will be the climax of a four-year legal battle over one of the most fundamental rights of all: the right of workers to stand up against their bosses.

In 2013, Cameron stripped workers of the right to access the employment tribunal system. Whether a pregnant woman forced out of her job, a Bangladeshi-origin guy battling racism at work, or a young graduate with disabilities getting aggro from a boss, all would now have to pay £1,200 for a chance of redress. The number of cases taken to tribunal promptly fell off a cliff – down by 70% within a year. Citizens Advice, employment lawyers and academics practically queued up to warn that workers – especially poor workers – were getting priced out of justice. But for Conservative ministers, all was fine. Loyal flacks such as Matthew Hancock (then employment minister) claimed those deterred by the fees were merely “unscrupulous” try-ons, intent on “bullying bosses”. Follow Hancock’s logic, and with all those time-wasters weeded out, you’d expect the number of successful tribunal claims to jump. They’ve actually dropped.

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“Do they covet our Chick-fil-A chains and Waffle Houses? Our tattoo artists? Would they like to induce the Kardashians to live in Moscow? Is it Nascar they’re really after?”

The Curse of the Thinking Class (Jim Kunstler)

Let’s suppose there really is such a thing as The Thinking Class in this country, if it’s not too politically incorrect to say so — since it implies that there is another class, perhaps larger, that operates only on some limbic lizard-brain level of impulse and emotion. Personally, I believe there is such a Thinking Class, or at least I have dim memories of something like it. The farfetched phenomenon of Trumpism has sent that bunch on a journey to a strange land of the intellect, a place like the lost island of Kong, where one monster after another rises out of the swampy murk to threaten the frail human adventurers. No one back home would believe the things they’re tangling with: giant spiders, reptiles the size of front-end loaders, malevolent aborigines! Will any of the delicate humans survive or make it back home?

This is the feeling I get listening to arguments in the public arena these days, but especially from the quarters formerly identified as left-of-center, especially the faction organized around the Democratic Party, which I aligned with long ago (alas, no more). The main question seems to be: who is responsible for all the unrest in this land. Their answer since halfway back in 2016: the Russians. I’m not comfortable with this hypothesis. Russia has a GDP smaller than Texas. If they are able to project so much influence over what happens in the USA, they must have some supernatural mojo-of-the-mind — and perhaps they do — but it raises the question of motive. What might Russia realistically get from the USA if Vladimir Putin was the master hypnotist that Democrats make him out to be?

Do we suppose Putin wants more living space for Russia’s people? Hmmmm. Russia’s population these days, around 145 million, is less than half the USA’s and it’s rattling around in the geographically largest nation in the world. Do they want our oil? Maybe, but Russia being the world’s top oil producer suggests they’ve already got their hands full with their own operations? Do they want Hollywood? The video game industry? The US porn empire? Do they covet our Chick-fil-A chains and Waffle Houses? Our tattoo artists? Would they like to induce the Kardashians to live in Moscow? Is it Nascar they’re really after?

My hypothesis is that Russia would most of all like to be left alone. Watching NATO move tanks and German troops into Lithuania in January probably makes the Russians nervous, and no doubt that is the very objective of the NATO move — but let’s not forget that most of all NATO is an arm of American foreign policy. If there are any remnants of the American Thinking Class left at the State Department, they might recall that Russia lost 20 million people in the dust-up known as the Second World War against whom…? Oh, Germany.

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“The Turkish nationalist opposition leader, Devlet Bahçeli, has gone even further, claiming that several Greek islands are under occupation and reacting furiously when Kammenos visited the far-flung isle of Oinousses. “Someone must explain to this spoiled brat not to try our patience,” he railed. “If they [the Greeks] want to fall into the sea again, if they want to be hunted down, they are welcome, the Turkish army is ready. Someone must explain to the Greek government what happened in 1922. If there is no one to explain it to them, we can come like a bullet across the Aegean and teach them history all over again.”

Tensions Flare As Greece Tells Turkey It Is Ready To Answer Any Provocation (G.)

Fears of tensions mounting in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Seas reignited after the Turkish president raised the prospect of a referendum on accession talks with the EU and the Greek defence minister said the country was ready for any provocation. Relations between Ankara and European capitals have worsened before the highly charged vote on 16 April on expanding the powers of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Western allies have argued that a vote endorsing the proposed constitutional change would invest him with unparalleled authority and limit checks and balances at a time when they fear the Turkish leader is exhibiting worrying signs of authoritarianism. Erdogan has been enraged by recent bans on visiting Turkish officials rallying “yes” supporters in Germany and the Netherlands.

Highlighting growing friction between Ankara and the bloc, he raised the spectre of a public vote on EU membership at the weekend. “We have a referendum on 16 April. After that we may hold a Brexit-like referendum on the [EU] negotiations,” he told a Turkish-UK forum attended by the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. “No matter what our nation decides we will obey it. It should be known that our patience, tested in the face of attitudes displayed by some European countries, has limits.” The animus – reinforced last week when the leader said he would continue labelling European politicians “Nazis” if they continued calling him a dictator – has also animated tensions between Greece and Turkey, and Erdogan’s comments came hours after the Greek defence minister said armed forces were ready to respond in the event of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity being threatened.

“The Greek armed forces are ready to answer any provocation,” Panos Kammenos declared at a military parade marking the 196th anniversary of Greece’s war of liberation against Ottoman Turkish rule. “We are ready because that is how we defend peace.” Although Nato allies, the two neighbours clashed over Cyprus in 1974 and almost came to war over an uninhabited Aegean isle in 1996. Hostility has been rising in both areas, with the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades recently voicing fears of Turkey sparking a “hot incident” in the run-up to the referendum. “I fear the period from now until the referendum in Turkey, as well as the effort to create a climate of fanaticism within Turkish society,” he told CNN Greece. Turkey’s EU negotiations have long been hindered by Cyprus, and talks aimed at reuniting its estranged Greek and Turkish communities are at a critical juncture but have stalled and are unlikely to move until after the referendum.

But it is in the Aegean where tensions, matched by an increasingly ugly war of words, have been at their worst. After a tense standoff over eight military officers who escaped to Greece after the abortive coup against Erdogan last July – an impasse exacerbated when the Greek supreme court rejected a request for their extradition – hostility has been measured in almost daily dogfights between armed jets and naval incursions of Greek waters by Turkish research vessels. Both have prompted diplomats and defence experts to express fears of an accident at a time when experienced staff officers and pilots have been sidelined in the purges that have taken place since the attempted coup. The shaky migration deal signed between the EU and Turkey to thwart the flow of refugees into the continent has only added to the pressure.

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The falling dollar is setting up Turkey for dictatorship. The world will come to regret this.

Erdogan Races Against the Dollar in Campaign for Unrivaled Power (BBG)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lambasted friend and foe alike in a campaign for vast new powers, but his political fate may hang on the one thing he’s stopped carping about: the price of money. With the April 16 vote on strengthening the presidency too close for pollsters to call, Erdogan is no longer berating the central bank and commercial lenders over borrowing costs they’ve pushed to a five-year high. He’s betting any measures taken to arrest the lira’s plunge will pay off at the ballot box. The lira’s value versus the dollar is more than just a pocketbook issue in Turkey, where millions of voters still remember the abrupt devaluations that ravaged their livelihoods in past decades and view the exchange rate as the most important indicator of the nation’s economic health.

Turkey’s trade deficit is the biggest of all top 50 economies relative to output and most of its imports and foreign debt are priced in dollars, so sharp declines in the lira can be ruinous for legions of entrepreneurs like Ramazan Saglam, who owns a print shop in a working-class neighborhood of Ankara. “I bitterly recall when the dollar jumped in 1994 and 2001 – my business collapsed both times,” Saglam said. “I’m supporting the new presidential system wholeheartedly because I don’t want to go bankrupt again.” Saglam nodded at the big red banner billowing from his second-story window to illustrate his point. The Chinese cloth and South Korean ink he used to make it were all bought with dollars, as was the American printer that produced Erdogan’s image and the slogan, “Yes. For my country and my future.”

Given the choice between paying more for credit to buy supplies and keeping the lira in check, he said he’d choose sound money every time. Supporters of the proposed constitutional changes say handing Erdogan sweeping new authority is the only way to achieve the stability that society craves and businesses need to thrive. But opponents say approving the referendum is an invitation to dictatorship, particularly since Erdogan, already the most dominant leader in eight decades, jailed or fired more than 100,000 perceived enemies after rogue army officers attempted a coup in July. “Everybody on the street tracks the exchange rate on a daily basis and Erdogan wins support as long as Turkey can keep the lira stable,” said Wolfango Piccoli, the London-based co-president of Teneo Intelligence, a political risk advisory firm. “But the challenge here is the external backdrop. They can’t really predict what’s coming.”

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The US must cease labeling the PKK a terrorist organization. Or stop backing the Kurds in Syria. Can’t have both.

Tillerson Will Not Meet Turkey Opposition In Ankara Visit This Week (R.)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not meet members of Turkish opposition groups during a one-day visit to Ankara this week where talks with President Tayyip Erdogan will focus on the war in Syria, senior U.S. officials said on Monday. Thursday’s visit comes at a politically sensitive time in Turkey as the country prepares for a referendum on April 16 that proposes to change the constitution to give Erdogan new powers. A senior State Department official said Tillerson will meet with Erdogan and government ministers involved in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. “It is certainly something we are very acutely aware of and the secretary will be mindful of while he is there,” one State Department official told a conference call with reporters, referring to political sensitivities ahead of the referendum.

American officials expect Erdogan and others to raise the case of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government accuses of orchestrating a failed coup last July. The focus of the Ankara talks is the U.S.-led offensive to retake Raqqa from Islamic State and to stabilize areas in which militants have been forced out, allowing refugees to return home, officials said. A major sticking point between the United States and Turkey is U.S. backing for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey considers part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has been fighting an insurgency for three decades in Turkey. But the United States has long viewed Kurdish fighters as key to retaking Raqqa alongside Arab fighters in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “We are very mindful of Turkey’s concerns and it is something that will continue to be a topic of conversation,” a second U.S. official said.

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Fire sale. The minister actually called these practices ‘cannibalistic’, and rightly so. And that’s not even the best of it. A Greek paper details how a Greek bank, Alpha Bank, lends the money to German investors to buy up Greece’s Public Power Corp. That is about as close to cannibalism as you can get. Economic warfare 101.

Troika Pushes Greece To Sell Up To 40% Of State-Controlled Power Utility (R.)

A Greek minister on Monday accused international lenders of reneging on a 2015 bailout deal by trying to force a fire-sale of its main electricity utility PPC to serve “domestic and foreign business interests.” Under terms of a 2015 bailout deal for Greece worth up to €86 billion, Public Power Corp. (PPC) is obliged to cut its dominance in the Greek market to below 50% by 2020. Although it is not clearly specified in the deal, lenders want Greece to sell some of PPC’s assets. PPC, which is 51% owned by the state, now controls about 90% of the country’s retail electricity market and 60% of its wholesale market. Greece last year launched power auctions to private operators as a temporary mechanism and has proposed that PPC team up with private companies to help achieve this target. But lenders doubt the effectiveness of the measure.

“What they want is that power production infrastructure of up to 40% – PPC’s coal-fired production- is sold. This is what they want right know, which is beyond the (2015) deal,” Interior Minister Panos Skourletis, a former energy minister, told Greek state television. Skourletis on Monday accused the lenders pressing the country to sell-off PPC units at a very low price to serve European and domestic competitors. “It is an assault which has set its sights on PPC’s assets to pass it on to specific European and domestic business interests at a humiliating price,” Skourletis said in an Op-Ed penned for the Efimerida Ton Syntakton daily.

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More warfare, more cannibalism. Airports also ‘privatized’, ‘reformed’. Alpha Bank is also the largest lender in this case. Nice partners too: “..the International Finance Corporation (€154.1 million), a member of the World Bank Group [..] is also the sole provider of euro interest rate hedging swaps..”

Fraport Greece Signs Funding Deal With 5 Lenders (K.)

Five leading financial institutions have signed a long-term financing agreement with German-Greek consortium Fraport Greece, which will soon be managing, operating, upgrading and maintaining 14 regional Greek airports under a 40-year concession contract. The agreement is for total financing of 968.4 million euros. The lenders are Alpha Bank (participating with €284.7 million), the Black Sea Trade & Development Bank (€62.5 million), the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (€186.7 million), the European Investment Bank (€280.4 million), and the International Finance Corporation (€154.1 million), a member of the World Bank Group.

IFC is also the sole provider of euro interest rate hedging swaps to help Fraport Greece hedge potential fluctuations in interest rates through the term of the loan. Over two-thirds of the total amount (€688 million) will be used to cover the upfront payment (of €1.234 billion) due to state sell-off fund TAIPED upon the airports’ delivery, while €280.4 million will be used to finance upgrading work at the 14 airports. Meanwhile, Fraport Greece recently announced a capital increase raising the company’s total capital to €650 million, most of which will go toward the upfront payment.

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But domestic credit is still collapsing. And so is the economy, of course.

Contraction Of Credit Continues Unabated In Greece (K.)

Bank of Greece figures revealed on Monday a further contraction in the financing of the Greek economy last month, a result of the general uncertainty hanging over the economy and the drop deposits at the country’s banks. The total funding of the economy was down 2% YOY in February, from -1.5% in January, while the monthly net flow of total financing was negative by €801 million, against a negative flow of €1.261 billion in January. The main factor in that decline was the drop in funding to the state, as the annual rate concerning the general government sector posted a 3.7% contraction in February against a 0.1% increase in January. In the private sector it was negative by 1.6% as funding shrank by a net €101 million. The image was somewhat different for enterprises as there was an €82 million monthly increase in the net flow of funding last month, compared with a €643 million decline in January. However, the flow of credit to private clients and nonprofit organizations dipped by €153 million or 2.7% in February.

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Wise old genius. “As soon as three Greeks get together, they start talking of who’s going to be the leader..”

Mikis Theodorakis: ‘In Tough Times, Greeks Become Heroes or Slaves’ (GR)

“During tough times, a Greek can become a hero or a slave,” said legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis in an interview published in Proto Thema Sunday newspaper. The 92-year-old musician, who is also an emblematic figure of the Greek Left, spoke about Greece’s current state, the leftist government, the main opposition party and the bailout agreements. Theodorakis said that he is not shocked about the current condition Greece is in because, historically, the country has been through turmoil several times. He said the Greek spirit, like a light, shines through at the end because Greeks have an inner harmony that prevails. However, Theodorakis said, this is a hard period for Greece and this time he is afraid for the future of the country: “When the Greek is with his back against the wall, he becomes a hero or a slave.”

When asked to compare the current state of the nation with the times of the German Occupation, Theodorakis said that what Greece is going through now is worse: “I don’t remember people going through the trash to find food. I don’t remember elderly people waiting in line to get a cabbage.” Theodorakis spoke in length about the time (2012) opposition leader Alexis Tsipras and leftist legend Manolis Glezos approached him and asked him to join SYRIZA and win the upcoming elections. He said he refused to join because the young candidate did not have a plan on how to get Greece going without supervision and financial aid from the EU and the IMF. He described Greece as a train rolling on tracks laid by the EU and the IMF.

“I told him ‘if you’re planning to come to power without having a plan to change the tracks and provide Greek people with what they need, then you are opportunists and you will only succeed in destroying the country and humiliating the Greek Left’,” the composer said about Tsipras. “With great sadness, I believe that the current plight of the country confirms exactly what I said to Alexis Tsipras, here in my house, in the meeting that I mentioned earlier,” Theodorakis said. The composer said that Greeks have a lust for power: “As soon as three Greeks get together, they start talking of who’s going to be the leader,” he said characteristically.

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A new issue has come to light: where are the NGOs picking up the refugees?

Nearly 1,200 Migrants Picked Up Off Libya, Heading To Italy (R.)

Humanitarian ships rescued almost 1,200 migrants who were crossing the Mediterranean Sea at the weekend on an array of small, tightly packed boats, Doctors Without Borders said on Sunday. A young woman was found unconscious on one of the vessels and later died, the group said. Some 412 people were crammed onto a single wooden boat, while the others were picked up from huge inflatable dinghies, which had set sail from the coast of Libya. The weekend rescues mean that about 22,000 mainly African migrants have been picked up heading to Italy so far this year, while around 520 have died trying to make the crossing.

An Italian prosecutor said last week that humanitarian ships operating off Libya were undermining the fight against people smugglers and opening a corridor that is ultimately leading to more migrant deaths. The chief prosecutor of the Sicilian port city of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, said he also suspected that there may be direct communication between Libya-based smugglers and members of charity-operated rescue vessels. NGOs deny any wrongdoing, saying they are simply looking to save lives, but they are facing criticism in Italy, which has taken in about half a million migrants since the start of 2014.

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Italy thinks George Soros is sponsoring this.

Italy Calls For Investigation Of NGO Supported Migrant Fleet (Dm.)

Italian authorities are calling for monitoring of the funding of an NGO fleet bussing migrants into the EU from the North African coast after a report released the European Border and Coast Guard Agency has determined that the members of the fleet are acting as accomplices to people smugglers and directly contributing to the risk of death migrants face when attempting to enter the EU. The report from regulatory agency Frontex suggests that NGOs sponsoring ships in the fleet are now acting as veritable accomplices to people smugglers due to their service which, in effect, provides a reliable shuttle service for migrants from North Africa to Italy. The fleet lowers smugglers’ costs, as it all but eliminates the need to procure seaworthy vessels capable making a full voyage across the Mediterranean to the European coastline.

Traffickers are also able to operate with much less risk of arrest by European law enforcement officers. Frontex specifically noted that traffickers have intentionally sought to alter their strategy, sending their vessels to ships run by the NGO fleet rather than the Italian and EU military. On March 25th, 2017, Italian news source Il Giornale carried remarks from Carmelo Zuccaro, the chief prosecutor of Catania (Sicily) calling for monitoring of the funding behind the NGO groups engaged in operating the migrant fleet. He stated that “the facilitation of illegal immigration is a punishable offense regardless of the intention.” While it is not a crime to enter the waters of a foreign country and pick them migrants, NGOs are supposed to land them at the nearest port of call, which would have been somewhere along the North African coast instead of in Italy.

The chief prosecutor also noted that Italy is investigating Islamic radicalization occurring in prisons and camps where immigrants are hired off the books. Italy has for some months been reeling under the pressure of massive numbers of migrants who have been moving from North Africa into the southern states of the European Union. In December 2016, The Express cited comments made by Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Vatican City, stating that Rome was on the verge of a “war” between migrants and poor Italians. The wave of migrants has also caused issues in southern Italy, where the Sicilian Cosa Nostra has declared a “war on migrants” last year amid reports that the Italian mafia had begun fighting with North African crime gangs who entered the EU among migrant populations.

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Mar 172017
 
 March 17, 2017  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
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DPC Wall Street and Trinity Church, New York 1903

 


California Judge Seeks To Prevent Immigration Arrests Inside State Courts (R.)
Collapsing Pensions Will Fuel America’s Next Financial Crisis (MW)
Statoil CEO Warns of Globalization ‘In Reverse’ (BBG)
Treasury’s Mnuchin Says Trump Does Not Want Trade Wars (R.)
Would Trump Budget Cut Meals On Wheels Funding? (BI)
Dutch Election Puts Question Mark Over Eurogroup Chief Dijsselbloem (R.)
Congressman Huizenga Introduces Bill to Oppose IMF’s Third Greek Bailout (YV)
Senators Demand State Department Probe Into Soros Organizations (ZH)
Mounting Costs, Not PBOC, Could Slow China’s Bank Debt Binge (BBG)
Will Chrystia Freeland Finally Ruin Canadian-Russian Relations? (SCF)
The Energy Market Explained (Clarke and Dawe)
Greek Public Health System On Brink, Doctors Warn (K.)
First-Time Asylum Applicants In Greece Up 339% In 2016 (Amna)
Refugees In Greece Suffering After EU Deal With Turkey, Say NGOs (G.)
Child Refugees In Greece Self-Harming And Attempting Suicide (Ind.)
Ai Weiwei Slams ‘Shameful’ Politicians Ignoring Refugees (AFP)

 

 

One very big step over the decency line.

California Judge Seeks To Prevent Immigration Arrests Inside State Courts (R.)

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she was gravely troubled by recent reports that federal agents were “stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration law,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote. Trump has vowed to increase deportations and has widened the net of illegal immigrants prioritized for detention and removal. “We will review the letter and have no further comment at this time,” Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in an email.

Immigrant rights groups say federal agents have entered courthouses with increased frequency this year, including in California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Texas, said National Immigration Law Center staff attorney Melissa Keaney. “It’s definitely an issue we’re seeing a tremendous increase in under the new administration,” Keaney said by phone on Thursday. Cantil-Sakauye stopped short of questioning the legal right of federal agents to enter courthouses to locate and detain unauthorized immigrants. Her letter said the presence of immigration agents in California courthouses could undermine “public trust and confidence in our state court system,” which serves “millions of the most vulnerable Californians.”

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I don’t think pensions are in line to be the next crisis, but they will certainly cause one.

Collapsing Pensions Will Fuel America’s Next Financial Crisis (MW)

Washington has a knack for ignoring long-term financial shortfalls and painting overly rosy scenarios about the future to make their numbers work in the here and now. Case in point: Donald Trump’s unrealistic projection that the U.S. economy will grow at 3% this year, when the latest GDP forecasts have actually been reduced to 1.8% by a number of economists. Then there is Social Security. Many politicians are just too intimidated, uninformed or complacent to tackle the unsustainability of Social Security — which by the latest tally will see its trust fund go to zero just 17 years from now, in 2034. But while fudging GDP numbers is dangerous for America’s economic outlook and the demise of Social Security in two decades is a serious long-term concern, America faces a mathematical problem that dwarfs both of these items: A pending pension crisis that could leave millions of Americans high and dry in the very near future.

Sure, it would be difficult for many if the U.S. economy stumbles under misguided Trump policies. And yes, the idea of even modest cuts to Social Security in the coming decades could serious affect millions of seniors. But take a look South Carolina’s government pension plan, which covers roughly 550,000 people – one out of nine state residents – but is a staggering $24.1 billion in the red. This is not a distant concern, but a system already in crisis. Younger workers are being asked to do much more to support the pensions of retirees. An analysis by the The Post and Courier of Charleston noted recently that “Government workers and their employers have seen five hikes in their pension plan contributions since 2012, and there’s no end in sight.” (Most now contribute 8.66% of their pay, vs. 6.5% before the changes.) At the same time, the pension fund has been chasing more stocks and alternative investments instead of relying on stable investments like bonds that may be much less volatile but generate only meager returns.

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Of course Big Oil CEOs like globalization. But it’s still quite something to hear an oil exec claim: “Cross-border cooperation is also essential to solve climate change..”

Statoil CEO Warns of Globalization ‘In Reverse’ (BBG)

After the surprise election of Donald Trump, the head of Norway’s biggest oil company headed to Washington D.C. this month looking for reassurance. He came away as worried as ever. “I was looking for clarity, also some guidance, good advice, and also some people to talk to – new relationships within the administration,” Statoil CEO Eldar Saetre told a conference in Oslo on Thursday. “I have to be honest with you – I didn’t get much of any of it.” Saetre, whose company has stakes in three U.S. onshore areas and in the Gulf of Mexico, was concerned about the protectionist bent of the new president’s rhetoric. Combined with last year’s Brexit vote and looming elections in Europe where nationalists are gaining influence, he sees Trump’s victory as a threat to global free trade.

“From Brexit to Trump, we see warning signs that globalization could be going in reverse,” Saetre said at the annual Swedbank Energy Summit. “For our industry, I believe that would be very negative.” Trump’s energy policies could benefit oil producers in the U.S. by loosening regulations and freeing up more areas for drilling. However, his protectionist agenda could affect economic growth and trading relations with countries from neighboring Mexico to Asia. “Global collaboration and integrated markets have been and will remain key to make our industry prosper,” Saetre said. “Fair, open access to markets are keys to enable investments, value creation and jobs in our industry.” Cross-border cooperation is also essential to solve climate change, making it “more important than ever,” Saetre said.

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Schäuble and Mnuchin. Lovely pair.

Treasury’s Mnuchin Says Trump Does Not Want Trade Wars (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the Trump administration has no desire to get into trade wars, but certain trade relationships need to be re-examined to make them fairer for U.S. workers. At a news conference with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Mnuchin said that President Donald Trump views trade as important for economic growth. But when asked whether the Group of 20 finance ministers should explicitly reaffirm their past vow to resist protectionism, Mnuchin repeated his view that some U.S. trade relationships need to be re-examined to make them fairer and more reciprocal. “It is not our desire to get into trade wars,” Mnuchin said. “The president does believe in free trade but he wants free and fair trade.” Differences over trade could become a sticking point for G20 finance officials at a meeting in the spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany this weekend.

Schaeuble told Reuters in an interview that it was unclear whether the anti-protectionism language would remain in the G20 statement to be issued at the meeting’s close on Saturday. Given that Trump’s “America First” agenda, trade issues could be set aside for G20 leaders to tackle at a summit in July, Schaeuble said. But both Schaeuble and Mnuchin both said they had a constructive discussion ahead of the G20 meeting and pledged to work together through differences to promote growth. “It was a good start,” Schaeuble said of the meeting, adding that it was a positive sign for international cooperation and the G20 process. “We have found a good basis to talk openly about issues where we don’t have the same stance from the outset,” Schaeuble said. Mnuchin said the ministers agreed that they should fight currency manipulation.

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This viral story looks sensationalized. Meals on Wheels gets just part of its funding from the Community Development Block Grant program. I included the article anyway because we’re getting into Bizarro World territory here: “You’re only focusing on recipients of the money,” Mulvaney said. “We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.'”

Would Trump Budget Cut Meals On Wheels Funding? (BI)

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, unveiled on Thursday, would cut federal funding for Meals on Wheels, a program that provides daily meals to millions of low-income seniors across the country. White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a press conference Thursday that Meals on Wheels “sounds great.” But he said that along with other anti-poverty programs, it is “not showing any results.” “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” Mulvaney told reporters. “We’re not going to spend money on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”

Trump’s budget would strip $3 billion from the Community Development Block Grant program, which supports a variety of community-development and anti-poverty programs. Those include Meals on Wheels, which provided 219 million meals to 2.4 million seniors in 2016. CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked Mulvaney if the funding cuts were “hard-hearted.” Mulvaney responded that reducing government spending on ineffective programs is “probably one of the most compassionate things we can do.” “You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re only focusing on recipients of the money,” Mulvaney said. “We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore.'”

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Get rid of him already. Right now. Then again, Kazimir is probably next in line, and he’s just as bad. Cooler heads should demand a more reasonable, not neo-liberal choice. Fat chance.

Dutch Election Puts Question Mark Over Eurogroup Chief Dijsselbloem (R.)

Jeroen Dijsselbloem may have to stand down as president of the Eurogroup which coordinates policy in the eurozone if he cannot retain his role as Dutch finance minister in a new coalition after his party was routed in Wednesday’s election. The Labor Party crashed from second to seventh place in preliminary results, losing more than three-quarters of its seats and making it hard for victorious liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte to retain Dijsselbloem in such a senior cabinet post, even though he has made clear his appreciation of his work. Neither man commented on the matter directly Thursday. Dijsselbloem is due to represent the Eurogroup at a G20 meeting in Germany Friday and to chair the monthly meeting of the 19 eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday.

While other eurozone finance ministers may seek his role, there is a lack of obvious contenders, particularly given that many governments will resist appointing a politician from the right because conservatives hold most other top EU jobs. It is just possible Dijsselbloem might retain his Dutch portfolio. There has also been speculation that the Eurogroup could keep him on as chairman even if he loses his national job – although some senior officials say that is most unlikely. Dijsselbloem, whose second 30-month term ends in January, has been popular with fellow ministers, balancing a background on the left with support from conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, who wields Germany’s power on the Eurogroup and insists on strict terms for Greece and other states awarded bailout loans.

The Dutchman will remain in office for weeks, and possibly months, as Rutte struggles to put together a new coalition after Wednesday’s election. Rutte’s own party lost seats and the anti-immigration party of Geert Wilders finished in second place. Eurogroup rules do not stipulate that its president must be a serving finance minister. But senior eurozone officials have said lately that they do not believe fellow ministers would keep Dijsselbloem on if he lost his main job in The Hague. In the longer term, there has been talk of making the position a full-time one, with its own staff. But that is not yet agreed.

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Dijsselbloem’s ‘friend’ Varoufakis found this.

