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.

Read more …

“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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

Jul 102018
 
 July 10, 2018  Posted by at 12:31 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Herri met de Bles Landscape with Saint Christopher 1535 – 1545

 

It is a strange world where in some parts of the globe children are left to drown when the rubber dinghies they are put in to escape warfare and poverty in order to reach a place where they are expected to be able to grow up in peace and safety and have an education and a future, fail to carry them there, while in other parts they are put in cages and camps, torn away from their families, simply for looking for a better life and future, and at the same time other children just like them are rescued by heroes bigger than life from all over the planet, from a cave they are trapped in, in a no holds or costs barred operation.

What is the difference between these children that could ever justify such divergent treatments? They themselves surely would never be able to answer such a question. But that is all the more reason to ask them. And if they don’t understand, how can we? And if we don’t understand, why is it happening? Why do we allow it to happen? In Thailand, mankind shows it very much possesses humanity. In the Mediterranean and along the US border, it shows that it has none. The two can’t both be true at the same time.

What now? It’s not difficult. From Arab Weekly, writing about the EU’s request to Egypt to set up ‘Regional Disembarkation Centres’ in the country:

Instead of asking economically struggling countries to act as refugee hosts, European leaders need to solve the problems that cause these refugees to leave their countries in the first place, particularly the unrest that has engulfed many countries, Egyptian specialists said.

“The solution to the problem will be to resettle these refugees in their countries,” said Youssef al-Metany, a refugee lawyer at local NGO Egyptian Network for International Law. “This can only happen when the conflicts raging in these countries are settled.”

See? We all know the answer. What we need is the same courage and selflessness that the cave divers in Thailand have demonstrated over the past week. Yes, one died, bless his soul, but he knew there are more important things than one’s own life. One of them is children. Another is honor. And yet another is humanity. Let’s make it happen. Let’s save them all.

Hooyah!

 

 

Jul 012018
 
 July 1, 2018  Posted by at 8:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Giuseppe Leone Ragusa Sicily 1953

 

US Dollar Hegemony Tripped Up by Chinese Renminbi? Um, No (WS)
Even Eva Peron Would Be Crying… (ZH)
No Chance Of Brexit Deal By October Says EU (Ind.)
VW CEO Says Arrest Of Audi’s Stadler Hard To Comprehend (R.)
Trump Claims Saudi Arabia Has Agreed To Boost Oil Production Amid Turmoil (G.)
Trump Ally Giuliani Says End Is Near For Iran’s Rulers (R.)
The EU Is Killing Our Democratic Spaces Using Copyright As A Trojan Horse (OD)
Angela Merkel Secures Asylum Seeker Return Deals With 14 EU Countries (Ind.)
Hungary, Poland & Czech Republic Deny Sealing Migrant Deal With Merkel (RT)
EU’s New Refugee Policy Under Fire As Children Stuck In Limbo In Niger (G.)
End Of The Bailouts And Onto A Path To A New Bankruptcy (Economides)
Deluge Of Electronic Waste Turning Thailand Into ‘World’s Rubbish Dump’ (G.)
Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity (Bridge)

 

 

Rumors about the demise of the dollar are greatly…

US Dollar Hegemony Tripped Up by Chinese Renminbi? Um, No (WS)

Global central banks are not dumping US-dollar-denominated assets from their foreign exchange reserves. They’re not dumping euro-denominated assets either. And they remain leery of the Chinese renminbi – despite China’s place as the second largest economy in the world and despite all the hoopla of turning the renminbi into a major global reserve currency. This is clear from the IMF’s just released “Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves” (COFER) data for the first quarter 2018. The IMF is very stingy with what it discloses. The COFER data for each individual country – each country’s specific holdings of reserve currencies – is “strictly confidential.” But it does disclose the global allocation of each major currency.

