Aug 162018
 
 August 16, 2018  Posted by at 8:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vasily Polenov Moscow courtyard 1878

 

Turkish Lira Rallies As Qatar Makes $15bn Loan Pledge (G.)
Turkey Slashes Capacity Of Banks To Bet Against Struggling Lira (CNBC)
Turkey Joins Russia In Liquidating US Treasuries (ZH)
Turkey Wants Its Share Of Syria’s Reconstruction (AlM)
Italy, Not Turkey, Is The Biggest Threat To European Banks (CNBC)
RBS Bankers Joked About Destroying The US Housing Market (G.)
Elizabeth Warren Unveils Bold New Plan To Reshape American Capitalism (G.)
Our “Prosperity” Is Now Dependent on Predatory Globalization (CHS)
EU Rebuffs Idea Of Escalating Brexit Talks To Leaders’ Summit (G.)
Trump Strikes Back at ‘Ringleader’ Brennan (Ray McGovern)
Trump Is Right: America Was ‘Built On Tariffs’ (MW)
Rand Paul Thinks Julian Assange Should Be Granted Immunity for Testimony (GP)
Australia’s Record Household Debt Is A Ticking Time Bomb (ZH)
SEC Serves Tesla With Subpoena (CNBC)
Monsanto’s Roundup Found In Wide Range Of Cereals Aimed At Children (G.)

 

 

$15 billion is chump change.

Turkish Lira Rallies As Qatar Makes $15bn Loan Pledge (G.)

Turkey’s beleagured currency has bounced back from record lows after Qatar pledged to shore up the banking sector’s shaky finances with loans worth $15bn. A week after a diplomatic spat with the US sent the lira into a tailspin, the agreement with Qatar was calculated to help Turkey avoid having to ask the IMF for emergency funding. Officials in Ankara said the Qatari money would be “channeled into Turkey’s financial markets and banks”, with the implication that the investment would be enough to head off a banking collapse. However, while the investment gave the Turkish lira much-needed respite, the US president Donald Trump’s announcement of further trade sanctions against Ankara, along with concerns about the rising value of the dollar and weak profits in Chinese tech firms, sent global financial markets into reverse.

[..] Mohamed A El-Erian, the chief economic adviser at the German insurer Allianz, tweeted that Erdogan’s policies, including the Qatari investment, would act like sticking plaster, leaving the possibility open for an IMF rescue. He said: “This is part of the Turkish government’s strategy to avoid the IMF by finding alternative external support. To be a sustainable stabilizer, funding needs to be larger and reach the central bank.” However, the lira rallied by 6% after the Qatari pledge and a separate move by Turkey’s central bank to boost the finances of the country’s banks. In an effort to defend the lira, Turkey’s central bank tightened its rules on currency swaps and other foreign exchange transactions, limiting the ability of banks to supply lira to foreign financial companies.

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It’s hardly ever a good sign when short sellers are curtailed. Question is why are they shorting?

Turkey Slashes Capacity Of Banks To Bet Against Struggling Lira (CNBC)

Action by Turkey’s banking regulator has stymied investor ability to buy and short the lira, helping the currency to gain value in overnight trade. The Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA) has reduced the amount of swap market contracts that offshore banks can undertake, reducing their access to the beleaguered currency. A swap is where on flow of cash income, usually a fixed or steady rate, is swapped for a typically riskier flow of income. The derivative contract is set for a fixed period. The BRSA has stipulated that banks now cannot run swap contracts for no more than 25% of the equity that they hold. The figure was previously 50%.

BlueBay Asset Management strategist Timothy Ash said in a note Wednesday that Turkey’s central bankers had finally taken action to restrict international access to lira. “They are killing offshore TRY (lira) liquidity to stop foreigners shorting the lira,” he said before adding “why did they not do all this much earlier?” [..] This year the dollar has gained more than 60% in value versus the lira, and the Turkish currency has become the world’s worst performer this year.

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Maybe Turkey simply needs the money?!

Turkey Joins Russia In Liquidating US Treasuries (ZH)

Last month, when we reported that Russia had liquidated the bulk of its US Treasury holdings in just two months, we said that “we can’t help but wonder – as the Yuan-denominated oil futures were launched, trade wars were threatened, and as more sanctions were unleashed on Russia – if this wasn’t a dress-rehearsal, carefully coordinated with Beijing to field test what would happen if/when China also starts to liquidate its own Treasury holdings.” As it turns out, Russia did lead the way, but not for China. Instead, another recent US foreign nemesis, Turkey, was set to follow in Putin’s footsteps of “diversifying away from the dollar”, and in the June Treasury International Capital, Turkey completely dropped off the list of major holders of US Treasurys, which has a $30 billion floor to be classified as a “major holder.”

According to the US Treasury, Turkey’s holdings of bonds, bills and notes tumbled by 52% since the end of 2017, dropping to $28.8 billion in June from $32.6 billion in May and $61.2 billion at the recent high of November of 2016. [..] The selloffs took place well before a diplomatic fallout between the US and both Turkey and Russia resulted in new sets of sanctions and tariffs imposed on both nations. The Trump administration last week imposed new sanctions against Russia in response to the nerve agent poisoning in the U.K. of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Meanwhile, the Turkish selloff certainly continued into July and August as U.S. relations with Turkey deteriorated this week

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It‘s in Putin’s hands.

Turkey Wants Its Share Of Syria’s Reconstruction (AlM)

Although Turkey publicly appears to sustain its anti-Bashar al-Assad stance on Syria, it is actually getting ready for a new Syria that will allow Assad to stay on as the country’s president. While a termination of the de facto Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria seems to be the first precondition for a possible normalization between Ankara and Damascus, there is another unspoken condition as well: the allotment of a share in Syria’s reconstruction. Naturally, the Assad administration does not have the intention to allot any share to Turkey, which is accused of supporting anti-regime military groups that have destroyed the country and looted Aleppo’s industrial zones. However, Turkey’s control of a sizable territory in northern Syria and its cooperation with Russia make it difficult for Damascus to exclude Turkey from these calculations.

Turkey’s influence over opposition groups that could have a bearing on the Geneva process can not be dismissed. Turkey has been able to preserve its most important trading partner position with Syria despite the seven-year-old conflict. Its geographical proximity to Syria, logistical superiority and advanced capacity of its construction sector encourages Turkey to obtain a substantial part in the reconstruction process. Moreover, Turkey is currently organizing local entities in al-Bab, Jarablus, Azaz, Cobanbey and Afrin that are de facto under its control. It is also setting up systems for security, education, religion and even issuing ID cards to residents. In addition it has started building a road network.

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“The issues in Italy… in the next three months are going to dictate the whole European banking narrative for the next three to five years,”

Italy, Not Turkey, Is The Biggest Threat To European Banks (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) was reported Friday to be concerned that the ongoing currency crisis in Turkey could result in problems for the continent’s banks. However, the real problem for Europe’s banking industry is Italy and what happens in that country in the coming months, an analyst said Tuesday. “The issues in Italy… in the next three months are going to dictate the whole European banking narrative for the next three to five years,” Tom Kinmonth, fixed income strategist at ABN Amro, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.” Italy’s economy is the third largest in the European Union and the country’s new coalition government is currently working on next year’s budget.

Its financial plan will be closely scrutinized by European authorities and, more importantly, by market players, following promises to increase public spending. Investors are wary of rises in pensions and state benefits, given that Italy already has a significantly high public debt pile — the second largest in the euro zone, at about 130% of GDP. If market players do not approve of the next budget, due around October, then borrowing costs for Italy are likely to go up, which in turn could affect neighboring European countries. It could also create problems for certain European banks that hold Italian debt.

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And they’re still in business.

RBS Bankers Joked About Destroying The US Housing Market (G.)

RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market after making millions by trading loans that staff described as “total fucking garbage”, according to transcripts released as part of a $4.9bn (£3.8bn) settlement with US prosecutors. Details of internal conversations at the bank emerged just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis, which saw RBS rescued with a £45bn bailout from the UK government. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) criticised RBS over its trade in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) – financial instruments underwritten by risky home loans that are cited as pivotal in the global banking crash. It said the bank made “false and misleading representations” to investors in order to sell more of the RMBS, which are forecast to result in losses of $55bn to investors.

Transcripts published alongside the settlement reveal the attitude among senior bankers at RBS towards some of the products they sold. The bank’s chief credit officer in the US referred to selling investors products backed by “total fucking garbage” loans with “fraud [that] was so rampant … [and] all random”. He added that “the loans are all disguised to, you know, look okay kind of … in a data file.” The DoJ said senior RBS executives “showed little regard for their misconduct and, internally, made light of it”. In one exchange, as the extent of the contagion in the banking industry was becoming clear, RBS’ head trader received a call from a friend who said: “[I’m] sure your parents never imagine[d] they’d raise a son who [would] destroy the housing market in the richest nation on the planet.” He responded: “I take exception to the word ‘destroy.’ I am more comfortable with ‘severely damage.’”

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No chance until the whole thing collapses.

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Bold New Plan To Reshape American Capitalism (G.)

Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator tipped as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, has unveiled new plans for legislation aimed at reining in big corporations, redistributing wealth, and giving workers and local communities a bigger say. Warren will introduce the bill dubbed the Accountable Capitalism Act on Wednesday. The proposal aims to alter a model she says has caused corporations to chase profits for shareholders to the detriment of workers. Under the legislation, corporations with more than $1bn in annual revenue would be required to obtain a corporate charter from the federal government – and the document would mandate that companies not just consider the financial interests of shareholders.

Instead, businesses would have to consider all major corporate stakeholders – which could include workers, customers, and the cities and towns where those corporations operate. Anyone who owns shares in the company could sue if they believed corporate directors were not meeting their obligations. Employees at large corporations would be able to elect at least 40% of the board of directors. An estimated 3,500 public US companies and hundreds of other private companies would be covered by the mandates. [..] Large companies dedicated 93% of their earnings to shareholders between 2007 and 2016 – a shift from the early 1980s, when they sent less than half their revenue to shareholders and spent the rest on employees and other priorities, Warren said.

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Here’s what Warren wants to change.

Our “Prosperity” Is Now Dependent on Predatory Globalization (CHS)

So here’s the story explaining why “free” trade and globalization create so much wonderful prosperity for all of us: I find a nation with cheap labor and no environmental laws anxious to give me cheap land and tax credits, so I move my factory from my high-cost, highly regulated nation to the low-cost nation, and keep all the profits I reap from the move for myself. Yea for free trade, I’m now far wealthier than I was before. That’s the story. Feel better about “free” trade and globalization now? Oh wait a minute, there’s something missing–the part about “prosperity for all of us.” Here’s labor’s share of U.S. GDP, which includes imports and exports, i.e. trade:

Notice how labor’s share of the economy tanked once globalization / offshoring kicked into high gear? Now let’s see what happened to corporate profits at that same point in time:

Imagine that–corporate profits skyrocketed once globalization / offshoring kicked into high gear. Explain that part about “makes us all prosperous” again, because there’s no data to support that narrative. What’s interesting about all this is the way that politicians are openly threatening voters with recession if they vote against globalization. In other words, whatever “prosperity” is still being distributed to the bottom 80% is now dependent on a predatory version of globalization.

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Britain simply refuses to understand what the EU is. May can only get what she wants if the EU bends itself out of shape. Not going to happen.

EU Rebuffs Idea Of Escalating Brexit Talks To Leaders’ Summit (G.)

European officials have poured cold water on hopes that Theresa May could negotiate Brexit with other EU leaders in September to break the deadlock over Britain’s departure. Diplomatic sources have rejected suggestions that May could hold direct talks on Brexit with the 27 other EU heads of state and government at a summit in Salzburg next month. “That is completely ridiculous, that is complete overspin of Salzburg,” one senior source told the Guardian. “It would mean that we would ditch our negotiating approach of the last two years and discuss at 28 instead of 27 to one, and I don’t see why this would happen.” Brexit talks are due to resume in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, the start of a new intense phase of negotiations, with the aim of reaching a deal in the autumn.

Since the referendum, the EU has insisted that all formal talks are led by the chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. May is allowed to update EU leaders on her plans at quarterly EU summits but is not in the room for discussions. Officials expect this approach to be continued at Salzburg, an informal summit on 20 September officially dedicated to migration. The meeting has been organised by Austria, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, but it will be for the European council president, Donald Tusk, to decide whether to add Brexit to the agenda. The Salzburg gathering comes four weeks before an EU summit in Brussels, pencilled in by Barnier as the moment to strike a deal. Many in Brussels expect the deadline to slip to November or even December, squeezing the time available to ratify the text ahead of the UK’s departure on 29 March 2019.

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The view of a CIA veteran.

Trump Strikes Back at ‘Ringleader’ Brennan (Ray McGovern)

There’s more than meets the eye to President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearances that ex-CIA Director John Brennan enjoyed as a courtesy customarily afforded former directors. The President’s move is the second major sign that Brennan is about to be hoist on his own petard. It is one embroidered with rhetoric charging Trump with treason and, far more important, with documents now in the hands of congressional investigators showing Brennan’s ringleader role in the so-far unsuccessful attempts to derail Trump both before and after the 2016 election.

Brennan will fight hard to avoid being put on trial but will need united support from from his Deep State co-conspirators — a dubious proposition. One of Brennan’s major concerns at this point has to be whether the “honor-among-thieves” ethos will prevail, or whether some or all of his former partners in crime will latch onto the opportunity to “confess” to investigators: “Brennan made me do it.” Well before Monday night, when Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani let a small bomb drop on Brennan, there was strong evidence that Brennan had been quarterbacking illegal operations against Trump. Giuliani added fuel to the fire when he told Sean Hannity of Fox news:

“I’m going to tell you who orchestrated, who was the quarterback for all this … The guy running it is Brennan, and he should be in front of a grand jury. Brennan took … a dossier that, unless he’s the biggest idiot intelligence agent that ever lived … it’s false; you can look at it and laugh at it. And he peddled it to [then Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, and that led to the request for the investigation. So you take a false dossier, get Senators involved, and you get a couple of Republican Senators, and they demand an investigation — a totally phony investigation.”

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History lessons always good.

Trump Is Right: America Was ‘Built On Tariffs’ (MW)

President Trump defended his use of tariffs to force other countries to renegotiate “unfair” trade deals by claiming that “our country was built on tariffs.” He’s right. America was a staunchly protectionist country for most of its history before World War II. One of the very first bills new President George Washington signed, for instance, was the Tariff Act of 1789. He inked the bill on July 4 of that year. The tariff of 1789 was designed to raise money for the new federal government, slash Revolutionary War debt and protect early-stage American industries from foreign competition. Then, as now, some industries sought protection in Congress from a flood of imports. Most goods entering the U.S. were subjected to a 5% tariff, though in a few cases the rates ranged as high as 50%.

It was the first of many tariffs that Congress passed over a century and a half. They generated the vast majority of the federal government’s revenue until the U.S. adopted an income tax in 1913. Tariffs have always been a source of controversy, however, starting with that very first one. Early on, the North preferred higher tariffs to protect infant American industries such as textiles from established English manufacturers. Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, feared the U.S. would remain a weakling unless it built its own industries and became economically independent of the mother country. Over time the arguments on behalf of protectionism became closely tied to the emerging Republican party.

“Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth,” a young politician named Abraham Lincoln said in 1847. Later, as the country’s 16th president, Lincoln rejected free trade and jacked up tariffs during the Civil War to pay for the North’s military campaigns.

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Paul has already topped the Iran regime change cabal. Let’s hope he gets his way again. Assange can be a very important Russiagate witness.

Rand Paul Thinks Julian Assange Should Be Granted Immunity for Testimony (GP)

Senator Rand Paul believes that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be given immunity in exchange for him testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Speaking to the Gateway Pundit, Senator Paul asserted that Assange likely has important information about the hack and that it’s unlikely he would agree to testify without immunity. “I think that he should be given immunity from prosecution in exchange for coming to the United States and testifying,” Senator Paul told the Gateway Pundit. “I think he’s been someone who has released a lot of information, and you can debate whether or not any of that has caused harm, but I think really he has information that is probably pertinent to the hacking of the Democratic emails that would be nice to hear.” “It’s probably unlikely to happen unless he is given some type of immunity from prosecution,” Senator Paul added.

[..] Christine Assange, Julian’s mother, has a list of things that she would like to see happen before her son agrees to testify. She told the Gateway Pundit that her wishes include an end to the WikiLeaks grand jury, a dismissal of charges against all WikiLeaks staff, safe passage for him to a nation where he can receive medical care and an agreement that there will be no future US extradition requests. She would also like to see the testimony conducted publicly through Skype.

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Household debt. Mortal enemy no. 1. Check it where you live.

Australia’s Record Household Debt Is A Ticking Time Bomb (ZH)

The Australian household debt to income ratio has ballooned to shocking levels over the past three decades as Sydney is ranked as one of the most overvalued cities in the world. According to the Daily Mail Australia, credit card bills, home mortgages, and personal loans now account for 189% of an average Australian household income, compared with just 60% in 1988, as Callus Thomas, Head of Research of Topdown Charts, demonstrates that record high household debt is a ticking time bomb. The average Australian credit card bill is roughly $3,272.70 as average income earners spend at least $2,000 a month on mortgage repayments, which has contributed to the affordability crisis, said the Daily Mail Australia.

The average Australian holds about a $400,000 mortgage after they put down 20% deposit for a $500,000 property. The paper notes that the loan would barely buy a one-bedroom unit in most outer suburbs, as full-time workers take in about $82,000 salary per annum and spend an alarming 40% on mortgage repayments. With household debt at crisis levels, CoreLogic said Australian home prices experienced their sharpest monthly drops in July since late 2011 as declines gathered momentum in Sydney and Melbourne (Sydney and Melbourne cover about 60% of Australia’s housing market by value and 40% by number). Nationally, the index of home prices dropped .60% in July from June, leading to an annual fall of 1.6%.