Congressman Huizenga Introduces Bill to Oppose IMF’s Third Greek Bailout (YV)

Anyone who doubted that the IMF is in deep trouble over its inane involvement in the toxic Greek bailout, and Berlin’s policy of extending Greece’s insolvency ad infinitum while the country’s social economy shrinks, should now have no more doubts. Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, yesterday introduced the IMF Reform and Integrity Act, which would require the U.S. to oppose the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) co-financing of a third Greek bailout with the European Stability Mechanism. If such co-financing were to go forward, the bill would prohibit the U.S. from supporting an IMF quota increase until funds are repaid in full.

“The IMF is supposed to be a lender of last resort, not a fig leaf of first resort for Eurozone members,” said Congressman Huizenga. “The IMF isn’t a fund to rescue political parties in creditor nations, nor should it be a junior partner to outside organizations that lack the commitment to do their work. For seven years now, the IMF has been used to shield Eurozone officials from their voters, which has tarnished the Fund’s reputation, prolonged Greece’s misery, and put off hard choices about Europe’s future that must be made regardless. As the IMF’s largest shareholder, the U.S. should ensure that the Fund remains independent and free from politicization that could put taxpayer dollars at risk. This bill will help make that a reality.”

In addition, the IMF Reform and Integrity Act cancels supplementary IMF funds that have already been deactivated, rescinding them and sending those resources back to the U.S. Treasury. The bill also clarifies existing law to require the U.S. Executive Director of the Fund to oppose any loan to a country whose debt is unsustainable.

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Why Putin threw out Soros, and America should too.

Senators Demand State Department Probe Into Soros Organizations (ZH)

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and a group of his colleagues are calling on the newly appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to immediately investigate how US taxpayer funds are being used by the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support Soros-backed, leftist political groups in several Eastern European countries including Macedonia and Albania. According to the letter, potentially millions of taxpayer dollars are being funneled through USAID to Soros’ Open Society Foundations with the explicit goal of pushing his progressive agenda. “Unfortunately, we have received a credible report that, over the past few years, the U.S. Mission there has actively intervened in the party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society, often favoring left-leaning political group over others. We find these reports discoraging and, if true, highly problematic.”

“Much of the concerning activity in Macedonia has been perpetuated through USAID funds awarded to implementing entities such as George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. As the recipient of multiple grant awards and serving as a USAID contractor implementing projects in this small nation of 2.1 million people, our taxpayer funded foreign aid goes far, allowing Foundation Open Society – Macedonia (FOSM) to push a progressive agenda and invigorate the political left. Our foreign aid should only be used to promote a political agenda if it is in the security or economic interests of our country to do so, and even at that, we must be cautious and respectful in such an endeavor. We should be especially wary of promoting policies that remain controversial even in our own country and that have the potential to harm our relationship with the citizens of recipient countries.”

As Fox News pointed out, USAID gave nearly $15 million to Soros’ Foundation Open Society – Macedonia, and other Soros-linked organizations in the region, in the last 4 years of Obama’s presidency alone. “The USAID website shows that between 2012 and 2016, USAID gave almost $5 million in taxpayer cash to FOSM for “The Civil Society Project,” which “aims to empower Macedonian citizens to hold government accountable.” USAID’s website links to www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians “in youth activism and the use of new media instruments.” The State Department told lawmakers that in addition to that project, USAID has recently funded a new Civic Engagement Project which partners with four organizations, including FOSM. The cost is believed to be around $9.5 million. A citizen’s initiative called “Stop Operation Soros” has also published a white paper alleging U.S. money has been funding violent riots in the streets [..]

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Can the shadow sector step in once again?

Mounting Costs, Not PBOC, Could Slow China’s Bank Debt Binge (BBG)

China may avoid having to pull out the big stick when it comes to reining in a record short-term borrowing spree by its smaller banks. The increased cost to lenders of issuing so-called negotiable certificates of deposit will naturally deflate a market that jumped by 90% in February from a year earlier, according to Ping An Securities. Demand is also waning for the securities, used by Chinese banks as a way of leveraging up investments and expanding their balance sheets, with mutual funds cutting their holdings to the lowest level in at least a year in January. “It’s unsustainable for commercial banks to take such high costs,” said Shi Lei at Ping An, a unit of China’s second-largest insurer. “NCDs are now even more expensive than short-term commercial paper. It will be corrected as lenders complete their adjustments in the term structure of the debt.”

Introduced by the People’s Bank of China in 2013 as a fresh source of money for smaller lenders which have difficulty competing for savings against big state banks, NCDs have morphed into a way for them to fund purchases of each other’s wealth-management products. That boosts refinancing risks in a banking system that will see a record 3.65 trillion yuan ($529 billion) of the notes maturing this quarter. This hasn’t escaped the attention of the authorities, with the PBOC looking at classifying NCDs as interbank liabilities, Caixin.com reported in January, a move that would quell growth in the market given limits on how much in interbank debt Chinese lenders are allowed to hold relative to their overall liabilities. The central bank has been ramping up its campaign to contain leverage since August, tightening money-market rates as a way of discouraging borrowing. The PBOC boosted borrowing costs for lenders Thursday, just hours after the Federal Reserve lifted benchmark interest rates.

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It’s remarkable that she still has her job. What a blemish on Canada she is.

Will Chrystia Freeland Finally Ruin Canadian-Russian Relations? (SCF)

On 10 January 2017 Canadian PM Justin Trudeau fired his minister of external affairs, Stéphane Dion, and replaced him with Chrystia Freeland, who was then minister of international trade. This cabinet shuffle might not have gotten much public notice except that Dion is a distinguished parliamentarian, former leader of the party and leader of the opposition, and a former key minister in the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. Freeland, on the other hand, is a well-known Ukrainian ultra-nationalist and self-declared Russophobe and hater of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sacking of Dion was also noteworthy because Trudeau had run on an electoral platform in 2015 promising, inter alia, to improve Canadian relations with Russia, spoilt by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. When Dion became minister of external affairs, he confirmed the Liberal commitment to re-establish more constructive Canadian-Russian relations.

[..] Why should Canadians care one way or another whether their government supports the Ukraine and sends arms and advisors there to strengthen Ukrainian military forces? Well, the most important reason is that the present government in Kiev is illegitimate in spite of democratic appearances. It is the spawn of a violent coup d’état in February 2014, brokered and supported by the United States and the European Union, which overthrew the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich. The vanguard of the Kiev coup d’état are neo-Nazi, fascist or ultra nationalist political and paramilitary organisations, notably the political party Svoboda, the paramilitary Pravyi sektor and various other paramilitary forces such as the so-called Azov and Aidar battalions. These paramilitary units were and are used to crush opposition in those parts of the Ukraine controlled by Kiev.

Neo-Nazi violence and intimidation worked in many places, but not in others. In the Crimea, the population united almost to the last man and woman, to toss out the putschist authorities and to vote for reunification with Russia. In the east, in the Donbass, the anti-fascist resistance repulsed Kiev punitive forces with heavy losses. These remarkable feats of arms, redolent of so many others in Russian history, were wasted by Moscow, which disregarded a first principle of war that one never lets an enemy withdraw to fight another day. «He who spares the aggressor», Stalin once remarked, «wants another war.» It may shock some people to hear Stalin quoted, but Plutarch, Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz might have said the same thing. Moscow supported the so-called Minsk peace accords which were never respected by the Kiev authorities. Ultra-nationalists even boasted that they had agreed to Minsk solely in order to rest and refit their beaten forces. It was only a ruse de guerre.

These are the forces which the Canadian government now supports with the enthusiastic backing of Minister Freeland. For her, it must be a lifelong dream-come-true. There has been much press comment during the last week or so about Freeland’s Ukrainian grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, a Nazi collaborator during World War II. Freeland claimed that he was only a refugee from Stalinist violence. He might have been, but he also collaborated with Nazi Germany. In many places in Europe, France and Italy, for example, collaborators were summarily shot or imprisoned after the war. In France, more than 5,000 were executed including Pierre Laval, a prominent French politician, who sided with Nazi Germany and vaunted collaboration to oppose the USSR. Another 38,000 French collaborators were jailed. Chomiak was lucky he was not hanged and that he ended up in northern Alberta, to die a well-to-do farmer.

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More brilliance. “We don’t have en energy system. We have an energy market.”

The Energy Market Explained (Clarke and Dawe)

“Wal Socket. Energy Consultant”

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A European crime. One of many perpetrated on Greece.

Greek Public Health System On Brink, Doctors Warn (K.)

The National Health System (ESY) is on the the brink of collapse, according to the Panhellenic Medical Association (PIS), which cited chronic shortages in staff and equipment at public hospitals around the country due to limited finances, and disruptions in the primary healthcare system. The association added that the only reason the health system is still running is due to the efforts of existing staff, whose endurance levels, however, are being put to the test. “The average age of ESY doctors is 60. And these people will be leaving in a few years,” said PIS president Michail Vlastarakos, adding that public hospitals need 6,500 additional permanent medical staff.

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And the EU still hasn’t supplied the promised help for dealing with the applications.

First-Time Asylum Applicants In Greece Up 339% In 2016 (Amna)

There was a 339% increase of in the number of first-time asylum applicants in Greece in 2016, which rose to 49,875 in 2016 from 11,370 in 2015, according to figures released by Eurostat on Thursday. On the basis of these figures, Greece ranks second among EU countries for the total number of asylum applications filed in relation to its population. Germany is first with 8,789 applications per million population, followed by Greece with 4,525 applications per million population. Third is Austria with 4,587, followed by Malta (3,989), Luxembourg (3,582) and Cyprus (3,350). The number of new asylum applicants on an EU level dropped to 1.204 million in 2016, for a percentage change of -4%, but were more than double the number of applicants in 2014. Most asylum applicants in EU member-states were Syrians (28%), Afghans (15%) and Iraqis (11%). In Greece, Syrians accounted for more than half of asylum applicants (53%), Iraqis for 10% and Pakistanis 9%.

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The NGOs themselves are part of the problem too.

Refugees In Greece Suffering After EU Deal With Turkey, Say NGOs (G.)

Greece is being used as a testing ground for degrading asylum policies that fall short of the democratic values Europe would normally uphold, say refugee groups marking the first anniversary of a deal designed to slow arrivals to the continent. The accord struck last year between Turkey and the EU has been praised in some quarters for having slowed arrivals into Europe and reduced deaths in the Aegean sea. But basic human rights were lost in the process, the organisations claim. “Greece has become a testing ground for policies that are eroding international protection standards,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee and Oxfam, in a joint report based on extensive fieldwork on Aegean islands where more than 14,000 men, women and children are trapped in abysmal conditions.

“Over the course of the year, there have been deaths, suicide attempts, people engaging in self harm, and children, women and men exposed to abuse and sexual violence.” The withering assessment, coming almost 12 months to the day since the agreement was reached between Ankara and Brussels, is in stark contrast to the official view of an accord hailed by the EU, at the time, as a breakthrough in the migration crisis. Agreed in exchange for €6bn in refugee aid to Ankara, it was seen as a vital step in resolving a crisis that at its height threatened to tear the bloc apart. Since its implementation, the number of refugees and migrants going to Europe via Turkey has dropped dramatically.

Islands such as Lesbos, which is near Turkey, are reporting 100 arrivals or fewer a day, while in 2015, when more than 1 million people streamed into Europe, it received 10,000 men, women and children over one weekend. But NGOs say the reality on the ground is that the deal has prolonged and exacerbated human suffering. The report found that, incarcerated on Greek islands, asylum seekers had been made to live in substandard and overcrowded conditions for months on end. With limited access to fair and effective asylum procedures they were subject to “a convoluted and constantly changing process” that lacked oversights and checks and balances. Often legal experts were unable to keep track of a system that was impossible for people to navigate alone.

A separate report by Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières warned that there were worrying levels of mental health problems among migrants and refugees in the Greek camps. It said people including children as young as nine were cutting themselves, attempting suicide and using drugs to cope with the “endless misery”. Mental health was “rapidly deteriorating due to the conditions created as a result of this deal”, Save the Children said. [..] The report expressed the NGOs’ fears that the deal would become a blueprint for crises elsewhere. “Beyond the deeply concerning situation in Greece, the EU is looking to replicate this model elsewhere, and, in so doing, risks setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world,” said the report.

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Creating child zombies.

Child Refugees In Greece Self-Harming And Attempting Suicide (Ind.)

Desperate refugees trapped in Greece are self-harming and attempting suicide as a result of “disastrous” EU policies, aid agencies have warned. More refugees are dying than ever before while attempting to reach Europe, almost a year after a controversial deal was struck with Turkey in an effort to prevent boat crossings across the Aegean Sea. The agreement has stranded thousands of asylum seekers in Greece, where aid agencies say children are among rising numbers of migrants trying to kill themselves after months trapped in squalid camps. Research by Save the Children found more than 5,000 minors are living in “appalling conditions” that are driving a mounting mental health crisis. It has recorded children as young as nine self-harming and 12-year-olds attempting suicide, sometimes filming themselves in the act, as well as a spike in drug and alcohol abuse by teenagers who are exploited by dealers in camps.

Violent protests and deaths are traumatising the youngest and most vulnerable refugees, whose families say they are too scared to let their children play out of sight in case they are hurt or abused. Save the Children staff report that some unaccompanied children live in “24-hour survival mode” and sleep in shifts to try to stay safe, while others disappear or pay smugglers to leave the Greek islands. “The EU-Turkey deal was meant to end the flow of ‘irregular migrants’ to Greece, but at what cost?” said Andreas Ring, Save the Children’s humanitarian representative. “Many of these children have escaped war and conflict only to end up in camps many of them call ‘hell’ and where they say they are made to feel more like animals than humans.” Since 20 March 2016, all migrants arriving on Greek islands have been held, under threat of deportation to Turkey, while their asylum applications are processed, but legal blocks have slowed transfers and left refugees in overcrowded tent camps for up to a year.

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“..you cannot be so short-sighted, you cannot have no vision, you cannot sacrifice human dignity and human rights for political gain..”

Ai Weiwei Slams ‘Shameful’ Politicians Ignoring Refugees (AFP)

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on Thursday slammed “shameful” politicians who ignore refugees as he launched a giant art installation centered on their fate at the National Gallery in Prague. Called “Law of the Journey”, the show features a 70-metre-long (230-foot-long) inflatable boat with 258 oversize refugee figures. A tribute to the thousands who have drowned crossing the Mediterranean, the piece is Ai’s biggest-ever installation. It will be on display until the end of the year. “My message is very clear: being a politician or a political group, you cannot be so short-sighted, you cannot have no vision, you cannot sacrifice human dignity and human rights for political gain,” Ai told AFP. “I think this is very, very shameful behaviour,” he added.

The Czech Republic and the other post-Communist central European members have rejected EU plans to allow Muslim refugees on their territories throughout the migrant crisis. Immigration from Muslim countries has become a hot political topic in these states, although most refugees have opted for wealthier western countries like Germany or Sweden. “If we see somebody who has been victimised by war or desperately trying to find a peaceful place, if we don’t accept those people, the real challenge and the real crisis is not of all the people who feel the pain but rather for the people who ignore to recognise it or pretend that it doesn’t exist,” said Ai. “That is both a tragedy and a crime,” said the 59-year-old painter, sculptor and photographer. Ai spent the last year visiting such migrant and refugee hotspots as the US-Mexican border badlands to the Turkish-Syrian frontier and crowded holding camps on Greek islands.

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Jan 232017
 
 January 23, 2017  Posted by at 10:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »
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DPC Looking south on Fifth Avenue at East 56th Street, NYC 1905


We’ve Been in Decline for 40 Years – Trump is a Chance to Rethink – Eno (G.)
The Coming Unhappiness With Trump – Egon von Greyerz (KWN)
Trump’s Infrastructure, Defense Plans Will Lead To Ruin – Ron Paul (CNBC)
China’s Central Bank ‘Playing Dangerous Game’ To Prop Up Yuan (SCMP)
EU Is Dead But Doesn’t Know This Yet – Marine Le Pen (DS)
We Need An Alternative To Trump’s Nationalism. It’s Not The Status Quo (YV)
George Soros and the Women’s March on Washington (Nomani)
These are the Countries with the Biggest Debt Slaves (WS)
“Billion-Year” Gambian President Was Installed By The CIA (SCF)
Greek Supreme Court To Decide On Fate Of Eight Turkish Servicemen (Kath.)
UK Government ‘Sneaks Out’ Its Own Alarming Report On Climate Change (Ind.)
The Last Time Oceans Got This Warm Sea Levels Were 20 to 30 Feet Higher (LAT)

 

 

Only fitting that the best description of how I feel about this can be found in an interview about music.

We’ve Been in Decline for 40 Years – Trump is a Chance to Rethink – Eno (G.)

He has called himself an optimist. In the past. I ask him if he still is, post-2016. Yes, he says, there is a positive way to look at it. “Most people I know felt that 2016 was the beginning of a long decline with Brexit, then Trump and all these nationalist movements in Europe. It looked like things were going to get worse and worse. I said: ‘Well, what about thinking about it in a different way?’ Actually, it’s the end of a long decline. We’ve been in decline for about 40 years since Thatcher and Reagan and the Ayn Rand infection spread through the political class, and perhaps we’ve bottomed out. My feeling about Brexit was not anger at anybody else, it was anger at myself for not realising what was going on. I thought that all those Ukip people and those National Fronty people were in a little bubble.

Then I thought: ‘Fuck, it was us, we were in the bubble, we didn’t notice it.’ There was a revolution brewing and we didn’t spot it because we didn’t make it. We expected we were going to be the revolution.” He draws me a little diagram to explain how society has changed – productivity and real wages rising in tandem till 1975, then productivity continuing to rise while real wages fell. “It is easily summarised in that Joseph Stiglitz graph.” The trouble now, he says, is the extremes of wealth and poverty. “You have 62 people worth the amount the bottom three and a half billion people are worth. Sixty-two people! You could put them all in one bloody bus … then crash it!” He grins. “Don’t say that bit.” (Since we meet, Oxfam publish a report suggesting that only eight men own as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world – half the world’s population.)

[..] He is still thinking about the political fallout of the past year. “Actually, in retrospect, I’ve started to think I’m pleased about Trump and I’m pleased about Brexit because it gives us a kick up the arse and we needed it because we weren’t going to change anything. Just imagine if Hillary Clinton had won and we’d been business as usual, the whole structure she’d inherited, the whole Clinton family myth. I don’t know that’s a future I would particularly want. It just seems that was grinding slowly to a halt, whereas now, with Trump, there’s a chance of a proper crash, and a chance to really rethink.”

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Not his fault. As I wrote in November 8’s America is the Poisoned Chalice.

The Coming Unhappiness With Trump – Egon von Greyerz (KWN)

“The new US Administration has taken over with the conviction that they will “make America great again.” I really hope they will succeed because a strong US would be good for the world. Sadly, the odds of achieving that admirable objective are totally stacked against them. At the end of the next 4 years there is a risk that this Administration will be more hated than any government since Carter and probably even more hated than Carter. The coming unhappiness with Trump and his team will not arise because of the actions they take. They will clearly do everything in their might to make America great again. But the probabilities are totally against them to achieve this goal. They are taking over power at a time when debt has grown exponentially since the 1970s. They are also assuming power of a country that has not achieved a proper budget surplus for well over half a century. Even worse, the US has not had a positive trade balance since the early 1970s.

So here we have a country that has been living above its means for decades and has no real chance of changing this vicious cycle. The Federal debt is at $20 trillion and has been growing at the rate of 9% per year for the last 40 odd years. The forecast for the next four years is that the growth of the debt will accelerate. Total US debt is over $70 trillion or over 3.5x GDP. But that is just a fraction of the US liabilities. Unfunded liabilities are over $200 trillion. And you can add to that to the real gross derivative positions of US banks, which most likely more than $500 trillion. The success of a president in the US is closely linked to the performance of the stock market. Therefore, the best chance for a president to be loved by the American people and re-elected is for stocks to go up. P/Es on the S&P index are now at 70% above their historical mean – hardly a position from which it is likely to surge. Corporate borrowings have also surged since the Great Financial Crisis started.

In 2006 US corporate debt was just over $2 trillion. Today it is more than 3x higher at $7 trillion! At the same time, cash as a%age of corporate debt is declining and is now down to 27%. Within this massive increase in debt, there are major defaults looming in many areas like car loans, student loans and the fracking sector where potential write offs could be in the trillions of dollars. Another disaster which is guaranteed to happen in the US and the rest of the world is the coming pension crisis. Most people in the West have zero or a minimal pension. And even for the ones who have proper pension plans, they are greatly underfunded. It is estimated that US state and local government pensions are underfunded to the extent of a mind-blowing $6 trillion. And this is after a long period of surging stocks and bonds. Imagine what will happen to these pensions when stocks and bonds collapse, which is very likely to happen in the next few years.

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Look here, CNBC, introducing Ron Paul as a “well-known Trump critic” is insane. Fake labeling.

Trump’s Infrastructure, Defense Plans Will Lead To Ruin – Ron Paul (CNBC)

For all the fanfare that greeted President Donald Trump at his inauguration on Friday, the next four years of his presidency could very well be marred by a weakening economy as a result of “injurious” policies. That’s according to past Texas Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who joined CNBC’s “Futures Now” last week to echo his past sentiments about the new president. Most notably, the well-known Trump critic believes that the President’s proposed plans could overspend the economy into trouble and drive the Federal Reserve to interfere. “With his massive increase in infrastructure and the military, I think there’s going to be a lot more spending,” said Paul. “The debt is going to be much bigger [and] I think that will put more pressure” on the Federal Reserve, he said, with the central bank already planning to tighten interest rates.

“You have good times, and then you have bad times to compensate for the artificially good times,” he added. “So we’ll have a downturn and that will be a real challenge for the new administration.” Although most of Wall Street appears bullish about the short-term economic outlook under Trump’s fiscal policy plans, some economists have been less than sanguine. Paul’s critique echoed that of David Stockman, a former Reagan-era budget director who also warned CNBC last week that Trump’s plans would ultimately lead to financial calamity. Paul had refused to endorse Trump from early on in the election cycle, claiming that the now President would divide the Republican Party. Much of Paul’s criticism of Trump lies with the latter’s proposed border taxes, which Paul believes is actually more of a “tariff” that would block free trade. “I think that right now, I’d fear most the retaliation [from other countries] and the burden it’s going to place on the consumer,” said Paul.

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“Floatation does not mean a large devaluation,” he said. “Actually, a one-off devaluation [of the yuan] doesn’t need to be big

No, I don’t think so. A devaluation must be big, because you can’t risk having to repeat it. And floatation will mean a large loss of value no matter what. When you float, you can’t manipulate anymore.

China’s Central Bank ‘Playing Dangerous Game’ To Prop Up Yuan (SCMP)

China’s central bank is playing a dangerous game using the country’s foreign reserves to defend the yuan because it could leave the nation defenceless in an increasingly volatile world, a state researcher has warned. Zhang Ming, senior fellow at the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) should take a hands-off approach to the currency and focus on safeguarding foreign exchange reserves. “Forex reserves are valuable assets that [China] can use at critical times. It’s a pity that they are being sold heavily in the market,” Zhang said. “It should be the last resort.” Zhang said the PBOC was betting on “the weakening of the US dollar and a domestic economic rebound”.

The country’s forex reserves have shrunk by almost a $1 trillion since June 2014 as the central bank has sought to prevent a large fall in the yuan against the U.S. dollar. Zhang call’s for Beijing to reverse tack and abandon its heavy intervention in the foreign exchange market is gaining traction among researchers. Zhang Bin, another researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, agreed that Beijing should free up controls on the yuan’s exchange rate by reducing government intervention in the market. “Floatation does not mean a large devaluation,” he said. “Actually, a one-off devaluation [of the yuan] doesn’t need to be big, and [the currency] may rebound as well. By doing this it will help the domestic economy,” he said.

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She’s dead on, I’ve been saying this for years, and she’s getting it handed to her on a silver platter the same way Trump was.

EU Is Dead But Doesn’t Know This Yet – Marine Le Pen (DS)

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Sunday that France has to leave the European Union as she claimed that staying in the bloc is no longer a viable option for the country. Speaking in an interview with France’s BGNES, Le Pen said the EU is dead but it does not know this yet, stating that the bloc has failed economically, socially as well as security-wise. She said the recent economic growth, unemployment and poverty indicators prove the EU’s failure, adding that the bloc is also incapable of protecting its own borders against what she called as “Islamic terrorism”. With voters across Europe moving to the right, most polls currently show a Fillon-Le Pen runoff is the most likely scenario in May. National Front leader Le Pen told a meeting of rightwing populist parties in Germany on Saturday that Europe was about to “wake up” following the victory of Donald Trump in the US election and the British vote to leave the EU.

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I get what Varoufakis thinks and says, but I also think renewed nationalism is backed into the cake by now. Where I differ from most is I don’t see that as a disaster, not necessarily. It’s the EU that is a disaster.

We Need An Alternative To Trump’s Nationalism. It’s Not The Status Quo (YV)

Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neoliberalism had sought to persuade that privatisation of everything would produce a fair and efficient society unimpeded by vested interests or bureaucratic fiat. That narrative, of course, hid from public view what was really happening: a tremendous buildup of super-state bureaucracies, unaccountable supra-state institutions (World Trade Organisation, Nafta, the European Central Bank), behemoth corporations, and a global financial sector heading for the rocks. After the events of 2008 something remarkable happened. For the first time in modern times the establishment no longer cared to persuade the masses that its way was socially optimal.

Overwhelmed by the collapsing financial pyramids, the inexorable buildup of unsustainable debt, a eurozone in an advanced state of disintegration and a China increasingly relying on an impossible credit boom, the establishment’s functionaries set aside the aspiration to persuade or to represent. Instead, they concentrated on clamping down. In the UK, more than a million benefit applicants faced punitive sanctions. In the Eurozone, the troika ruthlessly sought to reduce the pensions of the poorest of the poor. In the United States, both parties promised drastic cuts to social security spending. During our deflationary times none of these policies helped stabilise capitalism at a national or at a global level. So, why were they pursued?

Their purpose was to impose acquiescence to a clueless establishment that had lost its ambition to maintain its legitimacy. When the UK government forced benefit claimants to declare in writing that “my only limits are the ones I set myself”, or when the troika forced the Greek or Irish governments to write letters “requesting” predatory loans from the European Central Bank that benefited Frankfurt-based bankers at the expense of their people, the idea was to maintain power via calculated humiliation. Similarly, in America the establishment habitually blamed the victims of predatory lending and the failed health system.

It was against this insurgency of a cornered establishment that had given up on persuasion that Donald Trump and his European allies rose up with their own populist insurgency. They proved that it is possible to go against the establishment and win. Alas, theirs will be a pyrrhic victory which will, eventually, harm those whom they inspired. The answer to neoliberalism’s Waterloo cannot be the retreat to a barricaded nation-state and the pitting of “our” people against “others” fenced off by tall walls and electrified fences.

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Russia threw out Soros, Hungary wants to, so does FYROM. Who’s next?

George Soros and the Women’s March on Washington (Nomani)

In the pre-dawn darkness of today’s presidential inauguration day, I faced a choice, as a lifelong liberal feminist who voted for Donald Trump for president: lace up my pink Nike sneakers to step forward and take the DC Metro into the nation’s capital for the inauguration of America’s new president, or wait and go tomorrow to the after-party, dubbed the “Women’s March on Washington”? The Guardian has touted the “Women’s March on Washington” as a “spontaneous” action for women’s rights. Another liberal media outlet, Vox, talks about the “huge, spontaneous groundswell” behind the march. On its website, organizers of the march are promoting their work as “a grassroots effort” with “independent” organizers. Even my local yoga studio, Beloved Yoga, is renting a bus and offering seats for $35.

The march’s manifesto says magnificently, “The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation.” It’s an idea that I, a liberal feminist, would embrace. But I know — and most of America knows — that the organizers of the march haven’t put into their manifesto: the march really isn’t a “women’s march.” It’s a march for women who are anti-Trump. As someone who voted for Trump, I don’t feel welcome, nor do many other women who reject the liberal identity-politics that is the core underpinnings of the march, so far, making white women feel unwelcome, nixing women who oppose abortion and hijacking the agenda. To understand the march better, I stayed up through the nights this week, studying the funding, politics and talking points of the some 403 groups that are “partners” of the march. Is this a non-partisan “Women’s March”?

