Dec 172018
 
 December 17, 2018  Posted by at 10:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Arnold Böcklin The Isle of Life 1888

 

Market Meltdown Could Spark Conditions ‘Worse Than 1929’- Ron Paul (CNBC)
For The First Month Since 2008, Not A Single Junk Bond Prices (ZH)
Starvation, Homelessness And More REAL Problems Pushed Aside By Brexit (Mi.)
Average UK Home Asking Price Dips £10,000 From October (G.)
No 10 Denies Making Plans For Second Brexit Referendum (G.)
May To Urge MPs Not To ‘Break Faith’ By Demanding People’s Vote (G.)
Saudi Arabia Rejects US Senate ‘Interference’ In Kingdom’s Affairs (AFP)
Turkey FM Says Saudis ‘Didn’t Share Anything’ On Khashoggi Murder (CNBC)
Turkey FM: Washington Is ‘Working On’ Gulen Extradition (CNBC)
US Ready To Fight To Last Brit (Garrison)
Trump Will Sit Down With Mueller ‘Over My Dead Body’ – Giuliani (Ind.)
FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier (ZH)
Guardian Most Trusted Newspaper In Britain – Report (G.)

 

 

We’re just waiting for leveraged loans to go Poof.

Market Meltdown Could Spark Conditions ‘Worse Than 1929’- Ron Paul (CNBC)

Ron Paul is warning this year’s corrections could be a precursor to an epic market collapse that may come sooner than investors think. According to the former Republican presidential candidate, Wall Street is becoming more vulnerable to near-depression conditions within the next 12 months. “Once this volatility shows that we’re not going to resume the bull market, then people are going to rush for the exits,” Paul said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” The relentlessly bearish former congressman added that “It could be worse than 1929.” During that year, the stock market began hemorrhaging, falling almost 90 percent and sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

Paul, a well-known Libertarian, has been warning Wall Street a massive market plunge is inevitable for years. He’s currently projecting a 50 percent decline from current levels as his base case, citing the ongoing U.S.-China trade war as a growing risk factor. “I’m not optimistic that all of the sudden, you’re going to eliminate the tariff problem. I think that’s here to stay,” he said. “Tariffs are taxes.” The scenario is exacerbating Paul’s chief reason behind his bearish call: 2008 financial crisis easy money policies. He contended the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing has caused the “biggest bubble in the history of mankind.” “It’s so important to understand the original cause of the problem, and that is the Federal Reserve running up debt and letting politicians spend money,” he added.

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Damn vigilantes!

For The First Month Since 2008, Not A Single Junk Bond Prices (ZH)

Late last week, we reported that in the aftermath of a dramatic drop in loan prices, a record outflow from loan funds, and a general collapse in investor sentiment that was euphoric as recently as the start of October, the wheels had come off the loan market which was on the verge of freezing after we got the first hung bridge loan in years, after Wells Fargo and Barclays took the rare step of keeping a $415 million leveraged loan on their books after failing to sell it to investors. The two banks now “plan” to wait until January – i.e., hope that yield chasing desperation returns – to offload the loan they made to help finance Blackstone’s buyout of Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a company that makes bits for oil and gas drilling.

The reason the banks were stuck with hundreds of millions in unwanted paper is because they had agreed to finance the bridge loan whether or not there was enough demand from investors, as the acquisition needed to close by the end of the year. The delayed transaction means the banks will have to bear the risk of the price of the loans falling further, as well as costs associated with holding loans on their books. The pulled Ulterra deal wasn’t alone. As we reported previously, in Europe the market appears to have already locked up, as three loans were scrapped over the last two weeks. To wit, movie theater chain Vue International withdrew a 833 million pound-equivalent ($1.07 billion) loan sale.

While the deal was meant to mostly refinance existing debt, around 100 million pounds was underwritten to finance the company’s acquisition of German group CineStar. More deals were pulled the prior week when diversified manufacturer Jason Inc. became at least the fourth issuer to scrap a U.S. leveraged loan. Additionally, Perimeter Solutions also pulled its repricing attempt, Ta Chen International scrapped a $250MM term loan set to finance the company’s purchase of a rolling mill, and Algoma Steel withdrew its $300m exit financing. Global University System in November also dropped its dollar repricing.

[..] the FT picks up on the fact that the junk bond market – whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and reported that US credit markets have “ground to a halt” with fund managers refusing to fund buyouts and investors shunning high-yield bond sales as rising interest rates and market volatility weigh on sentiment (ironically it is the rising rates that assure lower rates as financial conditions tighten and the Fed is forced to resume easing in the coming year, that has been a major hurdle to floating-rate loan demand as the same higher rates that pushed demand for paper to all time highs are set to reverse). Meanwhile, things are even worse in the bond market, where not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2tn US high-yield corporate bond market this month according to the FT. If that freeze continues until the end of the month, it would be the first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market

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“About a third of all kids are in “Dickensian” poverty.”

Starvation, Homelessness And More REAL Problems Pushed Aside By Brexit (Mi.)

I watched the ultimate damp squib -my friend’s mum says squid but I m pretty sure it’s squib- as it unfolded on Wednesday night. Theresa May had it confirmed that only 117 of her own MPs hate her. So, on she limps. She said she was going anyway but won’t say when -maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of our lives. In the process she revealed what this is really all about. Brexit must be delivered at all costs and it must be HER that does it. If not, she slinks off into the night with a legacy that adds up to nothing.

I watched it in one of the House of Commons bars with a friend of mine from Scotland. Good bloke. Hibs fan.And as we watched the ‘drama’ unfold we were talking about the real problems in the country. His mate helps direct people to foodbanks in Scotland. In one afternoon they saw five families, hungry and without food, seek help. Five different families. A mixture of out-of-work and in-work poverty. And across these five families there were 27 children. That is, in 2018, in Britain, 27 children going to bed hungry each night. It gets, as you can imagine, worse. One of the kids couldn’t go to school. Not through illness, mercifully, but because he didn’t have any shoes. One of the mums hadn’t eaten for three days. Three days without food. Starving so she could feed her kids.

There are lots more stories like this, about 4.1 million, in fact. About a third of all kids are in “Dickensian” poverty. In Britain, in the winter, in 2018. About 1.9 million pensioners live the same way. Last winter 94 people died on Scotland’s streets. Universal Credit has hit so hard some are turning to prostitution, others are eating out of bins. What happened this week is not going to make any of that better. Look at Scotland. Everything is viewed through the prism of independence and talk of a “second independence referendum”. That is the central aim of the Scottish National Party, so you can’t blame them for concentrating on it. But what it means is that, in the real world, people suffer. [..] here’s the thing about parliamentary sovereignty, and backstops, and Brexit, and independence, and the future of the Union: You can’t eat them.

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Only fools would buy homes in the UK right now. But yeah, there are lots of those over there.

Average UK Home Asking Price Dips £10,000 From October (G.)

Asking prices for homes coming on to the market in the UK are nearly £10,000 lower than they were in October, as the property market headed for its worst annual performance in almost a decade. The average asking price of a UK home dipped by 3.2%, or £9,719, between October and December to £297,527, according to the property website Rightmove, with prices dipping 1.7% and 1.5% in November and December respectively. A softening of prices at the end of 2018 meant that asking prices rose by just 0.7% over the year as a whole, the weakest rate of growth since 2010. The traditional hotspots of London and south-east England became the weakest spots this year, recording the biggest annual falls in asking prices.

This followed a 1% rise in UK asking prices in 2017. Rightmove is predicting zero growth in UK prices in 2019, against a backdrop of stretched affordability and Brexit uncertainty. The property market is a cornerstone of the British economy and drives a large proportion of consumer spending, from DIY to carpets and furniture. But with buyers and sellers reluctant to pay the current market prices, especially in the east and south of England where prices have rocketed in recent years, analysts expect the difficult conditions to radiate out from the property market to other areas of spending. And while a slowdown in prices will be welcomed by younger buyers and those on lower incomes, any falls in values are expected to add the pressure on MPs to agree a Brexit deal.

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That can’t NOT do it.

No 10 Denies Making Plans For Second Brexit Referendum (G.)

Theresa May will summon EU27 ambassadors to No 10 this week as she continues to seek reassurances over the Irish backstop, with Downing Street vehemently denying drawing up contingency plans for a second referendum. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said on Sunday: “Government policy couldn’t be clearer. We are here to act on the will of the people clearly expressed in the referendum.” He added: “A second referendum would be divisive. We had the people’s vote, we had the referendum, and now we’ve got to get on with implementing it. Any idea that having a second referendum now would break through an impasse is wrong. It might postpone the impasse, but then it would extend it.”

May attacked the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair this weekend for advocating a second vote, saying: “There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than acting in the national interest. “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.” The prime minister appears determined to pursue her strategy of seeking legal guarantees on the backstop and then putting her deal to MPs after Christmas. She is sending the government’s most senior legal officer, Jonathan Jones, to Brussels this week.

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As millions of her people starve, May focuses on her legacy.

May To Urge MPs Not To ‘Break Faith’ By Demanding People’s Vote (G.)

Theresa May will urge MPs on Monday not to “break faith with the British people” by demanding a second referendum, as she faces intense pressure to give parliament a say on Brexit before Christmas. The prime minister will make a statement to MPs on last week’s European council summit in Brussels, from which she returned with little evidence of progress in securing legal reassurances on the Irish backstop. Jeremy Corbyn will take the opportunity to call on her to hold a vote on her Brexit deal this week, and senior Labour figures refuse to rule out an imminent no-confidence motion if she fails to do so. May, however, will use her appearance at the dispatch box to strongly reject the idea of a second referendum after Downing Street was forced to deny reports on Sunday that some of her key aides were secretly considering the idea.