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The board may have to get rid of Musk. But what is Tesla without him?

SEC Serves Tesla With Subpoena (CNBC)

The Securities and Exchange Commisison has served Tesla with a subpoena after CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he was considering taking the company private and that he had the necessary funding lined up, according to reports from The New York Times and other outlets published Wednesday. Earlier reports said the SEC had intensified scrutiny of the automaker after the controversial tweet. A subpoena would be one of the first steps in a formal inquiry. Shares of Tesla were down 3% in afternoon trading, though they moved only a fraction of 1% following the Times article.

Musk publicly floated the possibility of taking the company private in a tweet that sent shares seesawing and company leadership scrambling. His statement that he had the “funding secured” came under particular scrutiny, as it may have violated an SEC rule that essentially stipulates public statements made by company executives must be true. Musk explained earlier this week that the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund had expressed interest in taking Tesla private.

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Will this get the EU to move?

Monsanto’s Roundup Found In Wide Range Of Cereals Aimed At Children (G.)

Significant levels of the weedkilling chemical glyphosate have been found in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars marketed to US children, a new study has found. Tests revealed glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller brand Roundup, present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products that were sampled by the Environmental Working Group, a public health organization. Nearly three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. Products with some of the highest levels of glyphosate include granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

One sample of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats measured at more than 1,000 parts per billion of glyphosate. The Environmental Protection Agency has a range of safe levels for glyphosate on crops such as corn, soybeans, grains and some fruits, spanning 0.1 to 310 parts per million. “I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate,” said EWG’s president, Ken Cook. “No one wants to eat a weedkiller for breakfast, and no one should have to do so.” Cook said EWG will urge the EPA to limit the use of glyphosate on food crops but said companies should “step up” because of the “lawless” nature of the regulator under the Trump administration.

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Aug 152018
 
 August 15, 2018  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Signac Maison de Van Gogh Arles 1933

 

Two Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Return Home (K.)
Turkey Shows Damage Of Fading World Order (R.)
Turkey Hikes Tariffs On Imports Of Selected US Products (AFP)
US Household Debt Rises To $13.3 Trillion In Second Quarter (R.)
Has Bezos Become More Powerful In DC Than Trump? (VF)
Trump Criticizes Some Russia Provisions Of Defense Bill (USAT)
Tonga PM Calls On China To Write Off Pacific Debt (AFP)
“Hothouse Earth” And Neoliberal Economics (IC)
We’re In A New Age Of Obesity. How Did It Happen? (Monbiot)
More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution (SciAm)
Glyphosate Is Here To Stay In EU – At Least For Now (Pol.eu)
Help Me, My Prince: Guernsey Resident Halts Roadworks With Ancient Plea (G.)

 

 

Here’s what interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year for accidentally stepping across the border, were released by a provincial court, and get back home on a Greek national holiday (August 15). On that same day, another court decides that an appeal for pastor Brunson is denied. Ergo, Erdogan can claim the latter’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides. That victory over Trump is worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have aylum in Greece.

Two Greek Soldiers Released From Turkish Jail Return Home (K.)

Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet early Wednesday after their unexpected release by a provincial court. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece. “This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940,” Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940. “I hope that their release … will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The soldiers – 2nd Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis – were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki. “All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters. The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

[..] The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey. Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

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The world order does too much damage. Just look at the IMF.

Turkey Shows Damage Of Fading World Order (R.)

Turkey’s currency crisis was easy to predict. What is more surprising is how weak the global response has been. The old world financial order is badly missed. A big mess was almost certain to arrive in a country that continually relied on short-term loans to finance a large current account deficit. That was not the only invitation to disaster. Heavy domestic borrowing denominated in foreign currencies and high inflation added to the strains. So did a government that spurned the counsel of the foreign financiers who help keep the economy afloat. President Tayyip Erdogan was lucky to avoid serious trouble so far. Now, though, he faces a disaster. The Turkish lira has fallen 42% against the dollar since the beginning of May. It will take a miracle or an international rescue to avoid a domestic banking crisis.

Much has changed since 2009 when the government, then led by Prime Minister Erdogan, announced that it no longer needed advice from the IMF. The country would “move forward without a walking stick”. Turkey had leaned heavily on the IMF crutch over preceding decades. The country had a standby arrangement with the global lender for more than half the period between 1970 and 2009. The IMF promised support if the government kept working on economic reforms. This time, however, the IMF is still waiting for a phone call from Ankara. The Washington-based institution has the expertise and probably the money needed to stabilise the lira, but Erdogan has cast it in the role of enemy of the Turkish people.

The antipathy fits with the president’s nationalist and authoritarian agenda, but it is also part of a distressing pattern. The traditional authority figures in global financial matters are crippled. The IMF’s reputation has been damaged by what was widely perceived as its blind allegiance to the doctrines of free trade, free capital movements and free markets. Though the multilateral institution’s approach has softened under Christine Lagarde, managing director since 2011, Turkey’s intransigence suggests the IMF lacks its former moral authority.

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And the lira is gaining.

Turkey Hikes Tariffs On Imports Of Selected US Products (AFP)

Turkey is hiking tariffs on imports of certain US products in response to American sanctions on Ankara that caused the value of the lira to plunge, a decree published Wednesday said. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the rises were ordered “within the framework of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious attacks on our economy by the US administration”. The hikes were published in Turkey’s Official Gazette in a decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move comes after US President Donald Trump announced that the United States was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, as the two NATO allies row over the detention by Turkish authorities of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The tensions and the tariff hike by the United States have caused the Turkish lira to bleed value, fanning fears the country is on the verge of an economic crisis that could spillover into Europe. Erdogan has repeatedly described the crisis as an “economic war” that Turkey will win. The tariff increases amount to a doubling of the existing rate, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, in an apparent parallel response to Trump’s move. The decree said the move brought tariffs to 50% on imports of US rice to 140% on hard alcoholic drinks like spirits, 60% in leaf tobacco and 60% on cosmetics. The tariffs on auto imports are now up to 120% depending on the type of vehicle.

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The rising debt is linked to a ‘solid labor market’. Well, if it were all that solid (as in higher wages etc.), people wouldn’t need to get into debt.

US Household Debt Rises To $13.3 Trillion In Second Quarter (R.)

Americans’ borrowing reached $13.29 trillion in the second quarter, up $454 billion from a year ago, marking a 16th consecutive quarter of increases, a New York Federal Reserve report released on Tuesday showed. The level of U.S. consumer debt was $618 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. It was 19.2% above a post global credit crisis low set in the second quarter of 2013, the New York Fed said. The ongoing growth in home, auto, student and credit loans has been linked with a solid labor market. The rise in indebtedness did not make it more difficult for borrowers to meet their monthly payments last quarter.

The rate on seriously delinquent loans, or those that are 90 days or more past due, was 2.3% in the second quarter, unchanged from the prior quarter. Notably, the pace of student loans turning seriously delinquent slowed to 8.6% from 8.9%, the N.Y. Fed survey showed. “While overall delinquency rates have remained stable at relatively low levels, transition rates into delinquency have fallen noticeably for student loan over the past year, reflecting an improved labor market and increased participation in various income-driven repayment plans,” Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

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The Big Tech mix with intelligence and military takes on scary forms.

Has Bezos Become More Powerful In DC Than Trump? (VF)

There’s a new scandal quietly unfolding in Washington. It’s far bigger than Housing Secretary Ben Carson buying a $31,000 dinette set for his office, or former EPA chief Scott Pruitt deploying an aide to hunt for a deal on a used mattress. It involves the world’s richest man, President Trump’s favorite general, and a $10 billion defense contract. And it may be a sign of how tech giants and Silicon Valley tycoons will dominate Washington for generations to come. The controversy involves a plan to move all of the Defense Department’s data—classified and unclassified—on to the cloud. The information is currently strewn across some 400 centers, and the Pentagon’s top brass believes that consolidating it into one cloud-based system, the way the CIA did in 2013, will make it more secure and accessible.

That’s why, on July 26, the Defense Department issued a request for proposals called JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. Whoever winds up landing the winner-take-all contract will be awarded $10 billion—instantly becoming one of America’s biggest federal contractors. But when JEDI was issued, on the day Congress recessed for the summer, the deal appeared to be rigged in favor of a single provider: Amazon. According to insiders familiar with the 1,375-page request for proposal, the language contains a host of technical stipulations that only Amazon can meet, making it hard for other leading cloud-services providers to win—or even apply for—the contract. One provision, for instance, stipulates that bidders must already generate more than $2 billion a year in commercial cloud revenues—a “bigger is better” requirement that rules out all but a few of Amazon’s rivals.

What’s more, the process of crafting JEDI bears all the hallmarks of the swamp that Trump has vowed to drain. Though there has long been talk about the Defense Department joining the cloud, the current call for bids was put together only after Defense Secretary James Mattis hired a D.C. lobbyist who had previously consulted for Amazon. The lobbyist, Sally Donnelly, served as a top advisor to Mattis while the details of JEDI were being hammered out. During her tenure, Mattis flew to Seattle to tour Amazon’s headquarters and meet with Jeff Bezos. Then, as the cloud-computing contract was being finalized, Donnelly’s former lobbying firm, SBD Advisors, was bought by an investment fund with ties to Amazon’s cloud-computing unit.

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Not enough. He should have refused to sign.

Trump Criticizes Some Russia Provisions Of Defense Bill (USAT)

At a bill signing ceremony in New York on Monday, President Donald Trump took credit for a $716 billion defense policy bill that he said would strengthen America’s military. “I am very proud to be a big, big part of it,” he said. “It was not very hard.” In a written statement hours later, Trump raised objections to 52 provisions of the law – including four of the eight provisions dealing specifically with Russia. The signing statement suggests he may not enforce provisions that he said raise constitutional concerns. As passed by Congress, the defense bill attempts to tie the president’s hands on Russia in a number of ways. It forbids him from using federal funds to recognize Russian control over Crimea and bans military cooperation with Russia until Russia pulls out of Ukraine.

It requires him to report back to Congress on steps he has taken to address Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows reconnaissance flights over Russian territory, and the New START Treaty on nuclear weapons. Trump said those provisions undermine the president’s role “as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.” Trump objected to a section requiring him to send to Congress a strategy to combat “malign foreign influence operations and campaigns.” That strategy, he said, is covered by executive privilege. Though presidential objections in signing statements are not uncommon, Trump’s pushback on Russia-related provisions is notable given his attempts to forge closer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin [..]

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“If we fail to pay, the Chinese may come and take our assets, which are our buildings.”

Tonga PM Calls On China To Write Off Pacific Debt (AFP)

Tonga Prime Minister Akalisi Pohiva has called for China to write-off debts owed by Pacific island countries, warning that repayments impose a huge burden on the impoverished nations. Chinese aid in the Pacific has ballooned in recent years with much of the funds coming in the form of loans from Beijing’s state-run Exim Bank. Tonga has run-up enormous debts to China, estimated at more than US$100 million by Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank, and Pohiva said his country would struggle to repay them. He said the situation was common in the Oceania region and needed to be addressed at next month’s Pacific Island Forum summit in Nauru. “We need to discuss the issue,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview published on Tuesday.

“All the Pacific Island countries should sign this submission asking the Chinese government to forgive their debts. “To me, that is the only way we can all move forward, if we just can’t pay off our debts.” Tonga took out the Chinese loans to rebuild in the wake of deadly 2006 riots that razed the centre of the capital Nuku’alofa. Beijing has previously refused to write-off the loans by turning them into aid grants but did give Tonga an amnesty on repayments. Pohiva said China now wanted the debts repaid. “By September 2018, we anticipate to pay $14 million, which cuts away a huge part of our budget,” he said. Tonga’s ability to pay has been further dented this year by another massive rebuilding effort in Nuku’alofa, this time after a category five cyclone slammed into the capital in February.

“If we fail to pay, the Chinese may come and take our assets, which are our buildings.” “That is why the only option is to sign a submission asking the Chinese government to forgive our debts.” His comments come as Australia and New Zealand ramp up aid efforts in the Pacific to counter China’s growing presence in the region. Australia has raised fears in recent months Pacific nations’ debts to China leaves them susceptible to Beijing’s influence.

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Not sure climate scientisis talking economics will be taken seriously.

“Hothouse Earth” And Neoliberal Economics (IC)

[..] embedded within the paper is a finding that’s just as stunning: that none of this is inevitable, and one of the main barriers between us and a stable planet — one that isn’t actively hostile to human civilization over the long term — is our economic system. Asked what could be done to prevent a hothouse earth scenario, co-author Will Steffen told The Intercept that the “obvious thing we have to do is to get greenhouse gas emissions down as fast as we can. That means that has to be the primary target of policy and economics. You have got to get away from the so-called neoliberal economics.” Instead, he suggests something “more like wartime footing” to roll out renewable energy and dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.”

That “wartime footing” Steffen describes is a novel concept in 2018, but hasn’t been throughout American history when the nation has faced other existential threats. In the lead-up to World War II, the government played a heavy hand in industry, essentially shifting the U.S. to a centrally planned economy, rather than leaving things like prices and procurement of key resources up to market forces. By the end of World War II, about a quarter of all manufacturing in the United States had been nationalized. And while governments around the world continue to intervene heavily in the private sector — including in the U.S. — those interventions tend now to be on behalf of corporations, be it through subsidies to fossil fuel companies or zoning laws that favor luxury real estate developers.

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Who are you educating? A kindergarten?

We’re In A New Age Of Obesity. How Did It Happen? (Monbiot)

The light begins to dawn when you look at the nutrition figures in more detail. Yes, we ate more in 1976, but differently. Today, we buy half as much fresh milk per person, but five times more yoghurt, three times more ice cream and – wait for it – 39 times as many dairy desserts. We buy half as many eggs as in 1976, but a third more breakfast cereals and twice the cereal snacks; half the total potatoes, but three times the crisps. While our direct purchases of sugar have sharply declined, the sugar we consume in drinks and confectionery is likely to have rocketed (there are purchase numbers only from 1992, at which point they were rising rapidly. Perhaps, as we consumed just 9kcal a day in the form of drinks in 1976, no one thought the numbers were worth collecting.) In other words, the opportunities to load our food with sugar have boomed.

As some experts have long proposed, this seems to be the issue. The shift has not happened by accident. As Jacques Peretti argued in his film The Men Who Made Us Fat, food companies have invested heavily in designing products that use sugar to bypass our natural appetite control mechanisms, and in packaging and promoting these products to break down what remains of our defences, including through the use of subliminal scents. They employ an army of food scientists and psychologists to trick us into eating more than we need, while their advertisers use the latest findings in neuroscience to overcome our resistance.

They hire biddable scientists and thinktanks to confuse us about the causes of obesity. Above all, just as the tobacco companies did with smoking, they promote the idea that weight is a question of “personal responsibility”. After spending billions on overriding our willpower, they blame us for failing to exercise it.

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Stop making the stuff.

More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution (SciAm)

The real problem is that single-use plastic—the very idea of producing plastic items like grocery bags, which we use for an average of 12 minutes but can persist in the environment for half a millennium—is an incredibly reckless abuse of technology. Encouraging individuals to recycle more will never solve the problem of a massive production of single-use plastic that should have been avoided in the first place. Beginning in the 1950s, big beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch, along with Phillip Morris and others, formed a non-profit called Keep America Beautiful. Its mission is/was to educate and encourage environmental stewardship in the public. Joining forces with the Ad Council (the public service announcement geniuses behind Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog), one of their first and most lasting impacts was bringing “litterbug” into the American lexicon through their marketing campaigns against thoughtless individuals.

Two decades later, their “Crying Indian” PSA, would become hugely influential for the U.S. environmental movement. In the ad, a Native American man canoes up to a highway, where a motorist tosses a bag of trash. The camera pans up to show a tear rolling down the man’s cheek. By tapping into a shared national guilt for the history of mistreatment of Native Americans and the sins of a throwaway society, the PSA became a powerful symbol to motivate behavioral change. More recently, the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful teams produced the “I Want to Be Recycled” campaign, which urges consumers to imagine the reincarnation of shampoo bottles and boxes, following the collection and processing of materials to the remolding of the next generation of products.

At face value, these efforts seem benevolent, but they obscure the real problem, which is the role that corporate polluters play in the plastic problem. This clever misdirection has led journalist and author Heather Rogers to describe Keep America Beautiful as the first corporate greenwashing front, as it has helped shift the public focus to consumer recycling behavior and actively thwarted legislation that would increase extended producer responsibility for waste management.

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EU inertia.

Glyphosate Is Here To Stay In EU – At Least For Now (Pol.eu)

Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller will be used in Europe for years to come, legal experts and campaigners say, despite a U.S. court ruling the company should pay $289 million in damages for causing cancer. The EU last year renewed use of the controversial weedkiller for another five years after a yearslong political debate over its safety and impact on the environment. That means Europe will have to wait until the end of 2022 at the earliest before making any attempt to ban the substance outright. Campaigners also say the mounting legal pressure Monsanto faces in the U.S. from thousands of other plaintiffs filing suits against the company is unlikely to be replicated in Europe, namely because Europe doesn’t have the same legal mechanism of a class action lawsuit as the U.S.

“I’m not very confident that the decision in the U.S. will expedite a ban in Europe as it’s a complicated legal process that takes time,” said Arnaud Apoteker, managing director of the NGO Justice Pesticides. “Countries could go back to the Commission to say that the proposal [to renew glyphosate] could be re-tabled, but this is a very lengthy process.” Apoteker has compiled all lawsuits involving pesticides into a single database and has so far only discovered two made against Monsanto in the EU. One dates back to 2007 and was filed by a farmer named Paul François, who alleged Monsanto’s Lasso herbicide caused his chronic illness and that the product was inadequately labeled. The other was filed at a court in Lyon last year by Sabine Grataloup, who accuses Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller of causing severe malformations in her 11-year-old son Théo.