In Q1 2018, total global foreign exchange reserves, including all currencies, rose 6.3% year-over-year, or by $878 billion, to $11.59 trillion, within the upper range of the past three years (from $10.7 trillion in Q4 2016 to $11.8 trillion in Q3, 2014). For reporting purposes, the IMF converts all currency balances into US dollars. This data was for Q1. The dollar bottomed out in the middle of the quarter and has since been rising. US-dollar-denominated assets among foreign exchange reserves continued to dominate in Q1 at $6.5 trillion, or 62.5% of “allocated” reserves (more on this “allocated” in a moment).

[..] The RMB is the thin red sliver in the pie chart below with a share of just 1.39% of allocated foreign exchange reserves. Minuscule as it is, it is the highest share ever, up from 1.2% in Q4 2017. In other words, its inclusion in the SDR basket hasn’t exactly performed miracles as central banks seem to remain leery of it and have not yet displayed any kind of eagerness to hold RMB-denominated assets.

[..] Note the term “allocated” reserves. Not all central banks disclose to the IMF how their overall foreign exchange reserves are allocated by specific currency. But over the years, more and more central banks have disclosed their holdings to the IMF, and the mystery portion has been shrinking. Back in Q4 2014, unallocated reserves – the undisclosed mystery portion – accounted for 41% of total reserves. In Q1, only 10.3% of the reserves remained undisclosed. [..] folks who’ve been eagerly anticipating “the death of the dollar” or similar scenarios will have to be very patient.

Since 1965, the dollar’s share has fluctuated sharply, and the current share of 62.5% remains in the middle of the range. The chart below shows the dollar’s share at year-end for each of the past 52 years, plus for Q1 2018. Note its low point in 1991 with a share of 46%. And note that the Financial Crisis made no visible dent:

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Don’t cry 4-3 Argentina.

Even Eva Peron Would Be Crying… (ZH)

The last 24 hours have not been great for Argentina. First – despite endless jawboning about The IMF bailout and how it will secure the nation’s future and enable reforms, the currency collapsed to a new record low on Friday…

Second – the central bank decided to step in with their newly minted IMF funds and blew over a billion dollars to buy pesos, managing a very modest bounce (but ARS still closed down 3% on the day)

Third – IMF officials spoke with Argentina’s union leaders, warning of the social impact of the ongoing disruptions. IMF spokesman Raphael Anspach confirmed Werner and Cardarelli’s participation in the call, which “reiterated the main elements of the IMF support to the government’s economic plans, including the measures aimed at supporting the most vulnerable in Argentine society.” And union officials told the media that The IMF was not worried about the ongoing collapse: “They are betting on a virtuous behavior by private investors, with the economy falling in the third and fourth quarters of 2018, but rebounding 1.5% in the first quarter of 2019” “They were not worried about the flight of capital”

Fourth, and finally, and perhaps worst of all – Argentina is now out of The World Cup. A nation mourns.

Read more …

The British people don’t seem to have a clue what this means.

No Chance Of Brexit Deal By October Says EU (Ind.)

EU negotiators have abandoned all hope that a Brexit deal will be signed with the UK at October’s European Council summit, The Independent has learned. Brussels officials said a complete standstill in talks with Britain means securing settlements on major outstanding issues in the remaining three-and-a-half months is fanciful. They point to the political logjam in Theresa May’s government as the obstacle blocking negotiations, piling pressure on the prime minister to break the deadlock this week. She is set to meet her full cabinet on Friday at Chequers for a meeting that may go late into the night, in a bid to finally thrash out the government’s approach to post-Brexit relations with the EU.

The EU officials were speaking after last week’s European Council summit which saw the bloc focus on tackling immigration from north Africa, while warning Ms May that time to secure a deal is now running out. One Brussels insider said: “There is no hope really for October now. We don’t know exactly what she is asking for yet, so how can there be? “First the UK needs to decide what it wants, then there needs to be a discussion here and even if it is acceptable, there are processes that have to take place first before everyone agrees to move forward.” Another source close to the European Commission told The Independent: “Now we are looking at December as a more likely option, but there are questions about how much time that leaves for the deal to be ratified in time before March.”