“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” the prime minister will tell MPs. “Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.” Her message is aimed partly at Conservative MPs, and some ministers, who have become increasingly convinced that a referendum is the only way out of the impasse at Westminster after the prime minister abruptly pulled plans for a vote on her deal last week. She also faces growing demands from within cabinet to present MPs with alternatives in non-binding indicative votes that might help to find options that could command a majority.

[..] May’s reluctance to hold a second referendum put her in rare agreement with her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. In his column in Monday’s Telegraph, he said the public would be “utterly infuriated” if Britain were to be put through the “misery and expense” of another referendum. However, the former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said: “It is highly significant that Downing Street felt it had to issue these advance extracts of Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons on Sunday night, because officials know the prospect of a people’s vote is being discussed, not just in Westminster, but in the corridors of Whitehall, too. “The case for the public being given the final say is becoming so overwhelming that people from all parties, and of none, now recognise that this is the best way forward for our country.”

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They’re only too happy when the interference benefits them., as it has for many decades.

Saudi Arabia Rejects US Senate ‘Interference’ In Kingdom’s Affairs (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has rejected as “interference” a US Senate resolution to end American military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen, and another holding its crown prince responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects the position expressed recently by the United States Senate, which was based upon unsubstantiated claims and allegations, and contained blatant interferences in the Kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the Kingdom’s regional and international role,” the statement carried by Saudi Press Agency on Sunday said.

“The Kingdom hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship.” On Thursday, the US Senate passed a resolution calling for an end to American military support to the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, and asserted Congress’s right to decide on matters of war and peace. The measure, which passed by 56 votes to 41, marked the first time the Senate had invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution to seek to curb the power of the president to take the US into an armed conflict. It marked a significant bipartisan rebuke to the Trump administration, which lobbied intensively against it.

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Maybe the US Senate can ask where the body is.

Turkey FM Says Saudis ‘Didn’t Share Anything’ On Khashoggi Murder (CNBC)

Turkey still hasn’t received actionable information on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its foreign minster Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC Sunday. “So far we haven’t been provided any information from the ongoing investigation in Saudi Arabia. Their chief prosecutor got everything from us, he didn’t share anything with us. We want a transparent, credible, swift investigation on Saudi side as well,” Cavusoglu told the network’s Hadley Gamble at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar. The minister has previously vowed to get to the bottom of the case and hold those responsible to account. [..] Among the many questions remaining unanswered is that of the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.

“We don’t know where the body is,” the minister said. “This is the main question – we need to find out. They said they had local collaborators; they haven’t provided the names of collaborators.” [..] Meanwhile, Cavusoglu said Saudi officials have listened to tapes of Khashoggi’s murder, contradicting earlier statements by Saudi foreign minister Adel al Jubeir that the Saudis had not heard them. [..] “You can hear very clearly that they planned in advance to kill him,” Cavusoglu said, reminding the audience that a forensic expert had been brought into the consulate to cut Khashoggi’s body apart. “From the beginning we’ve been willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia as well, since all these perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia and now they are arrested there and we accepted immediately the proposal coming from them for cooperation with our prosecutors.”

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If true, that would be a really bad thing.

Turkey FM: Washington Is ‘Working On’ Gulen Extradition (CNBC)

Ankara and Washington have discussed the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States, Turkey’s foreign minister told CNBC Sunday. Turkey’s government has demanded Gulen’s return since the failed Turkish coup of 2016, which it accuses the cleric of orchestrating. “Last time when they met in Buenos Aires, Trump told Erdogan that they have been working on that, but we need to see concrete steps because it’s been already two years, almost three years,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum on Sunday. A former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.

He denies any involvement in the coup attempt, which saw rogue Turkish military personnel commandeer helicopters, jets and tanks, attack parliament and seize television stations. Political analysts suspected Trump might use Gulen as a bargaining chip in exchange for Turkish compliance in the scandal of Jamal Khashoggi. [..] But Trump told press last month that he was not considering extraditing the preacher to meet those ends.

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Ann Garrison interviews George Szamuely, a Hungarian-born scholar and Senior Research Fellow at London’s Global Policy Institute.

US Ready To Fight To Last Brit (Garrison)

GS: Well, of course Ukraine can ask for anything it likes. There’s no way in the world Turkey would try to stop Russian ships going through the Bosporus Strait. That would be a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention and an act of war on the part of Turkey. It isn’t going to happen. As for the Kerch Strait, it is Russian territorial water. Ukraine is free to use it and has been doing so without incident since 2014. The only thing the Russians insist on is that any ship going through the strait use a Russian pilot. During the recent incident, the Ukrainian tug refused to use a Russian pilot. The Russians became suspicious, fearing that the Ukrainians were engaged in a sabotage mission to blow up the newly constructed bridge across the strait. You’ll remember that an American columnist not so long ago urged the Ukrainian authorities to blow up the bridge. That’s why the Russians accuse Kiev of staging a provocation.

AG: There’s a longstanding back channel between the White House and the Kremlin, as satirized in Dr. Strangelove. Anti-Trump fanatics keep claiming this is new and traitorous, but it’s long established. Obama and Putin used it to keep Russian and US soldiers from firing on one another instead of the jihadists both claimed to be fighting in Syria. Kennedy and Khrushchev used it to keep the Bay of Pigs crisis from escalating into a nuclear war. Shouldn’t Trump and Putin be talking on that back channel now, no matter how much it upsets CNN and MSNBC?

GS: Well, of course, they should. The danger is that in this atmosphere of anti-Russian hysteria such channels for dialogue may not be kept open. As a result, crises could escalate beyond the point at which either side could back down without losing face. What’s terrifying is that so many US politicians and press now describe any kind of negotiation, dialogue, or threat-management as treasonous collusion by Donald Trump.

Remember Trump’s first bombing in Syria in April 2017. Before he launched that attack, Trump administration officials gave advance warning to the Russians to enable them to get any Russian aircraft out of harm’s way. This perfectly sensible action on the part of the administration—leave aside the illegality and stupidity of the attack—was greeted by Hillary Clinton and the MSNBC crowd as evidence that the whole operation was cooked up by Trump and Putin to take attention off Russia-gate. It’s nuts.

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Why would there be a sit down with so much water under the bridge? What are the odds that Mueller would be impartial?

Trump Will Sit Down With Mueller ‘Over My Dead Body’ – Giuliani (Ind.)

Donald Trump will sit and talk to special counsel Robert Mueller “over my dead body”, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said, in the latest pushback against the investigation into possible collusion between the president’s election campaign and Moscow. As Mr Trump called his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen “a rat” for cooperating with the FBI, Mr Giuliani made clear Mr Mueller would not be offered an interview with the president. Mr Trump recently provided Mr Mueller’s team written answers to a series of questions, but on Friday CNN said the special prosecutor was still interested in an in-person interview. “Nothing has changed in that sense from the first day,” said a source.

Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor who now serves as the president’s personal lawyer, on Sunday again firmly pushed back at such a notion. Asked on Fox News whether Mr Trump would take part in an interview, Mr Giuliani said: “Yeah, good luck, good luck – after what they did to [Michael] Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury, and no sentence for him.” He added: “Over my dead body. But you know, I could be dead.” Mr Giuliani also attacked Mr Mueller’s investigation, saying the probe was a “joke”. “I am disgusted with the tactics they have used in this case,” he said. “What they did to Gen Flynn should result in discipline. They’re the ones who violated the law. They’re looking at a non-crime, collusion.”

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And WaPo declined to follow up on it. That’s American media for you.

FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier (ZH)

FBI and CIA sources told a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter that they didn’t believe a key claim contained in the “Steele Dossier,” the document the Obama FBI relied on to obtain a surveillance warrant on a member of the Trump campaign. The Post’s Greg Miller told an audience at an October event that the FBI and CIA did not believe that former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 election to pay off Russia-linked hackers who stole emails from key Democrats, reports the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross. “We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” said Miller during the October event which aired Saturday on C-SPAN.

“We literally spent weeks and months trying to run down… there’s an assertion in there that Michael Cohen went to Prague to settle payments that were needed at the end of the campaign. We sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, to all over the place trying to – just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.” -Greg Miller. Ross notes that WaPo somehow failed to report this information, nor did Miller include this tidbit of narrative-killing information in his recent book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

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Britian is as bad as the US.

Not the Onion, not April 1.

Guardian still hasn’t apologized for making up the Manafort-Assange story from scratch.

Guardian Most Trusted Newspaper In Britain – Report (G.)

The Guardian is the most trusted newspaper in Britain as well as being the most read quality news outlet, and the most popular quality news outlet among younger readers, according to industry figures released on Monday. The Guardian is now reaching more than 23 million British adults every month, with the organisation’s articles being read by 12 million Britons in a typical week and 4.1 million on the average day, aided by the decision to keep the website free for all readers. In addition, more than 97% of online readers think that reading the Guardian is time well spent, which is the highest score among all national publishers in the country. The figure rises to 99% among Guardian print readers.

Readers of the Guardian website were also substantially more likely to say that they felt a close connection to the outlet, that it offered them something they could not get elsewhere, and that they trusted its reporting. The Observer topped the equivalent rankings for Sunday newspapers. “This fantastic set of results demonstrates the Guardian’s unique position in the media,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “We see consistently high scores for trust and engagement from both our digital and print readers, and it is excellent news that the Guardian resonates so strongly with younger audiences, too.”