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What’s not to love?

Help Me, My Prince: Guernsey Resident Halts Roadworks With Ancient Plea (G.)

A woman has activated the ancient Norman rite of Clameur de Haro to protest against the narrowing of a road which she claims would endanger pedestrians and motorists. Rosie Henderson, from Guernsey, raised the clameur by kneeling and calling for help and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Norman French. Fully enforceable in Guernsey and Jersey law, it means the construction work in St Peter Port must stop until a court decides the case. Henderson, a parish councillor, raised the clameur on Tuesday by the roads of Les Échelons and South Esplanade, near the construction site. The clameur states: “Haro! Haro! Haro! A l’aide, mon prince, on me fait tort”, translated as “Come to my aid, my prince, for someone does me wrong”.

Whoever calls the clameur has 24 hours to register it in court, but whoever it is called against must stop all work immediately. Legend says the raising of a clameur stretches back to the early Norman period in the Channel Islands and is thought to have been a plea to Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy. The feudal law dates back to the 10th century as a form of self-policing when there was no law enforcement. In 2016, plans to overhaul St Peter Port’s sunken gardens, by levelling the site with the street and moving the war memorial, were withdrawn after protesters pledged to use the Clameur de Haro to block the proposals.

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Aug 022018
 
 August 2, 2018  Posted by at 7:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Henri Matisse Music 1910

 

People Spend Most Of Their Waking Hours Staring At Screens (MW)
Fifth of Britons Feel Stressed If They Can’t Access Internet (G.)
Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure (Atlantic)
Assange May Finally Leave Ecuadorian Embassy In London As Health Worsens (RT)
Trump Threatens To Raise Tariffs On Chinese Goods To 25%, Up From 10% (AFP)
German Sources Deny Brexit Deal Offer Amid Panic In Remain Campaign (G.)
German Parliament Approves Last Loan Installment To Greece (K.)
Brussels Defends Greek Debt Relief (K.)
Should The Bank Of England Raise Interest Rates? (Coppola)
Nomi Prins Exposes The Power Grab Of Central Bankers (Salon)
On The Beach (Kunstler)
Google ‘Working On Censored Search Engine’ For China (G.)
European Commission Boosts Migration Aid To Greece (K.)
95% Of World’s Lemur Population Facing Extinction (AFP)

 

 

We don’t want to know how harmful this is. Because it’s so popular. We have no answer because it’s going so fast. And our governments don’t want the answer because it’s the mightiest spy tool ever.

People Spend Most Of Their Waking Hours Staring At Screens (MW)

Swipe. Click. Binge. Repeat. Americans spend more time than ever watching videos, browsing social media and swiping their lives away on their tablets and smartphones. American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media, according to a new study by market-research group Nielsen. That’s up from nine hours, 32 minutes just four years ago. In the first quarter of the year, U.S. adults spent three hours and 48 minutes a day on computers, tablets and smartphones. This is a 13-minute increase from the previous quarter, and 62% of that time is attributed to app/web browsing on smartphones. Television still accounts for most media usage, with four hours and 46 minutes spent watching TV every day in the first quarter of this year.

[..] Media use is reaching new levels of intensity. Parents with children aged eight to 18 years of age spend over nine hours with screen media each day, according to a 2016 survey of 1,700 such parents by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based organization that examines the impact of technology and media on families. That compares to the more than 4.5 hours tweens spend on screen media on average every day and 6.5 hours spent by teenagers every day, according to a separate 2015 survey of more than 2,650 children by the same organization. Based on Nielsen’s latest report, however, the time people spend online has increased significantly, even over the last four years.

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I see so many people doing so many weird things with their phones. Walking the street, getting out of transport, cycling, all glued to these things. And it’s all just to check Facebook etc. At some point, this will turn into a full-blown crisis.

Fifth of Britons Feel Stressed If They Can’t Access Internet (G.)

The average Briton now checks a mobile phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week, finds an Ofcom study revealing the extent to which people now rely on the internet. Ofcom also found that, for the first time, the time spent making phone calls from mobile phones fell, as users instead used messaging services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The media regulator’s annual Communications Market Report found that a fifth of British adults felt stressed if they could not access the internet, while for the first time ever women were spending more time online than men. The report also showed the rapid growth of addiction to technology. According to Ofcom, just 12% of British adults said they never used the internet.

The total amount of time spent online by Britons has also doubled over the last 10 years, with a quarter of adults saying they spent more than 40 hours a week on the internet – a move driven by the uptake of smartphones. The internet has seeped into many aspects of our lives; two in five British adults – rising to 65% of those aged under 35 – said they looked at their phone within five minutes of waking up35. A third of adults checked their phones up until the moment they went to sleep, a figure which rose to 60% for the under-35s. The prevalence of mobile phones has also meant that attitudes to their use in public had changed. While 83% of Britons aged over 55 said they thought it unacceptable to check a phone during a meal, this figure almost halved among people aged 18-34 who were more comfortable with looking at notifications while eating with other people.

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Or is it a mentality crisis? We never shook off Greed is Good, did we?

Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure (Atlantic)

Last month, Bloomberg reported that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, has accumulated a fortune worth $150 billion. That is the biggest nominal amount in modern history, and extraordinary any way you slice it. Bezos is the world’s lone hectobillionaire. He is worth what the average American family is, nearly two million times over. He has about 50 percent more money than Bill Gates, twice as much as Mark Zuckerberg, 50 times as much as Oprah, and perhaps 100 times as much as President Trump. (Who knows!) He has gotten $50 billion richer in less than a year. He needs to spend roughly $28 million a day just to keep from accumulating more wealth. This is a credit to Bezos’s ingenuity and his business acumen.

Amazon is a marvel that has changed everything from how we read, to how we shop, to how we structure our neighborhoods, to how our postal system works. But his fortune is also a policy failure, an indictment of a tax and transfer system and a business and regulatory environment designed to supercharging the earnings of and encouraging wealth accumulation among the few. Bezos did not just make his $150 billion. In some ways, we gave it to him, perhaps to the detriment of all of us. Bezos and Amazon are in many ways ideal exemplars of the triumph of capital over labor, like the Waltons and Walmart and Rockefeller and Standard Oil before them. That the gap between executives at top companies and employees around the country is so large is in and of itself shocking.

Bezos has argued that there is not enough philanthropic need on earth for him to spend his billions on. (The Amazon founder, unlike Gates or Zuckerberg, has given away only a tiny fraction of his fortune.) “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” he said this spring. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.” In contrast, half of Amazon’s domestic employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings. Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift.

Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago. The impoverishment of the latter and the wealth of the former are linked by policy. Take taxes. The idea of America’s progressive income-tax system is that rich workers should pay higher tax rates than poor workers, with the top rate of 37% hitting earnings over $500,000. (The top marginal tax rate was 92% as recently as 1953.) But Bezos takes a paltry salary, in relative terms, given the number of shares he owns. That means his gains are subject to capital-gains taxes, which top out at just 20%; like Warren Buffett, it is possible he pays effective tax rates lower than his secretary does.

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His health may be worse than we know. They’d love for him to ‘voluntarily’ leave.

Assange May Finally Leave Ecuadorian Embassy In London As Health Worsens (RT)

Julian Assange, who has spent more than 2,230 days in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, is expected to leave the building soon with his health deteriorating, sources say. This latest information about the WikiLeaks founder, who was already expected to leave the embassy “in the coming weeks,” was broken Wednesday by Bloomberg which cited “two people with knowledge of the matter.” The news agency reported that the whistleblower’s health “has declined recently.” The news comes days after Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced that Assange must “eventually” leave the embassy. “Yes, indeed yes, but his departure should come about through dialogue,” the Ecuadorian president said in answer to a reporter’s question on whether he will eventually have to leave.

“For a person to stay confined like that for so long is tantamount to a human rights violation,” Moreno said, stressing that Ecuador wants to make sure that nothing “poses a danger” to the whistleblower’s life. The whistleblower’s health is deteriorating, according to the Courage Foundation, a group that fundraises for the legal defense of whistleblowers. Assange is in “a small space” and has “no access to sunlight,” the group says, adding that this has a serious impact “on his physical and mental health.” [..] Washington simply “wants revenge” for the “embarrassment” WikiLeaks caused it, and wants it to serve “as a deterrent to others,” human rights activist Peter Tatchell told RT earlier in July. “Someone who’s published that information in the same way that the New York Times or the Guardian publish information, I don’t think they should face risk 30 or 40 years in jail in the United States,” Tatchell added.

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25% is a lot in one go.

Trump Threatens To Raise Tariffs On Chinese Goods To 25%, Up From 10% (AFP)

The United States may jack up the tariff rate on the next $200 billion in Chinese imports it plans to target as it pressures Beijing to reform its trade practices, US officials said Wednesday. President Donald Trump asked the US Trade Representative to consider increasing the proposed tariffs to 25 percent from the planned 10 percent, USTR Robert Lighthizer said. “We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake. Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against US workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

Officials however downplayed suggestions the move was intended to compensate for the recent decline in the value of the Chinese currency, which has threatened to take much of the sting out of Trump’s tariffs by making imports cheaper. The US dollar has been strengthening since April as the central bank has been raising lending rates, which draws investors looking for higher returns. “It’s important that countries refrain from devaluing currencies for competitive purposes,” a senior administration official told reporters. “But I wouldn’t draw the conclusion that the announcement we’re making today is directly linked to any one practice.”

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Brussels thinks they’ll be dealing with Boris Johnson soon. Their strategy is geared toward that,

German Sources Deny Brexit Deal Offer Amid Panic In Remain Campaign (G.)

Reports that Germany is willing to offer Theresa May a vague Brexit deal so as to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal have set alarm bells ringing in the Remain campaign in the UK and prompted denials from German sources. The Remain campaign, now called People’s Vote, is focused on calling for a second referendum on leaving the EU. It warned against what it described as a “blind Brexit”, and in a rare criticism of the European commission said the EU should not offer May a face-saving deal in which many of the major issues were deferred for negotiation during the transition after the UK has legally left the bloc.

There are concerns amongst some Remain backers that the chief EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is prepared to make the offer if it has the endorsement of Germany and France, on the basis that the majority of EU leaders fear the possibility of no-deal scenario. There is also a concern that details of the future relationship cannot be negotiated in the short time available. Until now it had been assumed that France and Germany would insist that any political declaration on future relations would include details of the planned future trading relationship after Brexit. A relatively brief declaration on future ties will not be a formal treaty, unlike the withdrawal agreement, which will give details of future UK payments, the Irish border and citizens’ rights. A vague deal on future relations is more likely to be acceptable to May’s MPs, and harder for the Labour party to oppose.

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Taxed to death. People close their businesses because taxes are higher than income. That leads to less tax revenue, so taxes must be raised again. Greece cannot recover.

German Parliament Approves Last Loan Installment To Greece (K.)

The German Parliament’s budget committee rubber-stamped on Wednesday the disbursement of the last loan installment of Greece’s adjustment program, totalling 15 billion euros. Germany had blocked the release of the last tranche in July, after the Greek government announced it would postpone the increase of value-added tax on five islands of the Aegean hit by the influx of migrants, a measure that had been agreed on with the country’s creditors. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) had approved the disbursement in principle, while it awaited German lawmakers to sign-off the deal. The revenue losses from the lower VAT amount to 28 million euros, which the Greek government will compensate by savings in the defense budget, the German Parliament’s press release said. After Wednesday’s vote, Germany can consent to the payment of the last instalment by the ESM.

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They’ll re-examine the issue in 2032. That’s minimum 14 more years of strangulation. IMF/EU is classic good cop bad cop.

Brussels Defends Greek Debt Relief (K.)

The European Commission on Wednesday defended the Greek debt relief measures that the Eurogroup decided in June, in a manner of response to the IMF, which had deemed the debt easing inadequate to render the debt sustainable in the long term. In a regular press update, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva stressed that the IMF forecasts on Greece are permanently pessimistic and that the Fund has in the past been forced to revise them. “The European Commission, the European Stability Mechanism and the ECB have made their own assessment and we, as Europeans, are funding the program and our conclusion is that the debt relief is sufficient,” the Bulgarian official stated.

She went on to highlight the eurozone’s commitment to re-examine the Greek debt in the future should further easing measures be required: “We have also said we will examine the issue again in 2032,” Andreeva said. The IMF said in its Debt Sustainability Analysis on Tuesday that the eurozone’s optimistic scenarios on the Greek growth and primary surpluses make the debt’s long-term sustainability uncertain, particularly after 2038.

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Yeah, define ‘normal’.

Should The Bank Of England Raise Interest Rates? (Coppola)

It’s a momentous week for the Bank of England. On Thursday, August 2, 2018, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) could decide to raise interest rates by a quarter percent. This would mark the end of the post-Lehman crisis era in the UK and the start of the return to “normal.” But ten years on from Lehman, what is “normal”? The British central bank, like the Fed, is not at all sure what a “normal” level of interest rates would look like, nor how big a “normal” balance sheet should be. The consensus appears to be that the long-term neutral rate of interest is lower than pre-crisis estimates, perhaps somewhere between 2-3%, and that the Bank’s balance sheet will need to remain permanently larger than it was before the crisis.

Given that, one has to ask what the imperative is to start raising rates right now, when the U.K. is careering headlong towards a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit. The rational reason why the MPC might start raising rates now starts with inflation. Currently, CPI inflation is running at 2.3%, slightly above the Bank’s target of 2%. It has been above 2% for over a year now – indeed in the fall of 2017 it was approaching 3%. In November, the Bank raised interest rates by 0.25%, which removed the additional rate cut imposed after the Brexit vote in 2016. But apart from that, it has so far preferred not to act to dampen inflation. Will it do so this time?

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A tiny circle of close friends.

Nomi Prins Exposes The Power Grab Of Central Bankers (Salon)

Three of the last four books that I’ve written, including this new one “Collusion,” all examine the juxtaposing of power and money. In all of them, I explore how elected leaders or those in positions of great unelected economic or political influence, use both of them to create or enforce policy. There is a time component as well, “It Takes a Pillage” examined the financial crisis and causes within the framework of a relatively tight temporal lens and I had a very short time to write it as well. “All the Presidents’ Bankers” was a much more expansive book from a historical sense, going back over a century to examine the relationships of key bankers and presidents, and the institutions with which they collaborated to fashion domestic and foreign policy.

“Collusion” is really a book about the future, though it spans the decade since the financial crisis from multiple geographical locations (traveling to which I amassed lots of air miles, and exploring which, I worked with a crack team of internal researchers). It delves into the global connectivity of a body of central banks that provide varying amounts of money to their respective local systems and by extension to the world, and examines how not all central banks are created equal.

In “Collusion,” neither the Fed, nor the U.S. has its own chapter like the other countries or regions. This is by design. The Fed acts as the global influencer, directly and indirectly, as does the U.S. through all of what I call the “pivot regions” in the book that unfold in each chapter. I wanted to show how deeply co-dependent the entire world is on the US monetary policy decisions made since the financial crisis, in various ways, that we are still finding out about. All of my books though, are ultimately, about the people behind their roles of power, and the decisions they make out of ideology, necessity, ego or fear.

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“It’s a little hard to picture old horse-face popping a third beer at the clambake..”

On The Beach (Kunstler)

If one word defines the preoccupying affairs of the USA these days it’s tiresome. The entire population seems to be enacting the old myth of Sisyphus, every, man, woman, child, swamp-creature, and non-binary child-of-God in the land, legal and undocumented, pushing that boulder uphill to the tippy top, only to have it roll back down to the bottom… repeat ad infinitum. Take Mr. Robert Mueller, for example, the sphinx-like figure looming over the political landscape with his lawyer’s attaché case full of radioactive secrets. He has already done yeoman’s service in his mission by indicting two dozen Russian Facebook trolls and Internet hackers — who will never be extradited or set foot in a US courtroom, sparing taxpayers the expense of trying them (and testing the theory of “collusion” with the current POTUS).

It’s a little hard to picture old horse-face popping a third beer at the clambake, let alone the stories he might tell around the fire (with necessary redactions). When he awakes hung over in the sand the next morning to the shrieking gulls, next to someone not-his-wife, will he be overwhelmed with regret for a year spent chasing gremlins from the Kremlin? The public appears to be good and goddamn sick of him. Even The New York Times has stopped squealing about Russia. Standing by for September histrionics….

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Good and evil. And profits.

Google ‘Working On Censored Search Engine’ For China (G.)

Google is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter China after exiting eight years ago due to censorship and hacking, according to US media reports. The California-based internet company has engineers designing search software that would leave out content blacklisted by the Chinese government, according to a New York Times report citing two unnamed people familiar with the effort. News website The Intercept first reported the story, saying the Chinese search app was being tailored for Google-backed Android operating system for mobile devices. The service was said to have been shown to Chinese officials. [..] The state-owned China Securities Daily, citing information from “relevant departments”, denied the report.

There was no guarantee the project would result in Google search returning to China. However, the Chinese human rights community said Google acquiescing to China’s censorship would be a “dark day for internet freedom”. “It is impossible to see how such a move is compatible with Google’s ‘Do the right thing’ motto, and we are calling on the company to change course,” said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International. “For the world’s biggest search engine to adopt such extreme measures would be a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom. In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory.”

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Always too little, always too late. By design. Brussels keeps saying: look at all the money we gave! While conditions in the camps remain abysmal.

European Commission Boosts Migration Aid To Greece (K.)

The European Commission said Wednesday that an additional 37.5 million euros in emergency assistance would be disbursed to improve reception conditions for migrants in Greece as arrivals from Turkey continue by both sea and land. In a statement, the EU’s executive branch said Greek authorities will receive 31.1 million euros to support the “provisional services” offered to migrants, including healthcare, interpretation and food, as well as to improve the infrastructure of the Fylakio reception center in Evros, northern Greece, which has seen an increase in arrivals from Turkey in recent months.