Read more …

VW owns Audi.

VW CEO Says Arrest Of Audi’s Stadler Hard To Comprehend (R.)

The CEO of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, told a German newspaper the arrest of Audi head Rupert Stadler was a shock and hard to comprehend. VW has suspended Stadler, head of VW’s most profitable brand, after German authorities arrested him as part of an emissions probe. “It was a massive shock for me. The arrest of a CEO of a major car brand: that’s never happened before,” Diess told Germany newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “The arrest is hard to comprehend. I knew Rupert Stadler as a problem solver,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Diess said that for him, Stadler was innocent until proven guilty. Stadler, who has not made any public comment, has not been charged and prosecutors are set to continue questioning him next week. Asked whether he could imagine Stadler returning, Diess said it depended on what facts emerge: “Should the accusations of the state prosecutors prove to be true, then it’s a clear decision.”

Read more …

2 millions barrels a day in spare capacity? Don’t think so. He may have to ask Putin to join in.

Trump Claims Saudi Arabia Has Agreed To Boost Oil Production Amid Turmoil (G.)

Donald Trump said on Saturday he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom would increase oil production “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels”, in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets. Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to increase oil production “to make up the difference … Prices to [sic] high! He has agreed!” A little over an hour later, the state-run Saudi Press Agency acknowledged the call, but offered few details. “During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” the statement said.

It added that there also was an understanding that oil-producing countries would need “to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies”. It did not elaborate. Oil prices have edged higher as the Trump administration has pushed US allies to end all purchases of oil from Iran. Prices have also risen given ongoing unrest in Venezuela, as well as with fighting in Libya over control of that country’s oil infrastructure. Last week, members of the OPEC cartel led by Saudi Arabia agreed to pump 1m barrels more crude oil per day, a move that should help contain the recent rise in global energy prices. However, summer months in the US usually lead to increased demand for oil, which would push up the price of gasoline in a midterm election year. A gallon of regular gasoline sold on average in the US for $2.85, up from $2.23 a gallon last year.

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But Putin.

Trump Ally Giuliani Says End Is Near For Iran’s Rulers (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump will suffocate Iran’s “dictatorial ayatollahs”, his close ally Rudy Giuliani said on Saturday, suggesting his move to re-impose sanctions was aimed squarely at regime change. The former New York mayor who is now Trump’s personal lawyer, was addressing a conference of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Shi’ite Muslim clerical rule in Iran. “I can’t speak for the president, but it sure sounds like he doesn’t think there is much of a chance of a change in behavior unless there is a change in people and philosophy,” Giuliani told Reuters in an interview.

“We are the strongest economy in the world … and if we cut you off then you collapse,” he said, pointing to protests in Iran. In May, Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 international deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting some sanctions. Trump supporters have spoken at NCRI events in the past, including national security adviser John Bolton, who, before taking his post at the same conference last July, told the group’s members they would be ruling Iran before 2019 and their goal should be regime change. Bolton said in May that the administration’s policy was to make sure Iran never got nuclear weapons and not regime change.

In Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump would fail in any attempt to turn the Iranian people against the ruling system. “They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six U.S. presidents before him (Trump) tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei said on his website.

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From DiEM 25 members: “..a tool to control speech, expression, criticism and increase the surveillance levels imposed on all EU citizens.

The EU Is Killing Our Democratic Spaces Using Copyright As A Trojan Horse (OD)

Europe was one of the regions that connected massively to the Internet. Not only that, it was one of the few adopting literacy and inclusion programs early enough on to unleash the power of connected citizens, showing them how to create new business models and improve education but also how to express themselves, create, organize and protest. But alarmingly, the European Parliament is on the verge of a dramatic change of direction. The EU has recently embarked on a new mission: controlling the Internet through the monopoly of copyright. This attempt to reform and control the Internet has not received half the attention it deserves.

As Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, has explained, the current project of EU legislation would impose automatic filters that control ANY content that anyone wants to upload. The reason would be the protection of copyright, a monopoly right that primarily benefits large media behemoths, without any possibility of advance verification. You read that right: the EU wants to put in place a global censorship machine, on the basis of unverifiable monopoly rights, mostly held by large media corporations. In DiEM25, we do not see this as just an outdated law, isolated from current politics. Indeed, that is precisely what is most worrying about it.

We cannot see it as unconnected to the big push in Europe by authoritarian leaders wanting to restrict, to truly shrink the spaces of civil society. Increasing censorship online will reduce the ability of citizens to say what they think, filtering content before it is published. This will not only harm speech but increase surveillance and the meting out of punishments for things we say online. This is combined with all the existing online state surveillance already endured by EU citizens, which remains as powerful as ever. With dismay, we are witnessing now an open boycott of the democratic achievement of a connected Europe. The European Parliament Legal Committee has just given the green light to a law that will be a tool to control speech, expression, criticism and increase the surveillance levels imposed on all EU citizens.

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It’s all and only about Save Angela now. Not about the refugees.

Angela Merkel Secures Asylum Seeker Return Deals With 14 EU Countries (Ind.)

Angela Merkel has reportedly secured agreements with 14 European Union countries to rapidly return some asylum seekers arriving in Germany. The chancellor is seeking to end a divide in her coalition government over a migration policy that has attracted ire from immigration hardliners. Ms Merkel has said she also wants to establish “anchor centres” to process migrants at Germany’s borders, the DPA news agency reported on Saturday. The announcements came in a letter Ms Merkel wrote to leaders of her Christian Democratic Union’s Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, as well as to her junior coalition government partner, the Social Democrats, after she attended a two-day EU summit in Brussels.

Ms Merkel on Friday came away from an EU summit with agreements from Greece and Spain to take back migrants previously registered in those countries, and an overall agreement by the 28-nation bloc to ease the pressures of migration into Europe. In the eight-page letter obtained Saturday by DPA, the chancellor said that she had also secured agreement with half of the EU nations to return migrants to them if they had first registered in those countries. The countries included Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, which have all been harsh critics of Ms Merkel’s welcoming stance to migrants, as well as Belgium, France, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

In addition, the chancellor threw her support behind establishing large collection centres in Germany for migrants as their cases are processed. DPA reported the centres would be used for migrants who attempt to bypass border controls and for those whose cases don’t fall under bilateral return agreements.

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And so she stretches the truth a little here and there. Save Angela.

Hungary, Poland & Czech Republic Deny Sealing Migrant Deal With Merkel (RT)

Three EU countries have denied reaching any final agreement with Germany on the return of migrants to the country of entry, despite Angela Merkel’s claim she’d received “political consent” from 14 EU nations to strike such a deal. “No such deal has been reached,” spokesman for Hungary’s government Zoltan Kovacs said, adding that Budapest has repeatedly rejected German attempts to “return” migrants to their first country of entry into the EU. Similar statements have been produced by Poland and the Czech Republic, which also denied reaching any agreements on the matter. “There are no any new agreements regarding the reception of asylum seekers from EU countries, we confirm (that), like the Czech Republic and Hungary,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Artur Lompart said.

Earlier on Saturday, media reported that, during the EU summit, 14 European countries, including some outspoken opponents of German Chancellor’s ‘open door’ policy, had allegedly “consented on a political level” to make a deal on taking migrants back. The document on the deal has been sent by Merkel to her coalition partners, according to Reuters. “At the moment, Dublin repatriations from Germany succeed in only 15% of cases,” the document says, as quoted by Reuters. “We will sign administrative agreements with various member states… to speed the repatriation process and remove obstacles.”

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But Save Angela.

EU’s New Refugee Policy Under Fire As Children Stuck In Limbo In Niger (G.)