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Sep 032018
 
 September 3, 2018  Posted by at 8:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Courtyard of the hospital in Arles 1889

 

China’s ‘Silk Road’ Project Runs Into Debt Jam (AFP)
Should Africa Be Wary Of Chinese Debt? (BBC)
China’s Xi Says No Strings Attached To Funds For Africa (R.)
Anatomy Of A Fusion Smear (WSJ)
No-Deal Brexit: Study Warns Of Severe Short-Term Impact On UK (G.)
Boris Johnson Launches Fresh Attack On May’s Brexit Plans (G.)
Half The Staff Leaves UK’s Brexit Department (Ind.)
Britain Loses Medicines Contracts As EU Body Anticipates Brexit (G.)
Emerging Markets Haunt Spanish Banks (DQ)
Capitalism Is Beyond Saving, and America Is Living Proof (TD)

 

 

I’ve been saying for a long time that the BRI (Belt and Road) is China’s attempt at exporting its overcapacity. They make poor countries borrow billions, which these can’t pay back. And then… Only now do other parties wake up to that. And Xi is trying to do some damage control.

China’s ‘Silk Road’ Project Runs Into Debt Jam (AFP)

China’s massive and expanding “Belt and Road” trade infrastructure project is running into speed bumps as some countries begin to grumble about being buried under Chinese debt. First announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the initiative also known as the “new Silk Road” envisions the construction of railways, roads and ports across the globe, with Beijing providing billions of dollars in loans to many countries. Five years on, Xi has found himself defending his treasured idea as concerns grow that China is setting up debt traps in countries which may lack the means to pay back the Asian giant. “It is not a China club,” Xi said in a speech on Monday to mark the project’s anniversary, describing Belt and Road as an “open and inclusive” project.

Xi said China’s trade with Belt and Road countries had exceeded $5 trillion, with outward direct investment surpassing $60 billion. But some are starting to wonder if it is worth the cost. During a visit to Beijing in August, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his country would shelve three China-backed projects, including a $20 billion railway. The party of Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, has vowed more transparency amid fears about the country’s ability to repay Chinese loans related to the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Meanwhile the exiled leader of the opposition in the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has said China’s actions in the Indian Ocean archipelago amounted to a “land grab” and “colonialism”, with 80 percent of its debt held by Beijing.

Sri Lanka has already paid a heavy price for being highly indebted to China. Last year, the island nation had to grant a 99-year lease on a strategic port to Beijing over its inability to repay loans for the $1.4-billion project.

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“This debt acquired from China comes with huge business for Chinese companies, particularly construction companies that have turned the whole of Africa into a construction site..”

Should Africa Be Wary Of Chinese Debt? (BBC)

African countries have shown a healthy appetite for Chinese loans but some experts now worry that the continent is gorging on debt, and could soon choke. The Entebbe-Kampala Expressway is still something of a tourist attraction for Ugandans, nearly three months after it opened. The 51km (31 mile), four-lane highway that connects the country’s capital to the Entebbe International Airport was built by a Chinese company using a $476m (£366m) loan from the China Exim Bank. It has cut what was a torturous two-hour journey through some of Africa’s worst traffic into a scenic 45-minute drive into the East Africa nation’s capital. Uganda has taken $3bn of Chinese loans as part of a wider trend that Kampala-based economist Ramathan Ggoobi calls its “unrivalled willingness to avail unconditional capital to Africa”.

“This debt acquired from China comes with huge business for Chinese companies, particularly construction companies that have turned the whole of Africa into a construction site for rails, roads, electricity dams, stadia, commercial buildings and so on,” the Makerere University Business School lecturer told the BBC. The Chinese loans come as many African countries are once again in danger of defaulting on their debts more than a decade after many had their outstanding borrowing written off. At least 40% of low-income countries in the region are either in debt distress or at high risk, the International Monetary Fund warned in April.

Chad, Eritrea, Mozambique, Congo Republic, South Sudan and Zimbabwe were considered to be in debt distress at the end of 2017 while Zambia and Ethiopia were downgraded to “high risk of debt distress”. “In 2017 alone, the newly signed value of Chinese contracted projects in Africa registered $76.5bn,” Standard Bank’s China Economist Jeremy Stevens wrote in a note. “However, despite a sizeable remaining infrastructure deficit on the continent, there is a concern that African countries’ debt-service ability will soon dissolve,” he says.

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Until you can’t pay up. China knows many countries won’t be.

China’s Xi Says No Strings Attached To Funds For Africa (R.)

Xi said at a business forum before the start of a triennial China Africa summit their friendship was time-honoured and that China’s investment in Africa came with no political strings attached. “China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa. What we value is the sharing of development experience and the support we can offer to Africa’s national rejuvenation and prosperity,” Xi said. “China’s cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects but in places where they count the most,” he said.

China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy but Xi is likely to use the gathering of African leaders to offer a new round of financing, following a pledge of $60 billion at the previous summit in South Africa three years ago. Chinese officials have vowed to be more cautious to ensure projects are sustainable. China defends continued lending to Africa on the grounds that the continent still needs debt-funded infrastructure development. Beijing has also fended off criticism it is only interested in resource extraction to feed its own booming economy, that the projects it funds have poor environmental safeguards, and that too many of the workers for them are flown in from China rather than using African labour.

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The Wall Street Journal is the only remaining paper of record. This is an editorial.

Anatomy Of A Fusion Smear (WSJ)

A partner at Foley & Lardner, Ms. Mitchell was astonished to find herself dragged into the Russia investigation on March 13 when Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee issued an interim report. They wrote that they still wanted to interview “key witnesses,” including Ms. Mitchell, who they claimed was “involved in or may have knowledge of third-party political outreach from the Kremlin to the Trump campaign, including persons linked to the National Rifle Association (NRA).” Two days later the McClatchy news service published a story with the headline “NRA lawyer expressed concerns about group’s Russia ties, investigators told.” The story cited two anonymous sources claiming Congress was investigating Ms. Mitchell’s worries that the NRA had been “channeling Russia funds into the 2016 elections to help Donald Trump.”

Ms. Mitchell says none of this is true. She hadn’t done legal work for the NRA in at least a decade, had zero contact with it in 2016, and had spoken to no one about its actions. She says she told this to McClatchy, which published the story anyway. Now we’re learning how this misinformation got around, and the evidence points to Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, the outfit that financed the infamous Steele dossier. New documents provided to Congress show that Mr. Simpson, a Fusion co-founder, was feeding information to Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. In an interview with House investigators this week, Mr. Ohr confirmed he had known Mr. Simpson for some time, and passed at least some of his information along to the FBI.

In handwritten notes dated Dec. 10, 2016 that the Department of Justice provided to Congress and were transcribed for us by a source, Mr. Ohr discusses allegations that Mr. Simpson made to him in a conversation. The notes read: “A Russian senator (& mobster) . . . [our ellipsis] may have been involved in funneling Russian money to the NRA to use in the campaign. An NRA lawyer named Cleta Mitchell found out about the money pipeline and was very upset, but the election was over.”

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But they still claim damage won’t be long-lasting..

No-Deal Brexit: Study Warns Of Severe Short-Term Impact On UK (G.)

The short-term impact of a no-deal Brexit on Britain’s economy would be “chaotic and severe”, jeopardising jobs and disrupting trade links, warn experts from the thinktank UK in a Changing Europe. The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, has said he believes 80% of the work on completing an exit deal with the EU27 is already done, as negotiations enter their final phase. But his cabinet colleague Liam Fox recently suggested a no-deal scenario – which would occur if negotiations broke down, or both sides agreed to disagree – was the most likely outcome. In a 30-page updated assessment of the impact of no deal, the thinktank said on Monday it would mean “the disappearance without replacement of many of the rules underpinning the UK’s economic and regulatory structure”.

Its analysis claimed that in the short term: • Food supplies could be temporarily disrupted – the beef trade could collapse, for example, as Britain is heavily reliant on EU imports, and would be forced to apply tariffs, in accordance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. • European health insurance cards, which allow British tourists free healthcare in the EU, would be invalid from Brexit day. • There would almost certainly have to be a “hardening of the border” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, including some “physical manifestation”. • The status of legal contracts and commercial arrangements with EU companies would be unclear, as the UK would become a “third country” overnight. • Increased and uncertain processing times for goods at the border would be “nearly certain”, risking queues at Dover and forcing firms to rethink their supply chains.

In the longer term, UK in a Changing Europe’s experts say, the UK would have time to normalise its trading status, and agreements could be struck with the EU27 to tackle many other practical challenges. “It should not be assumed that the damage, while real, will necessarily be long-lasting,” the report says.

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6 months to go. It’ll be a spectacle.

Boris Johnson Launches Fresh Attack On May’s Brexit Plans (G.)

Boris Johnson has used his first newspaper column of the new parliamentary term to attack Theresa May’s Chequers plan, saying it means the UK enters Brexit negotiations with a “white flag fluttering”. The declaration amounts to a significant escalation the former foreign secretary’s guerrilla campaign against the prime minister and her Chequers plan a day before the Commons returns and at a time when party disquiet over the direction of the divorce talks is mounting. Johnson wrote that “the reality is that in this negotiation the EU has so far taken every important trick. The UK has agreed to hand over £40 billion of taxpayers’ money for two thirds of diddly squat”.