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, a march “partner,” told me his organization was “nonpartisan” but has “many concerns about the incoming Trump administration that include what we see as a misogynist approach to women.” Nick Fish, national program director of the American Atheists, another march partner, told me, “This is not a ‘partisan’ event.” Dennis Wiley, pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, another march “partner,” returned my call and said, “This is not a partisan march.” Really? UniteWomen.org, another partner, features videos with the hashtags #ImWithHer, #DemsInPhily and #ThanksObama. Following the money, I pored through documents of billionaire George Soros and his Open Society philanthropy, because I wondered:

What is the link between one of Hillary Clinton’s largest donors and the “Women’s March”? I found out: plenty. By my draft research, which I’m opening up for crowd-sourcing on GoogleDocs, Soros has funded, or has close relationships with, at least 56 of the march’s “partners,” including “key partners” Planned Parenthood, which opposes Trump’s anti-abortion policy, and the National Resource Defense Council, which opposes Trump’s environmental policies. The other Soros ties with “Women’s March” organizations include the partisan MoveOn.org (which was fiercely pro-Clinton), the National Action Network [..]. Other Soros grantees who are “partners” in the march are the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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Well, they call their debts assets…

These are the Countries with the Biggest Debt Slaves (WS)

Americans have been on a borrowing binge. To buy their favorite cars and trucks, they’ve loaded up on $1.14 trillion in auto loans. Young and not so young Americans are mortgaging their future with student loans that now amount to $1.28 trillion. Credit card and other debts are at $1.12 trillion. And mortgage debt stands at $8.82 trillion. So, total household debt was $12.35 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s Household Debt and Credit Report for the third quarter 2016. That’s a massive amount of debt. Many consumers are struggling with it. Student loans are seeing enormous default rates, and repayment rates are far worse than previously disclosed. And “debt slaves” has become a term in the financial vernacular. But it isn’t nearly enough debt…

Neither for the New York Fed whose President William Dudley, in a speech a few days ago, practically exhorted households to borrow more against the equity in their homes so that they blow this cash and drive up retail sales: “Whatever the timing, a return to a reasonable pattern of home equity extraction would be a positive development for retailers, and would provide a boost to aggregate growth,” he mused, with nostalgic thoughts of 2008. Nor for the global rankings of debt slaves, where US households squeaked into the ignominious 10th place, barely ahead of Portugal! I mean, come on! Portugal!! There are many ways to measure household indebtedness and debt burdens. Comparing total household debt to the overall size of the economy as measured by GDP is one of the measures. And per this household-debt-to-GDP measure, the Americans are 10th place with 78.8% and look practically prudent compared to the peak just before the Financial Crisis.

[..] And here’s some inevitable food for a terrifying thought: The countries with highly indebted households, so the top of the list, are mostly countries were central-bank policy rates are very low or even negative, and where mortgage rates are super low. What happens to those housing markets, the households, the banks, and the overall economies when interest rates rise even a little and that whole equation of perennially ballooning debt falls apart? We already know what happens.

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You might be tempted to name this an unbelievable story, but then you realize this is what the US is good at. Reads like a spy novel, a film script.

“Billion-Year” Gambian President Was Installed By The CIA (SCF)

Gambian President and dictator Yahya Jammeh, facing a combined military force composed of Senegalese army troops, the Nigerian air force, and troops from Mali, Ghana, and Togo, has agreed to relinquish the presidency of Gambia. On December 1, 2016, Jammeh was defeated for re-election in a surprise upset by his little-known rival Adama Barrow. Jammeh received only 45% of the vote. During the election campaign Jammeh vowed in an interview with the BBC to «rule for one billion years». After initially conceding defeat to Barrow, Jammeh reneged on his promise to step down and announced he would remain as president. The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) decided that Jammeh had to go, a stance ironically supported by the United States, which had assisted Jammeh in overthrowing Gambia’s democratically-elected president, Sir Dauda K. Jawara, in 1994.

After Jammeh refused ECOWAS’s, the African Union’s, and the United Nations Security Council’s demands to leave office and permit Barrow to assume the presidency, ECOWAS mobilized its military forces. On January 19, 2017, Barrow was sworn in as president in the Gambian embassy in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. Hours later, Senegalese troops began to enter Gambia and Nigerian air force jets buzzed the Gambian capital of Banjul. The presidents of Mauritania and Guinea flew to Banjul to urge Jammeh to leave office peacefully. Jammeh’s fate was sealed when Major General Ousman Badjie, the commander of the Gambian armed forces, recognized Barrow as Gambia’s commander-in-chief.

The demand from the United States for Jammeh to relinquish power was a display of absolute hypocrisy since Washington had not only installed Jammeh into power but two successive U.S. presidents warmly welcomed the military ruler to the White House. Jammeh, who owns a $3.5 million mansion in Potomac, Maryland, was warmly greeted by President Barack Obama at the 2014 and 2015 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summits in Washington. President George W. Bush greeted Jammeh at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington in 2003. With the protection of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, Jammeh’s Moroccan-born wife, Zineb Jammeh, ran up huge totals at the Washington area’s fashionable shopping malls. She also settled on Sam’s Club, a wholesale discount store, to buy massive amounts of household goods. Jammeh is a textbook case of CIA-sponsored kleptocracy on a grand scale.

Under Jammeh, Gambia continued to be a strategic ally of the United States. The kleptocratic Gambian leader permitted the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to maintain an emergency landing site for NASA’s space shuttle in the country and Gambia participated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the post-9/11 rendition program. Before being installed as Gambia’s dictator, Jammeh had received training from the Pentagon. Merely a lieutenant in the Gambian National Army. In 1993, Jammeh attended the notorious «School of the Americas» in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school has trained some of Latin America’s most notorious military dictators and death squad commanders. While in Fort Benning, Jammeh was made an honorary citizen of the state of Georgia. The following year, and before he launched his coup, Jammeh attended the Military Police Officers Basic Course (MPOBC) at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

[..] It was during the administration of President Bill Clinton that the green light was given for Jammeh to be installed in a CIA-led coup in Gambia. On July 24, 1994, President Jawara was at his palace in Banjul entertaining the commanding officer of the visiting U.S. Navy tank landing ship, the USS La Moure County. Also present was U.S. ambassador to Gambia, Andrew Winter, a career foreign service officer who represented a new breed of U.S. ambassador – one that routinely and publicly involved himself in the domestic political affairs of the nation to which they were posted. While Jawara and the ship’s commander exchanged diplomatic niceties, junior army officers, led by Jammeh, staged a coup against the democratically elected government.

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Only one decision makes any sense.

Greek Supreme Court To Decide On Fate Of Eight Turkish Servicemen (Kath.)

The Greek Supreme Court on Monday is to rule whether eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after July’s failed coup should be extradited. Three separate panels of Greek judges have already ruled that the Turkish officers’ lives may be put at risk if they were to be returned to Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a tough crackdown on dissent since the summer’s coup attempt. Diplomatic circles that fear a rejection of Turkey’s request could put a further strain on ties between Athens and Ankara, particularly at a time when Cyprus reunification talks also hang in the balance, have been keeping a close eye on proceedings. The issue has also drawn attention from intellectuals and the media in Greece and other parts of Europe, who see it as a test of the bloc’s fundamental principles and values. All eight servicemen have denied involvement in the coup attempt and say they fear for their lives if they are returned to Turkey.

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What a surprise.

UK Government ‘Sneaks Out’ Its Own Alarming Report On Climate Change (Ind.)

The Government has been accused of trying to bury a major report about the potential dangers of global warming to Britain – including the doubling of the deaths during heatwaves, a “significant risk” to supplies of food and the prospect of infrastructure damage from flooding. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Report, which by law has to be produced every five years, was published with little fanfare on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) website on 18 January. But, despite its undoubted importance, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom made no speech and did not issue her own statement, and even the Defra Twitter account was silent. No mainstream media organisation covered the report.

One leading climate expert accused the Government of “trying to sneak it out” without people noticing, saying he was “astonished” at the way its publication was handled. In the report, the Government admitted there were a number of “urgent priorities” that needed to be addressed. It said it largely agreed with experts’ warnings about the effects of climate change on the UK. These included two “high-risk” issues: the damage expected to be caused by flooding and coastal erosion; and the effect of rising temperatures on people’s health. The report concluded that the number of heat-related deaths in the UK “could more than double by the 2050s from a current baseline of around 2,000 per year”. It said “urgent action” should be taken to address overheating in homes, public buildings and cities generally, and called for further research into the effect on workers’ productivity.

The Government also recognised that climate change “will present significant risks to the availability and supply of food in the UK”, the report said, partly because of extreme weather in some of the world’s main food-growing regions. The report also said the public water supply could be affected by shortages and that the natural environment could be degraded. Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, said he was “astonished” at the way such a report had been slipped out. “Defra did very little to publicise it – they didn’t even tweet about it,” he said. “It’s almost as if they were trying to sneak it out without people realising. I have no idea what they were thinking.”
.

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You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.
For the times they are a-changing.

The Last Time Oceans Got This Warm Sea Levels Were 20 to 30 Feet Higher (LAT)

Ocean temperatures today are about the same as they were more than 100,000 years ago – at a time when sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher. The findings, published in the journal Science, highlight the key role that human activity has played in global warming and underscore concerns about the future impact of rising sea levels. Over millions and billions of years, the Earth has gone through periods of cooling (when water freezes out of the oceans, causing glaciers to grow and sea levels to fall) and warming (when the ice melts and sea levels rise). Scientists often look for clues hidden in layers of ancient rock and ice to determine what conditions were like in that long-gone climate.

The last interglacial period, which took place some 129,000 to 116,000 years ago, is a particularly intriguing chapter in Earth’s relatively recent history because of what it could tell us about today’s climate, said lead author Jeremy Hoffman, a paleoclimatologist at the Science Museum of Virginia. “The last interglacial is extremely interesting because it’s the last time period in recent Earth history when global temperatures were a little bit higher and global sea level was about 6 to 9 meters higher – but carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was roughly at what it was during the pre-industrial era,” said Hoffman, who conducted the work as a doctoral student at Oregon State University. “So it’s a really interesting scientific question: What is it about the last interglacial that’s so unique, that gave rise to higher sea levels?”

The problem is, researchers often assume climate change happened synchronously across the globe — that is, if it grew warm in one part, it also heated up in the others, and if it cooled in one area, it was cooling everywhere else at the same time. It’s already clear from climate patterns today that this simply isn’t the case, Hoffman said. Even if Earth overall is warming at a given point in time, for example, some spots might be getting cooler while others heat up. “What we know about how climate and temperature change on this planet is, it’s not all at the same time or at the same rate,” he said. “You can see these even today in human-caused climate change, how that’s playing out on a global scale.”

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Dec 042016
 
 December 4, 2016  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »
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Wyland Stanley “J.A. Herzog Pontiac, 17th & Valencia Sts., San Francisco.” 1936


Trump’s Unhappy Fate: A Financial Crisis Far Worse Than The Last (Rickards)
Trump’s Appointments (Paul Craig Roberts)
Petition To Reverse US Election Result Becomes Most Popular In History (Ind.)
Jill Stein Supporters Drop Pennsylvania Recount Suit (WSJ)
Jill Stein To Pursue Pennsylvania Recount Petition In Federal Court (R.)
Brent Caps Biggest Weekly Advance Since 2009 on OPEC Agreement (BBG)
Steve Keen, Michael Hudson Unpick Historical Path to Global Recovery (MH)
The Italian Trouble for Greek Debt (BBG)
Will 2017 See End Of US Neocons’ Promotion Of Chaos Theory? (RT)
Late Is Enough: On Thomas Friedman’s New Book (Matt Taibbi)

 

 

As I said on election day in America is The Poisoned Chalice.

Trump’s Unhappy Fate: A Financial Crisis Far Worse Than The Last (Rickards)

As earthquake doesn’t care if you’re progressive or populist. It destroys your house all the same. Likewise a financial crisis is indifferent to a politician’s policy mix. Systemic crises proceed according to their own dynamic based on the array of agents in a system, and systemic scale. The tempo of recent crises in 1994, 1998, and 2008 says a crisis is likely soon. A new global financial panic will be one legacy of the Trump administration. It won’t be Trump’s fault, merely his misfortune. The equilibrium and value-at-risk models used by banks will not foresee the new panic. Those models are junk science relying as they do on notions of efficient markets, normally distributed risk, continuous liquidity, and a future that resembles the past. None of those hypotheses match reality.

Advances in behavioural psychology have demolished the idea of efficient markets. Data shows the degree distribution of risk is a power curve not a normal bell curve. Liquidity evaporates when most needed. Prices gap down; they do not move continuously. Each of the 1994, 1998, and 2008 crises was worse than the one before, and required more drastic intervention. The future does not resemble the past; it keeps getting worse. The standard models are in ruins. Recent model improvements that take into account so-called tail risk still fail to come to grips with systemic scale. The most catastrophic event possible in a complex system is an exponential function of scale. In plain language, if you double system size, you do not double risk; you increase it by a factor of five or more.

Since 2008, the largest banks in the world are larger in terms of gross assets, share of total deposits, and notional value of derivatives. Everything that was too-big-to-fail in 2008 is bigger and exponentially more dangerous today. The living wills and resolution authority of Dodd-Frank are entrances to gated communities. They seem imposing, but are a façade. They will do nothing to stop an angry mob. Increases in regulatory capital will not suffice. When a leveraged financial institution faces a liquidity panic, no amount of capital is enough. As boxing legend Mike Tyson mused, no plan survives the first punch in the face.

[..] What snowflake could precipitate the next financial panic? Deutsche Bank is an obvious candidate. Less obvious is a failure to deliver physical gold by a London bullion bank. That would expose the hyper-leveraged “paper gold” market for what it is. A natural disaster on the scale of Fukushima would do as well. Looming over these catalysts is a global dollar shortage, which has been limned by economists Claudio Borio and Hyun Song Shin at the Bank for International Settlements. The strong dollar could precipitate a wave of defaults on $9 trillion of dollar-denominated emerging markets corporate debt. Those defaults would make the 1994 Tequila Crisis look tame.

The 2008 crisis was truncated with tens of trillions of dollars of currency swaps, money printing, and rate cuts coordinated by central banks around the world. The next crisis will be beyond the scope of central banks to contain because they have failed to normalise either interest rates or their balance sheets since 2008. Central banks will be unable to pull another rabbit out of the hat; they are out of rabbits.

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Trump vs special interests. Why jump to conclusions?

Trump’s Appointments (Paul Craig Roberts)

We do not know what the appointments mean except, as Trump discovered once he confronted the task of forming a government, that there is no one but insiders to appoint. For the most part that is correct. Outsiders are a poor match for insiders who tend to eat them alive. Ronald Reagan’s California crew were a poor match for George H.W. Bush’s insiders. The Reagan part of the government had a hell of a time delivering results that Reagan wanted. Another limit on a president’s ability to form a government is Senate confirmation of presidential appointees. Whereas Congress is in Republican hands, Congress remains in the hands of special interests who will protect their agendas from hostile potential appointees. Therefore, although Trump does not face partisan opposition from Congress, he faces the power of special interests that fund congressional political campaigns.

[..] With Trump under heavy attack prior to his inauguration, he cannot afford drawn out confirmation fights and defeats. Does Trump’s choice of Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary mean that Goldman Sachs will again be in charge of US economic policy? Possibly, but we do not know. We will have to wait and see. Mnuchin left Goldman Sachs 14 years ago. He has been making movies in Hollywood and started his own investment firm. Many people have worked for Goldman Sachs and the New York Banks who have become devastating critics of the banks. Read Nomi Prins’ books and visit Pam Martens website, Wall Street on Parade. My sometimes coauthor Dave Kranzler is a former Wall Streeter. Commentators are jumping to conclusions based on appointees past associations. Mnuchin was an early Trump supporter and chairman of Trump’s finance campaign.

He has Wall Street and investment experience. He should be an easy confirmation. For a president-elect under attack this is important. Will Mnuchin suppport Trump’s goal of bringing middle class jobs back to America? Is Trump himself sincere? We do not know. What we do know is that Trump attacked the fake “free trade” agreements that have stripped America of middle class jobs just as did Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot. We know that the Clintons made their fortune as agents of the 1%, the only ones who have profited from the offshoring of American jobs. Trump’s fortune is not based on jobs offshoring. Not every billionaire is an oligarch. Trump’s relation to the financial sector is one as a debtor. No doubt Trump and the banks have had unsatisfactory relationships. And Trump says he is a person who enjoys revenge.

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Not the Jill Stein petition. More the Soros one.

Petition To Reverse US Election Result Becomes Most Popular In History (Ind.)

A petition asking for the result of the US election to be reversed is now the most popular in the history of Change.org. The signatories – who total 4.6 million people – call on the Electoral College to stop Donald Trump from being President, which is a theoretically possible but never-before-attempted way of altering the result of the US election. Hillary Clinton won millions more votes than Donald Trump, but Mr Trump became President-elect because of the voting system. The petition is titled “Make Hillary Clinton President” and argues that because Ms Clinton won the popular vote she should be made President. It also argues that the President-elect is “unfit to serve”. With 4.6 million signatures, the petition has over two million more votes than the second largest campaign on the website. That was a campaign asking for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival to be shut down, which was begun three years ago.

The petition against Mr Trump was begun just after the election on 10 November. It was started by social worker Daniel Brezenoff. Signatures to the petition are based on the idea that it is still possible for the result of the election to be reversed. The Electoral College system requires that representatives of each state cast ballots to decide who will actually become the new President – those members of the college are supposed to vote for whoever won their state, but could theoretically change their mind. “On December 19, the Electors of the Electoral College will cast their ballots,” the petition writes. “If they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win. However, in 14 of the states in Trump’s column, they can vote for Hillary Clinton without any legal penalty if they choose.”

Since the petition has started, some legal proceedings have been launched to test the legal penalty in those other states. There has never really been any need to enforce them, since faithless electors make up only a tiny number of people, but activists are looking to encourage more people not to vote this year. The petition itself argues that the Electoral College should change its mind because of the results of the popular vote. “Hillary won the popular vote,” the description reads. “The only reason Trump “won” is because of the Electoral College.

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But wait, there’s more…

Jill Stein Supporters Drop Pennsylvania Recount Suit (WSJ)

Supporters of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Saturday withdrew a last-ditch lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court aimed at forcing a statewide ballot recount, another major setback in the effort to verify the votes in three states that provided President-elect Donald Trump his margin of victory. Ms. Stein’s campaign announced in a statement Saturday that the Pennsylvania lawsuit had been dropped after the court demanded that a $1 million bond be posted by the 100 Pennsylvania residents who brought the suit, which was backed by the campaign. Recounts will still proceed in a handful of Pennsylvania precincts, but it is far from the statewide recount that Ms. Stein initially was hoping for.

She is also pushing recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan after a prominent computer scientist laid out a case that the election results may have been hacked. Legal challenges have also been filed in state and federal court to halt those recount efforts as well. The decision also dashes the aspirations of some Democrats, who had hoped that enough irregularities or missing votes would be found across all three states to overturn the election results that saw Mr. Trump, the Republican candidate, prevail over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton would need to declared the winner in all three states to reverse the election results.

“The judge’s outrageous demand that voters pay such an exorbitant figure is a shameful, unacceptable barrier to democratic participation,” said Ms. Stein in the statement. “This is yet another sign that Pennsylvania’s antiquated election law is stacked against voters. By demanding a $1 million bond from voters yesterday, the court made clear it has no interest in giving a fair hearing to these voters’ legitimate concerns over the accuracy, security and fairness of an election tainted by suspicion.”

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…. straight to federal court.

Jill Stein To Pursue Pennsylvania Recount Petition In Federal Court (R.)

Green Party candidate Jill Stein late Saturday vowed to bring her fight for a recount of votes cast in Pennsylvania in the U.S. presidential election to federal court, after a state judge ordered her campaign to post a $1 million bond. “The Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” Jonathan Abady, lead counsel to Stein’s recount efforts, said in a statement. Saying it has become clear that “the state court system is so ill-equipped to address this problem,” the statement said “we must seek federal court intervention.” The Stein campaign said it will file for emergency relief in the Pennsylvania effort in federal court on Monday, “demanding a statewide recount on constitutional grounds.”

The bond was set by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania a day after representatives of President-elect Donald Trump requested a $10 million bond, according to court papers. The court gave the petitioners until 5 p.m. local time on Monday to post the bond, but said it could modify the amount if shown good cause. Instead, Stein’s campaign withdrew. “Petitioners are regular citizens of ordinary means. They cannot afford to post the $1,000,000 bond required by the court,” wrote attorney Lawrence Otter, informing the court of the decision to withdraw.

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“The last time OPEC set a quota, members exceeded it for 20 of the 24 months before the cap was scrapped..”

Brent Caps Biggest Weekly Advance Since 2009 on OPEC Agreement (BBG)

Brent oil capped its biggest weekly gain since 2009 after OPEC approved its first supply cut in eight years, with attention now shifting to compliance with the deal and how other producers will react to a price rally. Futures closed at the highest in more than a year in London and New York. OPEC’s three largest producers – Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran – overcame discord to reach Wednesday’s pact to reduce the group’s output by 1.2 million barrels a day, while Russia pledged a cut of as much as 300,000. The accord ended the group’s pump-at-will policy started in 2014 aimed at protecting market share and driving out high-cost competitors such as shale. “Everyone wins, but U.S. shale producers are the big winners from the OPEC deal,” Francisco Blanch at Bank of America said.

“The agreement made sense purely on economic logic. OPEC wanted to end the price war.” OPEC set a collective output target at the lower end of the range outlined two months ago in Algiers, boosting prices and prompting predictions of a possible advance to $60 a barrel from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Some analysts warned that the rally may encourage higher output from producers outside the group, including in the U.S. The last time OPEC set a quota, members exceeded it for 20 of the 24 months before the cap was scrapped at the end of 2015.

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Two of the finest in a long conversation. Here’s a tiny snippet of Hudson talking.

Steve Keen, Michael Hudson Unpick Historical Path to Global Recovery (MH)

Killing the Host will be published in German at the end of the month of November, and, basically, it’s a more popular version of The Bubble and Beyond. And it shows that when the financial sector takes over, it’s very much like a parasite in nature. And people think of parasites simply as taking the life blood of the host and draining the energy. But in order to do that, the parasite has to have an enzyme to take over the host’s brain. And the key thing in nature is they take over the brain, and they convince the host that the free luncher is actually part of the host’s own body, and even its baby to be protected. And that’s what the financial sector has done.

Classical economics was all about separating the rent-extracting sectors – landlords, monopolies, and finance – from the rest of the economy. And that was unearned income. It wasn’t necessary. And the whole idea of classical economics from Quesnay’s Tableau Economique to all the way through Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill was to look at the finance sector and the landlord sector and monopolies as unnecessary. You’re going to get rid of them. You’re going to tax away all the land’s rent or else nationalize the land. And you are going to have public enterprises as basic infrastructure so that they couldn’t be monopolized. Well, you had a revolution against classical economics in the 1890s and 1900s, and the national income now – accounts make it appear as if the financial sector and the real estate sector and the monopolies – oil and gas – are all contributing to GDP.

So a few months ago, you had the head of Goldman Sachs – Lloyd Blankfein – say, the Goldman Sachs managers are the most productive workers in the United States, because we make $22 million a year in salary, and we get bonuses. And that’s all considered as contributing to GDP. That’s the financial services that we’re providing $22 million per manager of financial services. Now what they don’t realize is that this $22 million per manager in that Goldman Sachs extracts money from the rest of the economy. It’s a zero-sum game. And instead of adding to the GDP, you should have – A subtraction. Yes, you should have – all of this is overhead – unnecessary. And since 2008, the 99% of the population in America, and I think in most of Europe, too, have seen their incomes go down. But the 1% have had their financial and real estate incomes go up so much more that there is an illusion of growth. And what’s been growing is the tumor, not the actual economic body.

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Italian debt is a threat to the entire eurozone, not just Greece.

The Italian Trouble for Greek Debt (BBG)

If the fallout for Sunday’s Italian referendum is bad for Italian bonds, it could well be worse for one of Europe’s star performers this year: Greece.Greek debt has tightened massively to German bonds in the past three months, while all other main European government securities have been widening. Growing confidence in Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s willingness to conform to the Troika requirements on the latest bailout package, is behind this.

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would be inclusion into the ECB’s bond purchase program – Greece has long been excluded since it’s not rated investment grade. A shift in the rules would be a reward for budget discipline.This has looked until recently like a long shot, but a tectonic shift in attitude is underway. A recent piece of evidence for this is a remark from ECB policy maker Benoit Couere on Tuesday. He said that Greece can maintain a 3.5% primary budget surplus to GDP for years after the current bailout ends in 2018 – that is a major vote of confidence. Such recent Greek outperformance could easily unwind on a “no” vote on Italian constitutional reform. As Gadfly has argued, that could create serious problems not just for Italy, the world’s third-largest debtor, but also for other borrowers in the region.

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It’s all the US have done for decades.

Will 2017 See End Of US Neocons’ Promotion Of Chaos Theory? (RT)

Trump will hopefully be an assertive defender of US interests rather than an assertive meddler, says Oxford Crisis Research Institute Director Mark Almond.

RT: What obstacles remain preventing the UN from sending aid to Aleppo? Mark Almond: Obviously, there is still an area controlled by the rebels where there is fighting, and the rebels have not always been terribly concerned about discriminating between their enemies and aid workers. But it is quite bizarre that now, as you actually have people, tens of thousands of people, who are finally accessible, that the UN agencies are not actually rushing to help. Because, after all, these are people who are in need, and the weather is very bad in addition to all the suffering caused by the violence.

But I think we have to, I’m afraid, accept the fact that the UN is not composed of people from outside the normal world of politics – after all, the head of its aid agency is a former British conservative MP, [UN Special Envoy for Syria’s Senior Adviser] Jan Egeland is a Norwegian political activist who has been for a long time very critical of Russia. So, we are talking of people who do have a political past, even if they are now presented as being somehow the representatives of global charity or global concern. But I am afraid they are politicians.

RT: Do you think the standoff in Aleppo will continue for much longer? Despite major gains by the Syrian Army, the rebels are reportedly refusing to surrender. Mark Almond: I think the remaining rebel forces are in a very difficult position, so unless something changes through some external intervention which would widen the wall and would be a very dangerous development. And I don’t see the US, either doing it itself or, for that matter, encouraging any of its friends to do it, like Turkey or Saudi Arabia, neither of which, I think, really has the stomach for such a fight. So, the likelihood is that the horrible conflict in Aleppo itself is grinding towards a conclusion. And that may also mean that in 2017 we can look towards trying to repair the international situation around Syria.

The new president of the US has said that he is much more prepared to offer realpolitik rather than an ideologically driven agenda to produce regime change [that], if necessary, [says]… “if we can’t have regime change, at least we can have chaos and, perhaps, out of that chaos, something good will come.” I think we’ve seen, really, over the last 25 years, from the chaos we helped produce in Afghanistan through to Syria today, that the chaos theory that the neocons in Washington have promoted has actually bitten back. We’ve seen terrorist attacks in Western Europe, we’ve seen [them] in the US. I think Trump recognizes that even though he is going to be a very assertive defender of American interests, he is not going to be an assertive meddler. And that does offer some hope.

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Friedman’s easy fodder.

Late Is Enough: On Thomas Friedman’s New Book (Matt Taibbi)

“The folksiness will irk some critics … But criticizing Friedman for humanizing and boiling down big topics is like complaining that Mick Jagger used sex to sell songs: It is what he does well.” –John Micklethwait, review of Thank You for Being Late, in The New York Times With apologies to Mr. Micklethwait, the hands that typed these lines implying Thomas Friedman is a Mick Jagger of letters should be chopped off and mailed to the singer’s doorstep in penance. Mick Jagger could excite the world in one note, while Thomas Friedman needs 461 pages to say, “Shit happens.” Joan of Arc and Charles Manson had more in common. Thomas Friedman was once a man of great influence. His columns were must-reads for every senator and congressperson.

He helped spread the globalization gospel and push us into war in Iraq. But he’s destined now to be more famous as a literary figure. No modern writer has been lampooned more. Hundreds if not thousands of man-hours have been spent teaching robots to produce automated Friedman-prose, in what collectively is a half-vicious, half-loving tribute to a man who raised bad writing to the level of an art form. We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76% of the world’s taxi drivers, for predicting “the next six months will be critical” on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, “the Friedman unit”), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic “rule of holes”: “When you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

Friedman’s great anti-gift is his ability to use many words when only a few are necessary. He became famous as a newspaper columnist for taking simple one-sentence observations like, “Wow, everyone has a cell phone these days,” and blowing them out into furious 850-word trash-fires of mismatched imagery and circular argument. The double-axel version of this feat was to then rewrite that same column over and over again, in the same newspaper, only piling on more incongruous imagery and skewing rhetoric to further stoke that one thought into an even higher and angrier fire.

