May 192019
 
 May 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Caravaggio The calling of St. Matthew 1599-1600

 

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)
Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)
Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)
Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)
UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)
Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)
Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)
France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)
Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

 

 

Changing the look and feel of our towns and cities beyond recognition.

E-Commerce Crushes Mall Retailers One by One (WS)

E-commerce sales in the first quarter soared 12.4% from a year ago to $127.3 billion (not seasonally adjusted), the Commerce Department reported on Friday. Last year, e-commerce sales blew through the $500-billion level for the first time ($513.6 billion). For 2019, e-commerce is on track to hit $575 billion, an increase of $61 billion. Over the past five years, e-commerce sales have doubled. On a seasonally adjusted basis, e-commerce sales in Q1 hit an all-time high of $137.7 billion. E-commerce includes sales by the online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers. The top ones have huge and thriving online operations: Walmart, Home Depot, BestBuy, and Macy’s in that order are the fourth through seventh largest e-commerce sites in the US, behind Amazon, eBay, and Apple. So this is the business Macy’s brick-and-mortar stores are in:

But none of the major retailers, with one exception, disclose just how much of their own booming e-commerce sales have eaten into their brick-and-mortar sales. Macy’s, for example, just reported a decline in net sales in Q1 compared to a year ago, but “double-digit growth in our digital business” – the only thing Macy’s said about its e-commerce sales. With overall revenues declining and e-commerce sales booming, its brick-and-mortar operations must have been beset by plunging sales. But Macy’s keeps this data secret.

[..] People say that e-commerce accounts for only a small portion of total retail sales (10.2% in Q1) and therefore doesn’t matter. But this is misleading because e-commerce has not yet made major inroads into sales at gasoline stations, auto dealers, and grocery and beverage stores that together account for 52% of all brick-and-mortar sales. With those taken out of the tally, e-commerce now amounts to 23.6% of the remaining 48% of retail sales.

The stores that are directly targeted by e-commerce are the classic mall stores: Department stores (Sears Holdings, Bon-Ton Stores); book stores (see Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks); video stores (Blockbuster); music stores (Tower Records); hardware and hobby (Orchard Supply Hardware); toy stores (Toys ‘R’ Us); jewelry and accessory stores (Claire Stores); sporting goods stores (Sports Authority); electronics and appliance stores (Circuit City, CompUSA); clothing and clothing accessory stores (Limited Stores, Pacific Sunwear, Aeropostale); and shoe stores (Payless Shoe Source).

So yes, e-commerce is only 10.2% of total retail sales. But it has already killed entire retailer categories, such as video stores, and is killing others while it is leaving other retailer categories essentially unscathed, such as gas stations, auto dealers, and grocery stores – though that may change in the future.

Read more …

The chasm is a mile wide. And impeachment is even further away than that.

Democrats Run Out Of Stunts To Pull From Impeachment Playbook (Turley)

Democrats had called for Mueller to appear before them on Wednesday. Mueller did not show, despite Barr showing a willingness to have him testify. Instead, the committee called for a hearing with constitutional experts to discuss the executive privilege claims raised by the White House. I was one of those experts, and the hearing did not exactly turn out as the Democrats planned. They have insisted that President Trump had already waived privilege to undisclosed evidence shown to Mueller. The committee witnesses, however, agreed that there is no such waiver. Worse, the witnesses agreed that Barr could not release the “full and unredacted report” to Congress including any grand jury, or Rule 6(e), evidence. That is in direct contradiction to weeks of demands for the unredacted report along with a subpoena that demanded disclosure of the entire report.

The committee maintained that “neither Rule 6(e) nor any applicable privilege barred disclosure of these materials to Congress.” Yet, the expert witnesses it called on have now testified that is not true. As I noted to the committee, the subpoena, which is the very basis for the earlier contempt vote, was demanding an unlawful act from Barr, and the committee then held him in contempt for not committing that unlawful act. The key to setting up someone for contempt of Congress is to draft a subpoena that he might actually be able to legally fulfill. Notably, despite all of the punditry and cable news coverage of it, the contempt citation has not yet been submitted to the full House for a vote, let alone to a court for review. That is probably not because the contempt case is too strong.

[..] One reason for the waning audience is that Democrats are stepping on their own lines. The week that their witnesses were contradicting the position of the House Judiciary Committee and the staff was marketing Mueller CDs, Democrats held a closed door party caucus. In it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told Democratic members she has no intention of moving on impeachment. Imitating disgruntled Democratic voters, Pelosi said, “Some of our folks are a little bit ‘Why are we not impeaching the president?” She then added, “They get a little down.”

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Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament: “What links Strache, Le Pen, Salvini & Farage? They are all far-right, they all do Russia’s bidding & they all want to destroy the EU. They say they are patriots, I say they are traitors to traditional European values & freedoms.”

Collusion all over again. Blame someone else, never yourself.

The right has no choice but to unite, the EU parliament contains blocks of parties from at least 7 nations that are required to get seats. But what do these people really agree on?

Salvini and Le Pen Rally To Unite European Nationalists In Milan (EN)

Nationalist parties from across Europe held a rally on Saturday in Milan promising to reshape the continent through next week’s EU parliamentary election. Headlining the event was Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally (RN). The two populists are eager for their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group to become the third largest party in Brussels. “There are no extremists, racists or fascists in this square,” Salvini said. “Here you won’t find the far-right, but the politics of good sense. The extremists are those who have governed Europe for the past 20 years.” Thousands of flag-waving supporters of Salvini’s League party packed a rain-soaked central Milan square to see far-right and anti-immigrant leaders from 11 European Union countries present a common front in their battle to pull back power from Brussels.


“This is a historic moment,” said RN leader Marine Le Pen, “we say no to this immigration which has submerged our nations, putting our people at risk,” she said, playing up an issue that has helped fuel support for nationalist groups. Hundreds of opponents gathered on the sidelines, their boos, jeers and whistles sometimes drowning out the speakers. “Fascists leave Milan,” they chanted as Salvini took the stage. The ENF also includes Austria’s Freedom Party, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, whose head Geert Wilders was present in Milan. But despite their shared dislike of immigration and the EU, Europe’s populists remain divided on many key issues on the continent, including budgetary discipline, migrant distribution and relations with Moscow.

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He hides £450,000. They can fine him £8,800. Nuff said.

Nigel Farage Faces Investigation By EU Parliament Over Undeclared Gifts (Ind.)

Nigel Farage is facing an investigation by European parliament authorities over claims that he failed to declare nearly half a million pounds in gifts from an insurance tycoon under investigation by the National Crime Agency. It was claimed this week that the Brexit Party leader has been given as much as £450,000 in kind by Arron Banks, including a chauffeur-driven car, rent and bills on a £4.4m Chelsea home, and lavish trips to the United States to meet with right-wing politicians. But none of the gifts, detailed in invoices seen by Channel 4 News, were declared on Mr Farage’s register of interests with the European parliament, which is designed to prevent MEPs from keeping their conflicts of interests secret. In a letter seen by The Independent, one of the European parliament’s quaestors – MEPs responsible for the body’s financial and administrative matters – calls on the parliament’s presidency to “investigate these apparent contraventions as a matter of urgency”.

The push for an inquiry comes days before British voters are set to go to the polls for the European parliament elections, with Mr Farage’s Brexit Party thought to be heading for a runaway victory with an anti-EU, anti-establishment message. “As you will be aware, the code of conduct for members of the European parliament with respect to financial interests and conflicts of interest, in particular Article 6(1) of the implementing measures, makes it clear that members shall disclose their attendance at events organised by third parties where the reimbursement of their travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses, or the direct payments of such expenses, is covered by a third party,” Catherine Bearder, the quaestor who is also a Liberal Democrat MEP, said in the letter to Antonio Tajani, president of the European parliament.

“I can see no reference to any of the reported travel or accommodation subsidies related to Mr Farage’s US tour on any of his declarations of financial interests on the parliament’s website.” She noted that Mr Banks was “currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the source of his funding for the Brexit campaign”. [..] Under European parliament rules, Mr Farage could be fined up to around €10,000 (£8,800) through withholding of his subsistence allowance if he is found to have broken the rules. [..] Last year, in a separate run-in with expenses rules, Mr Farage had his MEP salary docked by more than £35,000 to recoup misspent EU funds intended for the staffing of his office.

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Not a much loved man. For good reason if you ask me.

UK Tories Will Split If Boris Johnson Becomes Leader, Warn MPs (Ind.)

Electing Boris Johnson leader on a no-deal Brexit ticket would risk a permanent split in the Conservative Party, a former minister has warned. The former foreign secretary has established himself as firm favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister in a contest many in Westminster expect to be triggered within weeks. It comes as the prime minister prepares to deliver a speech on Brexit this week, in what a government source billed as a “bold offer” to MPs in a last-ditch attempt to build support for her beleaguered Brexit bill in the Commons. A poll conducted shortly after he confirmed he would stand on Thursday put him on 39 per cent support among party members, well ahead of his nearest rival Dominic Raab on 13 per cent.

But he must first win his way through an MPs’ vote onto the shortlist of two presented to the membership in the country. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently thought to be leading in the race to sign up MP supporters, with Mr Johnson, Mr Raab and Michael Gove grouped together some way behind, and a wide range of other potential candidates yet to make real inroads. But Phillip Lee, who quit Ms May’s government last year over her EU withdrawal policy, told The Independent that Mr Johnson would risk the Conservatives’ hold on power and the future of the party if he took it down a no-deal route.

It would be a “sweet irony” if the Brexit figurehead found himself forced to deliver a Final Say referendum because there was no majority in parliament for no deal, he said. “I don’t think it is necessarily a personality who splits the party, I think the policy might,” said Mr Lee, who now chairs the Right to Vote group of Tory advocates of a referendum. “I don’t think a no-deal Brexit leaves the party intact. If that becomes the policy of the winning candidate, expect interesting times to follow.”

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More panic. Everybody panics now. Like they couldn’t have seen this coming.

Labour Panics As Remain Voters Switch To Liberal Democrats (G.)

Senior Labour figures were engaged in a desperate battle to shore up the party’s support on Saturday night, amid warnings that its stance on Brexit was helping to “detoxify the Lib Dems”. With just days left before the European elections at which Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is expected to triumph, shadow cabinet ministers are among those concerned that Labour’s ambiguous position on Brexit has helped revive the Lib Dems. It comes as new polling seen by the Observer suggests Vince Cable’s party is running in first place in London and could even beat Labour overall.

One senior party figure warned: “If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem.” Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said “lifelong Labour voters” would not back the party this week due to its Brexit stance. He added: “It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation.”

The fears came as it emerged that: • London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged that he will campaign for Remain “day and night” in any second referendum, as he urged voters, in an article for the Observer, to back Labour to stop a Farage victory. • Theresa May is planning to make one last “bold offer” to MPs in a desperate attempt to secure support for her Brexit deal, including changes demanded by Labour, Democratic Unionist and Tory MPs and a new round of indicative votes. • Labour MPs revealed they were already drawing up attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit should a hardline Brexiter replace May as prime minister, with some suggesting that revoking Brexit had to be a fall-back option.

An Opinium poll for the Observer found that the Liberal Democrats have narrowly overtaken Labour as the favourite party of remain voters, with 29% of the group now backing Cable’s party and 28% backing Labour.

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Not the plane, the simulator. Nobody has one, and won’t before Christmas. But they intend to fly the planes by August.

Boeing Acknowledges Flaw In 737 MAX Simulator Software (AFP)

Boeing acknowledged Saturday it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people. “Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement. The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem, and whether it informed regulators. Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October. The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added. Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.”

American Airlines, which has 24 of the aircraft, said it had ordered a 737 MAX simulator that will be delivered and put into operation in December. Only Air Canada has a MAX simulator, industry sources told AFP. Currently, there is only one flight simulator specific to the 737 MAX in the United States, and it is owned by Boeing, according to FAA documentation. US airlines train their pilots flying the MAX on a simulator built for the 737 NG, the version preceding the 737 MAX in the 737 aircraft family. [..] US airlines have targeted August as the date they expect to resume flying on the 737 MAX.

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Every single week the press cites the government saying numbers are down. Not credible. And Macron still suffers from foot in mouth disease: “democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons “

Democracy plays out everywhere and all the time.

France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Mark Six Months Of Protests (AFP)

“Yellow vest” protesters turned out across France Saturday to mark six months of rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, but with their numbers dwindling, according to a government tally. A day after Macron appeared to draw a line under the movement, yellow jacket activists – named after the fluorescent vests they wear – marched in Paris and several other cities for the 27th consecutive week. The count from the interior ministry – routinely dismissed by yellow jackets – put the numbers across France at 15,500, of whom 1,600 marched in Paris. That was down again from last week’s count of 18,600, suggesting a steady decline. The yellow jackets’ own tally put the nationwide total at 41,000.


The numbers were nevertheless certainly down from the massive turn-out at the beginning of the movement, when nearly 300,000 people protested across the country on November 17 in what became one of the biggest challenges to Macron’s government. But many of those who turned out on Saturday were determined to keep going. “When I hear Macron say that he has done his bit, I can’t agree, and that motivates me even more,” said Virginie, an executive secretary marching in the southern city of Montpellier. On Friday, Macron said he felt he had answered the questions raised by the movement and that there was no more to be done politically. Those who had other ideas about how the country should be governed should run for office themselves, he said. “But democracy is not played out on Saturday afternoons,” he added.

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Free market: “..a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment..”

Four More Chinese Cities Warned Over Pace Of Home Price Growth (R.)

China’s housing regulator has urged four more cities to prevent their residential property markets from overheating in the latest sign that authorities are not about to relax their grip on the real estate business in order to spur the economy. The cities of Suzhou, Foshan, Dalian and Nanning have been told by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to stabilize land and housing prices as well as market expectations, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday. Six other cities were warned by the ministry last month to monitor the growth of home prices in their markets, after some cities, including, Foshan quietly started to relax some curbs since December to spur demand.


China’s home property market is a key plank of the economy, influencing tens of related sectors such as construction and financial services. The sector has held up well despite a slowdown in growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, with policymakers walking a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment. Renewed tensions between China and the United States over trade have also added pressure on Chinese policymakers to keep the domestic economy on a stable footing, while continuing to fend off risks such as housing bubbles. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.6% in April, unchanged from the pace of growth in March, according to a monthly official survey.

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No coffee.

You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep—And It’s Killing You (Wired)

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, I’m doing serious damage to my health—and life—by not sleeping enough. “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic. It’s fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century,” Walker, an expert in sleep at UC Berkeley and author of the best-selling book Why We Sleep, told a rapt TED audience on Thursday.

[..] He ran down all the ways in which sleep deprivation hurts people: it makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes your body literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally, he said. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and leads to premature aging. Apparently, men who only sleep five hours a night have markedly smaller testicles than men who sleep more than seven.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology,” he said. “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.” [..] Everyone is obsessed with sleep. And they know they’re not getting enough—hence the growing demand for sleeping pills, the emergence of sleep tracking devices (Walker wears an Oura Ring to track his), smart beds, Alexa integrations to put you to sleep, and mindfulness sleep apps. Arianna Huffington famously left journalism to found a company devoted to sleep and wellness.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

May 042019
 
 May 4, 2019  Posted by at 8:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier) 1910

 

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail
Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)
Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)
Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)
Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)
UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)
New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)
Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)
French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)
Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)
Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.) >
Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

 

 

UK doesn’t care one bit about the UN. So throw them out. Tell them they can come back once they have a functioning legal system. “Independent judges” my posterior.

UN Calls For Julian Assange’s Release From UK High-Security Jail

UN experts have called for Julian Assange to be released from prison and criticised the British government for breaching his human rights. The WikiLeaks publisher was jailed for 50 weeks on Wednesday for breaking bail conditions imposed seven years earlier by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) said it was deeply concerned by the “disproportionate sentence” imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a “minor violation”. The group has twice previously called for Assange to be freed, after it judged his confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy by the threat of arrest should he leave amounted to arbitrary detention.

“The working group regrets that the government has not complied with its opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr Assange,” it said in a statement on Friday. “It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case. “The working group is further concerned that Mr Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

“The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.” A government spokesperson said: “The UK has a close working relationship with UN bodies and is committed to upholding the rule of law. Sentencing is a matter for our independent judges, who take into account the full facts of each case, and the law provides those convicted with a right of appeal.” Assange appeared in court on Thursday via video link from Belmarsh as he began a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he is wanted on charges relating to the publication of secret US files leaked by Chelsea Manning, a US intelligence analyst who was subsequently jailed.

Read more …

Plenty people with plenty reasons to try and get Barr impeached. But on what grounds?