The extra funding will also go toward the creation of additional accommodation within facilities on the Greek mainland, the Commission said. It said a further 6.4 million euros has been awarded to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve conditions at reception conditions on the Aegean islands and mainland. Commenting on the decision, European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the Commission was “doing everything in its power to support all member-states facing migratory pressures.” “Migration is a European challenge and we need a European solution, where no member-state is left alone,” he said.

“Greece has been on the frontline since 2015 and while the situation has greatly improved since the EU-Turkey statement, we continue to assist the country with the challenges it is still facing,” he added, noting that the EC’s “political, operational and financial support for Greece remains tangible and uninterrupted.”

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For Christ’s sake.

95% Of World’s Lemur Population Facing Extinction (AFP)

Ninety-five percent of the world’s lemur population is “on the brink of extinction,” making them the most endangered primates on Earth, a leading conservation group said Wednesday. The arboreal primates with pointed snouts and typically long tails are found only in Madagascar, where rainforest destruction, unregulated agriculture, logging and mining have been ruinous for lemurs, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. “This is, without a doubt, the highest percentage of threat for any large group of mammals and for any large group of vertebrates,” Russ Mittermeier of IUCN’s species survival commission said in a statement.

Out of a total of 111 lemur species and subspecies, 105 are under threat, IUCN said, as it released its first update on the lemur population since 2012. Among the most concerning trends is an “increase in the level of hunting of lemurs taking place, including larger-scale commercial hunting,” Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at the Bristol Zoological Society, said in the statement. He described the hunting as “unlike anything we have seen before in Madagascar.” One of the species identified as “critically endangered” is the northern sportive lemur, of which there are thought to be only 50 individuals left, IUCN said. “Lemurs are to Madagascar what giant pandas are to China — they are the goose that laid the golden egg, attracting tourists and nature lovers,” said Jonah Ratsimbazafy of the domestic primate research group GERP.

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Jul 262018
 
 July 26, 2018  Posted by at 7:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Roy Lichtenstein Forget it! Forget me! 1962

 

Trump Says Agreed With EU To Work To Lower Trade Barriers (R.)
Republicans Begin Impeachment Proceedings Against Rosenstein (ZH)
The Gray Lady Thinks Twice About Assange’s Prosecution (McGovern)
Facebook Stock Drops 24%, $132 Billion In Lost Market Value (MW)
China Pulls Approval For Facebook’s Planned Venture (R.)
This Stock Market Isn’t As Strong As You Think – Rosenberg (CNBC)
US Household Wealth Is In A Bubble – Part 2 (Colombo)
Prepare for a Chinese Maxi-Devaluation (Rickards)
A Weak US Dollar Will Not Make America Great (Lacalle)
Britain Is Hoarding Food, Medicines And Blood In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
There Is No Majority In UK Parliament For Any Brexit Deal (Ind.)
US Lawmaker Pranked By Sacha Baron Cohen To Resign (AFP)
Gene-Edited Plants And Animals Are GMO Foods – EU Top Court (G.)

 

 

What a good glass of wine can accomplish.

Trump Says Agreed With EU To Work To Lower Trade Barriers (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States and the European Union were kicking off talks aimed at lowering trade barriers as officials looked to head off a brewing trade war. “This was a very big day for free and fair trade, a very big day indeed,” Trump told reporters at the White House after meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “We are starting the negotiation right now but we know very much where it’s going,” Trump said. Speaking with Juncker at his side, Trump said they had agreed in talks to “work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.”

“We will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans; soybeans is a big deal,” he said, adding that Europe would also step up purchases of liquefied natural gas from the United States. “They are going to be a massive buyer of LNG,” Trump said. Trump said the talks would “resolve” both the hefty tariffs the United States had placed on imports of steel and aluminum from the EU and the tariffs Europe had slapped on U.S. goods in response. It was not clear whether the two sides made any progress on the contentious issue of possible U.S. tariffs on imports of automobiles from Europe. But Juncker said they had agreed not to impose any new tariffs while talks were taking place.

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More to fight over.

Republicans Begin Impeachment Proceedings Against Rosenstein (ZH)

House GOP members led by Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (NC) have filed formal articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to a late Wednesday announcement by Meadows over Twitter. News of the resolution comes after weeks of frustration by Congressional investigators, who have repeatedly accused Rosenstein and the DOJ of “slow walking” documents related to their investigations. Lawmakers say they’ve been given the runaround – while Rosenstein and the rest of the DOJ have maintained that handing over vital documents would compromise ongoing investigations. Not even last week’s heavily redacted release of the FBI’s FISA surveillance application on former Trump campaign Carter Page was enough to dissuade the GOP lawmakers from their efforts to impeach Rosenstein.

In fact, its release may have sealed Rosenstein’s fate after it was revealed that the FISA application and subsequent renewals – at least one of which Rosenstein signed off on, relied heavily on the salacious and largely unproven Steele dossier. In late June, Rosenstein along with FBI Director Christopher Wray clashed with House Republicans during a fiery hearing over an internal DOJ report criticizing the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation by special agents who harbored extreme animus towards Donald Trump while expressing support for Clinton. Republicans on the panel grilled a defiant Rosenstein on the Trump-Russia investigation which has yet to prove any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. “This country is being hurt by it. We are being divided,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said of Mueller’s investigation. “Whatever you got,” Gowdy added, “Finish it the hell up because this country is being torn apart.”

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Waking up?

The Gray Lady Thinks Twice About Assange’s Prosecution (McGovern)

Well, lordy be. A lawyer for The New York Times has figured out that prosecuting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange might gore the ox of The Gray Lady herself. The Times’s deputy general counsel, David McCraw, told a group of judges on the West Coast on Tuesday that such prosecution would be a gut punch to free speech, according to Maria Dinzeo, writing for the Courthouse News Service. Curiously, as of this writing, McCraw’s words have found no mention in the Times itself. In recent years, the newspaper has shown a marked proclivity to avoid printing anything that might risk its front row seat at the government trough.

Stating the obvious, McCraw noted that the “prosecution of him [Assange] would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers … he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.” That’s because, for one thing, the Times itself published many stories based on classified information revealed by WikiLeaks and other sources. The paper decisively turned against Assange once WikiLeaks published the DNC and Podesta emails. More broadly, no journalist in America since John Peter Zenger in Colonial days has been indicted or imprisoned for their work.

Unless American prosecutors could prove that Assange personally took part in the theft of classified material or someone’s emails, rather than just receiving and publishing them, prosecuting him merely for his publications would be a first since the British Governor General of New York, William Cosby, imprisoned Zenger in 1734 for ten months for printing articles critical of Cosby. Zenger was acquitted by a jury because what he had printed was proven to be factual—a claim WikiLeaks can also make. McCraw went on to emphasize that, “Assange should be afforded the same protections as a traditional journalist.”

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Talk about waking up.

Facebook Stock Drops 24%, $132 Billion In Lost Market Value (MW)

Facebook Inc. is evidently not bulletproof. The social-media behemoth’s stock lost roughly one-fifth of its value in the extended session Wednesday after its earnings report missed expectations on revenue and showed slowing user growth. Weak guidance also rattled investors. Facebook stock dropped about 7% immediately after the earnings report was released, then plummeted to a loss of more than 20% as a conference call with analysts progressed. Close to 34 million shares changed hands in the extended session, well above the average volume of 17 million shares for a regular trading session over the past month. Should the losses hold into Thursday’s regular session, Facebook would lose more than $100 billion in market capitalization and lose the stock’s gains for the year thus far.

As the after-hours session wrapped up, Facebook was trading at $173.50, down 20%. Facebook stock had recovered from a decline earlier this year in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, one of several controversies and warning signs that the company had managed to weather with little damage to its stock. But declining revenue and user growth, topped by a warning from executives that it will continue, seemed to end that run. “The guidance, it’s nightmare guidance,” GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives said. “If you look at their forecast for the second half of the year in terms of user growth, and the expense profile, it refuels the fundamental worries about Facebook post-Cambridge Analytica.”

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Why would Facebook want to be in China? To help Beijing spy?

China Pulls Approval For Facebook’s Planned Venture (R.)

China has withdrawn its approval for Facebook Inc’s plan to open a new venture in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the matter. A Chinese government database showed that Facebook had gained approval to open a subsidiary, but the registration has since disappeared, according to checks made by Reuters. The move is a setback for Facebook, which has been struggling to gain a foothold in China, the most populous country in the world, where its website and messaging app Whatsapp remain blocked.

The incident also illustrates how difficult it can be for a U.S. company to navigate the government bureaucracy in a country where so many technology firms have tried and failed. “Terms like ‘The Great Firewall’” often gives outsiders the impression that the Chinese government is totally united on technology policy,” said Matt Sheehan, an expert on China-California relations and fellow at The Paulson Institute think tank. “In reality, within that Firewall are lots of competing fiefdoms and ongoing turf wars.” China’s decision comes amid escalating tensions with the United States after the world’s two largest economies imposed tariffs on each other’s imports.

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It’s just 6 stocks.

This Stock Market Isn’t As Strong As You Think – Rosenberg (CNBC)

Don’t be fooled. This market is weaker than it seems, according to David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff. The S&P 500 is up more than 5% in 2018, recovering from a correction earlier in the year. The broad index was also just 1.9% removed from an all-time high reached in late January as of Tuesday’s close. However, Rosenberg notes that while momentum stocks are lifting the market, “many subsectors are well off their highs: Homebuilders. Autos. Banks. Insurance. Consumer products. Telecom. Media. Transports. Utilities. Pharma. And many more.” The S&P automobiles and components industry group is nearly 20% below its 52-week high, while insurance stocks are down 10.8% from their one-year high. The Dow transports index, meanwhile, is 6.5% below its one-year high.

“What has kept the market near record terrain are a mere six stocks — Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft and Facebook,” Rosenberg said in a note to clients Wednesday. “Strip out these six flashy stocks, and the overall market has done practically nothing year-to-date.” Through mid-July, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft and Facebook had contributed nearly 80% to the S&P 500’s gains. These six names have been on fire this year. Netflix and Amazon are up 86% and 57% in 2018, respectively. Microsoft and Facebook have both risen more than 20% while Alphabet and Apple have jumped 19.8% and 14%, respectively. Rosenberg said such concentration in the stock market has not been seen since the late 1990s, just before the dot-com bubble burst. “We know from history how these cycles typically end.”

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Jesse! So many graphs!

US Household Wealth Is In A Bubble – Part 2 (Colombo)

While above-average corporate profitability may sound like a good thing when taken at face value, I view it as another worrisome sign because it’s further evidence of an economy and financial markets that are being juiced by cheap credit and financial engineering. Ultra-low interest rates help to boost corporate profitability by reducing borrowing costs. Cheap credit also gives consumer spending a strong boost, which has a significant effect on our economy that is heavily driven by consumer spending. Low interest rate environments allow the government (federal, state, and local) to borrow more cheaply in the bond market and use it to boost spending, which gives the overall economy a shot in the arm. In addition, artificially-inflated financial markets boost the profitability of the financial sector.

A major risk for the stock market is the mean reversion of corporate profitability, which is a nightmarish prospect when considering how overpriced stocks currently are relative to earnings. This mean reversion is likely to occur as the result of the ending of ultra-cheap credit conditions (when corporate bonds fall back to earth) and through increased competition, which is what Milton Friedman warned about. (Note: critics may try to rebut my assertions by claiming that U.S. corporate profitability is unusually high due to corporations earning a higher percentage of earnings overseas. I’ve accounted for this by using gross national product as the denominator instead of the more commonly used GDP.)

What is particularly alarming about the current U.S. stock market bubble is the fact that it’s driven by a very narrow group of stocks, which means that there isn’t a healthy breadth, or broad strength, behind the bull market. In general, tech stocks have been leading the way – in particular, a group of stocks known as FAANG, which is an acronym for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. The chart below compares the performance of the FAANG stocks to the S&P 500 during the bull market that began in March 2009. While the S&P 500 is up approximately 300%, the FAANGs are up significantly more, with Apple rising by over 1,000%, Amazon rising more than 2,000%, and Netflix surging by over 6,000%.

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Xi is cornered.

Prepare for a Chinese Maxi-Devaluation (Rickards)

If Trump imposes 25% tariffs on Chinese goods, China could simply devalue their currency by 25%. That would make Chinese goods cheaper for U.S. buyers by the same amount as the tariff. The net effect on price would be unchanged and Americans could keep buying Chinese goods at the same price in dollars. The impact of such a massive devaluation would not be limited to the trade war. A cheaper yuan exports deflation from China to the U.S. and makes it harder for the Fed to meet its inflation target. Also, the last two times China tried to devalue its currency, August 2015 and December 2015, U.S. stock markets crashed by over 11% in a matter of a few weeks.

So, if the trade war escalates as I expect, don’t worry about China dumping Treasuries or imposing tariffs. Watch the currency. That’s where China will strike back. When they do, U.S. stock markets will be the first victims. Maybe you think that’s unlikely because it would be such an extreme reaction by China. But you have to put yourself in the shoes of China’s leadership. These aren’t academic issues to China’s leaders. They go to the heart of the government’s very legitimacy. China’s economy is not just about providing jobs, goods and services. It is about regime survival for a Chinese Communist Party that faces an existential crisis if it fails to deliver. The overriding imperative of the Chinese leadership is to avoid societal unrest.

If China encounters a financial crisis, Xi could quickly lose what the Chinese call, “The Mandate of Heaven.” That’s a term that describes the intangible goodwill and popular support needed by emperors to rule China for the past 3,000 years. If The Mandate of Heaven is lost, a ruler can fall quickly. Up to half of China’s investment is a complete waste. It does produce jobs and utilize inputs like cement, steel, copper and glass. But the finished product, whether a city, train station or sports arena, is often a white elephant that will remain unused. Chinese growth has been reported in recent years as 6.5–10% but is actually closer to 5% or lower once an adjustment is made for the waste.

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The US is not export-driven.

A Weak US Dollar Will Not Make America Great (Lacalle)

The US dollar has become the safest asset in the face of mounting evidence that the “beggar thy neighbor” policy and drowning structural problems in liquidity is coming to a close. The reality is that the US dollar is strengthening because of the evidence of a deeper slowdown in China and the massive imbalances built by some emerging economies in the past -large fiscal and trade deficits financed with the cheap inflow of dollars-. As the US economy improves and others face the saturation of past stimuli, it is only logical that the United States sees a high inflow of funds from abroad. And that is good. Keeps US treasury yields low, a high demand for bonds and equities, and a steady increase in capital investment into the US economy.

There are many who think that the US economy will not accept a strong dollar. Allow me to doubt it. The US only exports around 10% of GDP and less than 30% of the profits of the S & P 500 come from exports. In the past nine years, devaluing and lowering rates has hurt the middle class, savers, workers, and high productivity companies. Those that voted for the current administration to make a drastic change on the past mistakes. A devaluation policy hurts more Americans than it helps. Devaluation is simply stealing from your citizens’ savings and disposable income. A strong US dollar reduces inflationary pressures and keeps interest rates low. Both effects are positive for savers, workers, and families as the economy strengthens and wages improve.

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Keep calm and….

Britain Is Hoarding Food, Medicines And Blood In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

Theresa May has urged voters not to worry about Brexit, despite her government setting out plans to stockpile food, blood and medicine in case it goes badly. She said people should take “reassurance and comfort” from news of the plans, to be implemented if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement in March next year. The scenario is looking increasingly likely given deep divisions in the Conservatives over Ms May’s approach, her wafer thin commons majority and the EU’s on-going resistance to what the prime minister is proposing. It comes as The Independent launched a campaign to give the British people a Final Say in a referendum on whatever is proposed at the end of Brexit negotiations, with thousands flocking to sign a petition supporting the cause.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister accused the PM of “bravado” in talking up the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, while Tory insiders claim the PM is doing so to warn her rebellious MPs of the consequence of failing to back her unpopular Brexit plans. Ms May confirmed in a TV interview that plans for stocking up on essential goods are underway, in case imports from the EU are cut off by clogged ports or regulatory disputes. But, asked if it was “alarming” for people, the prime minister told Channel 5: “Far from being worried about preparations that we are making, I would say that people should take reassurance and comfort from the fact that the government is saying we are in a negotiation, we are working for a good deal. “I believe we can get a good deal, but, it’s right that we say – because we don’t know what the outcome is going to be – let’s prepare for every eventuality.”

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Inevitable: a general election, a leadership challenge or a people’s vote.

There Is No Majority In UK Parliament For Any Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Imagine you’re back at school and you can’t be bothered to do any work for the most important exams of your entire academic career. Alarmed by your indifference, your parents ask what you propose to do. Imagine how they would react if you told them you were thinking of having an extended summer holiday, to put off the moment of reckoning for as long as possible. Quite frankly, this is where our government now is in the Brexit negotiations. A longer than usual summer recess seems to be the best these great minds can come up with. The problem is we are not in school, Brexit is not homework and the bullies will do more than give us a bloody nose.

The EU is like the strict exam board of governors and appears to have no time for excuses or interest in making Theresa May’s sloppy government look good. It is a measure of May’s desperation that she said in Belfast last week that the EU was trying to achieve an “economic and constitutional dislocation” of our country. That kind of talk may play well with the hard-right Brexiteers who are too painfully holding her and her government hostage, but it doesn’t impress Brussels. May needs to realise that we can all see she is now merely playing for time and there are only a finite number of options open to her: a general election, a leadership challenge or a people’s vote.

[..] The plain truth is that there is no majority in parliament for any deal. The EU thinks the prime minister’s Chequers plan is too favourable to the UK, and the Brexiteers think it’s too favourable to Brussels. A Norway deal would mean accepting free movement and paying large amounts to Brussels; a Canada-style deal means the prospect of a hard border returning to the line on the map that separates Eire and Northern Ireland. Viewed through the lens of May’s parliamentary party, there is no consensus, no coming together on any of these options. Brexit is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions.