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Nov 122016
 
 November 12, 2016  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Harris&Ewing National Press Club Building newssstand, Washington DC 1940


Escaping the Soulless Machine (Steen Jakobsen)
Moving Past Never Trump (NR)
Donald Trump Appears To Soften Stance On Range Of Pledges (G.)
The Clintons And Soros Launch America’s Purple Revolution (Madsen)
A Visit to Trump’s America (Speed)
Supporters To Trump: Break Campaign Promises At Your Peril (R.)
Trump Spells End of Normality for Europe (Spiegel)
Trump’s Rise Comes As No Surprise On England’s Disaffected East Coast (G.)
Oil Tankers Used to Store Millions of Barrels as Land Sites Fill (BBG)
Rupee Rage Grows In India as Property Prices Collapse Overnight (R.)
White House Gives Up On Passing TPP (Hill)
Obama To Speak In Favour Of Debt Relief During Nov 15 Visit to Greece (Amna)
President Obama Goes to Greece (TEI)
Financial Crisis Takes Huge Toll On Greeks’ Dental Hygiene (Kath.)
Greek Hospitals Scrounging For Cash (Kath.)

 

 

Excellent by the Danish banker, h/t Mish.

Escaping the Soulless Machine (Steen Jakobsen)

Like Brexit, the US vote was never about personalities or issues. Had the “issues” meant anything to US voters, neither Clinton nor Trump would have made it on to the ticket in November. The very fact that someone like Donald Trump could lead the Republican party into a presidential election is testament to how it had nothing to do with the person, nothing to do with policy, but everything to do with Americans’ perceived need to escape what one strategist called “a soulless political machine”. In the end, Hillary Clinton was simply unelectable. She ran a $1 billion campaign designed to cater to all manner of special interest groups, be they ethnically based, gender-specific, or concerned with very specific policy areas.

Trump’s campaign, conversely, consisted mainly of his Twitter account (and its many followers)! That’s right: his Twitter account. Conclusion number one, then, is very uplifting: spending more money does not buy you more votes, nor can it purchase integrity. It seems that Trump, despite his often inflammatory persona, managed to transform himself into a candidate who believed in America as a whole rather than in specific groups. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, ran page after page of facts detailing how Trump degraded, disparaged, and broadly ignored the norms of political correctness, yet he kept rising in the polls. If that won’t get the media and political strategists to think twice, what will?

Is the positive conclusion, then, that in future the “map to becoming president” has more to do with the desire, both spoken and implied, to be a president for all of America? A real person rather than a focus group-approved construct? Does it require concentrating on what makes America strong, and a decreased emphasis on the needs and grievances of specific sub-groups? If that indeed is the case, then US politics appear ready to rise from the ashes of destruction. If this is in turn the case, then it means that Americans need to be American first and a member of whatever minority or special interest group second, but for decades it has been the other way around.

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Too many are too emotionally invested to make that move.

Moving Past Never Trump (NR)

There were different reasons for being Never Trump. On the left, the meme that Trump supporters are all the deplorable “–ists” has taken hold. The idea is that this is all this election represents: a triumph of angry, racist misogynists lashing back at a black president and a potential female one. One has to conclude they haven’t actually met any Trump voters; otherwise, the inanity of their analysis is hard to sustain. In the middle and in the GOP “establishment,” when Trump was doing badly, some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”) because they like to back a winner and flinch from association with a loser. Their support ebbed and flowed with the changing consensus that Trump might or couldn’t win, and so a number ended on the wrong side of the trade and even if nominally supporting Trump, they didn’t expect success.

Finally, on the right, there were many wonderful, dedicated, principled conservatives who were repelled by Trump personally and saw him as protectionist, isolationist, nativist, and possibly racist. They were concerned that he would do long-term harm to the brand of both their philosophy and their party, and they traveled in circles where everyone they knew and cared about felt similarly. The conviction that Trump not only should not but could not win was one in which they were deeply invested. Why so invested in that idea? Possibly because if they admitted that he could win (however awful they believed a Trump presidency would be), they would have to explain why a Trump presidency would be worse overall than a Clinton presidency. If Trump wasn’t going to win anyway, they didn’t need to justify not voting for Trump.

Why was voting for Trump a problem? Because they asked the question “What does my vote say about me?” And their answer was that voting for Trump was tantamount to endorsing his beliefs and behavior, which put them on the wrong side of how they wanted to see themselves, and wanted their friends and colleagues to see them, too. But those who voted for Trump answered that question differently: How they voted was not about endorsing the worst of Trump but about the future of the country. Indeed, in focus groups we did this year, as well as anecdotally, Trump voters were better versed and more keenly aware of Trump’s warts than repelled and consequently undecided voters were.

And while most had not favored Trump at the beginning of the election season, they were convinced that the gravity of this turning point for our country superseded their concerns about Trump’s flaws. Now that Trump is in fact the president-elect, most Never Trumpers will complete the last of the stages of grief — acceptance — that many of their compatriots traveled through just a little faster. They are coming to terms, many with relief and even some exhilaration, that Hillary won’t be president, that the Senate majority has been retained, that we might in fact start to undo the damage of the last eight-plus years.

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Of course he does.

Donald Trump Appears To Soften Stance On Range Of Pledges (G.)

Donald Trump has appeared to soften his stance on a range of sweeping campaign pledges, saying in his first interview since being elected US president that he might not repeal Obamacare and admitting the prosecution of Hillary Clinton over confidential emails was not a priority. The president-elect, who said he would “immediately repeal and replace” Obamacare after taking office, told the Wall Street Journal he might instead seek to reform the policy, keeping the ban on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. He said he would also look to retain the provision that allowed young adults to be insured on their parents’ policies, adding that he had been convinced of the virtues of the two points in his meeting with outgoing president, Barack Obama, on Thursday.

Trump and his family also filmed an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes to be broadcast on Sunday. The president-elect said he would amend or repeal and replace Obamacare without any gaps in healthcare provision. “It will be just fine. It’s what I do: I do a good job and I know how to do this stuff,” he told Lesley Stahl. Having called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” and “crooked” during the campaign, Trump struck a conciliatory tone towards his former opponent in both interviews. The Wall Street Journal asked about campaign promises to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against his Democratic rival over her use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve healthcare, jobs, border control, tax reform,” Trump said.

The statement is likely to anger the president-elect’s core supporters, many of whom chanted: “Lock her up, lock her up,” at rallies during the campaign. He told 60 Minutes the call in which Clinton conceded the election was “lovely”, adding: “It was a tough call for her, I can imagine… She couldn’t have been nicer. She just said, congratulations Donald, well done.” He praised his former opponent: “She’s very strong and very smart.” Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, had also called. “He couldn’t have been more gracious. He said it was an amazing run – one of the most amazing he had ever seen,” Trump said.

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Trump should kick out the Soros NGOs the same way Putin did.

The Clintons And Soros Launch America’s Purple Revolution (Madsen)

Defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is not about to «go quietly into that good night». On the morning after her surprising and unanticipated defeat at the hands of Republican Party upstart Donald Trump, Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, entered the ball room of the art-deco New Yorker hotel in midtown Manhattan and were both adorned in purple attire. The press immediately noticed the color and asked what it represented. Clinton spokespeople claimed it was to represent the coming together of Democratic «Blue America» and Republican «Red America» into a united purple blend.

This statement was a complete ruse as is known by citizens of countries targeted in the past by the vile political operations of international hedge fund tycoon George Soros. The Clintons, who both have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions and Clinton Foundation donations from Soros, were, in fact, helping to launch Soros’s «Purple Revolution» in America. The Purple Revolution will resist all efforts by the Trump administration to push back against the globalist policies of the Clintons and soon-to-be ex-President Barack Obama. The Purple Revolution will also seek to make the Trump administration a short one through Soros-style street protests and political disruption.

[..] President-elect Trump is facing a two-pronged attack by his opponents. One, led by entrenched neo-con bureaucrats, including former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and Bush family loyalists are seeking to call the shots on who Trump appoints to senior national security, intelligence, foreign policy, and defense positions in his administration. These neo-Cold Warriors are trying to convince Trump that he must maintain the Obama aggressiveness and militancy toward Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries. The second front arrayed against Trump is from Soros-funded political groups and media. This second line of attack is a propaganda war, utilizing hundreds of anti-Trump newspapers, web sites, and broadcasters, that will seek to undermine public confidence in the Trump administration from its outset.

One of Trump’s political advertisements, released just prior to Election Day, stated that George Soros, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein, are all part of «a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities». Soros and his minions immediately and ridiculously attacked the ad as «anti-Semitic». President Trump should be on guard against those who his campaign called out in the ad and their colleagues. Soros’s son, Alexander Soros, called on Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, to publicly disavow Trump. Soros’s tactics not only seek to split apart nations but also families. Trump must be on guard against the current and future machinations of George Soros, including his Purple Revolution.

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More like: a visit to the America everyone else ignored. It became Trump’s be default.

A Visit to Trump’s America (Speed)

Two months ago, when I was in Ohio visiting my daughter, I was given an insight into the early indicators of a Trump victory. The clues were there, but I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. At that time, I had no inkling of the depth and breadth of rural dissatisfaction that would elect a Donald Trump as President. I’m a photographer and the coordinator of The Texas Farm and Ranch Photography Project, photographing the daily lives of farm and ranch families, their work, meals, worship, and family life. In September, I drove almost 300 miles up and down the rural roads east of Dayton and south of Columbus, Ohio, to add some farm images to my portfolio. Mile after mile, farm after farm, town after town, ag business after ag business, I saw only Trump signs.

It was obvious that if Ohio was going to block Trump, it would have to be in the cities because agricultural Ohio was overwhelmingly Trump country. This mirrored the same Trump support that I saw in the agricultural communities I have been photographing across Texas for the past year. As I engaged in countless conversations in both rural Ohio and Texas, I tried to understand how any farming or ranching family could even remotely identify with a brash, thrice-married, womanizing, bankruptcy-declaring, New York billionaire. What I learned is that agricultural America felt not only ignored and forgotten, it felt rejected and despised by America’s political elite, and that any candidate who could hurt that elite was worth their vote.

No story brought this home to me more powerfully than a grandfather who spoke of national news stories about what he described as the whining and crying on elite college campuses by those who demanded “safe places” and “safe zones” where they will be sheltered from anything that remotely offends them. He spoke of ingrates wanting special “only me” safe places where they do not have to do anything, hear anything, see anything, or be around anyone or anything they don’t like. In that farmer’s mind, while the safe-space crowd whined about its “offendedness” and demanded entitlements, children of agricultural families were up early in the morning working on their chores and projects, followed by a full day at school, coming home to more work – all while being part of a family, a community, and a nation.

He described watching youngsters at county fairs and livestock shows hauling feed, cleaning stalls, washing and grooming livestock, shoveling manure, unloading and loading their family trucks and trailers, and trying to sleep in uncomfortable chairs – all while ungrateful elite college students failed to appreciate their pampered lives. In this gentleman’s world view, it was not black versus white, rich versus poor, feminism versus patriarchy, illegal versus citizen; rather, it was those who produce nothing believing themselves entitled, without appreciation, to the goods produced by others versus those who actually produce. Although this grandfather did not use the exact words, he pretty much described a political elite and liberal establishment as thinking of American agriculture families as nothing more than serfs in a self-protecting, self-serving feudal system.

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A balancing act alright, but he’s not bad at that.

Supporters To Trump: Break Campaign Promises At Your Peril (R.)

Mark Morris, a leader of the Colorado-based Three% United Patriots militia group, said he understood Trump would need time on some issues, but he expected quick movement on repealing Obamacare and appointing a conservative Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia. He said he hoped Trump would stand with ranchers in their disputes with the federal government over fees charged for cattle grazing on public land – a call to arms for many in the patriot and militia movement. Morris warned Trump should not count on his followers to stay with him if he did not produce results. “People voted with a lot of faith that he will come through,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to work out very well if he doesn’t get the things done and he comes back at the end of four years and says I need four more years to accomplish what I need to accomplish.”

Trump had to take strong action on immigration given his rhetoric, said Roy Beck, head of Numbers USA, a group that favors reduced immigration levels. He said Numbers USA and other grassroots groups would pressure Trump to keep his promises to bolster enforcement and cut back on legal immigration and foreign workers, including eliminating immigration by low-skill and non-extraordinary-skilled workers. “There’s no way he would have been elected president if he had not so boldly made immigration his top issue,” Beck said. “You have to come through on your top issue. The question is in the details.” He said many Trump supporters understood his talk about the border wall was “shorthand” for restoring the rule of law in immigration, although it was a promise by which he would be judged. “We’re in the best position we’ve ever been in since the 1950s to get control of this issue, but we still have big challenges,” Beck said.

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Nothing to do with Trump, it’s been coming for a long time.

Trump Spells End of Normality for Europe (Spiegel)

Angela Merkel has no lack of experience in dealing with egocentric men. The chancellor has known Russian President Vladimir Putin for years and she speaks regularly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone. After the surprising victory of self-made politician Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, another member of this species will now be added to the group. No wonder, then, that the German chancellor wanted to call the new US president-elect as quickly as possible on Wednesday. The only problem was that no one in the German government had a number to call. It was only after the Chancellery in Berlin requested assistance from the German Embassy in Washington that they were able to reach a contact close to Trump.

The election victory of Trump, literally the embodiment of the new wave of angry voters, creates fresh challenges for the German political elite, not just when it comes to the phone directory. Most leading politicians among both the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had been convinced that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton would prevail in the election. Now they are all facing the same difficult question. How do you react when the incoming occupant of the most powerful position in the Western world sees himself as a populist and is threatening to end traditional Western alliances? German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who recently branded Trump a “hate preacher,” has said he is preparing for “difficult times.”

The chancellor herself also reminded the president-elect that “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion, gender and sexual orientation” are all values that must be defended – the very ones that the Republican candidate more or less openly questioned during his campaign.

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The entire world economic problem in just a few words: “A lot of profit that is created here does not stay here. It goes to the business headquarters in London or other parts of the world.”

Trump’s Rise Comes As No Surprise On England’s Disaffected East Coast (G.)

“It’s like Brexit isn’t it,” says Tim Rix, a staunch leave supporter and the fifth generation of his family to run JR Rix and Sons. “Donald Trump was voted in for many different – and sometimes conflicting – reasons,” the managing director says. “Many reasons that overturned the establishment’s expected result.” There are thousands of miles between the rust-belt US states that supported Trump and Rix’s office in Hull in east Yorkshire, but in many respects the two places are closely aligned. The communities of both quietly voted to shock the world, taking decisions that would reveal deep divisions in each nation and leave large swaths of society asking how this could happen. Rix sees parallels in the economic protectionism that Trump used to appeal to millions of struggling US middle-class voters.

“Europe is broken, it’s not going to work,” he says. “We have our own problems and we need to concentrate on dealing with the problems in this country.” The mood in those areas that turned against the establishment in the EU referendum is one of economic and social discontent, where people feel left behind and struggle to find their own answers to this and every other question posed by the decline of post-war industrial Britain. And while Rix and his forebears managed to develop a business that now turns over £4m to £5m, the local area is faring less well. Following the demise of its fishing, shipping and heavy industries, the city moved into sharp decline. But manufacturing still makes up 17% of the jobs in Hull, compared with 2.6% in London, according to statistics from the Centre for Cities thinktank.

“When the fish industry went down other businesses got more important. We have a lot of global operators in food, chemical, aerospace and oil refineries,” explains Ian Kelly, chief executive of the Hull and Humber chamber of commerce. “A lot of profit that is created here does not stay here. It goes to the business headquarters in London or other parts of the world.” And so Hull remains one of the poorest cities in Britain, with nearly 30% of households in social housing and one of the lowest average workplace earnings in the UK.

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Dancing the Con Tango.

Oil Tankers Used to Store Millions of Barrels as Land Sites Fill (BBG)

Oil companies booked tankers to store as many as 9 million barrels of crude in northwest Europe amid signs that space in on-land depots is filling up, a ship-operator said. The glut could get bigger still, given the region is scheduled to load the most cargoes in 4 1/2 years next month. There are 14 to 16 Aframax-class tankers now storing crude in the region, Jonathan Lee, CEO of Tankers International, operator of the world’s biggest pool of supertankers, said. Standard cargoes are normally almost 600,000 barrels. Lack of on-land capacity to hold the oil is the most likely cause of the buildup, he said. North Sea producers are among a long list of suppliers adding barrels just as OPEC prepares to try and eliminate a surplus.

Pressure on the exporter club is piling up because its own members are pumping like never before while nations outside the group including Brazil, Kazakhstan, Canada and Russia are producing more than ever or pumping from new fields. Traders began looking for profit at sea again earlier this month, with Tankers International saying at the time that between five and 10 ships had been chartered to hold oil near Singapore, most likely to profit from weak crude prices. Those ships are the industry’s biggest supertankers, holding 2 million barrels a piece. The vessels in the North Sea would normally carry about 70% less oil. Oversupply in the oil market has caused a key oil-price spread that denotes the scale of any surplus to balloon.

The difference in the price of January and February Brent contracts rose to $1.18 a barrel this week, the widest since April 2015, excluding days when the price expires. When the month-on-month discount gets deep enough – something called contango – it sometimes rewards traders to hire ships, keep hold of the oil, and sell it at the later price, because the gap more than covers the cost of booking a vessel. Other times, there just isn’t space to unload, forcing vessels to wait. Inventories in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp are the highest for the time of year since at least 2013, according to data from Genscape. “The big question is whether it’s contango or whether it’s a lack of physical land-based storage” that’s caused the storage buildup in Northwest Europe, London-based Lee said. “It seems to be the latter at the moment.”

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From my email contact: Property prices down 80% overnight in Delhi. I have a friend there, some apartments that were going for Rs 10,000,000 are now Rs 2,000,000. Owners desperate for cash. He doesn’t have money for milk and he’s a wealthy businessman. Business in the big bazaars is dead. Lines at banks for hours and lines as far as the eye can see. On the black market Rs/USD rate has doubled to 120. Cash is not a defence against deflation. We just saw it legislated out of existence. In a day. One freaking day. Poof.”

Rupee Rage Grows In India as Property Prices Collapse Overnight (R.)

Anger was rising across India on Saturday as banks struggled to dispense cash after the government withdrew large-denomination notes in a shock move aimed at uncovering billions of dollars of unaccounted wealth hidden from the taxman. Hundreds of thousands of people stood outside banks for a third day for long hours trying to replace 500- and 1,000-rupee banknotes that were abolished earlier in the week. The two bills, worth about 265 and 530 baht respectively, made up more than 80% of all currency in circulation, leaving millions of people without cash and threatening to grind large parts of the $400-billion cash-driven economy to a halt. There were also reports of people with large stashes of undocumented cash offering up to double the market rate for gold just to get rid of their bills.

The government has begun issuing new 2,000-rupee banknotes, said to be much more difficult to counterfeit than their predecessors, but the supply is far short of the huge demand. Redesigned 500-rupee notes are also in the pipeline. Thai residents planning to visit India are also being advised to prepare for inconvenience. “There is chaos everywhere,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrilwal and a bitter foe of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said Modi’s move had upended the lives of the poor and working while the rich — whose wealth he had sought to target — had found loopholes to get around the new rules. People argued and banged the glass doors of a branch of Standard Chartered in southern Delhi after the security guards blocked entry, saying there were already too many people inside the bank.

Others turned on Modi, criticising his ongoing visit to Japan while countrymen suffered at home. “He is taking bullet train rides in Japan and here you have old people knocking on bank doors for cash,” said Prabhat Kumar, a college student who said he had spent six hours at the queue. “He has made a terrible mistake.”

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It was dead anyway.

White House Gives Up On Passing TPP (Hill)

The Obama administration’s won’t pursue passage of its signature Pacific Rim trade deal, dealing a major blow to President Obama’s legacy. Any hope of passing the sweeping 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) quickly faded after Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Tuesday and pronouncements by congressional leaders that the pact would not be considered during the lame-duck session. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton each opposed the agreement during their campaigns, endangering the already slim chances that Congress would cobble together enough support to pass the historic agreement before the end of Obama’s presidency. The long-shot trade agreement faced widespread Democratic opposition on Capitol Hill and the environment for passing the deal only grew more toxic during the presidential campaigns.

As recently as last week, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressed optimism that the Obama administration and congressional Republican leaders could reach a deal on the final outstanding issues, including patent protections for high-tech medicines called biologics. But after Tuesday, the onus shifted to the willingness of Congress to consider the agreement. “We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it’s up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. trade representative, in an email to The Hill.

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He has done nothing so far; why expect it now?

Obama To Speak In Favour Of Debt Relief During Nov 15 Visit to Greece (Amna)

U.S. President Barack Obama is in full accord with the IMF that the Greek debt is not sustainable and must be settled, a White House spokesman said on Friday, adding that the President will ask for debt relief during his visit to Athens next week. According to a report by ERT correspondent to Washington DC Lena Argiri, the spokesman said Obama recognizes the sacrifices of the Greek people and his visit will send a message of support. He will also “praise the government on the reforms” implemented and “stress that there’s still work to be done.”

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All he’ll see is what’s left of Greek riches; what’s lost will remain hidden.

President Obama Goes to Greece (TEI)

A week after Donald Trump’s upset victory, U.S. President Barack Obama is traveling to Greece, in the first stop of his last European trip of his Presidency. During his largely symbolic visit, President Obama is planning to deliver a legacy speech from the birthplace of democracy. He is expected to make an impassioned case for the merits of democracy, European unity and security, and regional stability; at a time when all three are being tested by the rise of extremist parties and rhetoric. Although he is expected to repeat these themes during his second stop in Germany, given that Greece is faced with the extra challenges of a debilitating economic crisis and an historic influx of migrants and refugees, President Obama’s stop in Athens is a particularly welcome sign of support to the country.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has stressed the geopolitical importance of Greece for the stability and security of the wider region. President Obama’s visit is a signal to Europe that the U.S. is putting a premium on keeping Greece as an integral part of the EU. He is also expected to make the case for an economic policy that puts Greece on the path of growth. However, the visit will require careful diplomacy. As Paul Glastris, who wrote the historic speech that President Bill Clinton made in Athens in 1999, put it, President Obama “will have to thread a series of needles simultaneously. He will have to find words that express Washington’s support for Greek debt relief without alienating the Troika or discouraging further economic reform in Greece; that praise Greece’s exemplary handling of the refugee crisis without encouraging more refugees; and that signal solidarity with Greece over its very real Aegean security concerns without provoking the Turkish president into doing something stupid.”

Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan has publicly challenged the Treaty of Lausanne which set the modern-day borders of Turkey, including with Greece (Erdogan made particular emphasis to “our brothers” in Western Thrace, Cyprus, Crimea and Mosul). Worried, the Greeks hope to hear the U.S. president reiterate his support for the existing international treaties. Indeed, the fact that president Obama is ending his presidency with a visit to Greece contrasts with how he started his first term, when he visited Turkey in the hope of anchoring the country to Western values and interests. But as President Erdogan is cracking down on seemingly all forms of domestic opposition after the failed coup, his rule is turning more authoritarian and relations with the U.S. are strained.

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Pure misery: “Spending on dental care in Greece declined by up to 64%..”

Financial Crisis Takes Huge Toll On Greeks’ Dental Hygiene (Kath.)

Spending on dental care in Greece declined by up to 64% between 2009 and 2015, according to data compiled by the country’s statistical authority which also showed that overall health spending fell by slightly over 19% over the same period. According to ELSTAT, in 2009 Greeks spent a total of €1.95 billion on oral care (an average €473.4 per household). Six years later, spending had dropped to €701 million (an average of €169.5 per household). Experts say that pressed by the ongoing financial crisis, Greeks chose to sacrifice oral care in favor of less flexible health spending such as medicine and hospital treatment. Experts warn that the situation is made worse by the deterioration of public dental care service which has been hit by shortages in staff and equipment.

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Until recently, one of the world’s best health care systems. Criminal austerity.

Greek Hospitals Scrounging For Cash (Kath.)

Shortages of equipment and staff in the health sector have resulted in two key Athens hospitals, the Alexandra and the Elena Venizelou, borrowing from each other and third parties, according to the Federation of Public Hospital Workers (POEDIN). “Their budgets are in the red,” POEDIN said on Thursday. “They are unable to maintain their infrastructure and their equipment or to procure medicines and medical equipment,” it said. According to POEDIN, hospitals got €1.15 billion in state funding this year, down from €1.5 billion last year. They owe €1.3 billion in debts to the state.

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 August 21, 2016  Posted by at 9:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »
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Dorothea Lange ‘A season’s work in the beans’, Marion County, Oregon 1939


Neo-Liberalism Has Had Its Day. So What Happens Next? (G.)
BOJ’s Kuroda Says Won’t Rule Out Deepening Negative Rate Cut (R.)
EU Officials Ignored Years of Emissions Evidence (Spiegel)
The Sound of Blairite Silence (Paul Mason)
53% Of Clinton Foundation Donors Would Be Barred Under Proposed Rule (ZH)
Leaked Memo Proves Soros Ruled Ukraine In 2014 (Duran)
The Aleppo Poster Child (Paul Craig Roberts)
Refugees In Greek Camps Targeted By Mafia Gangs (G.)
Hundreds Rescued From Overcrowded Migrant Boats In Med (EN)
‘Next Year Or The Year After, The Central Arctic Will Be Free Of Ice’ (G.)

 

 

Long, not terrible but not terribly convincing either.

Neo-Liberalism Has Had Its Day. So What Happens Next? (G.)

The western financial crisis of 2007-8 was the worst since 1931, yet its immediate repercussions were surprisingly modest. The crisis challenged the foundation stones of the long-dominant neoliberal ideology but it seemed to emerge largely unscathed. The banks were bailed out; hardly any bankers on either side of the Atlantic were prosecuted for their crimes; and the price of their behaviour was duly paid by the taxpayer. Subsequent economic policy, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, has relied overwhelmingly on monetary policy, especially quantitative easing. It has failed. The western economy has stagnated and is now approaching its lost decade, with no end in sight.

After almost nine years, we are finally beginning to reap the political whirlwind of the financial crisis. But how did neoliberalism manage to survive virtually unscathed for so long? Although it failed the test of the real world, bequeathing the worst economic disaster for seven decades, politically and intellectually it remained the only show in town. Parties of the right, centre and left had all bought into its philosophy, New Labour a classic in point. They knew no other way of thinking or doing: it had become the common sense. It was, as Antonio Gramsci put it, hegemonic. But that hegemony cannot and will not survive the test of the real world.

The first inkling of the wider political consequences was evident in the turn in public opinion against the banks, bankers and business leaders. For decades, they could do no wrong: they were feted as the role models of our age, the default troubleshooters of choice in education, health and seemingly everything else. Now, though, their star was in steep descent, along with that of the political class. The effect of the financial crisis was to undermine faith and trust in the competence of the governing elites. It marked the beginnings of a wider political crisis. But the causes of this political crisis, glaringly evident on both sides of the Atlantic, are much deeper than simply the financial crisis and the virtually stillborn recovery of the last decade. They go to the heart of the neoliberal project that dates from the late 70s and the political rise of Reagan and Thatcher, and embraced at its core the idea of a global free market in goods, services and capital.

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Yada yada Kuroda.

BOJ’s Kuroda Says Won’t Rule Out Deepening Negative Rate Cut (R.)

The Bank of Japan will not rule out deepening a cut to negative rates it introduced in February, the Sankei newspaper quoted Governor Haruhiko Kuroda as saying, even as the controversial policy has failed to spur inflation or economic growth. In an interview with the daily, Kuroda said the BOJ’s negative rate policy has not reached its limits. “The degree of negative rates introduced by European central banks is bigger than Japan. Technically there definitely is room for a further cut,” Kuroda told the Sankei. The BOJ stunned markets in January when it set a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits that banks place at the central bank, with the move taking effect from February.

While the BOJ hoped the shift to negative rates would encourage banks to lend more, spurring higher spending and inflation, none of that has happened as yet. The BOJ will also consider whether to make any changes to the 80 trillion yen ($798 billion) per year massive asset-purchase plan once the outcome of a comprehensive assessment of its monetary policies is out in September, Kuroda said. The asset purchases are a key plank of the central bank’s “quantitative and qualitative easing” program deployed in 2013, aimed at achieving its 2% inflation target. Despite the aggressive easings, however, inflation is well off the target and growth remains anemic.

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Just another way to signal the failure of the EU. It’s endemic.

EU Officials Ignored Years of Emissions Evidence (Spiegel)

Meeting minutes, correspondence and conversation records that SPIEGEL ONLINE and the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet have obtained now show that the European Commission and member states knew, since 2010 at the latest, that the extremely harmful emissions from diesel cars were strikingly higher than legal levels. But apparently none of the officials wanted the automakers to tell them why this was the case. According to EU officials, pressure from countries with a strong auto industry, most notably Germany, significantly reduced interest in an investigation. Instead of doing something about the environmental policy violation, the Commission and the member states passed the buck to each other.