Johnson added that by adopting the Chequers plan, which will see the UK adopt a common rule book for food and goods, “we have gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank”. It will be “impossible for the UK to be more competitive, to innovate, to deviate, to initiate, and we are ruling out major free trade deals,” he added. The intervention comes after a summer in which the former minister, who resigned over the Chequers deal, had avoided touching on Brexit in his Daily Telegraph column – although he did unleash a storm of complaint by describing fully veiled Muslim women as looking like letter boxes and bank robbers. It will be seen as preparing the ground for a leadership challenge to May just as the Brexit negotiations reach their critical phase in the autumn, which is to culminate in any final deal agreed by the UK government being put to parliament for a vote.

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“..the average age of workers left in the department is 32..”

Half The Staff Leaves UK’s Brexit Department (Ind.)

The number of officials who have left the Whitehall department trying to deliver Brexit is equivalent to more than half of its total staff, shock new figures reveal. Data seen by The Independent shows hundreds of civil servants went elsewhere as the department tried to get on its feet and cobble together a negotiating stance for the UK over the last two years. The exodus means the average age of workers left in the department is 32, though they are tasked with winning a complex deal that could change Britain for a generation.

The information obtained by the Liberal Democrats appears to corroborate previous reports about an extraordinarily high turnover at the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu), with critics now claiming it points to “deep instability” at the heart of the government’s Brexit operation. According to the turnover data obtained under freedom of information, a staggering 357 staff have left the Dexeu in just two years. Yet the total number of those employed at the Whitehall department amounts to only 665, indicating a turnover rate of more than 50 per cent in that period.

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Expect many more similar examples.

Britain Loses Medicines Contracts As EU Body Anticipates Brexit (G.)

Britain’s leading role in evaluating new medicines for sale to patients across the EU has collapsed with no more work coming from Europe because of Brexit, it has emerged. The decision by the European Medicines Agency to cut Britain out of its contracts seven months ahead of Brexit is a devastating blow to British pharmaceutical companies already reeling from the loss of the EMA’s HQ in London and with it 900 jobs. All drugs sold in Europe have to go through a lengthy EMA authorisation process before use by health services, and the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain has built up a leading role in this work, with 20-30% of all assessments in the EU.

The MHRA won just two contracts this year and the EMA said that that work was now off limits. “We couldn’t even allocate the work now for new drugs because the expert has to be available throughout the evaluation period and sometimes that can take a year,” said a spokeswoman. In a devastating second blow, existing contracts with the MHRA are also being reallocated to bloc members. Martin McKee, the professor of European health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has given evidence to select committees about Brexit, said it was a disaster for the MHRA, which had about £14m a year from the EMA. The head of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry said it was akin to watching a “British success story” being broken up.

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Draghi!!

Emerging Markets Haunt Spanish Banks (DQ)

Almost exactly six years ago, the Spanish government requested a €100 billion bailout from the Troika (ECB, European Commission and IMF) to rescue its bankrupt savings banks, which were then merged with much larger commercial banks. Over €40 billion of the credit line was used; much of it is still unpaid. Yet Spain’s banking system could soon face a brand new crisis, this time not involving small or mid-sized savings banks but instead its alpha lenders, which are heavily exposed to emerging economies, from Argentina to Turkey and beyond. In the case of Turkey’s financial system, Spanish banks had total exposure of $82.3 billion in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

That’s more than the combined exposure of lenders from the next three most exposed economies, France, the USA, and the UK, which reached $75 billion in the same period. According to BIS statistics, Spanish banks’ exposure to Turkey’s economy almost quadrupled between 2015 and 2018, largely on the back of Spain’s second largest bank BBVA’s madcap purchase of roughly half of Turkey’s third largest lender, Turkiye Garanti Bankasi. Since buying its first chunk of the bank from the Turkish group Dogus and General Electric in 2010, BBVA has lost over 75% of its investment under the combined influence of Garanti’s plummeting shares and Turkey’s plunging currency.

But the biggest fear, as expressed by the ECB on August 10, is that Turkish borrowers might not be hedged against the lira’s weakness and begin to default en masse on foreign currency loans, which account for a staggering 40% of the Turkish banking sector’s assets. If that happens, the banks most exposed to Turkish debt will be hit pretty hard. And no bank is as exposed as BBVA, though the lender insists its investments are well-hedged and its Turkish business is siloed from the rest of the company. In Argentina, whose currency continues to collapse and whose economy is now spiraling down despite an IMF bailout, Spanish banks’ total combined investments amounted to $28 billion in the first quarter of 2018. That represented almost exactly half of the $58.9 billion that foreign banks are on the hook for in the country. The next most at-risk banking sector, the US, has some $10 billion invested.

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Maybe you should define capitalism first.

Capitalism Is Beyond Saving, and America Is Living Proof (TD)

Real wage growth has been nonexistent in the United States for more than 30 years. But as America enters the 10th year of the recovery—and the longest bull market in modern history—there are nervous murmurs, even among capitalism’s most reliable defenders, that some of its most basic mechanisms might be broken. The gains of the recovery have accrued absurdly, extravagantly to a tiny sliver of the world’s superrich. A small portion of that has trickled down to the professional classes—the lawyers and money managers, art buyers and decorators, consultants and “starchitects”—who work for them. For the declining middle and the growing bottom: nothing.

This is not how the economists told us it was supposed to work. Productivity is at record highs; profits are good; the unemployment rate is nearing a meager 4 percent. There are widely reported labor shortages in key industries. Recent tax cuts infused even more cash into corporate coffers. Individually and collectively, these factors are supposed to exert upward pressure on wages. It should be a workers’ market. But wages remain flat, and companies have used their latest bounty for stock buybacks, a transparent form of market manipulation that was illegal until the Reagan-era SEC began to chip away at the edifice of New Deal market reforms.

The power of labor continues to wane; the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, while ostensibly limited to public sector unions, signaled in certain terms the willingness of the court’s conservative majority—five guys who have never held a real job—to effectively overturn the entire National Labor Relations Act if given the opportunity. The justices, who imagine working at Wendy’s is like getting hired as an associate at Hogan & Hartson after a couple of federal clerkships, reason that every employee can simply negotiate for the best possible deal with every employer.

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Aug 262018
 
 August 26, 2018  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Starry night over the Rhône 1888

 

The Real John McCain (Kerwick)
Steele or Assange: Who Really Deserves 1st Amendment Protection? (Machon)
Trump: 5-Year Prison Sentence for Whistleblower Reality Winner ‘Unfair’ (TIME)
Cohen’s Plea Deal Is Prosecutor’s Attempt To Set Up Trump (Hill)
Europe Must Save The British From Themselves On Brexit (IT)
Ending The Fiscal-Monetary Tug-o-War (NEF)
Greece’s “Bailout” Was a Disaster for Greece (Klein)
Greece Remains A Debtor’s Prison, The EU Won’t Let Go Of The Keys (Varoufakis)
US Study Shows How Austerity Devastated Greece’s Health (UoW)
Italy Disembarks Stranded Migrants, Salvini Under Investigation (R.)
Time Is Running Out For The Pope To Pacify The Faithful’s Anger (O.)

 

 

I was going to leave McCain in peace. I strongly believe in not kicking a man when he’s down, and besides there’s already so much anger out there. I’ve always thought that perhaps as a POW he suffered some kind of brain damage. But I still can’t get the image out of my head of him singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” And then seeing people refer to him as an “unparalleled example of human decency”. It’s too much.

The Real John McCain (Kerwick)

McCain is not alone in having their blood on his hands. Yet in a Regime, a Government-Media-Complex, comprised of warmongers, McCain enjoys the dubious distinction of being the warmonger par excellence. On the false pretense that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat against the United States via the “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) that he never possessed, McCain urged as loudly and tirelessly as anyone for war. Those libertarians and old right conservative sorts who exposed holes in the WMD narrative and forecasted the disaster to which such a war would lead were dismissed, ignored, or mocked. Estimates of casualties vary, but today, some 14 years after McCain got his way, anywhere between 195,000 and possibly one million Iraqis are dead.

The Iraq Body Count project found that during the decade following the invasion, 174,000 Iraqis were killed. Of this number, 112,000-123,000 were civilian noncombatants. At present, the number is closer to 200,000 civilian noncombatant deaths. Between 2003 and 2014, nearly 5,000 American service members lost their lives in this war that McCain and his ilk cooked on the basis of a lie. Yet contractors, aid relief workers, and journalists are also among those who lost their lives. While we can tabulate numbers, the pain, suffering, and trauma endured by the loved ones of those killed is incalculable. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and American corpses that McCain and his comrades left in the wake of their rush to war, there are that many more who have lived but who suffer daily.

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Annie Machon is a former MI5 agent. She makes some very good points. One of them: Assange doesn’t get 1st amendment protection because he’s not American. Steele does get it even though he’s British.

Steele or Assange: Who Really Deserves 1st Amendment Protection? (Machon)

Steele has won a legal case in the USA, where he had been sued by three Russian oligarchs who claimed that the ‘Dirty Dossier’ traduced their reputations. And he won on the basis that his report was protected by First Amendment rights under the constitution of the USA, which guarantees US citizens the right to freedom of expression. Despite the fact that Steele is British. “But Judge Anthony Epstein disagreed, writing in his judgment that “advocacy on issues of public interest has the capacity to inform public debate, and thereby furthers the purposes of the First Amendment, regardless of the citizenship or residency of the speakers.”