Stop people in Africa, before they get anywhere near the Mediterranean, and sort them into refugees and migrants there, only allowing the refugees to continue to Europe. This was the big idea that came out of last week’s EU migration summit. But campaigners say the predicament of 260 children stuck in limbo in Niger demonstrates that there is no guarantee EU countries would eventually take the refugees, even if African countries agreed to this arrangement. In November, amid horrific tales of Africans being enslaved, imprisoned and tortured in Libya, Niger agreed to act as a halfway house for refugees that UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, had identified and could get out.

Evacuated from detention camps in Libya, the unaccompanied minors are among 1,200 people waiting in Niger for resettlement. Mainly aged 14 to 17, they were all in detention, and most are deeply traumatised by the violence they experienced and witnessed there. But so far no country has agreed to take them. “In Europe we have been talking a lot about legal pathways,” said UNHCR’s representative in Niger, Alessandra Morelli. “If we want to combat trafficking, if people in need of international protection, who fit the profile of asylum seekers, get out of that flow, I have to offer an alternative. Otherwise, what are we talking about here? But when I take them out I have no alternative. You see? This is our fight.” About 54,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been identified in Libya, but no more can leave until the 1,200 in Niger have been processed.

[..] One aspect of the migration deal reached on Friday looked to fall apart before it had even begun: four European countries – Austria, France, Germany and Italy – said they would not open “controlled centres” to assess asylum claims of people who had been rescued from the Mediterranean. At the same time they are asking some of the world’s poorest and least secure countries to do what Europe will not.

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“Is there a solution for Greece? Yes, but it is in quite the opposite direction of the EU and IMF plans this far.”

End Of The Bailouts And Onto A Path To A New Bankruptcy (Economides)

Last week’s Eurogroup set up the final conditions for the end of the third Greek bailout program in August. Since 2010, Greece has borrowed 275 billion euros from European Union countries and the IMF. Greece also shed 100 billion euros of private debt in an agreement with the borrowers in 2012. However, present debt is still over 300 billion euros for an economy of officially 185 billion GDP (plus 30% unaccounted illegal income). Thus, debt to gross domestic product remains extremely high. Even though the borrowing is over, the EU and the IMF have imposed new long-term austerity conditions on the Greek economy, including additional sharp pension decreases and the requirement that Greece produces a 3.5% of GDP budget surplus.

To achieve this, the government has imposed skyrocketing taxes including a 24% value-added tax (and plans to increase taxes to those making as little as 6,000 euros a year). Taxes suck out all the extra cash businesses and people have. Investment has plummeted, and consumption is 25% lower than a few years ago. Unemployment is at 23% but this number is misleadingly low because those working only two days a week are considered employed. With huge taxes and a business-unfriendly bureaucracy, Greece is unlikely to attract investment and will not achieve fast growth. Without growth, the country will be unable to pay back its debt in full despite a 10-year postponement of maturities on one-third of its debt granted by the EU last Thursday.

[..] Is there a solution for Greece? Yes, but it is in quite the opposite direction of the EU and IMF plans this far. Greece needs to achieve fast growth, 4-5% per year, for five years, and start paying its debt after that. To achieve high growth, the country needs to abandon the multi-year 3.5% surplus target for the much more reasonable 1.5-2% target. With lower surpluses, lower taxes and less bureaucracy, Greece will be able to attract investment and realize high growth. Once it has achieved high growth and its economy has expanded, only then will Greece start paying its debt, and it will be able to pay its debt in full over time.

Instead, the EU/IMF plan forces the country to create huge surpluses when its economy is hurting, thereby driving it in a downward spiral. Imposing the requirement of large surpluses now is catastrophic and forces Greece to take a path of low or zero growth and misery. Greece will never be able to pay back its debt in full on this path.

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They seem to be waking up. But then it’ll all just go to a poorer place.