Barr Launches Wide-Ranging Probe Into 2016 FBI Spying (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Panel this week that he has assembled a team at the Justice Department to probe whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper, reports Bloomberg. Barr suggested that he would focus on former senior leaders at the FBI and Justice Department. “To the extent there was overreach, what we have to be concerned about is a few people at the top getting it into their heads that they know better than the American people,” said Barr. Barr will also review whether the infamous Steele dossier – a collection of salacious and unverified claims against Donald Trump, assembled by a former British spy and paid for by the Clinton campaign – was fabricated by the Russian government to trick the FBI and other US agencies.

(Will Barr investigate whether Steele made the whole thing up for his client, Fusion GPS?) “We now know that he was being falsely accused,” Barr said of Trump. “We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” Mueller’s report didn’t say there were false accusations against Trump. It said the evidence of cooperation between the campaign and Russia “was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” Investigators were unable to get a complete picture of the activities of some relevant people, the special counsel found.

Although Barr’s review has only begun, it’s helping to fuel a narrative long embraced by Trump and some of his Republican supporters: that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and concocted from false allegations in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and ultimately undermine his presidency. -Bloomberg. As Bloomberg notes, Barr’s review could receive a boost by a Thursday New York Times article acknowledging that the FBI sent a ‘honeypot’ spy to London in 2016 to pose as a research assistant and gather intelligence from Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos over possible Trump campaign links to Russia.

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“..beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama..” “..Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players..”

Deeper Into the Dark (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Barr’s stolid demeanor during the Wednesday session was a refreshing reminder of what it means to be not insane in the long-running lunatic degeneration of national politics. Of course, the reason for the continued hysteria among Democrats is that the two-year solemn inquiry by the august former FBI Director, Mr. Mueller, is being revealed daily as a mendacious fraud with criminal overtones running clear through Democratic ranks beyond even the wicked Hillary Clinton to the sainted former president Obama, who may have supervised his party’s collusion with foreign officials to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Barr’s hints that he intends to tip this dumpster of political subterfuge, to find out what was at the bottom of it, is being taken as a death threat to the Democratic Party, as well it should be.


A lot of familiar names and faces will be rolling out of that dumpster into the grand juries and federal courtrooms just as the big pack of White House aspirants jets around the primary states as though 2020 might be anything like a normal election. In short and in effect, the Democratic Party itself is headed to trial on a vector that takes it straight into November next year. How do you imagine it will look to voters when Mr. Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, his NSA Director James Clapper, a baker’s dozen of former Obama top FBI and DOJ officials, including former AG Loretta Lynch, and sundry additional players in the great game of RussiaGate Gotcha end up ‘splainin’ their guts out to a whole different cast of federal prosecutors?

It’s hardly out of the question that Barack Obama himself and Mrs. Clinton may face charges in all this mischief and depravity. It’s surely true that the public is sick of the RussiaGate spectacle. (I know readers of this blog complain about it.) But it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the worst and most tangled scandal that the US government has ever seen, and that failing to resolve it successfully really is an existential threat to the project of being a republic. I was a young newspaper reporter during Watergate and that was like a game of animal lotto compared to this garbage barge of malfeasance.


[..] It seems more than merely possible that the entire Mueller Investigation was a ruse from the start to conceal all this nefarious activity. It is even more astounding to see exactly what a lame document the Mueller Report turned out to be. It was such a dud that even the Democratic senators and congresspersons who are complaining the loudest have not bothered to visit the special parlor set up at the Department of Justice for their convenience to read a much more lightly redacted edition of the report.

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“Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions..”

Mueller’s Own Mysteries (Stephen F. Cohen)

• It has occasionally been suggested that Russiagate was originated by high-level US officials who disliked candidate Trump’s pledge to “cooperate with Russia.” This suspicion remains unproven, but throughout, Mueller repeatedly attributes to Trump campaign members and Russians who interacted in 2016, potentially in sinister or even criminal ways, a desire for “improved U.S.-Russian relations,” for “bringing the end of the new Cold War,” for a “new beginning with Russia.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have wanted “reconciliation between the United States and Russia.”

The result is, of course, to discredit America’s once-mainstream advocacy of détente. Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the 20th century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions”. Does this mean that Americans who hold pro-détente views today, as I and quite a few others do, are to be investigated for their “contacts” with Russians in pursuit of better relations? Mueller seems to say nothing to offset this implication, which has already adversely affected a few Americans mentioned and not mentioned in his report.

• Nor does Mueller consider alternative scenarios and explanations, as any good historical or judicial investigation must do. For example, he accepts uncritically the Clinton/Democratic National Committee allegation that Russian agents hacked and disseminated their emails in 2016. Again, maybe so, but why did he not do his own forensic examination or even mention the alternative finding by VIPS that they were stolen and leaked by an insider? Why did he not question Julian Assange, who claimed to know how and through whom the emails reached WikiLeaks? And how to explain Mueller’s minimal interest in the shadowy professor Joseph Mifsud, who helped entrap George Papadopoulos in London? Mueller reports that Mifsud “had connections to Russia” (p. 5), although a simple Google search suggests that Mifsud was indeed an “agent” but not a Russian one, as widely alleged in media accounts.

Read more …

Obama’s all about Obama.

Obama On “Scripted, Soulless” Clinton Campaign, “Cartoon Character” Trump (ZH)

[..] as Obama saw it, the “real blame” for Clinton’s loss “lay squarely with Clinton” – despite her many well-documented attempts to make every conceivable excuse, from blaming Bernie Sanders and his misogynistic “Bernie Bros” to misogynistic Trump supporters. But as Obama vented, nobody forced Clinton to take money from Goldman Sachs, or set up an illicit private email server at her house in Chappaqua. In a stinging passage Baker writes: ‘To Obama and his team, however, the real blame lay squarely with Clinton. ‘She was the one who could not translate his strong record and healthy economy into a winning message. ‘Never mind that Trump essentially ran the same playbook against Clinton that Obama did eight years earlier, portraying her as a corrupt exemplar of the status quo.

‘She brought many of her troubles on herself. No one forced her to underestimate the danger in the Midwest states of Wisconsin and Michigan. ‘No one forced her to set up a private email server that would come back to haunt her. ‘No one forced her to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other pillars of Wall Street for speeches. ‘No one forced her to run a scripted, soulless campaign that tested eighty-five slogans before coming up with ‘Stronger Together’. Obama tried to keep his cool in the weeks afterwards and texted his speechwriter Ben Rhodes: ‘There are more stars in the sky than sand on the earth’. But soon he was unable to contain his rage which escalated after he met Trump in the Oval Office.

Baker writes that despite being cordial in public he afterwards summoned Rhodes who told him that Trump ‘peddles in b*******’ Rhodes said: ‘That character has always been part of the American story. You can see it right back to some of the characters in Huckleberry Finn’. Obama replied: ‘Maybe that’s the best we can hope for’.

Read more …

Tories lose 1,334 councillors (about 28%), Labour loses 82. Guardian says “heavy lossses for Labour Party”.

LibDems were dead, and nobody likes them today. They win 703 seats only because they’re the only strong anti-Brexit vote.

Comment on Twitter: ”The Guardian headlines talk about “heavy lossses for Labour Party” (-4%) Meanwhile even the Tory #BBC is leading with “Tories lose 1300 councillors” Hhhhhhmmmm … the Guardian really, REALLY does hate #Corbyn !!”

Meanwhile, May doesn’t resign after such a loss, she says: voters want us to finish what we’ve been doing.

She must have turned to the bottle.

UK Tories Lose More Than 1,300 Councillors (BBC)

The Conservatives have lost 1,334 councillors, with Theresa May saying voters wanted the main parties to “get on” with Brexit. Labour also lost 82 seats in the English local elections, in which it had been expected to make gains. But the strongly pro-EU Lib Dems gained 703 seats, with leader Sir Vince Cable calling every vote received “a vote for stopping Brexit”. The Greens and independents also made gains, as UKIP lost seats. All 248 English councils holding elections have now announced their full results.


While the scale of the Conservative election losses is larger than expected, Labour had predicted it would gain seats, having suffered losses the last time these council seats were contested, in 2015. The Green Party has added 194 councillors, while the number of independent councillors has risen by 612. UKIP, which enjoyed large gains in 2015, lost 145 seats. Results from Northern Ireland’s 11 councils are also being announced. No local elections are taking place in Scotland and Wales.

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Far from over. Even if Labour signs up for a May deal, what is their legitimacy at this point?

New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Brexit Referendum (TNE)

New polling has found that 61% of those who would vote in a second referendum would vote to Remain in the European Union. The YouGov survey for KIS Finance found that between the choice of Theresa May’s Brexit deal or remaining in the EU, 61% of those who confirmed they would vote stated they wanted the UK to stay in the European Union. When a no-deal scenario is added into the mix, 53% of people would vote to Remain, while 34% would vote for no-deal, and just 12% would vote for Theresa May’s deal.


The research also uncovered that 1 in 10 have put off important financial decisions, such as buying their first home, moving house, spending money on home improvements, investing and making major purchases such as a car, until the future of Brexit is clear. In London this figures rises to 1 in 5 who have delayed key financial decisions as a direct result of Brexit. In Wales, 1 in 6 have been affected and in Scotland 1 in 7 have postponed major financial decisions. The polling was carried out days ahead of the local elections, 23rd – 24th April 2019. Further information can be found on the KIS FInance website.

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Bernie needs a rethink.

Two Medicare-For-All Bills; One Is a Lot Better Than the Other (NC)

Two bills that are called “Medicare for all” bills by their supporters have just been introduced in Congress. On February 27, Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, HR 1384 , in the House of Representatives. On April 10, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill bearing the same name in the Senate, S 1129. The cost-containment section in Representative Jayapal’s bill will cut health care costs substantially without slashing the incomes of doctors and hospitals. Senator Sanders’ bill cannot do that. In this article, I explain the differences in the cost containment sections of the two bills and call upon Senator Sanders to correct two defects in his bill that minimize its ability to reduce costs.

Defect number one: S 1129 authorizes a new form of insurance company called the “accountable care organization” (ACO). Defect number two: S 1129 fails to authorize budgets for hospitals. Representative Jayapal’s bill, on the other hand, explicitly repeals the federal law authorizing ACOs, and it authorizes budgets for individual hospitals. I write this essay as both a long-time organizer, writer and speaker for a single-payer (the older name for “Medicare for all” system) and a strong supporter of Senator Sanders. Bernie’s enthusiastic support for a “single payer” solution to the American health care crisis has added millions of new supporters to the single-payer movement.

But precisely because he is now the most recognizable face of the single-payer movement, it is extremely important that all of us, whether we’re already in the single-payer movement or we just long for a sane and humane health care system, encourage Bernie to fix the defects in his bill. To explain the two defects in S 1129, I must first explain why a single-payer bill like Representative Jayapal’s will be effective at cutting the high cost of American health care. I begin by explaining the origin and meaning of the “single payer” label. I will then describe the two defects in S 1129 in more detail.

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As soon as you read that Yellow Vests attacked a hospital, you know this is a hoax. Or I hope you do. But I bet the probe that will now follow will stop at looking at evidence of an attack, not at why the government has spread false rumors.

French Minister Rows Back On Claim May Day Protesters ‘Attacked’ Hospital (EN)

Paris’ prosecutor has begun a probe after May Day protesters allegedly entered a famed Paris hospital and tried to force the door to its intensive care unit. But supporters of the “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”), who were among demonstrators during a fiery march in the French capital on Wednesday, said they were just seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. Thirty-two people were in police custody under charges of “gathering to commit degradations or violence,” the prosecutor’s office told Euronews. They were released on Thursday evening as investigations continue, the prosecutor’s office said. France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner initially said the hospital was ‘attacked’ by dozens of anti-capitalist militants and black blocks, but by Friday morning he had changed his position.

“I shouldn’t have used the word ‘attack’. The term ‘violent intrusion’ used by the hospital director seems to be more accurate giving the videos on it shared ever since,” admitted Castaner during a press conference. [..] But supporters of the “yellow vest” movement, whose protests have shaken the government of President Emmanuel Macron over the past half year, insisted the demonstrators were merely seeking refuge from tear gas fired by police. The incident came during a hugely tense May Day which saw police clash with hardline protesters on the sidelines of the annual labour union march. The hospital is close to the Place d’Italie where the march ended. Salome Fournet-Fayas, a 26-year-old set designer who was demonstrating on May Day, was at the hospital with other protesters.

She told Euronews that she and other demonstrators were following the official itinerary for the rally when police fired tear gas at them in such quantity that she almost vomited. Fournet-Fayas said that as demonstrators were fleeing tear gas and possible flash ball shots, they noticed that the hospital gates were open. So they entered and quietly waited for things to calm down on the grass, in the hospital courtyard, without going inside the building. Asked whether some violent protesters might have tried to attack the hospital, she replied that “everyone was very calm.” She said she felt “revolted” by the government’s account of the events. “No one tried to attack to attack this hospital,” she assured. “We were just there waiting.”

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Nothing holds more CO2 than rainforests.

Africa’s Forests Are Disappearing At An Unprecedented Rate (M&G)

This week, Liberian activist Alfred Brownell won the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize for his efforts to protect Liberia’s rainforest from the depredations of a multinational palm oil producer. But new research, showing that deforestation in Africa is increasing at an unprecedented rate, suggests the continent needs plenty more Alfred Brownells if it is to have a hope of protecting its trees — and, ultimately, the planet itself. “We are in a war for this planet,” said Brownell from Northeastern University in Boston. He was forced into exile after he formed a public interest law group that used legal means to prevent the exploitation of Liberian rainforests by a Singapore-based palm oil producer.

“It’s not just a struggle to protect remote towns and villages, or just to protect their sacred sites, or just to protect their land and their crops, their way of life, their culture, their religion. It’s also about protecting these important forests in West Africa which are producing oxygen and absorbing carbon and, in essence, making an enormous contribution in the mitigation of climate change,” he said. [..] Because of their age,primary forests contain more carbon than other forests, making them invaluable in the climate-change fight. Losing them is a double blow: not only is all this carbon released into the atmosphere, but the land where the forests used to be no longer sucks carbon from the atmosphere.

The main problem areas are Brazil and Indonesia’s rainforests, which together account for 46%of primary rainforest loss in 2018. But this year researchers discovered a new disturbing development: trees in Africa are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Three regions in Africa are of particular concern: The first is Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which both experienced dramatic losses in primary forest cover between 2017 and 2018 (60% and 26% respectively). Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what drove the loss, illegal mining is likely to have played a major role, as are expanding cocoa plantations.

The second is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is behind only Brazil in terms of the total area of primary forest lost.“In the … Congo, primary forest loss was 38% higher in 2018 than it was from 2011-2017. Madagascar is the third area of concern. It lost 2% of its primary forests in 2018. That is a higher proportion than any other tropical country. GFW attributes this mostly to small-scale forest clearing for agriculture and fuel.

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“..world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature ..” And they will be grossly insufficient and turn into terrible failures.

Biodiversity Crisis Is About To Put Humanity At Risk – UN (G.)

Like its predecessor, the report is a compilation of reams of academic studies, in this case on subjects ranging from ocean plankton and subterranean bacteria to honey bees and Amazonian botany. Following previous findings on the decimation of wildlife, the overview of the state of the world’s nature is expected to provide evidence that the world is facing a sixth wave of extinction. Unlike the past five, this one is human-driven. Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation and science, said: “All of our ecosystems are in trouble. This is the most comprehensive report on the state of the environment. It irrefutably confirms that nature is in steep decline.”

Barrett said this posed an environmental emergency for humanity, which is threatened by a triple challenge of climate, nature and food production. “There is no time to despair,” he said. “We should be hopeful that we have a window of opportunity to do something about it over these two years.” The report will sketch out possible future scenarios that will vary depending on the decisions taken by governments, businesses and individuals. The next year and a half is likely to be crucial because world leaders will agree rescue plans for nature and the climate at two big conferences at the end of 2020.

That is when China will host the UN framework convention on biodiversity gathering in Kunming, which will establish new 20-year targets to replace those agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010. Soon after, the UN framework convention on climate change will revise Paris agreement commitments at a meeting in either the UK, Italy, Belgium or Turkey.

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Degradation continues to increase.

Lost World: Nature At Death’s Door (AFP)

Earth’s population has doubled in 50 years. Not only are we living longer than ever before, we are also consuming more. Today, humans extract around 60 billion tonnes of resources from Nature each year — a rise of 80 percent in just a few decades. And we are leaving our mark in other ways. Since 1980, manmade greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, adding at least 0.7C to global temperatures. We dump up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. The report, compiled from more than 15,000 academic papers and research publications, estimates that 75 percent of land, 40 percent of oceans and 50 percent of rivers “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity.

The document, the first of its kind in 15 years, paints a picture of rife inequality, with richer nations consuming vastly more per capita than poorer ones battling to retain their natural resources. Indeed, per capita demand for materials is four times more in high- than in low-income economies. In Europe and North America, humans now consume several times the recommended intake of meat, sugar and fat for optimal health, while 40 percent of the world’s people lack access even to clean drinking water. The inequality gap is huge and widening: GDP per head is already 50 times larger in wealthy nations than in poor ones. Industrial fishing is destroying our oceans, according to the report. It found that 70,000 industrial fishing vessels operate in at least 55 percent of the world’s high seas.

