Apr 182017
 
 April 18, 2017  Posted by at 9:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
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Albrecht Dürer Study of the left hand of an apostle (for the Heller Altar) c.1508

 


Trump’s Next Big Policy Reversal Could Be On The TPP (CNBC)
Strong Dollar Could Cause Bond Market Crash – Martin Armstrong (USAW)
Stocks, Bonds Diverge Over Trump Tax Reform, Stimulus Odds (CNBC)
We’re Borrowing Our Way to Economic Disaster – Stockman (DR)
BMO Bundles Uninsured Mortgages in a Canadian Bond First
UK Will Never Build Enough Homes To Keep Prices Down (Tel.)
Greek Insurance Company Can Become a Weapon for China in Europe (GR)
Greek Debt Must Be Sustainable For IMF To Join Bailout – Lagarde (R.)
Taxation is Theft (Napolitano)
Is America’s Alliance with Turkey Doomed? (SCF)
Erdogan Says He Doesn’t Care What Europe Thinks About Turkey’s Vote (BBG)
Opening Of UN Files On Holocaust Will ‘Rewrite Chapters Of History’ (G.)
Critically Endangered Species Poached In World’s Protected Natural Sites (AFP)
At Least 8,500 Migrants Rescued From Mediterranean In Three Days (CNN)

 

 

And why not? He flip-flopped 5 times in one day last week, and his popularity rose.

Trump’s Next Big Policy Reversal Could Be On The TPP (CNBC)

From NATO to health care, President Donald Trump has evidenced he is comfortable making major policy flip-flops. His most recent reversal came last week, when a U.S. Treasury report declined to name China as a currency manipulator despite Trump’s repeated promises to formally accuse Beijing — a signature pledge during his campaign trail. So, what could Trump backtrack on next? One analyst said he hopes it will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the world’s largest trade deal that Trump withdrew from in January on the claim that it would hurt U.S. manufacturing. “Whoever thought that Trump would let China, a rival, off the hook on currency? If he can do that with a country that’s clearly not a friend, maybe he could reconsider reversing himself on TPP for a friend like Japan,” Sean King, senior vice president of Park Strategies, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Japan was set to be a major beneficiary of TPP, particularly the country’s auto sector that would have obtained cheaper access to U.S. markets. Tokyo, which has long lamented the trade pact would be “meaningless” without the U.S., has decided to forge ahead with the other remaining 10 participating nations to revive the deal but many are doubtful of whether the TPP will be a game-changer in Washington’s absence. Trump still has time to change his mind on TPP, King warned, noting that the treaty text remains valid until February 2018. “Trump said [TPP] was a disaster, but I’m sure the other members would be willing to make concessions to get the U.S. back in, just like South Korea was willing to make concessions to Obama for his endorsement of the U.S.-Korea [free trade agreement],” King said. “He’s certainly made greater reversals and claimed victory. Why not do this for our friends who want to stand with us against countries like China and North Korea? I’m all for it.”

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“There is no place to go but the dollar at this point.” “..you don’t collapse the core economy. It’s always the peripheral coming in.”

Strong Dollar Could Cause Bond Market Crash – Martin Armstrong (USAW)

Renowned financial expert Martin Armstrong says the biggest risk out there is the effect a strong U.S. dollar has on the global bond market. Armstrong explains, “There’s these people who keep saying the dollar is going to crash. If the dollar crashes, the world is happier and basically celebrating. You have half the U.S. debt equivalent in emerging market debt issued in dollars. If the dollar goes up, they are in trouble. Then you are going to see sovereign defaults .. The U.S. is not going to default, but as you start defaults elsewhere outside the country, it makes people begin to get concerned about sovereign debt. Sovereign debt is the worst of all. It’s not secured. If the U.S. government defaulted on its debt, what would happen? You cannot go down to the National Gallery and start lifting Picassos.”

So, a bond market crash is a distinct possibility? Armstrong says, “Yes. All these things are contagions .. The real risk is coming from Europe and Asia. That is the real risk .. There is no place to go but the dollar at this point.” If and when a global collapse comes, it will come from China or Europe. Armstrong says, “Yes, because you don’t collapse the core economy. It’s always the peripheral coming in. It was the same thing in the Great Depression. It wasn’t the fact that the U.S. defaulted. The problem was the first bank that went down was in Austria, and it happened to be owned in part by the Rothschilds. When people hear a bank owned by the Rothschilds went down, people started to sell off all other banks. Then all the countries defaulted.”