This is the nub of the issue: Steele, a former official UK intelligence officer and current mercenary spy-for-hire, is granted legal protection by the American courts for digging up and subsequently leaking what appears to be controversial and defamatory information about the current US president as well as various Russians, all paid for by Trump’s political opponents. And Steele is given the full protection of the US legal system. On the other hand, we have an award-winning journalist and publisher, Assange, whose organization WikiLeaks has never been found to report anything factually incorrect in more than 10 years, being told that if he were to be extradited from his current political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to face the full wrath of a vengeful American establishment, he is not entitled to claim the protection of the First Amendment because he is an Australian citizen, not an American.

[..] On a slightly tangential note, there has been some speculation, suppressed in the UK at least via the D Notice censorship system, that MI6 informant and Russian traitor Sergei Skripal, the victim of the alleged Novichok poisoning in the UK earlier this year, remained in contact with his alleged handler Pablo Miller, who also is reported to work for Orbis Business Intelligence. If this were indeed the case, then it would be a logical assumption that Orbis, via Miller, might well have used Skripal as one of its “reliable sources” for the Dossier.

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Winner is definitely not a fan of Trump.

Trump: 5-Year Prison Sentence for Whistleblower Reality Winner ‘Unfair’ (TIME)

President Donald Trump said NSA whistleblower Reality Winner‘s five-year prison sentence for leaking a classified document to the media was “unfair” – and he used the assertion to again attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump called Winner’s leaks “‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did,” referring to his repeated accusations that his rival in the 2016 election had broken the law in her use of a private email server while Secretary of State. The tweet also marks the second time in two days that Trump has lashed out at Sessions, following remarks he made Wednesday saying his Attorney General “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“So unfair Jeff, Double Standard,” Trump wrote Friday. The attacks on Sessions come directly after Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and implicated the President in campaign financing crimes.Winner, an ex-NSA contractor, leaked classified government information to a news organization in 2017. That news organization was never officially identified in court proceedings, however on the same day Winner was arrested the investigative site The Intercept released a report detailing a Russian attempt to influence voting in the 2016 election. Trump’s apparent support for Winner is contrary to his insistence that Edward Snowden, another former NSA employee who leaked secret information to the media, is a “traitor.”

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No agreement on whether Cohen violated anything other then laws linked to his own business. Payments to mistresses may be perfectly legal.

Cohen’s Plea Deal Is Prosecutor’s Attempt To Set Up Trump (Hill)

Why was Michael Cohen investigated? Because the “Steele dossier” had him making secret trips to meet with Russians that never happened, so his business dealings got a thorough scrubbing and, in the process, he fell into the Paul Manafort bin reserved by the special counsel for squeezing until the juice comes out. We are back to 1998 all over again, with presidents and candidates covering up their alleged marital misdeeds and prosecutors trying to turn legal acts into illegal ones by inventing new crimes.

The plot to get President Trump out of office thickens, as Cohen obviously was his own mini crime syndicate and decided that his betrayals meant he would be better served turning on his old boss to cut the best deal with prosecutors he could rather than holding out and getting the full Manafort treatment. That was clear the minute he hired attorney Lanny Davis, who does not try cases and did past work for Hillary Clinton. Cohen had recorded his client, trying to entrap him, sold information about Trump to corporations for millions of dollars while acting as his lawyer, and did not pay taxes on millions.

The sweetener for the prosecutors, of course, was getting Cohen to plead guilty to campaign violations that were not campaign violations. Money paid to people who come out of the woodwork and shake down people under threat of revealing bad sexual stories are not legitimate campaign expenditures. They are personal expenditures. That is true for both candidates we like and candidates we do not. Just imagine if candidates used campaign funds instead of their own money to pay folks like Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about affairs. They would get indicted for misuse of campaign funds for personal purposes and for tax evasion.

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Germny, Greece, UK.

Europe Must Save The British From Themselves On Brexit (IT)

[Keynes in 1919 on the Treaty of Versailles] : “The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation, of degrading the lives of millions of human beings, and of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable – abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilized life of Europe.”

[..] Just as British civil servants, especially in the treasury and foreign office, never thought for a second that Germany would meet the demands of Versailles, I can’t believe anybody at the ECB or IMF thinks there is a chance that they will get back what Greece apparently owes them. According to some experts, Germany ended up paying back less then one-sixth of what was demanded in 1919. The withdrawal agreement that the United Kingdom may or may not negotiate over the next few weeks will not bear such close resemblance to those postwar reparations. At least Germany – and, more recently, Greece – tried to limit the damage being inflicted by the other side of the table.

Today the UK negotiators turn up for talks goaded by the Brexiteers to do as bad a deal as possible, to inflict as much damage as they can on themselves. If Keynes were alive today he would write another scathing polemic. The EU has a big call to make. Having crushed the Greeks, does it now do the same to the British? Does it accede to their weird demands for a dreadful deal? How much should it punish the Brexiteers for their idiocy?

Brussels is looking at opponents squabbling over whether to shoot themselves in the foot or the head. Are EU leaders, unlike their 1919 counterparts, able to see that the time for (limited) generosity has arrived? They have the opportunity to save the British from themselves. Why would they do this? The Versailles negotiators couldn’t see that it was in their own interests not to overly punish the Germans. Europe today runs too many risks from an enfeebled and resentful UK. Europe needs to remind itself of the civilising zeal of the EU’s founders and the values of the Enlightenment. Or, at the very least, the value of enlightened self-interest.

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The Bank of England and the Treasury move in opposite directions.

Ending The Fiscal-Monetary Tug-o-War (NEF)

For some time now our two most influential economic institutions -the Bank of England and the Treasury – have been pulling in opposite directions. The Bank has tried to do its job of boosting aggregate demand (spending), but the Treasury has been running fiscal austerity, which has the opposite effect. The great irony is that through its monetary policy stimulus the Bank of England has opened up significant ‘fiscal space’. ‘Fiscal space’is a term used by the IMF to describe the extent to which national governments can take on more public borrowing without harming their economy. This begs the question whether the Treasury has acted irresponsibly by not taking full advantage of the fiscal potential the Bank affords it?

Without fiscal cooperation, the Bank is left trying to stimulate the economy on its own by indirectly influencing the borrowing and spending behaviour of the private sector. To this end, the Bank has lowered interest rates to historic lows, and has injected £445 billion and £125 billion of new money through so called Quantitative Easing (QE) and the Term Funding Scheme (TFS), respectively. In doing so, the Bank has helped keep the economy afloat – but at what cost? Standalone monetary policy has reduced the number of safe assets in the market, supported more risk taking, encouraged households to take on more debt (to record levels), fuelled asset price bubbles, and promoted inequality. To boot, very little of the new money created by the Bank has trickled down into productive investments and household incomes.

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We are finally waking up. But it’s way too late.

Greece’s “Bailout” Was a Disaster for Greece (Klein)

Had Greece been a country with its own currency, such as the Czech Republic or New Zealand, the central bank could have plugged the funding gap and prevented an abrupt collapse in spending. Membership in the euro area removed that option. The government and the banks owed debt in a currency the Bank of Greece could not print, and the ECB was not keen on helping. The textbook response would have been for the government to default on its debt and get a loan from the International Monetary Fund to help smooth out the adjustment. The amount of money required to buy time after a restructuring would not have been large compared with the nearly €300 billion that ended up being lent.

That option was blocked, however, by a coalition of Greece’s “European partners” and the U.S. They were still traumatized by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and had come to believe that its default had made the financial crisis far worse than it otherwise would have been. The result was a firm commitment to avoid any reduction in what the Greek government owed. Their concern was not about what a default would do to Greece, but about what it would do to them. In addition to the €230 billion in potential losses on government debt, which by itself might have been enough to wipe out the capital of many large European banks, foreigners had another €120 billion in exposure to Greek banks. Greek banks did not have much exposure to Greek government debt—only about 8% of total assets in 2009—but it was still more than their total capital and loan-loss reserves.

Restructuring the government’s debt would therefore have required either the partial liquidation of the Greek banking system or an explicit bailout of Greece’s banks paid by someone else. Again, this should have been doable, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet were terrified about how it might affect the still-fragile Euro-American financial system. [..] There was no political will in 2010 to spend hundreds of billions of euros to bail out Dutch, French, and German banks. To Greece’s eternal misfortune, however, there was enough “solidarity” to launder that Northern European bank bailout through the Greek government.

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“..it was decided that the Greek government could not be allowed to tell the truth..”

Greece Remains A Debtor’s Prison, The EU Won’t Let Go Of The Keys (Varoufakis)

On the European continent, a far worse drama was unfolding due to the EU’s odd decision, back in 1998, to create monetary union featuring a European Central Bank without a state to support it politically and 19 governments responsible for salvaging their banks in times of financial tumult, but without a central bank to aid them. Why this anomalous arrangement? Because the German condition for swapping the deutschmark for the euro was a total ban on any central bank financing of banks or governments – Italian or Greek, say. So, when in 2009 the French and German banks proved even more insolvent than those of Wall Street or the City, there was no central bank with the legal authority, or backed by the political will, to save them.

Thus, in 2009, even Germany’s Chancellor Merkel panicked when told that her government had to inject, overnight, €406bn of taxpayers’ money into the German banks. Alas, it was not enough. A few months later, Mrs Merkel’s aides informed her that, just like the German banks, the over-indebted Greek state was finding it impossible to roll over its debt. Had it declared its bankruptcy, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal would follow suit, with the result that Berlin and Paris would have faced a fresh bailout of their banks greater than €1tn. At that point, it was decided that the Greek government could not be allowed to tell the truth, that is, confess to its bankruptcy.