Nearly three quarters of major marine fish stocks are depleted or exploited to the limit of sustainability, despite efforts from the fishing community to implement quotas and drive down overfishing. On land, the situation looks even bleaker. A third of all land is now given over to agriculture and 75 percent of freshwater resources is dedicated to food production. In all, at least a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from land clearing, crop production and fertilisation, the vast majority of which comes from animal-based food production.


New York Zoo, 1963 “You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world. It alone of all the animals that ever lived can exterminate (and has) entire species of animals. Now it has the power to wipe out all life on earth.”

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You know I always liked my walking shoes
but you can get a little too fond of the blues
You walk too far, you walk away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

You know I always loved a lonely town
Those empty streets, no one around

You know I always liked that empty road
No place to be and miles to go
But miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine won’t you stay

 

 

 

Apr 292019
 


Pablo Picasso Head and guitar 1927

 

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)
Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)
Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)
Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)
Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)
Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)
IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)
UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)
Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)
Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)
Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)
Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

 

 

An“erudite defence of the freedom of the press” in front of almost all Washington reporters. And it doesn’t mention Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning even once.

To me, there is nothing more upsetting in our world today. These people care about themselves only, about their petty little freedom. The truth be damned. But they have no freedom if Assange doesn’t, it’s all or nothing. Or one could say they have the freedom to lie. And that’s the one thing Assange never did.

Ron Chernow At Annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (G.)

In Washington, Chernow, biographer of founding father Alexander Hamilton and former president Ulysses S Grant, delivered an eloquent and erudite defence of the freedom of the press with some subtle barbs, winning a standing ovation from an audience that quickly forgot any disappointment over the lack of a comedian this year. “We now have to fight hard for basic truths that we once took for granted,” said Chernow, who mentioned Trump by name only once in an address that framed the current presidency as just one chapter in America’s epic novel. He told how the first president, George Washington, often felt maligned and misunderstood by the press but never generalised that into a vendetta. “Relations between presidents and the press are inevitably tough, almost always adversarial, but they don’t need to be steeped in venom.”


The second president, John Adams, used laws to crack down on the media and lost his re-election campaign in 1800, Chernow continued. “Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks of Mount Rushmore, for when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy. The tribunal of history does not deal leniently with presidents who punish the free press.” Chernow insisted that, while America has taken some wrong turns throughout history, democracy has endured. He told how, towards the end of the civil war, a chastened but hopeful Abraham Lincoln, sitting at a campfire with Grant, quoted his secretary of state William Seward as saying: “There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency.”

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Cute, nice, see the Twitter thread at the link, but I must wonder: why bother? You’re just giving her more to talk about.

Question should be: how can this nutcase still have a TV show? And why do people watch it? Is this what ‘freedom of the press’ has come to mean? The freedom to lie?!

Aaron Maté Shreds Rachel Maddow (RT)

Journalist Aaron Mate has eviscerated MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for peddling “Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo,” after Maddow threw a tantrum when YouTube dared to recommend an RT video. Mate, a longtime skeptic of the mainstream media’s beloved ‘Russiagate’ narrative, was the subject of a recent interview with RT. When MSNBC’s Russiagater-in-chief Rachel Maddow found out that YouTube’s algorithm had actually suggested the interview to viewers, she saw more Russian meddling and proclaimed the recommendation “death by algorithm.” Mate unloaded on Maddow on Sunday, systematically destroying the MSNBC host for her two years as “the leading purveyor of now debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theories, falsehoods & innuendo.”

Buckle up. “Just recently you were caught in real-time lying to your audience,” he began. “You claimed Barr was handling the redactions by himself. But the chyron — on screen right below — told viewers the truth, that Mueller was in fact ‘assisting’ w/ the redactions.” With Maddow seemingly content to lie on live television, it fell upon her show’s producers to flash the truth on viewers’ screens. Mate then recalled the time Maddow suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the ‘pee tape’ (the most far-fetched allegation in the Democrat-commissioned, internet-sourced Steele dossier) to force Trump into withdrawing US troops stationed near Russia. Of course, this never happened, and Trump recently announced plans to ramp up deployments to Poland. A swing and a miss for Maddow.

[..]Despite peddling baseless conspiracies and flagrant Russophobia every night, Maddow remains one of the US’ most popular news anchors, and one of the best paid. The MSNBC host regularly vies with Fox News’ Sean Hannity for the top spot on the cable news ratings, and earns a cool $7 million per year for her work. Although Maddow has been perhaps the most fervent promoter of Russiagate hysteria on television, her ratings have clumped after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report put most of her theories to bed last month. Maddow’s show slipped from its number one position after the report dropped, and lost half a million viewers in the space of a week. Mate, although reporting to a far smaller audience, has received an Izzy Award for his “meticulous reporting” that “challenged the way the public was being informed about the Mueller investigation.”

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Whitney back in conspiracy mode.

Why Did Mueller Let Trump Off the Hook? (Mike Whitney)

[Mueller’s] assignment was undermine Trump’s moral authority by brandishing the cudgel of criminal indictment over his head. This is how a D.O.J. appointee, who had never held public office in his life, became the most powerful man in Washington. My question is simply this: Why did Mueller give up all that power when he did? I think I can answer that, but first, we need a little more background. Check out this quote from candidate Trump in 2016: “We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country [the United States]… We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and good will.”

Imagine how terrified the foreign policy establishment must have been when they heard Trump utter these words. No more regime change wars? Are you kidding me? That’s what we do: Regime-Change-Is-Us., and now this upstart, New York real estate tycoon is promising to do a complete 180 and move in another direction altogether. No more destabilizing coups, no more bloody military interventions, instead, we’re going to work collaboratively with countries like Russia and China to see if we can settle regional disputes and fight terrorism together? Really? At the same time Trump was promising this new era of “peace, understanding, and good will,” Hillary Clinton was issuing her war whoop at every opportunity. Here’s candidate Hillary trying to drum up support for taking on the Russians in Syria:

“The situation in Syria is catastrophic. And every day that goes by, we see the results of the Assad regime in partnership with the Iranians on the ground, and the Russians in the air…When I was Secretary of State, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones.” Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s Hillary, the “liberal” Democrat, pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria even though the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stated clearly that “Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”

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If they did we have no evidence of it. We have the word of CIA and FBI for it, but that has no value.

Did the Russians Really Interfere in Our Elections? (Unz)

The one issue that both Democrats and most Republicans seem to agree on, the issue which both say is “proven conclusively” by Mueller is that the Russians “attempted to interfere and did interfere” in our 2016 election. Interesting, is it not, that the Republicans who zealously defend the president and attack the obviously political nature of the Mueller Report would accept, as if on faith and without question, the accusations of Russian interference, also contained in the report? Turn on Fox and watch, say, Martha MacCallum (e.g., “The Story,” April 24, 2019) declare “we all know now without doubt that the Russians tried to interfere” in our elections, or listen to most any GOP congressman repeat that same narrative with unquestioning certitude.

But that assertion—is it truly backed up factually? Where is the evidence, other than largely questionable information sourced from our largely discredited intelligence agencies which, as we know, had a determined goal of overthrowing the president by any means possible? Almost three years have passed from the first fake news that appeared in the media on the subject of “Russian collusion,” a concerted effort launched to discredit at first the Donald Trump candidacy and then sabotage his presidency, including his efforts to stabilize Russian-American relations. As proof of Russian actions, the Mueller Report cites the indictments against twenty-five Russian citizens who were indicted for attempted “interference” (those Russians are, let us add, quite conveniently out of the country and thus not prosecutable).

When those indictments were issued, Russia pointed out the flimsy, unsupported and transparently made-up nature of the charges, and demanded that American authorities provide conclusive proof. Such requests were rebuffed. In order to evaluate the evidence, the Russian government proposed reestablishing the bilateral expert group on information security that the Obama Administration had terminated, which could have served as a platform for conversation on these matters. The American side was also invited to send Justice Department officials to Russia to attend the proposed public questioning of the Russian citizens named by Mueller. Additionally, Russia offered to publicize the exchanges between the two countries following the publication of the accusations of cyberattacks, exchanges which were conducted through existing channels between October 2016 and January 2017.

Our government refused every offer.

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“Not all papers are doomed, though. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal will survive, he said.”

Did Buffet really completely miss the change in business model from reporting to manufacturing the news? Maybe at his age that’s to be expected?

Warren Buffett Thinks Most Newspapers Are “Toast” (ZH)

Buffett, who through his Berkshire Hathaway BH Media subsidiary owns a veritable print-media empire, said during an interview with Yahoo Finance (which will carry the live stream of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting on May 4) released on Tuesday that the newspaper industry is “toast”, and that most print papers (including, presumably, the 30 daily newspapers and 47 weeklies owned by BH) will soon cease to exist as they lose more vital advertising revenue to Internet powerhouses like Google and Facebook. Fortunately for Berkshire, the decline of the industry won’t have much of an impact on its bottom line because BH bought its newspapers at a “reasonable” price, Buffett said.


As Buffett sees it, the problem with trying to shift to a subscription-based model is two-fold: Consumers once sought out print newspapers not just for the news content, but for the ads. The classifieds included vital information about job opportunities and housing, while supermarkets ran fliers about what products were on special that week. That functionality has largely been subsumed by Craigslist. “It upsets the people in the newsroom to talk that way, but the ads were the most important editorial content from the standpoint of the reader,” Buffett said. Between 2006 and 2016, the newspaper industry’s advertising revenue had fallen to nearly a third of what it once was, with newspapers bringing in $18 billion in ad revenue, compared with $49 billion ten years prior.

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History is a lousy teacher.

Iran Appeals Directly To Trump: Your Advisers Drag You Into War (ZH)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Chris Walls on Fox News Sunday that he believes President Trump’s own advisers as well as Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel are “dragging the United States into a conflict” with Iran. It comes just days after Zarif made similar statements about the possibility of US and Iranian ships clashing in the Persian Gulf, warning that a false flag “accident” scenario could “lure” Trump into war — something which he thinks Trump himself doesn’t want to see happen. It appears Tehran’s new strategy as it reels from the sanctions squeeze on oil and Trump ending the crude export waiver program is to try and delicately peel Trump away from the American ‘deep state’.


Zarif specifically named National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with close Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates, all as seeking to escalate tensions leading toward a regime change war on Iran. Wallace asked if they’re “all trying to exercise regime change?” according to Fox, and Zarif responded, “at least, at least.” Iran’s top diplomat explained: “They have all shown an interest in dragging the United States into a conflict. I do not believe that President Trump wants to do that, I believe President Trump ran on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war. But I believe President Trump’s intention to put pressure, the policy of maximum pressure on Iran in order to bring Iran to its knees so that we would succumb to pressure, is doomed to failure.”

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Saudi Barbaria has the solutions.

IMF Warns Of Slowing Growth, Rising Unrest Across Middle East (CNBC)

Slowing global growth and elevated tensions in trade and geopolitics are posing economic challenges for countries in the Middle East, according to the IMF’s latest report. “Global developments are affecting the outlook for this year, namely the slowdown in growth especially on trade, the volatility in the oil price, as well as also the global financing conditions, in additional to a certain number of country specific issues,” Jihad Azour, the IMF’s director of the Middle East and Central Asia, told CNBC on Sunday. The Regional Economic Outlook report — published each spring by the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department — also highlighted how volatile oil prices are negatively affecting some countries, while others are grappling with rising public debt.

“For oil-importing countries where debt is high, it’s very important to tackle it and to reduce the level of deficit. That will allow those countries to reduce their debt burden over GDP,” Azour added. Growth for oil exporters is projected to dip slightly in 2019 to 0.4 percent, from 0.6 percent the previous year, driven by an economic contraction in Iran following the renewal of sanctions. For oil-importing countries in the region, growth is expected to slow, declining from 4.2 percent in 2018 to a projected 3.6 percent this year. However, that figure is expected to rebound to 4.2 percent from 2020 to 2023. “Despite the current increase in prices, the medium-term price projections of oil remain in the corridor of the mid-$60s,” Azour said.

“Therefore it’s very important for countries to pursue and accelerate their diversification strategies and at the same time, maintain their pace of fiscal adjustment that will allow them to reduce their dependence, in terms of revenues on oil,” he added. [..] In the past 18 months, the IMF’s Reported Social Unrest Index — which calculates the share of articles in major news sources that include key terms relating to protests, demonstrations, and other forms of social unrest — has hit multi-year highs in some countries in the Middle East region. “Clearly, the inability of governments and countries to address the unemployment issue has led to the feelings, especially among the youth, of social unease and tension,” Azour said.

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Boris Johnson’s fortunes are rising. Imagine that.

UK Tories To Lose 800-1000 Seats In This Week’s Local Elections (G.)

The Conservatives can expect to lose 800 or more seats at the local elections this week, as voters punish Theresa May’s administration for failing to pass a Brexit deal, a leading Conservative analyst has said. In his latest projection for Thursday’s polls, in which more than 8,000 council seats in England are being contested, the Tory peer Robert Hayward suggested his party could lose about 500 to the Liberal Democrats, and 300 to Labour. He blamed his party’s failure to assemble a majority for the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement for his gloomy forecast, and predicted turnout would be unusually low because of “disenchantment” with all the major parties.


“I have heard of no canvasser of any party who has received a detailed dissertation re Brexit. It is therefore likely that had Mrs May’s deal, or anything like it, been approved the Tories would have fared markedly better than they are likely to,” he said, adding: “The elections might even have been about local issues.” A poor showing will be a fresh blow to May’s shattered authority, and increase the pressure on her to set out a timetable for her departure – and signal how she plans to break the impasse at Westminster. Cross-party talks are expected to resume on Monday, but Downing Street has been forced to delay a high-risk plan to table its key piece of Brexit legislation.

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Apparently, in Spain, too, democracy is a system for the not-too-smart. You know that if this is how your PM addresses you after winning, “We want a country that looks forwards and advances.”. As opposed to?

Spanish Socialists Win Most Seats, Far Right Resurgent (G.)

Spain’s ruling socialists won the most votes but fell short of a majority in Sunday’s snap general election, a contest marked by the breakthrough of the far-right Vox party and a disastrous performance by the country’s traditional conservative party. Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) won 123 seats, the conservative People’s party (PP) 66, the centre-right Citizens party 57, the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and its allies 42, and Vox 24. Despite it being the country’s third general election in under four years, turnout was 75.8% – well up on the 66.5% two years ago. Sánchez hailed the result and the high turnout as proof of Spain’s desire to move forward and reject the reactionary policies of some of his rightwing opponents.


“We made it happen,” he told supporters in Madrid, echoing the PSOE’s campaign slogan. “We’ve sent out the message that we don’t want to regress or reverse. We want a country that looks forwards and advances.” However, the PSOE will still need to seek the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies. Even with the support of Unidas Podemos and related groups, it would still be 11 seats short of a majority and would need the help of smaller regional and nationalist parties. Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, has already shown enthusiasm for a deal with the PSOE. He said that while his party would have liked a better result – it dropped 29 seats on the last election – “it’s been enough to stop the right wing and build a leftwing coalition government”.

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“..at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters..”

Yellow Vests Mutilated By ‘Sublethal’ Police Weapons Unite (RT)

Yellow Vest protesters who have suffered life-changing injuries at the hands of French police have launched their own association, promising fresh actions against police brutality. Called “the Mutilated for the edification of others,” the collective aims to accurately calculate the number of people who have been injured nationally by police during Yellow Vest protests. It also called for an end to the use of the non-lethal weapons deployed by French police — namely tear gas canisters and flashballs — and a large national demonstration is scheduled in Paris on May 26. Among those attending was Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent Yellow Vest leader who was hit in the eye with a gas canister during a demonstration in January.


“You have 19 people in front of you and you have only 26 eyes that look back,” he told the press conference. “Count, there is a small problem,” he added. We demand the truth, justice and the ban on so-called sublethal weapons,” said Robin Pagès, another activist. He accused French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner of “lying” when the minister suggested that only “10 people have been hit in the head by LBD [flashball] shots.” According to statistics gathered by the activist group Desarmons-les (“Disarm Them”), at least 154 people have been seriously injured by police use of non-lethal weapons during protests. Of that number, 22 people have lost the use of an eye due to flash balls. A further five have had their hand torn off by gas canisters.

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“Voters were surprisingly moved by a landmark study showing steep declines in flying insects in Germany.”