This undignified back-and-forth even continued after the VW scandal about manipulated diesel cars in the United States was exposed in September 2015. The EU bureaucracy was one of the first to be informed, through its research organizations, about the high nitric oxide emissions of the VW vehicle fleet. In 2007, experts with European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) tested the emissions from operating diesel cars. Additional tests using the so-called PEMS method were performed in 2011 and 2013. The results were the same each time: Nitric oxide (NOX) emissions were several times higher than the levels measured in type approval tests in the laboratory.

Volkswagen was already making an unfavorable impression at the time. The biggest nitric oxide emitter in the 2011 and 2013 tests was a VW Multivan with a diesel engine. This emerges from the list of names of the car models involved, which were not published at the time but has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE. The other eight diesel cars, however, that were randomly selected by the JRC engineers for the PEMS test had the same problem. Be it the Fiat Scudo, Bravo or Punto, the VW Golf or Passat, the Renault Clio or the BMW 120d, not a single model even remotely complied with nitric oxide limits in normal operation.

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The UK won’t let the US get away with claiming the title of ugliest political story.

The Sound of Blairite Silence (Paul Mason)

With Owen Smith it is never clear where, on the road from BBC Wales, via Pfizer, via the years as a special adviser in Belfast surrounded by all those nice members of MI5, via losing Blaenau Gwent to an independent because he was too identified with Blair … at what point did Owen become converted to Jeremy Lite left radical socialism? This combination of high personal ambition and the lack of a permanent belief system is exactly the right attribute for someone whose purpose is to be a placeholder for the Blairite counter-revolution. Who can forget, after all, that Angela Eagle -the original placeholder- launched her campaign without a single policy. Smith is there to remove the grip of Corbyn, and Corbynism on those few parts of the Labour machine it controls.

After that the money amassed by Saving Labour, Progress and Labour Tomorrow will be used to fund the party’s re-conversion to a safe tool of the global elite. It will be back to normal. At every stage, the pro-1% Labour machine has tried to suppress democracy: it tried to force Corbyn off the ballot paper; it tried to debar new, pro-Corbyn members from voting; it tried to produce a new Labour leader without a vote; it imposed an arbitrary cut-off date for new members voting. At the same time the Labour right is promoting an series of largely unfounded victim narratives: that ‘Corbyn is antisemitic’ (backed up with a defamatory attack on Shami Chakrabarti). It’s promoted the narrative of misogyny, of physical threats, of ‘Trotskyist entrism’, of Corbyn ‘sabotaging’ the Remain campaign.

We must anticipate the outcome of this on the principle that Chekov outlined in theatre: if a gun appears in Act I, by the end of Act III someone is going to get shot. Every signal from the Labour right appears to point towards a second coup against Corbyn, once he wins the leadership election, which will make Owen Smith s current effort look like a sideshow.

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There is simply too much wrong about this. A Hillary presidency would damage the reputation of America’s political system too severely. Even Trump Jr of all people makes a valid point.

And no, that does not mean I support Trump. Air everyone’s dirty laundry, by all means. Investigate Trump with all you got. But don’t ignore this.

53% Of Clinton Foundation Donors Would Be Barred Under Proposed Rule (ZH)

On Thursday evening, alongside Trump’s unexpected statement of “regret”, Bill Clinton made another just as important announcement when he said that should Hillary become president, the $2 billion Clinton Family foundation will no longer accept money from any corporate and foreign donors and will bring an end to its annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting regardless of the outcome of the November election. To this we responded that this was to be expected: after all “once Hillary is president, she will no longer need a backdoor way of legally receiving Saudi and other foreign money: at that moment, billions in Saudi dollars will be deemed perfectly acceptable for passage through the front door, mostly in exchange for weapons and ammo.”

Other had similar reactions, with the announcement drawing skepticism on Friday mostly from the right left as critics wondered why the Clintons have never before cut off corporate and overseas money to their charity, and more importantly why they would wait until after the election to do so. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted Friday that the Clintons’ continued acceptance of those dollars during the presidential campaign is a “massive, ongoing conflict of interest.” The left also spoke up, when Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who was a leading surrogate for Clinton’s rival in the Democratic primary race, Bernie Sanders, said the restrictions were a good step but should be imposed immediately. “In my opinion, and in the opinion of lots of Americans, this should have been done long ago,” she said.

As it turns out, the self-impossed restrictions would be more stringent than those put in place while Clinton was secretary of state – ironically when the temptation to bribe the top US diplomat was far higher – when the foundation was merely required to seek State Department approval to accept new donations from foreign governments, permitting the charity to accept millions of dollars from governments and wealthy interests all over the world. They would also be stricter than the policy adopted when Clinton launched her campaign that placed some limits on foreign government funding but allowed corporate and individual donations, for the simple reason that Hillary was willing the accept cash for any and all future favors.

Others questioned why Clinton had now decided that the foundation should rule out donations that she apparently thought were acceptable during her tenure as the country’s top diplomat. “Is it ok to accept foreign and corporate money when Secretary of State but not when POTUS???” Donald Trump Jr., son of the Republican nominee, tweeted Thursday night.

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A man so old he could die any moment now gets to shape a future he will not live to see, just because he has some money. If that’s not a damning verdict of our political systems, what is?

Leaked Memo Proves Soros Ruled Ukraine In 2014 (Duran)

We noted in a previous post how important Ukraine was to George Soros, with documents from DC Leaks that show Soros, and his Open Society NGO, scouring the Greek media and political landscape to push the benefits of his Ukraine coup upon a Russian leaning Greek society. Now more documents, in the massive 2,500 leaked tranche, show the immense power and control Soros had over Ukraine immediately following the illegal Maidan government overthrow. Soros and his NGO executives held detailed and extensive meetings with just about every actor involved in the Maidan coup: from US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, to Ukraine’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Health, and Education. The only person missing was Victoria Nuland, though we are sure those meeting minutes are waiting to see the light of day.

Plans to subvert and undermine Russian influence and cultural ties to Ukraine are a central focus of every conversation. US hard power, and EU soft power, is central towards bringing Ukraine into the neo-liberal model that Soros champions, while bringing Russia to its economic knees. Soros’ NGO, International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) plays a key role in the formation of the “New Ukraine”…the term Soros frequently uses when referring to his Ukraine project. In a document titled, “Breakfast with US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt”, George Soros, (aka GS), discusses Ukraine’s future with: Geoffrey Pyatt (US Ambassador to Ukraine); David Meale (Economic Counsellor to the Ambassador); Lenny Benardo (OSF); Yevhen Bystrytsky (Executive Director, IRF); Oleksandr Sushko (Board Chair, IRF); Ivan Krastev (Chariman, Centre for Liberal Studies); Sabine Freizer (OSF); Deff Barton (Director, USAID, Ukraine)

The meeting took place on March 31, 2014, just a few months after the Maidan coup, and weeks before a full out civil war erupted, after Ukraine forces attacked the Donbass. In the meeting, US Ambassador Pyatt outlines the general goal for fighting a PR war against Putin, for which GS is more than happy to assist. “Ambassador: The short term issue that needs to be addressed will be the problem in getting the message out from the government through professional PR tools, especially given Putin’s own professional smear campaigns.” “GS: Agreement on the strategic communications issue—providing professional PR assistance to Ukrainian government would be very useful. Gave an overview of the Crisis Media Center set up by IRF and the need for Yatseniuk to do more interviews with them that address directly with journalists and the public the current criticisms of his decision making.”

Pyatt pushes the idea of decentralization of power for the New Ukraine, without moving towards Lavrov’s recommendation for a federalized Ukraine. GS notes that a federalization model would result in Russia gaining influence over eastern regions in Ukraine, something that GS strictly opposes.

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How many more years of this?

The Aleppo Poster Child (Paul Craig Roberts)

Washington’s media presstitutes are using the image of the child to bring pressure on Russia to stop the Syrian army from retaking Alleppo. Washington wants its so-called moderate rebels to retain Alleppo so that Washington can split Syria in two, thereby keeping a permanent pressure against President Assad. As for the little boy in the propaganda picture, he does not seem to be badly injured. Let us not forget the tens of thousands of children that Washington’s wars and bombings of 7 Muslim countries have killed without any tears shed by CNN anchors, and let us not forget the 500,000 Iraqi children that the United Nations concluded died as a result of US sanctions against Iraq, children’s deaths that Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said were worth it.

Let us not forget that Washington’s determination to overthrow the Syrian government has brought many deaths to Syrians of all age groups. Washington alone is responsible for the deaths. The evil Obama regime has stated over and over that “Assad must go” and is prepared to destroy the country and much of the population in order to get rid of him. According to the Obama regime, Assad must go because he is a dictator. Washington tells this lie despite the fact that Assad was elected and re-elected and has far higher support among Syrians that Obama has among Americans. Moreover, whatever Washington accuses Assad of doing to Syrians is nothing compared to the death and destruction that Washington brought to Syria.

Perhaps the tragedy of Aleppo could have been avoided if the Russian government had not prematurely declared “mission accomplished” in Syria and withdrawn only to have to rush back after the Russian government was again deceived by Washington.

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The EU, Europe as a whole, fails dramatically, and nothing is improving.

Greece by then had already received €181m to help deal with the crisis from Brussels.

Look, Greece estimated the cost to its budget at €2 billion at least 6 months ago. Now, all the money goes to NGOs. Whose track record is not great, to say the least.

Refugees In Greek Camps Targeted By Mafia Gangs (G.)

Fresh evidence is emerging that refugees stranded in camps across Greece are falling victim to rising levels of vice peddled by mafia gangs who see the entrapped migrants as perfect prey for prostitution, drug trafficking and human smuggling. Details of the alarming conditions present in many of the facilities comes as the Greek government – facing criticism after the Observer’s exposé of sexual abuse in camps last week – announced urgent measures to deal with the crisis. A further four refugee centres, it said, would be set up in a bid to improve severe overcrowding, a major source of tensions in the camps. Aid workers say an estimated 58,000 migrants and asylum seekers in Greece are increasingly being targeted by Greek and Albanian mafias.

Tales of criminals infiltrating camps to recruit vulnerable women and men are legion. “If nothing is done to improve the lifestyle of these refugees and to use their time more productively, I see a major disaster,” warned Nesrin Abaza, an American aid worker volunteering at the first privately funded camp known as Elpida (Greek for hope) outside Thessaloniki. “These camps are a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, gangs and violence. It seems like the world has forgotten about them. They are not headline news any more, so therefore they do not exist … but the neglect will show its ugly head.” With an estimated 55 centres nationwide – including “hotspots” on the Aegean islands within view of Turkey – Greece has effectively become a huge holding pen for refugees since EU and Balkan countries closed their borders to shut them out earlier this year.

[..] the EU released €83m in April to improve living conditions for refugees stranded in the country. The UN refugee agency, the International Federation of the Red Cross and six international NGOs were given the bulk of the funding. Greece by then had already received €181m to help deal with the crisis from Brussels. Announcing the emergency support, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, claimed the assistance was “a concrete example of how the EU delivers on the challenges Europe faces”. “We have to restore dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible,” he said. But four months later, as allegations of sexual abuse and criminal activity envelop the camps, questions are mounting over whether the money was properly administered. In addition to bad sanitary conditions and lack of police protection, the latest revelations have shone a light on whether the humanitarian system is working at all.

“There is no emphasis on humanity, it is all about numbers,” Amed Khan, a financier turned philanthropist who funded Elpida, told the Observer. Elpida, also established in a former factory near Thessaloniki, has a tea room and yoga centre and, seeing itself as a pioneering initiative, encourages refugees to regard it as a home. In the month since the camp opened its doors, it has won plaudits for being the most humane refugee centre in Greece. “Nobody is using money here efficiently or effectively,” lamented Khan. “The humanitarian system is the same one that has been in place since the second world war, it lacks intellectual flexibility and is totally broken. The real question to be asked is, has the aid that has been given been appropriately utilised?”

Read more …

3000 dead so far this year.

Hundreds Rescued From Overcrowded Migrant Boats In Med (EN)

More than 300 people have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea after migrant boats capsized off the coast of Libya. One small vessel packed with 27 Syrians flipped over and sank, according to humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station. The bodies of two women and one man were recovered. Among the dead were two girls, aged eight months and five years. The survivors were taken to the Sicilian port of Trapani. Migrants from North Africa are favouring the dangerous voyage toward Italy after last year’s prefered route from Turkey to the Greek islands has been largely shut down. According to the International Organization for Migration, about three thousand migrants have died in the Med so far this year.

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“You will be able to cross over the North Pole by ship.”

‘Next Year Or The Year After, The Central Arctic Will Be Free Of Ice’ (G.)

Peter Wadhams has spent his career in the Arctic, making more than 50 trips there, some in submarines under the polar ice. He is credited with being one of the first scientists to show that the thick icecap that once covered the Arctic ocean was beginning to thin and shrink. He was director of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge from 1987 to 1992 and professor of ocean physics at Cambridge since 2001. His book, A Farewell to Ice, tells the story of his unravelling of this alarming trend and describes what the consequences for our planet will be if Arctic ice continues to disappear at its current rate. “You have said on several occasions that summer Arctic sea ice would disappear by the middle of this decade. It hasn’t. Are you being alarmist?”

No. There is a clear trend down to zero for summer cover. However, each year chance events can give a boost to ice cover or take some away. The overall trend is a very strong downward one, however. Most people expect this year will see a record low in the Arctic’s summer sea-ice cover. Next year or the year after that, I think it will be free of ice in summer and by that I mean the central Arctic will be ice-free. You will be able to cross over the North Pole by ship. There will still be about a million square kilometres of ice in the Arctic in summer but it will be packed into various nooks and crannies along the Northwest Passage and along bits of the Canadian coastline. Ice-free means the central basin of the Arctic will be ice-free and I think that that is going to happen in summer 2017 or 2018.

Read more …

Jun 212016
 
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NPC District National Bank, Dupont branch, Washington, DC 1924


The Big Guns Are Out: Soros, Rothschild Warn Of Brexit Doom (ZH)
When Brexit Has Come And Gone, The Real Problems Will Remain (ZH)
IMF Calls On Japan To ‘Reload’ Abenomics (Nikkei)
India’s Rockstar Central Banker Defeated As Modi Revolution Stalls (AEP)
Yellen Makes ‘Uncertainty’ New Mantra (R.)
“Whatever It Takes” Wasn’t Enough (Noland)
The World’s Newest “Reserve” Currency Is Anything But (Balding)
China’s Developers Can’t Stop Overpaying for Property (WSJ)
China’s ‘Land Kings’ Return as Housing Prices Rise (WSJ)
Energy-Related Loan Losses Rising (B.)
California Power Grid Prepares For Heatwave, Power Outages (R.)
Australia Whistleblower Loses Job After Speaking Out On Refugee Camps (G.)

Vested interests at stake.

The Big Guns Are Out: Soros, Rothschild Warn Of Brexit Doom (ZH)

Just yesterday, we recounted the story of “Black Wednesday” when on September 16, 1992, the UK was forced out of the EU’s exchange-rate mechanism, or ERM, when the BOE tapped out and allowed the British pound to float freely, leading to 15% losses in the sterling. As we noted, this was George Soros’ infamous trade which “broke the Bank of England” and made the Hungarian richer by over $1.5 bilion. 24 years later Soros is back, and this time he is warning against the kind of devaluation that made him a billionaire and which he believes will be unleashed by Brexit, when in a Guardian Op-Ed he wrote that U.K. voters are “grossly underestimating” the true costs of a vote to leave the EU, saying that there would be an “immediate and dramatic impact on financial markets, investment, prices and jobs.”

[..] It is notable that Soros’ warning comes just days after that of Jacob Rothschild himself who said in another Op-Ed, this time for The Times, that leaving the EU could lead to a “damaging and disorderly situation” in the UK as he urged Britons to vote ‘remain’. Just like Soros, Lord Rothschild, suddenly exhibiting a rare strain of humanitarian concern, said readers should not “risk the wellbeing of our country”and European countries are “better off together”. He said that “at present we enjoy being a permanent member of the UN security council and we are essential to the G8 and Commonwealth. But diplomacy, defence, the environment and our values of being a liberal democracy will all be at risk” adding that “I can see no good reason why we should accept our playing a diminished role on the world stage,” especially if his own personal fortune would be jeopardized.

Finally, completing the doom loop, was none other than Chancellor George Osborne who, according to the Telegraph, “refused to rule out suspending trading on the London stock market if Britons vote to leave the EU on Friday morning… The threat from the Chancellor, made in an LBC radio interview on Monday evening, after the market had closed could force shares down in London as early as Tuesday morning.”

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Everyone’s broke.

When Brexit Has Come And Gone, The Real Problems Will Remain (ZH)

In a few days, Brexit will come and go, and just a few days later it will be forgotten, as either outcome will be far less dramatic than has been widely predicted by the same fearmongering economist pundits who have been wrong about everything else for the past 8 years. Ironically, the better outcome for the market is precisely a Brexit as the panic selloff will prompt central banks around the globe to boost enough monetary stimulus to send risk assets to new all time highs. What will remain, however, are the real problems. Here is SocGen with a useful reminder of just what those are, and why the market may have already forgotten that just one week ago the Fed threw in the towel when addressing precisely these problems. From SocGen’s Andrew Lapthone:

“Global equity markets continued to struggle last week, with the MSCI World index off 1.8% pushing the index back into red for the year. Big losses were seen in Japan with the Topix 500 down 6% and the volatile Mothers index crashing 18.5% over the week as the yen continued to strengthen. According to the BOE measure, the trade-weighted yen is now up more than 20% over the past year and back to where it stood three years ago. In the battle for the weakest currency, Japan looks to have thrown in the towel.

Whatever the outcome of the Brexit vote this week investors will still be facing the prospect of negative rates and negative yields on a huge range of bonds, massive corporate leverage with worryingly rising delinquencies and of course expensive equity markets and falling profits. To that extent these political events are a distraction from the main event, weak global economic growth and perverse asset markets. So whilst the market preference for the status quo might be celebrated in the short-term, actually when the fog clears all of the problems will still be there.”

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Forcing companies to raise wages?!

IMF Calls On Japan To ‘Reload’ Abenomics (Nikkei)

Japan needs bolder income policies such as penalizing profitable companies that do not increase wages, the IMF said on Monday after concluding its annual economic assessment of the country. Despite initial success, progress under Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trademark economic policies, has stalled in recent months. The inflation rate has dropped to negative territory again, while economic growth has remained anemic.The IMF now expects Japan’s economy to grow by about 0.5% in 2016, before slowing to 0.3% in 2017, with potential growth sliding to close to zero by 2030, due to the declining demographic. “Abenomics needs to be reloaded,” the IMF said in its report and argued that income policies combined with labor market reforms should “move to the forefront” of the country’s fight against lagging growth.

“The government can introduce a ‘comply or explain’ mechanism for profitable companies to ensure that they raise base wages by at least 3% and back this up by stronger tax incentives or – as a last resort – penalties,” the IMF wrote. Promoting intermediate contracts that balance job security and wage increases will “reinforce income policies,” it added. “Our perception is that much of the stasis of inflation [in Japan] comes from the legacy, the history of having negative inflation,” said David Lipton, first deputy managing director at the IMF, in a press conference in Tokyo. “Certainly firms have at this point the cash flow and resource at hand to provide some wage increases. There are wage increases evident in a wide range of companies across this economy, so our thought is to suggest that this be a broader practice and that it be more uniform.”

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“..Mr Rajan has been an acerbic critic of zero rates and quantitative easing by the western central banks…”

India’s Rockstar Central Banker Defeated As Modi Revolution Stalls (AEP)

India’s bid to become the ‘economic super-tiger’ of Asia is in serious doubt after an assault on the independence of the central bank and failure to deliver on promised reforms. The country has been the darling of the emerging market universe since the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi swept into power in May 2014 promising a blitz of Thatcherite reform and a bonfire of the diktats, but key changes have been blocked in the legislature. The government has turned increasingly populist. Matters have come to a head with the de facto ouster of Raghuram Rajan, the superstar governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), rebuked for keeping monetary policy too tight. It is part of a pattern of attacks on central banks by politicians across the world, and the latest sign that the glory days of the monetary overlords are waning.

Mr Rajan has been battling criticism for months but threw in the towel over the weekend, sending tremors through the Indian financial markets and provoking a flurry of warnings from global investors. “He has decided not to wait until he is refused a second term,” said Lord Desai from the London School of Economics. “This is ‘Rexit’ – India’s equivalent of ‘Brexit. It looks very bad for India and will not go down well in financial markets. He was defeated by the crony capitalists up against him,” he said. The government has dampened the impact with by relaxing barriers to foreign investment in the country, but it may have underestimated the totemic status of Mr Rajan outside India. He is seen by funds as the guarantor of good practice and market integrity. Mr Rajan is a former chief economist for the IMF, famed for warning that the US subprime debt bubble was out of control long before the Lehman crisis blew up in 2008.

[..] Mr Rajan has been an acerbic critic of zero rates and quantitative easing by the western central banks. He blames them for flooding the international system with excess liquidity that emerging markets could not easily control. This fueled dangerous boom-bust asset cycles. While QE might have ‘worked’ for the US, UK, and Europe – the jury is out even for them – Mr Rajan argues that the policy is a “Pareto sub-optimal” for the world as a whole, and ultimately increases the danger of a deflation-trap in the future. The Fed and the leading central banks of the West have never really answered his critique.

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I was going to say the Empress has no clothes, but I don’t want that image lingering on my retina.

Yellen Makes ‘Uncertainty’ New Mantra (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s dwindling confidence in its own outlook and resulting confusion among investors are creating a policy problem that may require chief Janet Yellen to lay out her own views more forcefully. The Fed chair’s next communications test comes on Tuesday and Wednesday during her semi-annual testimony to U.S. lawmakers, less than a week after the central bank kept interest rates unchanged near record lows and lowered its projections for hikes in 2017 and 2018. A self-described consensus builder, Yellen sees her job as reflecting the whole committee’s views rather than setting an agenda for others to follow.

“I think that’s a very laudable intent, but sometimes that produces a lack of clarity,” said former Fed staffer and current partner at Cornerstone Macro LLC Roberto Perli. “Sometimes there is a consensus for one reason and then next time there is a consensus for a different reason so the story shifts and people get confused.” In fact, Fed policymakers’ deepening uncertainty about their own projections has resulted in the central bank sending mixed messages – repeatedly ratcheting up rate hike expectations only to tone them down later.

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Important point: “Whatever it takes” was orchestrated specifically to expel any market doubt with regard to the viability and sustainability of European monetary integration.

“Whatever It Takes” Wasn’t Enough (Noland)

Back in 2012, Mario Draghi recognized how even the notion that a country might exit the euro could unleash market dynamics that would rather quickly place Europe’s markets and banking system in peril. “Whatever it takes” was orchestrated specifically to expel any market doubt with regard to the viability and sustainability of European monetary integration. On the back of a wall of liquidity and inflating securities markets, Draghi’s gambit held things together for a few years. That said, the ECB bet the ranch – and was compelled to ante up in response to market instability early this year. The outcome of the game is very much in doubt. While Britain is not even a member of the euro, Brexit provides a test of ECB policymaking. Is Europe robust or fragile?

Has relative financial stability been nothing more than a brittle ECB-fabricated façade? Are the forces mounted against integration and cooperation too powerful to disregard? Is European integration – along with the euro currency – viable long-term? It’s an untimely test, with confidence in Europe’s banks already waning. It’s furthermore an untimely test because of faltering confidence in the ECB and contemporary global central banking more generally. Global market instability has again resurfaced and there will be no resolution next week. The FOMC has confounded Fed watchers with its abrupt pivot back to ultra-dovishness. There shouldn’t be much confusion. Global market fragility has reemerged, and the Fed’s rapid retreat has confirmed the seriousness of what’s unfolding.

Central banks have thrown everything at the problem, yet markets remain as vulnerable as ever. At least the world was not facing the downside of China’s historic Credit Bubble back in 2012. The Fed has never admitted that global concerns have been dictating U.S. monetary policy since 2012. It has now become clear, throwing the analysis of policymaking into disarray. The harsh reality is also increasingly apparent: global monetary management is dysfunctional and central bankers have become perplexed – without a backup plan. Such an uncertain backdrop is pro-currency market instability and pro-de-risking/deleveraging.

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Nobody has a reason to use the yuan.

The World’s Newest “Reserve” Currency Is Anything But (Balding)

Last week’s decision by MSCI not to include Chinese shares in its primary emerging-markets stock index has been viewed – widely and rightly – as a blow to China’s hopes of internationalizing its financial sector. There’s worse news, though: Even the progress China’s made thus far is in danger of going into reverse. MSCI’s choice is a sharp contrast to the one made by the IMF last December, when it promised to begin including the Chinese yuan in its basket of “special drawing rights.” The move essentially conferred global reserve status on the currency, despite the fact that China arguably didn’t meet the conditions for inclusion: It was debatable whether the yuan could be considered “freely usable,” and in any case, it was hardly used. At its peak in August 2015, the yuan accounted for 2.79% of global payments, compared to 44.8% for the U.S. dollar.

The idea was that compromising now would encourage leaders in China to fulfill their pledges to liberalize the yuan fully by 2020. In fact, since the IMF’s decision, the yuan has if anything grown less international, not more. Since March 2015, yuan deposits in the three largest offshore centers – Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore – have fallen 16%, to a total of 1.24 trillion yuan or about $188 billion. The currency is being used in even fewer international transactions than before: Its share of global payments stood at 1.82% in April 2016. The fact that only a quarter of those international payments included a partner other than China or Hong Kong means that only about 0.5% of all yuan transactions are truly international in scope. This places the currency somewhere between those of Scandinavian powerhouses Norway and Denmark.

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Absolutely completely madness. The casino keeps adding new slot machines and crap tables.

China’s Developers Can’t Stop Overpaying for Property (WSJ)

If the cost of flour is higher than the price of bread, what should a baker do? Chinese property developers are choosing to buy more flour. Prices for land, the main ingredient of the property world, have hit record highs in auctions this year in many Chinese cities. The average land price per square meter for the top 100 cities in the first five months of this year jumped nearly 50% from the same period last year, according to Wind Information. Some land prices are even higher than housing prices nearby.

State-owned developer Poly Real Estate, for instance, bought a piece of land in a Shanghai suburb for 5.5 billion yuan ($835.5 million) last month. This translates to roughly 44,000 yuan per square meter of buildable space. Houses in the region meanwhile go for around 40,000 yuan per square meter. After taking into account construction costs, taxes and other expenses, property prices would have to nearly double for the developer to make money. Prime land in the biggest cities always costs a lot, but increasingly the voracious buyers are showing up in less prime locations and smaller cities. In Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, with a population of 1.1 million, land sales in the first five months of this year have already exceeded the total of last year. And average prices have doubled.

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It’s the same they do with raw materials: “..After winning an auction, financial firms with access to cheap funding can apply for a loan with the land as collateral..”

China’s ‘Land Kings’ Return as Housing Prices Rise (WSJ)

The “land kings” are back. That had been a nickname for Chinese developers paying sky-high prices for land parcels during China’s property boom earlier this decade, which left so-called ghost cities of unsold housing across China. Now, with housing prices in China’s larger cities again rising rapidly, frothy bids for land parcels are back. On June 8, Logan Property Holdings agreed to pay 14.1 billion yuan ($2.14 billion) for a piece of land in Shenzhen’s Guangming district, the largest-ever price tag in the southern Chinese city. Logan says it didn’t overpay, calling the price “relatively favorable” in a hot market. Earlier in June, a joint venture between two firms, one of which is backed by state-owned Power Construction Corp. of China, outbid 17 rivals with an 8.3 billion yuan offer for a plot in Shenzhen’s Longhua district.

The soaring land prices show the challenges facing the government as it tries to prevent property bubbles. Moves to stimulate China’s slowing economy and to trim excess housing in smaller cities across the country—such as interest-rate cuts and eased mortgage rules—have fed into speculative demand for homes in top-tier cities that are now scrambling to cool prices. Average housing prices in 70 Chinese cities were about 5% higher in May than a year earlier, the fifth straight month of increases. In top-tier cities, prices were up 19% to 53%. But land prices are shooting up not just in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing, but also in lower-profile cities such as Hangzhou, Hefei and Zhengzhou. Officials face a dilemma in trying to tame land prices: Land is commonly used as debt collateral; a sharp drop in valuation could trigger defaults and produce a wave of bad loans, hurting the economy. On the other hand, runaway land prices make it harder for ordinary Chinese to afford apartments.

[..] There is also concern that financial firms with little experience as builders are viewing land as an opportunity for arbitrage. After winning an auction, financial firms with access to cheap funding can apply for a loan with the land as collateral, and use that to extend a construction loan at a higher rate to a partner, which is typically a property developer.