Armstrong says there is going to be a major “monetary reform” in the not so distant future, and the U.S. will end up with a dollar for domestic use and a dollar used for international trade, sort of like a “domestic dollar” and an “international trade dollar.” Armstrong says, “Yes. All it is doing is replacing the dollar as the reserve currency. That would satisfy China and Russia, and it would simply be maintained by an international board. I strongly advise against the IMF. It’s way, way too corrupt.” So, is gold a good asset to have with a coming currency reset? Armstrong says, “Yes, at that point, you are talking about a hedge against government. When you go through these monetary crises, effectively, all tangible assets rise in price, not just gold and silver. . . .

Tangible assets have a value to everybody globally. The downside is on real estate. I would never put 100% of my money in real estate because it is not moveable.” Fast-forward to now, and Armstrong predicts, “The economy is not going to come back. We are not going to see economic growth.” Where is all this taking the world? Armstrong, who is an expert on economic and political cycles, says, “You have to understand what makes war even take place? It does not unfold when everybody is fat and happy. Simple as that. You turn the economy down, and that’s when you get war. It’s the way politics works.”

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Are bonds the lesser bubble then?

Stocks, Bonds Diverge Over Trump Tax Reform, Stimulus Odds (CNBC)

Optimism that the Trump administration will be able to drive through a hefty pro-growth plan or tax package this year is fading by the day. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday became the latest official to dial back expectations for a time table that included a tax plan by August. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mnuchin said getting tax reform by August was an “aggressive timeline” and would probably be delayed because of health care. In the bond market, there was little surprise. Bond yields, which move inversely to prices, have been falling for weeks as traders have become more skeptical that Washington will adopt any pro-growth policy this year. Stocks, meanwhile, have traded side ways recently, and the S&P 500 is still up 10% since election day, boosted by hope of fiscal stimulus and tax cuts.

Mnuchin’s remarks did not surprise markets, and, in fact, stocks rallied hard based on his comments that Treasury is looking at ways to raise funds to pay for the tax plan without the controversial border-adjustment tax. “That’s exactly why the [stock] market rallied. People hate the border-adjustment tax,” said Peter Boockvar at Lindsey Group. The tax is part of the Congressional tax reform plan and would slap a 20% tax on all imports but not tax exports. Opponents claim it could cause inflation and penalize consumers, while proponents say it would encourage more manufacturing in the U.S. and level the playing field for U.S. companies. The market was not surprised by the push back in the timeline for tax reform, since President Trump last week said health care would come ahead of taxes. Ever since Congress failed to vote on health care in March, the market has become increasingly doubtful a tax plan would get done any time soon.

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“Donald Trump is a tourist in the Imperial City of Washington D.C. He’s flipping, flopping and making it up as he goes.”

We’re Borrowing Our Way to Economic Disaster – Stockman (DR)

David Stockman joined the Fox Business and the show Mornings with Maria to discuss the tax reform highlights for the current White House and GOP platform and what he views as a real threat of economic disaster in the U.S. During the discussion Stockman highlights what to expect from a border adjustment tax possibility, the creation of jobs and the impact on Wall Street in the age of Donald Trump. Stockman takes to point the cause of tax reform in the current White House. He begins the segment noting, “I think the border adjustment tax will come out of the retailers margin – and it should. We do need revenue. We need to have a consumption tax, or a value added tax or a border adjustment tax – so that we may reduce taxation on wages and income. We desperately need more jobs in this country.

If you keep taxing the payroll at 15.5%, which we’re doing today, you’re not going to encourage the creation of jobs. You’re going to take what jobs there are and impact the take-home pay of those jobs.” David Stockman was then asked about his read on Donald Trump’s border tax proposals and the possibility of what the President described as a ‘reciprocal tax.’ “He has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s making it up as he goes along. Donald Trump is a tourist in the Imperial City of Washington D.C. He’s flipping, flopping and making it up as he goes.” “The border adjustment tax, or a value added tax is the way to get at the problem he’s talking about. Every other country in the world has a value added tax. You take it off the exports and put it on the imports. There is a proper way to do it and he ought to allow the republicans on the hill who understand that to move forward.