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“he exposed himself and shouted racial slurs..”

US Lawmaker Pranked By Sacha Baron Cohen To Resign (AFP)

A US state lawmaker is resigning after a humiliating appearance on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s television show during which he exposed himself and shouted racial slurs. Jason Spencer, a Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives, had been under pressure from his own party to step down following the embarrassing appearance on Cohen’s series “Who Is America?” Spencer, 43, finally announced on Wednesday that he planned to resign on July 31. He had already lost a primary in May but he could have remained in office until November. Spencer was one of several Republican figures pranked by Cohen on the Showtime series.

Others included former vice president Dick Cheney, who signed a “waterboarding kit” and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In the episode of “Who Is America” with Spencer, Cohen pretends to be an Israeli anti-terrorism expert, Colonel Erran Morad, offering self-defense training. At one point, Spencer is persuaded to expose his buttocks and chase Cohen while yelling “USA” and racial slurs. Spencer, in a statement this week to The Washington Post, said Cohen “took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked.” Spencer told the Post he had received death threats after introducing a bill that would ban Muslim women from publicly wearing burqas. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, denounced the show as “evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor.'”

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This has been a 10-year debate.

Gene-Edited Plants And Animals Are GMO Foods – EU Top Court (G.)

Plants and animals created by innovative gene-editing technology have been genetically modified and should be regulated as such, the EU’s top court has ruled. The landmark decision ends 10 years of debate in Europe about what is – and is not – a GM food, with a victory for environmentalists, and a bitter blow to Europe’s biotech industry. It also marks a setback for UK scientists who took advantage of a legal grey area to of gene edited camelina crops, augmented with Omega-3 fish oils. Greenpeace said that the ruling meant the British government – along with Belgium, Sweden and Finland – was now obliged to “revoke” the green light for the trials until appropriate precautions had been taken.

In their ruling, the EU judges said: “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] … It follows that those organisms come, in principle, within the scope of the GMO directive and are subject to the obligations laid down [therein].” The court sided with the French agricultural trades union, Confédération Paysanne, which brought the case, arguing that new and unconventional in vitro mutagenesis techniques were likely to be used to produce herbicide-resistant plants, with potential health risks. A study published in the journal Nature last week found that the gene-editing technology Crispr-Cas9 can cause significantly greater genetic distortions than expected, with potential “pathogenic consequences”. Gene editing alters the genomes of a living species by slicing genome strands in a bid to remove undesirable traits, without inserting foreign DNA.

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Jul 252018
 
 July 25, 2018  Posted by at 12:59 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


René Magritte Empire of light 1950

 

There’s not a shade of a doubt that I’m not an expert on tariffs, trade barriers and subsidies, and I’d be the last to suggest any such thing. But I can read. Still, do correct me if I’m wrong anywhere. The whole field is so complicated -no doubt often on purpose- that there’s always the possibility that there are side issues involved for which one would need to actually be an expert.

But still. Now that EU chief Jean-Claude -‘When it becomes serious, you have to lie’- Juncker is due to arrive at the White House soon, I looked at some of the items involved. Last night Trump said that all tariffs, barriers and subsidies should be dropped between the EU and US. Why the TTiP doesn’t come anywhere close to that is anyone’s guess. Too complicated for the boys and girls?

In at least some major fields, Trump does seem to have a point or two. The US has a 2.5% tariff on European cars, while the EU slaps a 10% tariff on American cars. That’s 4x as much, or a 300% difference. Whoever said yes to that? Sure, the US has a 25% tariff on EU pickups, but nobody in Europe drives pickups, hence they don’t produce them, so that’s not consequential.

So what had Trump done? He’s threatened a 20% tariff on Beemers and Mercs, and added -for entertainment value only- that he doesn’t want to see any of them in on Fifth Avenue anymore. Cue EU carmakers warning about the cost to American customers.

That’s all fine and well, but those tariffs on personal cars are still 300% higher. So push your European government to make them equal. Easy as -American- pie. How about zero? I can see where Trump’s coming from. Issuing warnings to the American public about BMW’s getting more expensive doesn’t look entirely on the up and up.

 

Also, I was looking at agriculture. Now, I grew up in Europe, and I do have an idea about EU farm subsidies (they’re notorious even inside the EU, going all the way back to the 1950s-60s). There was a point where they were over 70% of the total EU budget. They’re 30% or even somewhat below that now, but that’s not because subsidies have gone down, it’s because the EU budget has grown exponentially.

US farm subsidies were some $23 billion last year, and a year ago the Trump administration proposed a $4.8 billion cut to that. Now that Trump has initiated a one-time $12 billion for farmers to make up for the effects of his tariff proposals, one half of America -Conservatives- cry foul because: “that’s Soviet-style politics”, and no doubt the EU will cry right with them.

But look: under the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), EU farm subsidies for the 2021-2027 period will fall a whole 5% to ‘only’ $420 billion. And that’s just a proposal, and already France, the main beneficiary of the subsidies, has declared that such a cut is unacceptable. Soviet style?

The meeting of tee-totaller Trump and wine-totaller Juncker is interesting enough in and of itself, and you bet the Donald knows what and who Juncker is, but unless Jean-Claude comes with something very substantial, the numbers I cited above would seem to be very clear. And that’s without steel, aluminum etc etc.

If your side gives its farmers almost 20 times as much as the other side, what are you going to say? You may ask for some time to adapt, but that would seem to be it. However, Juncker could never sell egalization of subsidies ‘at home’. France and others would shave his head and ass and apply tar and feathers. And Macron would fear the same fate if he gives in. As Merkel would on the car issue.

Juncker has no room to wiggle on the whole shebang. All he can do is damage control and a good glass of wine (wonder if Trump instructed his staff not to give him any, or merely cut him off after the first bottle). It’s just that Trump has noticed the policy damage, and doesn‘t like it. And you have to wonder, who ever accepted those terms, and signed treaties like that TTiP that they are engraved in?

 

If you ask me, communities and countries should always make sure they remain in control of all their basic necessities. And food is certainly one of them. Also. if any politician near you ever proposes selling the rights to your drinking water to some foreign party, tar and feathers is your reply. Let Americans make their own cars, And German and French theirs. It’s not of the same importance as food, water, shelter and clothing, but you get the drift.

Schlepping food halfway across the planet is a dangerous thing once you become dependent on it to feed your children and your community (schlepping it halfway through Europe is as well). Selling your local water rights is even worse. That’s downright insane.

But if you’re going to trade, and once you’ve excluded basic necessities, zero tariffs or at least equal tariffs seems the way to go. Just wait till Trump starts that discussion with China for real. That conversation is largely about barriers, it’s different from Europe, though -hidden- subsidies feature ‘bigly’ as well.

 

Still, summarized, though I’m far from a Trumponado, I can see his point(s). I find it much harder to see what earlier US administrations were thinking when they agreed to all this stuff. And sure, his approach is brusque and perhaps brutal, but the country he’s, for better or for worse, president of, does seem to have gotten the short end of an very extensive array of sticks.

But by all means, don’t listen to me, listen to the experts. Then again, also look at the numbers.

 

 

Jul 222018
 
 July 22, 2018  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Gauguin The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) 1888

 

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)
In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)
Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)
UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)
Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)
German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)
NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)
Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)
Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

 

 

This is physically sickening. Checked front web pages of BBC, Guardian and Independent today: not a word. Hence: another gag order. Yes, there are journalists who don’t like Assange, but it’s not about liking him. It’s about your own freedom to speak. Guess that’s already gone then. I feel sick to my stomach.

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence.

Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia. A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.

The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

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The only thing left on the menu is nothingburgers.

In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)

The Department of Justice late Friday released via the FBI’s FOIA Vault a redacted copy of the Carter Page FISA warrant application and several renewals, which accuse Page of being a Russian spy, as summarized by the New York Times – which obtained a copy of the materials through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Of note, in the nearly two years since the application was filed, Page hasn’t been charged with any of the allegations contained within it. The previously top-secret document is the first such release by the DOJ in the 40 years since the surveillance law was enacted. In April, the DOJ said they were “processing for potential redaction and release certain [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] materials related to Carter Page,” after watchdog group Judicial Watch and several other organizations filed similar lawsuits.

The application reads in part: “Identity of the target The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a U.S. person, and an agent of a foreign power, described in detail below.” “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant application continues. A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.” -NYT. The document then concludes that Page was allegedly “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” which they viewed as probably cause to spy on him – and again, which Page has never been charged with.

Page – who has repeatedly denied being a Russian spy, said in April that the FISA application was “beyond words,” and a “Joke,” while claiming that he has never served as an agent for a foreign government. We would also note that he hasn’t been charged as one. Page was targeted months earlier by FBI informant Stefan Halper, who formed a relationship with Page and several other Trump aides as part of the Obama administration’s active counterintelligence operation on the Trump campaign. While President Trump has characterized the entire counterintelligence operation as a “witch hunt,” an increasing chorus of frustrated GOP lawmakers have begun to echo his sentiment, as we are now in month 18 of post-inaugural investigation by the Department of Justice.

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When intelligence becomes partisan political, that’s a big problem.

Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)

Mr. Comey stands accused of flouting the rules, breaking the chain of command, abusing investigatory powers. Yet it seems far likelier that the FBI’s Trump investigation was a function of arrogance and overconfidence than some partisan plot. No such case can be made for Mr. Brennan. Before his nomination as CIA director, he served as a close Obama adviser. And the record shows he went on to use his position—as head of the most powerful spy agency in the world—to assist Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and keep his job).

Mr. Brennan has taken credit for launching the Trump investigation. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in May 2017, he explained that he became “aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons.” The CIA can’t investigate U.S. citizens, but he made sure that “every information and bit of intelligence” was “shared with the bureau,” meaning the FBI. This information, he said, “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.” My sources suggest Mr. Brennan was overstating his initial role, but either way, by his own testimony, he was an Obama-Clinton partisan was pushing information to the FBI and pressuring it to act.

More notable, Mr. Brennan then took the lead on shaping the narrative that Russia was interfering in the election specifically to help Mr. Trump – which quickly evolved into the Trump-collusion narrative. Team Clinton was eager to make the claim, especially in light of the Democratic National Committee server hack. Numerous reports show Mr. Brennan aggressively pushing the same line internally. Their problem was that as of July 2016 even then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t buy it. He publicly refused to say who was responsible for the hack, or ascribe motivation. Mr. Brennan also couldn’t get the FBI to sign on to the view; the bureau continued to believe Russian cyberattacks were aimed at disrupting the U.S. political system generally, not aiding Mr. Trump.

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The UK already agreed to pay it.

UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)

Britain will only pay its EU divorce bill if the bloc agrees the framework for a future trade deal, the new Brexit Secretary warned in an interview published Sunday. Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis after he quit the role earlier this month in protest over the government’s Brexit strategy, said “some conditionality between the two” was needed. He added that the Article 50 mechanism used to trigger Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union provided for new deal details. “Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked,” Raab told the Sunday Telegraph.

“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side. “So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.” The British government has sent mixed signals so far on the divorce bill. Prime Minister Theresa May agreed in December to a financial settlement totalling £35 to £39 billion ($46-51 billion, 39-44 billion euros) that ministers said depended on agreeing future trade ties. But cabinet members have since cast doubt on the position. Finance minister Philip Hammond said shortly afterwards he found it “inconceivable” Britain would not pay its bill, which he described as “not a credible scenario”.

The country is set to leave the bloc on March 30, but the two sides want to strike a divorce agreement by late October in order to give parliament enough time to endorse a deal. Raab met the EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier for the first time on Friday, where he heard doubts over May’s new Brexit blueprint for the future relationship. But Barnier noted the priority in talks should be on finalising the initial divorce deal. A hardline stance by the British government on the financial settlement could complicate progress, with Raab insisting on the link with the bill and a future agreement. “Certainly it needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners,” he told the Telegraph. “We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”

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Australia’s bad, but not the only country with an interest-only problem.

Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)

Australia’s version of the sub-prime crisis that ushered in the global financial crisis could be looming, with a significant number of the 1.5 million households with interest-only loans likely to struggle with higher repayments, experts warn. Martin North, the principal at consultancy Digital Finance Analytics, said interest-only loans account for about $700 billion of the $1.7 trillion in Australian mortgage lending and it was “our version of the GFC”. “My view is we’re in somewhat similar territory to where the US was in 2006 before the GFC,” Mr North said.

Craig Morgan, managing director of Independent Mortgage Planners, said one in five people who took a loan two or three years ago would not qualify for the same loan now, because of the crackdown on lending by the regulator and ongoing fallout from the Royal Commission into financial services. “In the last six months lenders have had this lightbulb moment of what ‘responsible lending’ means,” Mr Morgan said. One of the triggers for the GFC was rising defaults from over-leveraged borrowers who were unable to refinance when their honeymoon rates ended. However, the sub-prime lending in the United States before the GFC included large mortgages being given to people without jobs or on minimum wage.

“This is absolutely not ‘sub-prime’ in the US definition but there were people [in Australia] who were being encouraged to get very big loans on the fact that principal & interest was impossible to service but they could service interest-only,” Mr North said. “We also know that some interest-only loans were not investors but they are actually first-home buyers encouraged to go in at the top of the market.” The Reserve Bank has previously warned $500 billion in interest-only loans are set to expire in the next four years, causing a significant jump in repayments of 30-40 per cent when borrowers are forced to start paying back the principal.

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The car industry may be too complex for simple tariffs.

German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)

German industry groups warned on Sunday, ahead of a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, that tariffs the United States has recently imposed or threatened risk harming the U.S. itself. The U.S. imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum on June 1 and Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts. Juncker will discuss trade with Trump at a meeting on Wednesday. Dieter Kempf, head of Germany’s BDI industry association, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper it was wise for the European Union and United States to continue their discussions.

“The tariffs under the guise of national security should be abolished,” Kempf said, adding that Juncker needed to make clear to Trump that the United States would harm itself with tariffs on cars and car parts. He added that the German auto industry employed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 60 percent of what they produced was exported to other countries from the U.S. “Europe should not let itself be blackmailed and should put in a confident appearance in the United States,” he added. EU officials have sought to lower expectations about what Juncker can achieve, and downplayed suggestions that he will arrive in Washington with a novel plan to restore good relations.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the DIHK Chambers of Commerce, told Welt am Sonntag he welcomed Juncker’s attempt to persuade the U.S. government not to impose tariffs on cars. “All arguments in favor of such tariffs are … ultimately far-fetched,” he said.

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Pentagon just delivered $200 million in deadly weapons to Ukraine. Madness.

NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)

In the 1960s, Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby in the United States created a superhero with a novel twist. He was called Giant-Man, and the bigger he got, the weaker he became. Today that character is a prophetic parable about the future of the post- Cold War “super-NATO” that has expanded to include 29 nations compromising more than 880 million people. First it absorbed all the former Warsaw Pact member states in Central Europe. Then it absorbed the three tiny and virulently anti-Russian Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia. Now NATO is looking to embrace former Soviet Georgia and Ukraine.

As if all this was not enough, some genius at NATO Supreme Headquarters in Brussels came up with the idea of calling the alliance’s June 2016 military exercises in Eastern Europe ANACONDA. An anaconda is a gigantic carnivorous snake in the Amazon rain forest that first encircles its victims, crushes them to death and then devours them. What message was Russia meant to take from such tasteless nomenclature? However, it will not happen. Far from burying Russia, the US-led NATO alliance has been burying itself instead through its reckless, unending and remorseless growth. The curse of Giant Man is upon it. When the comic book hero Giant Man grew to 50 or 60 feet tall, he collapsed under his own weight. Such a fate is already happening to NATO.

The fundamental problem of the NATO alliance is that it is simultaneously too big and too diverse. The bigger it gets, the weaker it gets. This is because, with every state that joins the Alliance, the only militarily significant power within it, the United States, takes on an additional commitment to defend it. What does the United States get in return for its reckless bestowal of such earth shaking commitments? It gets nothing at all. When a tiny nation like Lithuania or Estonia boasts about meeting the 2 percent of GDP defense spending requirement of NATO this is ludicrous. The armed forces and GDP’s of such countries are so small as to be nonexistent. The much larger nations in the Alliance in Western Europe make no pretense of coming remotely close to their two percent defense spending pledge.

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No, not a daring escape, as I read somewhere. Negotiated by Russia.

Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)

About 800 members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defense group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan on Sunday from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way, media said. In a statement, the Israeli military said it had completed “a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families … due to an immediate threat to their lives”. It said they were transferred to a neighboring country, which it did not identify, and that the evacuation came at the request of the United States and several European countries.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organization. Officially called the Syrian Civil Defense but known by their distinctive white helmets, the group has operated a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria. Jordan’s official Petra news agency said on its website the kingdom “authorized the United Nations to organize the passage of about 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan for resettlement in Western countries”. The agency identified the Syrians as civil defense workers who fled areas controlled by the Syrian opposition after attacks there by the Syrian army. Petra said they would remain in a closed area in Jordan and that Britain, Germany and Canada had agreed to resettle them within three months.

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Poison to feed ourselves.

Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

It’s bizarre: in what seems like a display of obtuseness on a nationwide scale, it is still not generally realised or admitted that across huge swathes of the land, the biodiversity that at the end of the second world war was giving animation and vibrant life to the countryside as it had always done has simply vanished. By the government’s own admission, farmland birds have declined by 56% just since 1970; and the wild flowers have gone, and the butterflies have disappeared in their turn. Farewell to the spotted flycatcher, adios to the corncockle, goodbye to the high brown fritillary: what remains may be green, at least in spring, but that is mainly the pesticide-saturated crops; in wildlife terms, the landscape is now grossly impoverished, beyond any other one in Europe.