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“Like an oil lease, you’re easily disposable..”

Energy-Related Loan Losses Rising (B.)

“Like an oil lease, you’re easily disposable,” the villainous J.R. Ewing quipped to his beauty queen wife in the 1970s television series Dallas. Readers of the latest edition of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’s quarterly southwest economy publication might want to keep that quote in mind. News from the oil patch — the 11th Fed district that encompasses the shale heartland — is not encouraging, as it reveals a sharper rise in souring energy-related loans. “The persistence of relatively low oil prices has begun taking a toll on district bank customers,” the Dallas Fed said in its report.

“Oil-price hedges become less effective the longer prices stay low, and the cushion built by energy firms during the good times gets thinner. Cash flow becomes stretched and collateral loses its value, further pressuring borrowers.” That forces them closer to default unless banks are able to keep their lending spigots open. Many of these loans fall under the umbrella of commercial and industrial (C&I) lending — a category which has been surging in conjunction with commercial real estate (CRE) lending in recent years. While regulators have kept a somewhat lazy eye on rising CRE loans since even before the 2008 financial crisis (and certainly after it), the boom in C&I lending has been met with far less scrutiny — resulting in charts which look like this:

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“..millions of electric customers in Southern California were warned they could suffer power outages of up to 14 days this summer..”

California Power Grid Prepares For Heatwave, Power Outages (R.)

California will have its first test of plans to keep the lights on this summer following the shutdown of the key Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility as temperatures in the Los Angeles area are forecast to hit triple digits this week. With record-setting heat and air conditioning demand expected in Southern California, the state’s power grid operator issued a so-called “flex alert,” urging consumers to conserve energy to help prevent rotating power outages – which could occur regardless. Electricity demand is expected to rise during the unseasonable heatwave on Monday and Tuesday, with forecast system-wide use expected to top 45,000 megawatts, said the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages electricity flow through the state.

That compares with a peak demand of 47,358 MW last year and the all-time high of 50,270 MW set in July 2006. That could put stress on the power grid, particularly with the shut-in of Aliso Canyon, following a massive leak at the underground storage facility in October. The facility, in the San Fernando Valley, is the second largest storage field in the western United States, according to federal data, and therefore crucial for power generation. All customers, including homes, hospitals, oil refineries and airports are at risk of losing power at some point this summer because a majority of electric generating stations in California use gas as their primary fuel. In April, millions of electric customers in Southern California were warned they could suffer power outages of up to 14 days this summer due to the closure.

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“The Border Force Act gives the Australian government the power to jail, for up to two years, anybody employed by the department..”

Australia Whistleblower Loses Job After Speaking Out On Refugee Camps (G.)

The trauma specialist who condemned the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia’s offshore detention regime as the worst “atrocity” he has seen has had his contract to work on Nauru terminated. Psychologist Paul Stevenson, whom the Australian government awarded an Order of Australia for his work counselling victims of the Bali bombings, had undertaken 14 deployments to Nauru and to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. He was due to return to Nauru on Thursday. But after he spoke publicly to the Guardian about his experiences working within Australia’s offshore detention regime – describing conditions in the camps as “demoralising … and desperate” – he was told his contract had been summarily cancelled.

PsyCare, the company through which he was employed to provide counselling to guards working in offshore detention, informed him by email his employment had been terminated. Stevenson said the news was not unexpected. “But the public needs to hear about the consequences people face for speaking out, and to understand the level they go to in minimising access.” [..] The Border Force Act gives the Australian government the power to jail, for up to two years, anybody employed by the department or its contractors who speaks publicly about conditions inside the offshore detention regime, including doctors advocating for better healthcare, or other workers exposing sexual and physical abuse of detainees.

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Apr 072016
 
 April 7, 2016  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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John M. Fox “The new Hudson” 1948


Time To Stop Dancing With Equities On A Live Volcano (AEP)
Hillary Clinton’s Corporate Cash and Corporate Worldview (Naomi Klein)
How Bad Is China’s Debt Problem, Really? (Balding)
China Traders Flee to Hong Kong in Record Stock-Buying Streak (BBG)
China Set To Shake Up World Copper Market With Exports (Reuters)
Panama Papers Reveal Offshore Secrets Of China’s Red Nobility (G.)
David Cameron’s EU Intervention On Trusts Set Up Tax Loophole (FT)
Panama Papers Reveal London As Centre Of ‘Spider’s Web’ (AFP)
How Laundered Money Shapes London’s Property Market (FT)
London Luxury-Apartment Sales Slump Triggers 20% Bulk Discounts (BBG)
US Readies Bank Rule On Shell Companies Amid ‘Panama Papers’ Fury (Reuters)
US Government, Soros Funded Panama Papers To Attack Putin: WikiLeaks (RT)
Bookmakers Set Odds For Next Leader To Resign After Panama Papers (MW)
Brexit May Force Europe’s Banks To Dump $123 Billion Of Securities (BBG)
Economics Builds a Tower of Babel (BBG)
Dutch ‘No’ Vote On Ukraine Pact Forces Government Rethink (Reuters)
Greece Sees Two-Week Lag In Migrant Returns To Turkey (AFP)

Ambrose sees inflation?!

Time To Stop Dancing With Equities On A Live Volcano (AEP)

Be very careful. The US economic expansion is long in the tooth and starting to hit the time-honoured constraints that mark the last phase of the business cycle. Wall Street equities are more stretched by a host of measures than they were at the peak of sub-prime bubble just before the Lehman crisis. All it will take to bring the S&P 500 index back to earth is a catalyst, and that is exactly what is coming into view on the macro-economic horizon. This does not mean we are on the cusp of recession or racing headlong towards some imminent reckoning, but we are probably in the final innings of this epic asset boom. Didier Saint-Georges, from fund manager Carmignac, says the “massive and indiscriminate equity market rally” since February’s panic-lows is a false dawn driven by short-covering, telling us little about the world’s deformed economic, financial, and political landscape.

Corporate earnings peaked at $1.845 trillion (£1.3 trillion) in the second quarter of 2015, and recessions typically start five to seven quarters after the peak. “We will not be dancing on the volcano like so many others,” said Saint-Georges. If we are lucky it will be a slow denouement with a choppy sideways market going nowhere for another year as the US labour market tightens, and workers at last start to claw back a greater share of the economic pie. The owners of capital have had it their way for much of the post-Lehman era, exorbitant beneficiaries of central bank largesse. Now they may have to give a little back to society. Yet this welcome “rotation” spells financial trouble. Strategists Mislav Matejka and Emmanuel Cau, from JP Morgan, have told clients to prepare for the end of the seven-year bull run, advising them to trim equities gradually and build up a safety buffer in cash.

“This is not the stage of the US cycle when one should be buying stocks with a six to 12-month horizon. We recommend using any strength as a selling opportunity,” they said. Their recent 165-page report on the subject is a sobering read. The price-to-sales ratio (P/S) of US stocks is higher than any time in the sub-prime boom. Share buy-backs are at an historic high in relation to earnings (EBIT). Net debt-to-equity ratios have blown through their historical range. This is happening despite two quarters of tighter lending by US banks. Spreads on high-yield debt have doubled since 2014, jumping by 300 basis points even after stripping out the energy bust. The list goes on; the message is clear. “One should be cutting equity weight before the weakness becomes obvious,” they said.

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Hillary equals more of the same. The same disaster.

Hillary Clinton’s Corporate Cash and Corporate Worldview (Naomi Klein)

There aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along. The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.” That’s a whole lot of firepower to slap down a non-issue. So is it an issue or not? First, some facts. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including her Super PAC, has received a lot of money from the employees and registered lobbyists of fossil-fuel companies. There’s the much-cited $4.5 million that Greenpeace calculated, which includes bundling by lobbyists. One of Clinton’s most active financial backers is Warren Buffett, who is up to his eyeballs in coal. But that’s not all. There is also a lot more money from sources not included in those calculations. For instance, one of Clinton’s most prominent and active financial backers is Warren Buffett.

While he owns a large mix of assets, Buffett is up to his eyeballs in coal, including coal transportation and some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country. Then there’s all the cash that fossil-fuel companies have directly pumped into the Clinton Foundation. In recent years, Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron have all contributed to the foundation. An investigation in the International Business Times just revealed that at least two of these oil companies were part of an effort to lobby Clinton’s State Department about the Alberta tar sands, a massive deposit of extra-dirty oil. Leading climate scientists like James Hansen have explained that if we don’t keep the vast majority of that carbon in the ground, we will unleash catastrophic levels of warming.

During this period, the investigation found, Clinton’s State Department approved the Alberta Clipper, a controversial pipeline carrying large amounts of tar-sands bitumen from Alberta to Wisconsin. “According to federal lobbying records reviewed by the IBT,” write David Sirota and Ned Resnikoff, “Chevron and ConocoPhillips both lobbied the State Department specifically on the issue of ‘oil sands’ in the immediate months prior to the department’s approval, as did a trade association funded by ExxonMobil.”

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“All this leads one to think that the government doesn’t recognize the severity of the problem.”

How Bad Is China’s Debt Problem, Really? (Balding)

For months now, China’s regulators have been warning about the dangers of rapidly expanding credit and the need to deleverage. With new plans to clean up bad loans at the country’s banks, you might conclude that the government is getting serious about the risks it faces. But there’s reason to doubt the effectiveness of China’s approach. In fact, it’s running a serious risk of making its debt problems worse. After the financial crisis, China embarked on a credit binge of historical proportions. In 2009, new loans grew by 95%. The government offered cheap credit to build apartments for urban migrants, airports for the newly affluent and roads to accommodate a fleet of new cars. Yet as lending grew at twice the rate of GDP, problems started bubbling up. Companies gained billion-dollar valuations, then collapsed when they couldn’t profit.

Enormous surplus capacity drove down prices. Excessive real-estate lending led to the construction of “ghost cities.” Asset bubbles popped and bad loans mounted. China’s policy makers say they recognize these problems. The government’s most recent 5-year plan, released in December, notes the need for deleveraging. The PBOC has talked up the party line about slowing credit growth and making high-quality loans. Yet officials still say that only about 1.6% of commercial-banking loans are nonperforming. Some analysts put the real figure closer to 20%. And Beijing’s primary plan to address the problem – allowing companies to swap their debt with banks in exchange for equity – actually creates new risks. For one thing, while a debt-for-equity swap may help excessively indebted firms, it will wreak havoc with banks.

Directly, a given bank will no longer receive the cash flow from interest and principal payments. Indirectly, it won’t be able to sell equity to the PBOC or to other banks as it could with a loan. Valuing the equity could present a bigger problem. In China, banks must count 100% of loans made to non-financial companies against their reserve requirements. When they invest in equity, however, they must set aside 400% of the value of the investment. If the debt isn’t worth face value to the bank, it seems unlikely that the equity is worth far more – suggesting that large write-downs will be required. The swaps program also creates a number of big-picture problems. Consider the tight relationship between banks and large government-linked companies.

If banks were under pressure to roll over loans when they were creditors hoping to get repaid, what will their incentive be when they own the firm and have essentially unlimited lending capacity? Another problem is that Chinese industry exists in a deflationary debt spiral: Prices have been falling for years, raising the real cost of repaying loans. If companies are relieved of their debt, they’ll have an incentive to reduce prices to gain market share, thus worsening one of the primary causes of the current malaise. All this leads one to think that the government doesn’t recognize the severity of the problem. Debt-for-equity swaps and loan rollovers simply aren’t long-term solutions for ailing companies on the scale China faces.

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All that monopoly money behaves like liquid gas.

China Traders Flee to Hong Kong in Record Stock-Buying Streak (BBG)

Cash is pouring into Hong Kong stocks from across the mainland border. Chinese investors have been net buyers of the city’s shares for 104 consecutive trading days, sinking 43.8 billion yuan ($6.8 billion) into equities from October through Tuesday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg tracking investments via the exchange link with Shanghai. Mainland traders have now put more money into Hong Kong than global asset managers have invested in Shanghai, a reversal of flows in the link’s first year, the data show. As concern persists about a further slide in the yuan, Chinese investors are piling into cheaper shares across the border that have lagged behind mainland counterparts for years.

While the flows are small relative to estimates of the record capital flight from China in 2015, they’re another sign of what’s at stake for policy makers seeking to stabilize the currency and stem outflows by providing credible investment options at home. “In China, there is talk of an asset drought – people don’t find domestic assets particularly attractive,” said Tai Hui at JPMorgan. “They are investing overseas in any way possible including via the southbound stock connect.” Buying mainland Chinese stocks has been a losing proposition this year, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index down 14%. Other investment alternatives such as property are coming under scrutiny as authorities impose fresh curbs after home prices jumped in the biggest cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

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What’s next? Compete with OPEC?

China Set To Shake Up World Copper Market With Exports (Reuters)

China may be about to shock the global copper market by unleashing some of its stockpiles of the metal, which are near record highs, onto the global market. Four traders of copper, including two from state-owned Chinese smelters, said they expect China to raise its copper exports – which are usually tiny – in the next few months. China’s refined copper exports averaged less than 10,000 tonnes a month in the first two months of 2016, and around 17,000 a month in 2015. If higher exports materialize, they will be a major jolt to producers and investors in the metal across the world – in particular because it would come during what is traditionally the strongest period of demand for copper from China, the world’s largest consumer of the metal. It will also be a further sign that the Chinese economy is still struggling against headwinds. Some sectors that buy copper – such as construction and manufacturing – have been hit especially hard in the past couple of years.

Traders and analysts in China say slowing building construction and electronics manufacturing has stifled demand for refined copper from the nation’s massive smelting sector at a time when the country is already swimming in the metal. China’s copper consumption has been a crucial measure of the country’s economic growth as the metal forms the essential network of its infrastructure, carrying water, conducting electricity and comprising the circuits in its machines. “The situation for copper smelters in China is probably the worst it has been in 20 years. But they won’t admit it. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least (if they start exporting),” said a source at an Asian copper producer, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Increasing Chinese exports would mark an abrupt turnaround in global copper trade flows as China’s refined copper imports hit a record in 2015.

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Looking at China, it’s hard not to think of 1789, Robespierre, Marie-Antoinette, Bastille. Napoleon next?

Panama Papers Reveal Offshore Secrets Of China’s Red Nobility (G.)

The eight members of China’s Communist party elite whose family members used offshore companies are revealed in the Panama Papers. The documents show the granddaughter of a powerful Chinese leader became the sole shareholder in two British Virgin Islands companies while still a teenager. Jasmine Li had just begun studying at Stanford University in the US when the companies were registered in her name in December 2010. Her grandfather Jia Qinglin was at that time the fourth-ranked politician in China. Other prominent figures who have taken advantage of offshore companies include the brother-in-law of the president, Xi Jinping, and the son-in-law of Zhang Gaoli, another member of China’s top political body, the politburo standing committee.

They are part of the “red nobility”, whose influence extends well beyond politics. Others include the daughter of Li Peng, who oversaw the brutal retaliation against Tiananmen Square protestors; and Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, the ex-politburo member jailed for life for corruption and power abuses. The relatives had companies that were clients of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. There is nothing in the documents to suggest that the politicians in question had any beneficial interest in the companies connected to their family members. Since Monday, China’s censors have been blocking access to the unfolding revelations about its most senior political families. There are now reports of censors deleting hundreds of posts on the social networks Sina Weibo and Wechat, and some media organisations including CNN say parts of their websites have been blocked.

The disclosures come amid Xi Jinping’s crackdown on behaviour that could embarrass the Communist party. Two more well-connected figures – the brother of former vice-president Zeng Qinghong and the son of former politburo member Tian Jiyun – are directors of a single offshore company. They have previously been linked in a court case that highlighted how some Chinese “princelings” have used political connections for financial gain. They have emerged from the internal data of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. [..] China and Hong Kong were Mossack Fonseca’s biggest sources of business, with clients from these jurisdictions linked to a total of 40,000 companies past and present. About a quarter of these are thought to be live: in 2015, records show the firm was collecting fees for nearly 10,000 companies linked to Hong Kong and China. The Mossack Fonseca franchise now has offices in eight Chinese cities, according to its website

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How much pressure will he get?

David Cameron’s EU Intervention On Trusts Set Up Tax Loophole (FT)

David Cameron personally intervened in 2013 to weaken an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of trusts, creating a possible loophole that other European nations warned could be exploited by tax evaders. The disclosure of the prime minister’s resistance to opening up trusts to full scrutiny comes as he faces intense pressure to make clear whether his family stands to benefit from offshore assets linked to his late father. Although Mr Cameron championed corporate tax transparency, he wrote in November 2013 to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council at the time, to argue that trusts widely used for inheritance planning in Britain should win special treatment in an EU law to tackle money laundering.

In the letter, seen by the Financial Times, Mr Cameron said: “It is clearly important we recognise the important differences between companies and trusts. This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies, such as central public registries, may well not be appropriate generally.” Britain has emerged as the strongest European rival to Switzerland for private banking and wealth management, administering £1.2tn of assets, according to Deloitte. The sector contributed £3.2bn to the economy, according to 2014 estimates from the British Bankers’ Association. A senior government source said that Mr Cameron’s letter reflected official advice that creating a central registry for trusts would have been complex and would have distracted from the main objective of shining a light on the ownership of shell companies.

“It would have slowed down the process because of the different types of trust involved,” the official said. “They are sometimes used to protect vulnerable people, so that would have been an extra complication. “As the directive went through we reached a position where trusts which generate tax consequences had to demonstrate their ownership to HM Revenue & Customs.” According to officials, the UK stance in 2013 prompted clashes with France and Austria as well as with members of the European Parliament, who accused Britain of double standards in the fight against tax avoidance. Maria Fekter, the Austrian finance minister at the time, had attacked Britain earlier that year as “the island of the blessed for tax evasion and money laundering”. She cited trusts as a specific problem.

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“London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world..”

Panama Papers Reveal London As Centre Of ‘Spider’s Web’ (AFP)

As-well as shining a spotlight on the secret financial arrangements of the rich and powerful, the so-called Panama Papers have laid bare London’s role as a vital organ of the world’s tax-haven network. The files leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed Britain’s link to thousands of firms based in tax havens and how secret money is invested in British assets, particularly London property. Critics accuse British authorities of turning a blind eye to the inflow of suspect money and of being too close to the financial sector to clamp down on the use of its overseas territories as havens, with the British Virgin Islands alone hosting 110,000 of the Mossack Fonseca’s clients. “London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world,” Nicholas Shaxson, author of the book “Treasure Islands”, which examines the role of offshore banks and tax havens, told AFP.

The political analyst said that Britain itself was relatively transparent and clean, but that companies used the country’s territories abroad – relics of the days of empire – to “farm out the seedier stuff”, often under the guise of shell companies with anonymous owners. “Tax evasion and stuff like that will be done in the external parts of the network. Usually there will be links to the City of London, UK law firms, UK accountancy firms and to UK banks,” he said, calling London the centre of a “spider’s web”. “They’re all agents of the City of London – that is where the whole exercise is controlled from,” Richard Murphy, professor at London’s City University, said of the offshore havens. The files showed that Britain had the third highest number of Mossack Fonseca’s middlemen operating within its borders, with 32,682 advisers.

Although not illegal in themselves, shell companies can be used for illegal activities such as laundering the proceeds of criminal activities or to conceal misappropriated or politically-inconvenient wealth. Around 310,000 tax haven companies own an estimated £170 billion (210 billion euros, $240 billion) of British real estate, 10% of which were linked to Mossack Fonseca. The files appeared to show that the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan owned London properties worth more than £1.2 billion and that Mariam Safdar, daughter of Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was the beneficial owner of two offshore companies that owned flats on the exclusive Park Lane.

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“..the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK”

How Laundered Money Shapes London’s Property Market (FT)

For three-quarters of Londoners under 35, owning a home in the capital remains out of reach. But according to the leaked Panama Papers, buying property in London presented little problem for associates of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president; for a convicted embezzler who is also the son of a former Egyptian president; or for a Nigerian senator facing corruption charges. The leaks from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca have brought back into focus the ownership of London property via offshore companies by people suspected of corruption overseas — a phenomenon that has helped to shape the capital’s housing market, where prices are up 50% since 2007. “We think it very likely that the influx of corrupt money into the housing market has pushed up prices,” said Rachel Davies, senior advocacy manager at Transparency International.

Donald Toon, head of the National Crime Agency, has gone further, saying last year that “the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK”. Since 2004 £180m of UK property has been subject to criminal investigation as suspected proceeds of corruption, according to Transparency International data from 2015. Yet this probably represented “only a small proportion of the total”, added the campaign group. Most of these properties were bought using anonymous shell companies based in offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands. Overseas companies own 100,000 properties in England and Wales, Land Registry data show. Owning property through a company can present tax advantages but, depending where that company is based, it can also offer anonymity.

According to Transparency International figures, almost one in 10 properties in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea is owned through a “secrecy jurisdiction” such as the British Virgin Islands, Jersey or the Isle of Man. “UK property can be acquired anonymously, anti-money-laundering checks can be bypassed with relative ease, and if you invest in luxury property in London you know your investment is safe. All that comes from the flaws in the UK anti-money-laundering system,” said Ms Davies. According to the documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Soulieman Marouf, an al-Assad associate whose assets in Europe were frozen for two years from 2012, holds luxury flats in London worth almost £6m through British Virgin Islands companies.

The family of a deceased former Syrian intelligence chief owns a £1.2m Battersea home, the Guardian reported. The documents also link Alaa Mubarak — a son of Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president — who was jailed and released last year for corruption, to an £8m Knightsbridge property. Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian senate who faces charges in his home country of failing to declare assets, owns a Belgravia property, while a second is held by companies in which his wife and former special assistant are shareholders. Mr Saraki denies any wrongdoing and says he declared his assets in accordance with the law.

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This bubble too will burst.

London Luxury-Apartment Sales Slump Triggers 20% Bulk Discounts (BBG)

Developers in central London are offering institutional investors discounts of as much as 20% on bulk purchases of luxury apartments as demand from international buyers slumps amid higher taxes and low commodity prices. Concessions of about that magnitude are being offered to investors willing to take 100 homes or more, according to Killian Hurley, chief executive officer of London developer Mount Anvil. Broker CBRE is negotiating discounts of as much as 15% for bulk purchases on the fringes of the capital’s best districts, said Chris Lacey, head of U.K. residential investment. A record number of high-end homes are planned in London districts such as Nine Elms and Earls Court even as demand wanes.

Sales of properties under construction in the U.K. capital slumped 19% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to researcher Molior, while the percentage of overseas buyers fell to 20% from about 33% a year earlier, broker Hamptons International data show. “We will see distress in prime central London and in Nine Elms, where there has been a lot of international investment,” Andrew Stanford at LaSalle Investment said in an interview. “There have been a number of house builders who have approached us directly with schemes as a direct result of off-plan sales falling, particularly in central London.” Bulk buyers may be hard to find because the apartments being built aren’t designed for the rental market, lacking features such as equal-size bedrooms, said Stanford, whose company has invested more than $457 million in U.K. multifamily housing on behalf of clients.

Many developers traveled to Asia to sell homes in advance of construction and secure cheaper development loans because the down payments made projects less risky. The imposition of higher purchase taxes has now reduced the appeal of the costliest properties, leaving developers wondering how they will secure funding, said Dominic Grace, head of London residential development at broker Savills. “It is a question everyone is asking, and the truth is no one really knows,” Grace said.

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Sure..

US Readies Bank Rule On Shell Companies Amid ‘Panama Papers’ Fury (Reuters)

The U.S. Treasury Department intends to soon issue a long-delayed rule forcing banks to seek the identities of people behind shell-company account holders, after the “Panama Papers” leak provoked a global uproar over the hiding of wealth via offshore banking devices. A department spokesman said on Wednesday the rule would “soon” be turned over to the White House for review and issuance, but did not confirm any timetable for the initiative, which has taken years. Governments around the globe have launched probes into possible financial wrongdoing after 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, nicknamed the “Panama Papers,” were leaked to the media and reports emerged Sunday. Mossack Fonseca has said it was the victim of a computer hack, and that it has consistently acted appropriately.

The papers offer “validation for those who have been screaming for a decade” about the need for financial institutions in the United States and elsewhere to address risks of money laundering, terror finance and other crime by identifying people who clandestinely control legal entities, former Treasury official Chip Poncy told Reuters. The leaked documents may give banks a glimpse into the kind of information on true, or “beneficial” owners, that they regularly should be obtaining to better understand the cross-border money flows they facilitate, said Poncy, one of the architects of the Treasury rule, which has been in the works since 2012.

But simply having a client who is linked to the offshore shell companies highlighted in the Panama papers “doesn’t necessarily mean much,” said a former FinCEN official who asked not to be named due to his role in the private sector. What would be significant is “inconsistent information or payment flows that now connect” in ways that suggest possible illicit activity, he said.

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“We have innuendo, we have a complete lack of standards on the part of the western media, and the major mistake made by the leaker was to give these documents to the corporate media..”

US Government, Soros Funded Panama Papers To Attack Putin: WikiLeaks (RT)

Washington is behind the recently released offshore revelations known as the Panama Papers, WikiLeaks has claimed, saying that the attack was “produced” to target Russia and President Putin. On Wednesday, the international whistleblowing organization said on Twitter that the Panama Papers data leak was produced by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), “which targets Russia and [the] former USSR.” The “Putin attack” was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and American hedge fund billionaire George Soros, WikiLeaks added, saying that the US government’s funding of such an attack is a serious blow to its integrity. Organizations belonging to Soros have been proclaimed to be “undesirable” in Russia.

Last year, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office recognized Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects. Prosecutors then said the activities of the institute and its assistance foundation were a threat to the basis of Russia’s constitutional order and national security. Earlier this year, the billionaire US investor alleged that Putin is “no ally” to US and EU leaders, and that he aims “to gain considerable economic benefits from dividing Europe.” “The American government is pursuing a policy of destabilization all over the world, and this [leak] also serves this purpose of destabilization. They are causing a lot of people all over the world and also a lot of money to find its way into the [new] tax havens in America. The US is preparing for a super big financial crisis, and they want all that money in their own vaults and not in the vaults of other countries,” German journalist and author Ernst Wolff told RT.

Earlier this week, the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which worked on the Panama Papers, said that Putin is not the target of the leak, but rather that the revelations aimed to shed light on murky offshore practices internationally. “It wasn’t a story about Russia. It was a story about the offshore world,” ICIJ head Gerard Ryle told TASS. His statement came in stark contrast to international media coverage of the “largest leak in offshore history.” Although neither Vladimir Putin nor any members of his family are directly mentioned in the papers, many mainstream media outlets chose the Russian president’s photo when breaking the story.

“We have innuendo, we have a complete lack of standards on the part of the western media, and the major mistake made by the leaker was to give these documents to the corporate media,” former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT. “This would be humorous if it weren’t so serious,” he added. “The degree of Putinophobia has reached a point where to speak well about Russia, or about some of its actions and successes, is impossible. One needs to speak [about Russia] in negative terms, the more the better, and when there’s nothing to say, you need to make things up,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said, commenting on anti-Russian sentiment triggered by the publications. WikiLeaks spokesman and Icelandic investigative journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson has called for the leaked data to be put online so that everybody could search through the papers. He said withholding of the documents could hardly be viewed as “responsible journalism.”

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Almost funny.

Bookmakers Set Odds For Next Leader To Resign After Panama Papers (MW)

Whose scalp will the Panama Papers scandal claim next? Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has opened betting lines on which head of state could be the next to go. “Who needs the Grand National when you’ve got the Panama Papers to punt on?” the betting line boasted in a press release on Wednesday. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced yesterday he was stepping down after Panama Papers revelations that he and his wife sought to hide their claims on Icelandic banks that were bailed out by his administration during the financial crisis. Paddy Power puts the odds of British Prime Minister David Cameron resigning next at 20-1. The leaked documents outed Cameron’s father Ian Cameron as a client of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, at the center of the scandal.

Cameron’s father used a secret but legal offshore structure to set up a fund for investors. After saying all day Monday that his tax affairs were a “private matter”, media questions about his family’s remaining interest in the fund forced Cameron’s office, according to BBC reports, to issue a statement affirming that his family “[does] not benefit from any offshore trusts.” A surer bet according to the bookmaker is Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri at 8-1 odds. Macri won last year’s general election campaigning on a platform promising to fight corruption but the leaked documents say he was a director of Fleg Trading Ltd, founded in 1998 by his father Franco Macri, one of the richest men in Argentina. The company was dissolved in January 2009. “It was an offshore company to invest in Brazil, an investment that ultimately wasn’t completed, and where I was director,” he said in a television interview with a local program.