The idea that we can have a multi-trillion dollar tax cut and not pay for it with new revenue or spending cuts is dangerous. We are at $20 trillion in debt and it is headed to $30 trillion.” When asked about the pragmatic nature of a border adjustment tax, Stockman pressed “I think it’s basic math. If you want to cut the corporate tax rate to 20%, which I think would be wonderful, you’ve got to raise $2 trillion over the next ten years to pay for it. Where are you going to get the money? Are you going to close loopholes? I doubt that. The lobby effort will kill that. You need a new revenue source. If you don’t do that you’re stuck with the current tax system. You’re stuck with massive deficits that are going to kill this country. We are basically borrowing our way to economic disaster.”

[..] We are so “deep in the soup” debt wise and have such a massive, and building deficit that you have to have revenue neutral tax cuts. The border adjustment tax is dead. Without that you are not going to reduce the corporate tax rate down to 20% or 15%, etc.” “The Trump reflation fantasy is over. It is all downhill from here. The market it heading down 20 to 30% down, the 1600 on the S&P. We’re going to have negative shock after negative shock. It is about time they sober up. On April 28th the U.S government is going to shut down. That will be spring training on the continuing resolution until we get to MOAD in the summer.”

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Never been tried before.

BMO Bundles Uninsured Mortgages in a Canadian Bond First

Bank of Montreal is bundling uninsured residential mortgages into bonds in what could be the start of a new financing market for Canadian banks as the government scales back its support for home loans. The Toronto-based lender is planning to sell debt backed by nearly C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) of prime uninsured mortgages. That’s a new development in a country where big banks have historically packaged government-insured mortgages into bonds. If the Bank of Montreal deal is successful, other Canadian banks may follow its lead, providing banks with more financing to keep making mortgages, said Marc Goldfried, CIO at Canoe Financial. The net result may be that housing prices in Canada keep rising. “Right now the banks don’t have any other way to fund it, so there’s probably some form of internal limit on this kind of mortgage financing they’ll do,” Goldfried said by phone from Toronto.

But the Bank of Montreal deal may find headwinds, said Paul Gardner, partner and portfolio manager at Avenue Investment. Canada last year tightened access to the federal insurance to help tamp down rapid home price growth in areas like Toronto and Vancouver. The federal government or Ontario could craft more legislation to cool the housing market, Gardner said. The province’s finance minister is considering a foreign-buyers tax like the one that helped cool home prices in Vancouver. Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau, Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa, and Mayor John Tory are meeting in Toronto Tuesday to discuss the housing market in the Greater Toronto Area. “Residential mortgages, my God, it’s the last thing you want to invest in right now,” Gardner said by phone from Toronto. “When the capital markets are flush with cash, it makes sense that they would try at least to issue this stuff.”

[..] The bank will offer to renew the mortgage loans at the end of their term if the borrower is not in default, and if the borrowers satisfies the bank’s underwriting criteria at the time, which mitigates some of the risk of borrowers not being able to refinance. Canadian mortgage loans generally have a five-year term, and borrowers pay down their principal at a 25-to-30-year pace meaning they usually have to refinance a significant portion of their loan every five years.

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Oh boy. If these are the kind of people you rely on for advice, you’re in trouble.

UK Will Never Build Enough Homes To Keep Prices Down (Tel.)

Britain will never build enough houses to make property affordable for young people, according to research. A study presented to the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference said those hoping to get on the ladder may have to rely on windows of opportunity created by periodic slumps in the market. However, the overall trend will remain for residential property price rises to outpace salary growth, according to economists at the University of Reading. “The increases in housing supply required to improve affordability have to be very large and long-lasting; the step change would need to be much larger than has ever been experienced before on a permanent basis,” said Geoffrey Meen, Alexander Mihailov and Yehui Wang. The government has discussed moves to increase the supply of homes but the changes are on far too small a scale to act as a brake on price rises.

House prices in the UK stood at an average of £217,500 according to the Office for National Statistics. That is 7.7-times the average full-time salary in the UK of £28,200. By contrast in 2005 the average home cost £150,500, approximately 6.5-times the then-average full time salary of £22,888. Former Bank of England policymaker Kate Barker believes the country needs an additional 60,000 homes per year on top of those already being built. But the new paper argues there is little chance of this happening. “Although higher levels of house building are certainly desirable, the paper shows that there is a limit to what can be achieved by this route,” the report found. “The required increase in supply to stabilise the price to income ratio … is not feasible – permanent increases in construction would be required that have never been achieved in history.”