Conservative Bavaria Forces Bold Action on Protecting Nature (Yale)

Bavaria is known around the world for its Munich Octoberfest, beautiful alpine panoramas, old castles, and cars from the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). But within Germany, Bavaria is known for something else: It is by far the most conservative of the country’s 16 federal states. Bavaria’s staunchly traditionalist governing party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has been in power continuously since 1946, pursuing a conservative agenda relating to family, bioethics, immigration — and the environment. Over the years, it has restricted the construction of wind farms, thwarted new environmental regulations for farmers, and blocked imposing a speed limit for cars on autobahns.

In recent months, however, Bavaria has taken a surprising detour from its traditional path. Responding to a grassroots citizens campaign and overwhelming support for a state referendum, the Bavarian government agreed earlier this month to implement one of Europe’s most progressive laws on protecting nature and restoring biodiversity, primarily through changing industrial farming practices. The about-face began in earnest in February when Bavarian citizens — increasingly concerned about the loss of natural areas, destructive farming techniques, and widely publicized reports that the populations of flying insects in Germany had plummeted — overwhelmingly supported a “referendum for biodiversity” that called for the state government to implement fundamental changes in nature conservation.

State law required that 10 percent of Bavaria’s 9 million registered voters support the referendum for it to become the basis for negotiations on a new nature conservation law. In fact, nearly double the required number of voters — 1.75 million Bavarians — showed up at their town halls to support what had become known as the “save the bees” initiative. [..] Now, Bavaria plans to implement a sweeping set of conservation measures, including setting aside 13 percent of the state in special ecological zones, committing to establishing organic agriculture on nearly a third of all Bavarian farmland, and taking steps to protect wetlands, waterways, and threatened insect populations. On May 8, the state parliament in Munich is slated to pass what Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU leader Markus Söder calls “the most sweeping nature protection law in the whole of Europe.”

Read more …

It’s not about nature anymore, it’s about our own survival. As if that will stop us.

Up To A Million Species Face Extinction, Many Within Decades – UN (AFP)

Diplomats from 130 nations gather in Paris from Monday to validate a grim UN assessment of the state of Nature and lay the groundwork for an 11th-hour rescue plan for life on Earth. A 44-page, draft “Summary for Policy Makers” obtained by AFP catalogues the 1001 ways in which our species has plundered the planet and damaged its capacity to renew the resources upon which we depend, starting with breathable air, drinkable water and productive soil. The impact of humanity’s expanding footprint and appetites has been devastating. Up to a million species face extinction, many within decades, according to the report, and three-quarters of Earth’s land surface has been “severely altered”.


A third of ocean fish stocks are in decline, and the rest, barring a few, are harvested at the very edge of sustainability. A dramatic die-off of pollinating insects, especially bees, threatens essential crops valued at half-a-trillion dollars annually. Twenty 10-year targets adopted in 2010 under the United Nation’s biodiversity treaty – to expand protected areas, slow species and forest loss, and reduce pollution – will, with one or two exceptions, fail badly. Based on an underlying report that draws from 400 experts and weighs in at 1,800 pages, the executive summary has to be vetted line-by-line by diplomats, with scientists at their elbow.

Read more …

 

 

“I hate the indifferents. Living means taking sides…Some whimper piously, others curse obscenely, but nobody, or very few ask themselves: If I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?”
– Antonio Gramsci

 

 

Apr 142019
 
 April 14, 2019  Posted by at 9:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper The Sheridan Theatre 1937

 

Draghi Worries About Fate Of Fed’s Independence (MW)
The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)
UK Tories Face European Elections Drubbing (Ind.)
Corbyn Told To Promise Final Say Referendum (Ind.)
It’s The UK Political System, Not Just MPs, That Is Failing (G.)
UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception (Cook)
American Values: Embassies Are For Chopping Up Journalists (McDonald)
Assange Is In The Dock, But Investigative Journalism Is On Trial (Crikey)
The Obvious Dirty Dealings Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest (OG)
Anonymous Attacks Continue Against Ecuadorian Government Websites (Cassandra)

 

 

Independence from what? Reality?

Draghi Worries About Fate Of Fed’s Independence (MW)

Concerns about central-bank independence are on the rise.Take, for example, the cover of this week’s edition of the Economist. And while not solely a U.S. concern, a steady stream of complaints by President Donald Trump about the Federal Reserve’s earlier string of interest-rate hikes and his announcement he would nominate Stephen Moore and Herman Cain — both widely criticized as unqualified and likely to act at the behest of the White house on policy decisions — to the central bank’s governing board have sparked fears the central bank’s policy independence could be at risk. (Four Republican senators have said they would vote against Cain if he were formally put forward, likely sinking his chances.)

On Saturday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi appeared to take notice: ‘I’m certainly worried about central bank independence in other countries, especially…in the most important jurisdiction in the world.’ Draghi’s remarks, as reported by Reuters, came at a news conference at the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington. They also marked a rare instance of a central banker opining about the operations of a foreign central bank. “If the central bank is not independent, then people may well think that monetary policy decisions follow political advice rather than objective assessment of the economic outlook,” said Draghi.

Read more …

Amid all the loud news, both Canada and Australia are slipping fast.

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)

Canada’s housing markets barely dipped during the Financial Crisis when US housing markets ran into deep trouble, causing the Mortgage Crisis that begat all kinds of other crises. Canadian homeowners and banks watched the mess from across the border and shook their heads. But now, after an 18-year housing boom, the downturn has arrived in Vancouver and Toronto, among the formerly hottest housing bubbles in the world.


The Teranet-National Bank House Price Index tracks single-family house prices, based on “sales pairs,” similar to the S&P CoreLogic Case Shiller index for US housing markets. It compares the sales price of a house in the current month to the prior sale of the same house years earlier. Using “sales pairs” eliminates the issues that affect median-price indices. But the median-price data for Vancouver is a lot more disconcerting than the Teranet data. So let’s compare how Vancouver’s housing bubble stacks up against the legendary but now also deflating housing bubble in San Francisco.

House prices in the Greater Toronto Area fell 0.3% in March from February and are down 4.3% from the peak in July 2017, the steepest 20-month decline since May 2009. From January 2002 through the peak in July 2017, the index soared 218% — meaning that house prices more than tripled. But that pales compared to Vancouver, where house prices more than quadrupled. I converted this Teranet index for Toronto house prices to “percent-change since January 2002” and overlaid the insane mind-boggling housing bubble in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it shows just how majestic the 18-year Toronto housing bubble has been:

Read more …

European elections in Britain do seem surreal.

UK Tories Face European Elections Drubbing (Ind.)

The Conservatives are facing a humiliating defeat at the European elections next month after support for the party slumped to its lowest level since 2013, according to a new poll. The survey shows the Tories on just 28 per cent when it comes to general election voting intention – a four-point fall which leaves them trailing Labour on 32. When voters were asked which party they will vote for at the European elections, Theresa May’s party languished on 16 per cent, eight points behind Labour on 24. In a clear sign support for the Conservatives is crumbling over the failure to deliver Brexit, 56 per cent of people who voted to leave at the 2016 referendum said they would back Ukip or Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party during next month’s vote.


The Brexit Party is on 15 per cent, while Ukip stands at 14 per cent when it comes to European voting intention, the YouGov poll for The Times indicated. By comparison, the Lib Dems and the Greens are both on 8 per cent, while Change UK has 7 per cent support. No 10 is still hoping to get a deal through parliament in time to avoid participation in the European elections on 23 May. But the UK is formally on track to hold the poll, having informed the EU authorities ahead of Friday’s deadline that it would be taking part. Boris Johnson’s backers have suggested he may not even campaign on behalf of his party next month in an effort to show his displeasure at the UK’s involvement. “Boris won’t campaign in European elections. He believes the prospect of the UK fielding candidates is utterly preposterous,” a source told The Times.

Read more …

Something only a small group wants. But then, that’s true of all Brexit issues and ‘solutions’.

Corbyn Told To Promise Final Say Referendum (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn is under intense pressure from within his shadow cabinet to give a strong commitment to a new Brexit referendum as part of Labour’s European election campaign offer. A string of senior shadow ministers are advocating a new public vote, alongside MPs from the left and right of the party, buoyed by a groundswell of support from the membership. The Independent understands Labour is now beginning the process of drawing up its manifesto with those wanting to give the public a final say on Brexit pushing the leader to make a strong bid for the Remain vote on polling day. Mr Corbyn’s team is currently engaged in talks with the Conservatives in an effort to find a Brexit compromise deal that can enjoy majority support in the House of Commons, with a referendum having been discussed during the negotiations.


The leader’s office emphasised that decisions on the manifesto were yet to be discussed, with the party simultaneously defending its majorities against the pro-Remain Change UK party run by Labour defectors and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party. One shadow cabinet source told The Independent: “We can’t credibly agree to any deal unless there is a confirmatory referendum attached to it. “We should be telling people about that, the support is there to be had.” The European elections are set to become a rerun of the 2016 referendum campaign with parties positioning themselves along the Brexit spectrum from Leave to Remain.

Read more …

Party before country.

It’s The UK Political System, Not Just MPs, That Is Failing (G.)

Brexit has prompted a recurring nightmare among an increasingly incredulous population: our very own Groundhog Day. Two weeks after the EU granted us an 11th-hour extension to prevent us crashing out without a deal, we are back in exactly the same position. The only thing standing between us and next Friday’s cliff edge is the hope the EU gifts us another extension. Meanwhile, the political turmoil engulfing the country worsens, the two main parties increasingly consumed by division and disarray and the political leadership we so desperately need to avert crisis as elusive as ever. It’s hard to believe that the Westminster model of democracy was one prized by constitutional theorists for the stability it purportedly delivers. As the stakes get higher, our political system has proved less and less capable of delivering a resolution to the gridlock that has infected Westminster.

Brexit has been a story of the favouring of party management over the national interest. From the very beginning, Theresa May’s approach to Brexit – from her premature decision to trigger article 50 to her red lines on freedom of movement and the customs union – has been driven not by a strategy to unite the country in the wake of a divisive referendum but to keep her Brexit ultras on side. Only now it has become clear that there are MPs in her party so fanatically dogmatic that they would rather hold out for no deal than vote for her deal has she opened compromise talks with Labour. But Labour emerged from the talks on Friday complaining that no changes to the political declaration were on offer, suggesting that this move may have been more about trying to lay blame for any further delay on the opposition.

Labour’s strategy has been no less determined by party interest. Jeremy Corbyn has kept a position of barely credible ambiguity for as long as possible to avoid alienating any of its voters. Labour has maintained the charade that it could deliver a Brexit deal that delivers all the benefits of EU membership with none of costs. And Labour has failed to provide any leadership support for a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal, with the shadow cabinet split on the issue. Time is running out for Labour to decide once and for all whether it will properly swing its weight behind a referendum. Thanks to the mess the Tories are in, Corbyn is in a position of power, if he only chooses to use it.

Read more …

Another excellent essay from Jonathan Cook.

UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception (Cook)

[..] the public conversation in the UK, sympathetically reported by the Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange. Here’s the first paragraph of the Guardian front-page article: “Political pressure is mounting on [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape.” So the concern is not that Assange is facing rendition to the US, it is that the US claim might “overshadow” an outstanding legal case in Sweden. The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.

First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first. It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes. But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative. The Swedish claim, if it is revived, is an entirely separate matter.

[..] In another article on Assange on Friday, the Guardian – echoing a common media refrain – reported as fact a demonstrably false claim: “Assange initially took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.” There could be no possible reason for its reporters to make this elementary mistake other than that the Guardian is still waging its long-running campaign against Assange, the information revolution he represents and the challenge he poses to the corporate media of which the Guardian is a key part.

[..] Assange was previously wanted for questioning, and has never been charged with anything. If the Swedish extradition request is revived, it will be so that he can be questioned about those allegations. I should also point out, as almost no one else is, that Assange did not “flee” questioning. He offered Swedish prosecutors to question him at the embassy. Even though questioning overseas in extradition cases is common – Sweden has done it dozens of times – Sweden repeatedly refused in Assange’s case, leading the Swedish appeal court to criticise the prosecutors. When he was finally questioned after four years of delays, Swedish prosecutors violated his rights by refusing access to his Swedish lawyer.

Read more …

First amendment anyone?

American Values: Embassies Are For Chopping Up Journalists (McDonald)

202310Fair-minded people across the world have rightly condemned the US-ordered arrest of Julian Assange. However, few have noted how it fits part of a pattern of American hypocrisy when it comes to the treatment of journalists. Only six months ago, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and hacked to pieces by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. He was a columnist at the Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the Al-Arab News Channel, known for his sharp criticism of the illegal US-backed Saudi war on Yemen. Despite a CIA conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome assassination, President Donald Trump stood by his ally and no meaningful sanctions or penalties were directed towards Riyadh.


Turkey itself remains a NATO member, and close US partner, despite holding more journalists behind bars than any other nation on earth. This figure stood at 68, at the end of last year, around one-quarter of the global total of 251. Now we have the indictment of Assange, which seeks to criminalize basic functions of journalism. For instance, keeping sources anonymous or deleting records of conversations. Indeed, it also appears to be a breach of America’s own First Amendment. He has been targeted by Washington for exposing evidence of appalling atrocities, carried out by the US military, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, as a result, Assange sought sanctuary in the small London embassy of Ecuador. What followed was relentless pressure on Quito to reverse the asylum it granted the Wikileaks founder and it culminated in his arrest.

Read more …

“That would forestall extradition for long enough for Jeremy Corbyn to become PM, at which point extradition would be refused. But it may be just all screaming chaos.”

Assange Is In The Dock, But Investigative Journalism Is On Trial (Crikey)

Team Assange had a defence on the jumping bail thing: “Your honour, my client had a reasonable fear that from remand he would be extradited to the US.” That was received reasonably. “Also that the previous presiding judge Lady Arbuthnot, did not recuse herself …” That was not. “You had ample time to raise this issue, and now you are traducing the reputation of a fine judge…” Snow went on. I thought of Peter Cook’s great monologue of the summing-up of the Jeremy Thorpe trial: “You have ruined the reputation of one of the most pretty defendants.” Once Assange had been found guilty of skipping bail, it got even weirder. “Your situation is a product of your narcissism,” said the magistrate clearly riled. He did not want the situation of Justice Lady Arbuthnot further explored. I am happy to do so.


Lady Arbuthnot, who ruled on the lawfulness of Assange’s continued criminalisation in the UK in 2015, is the wife of Lord Arbuthnot, a Conservative who has held multiple defence industry posts over the last two decades. This sally got short shrift, but it seemed to me intended to do so. Although when I asked a member of the legal team how it had all gone, they said “well, you saw that shit show in there”. So perhaps not. Assange is now on remand awaiting sentencing for the fleeing bail charge — the Magistrates Court having transferred it to the Crown Court, so a larger maximum sentence of 12 months instead of six, can be awarded. Is that a plan too? That would forestall extradition for long enough for Jeremy Corbyn to become PM, at which point extradition would be refused. But it may be just all screaming chaos.

Read more …

“Of course, the idea that Moreno is handling the economy brilliantly, but somehow also needs over $10 billion dollars in loans is never addressed.”

The Obvious Dirty Dealings Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest (OG)

The US has been planning to have Julian Assange handed over for a longtime, that much is obvious. Mike Pence, the Vice President, was visiting Ecuador last year, notionally to discuss the Venezuela situation, and trade. But it was fairly obvious at the time, and even more so now, that they were discussing the details of Assange being handed over to UK authorities, and eventually extradited to the US. “Trade”, indeed. In terms of quid pro quo, the situation is clear-cut – In February, Ecuador got a $4.2 BILLION loan approved by the International Monetary Fund (amongst other pay-outs). Reuters reported on February 19th of this year:

“Ecuador has reached a $4.2 billion staff-level financing deal with the IMF, President Lenin Moreno said on Wednesday, as the Andean country grapples with a large fiscal deficit and heavy external debt. The country will also receive $6 billion in loans from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF Andean development bank…” So, less than 2 months ago, it was announced Ecuador was going to receive over 10 billion dollars of loans. Where all that money will eventually end up is anyone’s guess, it certainly isn’t being spent on infrastructure or state enterprise: “Moreno has begun to implement an austerity plan that includes layoffs of workers at state-owned companies and cuts to gasoline subsidies, also plans to find a private operator for state-run telecoms company CNT and other state-owned firms.”

President Moreno has already been the subject of numerous corruption accusations. So these “loans”, nominally for “[creating] work opportunities for those who have not yet found something stable”, could more realistically be described as “a pay-off”. More than just money, Lenin Moreno has been gifted something all insecure third-world leaders crave: Western approval. The Economist ran a story on April 12th, the day after Assange was arrested, praising Lenin Moreno’s economic policies, and blaming the previous administration for the “mess” that Moreno has to clear up. (Of course, the idea that Moreno is handling the economy brilliantly, but somehow also needs over $10 billion dollars in loans is never addressed. A tiny logical contradiction compared with the nonsense the MSM dish-up on a daily basis).

Read more …

Expect it to be used against Assange.