A Paddy Power spokesman told MarketWatch that to pay off, the leader has to leave “after being implicated specifically in the Panama Papers.” There have already been a few bets made that Macri and Cameron are next, he said. Paddy Power also has laid odds that the President of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif will leave at 10-to-1 and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko almost as good at 12-1. Sharif is mentioned in the leak as the result of a £7 million loan from Deutsche Bank backed up by four London apartments owned by offshore companies established by Mossack Fonseca. Poroshenko – nicknamed the ‘chocolate king’ – hid his ongoing interest in his candy company, Roshen, in a blind trust offshore when he became president in 2014. He had promised to sell it after being elected. Longshots to leave include President Xi Jinping of China, Russia’s Putin and France’s Francois Hollande, all set at 33-1.

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Coming closer.

Brexit May Force Europe’s Banks To Dump $123 Billion Of Securities (BBG)

If Britain decides to leave the EU, a corner of the credit market may depart with it and European banks could be left having to replace as much as €108 billion ($123 billion) of securities. Lenders from the EU that bought bonds backed by U.K. mortgages, bank loans and credit-card debt may find themselves caught up in the fallout of a “Brexit” because the debt might no longer count toward their emergency cash reserves. While a settlement with the bloc would take years to reach, lawyers and analysts are beginning to flag concerns about holdings of the asset-backed securities, a market that’s already been hammered since the financial crisis.

“Banks could find themselves having a liquidity issue if these assets no longer count,” said Vincent Keaveny at law firm DLA Piper, who specializes in structured credit. “There are big risks out there, but there aren’t any easy fixes.” Under the Basel Accords, a set of agreements by global regulators, banks must meet minimum standards meant to make them more resilient to shocks after the financial crisis highlighted their weaknesses. One standard, known as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio, requires banks maintain an adequate amount of high-quality assets that can be quickly converted to cash to meet liquidity needs for 30 days.

Certain securitized notes are counted, but their underlying assets must originate from a member state, according to the European Commission’s Delegated Act for the standard. That means some bonds backed by collateral from a newly go-it-alone Britain may be excluded. “‘Brexit’ could result in certain U.K. ABS no longer qualifying as eligible assets for current LCR purposes,” Angela Clist and Nicole Rhodes, London-based lawyers specializing in securitization at Allen & Overy LLP, wrote in a note to clients in February.

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“When economists say “equilibrium,” what they really mean is “any solution to any equations I decide to write down.”

Economics Builds a Tower of Babel (BBG)

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty proudly declares: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” To which Alice replies: “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” Humpty Dumpty could have been an economist. The modern economics profession made a collective decision, long ago, to develop a system of jargon in which words have multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings. Unfortunately, the general public’s reaction tends to be similar to that of poor Alice. Want some examples? There’s no shortage. Let’s take the word “investment.” Most people think this means buying some financial assets, such as stocks or bonds. That’s basically a form of lending – you give someone money today, and you hope they’ll give you back more money tomorrow.

Economists call that “financial investment,” but the kind of investment they usually talk about is business investment, meaning a company’s purchase of capital goods. Since companies use debt to buy capital goods (or use their own cash, which is essentially the same thing), this kind of “investment” is actually a type of borrowing. So economists use the same word to mean both borrowing and lending! That couldn’t possibly result in any confusion, right? Two similar examples are “capital” and “equity.” “Equity” can mean stock – partial ownership of a company – or it can refer to “shareholders’ equity,” which is a measure of the value of a business. “Capital” in econ can mean financial capital, i.e. money in the bank. More commonly, it refers to capital goods – productive stuff such as buildings or machines that help you create more stuff.

Though economists usually use the term in the second way, many people outside the profession refer to financial capital as “economic capital.” Confused yet? We’re just getting started. Everyone knows that economists love models where rational agents interact in an efficient market that reaches equilibrium, right? Except that almost every word in that sentence is complete nonsense, thanks to econ’s Humpty Dumpty-like tendency to redefine words without telling anyone. So how about “equilibrium”? The word used to refer to a situation where prices adjust in order to clear markets, so that supply matches demand. Later, game theorists came up with “Nash equilibrium,” named after mathematician John Nash, which refers to a situation where everyone is responding optimally to everyone else in a strategic situation. Other concepts proliferated, and so by now the word has lost all meaning entirely. When economists say “equilibrium,” what they really mean is “any solution to any equations I decide to write down.”

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Will the EU survive?

Dutch ‘No’ Vote On Ukraine Pact Forces Government Rethink (Reuters)

The Dutch government said on Wednesday it could not ignore the resounding “No” in a non-binding referendum on the EU’s association treaty with Ukraine, but that it may take weeks to decide how to respond. Although the results were preliminary, they exposed dissatisfaction with the Dutch government and policy-making in Brussels – signalling a anti-establishment mood in a founding EU member weeks before Britain votes on membership. There could also be far-reaching consequences for the fragile Dutch coalition government, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and which has lost popularity amid a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. Exit polls indicated roughly 64% of Dutch voters voted “No” and 36% said “Yes”. Although turnout was too close to call, early tallies indicated it was just ahead of a turnout minimum of 30% required for the vote to be valid.

“It’s clear that ‘No’ have won by an overwhelming margin, the question is only if turnout is sufficient,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised reaction. “If the turnout is above 30% with such a large margin of victory for the ‘No’ camp, then my sense is that ratification can’t simply go ahead,” Rutte added. That sentiment was shared by Diederik Samsom, leader of the Labour Party, the junior partner the governing coalition. “We can’t ratify the treaty in this fashion,” he said. A person familiar with internal EU discussions on how leaders in Brussels would respond said EU officials had been hoping for very low turnout that would disqualify or diminish the impact of a “No” vote. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, will play for time, waiting for the Dutch government to suggest a way forward, the official said. The political, trade and defence treaty is already provisionally in place, but has to be ratified by all 28 EU member countries for every part of it to have full legal force. The Netherlands is the only country that has not done so.

Read more …

Monday there was a lot of media and brouhaha, and then they have a 17-day hiatus? EU-Assclowns.

Greece Sees Two-Week Lag In Migrant Returns To Turkey (AFP)

A last-minute flurry of asylum applications by migrants desperate to avoid expulsion from Greece to Turkey will likely cause a two-week “lag” in an EU deportation plan slammed by rights groups, a Greek official said Wednesday. Nikos Xydakis, junior foreign minister for European affairs, indicated there would likely be few migrants sent back to Turkey over the next two weeks, following the first deportation of around 200 people on Monday. “We knew there would be a lag, an intermediate period before the program takes off, of at least two weeks to get through the first batch of (asylum) applications,” Xydakis told reporters. He nevertheless said the next set of expulsions would likely take place “from Friday onwards”, without going into further detail.

Athens stressed that the people shipped back to Turkey on Monday were migrants who had not claimed asylum. But the UN’s refugee agency has expressed concern that 13 of them, mostly Afghans, had expressed a wish to claim asylum but were not registered in time. Xydakis said some two dozen EU legal experts had arrived so far to assist the asylum process, compared to hundreds of security agents from EU border agency Frontex. “This is the weakness of the whole procedure. It is easier to deploy police officers than experts in refugee law, interpreters, debriefers,” he said. But he added: “They are coming.” Once the system is fully up and running, Greece has said it can process asylum claims in two weeks. “In two weeks (authorities) can get through 400 to 500 applications,” Xydakis said.

Under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, all “irregular migrants” arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey since March 20 face being sent back, although the accord calls for each case to be examined individually. And for every Syrian refugee returned, another Syrian refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with numbers capped at 72,000. “It was overestimated that in five days everything would begin, it was crazy. We told them many times in Brussels, we knew,” Xydakis said. “Things must be done by the book, we cannot bundle people together, they have to be certified and checked,” the minister said. Out of around 6,000 migrants who have arrived on the islands of Chios and Lesvos after the March 20 deadline, more than 2,300 have now applied for asylum. And many others had previously complained of not having had access to the asylum procedure.

Read more …

Jan 272016
 
 January 27, 2016  Posted by at 4:40 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , ,  8 Responses »
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Berenice Abbott Broome Street, Nos. 504-506, Manhattan 1935

Though she had no intention of being funny, we laughed out loud, as undoubtedly many did with us, when incumbent and wannabe IMF head Christine Lagarde said last week in Davos that China has a communication issue. Of course, Lagarde knows full well that Beijing has much bigger problems than communication ‘with the market’. Or, to put it differently, if Xi and Li et al would ‘improve’ their communication by telling the truth about their economy, nobody would be talking about communication anymore.

Mixed signals from China, which is attempting to shift its economy away from exports and investment to a consumer-driven model, have deepened concerns about the outlook for world growth, she said. Uncertainty is “something that markets do not like”, Ms Lagarde told a panel of business leaders and economic regulators in the snow-blanketed Swiss ski resort. Investors have struggled with “not knowing exactly what the policy is, not knowing exactly against what the renminbi is going to be valued”, she said, referring to China’s currency. “I think better and more communication will certainly serve that transition better.”

The world’s second-largest economy this week announced its 2015 GDP growth as 6.9%, its slowest in a quarter of a century. The figure cast a shadow over the summit, where IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh told AFP that Chinese policymakers had “fumbled” and had “added to the uncertainty and the volatility by their behaviour”. Mr Fang Xinghai, the vice-chairman of China’s securities regulator, said at the same panel that “in terms of communication, we should do a better job”. “We have to be patient because our system is not structured in a way that is able to communicate seamlessly with the market,” he added.

The real issue is what people would think if Beijing announced a more realistic 2% or less GDP growth number. The thought alone scares Lagarde as much as anyone, including the Politburo. The sole option seems to be to keep lying as long as you can get away with it. But how and where the yuan will be valued by China itself has become entirely inconsequential compared to how markets value the currency.

The PBoC spent a fortune trying to straighten the offshore and onshore yuan(s), only to see the two diverge sharply again, as Shanghai stocks posted the biggest loss on Tuesday, at 6.4%, since the ‘unfortunate’ circuit breaker incident. That puts additional pressure on the Hong Kong dollar peg, and ultimately on the mainland China peg to whatever it is they’re trying to peg to.

Beijing might solve some of these problems by devaluing the yuan by 30%, or even 50%, but it would invite a large amount of other problems in the door if it did. Like a full-blown currency war. Still, it’s just a matter of time till Xi and Li either do it voluntarily or are forced to by ‘the market’.

What they are trying very hard NOT to communicate is how much pain their Ponzi debt burden has put them in. It’s not even fully clear to what extent Xi himself is aware of this, but he knows at least enough to keep his mouth shut on the topic. It’s quite possible that some of his top aides dare not reveal the real tally to their boss for fear of their jobs and heads.

In concert with denial and obfuscation, pride and hubris may be clouding the image the Chinese have of themselves and their economy. The rest of the world has followed them in that to a large degree, but it’s got to wake up at some point. If what the WSJ quotes a Beijing-based investor as saying is halfway true, and Xi realizes the opportunity it provides him, a huge devaluation may be imminent after all, if Shanghai shares keep falling the way they are.

Yuan’s Fall Is Just ‘Noise’ Amid Deeper China Woes

The country is already littered with “zombie” factories, empty apartment blocks that form ghostly suburbs, mothballed power stations and other infrastructure that nobody needs. But yet more wasteful projects are in the pipeline, even as the government talks about cutting industrial overcapacity. “That’s the misalignment—everything else is noise,” says Rodney Jones, the Beijing-based principal of Wigram Capital Advisors, who was a partner at Soros Fund Management during the 1990s. If debt keeps piling up at the current rate, China faces an eventual financial crisis, perhaps leading to years of subpar growth, mirroring the fate of Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.

Mr. Jones argues that global equity markets haven’t property adjusted to this risk, even after a 16% decline in U.S. dollar terms from their May peak. “The world will have to learn to live without demand from China,” he says. “It’ll come as a shock.” A sharp devaluation won’t fix these distortions, and might even make matters worse if, as likely, it were to trigger financial mayhem in China’s trading partners. An alternative—further clamping cross-border currency controls—would be a humiliating retreat from Beijing’s policy of making the yuan more international.

If China imports continue to fall the way they have recently, a development that has already relentlessly hammered global commodities markets and exporting emerging nations, the advantages of a large devaluation could become irresistible even for a proud president. With capital flight in 2015 estimated at $1 trillion, and a roughly equal chunk of foreign reserves thrown at attempts to ‘stabilize’ the yuan, that pride is getting costly.

..

But it occureed to me today that perhaps I simply haven’t been cynical enough yet when pondering the matter. The support for a strong yuan, the one thing that is constantly ‘communicated’ to the world, may be just another facade. Beijing may have long decided to go for the jugular. China will have to adjust to the popping of its growth fairy tale and Ponzi economy no matter what it tries to do to prevent it.

Might as well swallow the bitter pill in one go then and get it over with?! It would make exports much more attractive at a time when more expensive imports are much less of an issue. As nice example is the very disappointing sales of iPhones in the country, prompting this comment from Apple CEO Tim Cook today: “We’re seeing extreme conditions unlike anything we’ve experienced before just about everywhere we look.” I think he might want to consider that what happened before was extreme, not what is now.

Beijing did a few things recently that triggered my cynicism radar. First, they targeted George Soros.

China Accuses George Soros Of ‘Declaring War’ On Yuan

Chinese state media has stepped up a salvo of biting commentaries against George Soros and other currency traders as the yuan comes under pressure, with the billionaire investor accused of “declaring war” on the unit. At the annual World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Soros told Bloomberg TV that the world’s second-largest economy was heading for more troubles. “A hard landing is practically unavoidable,” he said. Soros [..] pointed to deflation and excessive debt as reasons for China’s slowdown.

[..] Soros “publicly ‘declared war’ on China”, the paper said, citing the 85-year-old as saying that he had taken positions against Asian currencies. But some readers questioned whether the official rhetoric could fuel Chinese investors’ fears. “They say a lot of loud slogans, but do official media even know that Chinese investors are in hell?” said one poster on social media network Weibo. “I’m afraid that Chinese investors will die in a stampede before Soros even shows his hand.”

And I’m thinking: why should you go after Soros in a very public way when you know the whole world will take note and there’s nothing you can do other than stomp your feet and thump your chest? “Look, everyone, the world’s most notorious and successful short seller is after us, but we’re so much smarter!” Maybe they think Chinese mom and pop investor juggernauts will fall for their ‘whatever it takes’ tale, but they have to deal with the entire planet here.

Could this be simple stupidity? At a certain point that gets hard to believe. An even better example, and one that is really brow-raising, was the announcement of an inquiry into China’s statistics chief:

Head Of China’s Statistics Bureau Investigated For Corruption

The head of China’s statistics bureau is being investigated for corruption, the country’s watchdog said on Tuesday. “Wang Baoan is suspected of severe disciplinary violations, he is currently under investigation,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a one-line statement on its website, using a phrase that is usually used to refer to corruption. The announcement came just hours after Wang appeared at a media briefing in Beijing on China’s economy in 2015. Last week the National Bureau of Statistics released data that showed China’s economy grew at the slowest pace in 25 years. Wang reiterated on Tuesday that the country’s GDP calculations were reliable, Chinese media reported, despite widespread criticism of the data.

Here’s a guy seeking to soothe his audience, which in present circumstances includes the whole globe, and you cut him off at the knees just hours after? He says all’s fine, and then you sent a message to the world that he can’t be trusted?

The timing seems crucial here. They could have waited a week, or two, so the connection between the two events (Wang’s statement and the inquiry announcement) would have been much less obvious. They could also, of course, have had the inquiry but kept it hush-hush. Instead, as in the Soros case, there’s a big public declaration.

Wang is head of a statistics bureau that, says the NYT, is tasked with:

Inquiry in China Adds to Doubt Over Reliability of Economic Data

The statistics bureau has a variety of responsibilities that are hard to balance even in the best of times. The bureau is supposed to provide China’s leaders with an unvarnished assessment of the country’s economic strengths and weaknesses, even while reassuring the public about growth and maintaining consumer confidence. It is also supposed to release enough detailed and accurate information for investors and corporate leaders to make sound decisions about economic and financial prospects.

That leads us right back to the start of this article. Wang must provide “enough detailed and accurate information” for investors”, but how can he do that if the real numbers are as bad as I strongly think they are? In that case, accurate information would drive most investors away and drive others towards shorting the yuan.

He must also “provide China’s leaders with an unvarnished assessment of the country’s economic strengths and weaknesses”, and perhaps he screwed up there (too much varnish). Xi may have found out something real bad that Wang didn’t tell him about. But even then, the fact stands that Xi risks triggering exactly what he pretends to want to prevent, by taking this to the press.

To summarize: yes, it’s possible that Beijing has a communication problem. I’ve never had the idea that Xi understands that now his power dream has come true, he finds that power is not absolute, if and when he wishes to have a financial market that allows for China to get richer through trade. That he realizes the price to pay for that is having much less than total control.

Still, after glancing through this stuff, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the decision for a very substantial devaluation of the yuan has already been taken. It would be a panic move, with largely unpredictable consequences, but then Beijing has plenty to panic about.

And I can’t wait to see what Lagarde has to say when she figures out her new currency basket baby turns around to bite her in the ass.

PS: Something I scribbled last week: Time and again, I see ‘experts’ claim that the fact that the Chinese services sector now makes up half of GDP, is a positive. But, even if we forget for now that much of its growth is due to financial services, the real meaning is the opposite. The services sector has been able to become so important simply because the manufacturing sector is plunging as badly as it is.

Sep 112014
 
 September 11, 2014  Posted by at 8:25 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , ,  10 Responses »
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DPC Real Estate Exchange from Dime Bank building, Detroit 1918

Someone should shut up George Soros. The Financial Times offers him a podium because he’s rich, and if you’re rich, people today think you must be smart, and right, as well. We admire money, not brains; indeed, we confuse the two.

George is not right. George is much more old than right. George writes a plea for the United Kingdom and the European Union that misses on just about every single point. Because George lives in the past. When he was not yet so old.

If the Scots want to break free from the United Kingdom, that is their god – or UN, whichever comes first -given right. And people like Soros need to butt out of that discussion.

Britain Needs Greater Unity Not A Messy Break-up

This is the worst possible time for Britain to consider leaving the EU – or for Scotland to break with Britain. The EU is an unfinished project of European states that have sacrificed part of their sovereignty to form an ever-closer union based on shared values and ideals. Those shared values are under attack on multiple fronts. Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine is perhaps the most immediate example but it is by no means the only one. Resurgent nationalism and illiberal democracy are on the rise within Europe, at its borders and around the globe.

The EU is not an unfinished, but a failed project. It wasn’t, and isn’t, based on values and ideals, but on money. It may have once been a good idea, but it’s run many a mile off the rails. The EU, like NATO, should be disbanded. They are both organizations that have accumulated so much power that this can only possibly backfire on the people they represent.

They’re organizations in which power accumulates by itself, they can’t stop accummulating ever more of it because there are no backstops and no breaks built into their statutes. ‘Resurgent nationalism’, in Europe and elsewhere, is a direct effect of this, and the very last thing that should happen, if we know what’s good for us, is for the EU and NATO to be employed to fight against it.

How do we know, how can we be so sure? This is how: While the EU announces new sanctions against Russia, to go into effect tomorrow, and NATO builds up its ‘presence’ on Russia’s borders, Amnesty releases a report that even gets covered by the mother of all MSM’s, Newsweek:

Ukrainian Nationalist Volunteers Committing ‘ISIS-Style’ War Crimes

Groups of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists are committing war crimes in the rebel-held territories of Eastern Ukraine, according to a report from Amnesty International, as evidence emerged in local media of the volunteer militias beheading their victims. Armed volunteers who refer to themselves as the Aidar battalion “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions”, Amnesty said.

The organisation has also published a report detailing similar alleged atrocities committed by pro-Russian militants, highlighting the brutality of the conflict which has claimed over 3,000 lives. Amnesty’s statement came before images of what appeared to be the severed heads of two civilians’ started circulating on social media today, identified by Russian news channel NTV as the heads of rebel hostages.

There are over 30 pro-nationalist, volunteer battalions similar to Aidar, such as Ukraina, DND Metinvest and Kiev 1, all funded by private investors. The Aidar battalion is publicly backed by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who also funds the Azov, Donbas, Dnepr 1, Dnepr 2 volunteer battalions, operating under orders from Kiev. Last spring Kolomoyskyi offered a bounty of $10,000 of his own money for each killed Russian “saboteur”.

That is not nothing. That is a very strong condemnation of a whole range of private armies that have been executing war crimes against Ukraine citizens, private armies ‘operating under orders from Kiev’. Financed by ‘us’. And yes, Newsweek mentions ‘alleged atrocities’ committed by rebel forces (still called pro-Russian so we can imply Putin being involved). But even if that is true, it does not, not now and not ever, make our support of private armies beheading their own co-citizens ‘alright’.

These people have been able to commit their crimes because we, the US, EU and NATO, have backed them. This is not about, as George Soros claims, ‘Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine’, this is about Kiev’s loudly declared war on its own people. Which ‘we’, along with a bunch of slumdog warlord billionaires, encouraged. And paid for.

That is why and how we know that the EU and NATO should no longer be allowed to exist. If we don’t disband both, we will, so to speak, never go to heaven, because if there is a god, (s)he will not look down kindly upon this. NATO and EU inflict too much damage on too many people, in the case of the EU economically (PIIGS), politically and now militarily (Ukraine), and in the case of NATO – obviously – militarily around the globe. NATO has degenerated from a keeper of the peace into a war mongering force, a.k.a. a means for the US to make other nations pay for its global hegemony dreams.

So we have that Amnesty report about Kiev-directed war crimes, and what do you think the Kiev parliament has as an answer to that? Well, this:

War Crimes Acceptable? Parliament Mulls Amnesty For Kiev’s Troops In East Ukraine

The Ukrainian parliament is to debate a law on amnesty for Ukrainian troops who have committed war crimes in the course of military actions in Eastern Ukraine. A bill on amnesty for military personnel who committed war crimes during the military crackdown in Eastern Ukraine was introduced in the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) on Wednesday, its website says. The bill assumes the discharge of legal responsibility and punishment of military staff and “other people” for the actions which “bear the marks of war crime.”

The Amnesty researchers interviewed dozens of victims and witnesses of the abuses and crimes, as well as local officials, police and army commanders in Lugansk area. The watchdog pointed out that while formally operating under the command of the Ukrainian security forces combined headquarters in the region, members of the Aidar battalion act “with virtually no oversight or control, and local police are either unwilling or unable to address the abuses.”

If you live in the west and you aspire to go to heaven, you better make sure this kind of stuff, and these kinds of people, are no longer backed up by those you elect to represent you and spend you tax money. And even if you don’t believe in heaven, you should at least have an inch of decency left in your life, and that too would make it imperative that you stop these atrocities being committed in your name.

Which brings me back to Soros.

Britain Needs Greater Unity Not A Messy Break-up

Since world war two the European powers, along with the US, have been the main supporters of the prevailing international order. Yet, in recent years, overwhelmed by the euro crisis, Europe has turned inward, diminishing its ability to play a forceful role in international affairs. To make matters worse, the US has done the same, if for different reasons. Their preoccupation with domestic matters has created a vacuum that ambitious regional powers have sought to fill.

No George, you have things upside down. It’s the ‘prevailing international order’ that has caused the crisis. Not prevented it.

The resulting breakdown of international governance has given rise to a plethora of unresolved crises around the globe. The breakdown is most acute in the Middle East. The sudden emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Isis, provides the most gruesome example of how far it can go and how much human suffering it can cause. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, military conflict has spread to Europe. Two radically different forms of government are competing for ascendancy. The EU stands for principles of liberal democracy, international governance and the rule of law.

Again, no George. And again, you got it upside down.. It’s not the breakdown of international governance – in the model of it we have today – , but its very existence that ‘has given rise to a plethora of unresolved crises around the globe’. There’s nothing wrong with international governance by itself, the problem is in the way we’ve set it up, and what we thus have allowed it to turn into.

Too much power gets concentrated at the top – this is just as true for the US as well -, and the shit that floats to the top of that should never be trusted with that kind of power. They should at best be allowed to run rural Five and Dimes, and only under strict supervision.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin maintains the outward appearance of democracy by exploiting a narrative of ethnic and religious nationalism to generate popular support for his corrupt, authoritarian regime.

It’s not Putin who started this, George, no matter how much your past may have warned you off about Russians. Putin is not the Stalin you once knew. It’s ‘us’ who started this.

As a major power and global financial centre, Britain ought to be centrally involved in crafting a European response to this threat. But like the US and the EU itself, Britain has also been distracted by internal matters. David Cameron has been persuaded by anti-European zeal – not least within his own party – to put UK membership in the EU to a vote in 2017. A poll on Scottish independence is only days away. Just when Britain should be confronting grave threats to its way of life, it is preoccupied with divorce of one type or another. Divorce is always messy.

What can I say, George? Where do you think this ‘anti-European zeal’ comes from? As for that divorce thing, how many wives have you had? You of all people should know a divorce is not necessarily all that bad. Messy, perhaps.

For Scotland and the rest of the UK to enter into a currency union without a political union, after the euro crisis has demonstrated all the pitfalls, would be a retrograde step that neither side should contemplate. Yet without it, an independent Scotland could not benefit from the low interest rates that a strong pound has brought. These considerations ought to outweigh whatever possible benefits independence might bring.

Retrogade, you said? Am I right to interpret that to say that increased centralization is always a good thing in your view? And as for ‘benefit from the low interest rates that a strong pound has brought’, do you really think that ultra low rates have been such a blessing for the world? Or do you perhaps merely mean to imply they have been for you? In my view, an economy that can exist only through severe central bank manipulation (which is what ultra low rates represent) doesn’t have a long life expectancy.

[..] Britain has always played a balancing role between hostile blocs. Its absence would greatly diminish the weight of the EU in the world.

Oh come on, Britain has always been blood thirsty, that’s how it built an empire. Balancing role my donkey. And as for diminishing the weight of the EU, that’s something I’m all for.

The EU has proved to be the best guarantor of peace and human security since the end of the second world war. The importance of preserving the shared values underpinning a whole way of life far outweigh any possible advantages of independence. The difficult times we are facing call for increased unity, not divorce.

Georgie boy, this is not 1950 anymore. In Ukraine, the EU has proven itself the opposite of ‘the best guarantor of peace and human security’. It has supported, and still does, depraved private armies. The second world war is long gone, there are new problems today.

What has been proven since WWII is that increased unity/centralization is NOT the answer to everything, it indeed turns into a problem all by and of itself. That is what the EU and NATO represent. the problem of ‘increased unity’. Which is that power doesn’t stop accumulating, and the wrong kind of people scoop it up to execute their depraved power games.

[..] to vote for independence from the UK now would be to prematurely surrender Scottish leverage in London, and Britain’s leverage in the world.

Scotland doesn’t want leverage in London, it wants leverage in Edinburgh. Only 7% of the taxes Scots pay get distributed by their own government, the other 93% (!) goes through the hands of London. What’s wrong with no longer wanting that? What’s wrong with a dozen other European regions not wanting it?

Yes, there are cases in which extreme right will try to decide things in its favor. That may not be a good thing. But US, NATO and EU quite openly encourage just that in Ukraine. So what exactly are we talking about here? Are we going to tell the Scots and Catalans and Basque that they can’t determine their own lives, in the same way we tell that to the Donbass?

George, you’re 84, and your time is up. When it comes to – attempts at – decision making, that is. I hope you’ll live to be over 124, but leave younger people’s decisions alone. This is not 1948 anymore, and it’s not even 1984 either.

The solution to these issues is not in more centralization, be it the UK, the EU, or globalization in general. Centralization will always, of necessity, be a problem in itself. The only thing we can do, no matter how large the setting, is set up a system, based on law, that prevents the wrong kind of people from floating to the top. And the more centralized power becomes, the more harm these wrong people can do.

In the meantime, let’s let Scots be Scots and Catalans, Catalans. The worst they can do by becoming independent is accelerate the demise of an already bankrupt financial and political system.

Separatists Threaten To Rip Europe Apart (AEP)

Europe is disintegrating. Two large and ancient kingdoms are near the point of rupture as Spain follows Britain into constitutional crisis, joined like Siamese twins. The post-Habsburg order further east is suddenly prey to a corrosive notion that settled borders are up for grabs. “Problems frozen for decades are warming up again,” said Giles Merritt, from Friends of Europe in Brussels. The best we can hope for – should tribalism prevail – is German political hegemony in Europe. The German people so far remain a bastion of rationalism, holding together as others tear themselves apart. The French are too paralysed by economic depression and the collapse of the Hollande presidency to play any serious role. The far worse outcome is that even Germany succumbs to centrifugal forces, leaving Europe bereft of coherent leadership, a parochial patchwork, wallowing in victimhood and decline, defenceless against a revanchist Russia that plays by different rules.