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The risks of garage-selling an entire country.

Greek Insurance Company Can Become a Weapon for China in Europe (GR)

It is no secret that the Chinese see Greece as a country that could help them get their foot (and saying) in the European Union. In GreekReporter’s recent documentary Athens Chinatown, it is the Cosco managing director in Greece who says the mediterranean country offers a strategic location and it was this factor that attracted Cosco to take over the Greek port of Piraeus. Furthermore, the editor of China-Greece times also states that the Chinese “see Greece as the gate to Europe.” The past few years, silently, China has looked into many Greek investments. After acquiring the Greek Port of Piraeus, now three Chinese companies are bidding for Greece’s biggest private insurer, Ethniki Asfalistiki. However what looks like a simple bidding, could possibly be of great importance to the future of Greece.

Established in 1891, Ethini Asfalistiki has invaluable contribution to the Greek economy for over a century. It is the largest insurance company in the country with total premiums of over €440 million and 18% market share, while it is in cooperation with the banking network for the sale of bank assurance products, provides access to a broad distribution network of about 500 offices. The estimated earnings for 2016 are €52 million. Ethniki Asfalistiki is also a sister company of Greece’s Ethniki Bank (National Bank), one of Greece’s four systemic banks. Whoever gets this bid will most likely acquire the bank as well. At the same time, another Chinese group has shown interest for Piraeus Bank. If they manage to close that deal then two out of Greece’s four main banks will be controlled by the Chinese. Eventually they will be able to have an important saying in the country’s economy, and maybe that’s what they are aiming for.

While the Chinese have done serious investments in Greece, this one, in combination with everything else they control can become a decisive factor on how much of a saying does Greece want the Chinese to have on the country’s future. Letting Ethniki Asfalistiki in the hands of China is probably allowing too much of their foothold in the Greek economy, which would mean a great political influence as well. China of course would like to be able to control and play with Greece’s economy in order to advance their interests. But it is dangerous for Greece when the country’s future becomes another argument on a geostrategic dialogue between the big powers. A forced Grexit threat, for example, could definitely be on the table and be directed to the EU or the U.S.A.

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That record is definitely broken beyond repair.

Greek Debt Must Be Sustainable For IMF To Join Bailout – Lagarde (R.)

The IMF will not take part in a bailout program for Greece if it deems the country’s debt is unsustainable, the international lender’s chief Christine Lagarde said in an interview published on Tuesday. Greece needs to implement reforms agreed by euro zone finance ministers earlier this month to secure a new loan under its €86 billion bailout programme, the third since 2010. The loan is needed to pay debt due in July, but talks continue and the IMF has not yet decided whether to join the bailout. The fund’s participation is seen as a condition for Germany to unblock new funds to Greece. “If Greek debts are not sustainable based on IMF rules and reasonable parameters, we will not take part in the program,” Lagarde told German newspaper Die Welt when asked if the IMF would take part in the plan if Greek debt is not restructured.

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Minor problem: so many people are dependent on Social Security. Highly relevant going forward.

Taxation is Theft (Napolitano)

With a tax code that exceeds 72,000 pages in length and consumes more than six billion person hours per year to determine taxpayers’ taxable income, with an IRS that has become a feared law unto itself, and with a government that continues to extract more wealth from every taxpaying American every year, is it any wonder that April 15th is a day of dread in America? Social Security taxes and income taxes have dogged us all since their institution during the last century, and few politicians have been willing to address these ploys for what they are: theft. During the 2012 election, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry caused a firestorm among big-government types during the Republican presidential primaries last year when he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He was right. It’s been a scam from its inception, and it’s still a scam today.

When Social Security was established in 1935, it was intended to provide minimal financial assistance to those too old to work. It was also intended to cause voters to become dependent on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Democrats. FDR copied the idea from a system established in Italy by Mussolini. The plan was to have certain workers and their employers make small contributions to a fund that would be held in trust for the workers by the government. At the time, the average life expectancy of Americans was 61 years of age, but Social Security didn’t kick in until age 65. Thus, the system was geared to take money from the average American worker that he would never see returned.