Anonymous Attacks Continue Against Ecuadorian Government Websites (Cassandra)

Over 30 websites belonging to the Ecuadorian government are now offline — some of them defaced — in protest of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The hackers are calling their efforts #OpEcuador, and are also promoting #OpUS and #OpUK. The United States and United Kingdom have not yet been hit with any cyber attacks, that we know of. It is important to note that none of this was directed by WikiLeaks or Assange himself. Supporters are acting on their own with the attacks. A data dump from the hackers warns that “Ecuador Government websites has been taken #Offline with 1 Direct attack. There are few most important websites that’s still down at this time. If some of their servers comes up again, we will fire again to take them down!”

Websites that have been hit include the Central bank of Ecuador, their Ministry of Interior, the Ecuadorian Assembly in UK and the main website for the Government of Ecuador — mot of which had been down for over twelve hours by Saturday evening. The hackers primarily appear to be speaking and coordinating in Spanish — though one of the data dumps was in Indonesia. A Twitter account belonging to the hackers stated that if the websites come back online they will “burn their servers.” The hacking group also called for other supporters to join them.


An InfoSec expert and Assange supporter who has been monitoring the situation told the Gateway Pundit that he is concerned that the attacks will be used against Assange by the media. “My opinion is that it’s deserved karma, but it could enable the anti-Assange media to divert attention away from Julian’s value to journalism by wrongly associating him with reckless hacktivism culture.” He also expressed concern about there being collateral damage within the large data dumps that are being posted online. Other supporters expressed similar concerns, though many still agreed that the attacks are warranted.

Read more …

Mar 292019
 
 March 29, 2019  Posted by at 1:19 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian man c1510

Leonardo wrote: “Vitruvius, architect, writes in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are distributed in this manner”:

The length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man.
From the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of a man.
From below the chin to the top of the head is one-eighth of the height of a man.
From above the chest to the top of the head is one-sixth of the height of a man.
From above the chest to the hairline is one-seventh of the height of a man.
The maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the breasts to the top of the head is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man.
From the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of the height of a man.
The length of the hand is one-tenth of the height of a man.
The root of the penis [Il membro virile] is at half the height of a man.
The foot is one-seventh of the height of a man.

 

 

It’s almost silly to write anything on Brexit right now, because at right now+1 everything may have changed again. But almost silly is not the same as completely silly. At this point, whatever the outcome will be, it will serve to ridicule the idea and image of the UK as a functioning democracy. Something that ironically all participants in the Kabuki theater claim to be intent on preventing.

Both major parties -and supposedly other politicians too- say that “not respecting” the result of the Brexit referendum would imperil democracy. But “respecting” it at all cost will imperil it just as much, if not more.

On June 23, 2016, people voted on the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” But nobody knew what they were voting for, and that’s reflected in today’s lack of agreement on what Brexit means, almost 3 years after the vote.

People had been inundated with promises about what Brexit would mean, especially from the Leave side, anxious to paint a vision of a wealthy country ‘finally’ able to sign it own trade deals with the world, free from compulsory contributions to Brussels. But none of these things were facts, they were promises, most of whom have so far turned out to be empty.

The notion that it is the summit of democracy to make people vote on things they don’t understand (because no-one can tell them) is a curious one. And it’s perhaps even more curious to maintain that voting when people have a better idea of what their vote will entail is undemocratic. That would open a “chasm of distrust”, is the claim. In reality that chasm has long been opened, just by the behavior of politicians.

What is happening as we speak is that politicians are free to turn on a dime – and do just that- when it comes to who or what they elect to support, but people are not. And that is being presented, by both left and right, as -more- democratic. They would like you to believe this is how a democracy should function, but none of that is cast in stone. It’s just another idea.

Underlying this idea about democracy is undoubtedly to some extent the fear of violent reactions from the Leave side if there were to be a second referendum, or if Brexit gets postponed “too long”. But do they really expect the country to accept all this cattle trading lying down, where MPs scramble to find something, anything that is accepted by a narrow margin, and that narrow margin will be used to push through Brexit, which itself was voted through by a narrow margin?!

That’s a serious question that no-one seems to ask: do they believe the 6 million people who have signed an anti-Brexit petition, and the over 1 million who marched in London on March 23, and who may come out in even larger numbers on the 30th, to remain peaceful after having witnessed how their interests are being squandered by politicians jockeying for position?

 

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, the Leave side got 17,410,742 votes (51.89%) while Remain got 16,141,241 votes (48.11%). That’s awfully close. In most jurisdictions it would be impossible to hold a vote with so much potential impact on a country, on its legal system, its trade etc., with such margins. Often if not mostly, a 2/3 majority would be needed to make such drastic changes.

There are solid reasons for such legal requirements. Many people would summarize them as guaranteeing the quality of a democracy. To name an example, one would expect a potential petition to get rid of Britain’s royal family to not be decided by just one vote either.

But that’s what is very much possible in the case of Brexit. If one of the 8 indicative votes held in Parliament had gotten a one vote majority, it could have dictated the way forward. The same is true for Theresa May’s deal, even after suffering two historically large losses in the house. Boris Johnson left government because of it, then said he’s sign up anyway, and the day after did a 180º again. Is it that strange that a democracy would want to build in a few safeguards against such shenanigans?

 

But perhaps most of all, what other countries would turn to much sooner when mired in a mess such as Brexit under May has become, is a national government. Because that is the ultimate instrument to make sure your democracy functions. Provided it’s executed in good faith. Such a government need not consist of -only- politicians either. Which fits in nicely with the anonymous comment from the Guardian that I posted under the title The Failure of Party Politics earlier this week:

We are no longer able to govern, we cannot lead and we cannot decide. We must return the question of our place in the world back to the people and once that’s done we must dissolve this house and our parties and a new slate be mined because right now not one of us is fit to stand in this place and claim leadership of this disunited kingdom.

Drag the UK out of the EU on 1 or 2 votes now, after almost 3 years of chaos and incompetence, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up with more chaos, at least some of which will not have a peaceful character. In order to prevent that from happening, take a step back and start talking to each other. In a venue other than that Parliament, because it has failed the people.

You can renege on May’s article 50 decision and continue in the EU, just with a lot of broken trust. But push through May’s contorted plans today and you’re stuck outside pretty much forever. There’s a lot wrong with the EU, and there’s little wrong with the idea in itself of leaving it, but people didn’t vote to Leave only to get stuck with even more incompetence than they had with Brussels. And chances are they simply won’t accept it.

So forget about your party politics, that system is dead regardless of any outcomes, you’ve just shown that day after exasperating day. Get a group of judges and lawyers and business people and people from all walks of life together and start a national conversation based on trust. You’re not going to like any of the alternatives.

By sticking to the Brexit process as it’s been developing up to this point you’re not guaranteeing democracy, you’re guaranteeing its demise.

NB: I fully expect you to continue as you have. I have good friends who live in the UK, and many readers, but it’s not where I reside, so it’s not really any skin off my back. But you guys hurt my eyes. As I wrote earlier today: Sometimes I wonder what John Lennon would have said.

 

 

Jan 042019
 
 January 4, 2019  Posted by at 10:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Yasuhiro Ishimoto Untitled, Chicago 1950

 

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)
Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)
Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)
Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)
Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)
Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)
UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)
Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)
Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)
US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)
New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

 

 

Losing half a trillion in 3 months should be no surprise now central banks have killed the negative feedback from a functioning market. It’ll be runaway wild swings till it is restored.

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)

Apple set a record that will take a long time to beat. The first $ trillion company lost nearly half that in 3 months. On, August 2, Apple became the World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company at $207.05 per share. Hooray! On October 3, Apple had a peak market cap of about $1.138 trillion. Today, Apple’s market cap is about $675 billion. That’s a record market cap loss of $463 billion in three short months. Expect more stories similar to this, but this may be hard to top. Amazon has a chance but it needs a big disaster soon.

Read more …

• more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon.

Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)

In only three months, Apple has lost $452 billion in market capitalization, including tens of billions on Thursday as the tech giant’s stock sank further. Apple shares have fallen by 39.1 percent since Oct. 3, when the stock hit a 52-week high of $233.47 a share. With its market cap down to about $674 billion, those losses are larger than individual value of 496 members of the S&P 500 — including Facebook and J.P. Morgan. Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Berkshire Hathaway are the only S&P 500 members with larger market caps than Apple’s loss since its recent high.

To put the Apple market value plunge in context, $446 billion is: • more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon. Apple gave a sudden warning to investors on Wednesday afternoon, lowering its fiscal first-quarter revenue guidance. Wall Street reacted, with one analyst saying this will represent Apple’s “biggest miss in years” and another saying the company’s announcement “raises more questions than answers.” Apple CEO Tim Cook’s letter to investors blamed a variety of factors for the guidance cut, including declining iPhone revenue and China’s weakening economy.

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Only 6 years? That makes it sound cookie cutter.

Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)

Apple stock cratered almost 10 percent Thursday, a day after slashing revenue guidance in a rare acknowledgement of waning sales. The stock ended trading at $142.19, its lowest price level since July 2017. The plunge makes for Apple’s worst day of trading since January 2013, and it extends a painful year-end trend for Apple into 2019. The stock, which once traded above $230 per share, shed 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Thursday’s losses push Apple’s market valuation below $700 billion and behind the market cap of Alphabet to become the fourth most valuable publicly traded U.S. company — down from the top spot just two months ago. The company has lost $450 billion in market value since its peak of about $1.1 trillion last year.

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Hard not to think that people working in finance still can’t believe the industry doesn’t function. They keep trying to explain what happens, from inside their faulty models.

Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)

We have seen the last three bull markets catalyzed largely by loosening liquidity conditions during the bear markets that preceded them by central banks — in more and more of a globally coordinated fashion. This has led me to believe that the expansion of liquidity is the primary driver for consistent risk asset upward price revisions (aka bull markets). More than economic developments, earnings or political discourse. As a result it is crucial to realize that the ‘punch bowl’ of quantitative easing, the veritable liquidity spigot that juiced markets higher over the last 9.5 years, is not only running dry, but going in reverse (taking liquidity from markets). The impact of this reversal cannot overstated. It will be the primary catalyst that drives this bear market in equities lower. Only a reversal of tightening liquidity conditions will drive risk assets higher again.

Macro: • $1 of US GDP growth now costs $4 of debt, and is only growing as we push on the string of debt to borrow forward demand to today. • US now has $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities over the next 10 year period. • Debt monetization isn’t just important, it will become a necessity. Otherwise rates normalize and the party ends in a very bad way (insolvency and/or extreme austerity measures).

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Everybody is getting ready for a fight. Just not one that would benefit their voters.

Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)

Democrats are flexing their muscles as the incoming majority in the US House of Representatives, introducing articles of impeachment and even quixotic constitutional amendments even though they have no hope of passing. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced articles of impeachment on the first day of the 2019 Congress, starting with a resolution demanding President Donald Trump be impeached for “threatening, and then terminating” then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Reserving the option to introduce more articles later, Sherman told CNN he wanted to be able to “force the conversation on impeachment” when (if?) the Mueller report is released, “challenging” his Democratic colleagues who haven’t yet chosen to support Trump’s impeachment.

Sherman filed the exact same impeachment resolution in 2017 but could only muster one supporter, Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who later filed his own articles of impeachment. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) didn’t even wait until she was seated as a congresswoman to go after the president’s job, publishing an op-ed on Thursday entitled “Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.” “We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses,” she wrote, accusing Trump of “abuse of power and abuse of the public trust” along with a laundry list of crimes. In person, she was even more direct, reportedly telling a MoveOn.org reception, “We’re gonna impeach that mother**ker.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been noticeably reticent on impeachment, telling NBC on Thursday that Democrats should wait for the Mueller report before making any moves. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason,” she said. Many rank-and-file Democrats ran on pro-impeachment platforms, but with polls indicating only a third of Americans support the idea and a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate required to remove the president, they are unlikely to make any sudden moves.

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“..there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States..”

Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)

Canada has said 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December in Vancouver at the request of the US. “At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid. Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed. Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have escalated since Meng’s arrest on 1 December. The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a C$10m ($7.4m) bail on 11 December and is living in one of her two Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the US. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am. The 13 Canadians detained included Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official said on Thursday. McIver, a teacher, has been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody. Canadian consular officials saw them once each in mid-December. Overall there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face on-going legal proceedings. “This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said. In comparison there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States, the official said.

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Who’s going to save Deutsche? It’s far too big not to be saved. But it would drag down any other bank with it. Let the German government do it.

UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)

Swiss bank UBS is not looking to merge with any other bank, Chairman Axel Weber told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, dismissing speculation that UBS could join forces with Deutsche Bank. “There is a lot of talk in Europe and the United States about mergers but nothing happens. These are all simulation games,” he said in an interview published on Thursday. Asked specifically about whether UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, was running simulations about Germany’s biggest lender, Weber said: “Every company has to think things over, but it makes little sense to consider mergers at group level now. These paralyze companies for years.

“UBS is much stronger today than before the financial crisis, but combining with another bank — no matter which — would be premature at this moment. We want to grow primarily organically and we surely have to be able to walk before we want to run.” Weber, a former Bundesbank chief who joined UBS in 2012, said he could imagine remaining in his post until 2022. Asked how long Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti might stay, he said UBS wanted an orderly leadership transition and was under no pressure to act while it ensured the right talent was in place.

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The Dutch finance minister published a list of tax havens a few days ago. Holland wasn’t on it. These people don’t give a sh*t about their credibility.

Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)

Google moved 19.9 billion euros ($22.7 billion) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017, as part of an arrangement that allows it to reduce its foreign tax bill, according to documents filed at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. The amount channeled through Google Netherlands Holdings BV was around 4 billion euros more than in 2016, the documents, filed on Dec. 21, showed. “We pay all of the taxes due and comply with the tax laws in every country we operate in around the world,” Google said in a statement. “Google, like other multinational companies, pays the vast majority of its corporate income tax in its home country, and we have paid a global effective tax rate of 26 percent over the last ten years.”

For more than a decade the arrangement has allowed Google owner Alphabet to enjoy an effective tax rate in the single digits on its non-U.S. profits, around a quarter the average tax rate in its overseas markets. The subsidiary in the Netherlands is used to shift revenue from royalties earned outside the United States to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax. The tax strategy, known as the “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich”, is legal and allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the funds, which represent the bulk of its overseas profits.

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“76% of Tory members said that warnings about no deal Brexit — like those on food & medicine — are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.”

Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)

Conservative party members overwhelmingly want MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with more than half saying they have even considered ripping up their membership over it, according to a new poll. A survey of 1,215 Tory party members published on Friday found that 59% of Conservative party members oppose the Withdrawal Agreement May has negotiated with the European Union, while just 38% support it. Among all Conservative party members, more than half (56%) said they had considered quitting the party over May’s deal, according to YouGov polling for leading academics at the ESRC-funded Party Members Project.

The findings will spook figures in Downing Street who had hoped that Conservative MPs would return from their constituencies over Christmas having been urged by party members to get behind May and her deal. The prime minister was forced to postpone a parliamentary vote on her deal after more than 100 of her MPs announced that they planned to oppose it. [..] The Tory party membership is particularly supportive of leaving the EU without a deal, despite the myriad warnings from ministers about the disruption it would cause across multiple aspects of life in the UK, including food and medicine. A whopping 76% of Tory members said that warnings about a no deal Brexit are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.” Just 18% said the warnings were realistic.

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The -legal- power of Monsanto should never be underestimated.

US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)

A federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer’s glyphosate-based weed killer causes cancer has issued a ruling that could severely restrict evidence that the plaintiffs consider crucial to their cases. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco in an order on Thursday granted Bayer unit Monsanto’s request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. The order initially bars lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Thursday’s order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 25, and two other so-called bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria. But Hardeman’s lawyers contended that such evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, showed the company’s misconduct and were critical to California state court jury’s August 2018 decision to award $289 million in a similar case. The verdict sent Bayer shares tumbling though the award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Under Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate was found to have caused Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeded to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

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Time to cut all ties with Brazil.

New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again. “There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, the executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib).

“Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday. Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor. The decision was included in an executive order which also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary potentially far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.

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Dec 122018
 
 December 12, 2018  Posted by at 10:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Joseph Mallord William Turner Sunrise over Plain, with Figures 1830

 

Tory MPs Trigger Vote Of No Confidence In Theresa May Today (G.)
1000s Remain In Custody In France After Preventive Arrests (RT)
Macron’s Multi-Billion Giveaways Could Cost France Dearly (CNBC)
Yellen Warns Of Another Financial Crisis: Gigantic Holes In The System (CNBC)
IMF Warns Storm Clouds Are Gathering For Next Financial Crisis (G.)
Trump Says Fed Shouldn’t Hike Rates, But Calls Powell ‘A Good Man’ (R.)
Greece Scraps Pension Cuts (R.)
‘Forced Tech Transfer’ Must Stop Or Be Regulated – EU Envoy To China (CNBC)
Ocasio-Cortez Already Reveals The Inner Workings Of Congress (CNBC)
Faking Moon Landing More Difficult Than Doing It (RT)

 

 

May could well be out by the end of the day.