In his important new book, Cocker, one of our leading Nature writers, tackles head-on this remarkable twin phenomenon of destruction and ignorance, and he does so on an ambitious scale, seeking to explain and understand it by looking back in detail over a century of growing conservation efforts by individuals, charities, quangos and governments. How have they failed? In particular he is preoccupied with a paradox: how can our Nature have been so devastated, when there are more people who are members of green organisations in Britain than anywhere else? How can it have happened at the very moment in history that saw the rise of a new popular philosophy, environmentalism?

The simple answer is that this moment in history also saw the rise of intensive farming, a juggernaut beyond the power of green groups to control – and indeed beyond the power of individual governments once the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union was fixed in place. It is modern industrial agriculture, above all by its immense reliance on poisons to boost crop yields, that has wiped out the wildlife of our countryside on a scarcely believable scale.

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Jul 212018
 
 July 21, 2018  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Roy Lichtenstein Hopeless 1963

 

Ecuador President Arrives In UK; Assange’s Fate Hangs In The Balance (Cogan)
Be Prepared To Shake The Earth If Julian Assange Is Arrested (CJ)
One FBI Text Message In Russia Probe That Should Alarm Every American (Hill)
Anatomy of a Displacement-Projection Syndrome (Kunstler)
Trump ‘Ready’ To Put Tariffs On All $505 Billion Of Chinese Imports (CNBC)
EU Rips Up Theresa May’s Chequers Plan (Ind.)
May’s Brexit Proposals Died In Brussels In Eight Short Minutes (Ind.)
Australia’s Property Boom Is Well and Truly Over (MM)
US Loses Bid To End Children’s Climate Change Lawsuit (R.)
Judge Praises US Efforts In Reuniting Migrant Families (R.)

 

 

New UK Foreign minister says Assange faces ‘serious charges’. But “Under UK law any theoretical future bail charge would be a textbook minor charge (under three months). UK law defines “serious charge” one carrying over three years of imprisonment.”

Ecuador President Arrives In UK; Assange’s Fate Hangs In The Balance (Cogan)

Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno arrives in London today, with his administration seeking to force WikiLeaks editor and Australian citizen Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy there, where he sought and was granted political asylum in 2012. If Assange leaves the embassy he will be imprisoned by Britain for breaching bail and almost certainly face an application to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on manufactured charges of espionage. On the Moreno government’s orders, the Ecuadorian embassy in London has deprived Assange of all external communication, and all visitors apart from his lawyers, since March 28.

After six years of confinement due to the British threat of immediate arrest if he sets foot outside the small building, Assange’s health has been seriously compromised. The deprivation of communication is a vindictive attempt to add immense psychological pressure on him to leave the embassy, as well as to silence him while lurid accusations permeate the American and international media that WikiLeaks was part of a nefarious Russian conspiracy to “interfere” in the 2016 US presidential election. Ahead of Moreno’s visit to London, his national secretary of political management, Paul Granda, asserted on July 19 that “there is no specific meeting planned on Assange.” The same day, acting Ecuadorian foreign minister, Andres Teran, claimed that Moreno’s government is “not in talks with the United States” over the WikiLeaks editor.

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The silence remains eery.

Be Prepared To Shake The Earth If Julian Assange Is Arrested (CJ)

“The above report that UK and Ecuador are preparing to turn Assange over to UK appears to be true,” commented journalist Glenn Greenwald on Simonyan’s statement. “Big question is whether the US will indict him and seek his extradition, the way Sessions and Pompeo vowed they would. Can’t wait to see how many fake press freedom defenders support that.” How many indeed? For all the viral, click-friendly wailing and rending of garments about Donald Trump’s “war on the press” because he says “fake news” and picks on Jim Acosta, does anyone expect the so-called free press to rush to the defense of a journalist who is being actively and aggressively persecuted with the full might of the western empire for publishing authentic documents about that very same empire?

We are about to find out if this is the part of the movie where the empire rips off the mask of freedom and democracy and reveals its true tyranny. Assange is a soft target, a controversial figure who has been on the receiving end of wildly successful smear campaigns marketed to every major political faction across the western world. He is the logical place to begin a crackdown on press freedoms and make a public example of what happens to those who shine the light of truth upon Big Brother. If we allow them to imprison Julian Assange for practicing journalism, that’s it. It’s over. We might as well all stop caring what happens to the world and sit on our hands while the oligarchs drive us to ecological disaster, nuclear annihilation or Orwellian dystopia.

If we, the many, don’t have the spine to stand up against the few and say “No, we get to find out facts about you bastards and use it to inform our worldview, you don’t get to criminalize that,” then we certainly don’t have the spine it will take to wrest control of this world away from the hands of sociopathic plutocrats and take our fate into our own hands. The arrest of Julian Assange would be the fork in the road. It would be where we collectively decide as a species whether we want to survive into the future, and if we deserve to.

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“A few minutes later Strzok texted his own handicap of the Russia evidence: “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.

One FBI Text Message In Russia Probe That Should Alarm Every American (Hill)

Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the reported FBI lovebirds, are the poster children for the next “Don’t Text and Investigate” public service ads airing soon at an FBI office near you. Their extraordinary texting affair on their government phones has given the FBI a black eye, laying bare a raw political bias brought into the workplace that agents are supposed to check at the door when they strap on their guns and badges. It is no longer in dispute that they held animus for Donald Trump, who was a subject of their Russia probe, or that they openly discussed using the powers of their office to “stop” Trump from becoming president. The only question is whether any official acts they took in the Russia collusion probe were driven by those sentiments.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is endeavoring to answer that question. For any American who wants an answer sooner, there are just five words, among the thousands of suggestive texts Page and Strzok exchanged, that you should read. That passage was transmitted on May 19, 2017. “There’s no big there there,” Strzok texted. The date of the text long has intrigued investigators: It is two days after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump and the Russia campaign. Since the text was turned over to Congress, investigators wondered whether it referred to the evidence against the Trump campaign.

This month, they finally got the chance to ask. Strzok declined to say — but Page, during a closed-door interview with lawmakers, confirmed in the most pained and contorted way that the message in fact referred to the quality of the Russia case, according to multiple eyewitnesses. The admission is deeply consequential. It means Rosenstein unleashed the most awesome powers of a special counsel to investigate an allegation that the key FBI officials, driving the investigation for 10 months beforehand, did not think was “there.”

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The US meddles more than anyone else.

Anatomy of a Displacement-Projection Syndrome (Kunstler)

“For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests.” — The New York Times

The Resistance sure got a case of the vapors this week over Mr. Trump’s failure to throttle America’s arch-enemy, the murderous thug V. Putin of Russia, onstage in Helsinki, as any genuine Marvel Comix hero is expected to do when facing consummate evil. Instead, the Golden Golem of Greatness voiced some doubts about the veracity of our “intelligence community” — as the shape-shifting Moloch of black ops likes to call itself, as if it were a kindly service organization in Mr. Rogers neighborhood, collecting dimes for victims of childhood cancer. If I may be frank, the US Intel community looks like a much bigger threat to American life and values than anything Mr. Putin is doing, for instance his alleged “meddling” in US elections.

This word, meddling, absolutely pervades the captive Resistance news outlets these days. It has a thrilling vagueness about it, intimating all kinds of dark deeds without specifying anything, as consorting with Satan once did in our history. The reason: the only specific acts associated with this meddling include the disclosure of incriminating emails among the Democratic National Committee leadership, and a tiny gang of Facebook trolls making sport of profoundly idiotic and dysfunctional American electoral politics. The brief against Russia also contains vague accusations of “aggression.” It is hard to discern what is meant by that — though it apparently warms the heart of American war hawks and their paymasters in the warfare industries.

They allege that Russia “stole” Crimea from Ukraine. Consider: Crimea had been a province of Russia since the 1700s. Ukraine itself was a province of the USSR when Nikita Khrushchev put Crimea under Ukraine’s administrative control in 1956, a relationship which became obviously problematic after the breakup of the soviet mega-state in 1990 — and became even more of a problem when the US State Department and our CIA stage-managed a coup against the Russia-leaning Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Crimea is the site of Russia’s only warm water naval bases. Do you suppose that even an experience American CIA analyst might understand that Russia would under no circumstances give up those assets? Please, grow up.

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China will have to move.

Trump ‘Ready’ To Put Tariffs On All $505 Billion Of Chinese Imports (CNBC)

President Donald Trump has indicated that he is willing to slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the U.S. should the need arise. “I’m ready to go to 500,” the president told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in a “Squawk Box” interview aired Friday. The reference is to the dollar amount of Chinese imports the U.S. accepted in 2017 — $505.5 billion to be exact, compared with the $129.9 billion the U.S. exported to China, according to Census Bureau data. Thus far in the burgeoning trade war, the U.S. has slapped tariffs on just $34 billion of Chinese products, which China met with retaliatory duties. By sheer dollar volume, the Chinese won’t be able to come close to the U.S. in a tit-for-tat battle.

Trump’s comments point to a willingness to push the envelope as far as the U.S. needs to get Chinese tariff concessions, along with a pledge to stop allegedly stealing American technology. “I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.” Trump said the U.S. is “being taken advantage of” on a number of fronts, including trade and monetary policy. Yet he said he has not pushed the tariffs out of any ill will toward China. “I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” he said. “I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”

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As we all knew they would.

EU Rips Up Theresa May’s Chequers Plan (Ind.)

Prospects for a Brexit deal have been dealt a severe blow after the European Union’s chief negotiator took apart Theresa May’s latest proposals – just hours after she ruled out further compromise on her side. Speaking in Brussels after a meeting with EU national ministers, Michel Barnier raised a wide variety of serious concerns about the Chequers white paper plan for customs control and single market regulation for goods. Mr Barnier said Ms May’s complicated proposal for customs would likely create huge amounts of new paperwork, warning: “Brexit cannot and will not justify additional bureaucracy.” The chief negotiator, who said he had told member states to prepare for a no-deal scenario, also raised concerns about the PM’s plan to keep the UK following a “common rulebook” of single market regulations for goods.

The intervention emphasises the deadlock between the two sides, with Tory eurosceptics not allowing the embattled prime minister much room for manoeuvre in Westminster in order to meet Mr Barnier’s concerns. The PM had hoped her white paper proposals would allow frictionless trade with the EU, but Mr Barnier said a plan to exclude UK services from following EU rules could give a “significant competitive advantage” to Britain and that agreeing to such a policy might not be in the EU’s own best interests. Mr Barnier also suggested it would be unreasonable to exempt some goods such as animal feed from having to follow the rules, as proposed by Ms May, stating: “We have a duty of care to protect consumers in the single market, and on which basis could we accept the free circulation of goods?”

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How will history look back on this incredible mess?

May’s Brexit Proposals Died In Brussels In Eight Short Minutes (Ind.)

The Brexit “negotiations” have always been best understood as the kind of negotiations that occur between a particularly irritating toddler and its wearied parent. So it came as a surprise to no one when on Friday morning Britain, having stood around doing not very much for two years, the car now almost fully loaded, finally decided that actually it did want to go to the toilet after all, it was met with a firm “no”. You will know, traditionally, what happens next in such matters. The Brexit journey will not smell nice for anyone, but it will be Britain that suffers the most.

That, via a speech in Belfast, just over two years on from the referendum and with six meaningful weeks of negotiating time left, Theresa May finally put some concrete proposals to the EU and Michel Barnier immediately came out of his office in Brussels to reject them is, of course, laughable. Not least as the proposals that have taken two years for her government to “agree” on have only been “agreed” in the sense that her brexit secretary and foreign secretary didn’t agree with them, and so left the government – from which point on the “agreement” has disintegrated in plain sight.

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Said it before: the Aussie houding bubble is so big it threatens the entire economy.

Australia’s Property Boom Is Well and Truly Over (MM)

House prices in Australian capital cities have been booming for the better half of the last two decades. With our capital cities expanding at lightning rates thanks to international and state migration, it seemed like the boom would never end. The extent of our booming economy has been so incredible, it has become the norm for us in Australia. Australians aren’t really conditioned to expect stock market or real estate falls or depressions. But like all things, what goes up must come down. As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week: ‘Only half the properties that went to auction in Sydney and Melbourne on the weekend found buyers. ‘Australian property owners are waking up to the mother of all housing debt hangovers. That’s what happens, you see, when you go on an unprecedented credit binge, fuelled by cheap credit and loose lending standards.’

The Australian Financial Review also confirmed that our debt-fuelled housing boom was coming to an end: ‘Generally the wider market [in Sydney] has cooled with transaction numbers falling, selling periods extending and prices declining.’ ‘Melbourne has eclipsed Sydney as the nation’s worst-performing capital with prices falling by about 5 per cent in recent months, according to recent analysis by investment bank Morgan Stanley.’ For years your Money Morning editors have been warning that Australia’s real estate has been looking more and more like a bubble. Only recently have mainstream economists and newspapers started to agree.

[..] This is a controversial view as it has the potential to undermine the stability of our whole nation’s economy. Our banking sector is built on a foundation of housing mortgages, and the banks make up a massive proportion of our stock market (around 30% of the ASX). However, with Australian property prices having boomed for so many years, it’s no surprise a correction is on the horizon. Now, if the housing boom is actually over, that doesn’t mean your house is suddenly worthless. If you own your home, you can still live in it just as happily as before. But investors with too much debt, overly dependent on rising prices, may be in trouble. The trouble is, with so much debt in the system, it could be difficult to correct or even slow down the housing bubble without triggering a full-on crash. One that could have disastrous effects for the wider economy.

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Case originated in 2015.

US Loses Bid To End Children’s Climate Change Lawsuit (R.)

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday rejected the Trump administration’s renewed bid to dismiss a lawsuit by young activists who say the U.S. government is ignoring the perils of climate change. By a 3-0 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the government fell short of the “high bar” needed to dismiss the Oregon case, originally brought in 2015 against the administration of President Barack Obama. Twenty-one children and young adults, ages 11 to 22, accused federal officials and oil industry executives of violating their due process rights by knowing for decades that carbon pollution poisons the environment, but doing nothing about it.

The government contended that letting the case proceed would be too burdensome, unconstitutionally pit the courts against the executive branch, and require improper “agency decision-making” by forcing officials to answer questions about climate change. But the appeals court said the issues raised “are better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation.” A trial is scheduled for Oct. 29 in the federal court in Eugene, Oregon. President Donald Trump’s administration also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit or put it on hold, and is awaiting a ruling. Its earlier bid to end the lawsuit failed in March.

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And bars deportation of reunified families.

Judge Praises US Efforts In Reuniting Migrant Families (R.)

A federal judge said on Friday the U.S. government had made “very promising” progress toward reuniting some 2,500 immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration. The government has six days left to comply with the reunification order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who summoned government attorneys to appear in his San Diego courtroom to update him on efforts made in bringing families back together. “I’m very impressed with the effort being made,” said Sabraw at the end of the brief hearing. Lawyers for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported in a court filing late Thursday that 364 children aged 5 and older had been reunited since Sabraw’s order was issued more than three weeks ago.

The number was updated to 450 today, an ACLU spokesperson said. Younger children were reunited last week. In Thursday’s status report, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, the government did not say how many reunifications were likely before the July 26 deadline. Nearly 850 parents had been interviewed and cleared for reunification as of Thursday and another 229 parents had been deemed ineligible because of criminal records, or because they “waived” reunification or for other reasons, the report said. The rest are pending review.

More than 850 parents are facing final deportation orders, government lawyers told the court on Friday. The ACLU has asked Sabraw to give those parents at least a week after being reunited with their children before deportation so they have adequate time to obtain legal counsel and consider options. Sabraw has temporarily barred deportations of reunified families pending a final decision.

Read more …

Jul 182018
 
 July 18, 2018  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Gauguin Van Gogh painting sunflowers 1888

 

Russia Dumped Most/All Of Its US Treasury Holdings, Disappeared from List (WS)
Japan, EU Sign Trade Deal To Eliminate Nearly All Tariffs (AP)
Going, Going Gone For Australia’s House Price Boom (R.)
Australia’s Expensive Real Estate Problem Remains A Dirty Little Secret (D.)
Right Now, We Are In A New Cold War – Stephen Cohen (Fox)
Is President Trump A Traitor Because He Wants Peace With Russia? (PCR)
A Walk On The Wild Side As Trump Meets Putin At Finland Station (Escobar)
Trump Haters Don’t Get the “Art of the Deal” (Jim Rickards)
Twelve Ham Sandwiches with Russian Dressing (Kunstler)
The EU’s New Data Protection Rules Are Already Hurting Europeans (Mises)
Dear Europe, Follow Ireland, Not France (Lacalle)
Balding Out (Christopher Balding)

 

 

Russia goes for gold.

Russia Dumped Most/All Of Its US Treasury Holdings, Disappeared from List (WS)

It’s a good thing Russia never held as many US Treasury securities as China and Japan. The scenario would have been different. The “grand total” of US Treasury bonds, notes, and bills held by official foreign investors (central banks, governments, etc.) and non-official foreign investors rose by $44.6 billion to $6.17 trillion at the end of May, according to the Treasury Department’s TIC data released Tuesday afternoon. This is in the middle of the range of the past 12 months. But Russia stands out by its sudden absence.

Russia was never a large holder of US Treasuries, compared to China and Japan. In March it was in 16th place with $96.1 billion in Treasury holdings. In April, it liquidated $47.4 billion of its holdings, and ended the month with $48.7 billion. That was down 69% from May 2013 ($153 billion). It knocked Russia into 22nd place behind the UAE and Thailand. And in May, Russia liquidated more of its holdings and disappeared entirely from the TIC’s list of the 33 largest foreign holders of Treasuries. The smallest one on the list was Chile, with $30.2 billion. Russia’s holdings must have fallen below that amount, and I can imagine to zero:

If there was a message in Russia’s liquidation of US Treasuries, it was a pitch in the water: The 10-year Treasury sell-off that had started last September peaked with the 10-year yield at 3.11% on May 17. Since then, the 10-year Treasury has rallied under heavy demand, and the yield has fallen – hence the handwringing about the inverted yield curve. The largest holder of US Treasuries is China, a position it had lost briefly during its era of peak capital-flight from October 2016 through March 2017. Its holdings in May ticked up by $1.2 billion to $1.183 trillion. Its holdings have remained within the same range since August 2017, despite escalating threats of a “trade war.” Japan had been systematically reducing its Treasury holdings. In April its holdings had dropped to $1.031 trillion, the lowest since October 2011. But in May, it increased its holdings by $17.6 billion to $1.049 trillion:

Read more …

99% of tariffs to be lifted.