Former Nato chief Lord Robertson warns that a British break-up is doubly dangerous, setting off “Balkanisation” dominoes across Europe, and amounting to a body blow for global security at a time when the Middle East is out of control and China is testing its power in Asian waters. He warns that the residual UK would be distracted for years by messy divorce, a diminished power, grappling with constitutional wreckage, likely to face a resurgence of Ulster’s demons. Scotland’s refusal to allow nuclear weapons on its soil means that no US warship would be able to dock in Scottish ports, while its withdrawal from all power projection overseas would push British fighting capability below the point of critical mass. “The world has not yet caught up with the full and dramatic implications of what is going on. For the second military power in the West to shatter would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms. Nobody should underestimate the effect this would have on existing global balances,” he said.

[..] The Scottish precedent threatens – or promises, depending on your view – to set off a chain reaction. “If the Scots votes Yes, it will be an earthquake in Spain,” said Quim Aranda, from the Catalan newspaper Punt Avui. Madrid has declared Catalonia’s secession to be illegal, if not treason. Premier Mariano Rajoy has resorted to court action to stop Catalonia’s 7.5m people – the richer part of Spain – holding a pre-referendum vote for independence on November 9. Barcelona is already covered with posters calling for civil disobedience, some evoking Martin Luther King, some more belligerent. There is a hard edge to this dispute, with echoes of the Civil War. One serving military officer has openly spoken of “1936”, warning Catalan separatists not to awaken the “sleeping lion”. The association of retired army officers has called for treason trials in military courts for anybody promoting the break-up of Spain, a threat since disavowed by the current high command. Rioja’s premier, Pedro Sanz from the ruling Partido Popular, seemed to threaten a massacre, warning Catalans that they “will die” (morirán) if they persist in playing with fire. That will not stop 1m or more taking to the streets this week for Catalonia’s “Diada”, the national day, evoking the fall of Barcelona to the Bourbons in 1714.

Read more …

Catalans Today Demonstrate And Demand Right To Hold Referendum (Guardian)

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans will take to the streets on Thursday, the National Day of Catalonia, to demand the right to hold a referendum on their future, with some hoping that the sudden surge in support for Scottish independence might boost their cause. The demonstration will take the form of a huge “v” in the north of Barcelona, where two major thoroughfares converge. The v stands for via, vote and voluntat (will), though implicitly for victory, too. While victory may not be at hand, the separatists are gaining in confidence as their ranks continue to grow, helped by the obduracy of the Madrid government, which refuses to discuss the issue. The Catalan government has called a referendum on independence for the region of 7 million people on 9 November. Madrid said the vote will be illegal. Retired teacher Oriol Canals said: “The government treats the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional. It has subjected the independence movement to every kind of pressure, coercion and threats. As a result, the movement has grown by 20% in the past four years.”

Support for independence now stands at between 40-45%. 11 September marks the 300th anniversary of their loss of independence. Many eyes are now on Scotland and there is much talk about how the outcome of the referendum will influence the course of events here. “There are many similarities, such as the uncertainties about the economy, the currency or whether we will belong to the European Union or Nato,” said Larry Magrinyà, a Catalan who is married to a Scot. “On the other hand, Scotland enjoys greater recognition as a nation and it has, for example, its own football and rugby teams.” Magrinyà said that, while a yes vote would put wind in the separatists’ sails, it would very likely make the Spanish government even more determined to prevent a similar outcome in Catalonia. “The fact that the British government is allowing the referendum to go ahead shows that it is far more democratic than Spain,” said Mar Carrera, a communications specialist. “An key difference with Scotland is here the independence movement is capitalising more effectively on social and cultural discontent. “It’s important to bear in mind that the Catalan independence movement is heterogeneous, ranging from members of the rightwing governing party to the far left.”

Read more …

Scotland Nationalists Claim U.K. Oil in 40-Year Campaign (Bloomberg)

The discovery of North Sea riches in the 1970s planted the seed of modern-day Scottish nationalism as supporters of independence cried “It’s our oil!” Four decades later, nothing will be more important to the economic future of Scotland than the oil industry should the country vote to end the 307-year union with the rest of the U.K. Reserves of oil and gas would be split, possibly along the so-called median line, already used to allocate fishing rights. The division would hand the Scots about 96% of annual oil production and 47% of the gas, according to estimates for 2012 by the University of Aberdeen’s Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen cited by the Scottish government.

With a week to go before the Sept. 18 referendum and opinion polls showing the result is too close to call, the question is whether oil production, which has plummeted about 40% in four years, could finance a newly created state. “There’s a lot of talk of massive new developments in the North Sea but the trend in output has been downwards for the last 10 years at least,” David Bell, professor of economics at Stirling University, said in an interview on Sept. 9.

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Energy Minister: Half of Scottish Oil Reserves Yet to Be Exploited (RIA)

Mark Hirst – Scotland’s oil and gas sector is facing a bright future as half of oil reserves remain to be exploited, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing said Wednesday, commenting on a new study. Earlier, world leading oil expert Professor Alex Kemp, by using detailed financial modelling, predicted significant discoveries in Scottish oil sector made over the next 30 years. “His new predictions – based on that modelling – show a bright future for Scotland’s oil and gas sector for decades to come – with 99 new economic discoveries over the next three decades,” Ewing told RIA Novosti.

The minister said the new findings, contained in a new paper entitled, “Illuminating the Future Potential from the North Sea”, showed that half of the remaining wealth from Scotland’s oil remains to be exploited. “In value terms half the wealth from Scotland’s oil remains and by grabbing the independence opportunity later this month we can put an end to poor UK stewardship of this vital resource,” Ewing said. “Scotland deserves better and only a Yes vote on September 18 will deliver the powers needed to get the maximum benefit from Scotland’s natural resources,” Ewing added.

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Oil Demand Growth Slips To ‘Remarkable’ 2.5-Year Low (CNBC)

Demand growth in the oil markets will be more subdued than previously expected, according to the International Energy Agency, which has once again downgraded its projections for the rest of the year. “The recent slowdown in demand growth is nothing short of remarkable,” the IEA said in a new monthly report on Thursday morning. “While demand growth is still expected to gain momentum, the expected pace of recovery is now looking somewhat more subdued.” Its latest statistics show that demand growth slowed to below 500,000 barrels per day (b/d) in the second half of 2014 on a yearly basis. This was its lowest level in two and a half years, it added, leading the organization to revise demand projections downwards for the third quarter.

Additionally, global oil demand growth for has been lowered to 900,000 million b/d in 2014 and 1.2 million b/d for 2015. The pronounced slowdown in demand growth and a weaker outlook for Europe and China underpinned these changes, it said. In August, the IEA lowered its forecast for 2014, to 1.0 million b/d. “While festering conflicts in Iraq and Libya show no sign of abating, their effect on global oil market balances and prices remains muted amid weakening oil demand growth and plentiful supply,” it said in the report. “U.S. production continues to surge, and OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) output remains above the group’s official 30 million b/d supply target.” The euro zone was singled out for particular attention, with the IEA saying that the “macroeconomic malaise” experienced across much of Europe has been the dominant downside influence in terms of global demand.

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Saudis Cut Oil Production as Brent Slips Below $100 a Barrel (Bloomberg)

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, said it cut production by 408,000 barrels a day last month amid signs of a supply glut and Brent oil trading below $100 a barrel. The Saudi reduction came as other members such as Nigeria and Kuwait said they increased output in submissions to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to the group’s monthly oil market report yesterday. Total production by the 12-member group climbed by 231,000 barrels a day to 30.347 million last month, based on secondary sources, the report showed. The Saudi decline is the largest monthly drop in production since December 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Other estimates collated by OPEC, based on secondary sources, show that the kingdom cut output by 55,200 barrels to 9.86 million a day last month.

“It does illustrate a desire not to oversupply the market, and it does illustrate they are actively defending $100 a barrel,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA (GLE), said by phone yesterday from New York. “A good chunk of that 400,000 cut was probably in crude exports, which is clearly supportive of prices.” Brent, a benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, fell to a 17-month low this week as supplies from Libya rebounded, and amid speculation of an oversupply. Banks including Citigroup Inc. (C) and UBS AG (UBSN) said the price decline would increase the chances of Saudi Arabia curbing supplies. “No switch gets flipped when the price goes from $100 to $99,” Wittner said. “It’s a soft floor. When they see a period of sustained weakness, and when there’s physical oversupply of light, sweet crude in the Atlantic basin, the Saudis are going to try and balance the market.”

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Exxon, Shell Oil Deals With Russia Imperiled by Sanctions (Bloomberg)

The U.S. and European Union are poised to halt billions of dollars in oil exploration in Russia by the world’s largest energy companies in sanctions that would cut deeper than previously disclosed. The new sanctions over Ukraine would prohibit U.S. and European cooperation in searching Russia’s Arctic, deep seas or shale formations for crude, according to three U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the measures haven’t been made public. If implemented, they would affect companies from Dallas to London, including Exxon Mobil and BP. EU ambassadors met today and will resume deliberations tomorrow in Brussels on whether to trigger added sanctions or wait longer to see if a cease-fire holds between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists and if Russia backs moves toward a longer-term agreement.

Once the EU implemented the new ban on sharing energy technology and services, the U.S. would follow suit with a similar package, including barring the export of U.S. gear and expertise for the specialized exploration that the Russians are unequipped to pursue on their own, the U.S. officials said. EU governments agreed on these oil-related sanctions on Sept. 8 as part of a wider package of measures intended to hobble Russia’s finance, defense and energy industries, pending evaluation of the cease-fire declared in Ukraine last week, according to two European officials who also spoke on condition that they not be named. The added sanctions wouldn’t interfere with drilling and production from conventional land-based wells and those along the shallow edges of inland seas, some of which have been pumping crude for decades. The sanctions target reserves that wouldn’t begin providing crude to global energy markets for five to 10 years.

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What Petrodollar: Russia, China To Create SWIFT Alternative (Zero Hedge)

If, when in February Victoria Nuland infamously launched a (not so) covert campaign to replace the ruling Ukraine president oblivious to the human casualties, resulting in a civil war in east Ukraine, NATO encroachment along the borders of Russia, and a near-terminal escalation in hostilities between Ukraine, Russian, and various regional NATO members, the US intention was to provoke the Kremlin so hard that the nation with the world’s largest reserves of mineral and energy resources would jettison the US Dollar and in the process begin the unraveling of the USD reserve currency status (as much as Jared Bernstein desires just such an outcome) it succeeded and then some. Because in the end it may have pushed not just Russia into the anti-petrodollar camp… it appears to have forced China in it as well.

According to Itar-Tass, Russia and China are discussing setting up a system of interbank transactions which will become an analogue to International banking transaction system SWIFT, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told PRIME on Wednesday after negotiations in Beijing. “Yes, we have discussed and we have approved this idea,” he said. But wait: wasn’t it the UK’s desire to force Russia out of SWIFT just two weeks ago? Why yes, and the fact that Russia is happy to do so, and on its own terms, once again shows just who has all the leverage, and who really needs, or rather doesn’t, the US Dollar. More from Tass:

Russian authorities wanted to decrease the financial market’s dependence on SWIFT since the introduction of the first U.S. sanctions, when international payment systems Visa and MasterCard denied services to some Russian banks owned by blacklisted individuals. According to Shuvalov, Russia has been also discussing establishment of an independent ratings agency with China. Concrete proposals will be made by the end of 2014, he said. As regards China’s payment system UnionPay cooperation with the yet-to-be-established Russian national payment system, Shuvalov said that UnionPay is ready for a full-scale collaboration and will provide all infrastructural capacities for that.

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This may well be a complete lie. Gazprom says no way. But Ukraine may be syphoning off.

Gazprom Limits Polish Gas Supplies as Reverse Supply Flows Halt (Bloomberg)

Russia’s OAO Gazprom limited natural gas flows to Poland, preventing the European Union member state from supplying Ukraine via so-called reverse flows. Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo, or PGNiG, got 20 to 24% less fuel than it ordered from Gazprom Export over the past two days and is compensating flows with alternative supply, the company said today in an e-mailed statement. Poland halted gas supply to Ukraine at 3 p.m. Warsaw time today, according to Ukraine’s UkrTransGaz. Ukraine is seeking to replace some of its Russian gas with fuel from Europe after Gazprom halted its supplies on June 16 in a dispute over debt and prices, echoing spats in 2006 and 2009 that left European customers short of fuel.

Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said in June the company might limit supplies to gas-metering stations where it observed reverse flows. “It would appear from the outside that stopping reverse flow is something that’s in Gazprom’s interest,” Trevor Sikorski, an analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London, said today by telephone. “Gazprom had said that they were studying any kind of reverse flow and that they would take steps to rectify.” Gazprom is doing pre-winter maintenance on pipelines and filling Russian storage sites, which is limiting supply to Poland at the level of the end of last week, according to a company official who declined to be named, citing policy.

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Gazprom First-Quarter Profit Falls 41% on Ukrainian Gas Debt (Bloomberg)

Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company, said its first-quarter profit slumped 41% on a foreign currency loss and Ukraine’s debt for natural gas supplies. Net income dropped to 223 billion rubles ($6 billion) from 381 billion rubles a year earlier, the Moscow-based exporter said in a statement on its website. Gazprom, which provides 30% of the European Union’s gas, halted supplies to Ukraine in June over unpaid bills, including $1.45 billion from 2013. The Russian producer now estimates it’s owed $5.3 billion after raising the price for Ukraine in April to a level higher than it charges Germany, which the government in Kiev has rejected as unfair. The quarter marks the “start of not an easy year,” Gazprombank energy analysts wrote in an e-mailed note before the report.

While a weaker ruble is compensating for a decrease in Gazprom’s export prices, the biggest negative factor is the dispute with Ukraine, the bank said. Gazprom had a 172 billion-ruble loss on depreciation of the Russian currency as well as a 71.3 billion-ruble provision for “doubtful trade accounts” mainly related to Ukrainian gas debt, according to the statement. In August, Gazprom said its first-half net under Russian accounting standards, which is used to calculate dividends, fell 38% to 155 billion rubles, mainly because of a provision for Ukraine’s unpaid dept. Gazprom’s deliveries to Europe, its biggest market by earnings, have been falling compared with last year’s levels since June. The region has a record volume of gas in underground storage after a mild winter and accelerated pumping earlier this year.

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Propaganda.

British Business Leaders Join Last-Ditch Effort to Save UK (Bloomberg)

Some of Britain’s best-known companies, including Royal Bank of Scotland, BP and Kingfisher, made their strongest intervention yet in the battle against Scottish independence, as RBS joined Lloyds in saying it would move parts of its business to England in the event of a breakaway. Ian Cheshire, chief executive officer of retailer Kingfisher, which employs 3,000 people in Scotland, urged voters not to make a mistake in a “once-in-a-lifetime decision,” arguing that independence would mean higher prices and lower investment. He predicted that other chief executives will make similar statements ahead of the vote on Sept. 18.

“The referendum is the most pressing political risk that businesses face,” said John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, the country’s leading business group. “Scottish independence would be a one-way ticket to uncertainty, with no return.” The comments reflect an increasing willingness by British business leaders to abandon neutrality in the referendum debate. BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said his company considers “the future prospects for the North Sea are best served by maintaining the existing capacity and integrity of the United Kingdom.” Dudley had only said previously that he thought Great Britain should stay together, but had not made the claim that North Sea oil production would be affected by a vote for independence.

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Scotch Whisky Makers Say Single Malt Is Best in a Single Country (Bloomberg)

At the Kilchoman Distillery Co Ltd. on Islay, a windswept island two hours by ferry from the west coast of Scotland, a banner nailed to a weathered barn proclaims “Better Together,” the group opposing Scottish independence. Unraveling the 307-year-old union with England “is not something we should even be considering,” Anthony Wills, Kilchoman’s founder and managing director, said in the distillery’s wood-floored tasting room. Islay, with eight distilleries making some of the world’s priciest whiskies, highlights a paradox of the debate leading up to the referendum a week from today: It’s tough to find support for a Yes vote among makers of a product that rivals tartan plaid and haggis as a national symbol. Last year, Scotland’s 109 distilleries sold 4.3 billion pounds ($7 billion) of whisky abroad, the country’s second-largest export, after oil, according to the Scotch Whisky Association. Many in the industry, which the association says accounts for 85% of Scotland’s food and drink exports, say they would be better off remaining part of the U.K.

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Propaganda.

RBS, Lloyds London Move ‘Irreversible’ After Scot Turmoil (Bloomberg)

Bank of Montreal is now based 300 miles away in Toronto after bolting amid the rise of Quebec separatism. Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds may make the same decision to leave Edinburgh, no matter how Scotland votes next week. Rather than risk perpetual uncertainty over Scotland’s future, “the banks would want to kick off the relocation process irrespective of the decision,” said Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London. The risk has become “irreversible,” with a move costing the banks as much as 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) each, he estimated. RBS and Lloyds, which both received a government bailout in 2008, are the two biggest lenders in Scotland. Lloyds said in a statement late yesterday that it already has a contingency plan for establishing new legal entities in England in the event of a Yes vote, while RBS said today that such an outcome would make it necessary to re-domicile the headquarters.

“The issue could come back again in future years, so it’s entirely conceivable that in due course you’ll see the banks switching their registration to England,” even if there’s a No vote, said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec Ltd. in London. RBS, which has roots in Scotland dating back to 1727, said in the statement there are “a number of material uncertainties arising” from the referendum, which could impact its credit ratings as well as the “fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which it’s subject.” “For this reason, RBS has undertaken contingency planning for the possible business implications for a Yes vote,” it said. “In the event of a Yes vote, the decision to re-domicile should have no impact on everyday banking services.”

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Amazon Deforestation Jumps 29% (Guardian)

The destruction of the world’s largest rainforest accelerated last year with a 29% spike in deforestation, according to final figures released by the Brazilian government on Wednesday that confirmed a reversal in gains seen since 2009. Satellite data for the 12 months through the end of July 2013 showed that 5,891 sq km of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon, an area half the size of Puerto Rico. Fighting the destruction of the Amazon is considered crucial for reducing global warming because deforestation worldwide accounts for 15% of annual emissions of heat-trapping gases, more than the entire transportation sector. Besides being a giant carbon sink, the Amazon is a biodiversity sanctuary, holding billions of species yet to be studied.

Preliminary data released late last year by Brazil’s space research center INPE had indicated deforestation was on the rise again, as conservationist groups had warned. The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where the bulk of Brazil’s agricultural expansion is taking place. More than 1,000 sq km has been cleared in each state. Other reasons for the rebound in deforestation include illegal logging and the invasion of public lands adjacent to big infrastructure projects in the Amazon, such as roads and hydroelectric dams. Despite the increase in 2013, the cleared area is still the second-lowest annual figure since the Brazilian government began tracking deforestation in 2004, when almost 30,000 sq km of forest were lost. The Brazilian government frequently launches police operations to fight illegal loggers in the forest, but environmentalists say more is needed.

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She’s back! I thouht they would have buried her in a hole in the ground. How many blunders does one get to make in the States these days?

Victoria Nuland: All Foreign Forces Must Be Withdrawn From Ukraine (DW)

The US has cautiously welcomed what Ukraine’s President Poroshenko described as a withdrawal of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine. The State Department said it was “a good, tiny first step,” but insufficient. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday that Russia had removed most of its soldiers from the rebel-held eastern parts of his country, raising hopes for an end to a five-month-long violent conflict that has killed more than 2,600 people. “According to the latest information I have received from our intelligence, 70% of Russian troops have been moved back across the border,” Poroshenko said in a televised cabinet meeting. “This further strengthens our hope that the peace initiatives have good prospects.” The president said that Friday’s ceasefire – backed by both Kyiv and Moscow – had dramatically improved the security situation in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Poroshenko, however, added that the ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels was proving to be difficult because “terrorists” were constantly trying to provoke Kyiv’s forces.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Wednesday evening that the United States could not confirm the Ukrainian leader’s claims. “Of course, even if we eventually can verify his claims about the Russian troops pulling back, there would still be Russian troops that remain there,” Harf said. “Obviously, any de-escalatory steps would be good ones, but there is much more work to be done here.” Victoria Nuland, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was more cautious in her reaction. Speaking at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, Nuland said “all foreign forces have to be withdrawn” from the eastern European country. “All foreign material has to be withdrawn, the border has to be secured, there has to be the decentralization and amnesty that have been promised,” she said, adding that “there is a long way to go.”

Poroshenko said he would propose a bill to Ukrainian parliament next week offering “special status” to parts of conflict-ridden Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine which are now under control of separatists. The Ukrainian president, however, rejected the calls for complete independence or the “radical federalization” of these areas as demanded by Moscow. “Ukraine will not make any concessions on issues of its territorial integrity,” he said. A pro-Russia separatist leader in Donetsk dismissed Poroshenko’s comments and said the rebels intended to become independent.

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Law On War Crimes Amnesty For Ukraine Troops Discussed In Parliament (RT)

The Ukrainian parliament is to debate a law on amnesty for Ukrainian troops who have committed war crimes in the course of military actions in Eastern Ukraine. Earlier, an Amnesty International report confirmed the facts of large-scale crimes. A bill on amnesty for military personnel who committed war crimes during the military crackdown in Eastern Ukraine was introduced in the Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) on Wednesday, its website says. The bill assumes the discharge of legal responsibility and punishment of military staff and “other people” for the actions which “bear the marks of war crime.” Earlier, on 8 September, Amnesty International presented a report in which confirmed that such actions were committed by the Aidar volunteer battalion.

Aidar is one of over 30 volunteer battalions which appeared after Kiev started the military operation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. It is loosely connected with the Ukrainian security structures. “Members of the Aidar territorial defense battalion, operating in the north Luhansk [Lugansk] region, have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions,” the AI report says. The AI researchers interviewed dozens of victims and witnesses of the abuses and crimes, as well as local officials, police and army commanders in Lugansk area. The watchdog pointed out that while formally operating under the command of the Ukrainian security forces combined headquarters in the region, members of the Aidar battalion act “with virtually no oversight or control, and local police are either unwilling or unable to address the abuses.”

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Loss of trust at home …

Trust in US Government on International, Domestic Issues at New Low (Gallup)

Americans’ trust in the federal government to handle international problems has fallen to a record-low 43% as President Barack Obama prepares to address the nation on Wednesday to outline his plan to deal with ISIS. Separately, 40% of Americans say they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems, also the lowest Gallup has measured to date. The results are based on Gallup’s annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 4-7. This year’s poll was conducted at a time when the government is faced with instability in many parts of the world, including Iraq and Syria, the Middle East, and Ukraine.

Americans’ confidence in the government to handle international problems slid 17 %age points last year, when the Obama administration was planning military action against Syria. Russia later brokered an agreement to avert that action. Last year’s poll marked the first time that fewer than half of Americans trusted the federal government’s ability to deal with international threats. With the world stage seemingly more unstable now, the public’s trust has dipped an additional 6 %age points this year. Likewise, trust in the government’s ability to handle domestic problems dropped slightly this year after a larger decline in 2013. Although the economy has improved, it may be overshadowed by partisan gridlock in Washington, which has led to little formal government action to deal with important domestic challenges facing the United States. Indeed, Americans have consistently mentioned dissatisfaction with government as one of the most important problems facing the country in 2014.

Gallup has never measured lower levels of trust in the federal government to handle pressing issues than now. That includes the Watergate era in 1974, when 51% of Americans trusted the government’s ability to handle domestic problems and 73% trusted its ability to deal with international problems, and also at the tail end of the Bush administration when his job approval ratings were consistently below 40% and frequently below 30%. The key question going forward is whether Americans’ trust in the federal government can be restored. Although there have been short-lived increases in recent years, including in Obama’s first year in office and in his re-election year, these were not maintained. The general trend since the post-9/11 surge has been toward declining trust. [..] given the public’s frustration with the way the government is working, it may be necessary to elect federal officials who are more willing to work together with the other party to find solutions to the nation’s top problems.

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… and abroad.

US, Obama Lose Favor with Germans Over Spying Scandal (WSJ)

The U.S. has lost favor with its traditional ally Germany over the past year, a new study shows, with German approval for President Barack Obama’s policies plummeting in the wake of the National Security Agencyspying scandal. Over the past year, the number of Germans with a positive view of the U.S. president’s policies has nose dived 20%age points to 56%, according to a study by U.S. think tank the German Marshall Fund. The study noted “the German-U.S. relationship appears to have cooled off markedly.” Trans-Atlantic ties have frayed since 2013 news reports over the NSA’s vast intelligence collection program and U.S. surveillance in Germany—including of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. Revelations based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shocked the German public and continue to burden the usually-close relationship between Washington and Berlin. The survey, which polled about 1,000 people in Germany, found “favorability of the U.S. in Germany” dropped from 68% in 2013 to 58% this year.

The poll was conducted by research company TNS Opinion from June 2 to June 26. As Berlin takes a more assertive stance on geopolitical affairs like the crises in Ukraine and Iraq, a majority of Germans polled said, for the first time, that they would prefer their country take a more independent approach from the U.S. on security and diplomatic policy. “Germany is at a crossroads in defining the role it wants to take in foreign policy and the world at large,” said Lora Anne Viola, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, noting that Berlin is in a unique position to react to current events like the conflict in Ukraine and the euro crisis. A departure from Germany’s historical reluctance to engage in geopolitical affairs could ultimately be a boon to Washington. The countries could shake off their traditional big brother and little brother relationship as, despite Germans’ current wariness toward the U.S., there are “too many problems the U.S. and Germany have to confront together,” Ms. Viola said.

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China Inflation Data Show Economy Losing Momentum: Nomura (CNBC)

China’s consumer inflation eased in August while wholesale deflation intensified, clouding the outlook for an economy struggling to stage a convincing recovery. China’s consumer prices eased to 2% last month, data on Thursday showed, slower than July’s 2.3% rise and below a Reuters poll expecting a 2.2% increase. This remains below Beijing’s official target of 3.5%. Producer prices, meanwhile, continued their deflationary spiral, dipping 1.2% after falling 0.9% in July, a tad worse than the 1.1% fall expected. Producer prices in China have been declining since February 2012, weighed by falling commodity prices, overcapacity and weakening demand.

“I think the figures are consistent with a whole lot of data showing that the Chinese economy losing momentum again,” said Rob Subbaraman, chief economist at Nomura. “The PPI deflation is worsening, I think that’s a sign of overcapacity problems. The oversupply problem in the property sector is starting to have effects on the upstream industries that supply the property sector. They’re feeling the pinch now so that’s showing in the PPI,” he added. China’s economy growth slowed to 7.4% in the first quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace in six quarters. Growth inched higher to 7.5% the second quarter, but a flurry of recent data has painted a bleak picture in credit inflows, manufacturing and the real estate market.

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Squeeze out the last bits

China Speculators Go Online Chasing Profits as Home Prices Drop (Bloomberg)

With just 11,000 yuan ($1,796), 50-year-old Deng Bangfu made his first property investment in China, flipping it in just two months for a profit even as the nation’s home prices fall. Deng and about 300 other investors bought a 14.9 million yuan townhouse in June in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan and sold it in August for 16 million yuan. The vehicle: a peer-to-peer lending and financing website called Tuandai, which is testing a crowdfunding product that meets developers’ desire to quicken sales by tapping demand for better returns. “Now I can tell people I once owned a townhouse, which I could never afford myself all my life,” Deng, an accountant at a technology company in Dongguan, said by phone. “We know that local governments have started loosening home-purchase restrictions. As soon as banks ease mortgage curbs, home prices will quickly rebound.”

Online investors, who since 2011 helped drive a 50-fold increase in financing through peer-to-peer websites such as Tuandai, are turning to property as falling home prices prompt the government to ease curbs aimed at stamping out speculation. Officials are seeking to revive local-government revenues at the risk of bringing home-flippers back to the market. Speculators could return, Fitch Ratings said in an Aug. 7 report. “If liquidity recovers, home prices start to go up and sentiment improves,” Andy Chang, Fitch’s Hong Kong-based property analyst, said by phone. “Peer-to-peer lending will surely play a stronger role pushing the waves because it’s pure speculation or investment demand.”

Speculative buying – selling assets in a short period of time – accounts for more than 20% of demand in first-tier cities, which include Beijing and Shanghai, JPMorgan analyst Ryan Li wrote in a report last month. Investors accounted for 40% of homebuyers in 2007, when Shenzhen World Union Properties Consultancy Inc. started asking clients their reason for buying. That was three years before former Premier Wen Jiabao imposed home-purchase curbs and raised down payments to prevent a housing bubble. Home sales plunged 10.5% in the first seven months from a year earlier amid tight credit, according to government data, reversing a 27% jump last year. New-home prices fell in 64 of the 70 cities tracked by the government in July from June, the most since January 2011.

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