Listening to May’s speech on this topic this morning was weird. Despite her government having gutted so much of Britain’s social systems, think NHS, think child poverty, she talks about a future in which she will be leaving nobody behind. But she already did just that, in spades. It’s Orwell.

Also worth enjoying: a few hours before the Tories triggered their vote, there was this headline: Labour Keeps Open Possibility Of December No-Confidence Vote. Boy, did they miss the boat there or what? Doesn’t exactly spell having your finger on the pulse, does it? Makes Jeremy Corbyn look like a man fast asleep. Amid all the chaos, they’re still being pre-empted by the people they should have long replaced.

Tory MPs Trigger Vote Of No Confidence In Theresa May Today (G.)

Conservative MPs have triggered a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, plunging the Brexit process into chaos as Tory colleagues indicated they no longer had faith in the prime minister to deliver the deal. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, has received at least 48 letters from Conservative MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in May. Under party rules, a contest is triggered if 15% of Conservative MPs write to the chair of the committee of Tory backbenchers. A ballot will be held on Wednesday evening between 6pm and 8pm, Brady said, with votes counted “immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible”.

In a press release, he said: “The threshold of 15% of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative party has been exceeded.” The prime minister will now need the backing of at least 158 Tory MPs to see off the Brexiters’ challenge, and her position would then be safe for 12 months. However, the prime minister could decide to resign if votes against her were below the threshold to topple her, but significant enough in number.

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Orwell reigns supreme. 4,500+ arrested. 4,000+ still behind bars. And here’s what the Macron government has to say about it: “..there were in fact no preventive arrests but only “preventive control” measures.”

1000s Remain In Custody In France After Preventive Arrests (RT)

The number of people arrested since the beginning of the massive popular protests that have gripped France for weeks has surpassed a staggering 4,500, with critics calling the actions of the authorities crackdown on democracy. The French police have detained a total of 4,523 people in connection to the so-called Yellow Vests protests that united tens of thousands of people across the country discontent with taxes polices and fuel prices hikes. Of those almost 4,100 still remain in police custody, the French BFM TV broadcaster reported, citing police sources. Earlier, the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner confirmed that more than 1,900 people were arrested in connection to the protests in just one day – on Saturday, December 8.

More than 1,700 of them were taken into custody. However, the French media later reported that the number of those arrested on that day might in fact have reached 2,000 people. Part of those arrests seemed to be a preventive measure as they occurred before the protests. And the practice alarmed many. “When we [see] 1,000 people [detained] and 540 of them released two days later, it is obvious that there were at least 540 absolutely unjustified arrests,” a Paris lawyer, Raphael Kempf, told BFM, commenting on the issue. “Being locked up for 48 hours, they were deprived of their right to join a demonstration and this is shocking for a democratic country,” he added. The government, however, justified its approach by saying that there were in fact no preventive arrests but only “preventive control” measures.


Macron declaring his solidarity with the peuple from behind a gold desk.

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Napoleon is an emperor. He’s bigger than Brussels.

Macron’s Multi-Billion Giveaways Could Cost France Dearly (CNBC)

French President Emmanuel Macron announced tax cuts and wage rises on Monday in a bid to placate anti-government protesters, but the move will increase France’s budget deficit and is likely to create tensions with the European Commission. Macron promised on Monday to raise the minimum wage by 100 euros ($114) a month and that overtime will not be taxed or subject to social welfare charges. He also said the tax hike on pensions will be reversed for anyone with an income of below 2,000 euros a month, and encouraged companies to pay a tax-free end-of-year bonus.

[..] Macron’s promises might be a balm to some protesters, but economists note that they come at a cost. France’s borrowing costs rose on Tuesday with the spread between France and German ten-year bonds – seen as an indicator of risk sentiment – the widest since May 2017. The yield on France’s 10-year bond rose five basis points to 0.756 percent Tuesday before declining to 0.726 percent. Macron’s pledges are likely to get France into trouble with the European Commission for raising its budget deficit, the amount by which its spending exceeds its revenues, above the permitted limit of 2 percent of GDP. Macron’s announcement could also be a gift to Italy, given its own wrangling with the Commission over its spending plans for 2019.

“Macron’s sweeteners are coming at a cost,” Berenberg Economists Kallum Pickering and Florian Hense said in a research note Tuesday. “They add up to 10 billion euros or slightly more, equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP. On top of the already announced 4 billion to cancel the fuel tax hike, this could push the 2019 deficit from 2.8 percent to 3.4 percent of GDP unless offset by savings, which will be difficult to find,” they noted. France’s debt-to-GDP will likely rise beyond 100 percent as a result of the concessions too.

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More Orwell: Yellen’s “The tools that are available to deal with emerging problems are not great in the United States.” Should be:“The tools that are available to deal with the problems I caused are not great in the United States.”

Yellen Warns Of Another Financial Crisis: Gigantic Holes In The System (CNBC)

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told a New York audience she fears there could be another financial crisis because banking regulators have seen reductions in their authority to address panics and because of the current push to deregulate. “I think things have improved, but then I think there are gigantic holes in the system,” Yellen said Monday night in a discussion moderated by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman at CUNY. “The tools that are available to deal with emerging problems are not great in the United States.” Yellen cited leverage loans as an area of concern, something also mentioned by the current Fed leadership. She said regulators can only address such problems at individual banks not throughout the financial system.

The former fed chair, now a scholar at the Brookings Institution, said there remains an agenda of unfinished regulation. “I’m not sure we’re working on those things in the way we should, and then there remain holes, and then there’s regulatory pushback. So I do worry that we could have another financial crisis.” In the wake of the financial crisis, some agency regulatory powers were vastly expanded, but others, for example, the ability of the Fed to lend to an individual company in a crisis, were curtailed. Current Fed officials have pushed back against criticism that their reforms are making the system riskier, saying they are making the system more efficient. Speaking in London in June 2017, shortly after leaving office, Yellen had said she did not believe there would be another financial crisis in our lifetimes because of financial reforms.

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What goes for Yellen and the Fed, also applies to the IMF: they apparently remain convinced that crises happen not because of, but despite them.

IMF Warns Storm Clouds Are Gathering For Next Financial Crisis (G.)

The storm clouds of the next global financial crisis are gathering despite the world financial system being unprepared for another downturn, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund has warned. David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, said that “crisis prevention is incomplete” more than a decade on from the last meltdown in the global banking system. “As we have put it, ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’. But, like many of you, I see storm clouds building and fear the work on crisis prevention is incomplete.” Lipton said individual nation states alone would lack the firepower to combat the next recession, while calling on governments to work together to tackle the issues that could spark another crash.

“We ought to be concerned about the potency of monetary policy,” he said of the ability of the US Federal Reserve and other central banks to cut interest rates to boost the economy in the event of another downturn, while also warning that high levels of borrowing by governments constrained their scope for cutting taxes and raising spending. Lipton said the IMF went into the last crash under-resourced before it was handed a war chest worth $1tn from governments around the world, while adding that it was important that national leaders had agreed to complete a review of the fund’s financial firepower next year. “One lesson from that crisis was the IMF went into it under-resourced; we should try to avoid that next time.”

[..] Against a backdrop of Donald Trump engaging in a bitter trade dispute with Beijing, he said China needed to lower trade barriers, while also impose tougher rules to protect intellectual property – a key complaint of the US president. Lipton suggested that Chinese trade policies that were once considered acceptable when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 as a $1tn economy may now be inappropriate as it had become a $16tn international superpower. However, he did warn that the US should not take an overly heavy-handed approach to reform, adding: “China has many reforms that it could carry out that would be in its own interest and in the interest of countries around the globe. But China feels they can’t take those steps, as they put it, with a gun to their head, in the midst of trade tensions.”

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“I think we are a rocket ship going up.”

Trump Says Fed Shouldn’t Hike Rates, But Calls Powell ‘A Good Man’ (R.)

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday it would be a mistake if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates when it meets next week, as it is expected to do, continuing his criticism of the U.S. central bank. “I think that would be foolish, but what can I say?” Trump told Reuters in an interview. Trump said he needed the flexibility of lower interest rates to support the broader U.S. economy as he fights a growing trade battle against China, and potentially other countries. “You have to understand, we’re fighting some trade battles and we’re winning. But I need accommodation too,” he said.

Trump named Jerome Powell as Fed chairman, but has repeatedly railed against him since he took over as head of the U.S. central bank last February. Trump in August told Reuters that he was not “thrilled” with Powell’s raising interest rates. Trump was more conciliatory in his comments about Powell on Tuesday, but still criticized the policies of the man he chose for the top Fed job. “I think he’s a good man. I think he’s trying to do what he thinks is best. I disagree with him,” Trump said. “I think he’s being too aggressive, far too aggressive, actually far too aggressive.” [..] “Are we heading for a recession?” Trump said. “In my opinion, we are doing really well. Our companies are doing really well. If the Fed is going to act reasonably and rationally, I think we’ll go – I think we are a rocket ship going up.”

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Round 14 of pension cuts is reversed. The rest remains.

Greece Scraps Pension Cuts (R.)

Greece’s Parliament on Tuesday voted to scrap plans to cut state pensions, in a motion led by the left-led governing coalition hoping to shore up its flagging support ahead of a general election next year. Eventually the bailout, worth up to 86 billion euros, expired in August without IMF assistance, and Athens has said better-than-expected public finances enable it to rescind the planned cutbacks. The European Commission has approved the government’s decision. “The time has come for people to be rewarded for their sacrifices,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers ahead of the vote, calling the step a “necessary breath for the people of labour … who saw their pensions and their dignity hurt.”

Pensioners, who are in many households the only people with an income due to the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone, have seen earnings shrink by up to 40 percent since Greece toppled into crisis in late 2009. Tsipras’s term ends in 2019. His SYRIZA party is trailing the conservative New Democracy by about 10 points in opinion polls. Since 2010, Greece has signed up to three international bailouts totalling almost 290 billion euros, and will remain heavily indebted for years to come. The country is monitored by its eurozone partners and the IMF to ensure it does not veer off post-bailout targets aimed at maintaining high budget surpluses in coming years.

New Democracy (ND) accused the government of increasing taxes and handing out benefits from budget revenues to win votes. “You are wearing the mask of the philanthropist just to tip people from their own savings,” ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Tsipras in parliament.

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“We believe in an open economy, we believe in globalization, but we need to make sure that these investments are conducive to growth.”
-Nicolas Chapuis, EU ambassador to China

Really?! Ask the people if they ‘believe’ in globalization. Ask the yellow vests.

‘Forced Tech Transfer’ Must Stop Or Be Regulated – EU Envoy To China (CNBC)

The European Union has a vested interest in promoting technology exchanges with China, but any transfers should be regulated, said the trade bloc’s ambassador to China on Wednesday. “For the last 40 years, EU companies have provided most of the foreign tech that is in China, about 50 percent of what is today in China,” said Nicolas Chapuis, ambassador of the EU delegation to China. However, the diplomat expressed concerns about China trading market access for technology. Beijing sometimes forces foreign companies to hand over their technological know-how in exchange for access to its massive domestic market.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded that China cease forced tech transfers, which have become a flashpoint in the U.S.-China trade war. “This has to stop or to be regulated,” Chapuis told CNBC at the European Chamber Annual Conference 2018 in Beijing. “Of course if a company wants to open its tech books to a Chinese company — all right, that’s not an issue, but it has to be regulated so that there is no so-called ‘forced tech transfer,'” Chapuis said. Beijing has claimed it will step up protection of intellectual property rights, but experts point out that the country still wields its state-controlled legal system to take whatever trade secrets it wants for its own companies.

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Anything better than Hillary and Schumer, I guess.

Ocasio-Cortez Already Reveals The Inner Workings Of Congress (CNBC)

Although her first day on the job is still weeks away, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of the Capitol. The New York Democrat, along with other incoming freshman lawmakers, is trying to usher in a culture of openness that is enabled by a vast social media following. With nearly 3 million followers combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez has used the platforms to involve her supporters during the transition period before she takes office. Her enthusiastic and often pugnacious transparency campaign has earned her praise from inside and outside the Beltway. Yet it has also drawn criticism from several corners, including from President Donald Trump’s eldest son.

In a series of pictures and videos on Instagram dubbed “Congress Camp,” she gave an inside look into new-member orientation, from choosing an office to voting for House leadership, while also showcasing the unique quirks of life on Capitol Hill. “Guys, there are secret underground tunnels between all of these government buildings!” she whispers in one video. In another post, she polls her followers on whether she should choose an office with more space or one “close to our friends.” But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t just focusing on the novelty of her experience. Last week, she tweeted sharp criticism of an orientation for new members of Congress hosted by Harvard. The event featured corporate CEOs but no labor representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t given any indication that she will let up, however. “Our ‘bipartisan’ Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance,” she tweeted. “Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where’s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?” Fellow freshman member Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., echoed her criticisms. Tlaib said that Gary Cohn, former chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and former Goldman Sachs executive, told the new members at orientation that they don’t “know how the game is played.” “No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits,” Tlaib tweeted.

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Checking it twice.

Faking Moon Landing More Difficult Than Doing It (RT)

The head of the Russian space agency may joke about ‘verifying’ if the Americans landed on the moon, but there are no doubts for one Russian scientist, who weighed in on the decades-long conspiracy debate. The claim that NASA never landed astronauts on the moon and that evidence to the contrary was fabricated is among the most pervasive in popular culture and has been a point of fierce debates. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s space chief, even recently joked that Russia’s future lunar missions will give the country an opportunity to check whether Neil Armstrong’s footprints are actually out there.

That aside, people who actually study the moon for a living believe there is no need to launch spaceships just to prove the success of the Apollo program. Fabricating a lunar landing would probably be technologically impossible and anyway economically unnecessary, told RIA Novosti Yury Kostitsyn. The man heads the Institute of Analytical Chemistry, which is directly involved in developing sensors for space and was part of the Soviet robotic study of the moon. “Faking the landing of the American astronauts to the Moon would have been more complex and expensive than actually doing it,” the scientist assured. The key piece of evidence in his own field of knowledge is the moon soil, which the Americans said to have retrieved. It was studied in labs of many countries, including the USSR, and it’s definitely not from this planet.

“Falsifying moon soil is impossible. The Americans brought back to Earth about 300 kilos of it, most of it basalt,” he explained. “We have basalts on Earth too, but they are significantly different from the lunar ones in their chemical composition, properties, and structure. There are no rock formations older than 3.7 billion years, and what the Americans brought is over 4 billion years old, comparable to the age of the solar system.” (NB. There are actually rocks of earth origin dated over 4bn years, but the ones brought from the Moon are still older.) “There is nothing to argue about Americans landing on the moon between 1969 and 1972,” Kostitsyn stressed. “You won’t hear a single cosmonaut say they didn’t.”

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Sep 052018
 
 September 5, 2018  Posted by at 2:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The actor 1904

 

 

I’ve had a few comments lately wondering why I’m against Brexit, while before the referendum I was not. Someone even remembered I had been talking about Beautiful Brexit back in 2016. It’s real simple. Brexit could be, or could have been, a good idea. There’s a lot wrong with the way the European Union is set up. There’s nothing democratic about Germany always having the last say when it comes to important decisions. Slaughtering the entire nation of Greece on the altar of saving Deutsche and Commerzbank says it all.

But Brexit today is not the same -anymore- as it was before or during the June 23 2016 vote. What happened is that nothing happened. The Brits wasted two whole years and change, and the complexity of the process never allowed for that kind of delay. There are many thousands of pages of EU rules and regulations that not only has the UK been bound by over the past 45 years, but that have shaped its own society.

It’s not just that these ties have to be untangled, they have to be replaced by other rules and regulations. And no, the UK can’t just go back to what they had before 1973; too much water under the bridge, both domestically and internationally. Politically, the EU may be a disaster, but the single market is quite the achievement. And they’re not going to risk it by letting London cherry-pick the rules it likes while leaving others behind. It’s a package deal.

But that is what the Brits, or at least the Tories, appear to have counted on: cherry-picking. They still do. It’s going to be a cold shower. And obviously, they’re going to blame it all on the EU, but that’s neither true nor credible. Still, expect a huge blame campaign. They’re practicing on Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who the entire UK press including the BBC and Guardian, who are supposed to balance out the slew of Murdoch rags that shape opinion, started accusing of anti-semitism a few weeks ago.

It’s as concerted an effort as the D-Notice gag orders issued earlier this year in the novichok cases. And now that the few media outlets who once had some degree of independence start saying the same things as their smut peers, Brits can safely assume they have no press left that attempts to inform them. It’s now all a propaganda machine.