Japan, EU Sign Trade Deal To Eliminate Nearly All Tariffs (AP)

The European Union and Japan signed a landmark deal on Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade. The ambitious pact signed in Tokyo runs counter to President Donald Trump’s moves to hike tariffs on imports from many U.S. trading partners. It covers a third of the global economy and markets of more than 600 million people. “The EU and Japan showed an undeterred determination to lead the world as flag-bearers for free trade,” Abe said at a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Tusk praised the deal as “the largest bilateral trade deal ever.” He said the partnership is being strengthened in various other areas, including defense, climate change and human exchange, and is “sending a clear message” against protectionism. The leaders did not mention Trump by name, but they did little to mask what was on their minds — highlighting how Europe and Japan have been pushed closer by Trump’s actions. [..] The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods sold to the EU. About 94 percent of the tariffs on European exports to Japan will be lifted, rising to 99 percent in the future. The difference reflects exceptions on such products as rice, which enjoys strong political protection from imports in Japan.

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China’s clampdown.

Going, Going Gone For Australia’s House Price Boom (R.)

It’s a winter weekend in Sydney’s bustling northern suburb of Chatswood and a three-bedroom family house sporting an endless garden is up for auction. It’s priced to sell at A$1.88 million ($1.4 million) but no buyers bite and the sale is abandoned. On the same day, in the heart of the harbor-hugging city a two-bedroom apartment with panoramic views fails to sell as no bidders turn up. Auctions are a bellwether of demand in property-obsessed Australia, where attending sales is almost a national pastime. It is therefore telling that only just over half were successful the weekend last month a Reuters reporter visited some of Sydney’s auctions, compared to more than two-thirds for all of last year.

And while that week was the worst since 2012, it wasn’t a one off. Auction clearance rates have averaged in the mid-to-low 50 percent range for each of the past nine weeks. The recent weakness in the Australian housing market, which has been one of the drivers of an economy that has now grown for 27 years without a downturn, has some economists warning of heightened risks of a recession and even a financial crisis. In anticipation, some hedge funds are shorting the nation’s financial assets and some significant investors are heavily underweight Australia compared to regional benchmarks.

The slack has been partly engineered by the authorities. Curbs on lending to foreigners, foreign buyer taxes and a clampdown on capital flows by Beijing have hurt bubbling demand from Chinese investors, who have been important contributors to the housing boom of recent years. There are signs of a similar fall in Chinese investment in Vancouver, Canada – which has also been a red hot market in recent years and where the authorities have also intervened by raising taxes on foreign buyers. But a decline in Vancouver’s sales is yet to translate into price declines.

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Laundromat.

Australia’s Expensive Real Estate Problem Remains A Dirty Little Secret (D.)

Nobody knows how many billions of dollars in dirty money is pouring into Australia’s housing market, but global authorities describe local real estate as a prime target for money laundering – and you may have paid more for your house because of it. The likelihood of cashed up crooks increasing house prices is much greater than many people realise, given the hidden nature of the problem, a lack of regulation in the Australian real estate industry and the staggering sums involved. AMP chief economist Shane Oliver says criminals willing to pay extra to wash illicit funds have probably already had an impact on the high end of the housing market. “Even one transaction can have a huge effect that pulls the whole lot up.”

Real estate agents say corrupt money can also influence average house prices, because criminals paying more than market value for one house are likely to encourage higher asking prices for similar properties in the same street. “To the extent that money laundering may well have played a role in making houses unaffordable to the average Australian, even if it’s marginal, there’s a case to investigate that,” Mr Oliver says. Estimates vary, however an International Monetary Fund calculation converted to local currency shows up to $5 trillion in corrupt money – more than three times Australia’s GDP – flowing into global financial systems last year. Only 0.2 per cent of the illegal transfers were likely to be seized or frozen, according to a UN report.

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I know, I know, it’s Fox and Tucker Carlson. But this is Stephen Cohen.

Right Now, We Are In A New Cold War – Stephen Cohen (Fox)

NYU Russian studies Professor Emeritus Stephen Cohen says President Trump had no choice but to meet with Putin, blasts ‘pornography passing as analysis’ in the news coverage of Trump.

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“Russian weapons are so superior to the junk produced by the waste-filled US military/security complex that lives high off the hog on the insouciant American taxpayer that it is questionable if the US is even a second class military power.”

Is President Trump A Traitor Because He Wants Peace With Russia? (PCR)

The US Democratic Party is determined to take the world to thermo-nuclear war rather than to admit that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election fair and square. The Democratic Party was totally corrupted by the Clinton Regime, and now it is totally insane. Leaders of the Democratic Party, such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, my former co-author in the New York Times, have responded in a non-Democratic way to the first step President Trump has taken to reduce the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia that the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes created between the two superpowers.

Yes, Russia is a superpower. Russian weapons are so superior to the junk produced by the waste-filled US military/security complex that lives high off the hog on the insouciant American taxpayer that it is questionable if the US is even a second class military power. If the insane neoconservatives, such as Max Boot, William Kristol, and the rest of the neocon scum get their way, the US, the UK, and Europe will be a radioactive ruin for thousands of years.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, declared that out of fear of some undefined retribution from Putin, a dossier on Trump perhaps, the President of the United States sold out the American people to Russia because he wants to make peace: “It begs the question, what does Vladimir Putin, what do the Russians have on Donald Trump—personally, politically and financially that he should behave in such a manner?” The “such a manner” Pelosi is speaking about is making peace instead of war.

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“Russophobia is a 24/7 industry..”

A Walk On The Wild Side As Trump Meets Putin At Finland Station (Escobar)

“The Cold War is a thing of the past.” By the time President Putin said as much during preliminary remarks at his joint press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, it was clear this would not stand. Not after so much investment by American conservatives in Cold War 2.0. Russophobia is a 24/7 industry, and all concerned, including its media vassals, remain absolutely livid with the “disgraceful” Trump-Putin presser. Trump has “colluded with Russia.” How could the President of the United States promote “moral equivalence” with a “world-class thug”? Multiple opportunities for apoplectic outrage were in order. Trump: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed. As of about four hours ago.”

Putin: “The United States could be more decisive in nudging Ukrainian leadership.” Trump: “There was no collusion… I beat Hillary Clinton easily.” Putin: “We should be guided by facts. Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove collusion? This is nonsense.” Then, the clincher: the Russian president calls [Special Counsel] Robert Mueller’s ‘bluff’, offering to interrogate the Russians indicted for alleged election meddling in the US if Mueller makes an official request to Moscow. But in exchange, Russia would expect the US to question Americans on whether Moscow should face charges for illegal actions. Trump hits it out of the park when asked whether he believes US intelligence, which concluded that Russia did meddle in the election, or Putin, who strongly denies it. “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

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How it works.

Trump Haters Don’t Get the “Art of the Deal” (Jim Rickards)

I’m continually amazed at the legions of politicos, pundits and so-called “experts” who don’t understand President Trump or how he conducts policy. These elites have a mental model of how a president is supposed to behave and how the policymaking process is supposed to be carried out. Obviously, Trump does not fit their model. Instead of trying to grasp the model that Trump does use, they continually berate and disparage Trump for not living up to their expectations. A more thoughtful group would say, “Well, he’s different, so why don’t we try to understand the differences and analyze the new model?” Really, these people need to get out of Washington, New York and Hollywood more and get away from their screens.

If they knew more everyday Americans, they would come a lot closer to understanding how Trump gets things done. It’s not chaos; it’s just a little different and more down to earth. This is because of Trump’s “art of the deal” style described in his best-selling book by that name. Bush 43 and Obama were totally process-driven. You could see events coming a mile away as they wound their way through the West Wing and Capitol Hill deliberative processes. All you had to do was understand the process and you could forecast big developments in a relatively straightforward way. With Trump, there is a process, but it does not adhere to a timeline or existing template. Trump seems to be the only process participant most of the time.

Here’s the Trump process: 1) Identify a big goal (tax cuts, balanced trade, the wall, etc.). 2) Identify your leverage points versus anyone who stands in your way (elections, tariffs, jobs, etc.). 3) Announce some extreme threat against your opponent that uses your leverage. 4) If the opponent backs down, mitigate the threat, declare victory and go home with a win. 5) If the opponent fires back, double down. If Trump declares tariffs on $50 billion of good from China,and China shoots back with tariffs on $50 billion of goods from the U.S., Trump doubles down with tariffs on $100 billion of goods, etc. Trump will keep escalating until he wins. 6) Eventually, the escalation process can lead to negotiations with at least the perception of a victory for Trump (North Korea) — even if the victory is more visual than real.

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“..the entire exercise is a joke and a fraud..”

Twelve Ham Sandwiches with Russian Dressing (Kunstler)

After two years of Trump-inspired hysteria, it’s pretty obvious what went on in the bungled Obama-Hillary power handoff of 2016 and afterward: the indictable shenanigans of candidate Hillary and her captive DNC prompted a campaign of agit-prop by the US Intel “community” to gaslight the public with a Russian meddling story that morphed uncontrollably into a crusade to make it impossible for Mr. Trump to govern. And what’s followed for many months is an equally bungled effort to conceal, deceive, and confuse the issues in the case by Democratic Party partisans still in high places. It was very likely begun with the tacit knowledge of President Obama, though he remained protected by a shield of plausible deniability.

And it was carried out by high-ranking officials who turned out to be shockingly unprofessional, and whose activities have been disclosed through an electronic data evidence trail. Mr. Trump’s visit to confer with Russian President Putin in Helsinki seems to have provoked a kind of last-gasp effort to keep the increasingly idiotic Russian election meddling story alive — with Robert Mueller’s ballyhooed indictment of twelve “Russian intel agents” alleged to have “hacked” emails and computer files of the DNC and Hillary’s campaign chairman John Podesta. The gaping holes in that part of the tale have long been unearthed so I’ll summarize as briefly as possible:

1) the bandwidth required to transfer the files has been proven to be greater than an internet hack might have conceivably managed in the time allowed and points rather to a direct download into a flash drive device. 2) the DNC computer hard drives, said to be the source of the alleged hacking, disappeared while in the custody of the US Intel Community (including the FBI). 3) the authenticity of the purloined emails by Mr. Podesta and others has never been disputed, and they revealed a lot of potentially criminal behavior by them. 4) Mr. Mueller must know he will never get twelve Russian intel agents into a US courtroom, so the entire exercise is a joke and a fraud. In effect, he’s indicted twelve ham sandwiches with Russian dressing.

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When anti-spam leads to more spam.

The EU’s New Data Protection Rules Are Already Hurting Europeans (Mises)

It’s finally over: the flood of e-mails that every single human being who possesses an inbox has received in the last few weeks thanks to the new data protection rules by the EU. These rules, called GDPR, have caused havoc even before becoming effective on May 25, and have probably caused the greatest spam wave of all time – all in the name of fighting against spam of course. The GDPR rules were designed to protect European consumers from data violations by big tech companies (Brussels thinks that Facebook, Google and Co. are abusing the rights of its people), and include – just as a best of – a “right to be forgotten” (meaning that Europeans can ask companies to delete all their data), “consent” (meaning that the data being processed by a company has to be consented to by the individual – though what “consent” means is still disputed), an obligation to hire a data protection officer if you are a bigger company, and above all else, hefty fines for infringements.

Those infringements shall “be subject to administrative fines up to €20,000,000, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 percent of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.” What has been the result of these data protection rules after a little over a month? Summing it up in one word would probably be: chaos. As the trillions of e-mails that were sent around the globe showed, no one really understands what the rules are all about – or what to do about it.

On the day the rules came into effect, several US pages panickingly switched off their platforms in EU countries, among them the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Orlando Sentinel. But not only newspapers have blocked Europeans ever since: the list also includesShoes.com,Instapaper, and the History Channel. Meanwhile, ad companies, being hit the most by the new rules, have pulled out of the EU altogether, including Drawbridge and Verve , citing the GDPR as the reason that they can’t continue their business on the Continent anymore. Those staying have had to incur gigantic costs: British companies have reportedly sunk 1.1 billion dollars, and Americans 7.8 billion in preparation for GDPR.

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There’s always some miracle nation in the EU.

Dear Europe, Follow Ireland, Not France (Lacalle)

Whenever we talk about tax cuts and growth-oriented tax programs in Europe, many tell us that it is not possible and that the European Union does not allow it. However, it is false. Attractive, growth-oriented tax systems are not only possible in the European Union, but those countries that implement them have higher economic growth rates, less unemployment, and a first-class welfare state. To deceive us, we are forced to ignore Ireland, The Netherlands or Luxembourg as well as most of the technology and job creation leaders. Lower taxes and greater liberalization than in the rest of the Eurozone means higher growth, better wealth and greater social welfare. The economic miracle of Ireland is not statism.

Its secret is to put budgetary stability, investment attraction, private initiative and maximize disposable income of citizens as the pillars of its economic policy. Ireland has a corporate tax of 12.5% and a rate of 6.25% on income from patents and intellectual property, a key factor to attract technology companies. Its minimum salary is almost double that of Spain, Portugal and other Eurozone countries, the average pension is higher as well and its health and education systems are of the highest quality, with nine universities among the best in the world according to the Best Global Universities Ranking 2018. Ireland’s debt to GDP is 73%, unemployment is 5.1% (youth unemployment at 11.4%), public deficit is just 0.7% of GDP.

Only a few years ago, Ireland was close to the edge financially, and its 10-year bond yield rose to 14%. Ireland was considered one of the highest risk of default countries with Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy. Since then, low taxes, budget control and reforms oriented at attracting capital have made Ireland become the fastest-growing European economy, with an unemployment rate that is less than half that of Spain, for example. Deficits have been slashed, debt is under control, the economy is expected to grow 5.1% in 2018, and the economy is expected to reach full employment in 2019.

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Economist Christopher Balding is leaving China after 9 years. Great farewell.

Balding Out (Christopher Balding)

One of my biggest fears living in China has always been that I would be detained. Though I happily pointed out the absurdity of the rapidly encroaching authoritarianism, a fact which continues to elude so many experts not living in China, I tried to make sure I knew where the line was and did not cross it. There is a profound sense of relief to be leaving safely knowing others, Chinese or foreigners, who have had significantly greater difficulties than myself. There are many cases which resulted in significantly more problems for them. I know I am blessed to make it out.

I leave China profoundly worried about the future of China and US China relations. Most attention here has focused on the Thucydides Trap where conflict results from an established and a rising power. This leaves out probably the most important variable not just the distinction between an established and a rising power but the values inherent within each state and the system they want to project defining relations between states and the citizenry to the state.

The United States under Trump and the GOP is facing a significant test and re-evaluation of its principles. However, I remain decidedly confident in the US to handle those tests. The self correction nature of democracy is on clear display. The best case scenario for the Trump administration is to minimize congressional losses with the very real possibility of losing control of the house. President Trump has lost more in the courts than he has won and is under investigations by law enforcement headed by registered Republicans. His own party has been unable to pass consequential legislation except for a tax cut. While none of this confronts the international challenges facing the United States, it speaks to the evolutionary, self corrective nature of US democracy.

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Jul 122018
 

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Russell Lee Gas station, Edcouch, Texas 1939

Ilargi: Someone linked to this almost 8 year old article from Nicole (July 19 2010), on Twitter. And yes, it’s even more relevant now than it was when she wrote it. So here’s a re-run:

 

… the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 in the US, which drastically raised tariffs on imports, lead to retaliation by trading partners, and the resulting trade war dropped global trade by 66% between 1929 and 1934.

One more comment from me: Trump may be on to something with some of his tariff actions, but he risks having the US run headfirst into the brittleness of just-in-time supply lines.

 

 

Nicole Foss: As the world has become a smaller and smaller place over the last few decades, we think less about the differences between locations. Global trade has allowed us to circumvent many local constraints, evening out surpluses and shortages in a more homogenized world.

We have a just-in-time world built on comparative advantage, in the name of economic efficiency. Under this economic principle, every location should specialize in whatever activity it executes most efficiently and the resulting products from all areas would then be traded. The idea is that all will then be better off than they would have been had they attempted to cover all bases themselves for reasons of self-sufficiency.

Where countries had been inclined towards more expensive self-sufficiency, market forces have often made this approach untenable, as large cost differences can make countries or industries uncompetitive. Local production has been progressively out-sourced as a result.

By ‘better off’, economists mean that goods will be cheaper for all, thanks to global wage arbitrage and economies of scale. Globalization has indeed delivered falling prices for many consumer goods, particularly electronics. In an era of massive credit expansion (effectively inflation), such as we have lived through for decades, one would normally have expected prices to rise, as a lagging indicator of money supply expansion, but prices do not always follow money supply changes where other major complicating factors exist.

In recent years, the major complicating factors have been the ability to produce goods in places where wages are exceptionally low, the ability to transport those goods to consumer markets extremely cheaply and ready access to letters of credit.

For nominal prices (unadjusted for changes in the money supply) to fall during an inflationary period, real (inflation adjusted) prices must be going through the floor. This has been the effect of trade as we have known it, and it is all many of us have known. What we are not generally aware of is the vulnerability of the global trade system, due to the fragility of the critical factors underpinning it.

 

By producing goods, particularly essential goods, in distant locations, we create long and potentially precarious supply lines. While relative stability reigns, this vulnerability does not cause trouble and we enjoy cheap and plentiful goods. However, if these supply lines are disrupted, critical shortages could result. In a very complex just-in-time system, this may not take very long at all. Such as system is very brittle, as it has almost no redundancy, and therefore almost no resilience. When Jim Kunstler refers to efficiency as “the straightest path to hell”, it is this brittleness he is referring to.