To maintain the lie, insolvent Athens was given, under the smokescreen of “solidarity with the Greeks”, the largest loan in human history, to be passed on immediately to the German and French banks. To pacify angry German parliamentarians, that gargantuan loan was given on condition of brutal austerity for the Greek people, placing them in a permanent great depression. To get a feel for the devastation that ensued, imagine what would have happened in the UK if RBS, Lloyds and the other City banks had been rescued without the help of the Bank of England and solely via foreign loans to the exchequer. All granted on the condition that UK wages would be reduced by 40%, pensions by 45%, the minimum wage by 30%, NHS spending by 32%. The UK would now be the wasteland of Europe, just as Greece is today.

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How to devastate an entire population.

US Study Shows How Austerity Devastated Greece’s Health (UoW)

A new study by a School of Dentistry faculty member and dozens of other researchers from the University of Washington and around the world has found that Greece’s population health declined markedly and death rates rose sharply after harsh austerity measures were imposed on Greece by the European Union and the International Money Fund in 2010. “This study is important because it provides a framework for health surveillance on a national level following major socioeconomic changes,” said Dr. Georgios Kotsakis of the School of Dentistry’s Department of Periodontics, one of the study’s authors. The study, which was published this week in the British journal The Lancet Public Health, reported that government health spending fell sharply and that the causes of death that increased the most were largely those that could have been addressed by health care.

The researchers noted that Greece’s reduced health spending, required as part of the austerity measures, had been criticized for omitting measures to protect the country’s National Health System. They said that health policymakers should place a special focus on ensuring that Greece’s health-care system is equipped to meet the needs of the country’s citizens. The researchers identified an increase in the pace at which Greece’s population was aging as another important concern and wrote: “The increase in total deaths in children younger than 5 years and older adults with increase in causes sensitive to resource availability (e.g., access to screening and urgent care) suggest that the health system requires substantial restructuring to cope with the effects that the financial crisis has had on resource availability, resource allocation, and population structure.”

They reported that while the country’s overall death rate rose by about 5.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, it jumped by about 17.7 percent in the six years that followed, after austerity measures were imposed. The rate rose three times faster than the rate in Western Europe overall, and came at a time when mortality rates were actually declining worldwide. The largest increase came among people 70 and older, while the very young also saw a disproportionate increase.

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Yeah, but it’s only until the next ship tries to dock.

Italy Disembarks Stranded Migrants, Salvini Under Investigation (R.)

Italy on Sunday disembarked all 150 migrants from a rescue ship that had been docked for five days in a Sicilian port, ending the migrants’ ordeal and a bitter stand-off between Rome’s anti-establishment government and its European Union partners. The migrants, mainly from Eritrea, had been stranded in the port of Catania since Monday because the government refused to let them off the boat until other EU states agreed to take some of them in. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Albania had offered to accept 20 of the migrants and Ireland 20-25, while the rest would be housed by Italy’s Catholic Church “at zero cost” to the Italian taxpayer.

“The church has opened its heart and opened its wallet,” Salvini, from the right-wing League party, told supporters at a rally in Pinzolo in northern Italy on Saturday evening. Salvini, who has led a popular crackdown against immigration since the government took office in June, also announced that he had been placed under investigation by a Sicilian prosecutor for abuse of office, kidnapping and illegal arrest. “Being investigated for defending the rights of Italians is a disgrace,” he said. On Saturday, the United Nations called for reason from all sides after a meeting of envoys from 10 EU states in Brussels a day earlier failed to break the deadlock. “Frightened people who may be in need of international protection should not be caught in the maelstrom of politics,” the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement.

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The Vatican is a huge business empire disguised as a religion. That why there will never be a thorough investigation.

Time Is Running Out For The Pope To Pacify The Faithful’s Anger (O.)

Wave after wave of scandal concerning decades of abuse by priests and cover-up by bishops has crashed at the doors of the Vatican this year. The issue threatens to derail Francis’s papacy unless he can belatedly show that he does not just understand the scale and systemic nature of the problem but is willing to take concrete action to deal with it. The past few weeks alone have seen the publication of a shocking grand jury report into clerical abuse and its concealment in Pennsylvania, the resignation as a cardinal of a former archbishop of Washington over alleged sexual assaults, a police raid on the Catholic church’s HQ in Chile, the sentencing of an Australian archbishop convicted of covering up child abuse, and a growing clamour from Irish survivors for the pope to take responsibility for these failings.

More scandals and revelations may be looming. Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican and an ally of Pope Francis, is facing legal proceedings in Australia relating to allegations of historic sexual offences. Early next year, the trial will begin in France of two cardinals on charges of concealing sexual abuse. “This is a potential tipping point, not just for Francis’s papacy, but in the Catholic church writ large,” said John Allen, editor of the Catholic magazine Crux and a Vatican expert. “Ordinary Mass-going Catholics are saying that when this first blew up, and for a long time afterwards, they stuck with the church, because people in power were saying, ‘we understand how awful this is, it has to be fixed and we’re going to fix it’. What is punching Catholics in the gut right now is the thought that what they were told about the determination to get this sorted simply wasn’t real.”

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Aug 202018
 
 August 20, 2018  Posted by at 1:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Science and Charity 1897

 

I thought I’d make list of things we can expect to emanate from the White House over the coming year or so. I’m sure you will agree, wherever you stand on the political roller coaster, that there’s little chance things are going to be boring going forward. Here goes:

 

Trump will end the ‘monopolies’ of Facebook, Google, Twitter et al. The intelligence community will hate this, but they already hate him anyway, so why bother? And besides, it’s the only thing to do that makes any sense. The AT&T model might be useful, essentially creating Baby Bells, though the international reach of the companies may add a layer or two of complications.

But you simply can’t have a few roomfuls of boys and girls ban and shadowban people with impunity from networks that span the globe and reach half of the world’s population on the basis of opaque ‘Terms and Conditions’ that in effect trump the US constitution the way they are used and interpreted. Whether they are private companies or not will make no difference in the end.

At some point an ‘entity’ becomes a ‘utility’. Twitter and Facebook already are the most efficient way to alert people in cases of emergency. To throw people out of such systems is indefensible.

The CIA and FBI will protest like there’s no tomorrow, but they have to realize that spying on Americans the way they do at present in conjunction with Alphabet and Facebook is just as indefensible as throwing people off these services. The judicial system will at some point be forced to curtail these powers. Better for the executive power to be ahead of that. Baby Bells it is.

 

Trump will tell his people to open up to Mueller . He’s already done this, but will do it again, loudly and publicly, citing the need to wrap up the Mueller investigation ASAP. That will be the target: stop the ‘inquisition’. Mueller has talked for 30 hours over the past nine months to White House lawyer Donald McGahn II, and at some point enough is enough.

As I cited a few days ago, Trump’s legal team has given Mueller until September 1 to talk to the president, and that’s it. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, Giuliani again said he doesn’t want to rush Trump into a perjury trap, but Mueller has had plenty time to have that talk. The investigation risks being used as a political tool in the midterms, and that can’t happen.

 

Moreover, since US District Court Judge Amit Mehta has ruled that the FBI must release documents pertaining to what it knew about the ‘veracity’ of the Steele dossier, the most consequential reason to start the Special Counsel investigation in the first place may well soon be going going gone.

The FBI offered to pay Steele $50,000 for evidence that what was in his report was true, and they never paid that money. Ergo, it is reasonable to conclude that he never delivered the evidence. This points to huge potential problems for the FBI, the DNC -which financed the dossier-, Steele himself, and various other parties. How about James Comey?

Since the judge’s ruling was a direct effect of Trump declassifying the Nunes and Schiff memos in February, count on one thing: Trump will declassify many more documents . Judge Mehta ruled in January that the FBi didn’t have to “disclose the existence of any records containing the agency’s efforts to verify the dossier”, but now says that after Trump declassified the memos ‘the ground shifted’.

In other words, once docs are declassified, intelligence services no longer have a place to hide. Trump is thinking: why didn’t I do this much more and much sooner? Note: it still took 6 months for the judge to rule on the FBI and the memos, but next time this could go much faster. And there are thousands of files that could be de-classified.

 

Trump will revoke the security clearance of many former FBI and CIA agents whose names have come up in connection with Russiagate. He needs to do this so they can’t get in the way of the Second Special Counsel he’s going to initiate. By now, there are many more reasons for the second counsel than there ever were for the first.

Mueller is going after George Papadopoulos, a nobody, because he’s the only person who allegedly ever mentioned Russians. Everyone else he’s focused on has only ever been indirectly -at best- connected to Russia. But Papadopoulos was allegedly caught saying the R-word when he was drunk, to some never properly identified ‘professor’.

And that’s the only ‘link’ between Russia and the Trump campaign that we’ve ever seen. It is at times like this that we can see how shaky and shady the entire Mueller file was from the get-go. And why that Second Special Counsel will become reality. If you’d like to read a very long and detailed report on this, I recommend Barbara Boyd’s damning Fish Stinks From the Head Down for LaRouchePAC:

In the past week, we have learned that Steele was being paid as a human source by the FBI early in as of February 2016, if not sooner, based on a release of his highly redacted FBI file to Judicial Watch in a FOIA suit. After he was fired as an official FBI human source in October 2016, based on the obvious fact that he was using his FBI relationship as coinage in the information warfare operation he was running against Donald Trump for the British government, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, his relationship to the FBI was continued through a back channel.