 

As for Jeremy Corbyn, one can feel sorry for him, but he doesn’t even try to defend himself. Needs to take some cues from Trump? Still, if Corbyn’s a jew hater, I’m Napoleon. There’s nothing in the man’s life that points to that. Just saying that Palestinians are not treated fairly doesn’t mean you hate Jews. That this has become the thread of the ‘discussion’ is an ominous sign.

How are Brits supposed to find out what’s happening in their own country, let alone the rest of the world? There’s no-one left to tell them who doesn’t subscribe to pre-gurgitated ideas and politics. So Theresa May can claim today they know who poisoned the Skripals, and threaten further sanctions against Russia, without sharing any proof with anyone. She can do that because there are no media left in Britain that will ask questions.

If no. 10 says the Russians did it, everyone reports that. If the Blair section of the Labour party says their own leader is an anti-Semite, everyone reports that. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Huxley and Orwell were Brits. There is no proof needed anymore: the media will parrot anything the ‘authorities’ say.

Well, kiddo’s, enjoy it while you can, because Brexit is going to shatter that little controlled world of yours into very little pieces. Pretend won’t do it anymore after that. You will need proof for that one, in the form of actual food, and actual trade and jobs. And you won’t have those to offer.

 

Today, Bloomberg reports that both Germany and the UK are willing to accept less stringent conditions for Brexit, but after Brexit day, March 29 2019, goods can no longer move across borders the way they used to. Yes, there is a 21-month transition period, but British products will have to comply with ALL EU rules and laws to be sold to Europe, including Ireland. The same goes for products and services and people that move the opposite way. And in the meantime, the UK cannot close any trade deals with 3rd part countries that don’t comply with EU rules.

Taking control of the narrative(s), as has been the UK’s model, only gets you so far. Britain can trade with the EU, but it cannot simultaneously trade with the US under entirely different conditions. Likewise, London can let Polish people pick British fruits, but not without letting other Europeans work in Britain as well. These rules are broad, and there can be no exceptions, since 27 other countries will want them too.

Now, if only Britain had a press that would tell people what’s going on. It doesn’t. The press only parrots. And if only Jeremy Corbyn told his anti-Semitism accusers to shut up or be sued for libel, and unveil an actual alternative plan for how to do Brexit -or not-. Nobody’s seen any such plan, and Corbyn doesn’t say a thing.

The whole place is just swirling down the drain, watching silly weddings and cooking shows, sipping gin and dreaming of a lost empire nobody can actually remember anymore. And the pace of the swirling can be adapted a little, but no-one is trying to stop it from happening. Oh well, tragedy can be beautiful too.

 

 

Nov 132017
 
 November 13, 2017  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jackson Pollock Man with knife 1940

 

There can be little doubt that the British, in general, have a sense of humor. And that’s perhaps the lens through which we should view the country these days. After all, what other options do we have? A comment yesterday to a Guardian article sums up the situation quite perfectly in just a few words (note: Dignitas has something to do with assisted dying):

Brexit is rapidly becoming like someone who booked a trip to Dignitas when they were told they were dying and has now been told there’s a cure. But they’re going to Switzerland anyway, because they can’t face dealing with Ryanair’s customer service team.

There are two main British political parties, Tories and Labour, which fight each other whenever and wherever they can. Moreover, each party has several camps that fight each other even more, if at all possible. The George W.- friendly Tony Blair Orchestra in the Labour Party seems to have lost out to the actually left-wing Jeremy Corbynistas for now, but they won’t give up without a fight (power is their only hobby). Blair is still commenting from the sidelines on Corbyn’s perceived follies while his faithful lament about how their Tone was misled by 43 into bombing Iraq.

The Tories have gone full-monty Monty Python. John Cleese et al must feel at least a pang of jealousy. 40 Tory MPs have allegedly gathered to demand for PM Theresa May to quit. A whole bunch of both Labour and Tory lawmakers threaten to tackle her over not allowing them a vote in any Brexit deal (which for now is entirely hypothetical). Other voices across party lines demand the resignation -or sacking- of foreign not-so-very-ministerial Boris Johnson.

One Tory MP, the Rt. Hon. John Redwood MP, who’s also Chief Global Strategist for Charles Stanley, wrote an op-ed in the FT telling investors to pull their money out of the UK. You can’t make that kind of stuff up. Or you can, but no-one would believe a word. The Python crew would have never made a dime if they had started out today, because life in Britain has now seriously trumped art. When the other guys are funnier without even trying, maybe comedy’s not your thing.

And that’s how we slide seamlessly right down into Theresa May and the Holy Grail, the probably best representation of what is going on. May never wanted a Brexit, but she’s so power hungry that she jumped at a chance of defending what she doesn’t believe in. By the way, apart maybe from Corbyn, all the actors in this comedy are in it not because they care for their country, but for themselves, exclusively. Brilliant video, by the way.

 

 

Not that Brexit is necessarily such a terrible thing. Putting distance between yourselves and the European Union may well be the most sensible thing there is. Because Brussels is now defined more than anything by what it has done -and failed to do- to Greece, to the refugees and to Catalonia. And it will never be able to shake that off. The EU, just like the UK, is ruled by people who care only about themselves. Our political systems self-select for sociopaths, with precious few exceptions.

Even if you see Brexit as a purely economical move, which most people do even though it’s very much not true, the British people should rejoice knowing that they won’t be the ones forking over for the next pan-European bank bailout. Then again, they’ll have to bail out their own banks. Which have grown way out of hand, the price paid for wanting to become a global finance center.

Nor will the British people be forced to pay up for the newly-revived, scary-as-hell and unholy idea of a European army, an idea that originated in the 1950s and has re-gained support the very moment Britain voted for Brexit:

 

EU To Sign Defense Pact, May Allow Limited British Role

France, Germany and 20 other EU governments are set to sign a defense pact on Monday they hope marks a new era of European military integration to cement unity after Britain’s decision to quit the bloc. In Europe’s latest attempt to lessen its reliance on the United States, the 22 governments will create a formal club that should give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling international crises.

“We’ve never come this far before,” said a senior EU official said of EU defense integration efforts that date back to a failed bid in the 1950s. “We are in a new situation.” The election of pro-European Emmanuel Macron as France’s president and warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that European allies must pay more towards their security have propelled the project forward, diplomats said.

[..] A system to spot weaknesses across EU armed forces, in coordination with U.S.-led NATO, is due to start in a pilot stage, while a multi-billion-euro EU fund to support the pact is still under negotiation. Long blocked by Britain, which feared the creation of an EU army, defense integration was revived by France and Germany after Britons voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

[..] London is not part of the initiative but British officials have been pressing for third country involvement. Britain’s aerospace industry and its biggest defense firm BAE Systems fear losing out, diplomats said. Britain may be able to join in, but only on an exceptional basis if it provides substantial funds and expertise.

They don’t even know who’ll be the leader of this European Army. There are plenty of reasons this was voted down 60 years ago and left in the dustbin ever since. A German supreme commander, anyone? The female German minister of defence just yesterday let slip that she supports regime change in Poland. That’s all you should need to know.

This is presented in Brussels as a money saver. European countries have too many different weapons systems, is the reasoning, and need to become ‘more efficient’. I bet you right here and now that it will cost Europe an arm and an extra leg or two-three. But not Britain. Which can also, simultaneously, if and when sensible people are in office, ditch its grandiose notions of being an empire or world power, and cut its armed forces by 50 or 75%.

And while they’re at it, cut its arms industry into little pieces and flush them down the Thames. Brexit can be an opportunity, a chance for the country to fully re-invent itself. But first, the Python-styled tragic comedy starring Theresa and Boris will have to be played to its tragic finale. To that end, and since it just wouldn’t feel fair to leave him out, let’s make sure we reserve a role for George Orwell as well – it comes natural:

 

UK Government Tensions Rise After Leak Of ‘Orwellian’ Memo Sent To May

The tensions in Theresa May’s government intensified on Sunday night ahead of this week’s vital votes on the Brexit bill, as ministers accused Boris Johnson and Michael Gove of sending an “Orwellian” set of secret demands to No 10. As an increasingly weakened prime minister faces the possibility of parliamentary defeats on the bill, government colleagues have said they are aghast at the language used by the foreign secretary and the environment secretary in a joint private letter.

The leaked letter – a remarkable show of unity from two ministers who infamously fell out during last year’s leadership campaign – appeared to be designed to push May decisively towards a hard Brexit and limit the influence of former remainers. It complained of “insufficient energy” on Brexit in some parts of the government and insisted any transition period must end in June 2021 – a veiled attack on the chancellor, Philip Hammond.

A decision as big and defining as Brexit should always have been executed by a government, or a coalition, in which as broad a spectrum of the population as possible is represented. It’s crazy to let just one party push through their version, especially when views are so divergent and tensions run this high. The Tories have just a slight majority.

But really, all Labour have to do is wait until May and Boris and Gove and all the others run out of gas and their engine seizes. They lost two ministers in a week and more will follow. So Labour makes a peace offer, knowing full well it won’t be accepted, but has to be made just for form.

As per tomorrow, May’s EU Withdrawal Bill will be discussed in Parliament and the next episode of Theresa May and the Holy Grail can start. John Cleese will be watching, thinking every five minutes: “Why didn’t I think of that?”. The Bill will be ripped to shreds, between a Hard Brexit and a No Brexit side, and hundreds of amendments, and May will be ripped along with it.

Even her chances of lasting just the week are slim. She has to turn to Labour for support, but she can’t. If she does, Boris will smell his opportunity for the top post. He might even get it, but that would lead to something awfully close to civil war; still, maybe that’s inevitable anyway, and perhaps it would be a good thing. Cards on the table.

 

UK Labour Makes Brexit Offer to May as Future in Balance

Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, wrote to May on Monday telling her there was a “sensible majority” in Parliament to secure a two-year transition deal for after Brexit. That would allow Britain to stay inside the European Union’s single market and customs union after 2019 while it completes trade talks with the bloc. He said the opposition to such an arrangement came from Conservatives.

“Over recent weeks, it has become increasingly clear that you alone do not have the authority to deliver a transitional deal with Europe and to take the necessary steps to protect jobs and the economy,” Starmer wrote in the letter, which was released by his office.

May is unlikely to welcome Labour’s offer, which highlights the fragility of her position. The premier, who lost two cabinet ministers in a week to different scandals, has received a letter from pro-Brexit rival Boris Johnson demanding a bolder approach to the divorce, the Mail on Sunday reported. And 40 Conservative lawmakers back a challenge to her leadership, The Sunday Times said, just eight short of the number that triggers a vote.

[..] May’s landmark Brexit legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill, returns to Parliament on Tuesday, where it faces hundreds of proposed amendments to be considered over eight days of debate. Even with the backing of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, May only has a slim majority. Tories who want to keep close ties to the EU have put their names on many of the measures, suggesting the government will have to back down or be defeated.

They’re talking about dates and timelines to present proposals to the EU, but they’ll never agree on any. And even if they do, Brussels will be ready to tear them to pieces. It’s hard to see how a Brexit will ever happen, but it’s easy to see that if it ever does, it’ll be an absolutely fabulous mess. And then even John Cleese won’t be laughing anymore.

 

 

Jun 232017
 
 June 23, 2017  Posted by at 9:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Fred Lyon Embarcadero lunch San Francisco 1948

 

Americans Are Dying With An Average Of $61,500 In Debt (ZH)
34 Biggest Banks in US Clear First Hurdle In Fed’s Annual Stress Tests (R.)
Credit-Card Debt Slaves Move to Top of Fed’s Bank Worries (WS)
Citizens Will Soon Turn Their Rage Towards Central Bankers (Albert Edwards)
UK Homelessness Surges 34% Under Tories Since 2010 (Ind.)
UK High Court Judges Tory Policy Causes ‘Real Misery For No Purpose’ (Ind.) /span>
Buy-to-Let Uk Property Sales Fall By Almost 50% In A Year (G.)
Canada’s Private Sector Debt Growing Faster Than Any Advanced Economy (PA)
Warren Buffett Becomes Lender Of Last Resort For Canada’s Home Capital (BBG)
EU Political Class Rides Roughshod over Citizens’ Concerns & Frustrations (DQ)
Dear Oliver: About Those Putin Interviews (RM)
Arab States Send Qatar 13 Demands To End Crisis (R.)
In Yemen’s Secret Prisons, UAE Tortures and US Interrogates

 

 

Double or nothing?!

Americans Are Dying With An Average Of $61,500 In Debt (ZH)

According to a recent study, the average total household debt in America is just over $132,500, broken down as per the chart below… and thanks to the Fed’s recent and ongoing rate increases, the repayment of said debt will become increasingly more difficult. So difficult, in fact, that most Americans will be saddled with a sizable chunk of it at the time of their death. Actually, most already are. According to December 2016 data from credit bureau Experian provided to credit.com, 73% of American consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead. Those consumers carried an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875. As credit.com reports, the data is based on Experian’s FileOne database, which includes 220 million consumers.

To determine the average debt people have when they die, Experian looked at consumers who, as of October 2016, were not deceased, but then showed as deceased as of December 2016. Among the 73% of consumers who had debt when they died, about 68% had credit card balances. The next most common kind of debt was mortgage debt (37%), followed by auto loans (25%), personal loans (12%) and student loans (6%). The breakdown of unpaid balances was as follows: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans, $25,391. And, as a reminder, debt doesn’t just disappear when someone dies.

What happens to that debt when you die, aside from it continuing to accrue interest until someone remembers to inform the creditors? “Debt belongs to the deceased person or that person’s estate,” said Darra L. Rayndon, an estate planning attorney with Clark Hill in Scottsdale, Arizona. If someone has enough assets to cover their debts, the creditors get paid, and beneficiaries receive whatever remains. But if there aren’t enough assets to satisfy debts, creditors lose out (they may get some, but not all, of what they’re owed). Family members do not then become responsible for the debt, as some people worry they might. That’s the general idea, but things are not always that straightforward. The type of debt you have, where you live and the value of your estate significantly affects the complexity of the situation. For example, federal student loan debt is eligible for cancellation upon a borrower’s death, but private student loan companies tend not to offer the same benefit. They can go after the borrower’s estate for payment.

Read more …

Let’s do a stress test that assumes the Fed is no longer around, see what happens.

34 Biggest Banks in US Clear First Hurdle In Fed’s Annual Stress Tests (R.)

The 34 largest U.S. banks have all cleared the first stage of an annual stress test, showing they would be able to maintain enough capital in an extreme recession to meet regulatory requirements, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday. Although the banks, including household names like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, would suffer $383 billion in loan losses in the Fed’s most severe scenario, their level of high-quality capital would be substantially higher than the threshold that regulators demand, and an improvement over last year’s level. “This year’s results show that, even during a severe recession, our large banks would remain well capitalized,” said Fed Governor Jerome Powell, who leads banking regulation for the central bank. “This would allow them to lend throughout the economic cycle, and support households and businesses when times are tough.”

The Fed introduced the stress tests in the wake of the financial crisis to ensure the health of the banking industry, whose ability to lend is considered crucial to the health of the economy. Since the first test was conducted in 2009, big banks have seen losses abate, loan portfolios improve and profits grow. The banks that now undergo the exam have also strengthened their balance sheets by adding more than $750 billion in top-notch capital, the Fed said. Banks and their investors have been hoping the improvements would prompt the Fed to allow them to use more capital for stock buybacks and dividends, especially as the Trump administration is seeking to relax financial regulations. Wall Street analysts and trade groups quickly cheered the results on Thursday, saying regulators should feel comfortable easing tough rules put in place since the financial crisis. “We see today’s…stress test results as a positive for Trump administration efforts to deregulate the banks,” said Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst with Cowen & Co.

Read more …

The biggest debts are still in mortgages. Falling home prices will hurt most.

Credit-Card Debt Slaves Move to Top of Fed’s Bank Worries (WS)

The comforting news in the results from the Federal Reserve’s annual stress test is that the largest 34 bank holding companies would all survive a recession. Based on this glorious accomplishment, the clamoring has already started for regulators to allow these banks to pay bigger dividends and to blow more money on share buybacks, and for these regulators to slash regulation on these banks and make their life easier and riskier in general. We don’t want these banks to survive a recession in too good a condition apparently. And it would likely be better for Wall Street anyway if banks could lever up with risks so that a few of them would get bailed out during the next recession. Let’s remember, for the Fed’s no-holds-barred bailout-year 2009, Wall Street executives and employees were doused with record bonuses.

The Fed’s bailouts were good for them. And it has been good for them ever since. The less comforting news in the stress test is that credit card debt – generally the most expensive and risky debt for consumers – has now moved to the top of the Fed’s worry list in the “severely adverse scenario” of the stress test. The projected losses for the 34 largest banks – not counting the losses at the 4,997 smaller banks – are expected to hit $100 billion, up nearly 9% from the stress test a year ago. The projected losses rose for several reasons, including that credit card balances have grown by 5.6% from a year ago to over $1 trillion. The delinquency rate has risen to 2.4%. The Fed is also blaming looser lending standards. Sharing the top spot on the Fed’s worry list in the “severely adverse scenario” are Commercial & Industrial loans, whose balances are over twice as large, at $2.1 trillion, but whose projected losses are also pegged at $100 billion. In total, the “severely adverse scenario” sees $493 billion in losses for these 34 banks:

Read more …

“..investors, drunk with the liquor of loose money..”