The most ephemeral critical factor for trade is the availability of letters of credit. These became scarce during the first phase of the credit crunch in 2008, and the result was goods stuck in port even though there was robust demand for them elsewhere. Goods simply do not move without letters of credit, and these can dry up extremely quickly as a systemic loss of confidence results in a systemic loss of liquidity. In a very real way, confidence IS liquidity.

The Baltic Dry shipping index fell 96% in 2008 as a result, meaning that shipping companies were suffering. Although the index has recovered slightly during the recent long rally, it is still very depressed in comparison with its previous heights. Now that the rally appears to be over, on the balance of probabilities, letters of credit for shipping will come under renewed pressure, and goods will once again have difficulty moving. As demand also starts to fall, due to the loss of purchasing power in the depressionary era we are moving into, this will get far worse.

 

alt

 

In a depression, trade is very adversely affected. One reason for this a highly protectionist beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies. For instance, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 in the US, which drastically raised tariffs on imports, lead to retaliation by trading partners, and the resulting trade war dropped global trade by 66% between 1929 and 1934.

 

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Thanks to globalization, we are much more dependent on trade than people were in the 1930s. The combination of credit drying up on the one hand and global trade wars on the other is an extreme threat to our vulnerable supply lines. Add to that the general upheaval created by severe economic disruption, which can easily lead to increased physical risks to transporting goods, and the longer term potential for much higher energy prices, and we could see an outright collapse of global trade in the approaching years.

The benefits of self-sufficiency will be seen in places where it still exists. So long as the whole supply chain is local, localized production means being able to maintain access to essential goods at a time when obtaining them from overseas may be difficult or impossible. It is currently more expensive, but the relative security it can provide can be priceless in a dangerous world. The ability to produce locally does not arise overnight however, especially where there are no stockpiles of components. In places where it has been lost, it will take time to regain. There is no time to lose.

We will be returning to a world of much greater diversity as we lose the homogenizing effect of trade. That means the existing disparities between areas will matter far more in the future than they have in the recent past. We will need to think again about the pros and cons of our local regions – what they can provide and what they cannot, and for how many people. Some areas will be in a great deal of trouble when they lose the ability to compensate for deficiencies through trade. As the global village ceases to exist, the world will once again be a very large and variable place.

 

 

Jul 112018
 
 July 11, 2018  Posted by at 9:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper The camel’s hump 1931

 

As Global Debt Hits A Record $247 Trillion, The IIF Issues A Warning (ZH)
US To Slap Tariffs On Extra $200 Billion Of Chinese Imports (R.)
Has the Fed Permanently Inflated Home Prices? (Whalen)
Trump Forced To Reinstate ‘Catch And Release’ After Court Defeats (G.)
40% Of Mexican Territory Is Paralyzed By Violence (G.)
EU Negotiator Michel Barnier Says 80% Of Brexit Deal Is Agreed (G.)
UK Government Draws Up Secret Plans To Stockpile Processed Food (Sun)
Red Cross Tells UK: End Damaging Immigration Detention (Ind.)
I’m A Doctor In Lampedusa. We Can’t Let These Migrant Deaths Go On (Bartolo)
US Judge Allows Lawsuits Over Monsanto’s Roundup To Proceed To Trial (R.)
Thailand Water Pumps Failed Just After Last Boy Escaped (G.)

 

 

Madness.

As Global Debt Hits A Record $247 Trillion, The IIF Issues A Warning (ZH)

Every quarter the Institute of International Finance publishes a new number of the total amount of global debt outstanding, and every quarter the result is the same: a new record high Today was no exception: according to the IIF’s latest Global Debt Monitor, the amount of debt held in the world rose by the biggest amount in two years during the first quarter of 2018, when it grew by $8 trillion to hit a new all time high of $247 trillion, up from $238 trillion as of Dec. 31, 2017 and up by $30 trillion from the end of 2016. In other words, there is now a quarter quadrillion dollars in global debt, and it represents 318% of global GDP.

More concerning is that this was the first time since Q3 2016 that global debt to GDP increased, suggesting that the marginal utility of debt is once again below 1. This is how the debt is broken down as of Q1 2018 and compared to Q1 2013: • Non-financial corporate debt: $74 trillion, up from $58 trillion in 5 years • Government debt: $67 trillion, up from $56 trillion • Financial debt: $61 trillion, up from $56 trillion • Household debt: $47 trillion, up from $40 trillion. [..] What was surprising about the report – certainly not the latest all time high debt numbers, those are now standard – is that the IIF voiced a strongly negative opinion of recent developments in the debt arena.

“The pace is indeed a cause for concern,” warned IIF’s Managing Director Hung Tran during a call with reporters. “The problem with the pace and speed is if you borrow or if you lend very quickly, the quality of the credit tends to suffer.” It also means more governments, businesses and individuals have been borrowing that could have trouble paying the money back, or merely paying interest on it as rates rise. “The quality of creditworthiness has declined sharply,” Tran added ominously, echoing what Moody’s said at the end of May.

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“Tariffs are taxes, plain and simple..”

US To Slap Tariffs On Extra $200 Billion Of Chinese Imports (R.)

The Trump administration raised the stakes in its trade war with China on Tuesday, saying it would slap 10 percent tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. U.S. officials released a list of thousands of Chinese imports the administration wants to hit with the tariffs, including hundreds of food products as well as tobacco, chemicals, coal, steel and aluminum. It also includes consumer goods ranging from car tires, , furniture, wood products, handbags and suitcases, to dog and cat food, baseball gloves, carpets, doors, bicycles, skis, golf bags, toilet paper and beauty products. “For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in announcing the proposed tariffs.

“Rather than address our legitimate concerns, China has begun to retaliate against U.S. products … There is no justification for such action,” he said in a statement. Last week, Washington imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, and Beijing responded immediately with matching tariffs on the same amount of U.S. exports to China. Investors fear an escalating trade war between the world’s two biggest economies could hit global growth. President Donald Trump has said he may ultimately impose tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods – roughly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year. The new list published on Tuesday targets many more consumer goods than those covered under the tariffs imposed last week, raising the direct threat to consumers and retail firms.

The tariffs will not be imposed until after a two-month period of public comment on the proposed list, but some U.S. business groups and senior lawmakers were quick to criticize the move. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a senior member of Trump’s Republican Party, said the announcement “appears reckless and is not a targeted approach.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported Trump’s domestic tax cuts and efforts to reduce regulation of businesses, but it has been critical of Trump’s aggressive tariff policies. “Tariffs are taxes, plain and simple. Imposing taxes on another $200 billion worth of products will raise the costs of every day goods for American families, farmers, ranchers, workers, and job creators. It will also result in retaliatory tariffs, further hurting American workers,” a Chamber spokeswoman said.

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No.

Has the Fed Permanently Inflated Home Prices? (Whalen)

The importance of the fact that US bank credit metrics are showing essentially zero cost in residential lending from portfolio loans is that it begs the question as to home price valuations and thus loan-to-value (LTV) ratios. A number of analysts have predicted an imminent reset in terms of home prices, but this has not happened for several reasons. The chart below shows the Case-Shiller average for US home price appreciation. First, real estate is a local market, so generalizations such as Case-Shiller are dangerous. New York City has been slumping for the past two years, but other markets around the country such as Denver remain hot.

The work of Weiss Residential Research clearly shows a turn in some major urban markets that have been moving higher since 2012 and before. But these moves seem more a function of buyer exhaustion than a permanent move to a buyers market. They key factor is cheap money chasing a limited supply of homes. Second, the US home market is in a classic supply squeeze. Referring to the work of Laurie Goodman at Urban Institute, the US is adding less than 1 million new units per year net of attrition of obsolete homes. Basically, new household formation is 50% higher than the growth in new housing units. More, the Fed’s manipulation of interest rates and credit spreads encouraged Wall Street to allocate capital to buying residential homes as rental properties, further limiting supply of homes available for sale.

Net, net, Millennials have been priced out of the housing market because the omniscient souls on the Federal Open Market Committee think that boosting asset prices will lead to more spending and job creation. Instead, low interest rates and help from the GSES (Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie) have driven up home prices beyond the reach of many home owners in major metro areas.

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Stop. It.

Trump Forced To Reinstate ‘Catch And Release’ After Court Defeats (G.)

Donald Trump’s administration has said it will release some migrant families from detention with ankle monitors, marking a return to the so-called “catch-and-release” policy the president vehemently denounced. The announcement comes as the US government scrambles to reunite thousands of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. “Parents of children under the age of five are being reunified with their children, then released and enrolled into an alternative to detention (ATD) program, meaning they will be placed on an ankle monitor and released into the community,” said Matthew Albence, a senior official with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump administration was left with few options after a series of court orders. A federal judge last month ordered the reunification of children under five by 10 July. That deadline was not met, officials acknowledged, while noting plans were under way on Tuesday to reunite up to 54 migrant children under five with their parents. There are an estimated 102 migrant children under five in federal custody, with a limited number of cases not qualifying for reunification due to the parents’ criminal background or signs of child abuse. The administration additionally lost in an attempt to overturn a 1997 court precedent that says minors cannot be held for more than 20 days.

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What a job the new government has.

40% Of Mexican Territory Is Paralyzed By Violence (G.)

As much as 40% of Mexican territory is prisoner to chronic insecurity and violence, the future chief of staff of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the incoming president, has claimed. Alfonso Romo, a prominent entrepreneur who was part of the leftist’s watershed election triumph last week, made the assertion during a summit of business leaders on Monday in Mexico City. “Veracruz is paralyzed. Tamaulipas, paralyzed; Michoacán, paralyzed. Guerrero, paralyzed,” Romo said, referring to four of the most notoriously violent states in a country that last year suffered a record 29,000 murders.

“I won’t go on, so I don’t scare you,” Romo added, according to the newspaper Unomásuno which splashed the widely-reported claim onto its front page under the bright red headline: “Paralyzed by Insecurity”. López Obrador, or Amlo as he is widely known, made cutting violence a key prong of his third presidential bid and his promise to “pacify” Mexico helped him secure more than 30 million votes. Amlo has vowed to rethink Mexico’s devastating and highly militarized war on drugs – which experts blame for at least 200,000 deaths since 2006 – and be tough on the social causes of crime.

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Hard to believe.

EU Negotiator Michel Barnier Says 80% Of Brexit Deal Is Agreed (G.)

The chief Brexit negotiator for the European Union has declared that 80% of a deal with the UK has been agreed, in a change of narrative that suggests a full agreement can be sealed before October’s deadline. Speaking in New York on Tuesday, Michel Barnier said: “After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80% of the negotiations.” He added that he was determined to negotiate a deal on the remaining 20%. The declaration that four-fifths of the deal is done is a significant change of tone from the EU after months of protests that it could not negotiate because the UK had not put its own proposals on the table.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Barnier said he looked forward to a “constructive discussion” with the UK after the white paper on Brexit is published on Thursday. But he warned: “We need clarity for these negotiations to move forward for the time is very short.” Barnier said he had never been shown how Brexit provided added value when the world faced challenges from terrorism and climate change to migration, poverty and financial instability. “It will be clear, crystal clear at the end of this negotiation that the best situation, the best relationship with the EU, will be to remain a member,” he said. Barnier added: “No deal is the worst solution for everybody. It would be a huge economic problem for the UK and also for the EU. I’m not working for that deal, I’m working for a deal.”

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Fun with the Sun.

UK Government Draws Up Secret Plans To Stockpile Processed Food (Sun)

Ministers have drawn up secret plans to stockpile processed food in the event of EU divorce talks collapsing – to show Brussels that “no deal” is not a bluff. Theresa May has ordered “no deal” planning “to step up” — with the government poised to start unveiling some of the 300 contingency measures in the coming weeks. At last week’s Chequers summit, Brexiteer ministers demanded more be done to prepare for Britain leaving the EU out without a new arrangement in place. The Sun can reveal that includes emergency measures to keep Britain’s massive food and drinks industry afloat – including stockpiling ahead of exit day on 29 March next year.

More than £22 billion worth of processed food and drinks are imported in to the UK – 97 per cent from the EU – in an industry that keeps 400,000 workers employed in the UK. Similar stockpiles are also being prepared for medical supplies amid fears of chaos at British ports next year. Brexit department insiders also claim plans have also been “wargamed” to ease pressure on Calais, including importing and exporting more goods through Holland, Belgium and directly from Spain. Last night Downing Street said “no deal preparation work is to be stepped up” and led by new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Yesterday the Cabinet newbie briefed fellow ministers on measures Britain is taking, with No10 saying: “It’s sensible to make preparations for all scenarios and that includes No Deal.”

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Humanity.

Red Cross Tells UK: End Damaging Immigration Detention (Ind.)

The British Red Cross has called for an overhaul of the UK’s immigration detention system. Conditions are such that detainees suffer mental health problems which sometimes lead to suicide attempts, according to the charity. Thousands of innocent asylum seekers – often fleeing war and torture – are detained each year and locked up indefinitely with no support, the charity warned. In the first intervention of its kind by a major charity, the Red Cross calls for significant reforms including a 28-day limit on detention. It found cases of asylum-seekers being detained for as long as two years and seven months. Five of the 26 detainees interviewed for the report had attempted suicide while they were detained, and just 25 of them said they had been given no access to mental health support services.

Pregnant women continue to be “needlessly detained” in breach of the Home Office’s own guidance – with 47 pregnant women detained in the year to June 2017. The charity said the “overly onerous and traumatic” experience of attending immigration reporting centres – which many are required to do every every two weeks – should be overhauled by banning the practice of detaining people when they turn up. Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “Most of the people in the UK asylum process have fled conflict or persecution to find a place of safety. They have already experienced more trauma and anguish than the rest of us could possibly imagine.

“The threat of detention without notice hangs over many people going through the asylum process in the UK. Our research shows that not knowing whether this week will be the week they are detained again, can make the process of having to report regularly extremely distressing. “This can exacerbate existing mental health issues and mean people never truly feel free.”

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More humanity.

I’m A Doctor In Lampedusa. We Can’t Let These Migrant Deaths Go On (Bartolo)

For a long time, I was proud of my country. I work as a doctor on the small island of Lampedusa in the middle of the Mediterranean, a place that is something of a symbolic gateway between Africa and Europe. In recent decades, Italy showed how it could honour humanity, giving the word “welcome” a new meaning, without ever building walls or putting up barbed wire along its borders. These acts of openness were recognised by other countries, by the EU, and by the gratitude of the thousands of people whose lives we saved over the years. But I stopped feeling proud to be Italian from the moment our government, denying all that had previously been done, decided to establish an agreement with Libyan groups in Tripoli – which meant, directly or indirectly, with people smugglers.

I still remember how in 2016 my country had vigorously joined the outrage triggered by Europe’s decision to bankroll Turkey’s President Erdogan with €6bn so he’d ignore or stop the migration flows from Syria. Italy’s position was then sacrosanct. It has since been somehow inexplicably disavowed in deeds. There is only one dramatic difference between what Europe did with Turkey then and what Italy is doing with Libya today. Refugee camps set up in Turkey are more or less efficient; in Libya, people are detained in horror camps where they are raped, tortured and killed. Instead of the wall that Italy did not build on its own territory, we’ve erected two walls elsewhere. The one in Libya has allowed us to cut the number of arrivals on our shores by 70%; the other, within ourselves, allows us to pretend we don’t see what is being done to the 70%.

Well, I can tell you what’s being done to these people. From my workplace, the Lampedusa clinic, their fate is clear to see. They are tortured daily, atrociously, for years on end. Those brought to us, by helicopter or motorboat, are close to death, with burns, serious injuries from blows, electric currents applied to the head or genitals, gunshot wounds, and razor-blade cuts. They are almost always dehydrated, in a state of hypothermia, and so underfed they are on the brink of collapse. They bring to mind the suffering of a concentration camp – yes, a concentration camp.

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There will always be scientists willing to claim it’s not cancerous.

US Judge Allows Lawsuits Over Monsanto’s Roundup To Proceed To Trial (R.)

Hundreds of lawsuits against Monsanto by cancer survivors or families of those who died can proceed to trial, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday, finding there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases that blame the company’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer for the disease. The decision by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco followed years of litigation and weeks of hearings about the controversial science surrounding the safety of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weed-killer. Monsanto is now a unit of Bayer, following a $62.5 billion takeover of the U.S. seed major which closed in June. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last September concluded glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to humans.

But the World Health Organization in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Chhabria called the plaintiffs’ expert opinions “shaky” and entirely excluded the opinions of two scientists. But he said a reasonable jury could conclude, based on the findings of four experts he allowed, that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans. The plaintiffs will next have to prove Roundup caused cancer in specific people whose cases will be selected for test trials, a phase Chhabria in his Tuesday opinion called a “daunting challenge.” Lawsuits by more than 400 farmers, landscapers and consumers who claim Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cell cancer, have been consolidated before Chhabria.

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Good read on what went down. Amazing people. All the equipment that was brought in. All the mud that was removed. Wow.

Thailand Water Pumps Failed Just After Last Boy Escaped (G.)

The rescue operation to free the last of the 12 boys and their football coach from a Thailand cave could have been a disaster, divers have revealed, with water pumps draining the area failing just hours after the last boy had been evacuated. Divers and rescue workers were still more than 1.5km inside the cave clearing up equipment when the main pump failed, leading water levels to rapidly increase, three Australian divers involved in the operation told the Guardian on Wednesday, in the first detailed account of the mission to be published. The trio, stationed at “chamber three”, a base inside the cave, said they heard screaming and saw a rush of head torches from deeper inside the tunnel as workers scrambled to reach dry ground. Everyone, including the last three Thai navy Seals and medic who had spent much of the past week keeping vigil with the trapped boys, was out of the cave a short time later.

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