That channel was the Number Four attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, Bruce Ohr, whose wife, Nellie, worked for Steele’s American employer, Fusion GPS, on the Trump Russiagate project. According to documents finally released to Congress by the Justice Department, Ohr would meet with Steele, who would convey new “information,” and then meet with the FBI to convey Steele’s findings.

This relationship lasted through May 2017, if not later. Ohr’s meetings with the FBI were meticulously recorded on formal FD 302s by the FBI agents, the Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States having become, in effect, an FBI informant in order to circumvent Christopher Steele’s firing as an informant for egregious violations of FBI Guidelines. Steele sought Ohr’s intervention when Senators Lindsay Graham and Chuck Grassley referred him to the Department of Justice for prosecution because of lies he told the FBI. Steele also sought Ohr’s help in getting placed on Robert Mueller’s investigative team.

Boyd provides a lot of additional details of a part of the Mueller investigation that has so far barely been mentioned: the involvement of British intelligence. And on the link between Christopher Steele and Victoria Nuland.

 

Finally, Trump will push for Julian Assange to testify -with immunity- to probably the Senate Intelligence Committee (but there are alternative options) on what he knows about -potential- Russian involvement in US election meddling and hacking of DNC or RNC servers and computers. There’s no-one who know more on this than Assange, and he has evidence.

That his deal with the DOJ was killed by James Comey will be all the more impetus for Trump to hear what he has to say. For many people, it will appear ironic, but this may be Assange’s best bet to regain freedom.

The one person who can prove that there was never any collusion between Trump and Russia is locked up in a tiny embassy in London. And the one person who can get him out of there lives in the White House.

 

 

Aug 192018
 
 August 19, 2018  Posted by at 8:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Ambroise Vollard 1910

 

Anatomy of a Crisis: A Strong Dollar and Disappearing Liquidity (Palisade)
Speculators Will Make Hay From Great Australian Economic Crash (Steve Keen)
Judge Rules FBI Must Address Measures Taken To Verify Steele Dossier (ZH)
White House Counsel “Cooperating Extensively” With Obstruction Probe (ZH)
Erdogan Says US Has Launched ‘Attempted Economic Coup’ (Ind.)
No-Deal Brexit May Force Rethink Of Vote – Ex-Civil Service Head (PA)
Putin Urges Europe To Help Rebuild Syria So Refugees Can Return (AFP)
Ecuador Slams Door On Venezuelans (BBC)
The Un-Celebrity President (WaPo)
Britain Has One Last Chance To Save Endangered Species (G.)

 

 

When liquidity vanishes the dollar rises.

Anatomy of a Crisis: A Strong Dollar and Disappearing Liquidity (Palisade)

Since March – the dollar’s rallied over 7%. And it’s caused the Emerging Markets to implode. But the bigger problem is what lies ahead. And that’s a global dollar shortage – which the mainstream continues to ignore. . . I’ve touched on this a couple months back. Wondering when the mainstream would start to realize that the stronger the dollar gets – the more pressure global economies will feel. I wrote. . . “This is going to cause an evaporation of dollar liquidity – making the markets extremely fragile. Putting it simply – the soaring U.S. deficit requires an even greater amount dollars from foreigners to fund the U.S. Treasury. But if the Fed is shrinking their balance sheet, that means the bonds they’re selling to banks are sucking dollars out of the economy (the reverse of Quantitative Easing which was injecting dollars into the economy). This is creating a shortage of U.S. dollars – the world’s reserve currency – therefore affecting every global economy.”

Since then, things have only gotten worse. . . First: Jerome Powell – the Fed Chairman – issued a statement at the end of June that they would actually increase the amount of rate hikes over the next two years. This means they’re tightening even faster. Second: the U.S. Treasury increased their debt-borrowing needs to the highest since the financial crisis – which was over a decade ago. Therefore, they will need even more dollars to fund their spending. “The department expects to issue $329 billion in net marketable debt from July through September, the fourth-largest total for that quarter on record and higher than the $273 billion estimated in April [a 17% increase], the Treasury said in a report Monday. The department’s forecast for the October-December quarter is $440 billion, bringing the second-half borrowing estimate to $769 billion, the highest since $1.1 trillion in July-December 2008…”

And third: China’s growth is slowing down. Meanwhile the Emerging Markets are draining their U.S. dollar reserves even faster because of the strengthening dollar. So, in summary: as global dollar liquidity continues drying up, there will be a wave of ‘risky’ positions being dumped and ‘dollar disease’ (selling assets to raise dollars to pay back debts) worldwide. . . What we know is true from Economics-101 is that the lower the supply and the greater the demand equals a higher price. And as the pool of USD keeps drying up – then the price of the dollars must rise. This translates into higher offshore dollar funding (higher interest rates). Which is killing dollar indebted countries and corporations – like Turkey today.

[..] I think future financial historians will scratch their heads wondering why markets today continued discounting this serious dollar-shortage problem. The easy money years post-2008 fueled a massive debt bubble – causing asset prices all over to rise. But the market isn’t expecting the tight money years today to cause asset prices to fall. It’s like they think that drinking alcohol today will make them feel good – but don’t believe they’ll be hungover tomorrow. So, what’s next? I believe the U.S. dollar will continue rallying because of all that I mentioned above. As Hedge Funds, institutions, and investors continue unloading their Emerging Market positions – things will only get worse.

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Housing bubble vs stock market bubble. Pick your fave toxin.

Speculators Will Make Hay From Great Australian Economic Crash (Steve Keen)

For years, Australia has been seen as the goose which laid the golden egg for workers, migrants and investors. Ironically, as America’s casino closes, it will eventually end up as a speculator’s paradise.\ The performance of the Australian stock market relative to its American equivalent since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) shows the difference between a country where Quantitative Easing (QE) – the buying of bonds by the central bank to drive bond prices up and interest rates down, and thus encourage firms to invest and financial institutions to buy shares – was practiced and one where it was not. It’s both a warning about what could happen when the Fed starts to unwind QE, and a perverse opportunity to profit when Australia’s central bank, the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) inevitably starts its own QE program.

Since Australia avoided the GFC, and its rate of economic growth has been twice as fast as America’s post-crisis (an average 2.7 percent per year, versus 1.3 percent for the US), you might expect Australia’s stock market to have done better than America’s. In fact, it’s performed much worse: the main Australian index, the ASX, still hasn’t returned to its mid-2000s peak, while the US S&P500 has more than doubled its pre-crash level, and it’s almost four times as high as it was in the deepest depths of 2009. The timing of the US stock market recovery is instructive: it began in February 2009, just three months after the Federal Reserve began “QE1” (the first of three episodes of Quantitative Easing), when it promised to net buy bonds from the financial sector to the tune of $1 trillion per year ($80 billion per month).

With the Fed buying a trillion bucks worth of bonds every year, thus giving the financial sector one trillion in cash per year in place of its interest-earning bonds, the only place the financial sector could stash that dough in search of a return was the stock market. This was the intention of the policy of course: to drive share prices higher in order to stimulate the economy. Aside from the fact it’s made the wealthier even wealthier as a direct effect of government policy, and cost far more than a direct boost to the poor would have done, it’s worked a treat: according to Robert Shiller’s “Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings Ratio,” it’s driven America’s stock market to its second-highest peak in history, higher than the 1929 bubble, second only to the DotCom maximum in 2000, and more than twice its long-term average.

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Can’t hide behind declassified docs.

Judge Rules FBI Must Address Measures Taken To Verify Steele Dossier (ZH)

The FBI has been dealt a major blow after a Washington DC judge ruled that the agency must respond to a FOIA request for documents concerning the bureau’s efforts to verify the controversial Steele Dossier, before it was used as the foundation of a FISA surveillance warrant application and subsequent renewals. US District Court Judge Amit Mehta – who in January sided with the FBI’s decision to ignore the FOIA request, said that President Trump’s release of two House Intelligence Committee documents (the “Nunes” and “Schiff” memos) changed everything.

Considering that the FBI offered Steele $50,000 to verify the Dossier’s claims yet never paid him, BuzzFeed has unsuccessfully tried to do the same to defend themselves in a dossier-related lawsuit, and a $50 million Soros-funded investigation to continue the hunt have turned up nothing that we know of – whatever documents the FBI may be forced to cough up regarding their attempts to verify the Dossier could prove highly embarrassing for the agency. “[I]f Mr. Steele could get solid corroboration of his reports, the F.B.I. would pay him $50,000 for his efforts, according to two people familiar with the offer. Ultimately, he was not paid.” -NYT

What’s more, forcing the FBI to prove they had an empty hand will likely embolden calls to disband the special counsel investigation – as the agency’s mercenary and politicized approach to “investigations” will be laid all the more bare for the world to see. Then again, who knows – maybe the FBI verified everything in the dossier and it simply hasn’t leaked. That said, while the FBI will likely be forced to acknowledge the documents thanks to the Thursday ruling, the agency will still be able to try and convince the judge that there are other grounds to withhold the records.

In January, Mehta blessed the FBI’s decision not to disclose the existence of any records containing the agency’s efforts to verify the dossier – ruling that Trump’s tweets about the dossier didn’t require the FBI and other intelligence agencies to act on records requests. “But then the ground shifted,” writes Mehta of Trump declassifying the House memos. “As a result of the Nunes and Schiff Memos, there is now in the public domain meaningful information about how the FBI acquired the Dossier and how the agency used it to investigate Russian meddling.” [..] “It remains no longer logical nor plausible for the FBI to maintain that it cannot confirm nor deny the existence of documents,” Mehta wrote.