Citizens Will Soon Turn Their Rage Towards Central Bankers (Albert Edwards)

Albert Edwards pwrites “Theft redux: the citizens will soon turn their rage towards Central Bankers.” The core of his argument is familiar: “While politics in the West reels from a decade of economic crisis and stagnation, asset prices continue to surge on the back of continued rapid growth in G3 QE. In an age of “radical uncertainty” how long will it be before angry citizens tire of blaming an impotent political system for their ills and turn on the main culprits for their poverty – unelected and virtually unaccountable central bankers? I expect central bank independence will be (and should be) the next casualty of the current political turmoil.” That’s just the beginning from Edwards, who appears to be getting increasingly angrier and more frustrated with a market that makes increasingly less sense: his fiery sermon continue with the following preview of the “inevitable catastrophe that lies ahead.”

“Evidence of the impact of monetary madness on assets prices is all around if we care to look. I read that a parking spot in Hong Kong was just sold for record HK$5.18 million ($664,200). What about the 3.5x oversubscribed 100 year Argentine government bond? Sure, everything has a market clearing price, even one of the most regular defaulters in history. But what concerned me most about the story was it was demand from investors (“reverse enquires”) that prompted the issue. Is it just me or can I hear echoes of the mechanics of the CDO crisis? But no one cares when the party is still raging and investors, drunk with the liquor of loose money, are blind to the inevitable catastrophe that lies ahead. There is a lot of anger out on the streets, as demonstrated most visibly in recent elections.

Even in France where investors feel comforted that a “moderate” has gained (absolute?) power, it is salutary to remember that the two establishment parties have just been decimated by a man who had never before stood for public office! This is perhaps even more radical than Trump’s anti-establishment victory under the Republican umbrella. The global political situation is incredibly fluid and unpredictable. While a furious electorate has turned its pent up anger on the establishment political parties, the target for their rage is misguided. I am not completely alone in thinking it is the unelected and virtually unaccountable central bankers who are primarily responsible for the poverty of working people and who will be ultimately held to account in the next crisis.

Read more …

In other news: ” Government-funded new social housing has fallen 97% since 2010″.

UK Homelessness Surges 34% Under Tories Since 2010 (Ind.)

The number of families being declared homeless has rocketed by more a third since the Conservatives took power in 2010, analysis of new official statistics by The Independent has revealed. Between April 2016 and March 2017, 59,100 families were declared homeless by local authorities in England – a rise of 34% on the same period in 2010-11. The statistics paint a bleak picture of the UK housing crisis and the impact a lack of decent, affordable homes is having on thousands of families. There has been a 60% increase in the number of families being housed in insecure temporary accommodation. In particular, bed and breakfast-type hotels are increasingly being used to house families for long periods of time as local councils struggle to find them proper homes to live in.

There are now 77,240 families in England currently living in temporary accommodation – up from 48,240 just six years ago. Of these, almost fourth-fifths (78%) are families with children, meaning there are currently 120,500 children living in insecure, temporary homes. Of those being housed temporarily, 6,590 households are living in B&Bs, including 3,010 families with children. Almost half have been living in this type of accommodation, which often sees families crammed into one room and forced to share limited bathroom and cooking facilities with strangers, for more than six weeks. This is illegal under the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 2003, which banned local authorities from housing families with children in B&Bs for more than a six-week period.

Read more …

The Tories are done. Someone should tell them.

UK High Court Judges Tory Policy Causes ‘Real Misery For No Purpose’ (Ind.)

Today, the High Court ruled that the benefits cap, one of the Tories’ flagship welfare policies, is unlawful, because it amounts to illegal discrimination against single parents with small children. It’s likely that the Government will be forced to alter or completely scrap their benefits cap, a policy that limits the total amount a household can receive in benefits to £23,000 in London and £20,000 elsewhere in the UK. High Court judge Justice Collins described the benefit cap as causing “real damage” to single parent families and said “real misery is being caused to no good purpose”. This is the fundamental truth at the heart of Tory welfare policy – misery without progress or reason.

Welfare reform as part of the coalition government’s austerity measures has driven thousands more people into poverty and in many tragic cases, some deaths occurred after individuals were declared fit to work. Austerity was not inevitable. It was an ideologically-motivated programme designed to force the poorest and most vulnerable in our society to shoulder the burden of a financial crisis that they had less than nothing to do with creating. Four claimants brought this case to court. Two of them had been made homeless as a result of domestic violence, and were trying to work as many hours as possible while taking care of children under the age of two. Imagine fleeing an abusive partner, seeking support from a domestic violence service that’s had its funding brutally slashed by the Tory government, trying to work and look after a small child, then having your benefits cut, again by the Tory government.

The claimants are not alone. The benefits cap has inflicted a massive amount of suffering, with 200,000 children from the very lowest income families affected, as their parents’ income has fallen drastically. In real terms, this means that these children’s lives have become even more difficult, and they weren’t easy to begin with. This means a colder house, less food to eat, more shame at school due to unwashed clothes, uniforms that are too small, worn-through shoes. It means stressed, unhappy and increasingly desperate parents, and in family, children can’t fail to pick up on this mood of misery. [..] In this wealthy, highly developed country, poverty is the single biggest threat to the wellbeing of children and families. Poverty affects a quarter of all children in Britain, a massive, disgraceful, inexcusable proportion. one in five parents are struggling to feed their children, and 50% of all parents living in food poverty have gone without meals in order to give their children more to eat.

Read more …

There goes the bubble. Look out below.

Buy-to-Let Uk Property Sales Fall By Almost 50% In A Year (G.)

The number of properties bought by landlords has almost halved in a year after a tax and regulatory clampdown, prompting a leading banking body to downgrade its forecasts for buy-to-let lending in 2017 and 2018. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said buy to let had had a weak start to 2017, with lending falling faster than expected as landlords withdrew from the market in response to major tax changes and tighter lending rules. The data follows a series of recent surveys and indices suggesting the housing market is running out of steam. However, the crackdown on buy to let may have helped young people trying to get a foot on the property ladder. CML said house purchase activity was being driven predominantly by first-time buyers, with their numbers up 8% in the 12 months to April.

Buy-to-let homebuying activity was “nearly half what it was a year ago” and had averaged around 6,000 purchases a month over the last 12 months, said the body, which represents banks and building societies. The number of landlord purchases involving a mortgage was 5,300 in April this year. This compared with 10,300 in February 2016 and 11,800 in July 2015. As a result, the CML has cut its forecast for buy-to-let lending from £38bn being lent in both 2017 and 2018 to £35bn in 2017 and £33bn in 2018. The organisation warned against hitting landlords with any further changes to taxation and lending rules, saying the figures “re-emphasise the case for avoiding further changes to the tax and regulatory framework until the effect of these already in train have been properly assessed”.

Read more …

Download report here: Addicted to Debt – Tracking Canada’s rapid accumulation of private sector debt .

Canada’s Private Sector Debt Growing Faster Than Any Advanced Economy (PA)

For the first time ever, Canada’s private sector is racking up debt faster than any other of the world’s 22 advanced economies, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences, according to new research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. A new report authored by CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald reveals that Canada added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years ($2016), with the corporate sector responsible for the majority of it. Economies can become dependent on debt in order to fuel economic and asset price growth. With both rapid private debt accumulation and a high private debt-to-GDP ratio, even a small change in debt growth rates, brought on by changes in interest rates for instance, could have a devastating impact on the larger economy.

“Private sector debt growth is one of the best predictors of economic crisis, and Canada is now the only advanced economy squarely in the debt ‘danger zone’ of having high private sector debt that continues to rise rapidly,” Macdonald says. The report identifies several areas of concern:
• Canada has never before led the advanced economies in private debt growth;
• The last time Canada was close to leading the world in private debt growth was the early 1990s, just as housing prices plummeted and then stagnated for a decade;
• The country’s private debt-to-GDP ratio has risen by a fifth since 2011, from 182% to 218%. The US ratio currently stands at 152%;
• The $315 billion increase in household debt since 2011 ($2016) is almost entirely attributable to the rise in mortgage debt related to rapid home prices increases;
• Corporate debt is less well studied, and rose $671 billion since 2011 ($2016), accounting for two thirds of private debt accumulation over that time;
• Corporate debt was largely spent on mergers and acquisitions as well as real estate purchases, neither of which make the country more productive.

“Canada’s economy has become addicted to binging on ever more private sector debt, and weaning us off it should be our primary public policy concern,” adds Macdonald, who recommends further study of corporate debt and consideration of a housing speculators’ tax to further reign in mortgage debt increases.

Read more …

Well, it can’t be because Buffett see a bright future in Canada’s housing market. So draw your own conclusion.

Warren Buffett Becomes Lender Of Last Resort For Canada’s Home Capital (BBG)

Warren Buffett has become the lender of last resort for Home Capital. The billionaire investor agreed to buy shares at a deep discount and provide a fresh credit line for the Canadian mortgage company, tapping a formula he used to prop up lenders from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will buy a 38% stake for about C$400 million ($300 million) and provide a C$2 billion credit line with an interest rate of 9% to backstop the embattled Toronto-based lender, Home Capital said late Wednesday in a statement. The interest on the one-year loan would net Berkshire at least C$180 million if it’s fully tapped.

“While the terms of the new credit line with Berkshire Hathaway remain harsh, we believe the purpose of this loan is to motivate Home Capital’s management to bolster their own funding sources,” said Hugo Chan at Kingsferry Capital in Shanghai, which owns shares in Home Capital. “This again shows Mr. Buffett’s masterful capital allocation skills,” said Chan, citing his investment motto: “be greedy when others are fearful.” The financial backing from Buffett sent the stock higher Thursday, though it comes at a cost, in keeping with his past bailouts of financial firms. Buffett has buoyed some of the biggest U.S. corporations in times of trouble, including a combined $8 billion injection to prop up Goldman Sachs and General Electric when credit markets froze during the 2008 financial crisis.

In the Home Capital deal, Buffett’s firm agreed to pay an average price of C$10 a share, a 33% discount to Wednesday’s closing price of C$14.94. Berkshire would become the largest shareholder in Home Capital, which has a market value of about C$1 billion. Home Capital surged 27% to C$19 in Toronto on Thursday. That gives Buffett a 90% return on paper for the equity investment, assuming the deal goes through.

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They always have, it’s an MO.

EU Political Class Rides Roughshod over Citizens’ Concerns & Frustrations (DQ)

Merkel has expressed a willingness to go along with two central French demands — the appointment of a Eurozone finance minister and the creation of a common budget — as long as certain conditions are met. “We can of course think about a Eurozone budget as long as it’s clear that this is really strengthening structures and achieving sensible results,” she said. [..] Back on the table is a proposal to upgrade the grossly unaccountable Luxembourg-based European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a full-fledged European Monetary Fund. As we’ve noted before, creating a European Monetary Fund (EMF) would be an important statement of intent. If Europe’s core countries are truly set on taking the EU project to a whole new level, such as by pursuing the creation of an EU army, an EU border force (with full powers), fiscal union, and ultimately political union, some form of burden sharing will ultimately be necessary.

The establishment of a fully operational EMF could be an important move in that direction. The EMF would essentially act as a fiscal backdrop to the banking system, something the Eurozone has desperately needed ever since its creation. As Bruegel proposes, it would serve as a fiscal counterpart of the ECB to guarantee the financial stability of the euro area in the event of a sovereign or banking crisis, or a threat thereof — of which there are plenty these days, in particular emanating from Italy’s broken banking system. Naturally, the creation of an EMF would deal a further blow to the fading remnants of national sovereignty in Europe. But that’s a price that many (but certainly not all) of Europe’s elite is more than happy to pay; some would say that destroying national sovereignty was the ultimate goal of the EU all along.

In a survey of more than 10,000 EU citizens and 1,800 EU elites carried out by Chatham House, of the elites, 37% believe the EU should get more powers, 28% want to keep the status quo and 31% would prefer to return more powers to individual member countries. This enthusiasm for a more centralized, more powerful EU is not shared with equal enthusiasm by European citizens: 48% want powers returned to the individual member countries. Citizens, overall, do not feel they have benefited from European integration in the same way Europe’s elite does. Whereas 71% of elites report feeling they have gained something from the EU, the figure among the public is only 34%. Even more worrisome for national leaders, a clear majority of the public — 54% — feel that their country was a better place to live 20 years ago, before the euro existed.

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I’ve seen a few parts. Liked them quite a bit.

Dear Oliver: About Those Putin Interviews (RM)

Dear Mr. Stone: I have just finished watching all four episodes of The Putin Interviews. May I give you my critique? Overall, I felt that the series is Very Good but felt just short of Great. I will explain below what I feel could have made it Great. First, I want to tell you what I really loved about it. 1. You have an easy style. I felt as if Mr. Putin was at ease with you, and you with him. You have a warm command of the English language and can transmit your ideas into language in a very personable way — an art that is missing among so many American media people these days. I felt that you drew out a candid side of Putin, well, that is, as far as a man of his intellectual prowess and disciplined self-control will allow. 2. Best moment of the show: Sitting next to Vlad and watching Dr. Strangelove! Oh my goodness, most people would not even dream of adding such a thing to their bucket list.

3. I loved the walking tour of the President’s offices and the general background of the Kremlin architecture and decor. I pay attention to the daily, tweeted photos from the Kremlin’s official account. I have seen those desks and tables a million times in the photos. But now I have them all within a mental frame, thanks to your film. Question: I was burning to know why Vlad had a pair of scissors and multi-colored construction paper in the middle of his desk, did you happen to ask him, off-camera?

Where It Fell Short Mr. Stone, I hated that so much time was wasted talking about the contrived “Russia hacked the election” meme. Hillary might not know why she lost the election, but the rest of the nation does. When my father would get on a roll with his bad jokes, Mom would tell us kids: “Don’t encourage him.” Well, you too need to stop encouraging the MSM to keep breathing life into a dead meme.

You also wasted time re-hashing Crimea. “Read My Lips,” Vlad said, “the Crimeans ASKED, BEGGED, AND VOTED to rejoin Russia.” Good grief, when McCain’s and Nuland’s beloved neo-Nazi Svoboda party took illegal control of Ukraine, their first move was to try and make it illegal to speak Russian. Geez, half the people in Ukraine ARE Russian! Mr. Putin has exercised considerable restraint towards Ukraine.

Mr. Stone, I have been following the development of BRICS, the “Silk Road Project,” and the EEU (European Economic Union) for a half-decade now. I can’t have a conversation with my neighbors and friends about all of that here in America because not one of them has heard anything about it! You had a great opportunity to ask Mr. Putin to school us on the Sino-Russian version of a multi-polar world without war, but you totally blew it. I don’t think you ever asked Vlad about China, did you?

 

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Saudi Arabia accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism. Rich.

Arab States Send Qatar 13 Demands To End Crisis (R.)

Four Arab states boycotting Qatar over alleged support for terrorism have sent Doha a list of 13 demands including closing Al Jazeera television and reducing ties to their regional adversary Iran, an official of one of the four countries said. The demands aimed at ending the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years appear designed to quash a two decade-old foreign policy in which Qatar has punched well above its weight, striding the stage as a peace broker, often in conflicts in Muslim lands. Doha’s independent-minded approach, including a dovish line on Iran and support for Islamist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, has incensed some of its neighbors who see political Islamism as a threat to their dynastic rule.

The list, compiled by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, which cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties to Doha on June 5, also demands the closing of a Turkish military base in Qatar, the official told Reuters. Qatar must also announce it is severing ties with terrorist, ideological and sectarian organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, he said, and surrender all designated terrorists on its territory, The four Arab countries accuse Qatar of funding terrorism, fomenting regional instability and cozying up to revolutionary theocracy Iran. Qatar has denied the accusations.

[..] on Monday, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar would not negotiate with the four states unless they lifted their measures against Doha. The countries give Doha 10 days to comply, failing which the list becomes “void”, the official said without elaborating, suggesting the offer to end the dispute in return for the 13 steps would no longer be on the table.

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Bunch of sicko’s.

Edward Snowden on Twitter: “Biggest @AP scoop in a long time: US government behind UAE torture in Yemen, with some reportedly grilled alive.

In Yemen’s Secret Prisons, UAE Tortures and US Interrogates

Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found. Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture. The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials.

All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years. The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others. Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.

“We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP’s findings. “We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights.” In a statement to the AP, the UAE’s government denied the allegations. “There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.” Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.

None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year

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