Over time, life expectancy grew and surpassed 65, the so-called trust fund was raided and spent, and the system was paying out more money than it was taking in – just like a Ponzi scheme. FDR called Social Security an insurance policy. In reality, it has become forced savings. However, the custodian of the funds – Congress – has stolen the savings and spent it. And the value of the savings has been diminished by inflation. Today, the best one can hope to receive from Social Security is dollars with the buying power of 75 cents for every dollar contributed. That makes Social Security worse than a Ponzi scheme. You can get out of a Ponzi investment. You can’t get out of Social Security. Who would stay with a bank that returned only 75% of one’s savings?

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Essential reading on how the region came to be what it is.

Is America’s Alliance with Turkey Doomed? (SCF)

Shortly before his death in 1869, the pro-Western former Ottoman grand vizier and foreign minister Keçecizâde Mehmed Fuad Pasha commented, “It appeared preferable that . . . we should relinquish several of our provinces rather than see England abandon us.” In response to this commitment, the British made the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire against Russian aggression a key pillar of their foreign policy. Yet, in spite of the significance that Istanbul and London attached to their alliance in the 1850s, both sides were determined to eradicate each other by 1914. As Prime Minister Herbert Asquith put it, Britain was “determined to ring the death-knell of Ottoman dominion, not only in Europe, but in Asia as well.” In response, the Ottoman government described the British as “the greatest enemy” of not only the sultan’s empire but also of Islam itself.

The Anglo-Russian Great Game, waged across the vast lands stretching from Europe to Central Asia during the nineteenth century, rendered the Ottoman Empire an invaluable strategic asset in the eyes of British policymakers. Although the British public frowned upon the Ottoman Turks’ “peculiar Oriental ways,” and regarded them as “uncivilized Mohammedan barbarians” for their treatment of Christian subjects, Whitehall recognized that they could serve as a bulwark against Russia. The Ottomans, likewise, recognized the value of having Britain as an ally given the looming threats posed by their neighbors, Russia and Austria. Though the Ottomans previously regarded the British as an untrustworthy non-Muslim power, the cooperation was a win-win venture, and the two powers agreed to partner economically and militarily. The strategic collaboration between them reached its zenith in 1853 when, along with other allies, they successfully waged war against Russia in Crimea.

America’s relative indifference to the Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic was reminiscent of Otto von Bismarck’s famous remark that European Turkey “was not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.” The United States and the Ottoman Empire fought World War I on opposite sides, but did not clash with each other. Moreover, while President Woodrow Wilson discussed the future of the Ottoman Empire in his Fourteen Points, the United States did not actively participate in its partition. In 1922–23, Washington merely sent observers to the Conference of Lausanne, which produced the final peace treaty between the victors of World War I and Turkey.

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Only Trump has congratulated him.

Erdogan Says He Doesn’t Care What Europe Thinks About Turkey’s Vote (BBG)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan treated a crowd of supporters gathered outside his presidential palace on Monday evening to a speech laced with invective against Europe, saying his victory in a referendum on Sunday took place under conditions that were democratic beyond compare. Erdogan belittled both domestic and foreign critics of the voting process, which culminated in a slim majority of Turks approving changes to 18 articles of the constitution that concentrate more power in his hands. A monitoring group from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – which said the referendum took place on an “unlevel playing field” – “should know its place,” he said. “We don’t care about the opinions of ‘Hans’ or ‘George,’” Erdogan said, using the names as stand-ins for his European critics. “All debates about the constitutional referendum are now over.”

The OSCE’s head of mission, Tana de Zulueta, said on Monday that freedom of expression was inhibited during the campaign, that the conditions of the vote fell “well short” of international standards, and that the OSCE was inhibited from the election monitoring that it was invited to do. The vote was held under a state of emergency that’s been in place since just after a failed coup last July, and which Turkey’s security council will meet tonight to consider extending. Since the coup attempt, some 40,000 of Erdogan’s alleged opponents have been jailed, and at least 100,000 more fired by decree. The European monitoring organization’s criticisms were echoed by opposition parties inside Turkey, which are asking for the result of the vote to be annulled, as well as by the U.S. state department, whose spokesman Mark Toner cited “observed irregularities” in the way the election was carried out.

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Wonder how redacted the files are.

Opening Of UN Files On Holocaust Will ‘Rewrite Chapters Of History’ (G.)