Deluge Of Electronic Waste Turning Thailand Into ‘World’s Rubbish Dump’ (G.)

At a deserted factory outside Bangkok, skyscrapers made from vast blocks of crushed printers, Xbox components and TVs tower over black rivers of smashed-up computer screens. This is a tiny fraction of the estimated 50m tonnes of electronic waste created just in the EU every year, a tide of toxic rubbish that is flooding into south-east Asia from the EU, US and Japan. Thailand, with its lax environmental laws, has become a dumping ground for this e-waste over the past six months, but authorities are clamping down, fearful that the country will become the “rubbish dump of the world”. The global implications could be enormous.

A factory visited by the Guardian in Samut Prakan province, south of Bangkok, which was recently shut down in a raid for operating illegally, illustrated the mammoth scale of the problem. Printers made by Dell and HP, Daewoo TVs and Apple computer drives were stacked sky-high next to precarious piles of compressed keyboards, routers and copy machines. Labels showed the waste had mainly come from abroad. For locals, it is unclear why Thailand should be taking this waste. The Samut Prakan factory sits in the middle of hundreds of shrimp farms and there were concerns it was poisoning the landscape, with no environmental protections or oversight in place.

Until the beginning of this year, China was a willing recipient of the world’s electronic waste, which it recycled in vast factories. According to the UN, 70% of all electronic waste was ending up in China. But in January, having calculated that the environmental impact far outweighed the short-term profit, China closed its gates to virtually all foreign rubbish. It has prompted something of a global crisis, not just for e-waste but plastic waste as well. Asian nations such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia stepped in. Chinese businessmen have set about attempting to open about 100 plastic and e-waste recycling plants across Thailand since January.

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“Like a Hollywood villain falling into a crucible of molten steel only to turn up later in some altered state, Monsanto has been subsumed under the Orwellian-sounding ‘Bayer Crop Science’ division..”

Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity (Bridge)

On what plane of reality is it possible that two of the world’s most morally bankrupt corporations, Bayer and Monsanto, can be permitted to join forces in what promises to be the next stage in the takeover of the world’s agricultural and medicinal supplies? Warning, plot spoiler: There is no Mr. Hyde side in this horror story of epic proportions; it’s all Dr. Jekyll. Like a script from a David Lynch creeper, Bayer AG of poison gas fame has finalized its $66 billion purchase of Monsanto, the agrochemical corporation that should be pleading the Fifth in the dock on Guantanamo Bay instead of enjoying what amounts to corporate asylum and immunity from crimes against humanity. Such are the special privileges that come from being an above-the-law transnational corporation.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing Bayer did after taking on Monsanto, saddled as it is with the extra baggage of ethic improprieties, was to initiate a rebrand campaign. Like a Hollywood villain falling into a crucible of molten steel only to turn up later in some altered state, Monsanto has been subsumed under the Orwellian-sounding ‘Bayer Crop Science’ division, whose motto is: “Science for a better life.” Yet Bayer itself provides little protective cover for Monsanto considering its own patchy history of corporate malfeasance. Far beyond its widely known business of peddling pain relief for headaches, the German-based company played a significant role in the introduction of poison gas on the battlefields of World War I.

Despite a Hague Convention ban on the use of chemical weapons since 1907, Bayer CEO Carl Duisberg, who sat on a special commission set up by the German Ministry of War, knew a business opportunity when he saw one. Duisberg witnessed early tests of poison gas and had nothing but glowing reports on the horrific new weapon: “The enemy won’t even know when an area has been sprayed with it and will remain quietly in place until the consequences occur.” Bayer, which built a department specifically for the research and development of gas agents, went on to develop increasingly lethal chemical weapons, such as phosgene and mustard gas. “This phosgene is the meanest weapon I know,” Duisberg remarked with a stunning disregard for life, as if he were speaking about the latest bug spray. “I strongly recommend that we not let the opportunity of this war pass without also testing gas grenades.”

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