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Doesn’t feel like McGahn has tons of dirt.

White House Counsel “Cooperating Extensively” With Obstruction Probe (ZH)

Update: Trump has commented on the story, saying he allowed McGahn “and all other requested members of the White House Staff” to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel. He also notes that the White House has given over one million pages of documents adding “No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!”

White House counsel Donald McGahn II, has been quietly cooperating “extensively” with special counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to an explosive New York Times report published Saturday afternoon. Sources told the Times that McGahn has had at least three voluntary interviews with Mueller’s team totaling 30 hours, in which he discussed accounts of multiple episodes at the center of Mueller’s probe into whether President Trump obstructed justice, as well as the president’s furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged McGahn to respond to it. For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual.

Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege. Among the episodes McGahn reprotedly discussed with investigators is Trump’s firing last year of former FBI Director James Comey and the president’s repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of the special counsel despite his recusal from Russia probes. McGahn was also centrally involved in Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, himself which investigators might not have discovered without him.

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Downgrades add to the downfall.

Erdogan Says US Has Launched ‘Attempted Economic Coup’ (Ind.)

Turkey’s president has accused America of launching an “attempted economic coup” as the country’s currency continues to reel following US economic sanctions. Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of supporters in Ankara: “Today some people are trying to threaten us through the economy, through interest rates, foreign exchange, investment and inflation. “We are telling them: we’ve seen your games, and we are challenging you.” And, in a clear swipe at US president Donald Trump he added: “We did not and will not surrender to those who act like a strategic partner but make us a strategic target.”

[..] As the two countries have clashed, the lira’s value has plummeted: it has now dropped 38 per cent against the dollar since the beginning of the year. On Friday, ratings agencies Standard & Poor and Moody’s downgraded Turkey’s credit rating closer to “junk” status, pointing to currency fluctuations and concerns over central bank independence. A spokesman for Standard & Poor said: “The downgrade reflects our expectation that the extreme volatility of the Turkish lira and the resulting projected sharp balance of payments adjustment will undermine Turkey’s economy. We forecast a recession next year.” He added the agency was predicting that the country’s inflation will hit a potential 22 per cent over the next four months.

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When temperatures start dropping, reality will loom.

No-Deal Brexit May Force Rethink Of Vote – Ex-Civil Service Head (PA)

Britain may have to rethink the decision to leave the EU if the government is unable to strike a Brexit deal with Brussels, a former head of the civil service has said. Bob Kerslake said the consequences of a no-deal exit would be so serious that the UK parliament would have to consider whether it could allow it to go ahead. Lord Kerslake, who has been advising Labour on preparing for government, said that at the very least the article 50 process – under which the UK is set to leave the bloc on 29 March next year – would have to be paused. In those circumstances, the European commission would almost certainly insist on some “re-examination” of the original decision to leave, he said.

His comments came as the government prepares to publish a series of technical notes on preparations for a no-deal Brexit across dozens of areas of British life, from farming to financial services. Kerslake said the measures were “too little, too late” and that the government had not allowed itself enough time to prepare for such an outcome. He told the the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The consequences of a no deal would be so serious as I think parliament would have to seriously consider whether it could contemplate this. “The question people need to ask themselves is, is this a risk that they think we should be taking?

“If the government can negotiate a good deal, then so be it. But if they can’t and we end up in this position, then we have to reopen the question of whether we go forward with Brexit at all. It is not too late to do that. “A pause to reflect would certainly be necessary. I think that is a pretty high probability now. “But I think that pause would need to include – and I suspect this would be insisted on by the commission – some re-examination of the decision itself.”

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The only thing that makes sense.

Putin Urges Europe To Help Rebuild Syria So Refugees Can Return (AFP)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has called on Europe to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria to allow millions of refugees to return home. “We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict,” he said on Saturday, ahead of a meeting with his German counterpart Angela Merkel at the government retreat of Meseberg Palace, north of Berlin. “By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to.” There were 1 million refugees in Jordan, the same number in Lebanon, and 3 million in Turkey, Putin said.

Germany has accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants since 2015 – the height of the migration crisis – which has weakened Angela Merkel politically and split the European Union. “This is potentially a huge burden for Europe,” Putin said. “That’s why we have to do everything to get these people back home,” he added, emphasising the need to restore basic services such as water supplies and healthcare.

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More refugees. Great.

Ecuador Slams Door On Venezuelans (BBC)

Ecuador has brought in new rules to stop Venezuelan migrants entering the country without a passport, leaving many stranded in neighbouring Colombia. Thousands of Venezuelans fleeing their country’s economic and political crisis have been crossing into Ecuador from Colombia using only identity cards. Most are heading south to join family members in Peru and Chile. Colombia has protested against the move, saying vulnerable people will be trapped on its side of the border. In a separate incident, residents of a Brazilian town attacked a Venezuelan migrant camp on Saturday and drove the occupants back across the border. Venezuela has suffered for years from high inflation and the chronic shortage of food and medicines.

More than a million Venezuelan migrants have entered Colombia in the past 15 months, according to official estimates, and more than 4,000 have been arriving at Ecuador’s border every day. Many have been walking or hitching rides for weeks and are exhausted by the time they reach the frontier. [..] With the flow of Venezuelan migrants causing tensions across the region, Peru’s government announced immigration measures similar to Ecuador’s on Friday. Passport requirements for Venezuelans will begin on 25 August. In February, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced a tightening of border controls, resulting in thousands of Venezuelans rushing to crossing points. Brazil, which neighbours Venezuela, has also expressed concerns and temporarily closed the border earlier this month. Violence has flared in the border state of Roraima where thousands of Venezuelans live in precarious accommodation.

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“Carter has been an ex-president for 37 years, longer than anyone else in history.”He used those years to redeem himself.

The Un-Celebrity President (WaPo)

Jimmy Carter finishes his Saturday night dinner, salmon and broccoli casserole on a paper plate, flashes his famous toothy grin and calls playfully to his wife of 72 years, Rosalynn: “C’mon, kid.” She laughs and takes his hand, and they walk carefully through a neighbor’s kitchen filled with 1976 campaign buttons, photos of world leaders and a couple of unopened cans of Billy Beer, then out the back door, where three Secret Service agents wait. They do this just about every weekend in this tiny town where they were born — he almost 94 years ago, she almost 91. Dinner at their friend Jill Stuckey’s house, with plastic Solo cups of ice water and one glass each of bargain-brand chardonnay, then the half-mile walk home to the ranch house they built in 1961.

On this south Georgia summer evening, still close to 90 degrees, they dab their faces with a little plastic bottle of No Natz to repel the swirling clouds of tiny bugs. Then they catch each other’s hands again and start walking, the former president in jeans and clunky black shoes, the former first lady using a walking stick for the first time. The 39th president of the United States lives modestly, a sharp contrast to his successors, who have left the White House to embrace power of another kind: wealth. Even those who didn’t start out rich, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have made tens of millions of dollars on the private-sector opportunities that flow so easily to ex-presidents.

When Carter left the White House after one tumultuous term, trounced by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, he returned to Plains, a speck of peanut and cotton farmland that to this day has a nearly 40 percent poverty rate. The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.” Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that Gerald Ford, Carter’s predecessor and close friend, was the first to fully take advantage of those high-paid post-presidential opportunities, but that “Carter did the opposite.” Since Ford, other former presidents, and sometimes their spouses, routinely earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech. “I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says over dinner. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”

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One field where EU regulation is very harmful.

Britain Has One Last Chance To Save Endangered Species (G.)

Ministers may have only 12 months to rescue Britain’s degraded environment and to save its endangered birds and animals. That is the stark conclusion of Michael Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, who has warned that parliamentary bills – to be published over the next year – will have to make crucial changes to the way our farms and fisheries are run if the wildlife and landscape of the nation are to be rescued from their dangerously depleted condition. “We are on a cusp, and if we fail to act decisively we will pay the price in coming years,” Clarke told the Observer last week. The three forthcoming bills – on agriculture, on fisheries and on the environment – will replace the EU legislation that currently controls our farming, fishing industry and the quality of our air, water and wildlife.

The government has yet to announce what these bills will contain. However, conservationists such as Clarke now fear there is a real risk that one or all of these new pieces of legislation will fail to provide the necessary powers to restore our crisis-hit environment. “Since 1980, across Europe 420 million individual birds have disappeared from the countryside thanks to the practices of modern agriculture,” said Clarke. And that staggering drop is matched by an even more catastrophic decline in insect life over the same period of time, he added. “For years, we could see the lack of insects on our windscreens on summer evenings. It was a smoking gun but there was no hard data – until recent research in Germany showed there had been a 75% decline in its flying insects, figures since matched by Dutch and some UK data. The insects have gone – and so have 420 million birds.”

[..] As to the causes of these declines, the intensification and spread of agriculture and changes in land use take most of the blame – with the EU common agricultural policy (CAP) being considered a particularly destructive agent in this process. The CAP stresses the importance of agricultural output above all else and has helped destroy the homes and food sources of countless birds, animals and insects, said Clarke. Crucially, as Britain prepares to withdraw from the CAP and the EU, the nation has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put right this damage, said Clarke. About £3bn a year is spent on British farming through CAP, he pointed out.

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