War crimes files revealing early evidence of Holocaust death camps that was smuggled out of eastern Europe are among tens of thousands of files to be made public for the first time this week. The once-inaccessible archive of the UN war crimes commission, dating back to 1943, is being opened by the Wiener Library in London with a catalogue that can be searched online. The files establish that some of the first demands for justice came from countries that had been invaded, such as Poland and China, rather than Britain, the US and Russia, which eventually coordinated the post-war Nuremberg trials. The archive, along with the UNWCC, was closed in the late 1940s as West Germany was transformed into a pivotal ally at the start of the cold war and use of the records was effectively suppressed.

Around the same time, many convicted Nazis were granted early release after the anti-communist US senator Joseph McCarthy lobbied to end war crimes trials. Access to the vast quantity of evidence and indictments is timed to coincide with the publication on Tuesday of Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes by Dan Plesch, a researcher who has been working on the documents for a decade. The documents record the gathering of evidence shortly after the UN was founded in January 1942. They demonstrate that rape and forced prostitution were being prosecuted as war crimes in tribunals as far apart as Greece, the Philippines and Poland in the late 1940s, despite more recent suggestions that this was a legal innovation following the 1990s Bosnian conflict.

[..] By the late 1940s, the US and British governments were winding down prosecutions of Nazis. President Harry Truman made anti-communism, rather than holding Nazis to account, a priority, Plesch says. “Even action against the perpetrators of the massacre of British RAF officers attempting to escape from prison camp Stalag Luft III, a flight made iconic by films such as The Great Escape, was curtailed.”

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One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, said polio vaccine pioneer Dr Jonas Salke, is “Are we being good ancestors?”

Critically Endangered Species Poached In World’s Protected Natural Sites (AFP)

Illegal poaching, logging and fishing of sometimes critically endangered species is taking place in nearly half of the world’s most protected natural sites, environmental campaigners WWF warned Tuesday. Natural world heritage sites such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Galapagos Islands support large populations of rare plant and animal species. But in a report WWF said species listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) faced the threat of illegal harvesting and trafficking in 45% of the more than 200 natural world heritage sites on the planet. “Natural world heritage sites are among the most recognised natural sites for their universal value,” said Marco Lambertini, head of WWF International.

“Yet many are threatened by destructive industrial activities and… their often unique animals and plants are also affected by overexploitation and trafficking,” he added, stressing that “unless they are protected effectively, we will lose them forever.” Almost a third of the world’s remaining 3,890 wild tigers and 40% of all African elephants are found in UNESCO-listed sites, which are often a last refuge for critically endangered species such as the Javan rhino in Indonesia, the report said. Illegal poaching, logging and fishing inside such sites is therefore “driving endangered species to the brink of extinction”, WWF warned. The species most at risk because of illegal activity within natural world heritage sites is probably the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, which is indigenous to Mexico’s Gulf of California, Colman O’Criodain, WWF’s wildlife policy manager, told AFP.

While the vaquita itself is not being fished illegally, it is being caught in nets used to poach the totoaba – a giant Mexican fish coveted in China for its swim bladder, which itself is considered a threatened species. “When I started working on the issue of vaquita two years ago, there were 96 left. Now it is less than 30,” O’Criodain said, adding that at the current rate the tiny porpoise could be extinct within a year. According to Tuesday’s report, poaching of vulnerable and endangered animal species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers occurs in 42 of the UNESCO-listed natural sites, while illegal logging of rosewood, ebony and other valuable plant species happens in 26 of them. Illegal fishing, including of sharks and rays occurs in 18 of 39 listed marine coastal world heritage sites, it said.

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Until the world finally has the emergency UN conference I’ve been calling for, I don’t see this change. It’s a global issue, and no-one wants to touch it because it’s so politically toxic.

At Least 8,500 Migrants Rescued From Mediterranean In Three Days (CNN)

Italian authorities were still bringing migrants and refugees to shore Monday after one of the busiest weekends ever for rescue services operating in the central Mediterranean sea. At least 8,500 refugees and migrants were plucked from small boats over the past three days in 73 separate rescue operations, the Italian Coastguard told CNN Monday. Thirteen bodies were recovered, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old boy. It is not known how many died before they were sighted. One 35-year-old woman from the Ivory Coast was giving birth as she was pulled aboard a rescue ship, Italian newspapers reported. The youngest migrant rescued over the weekend was just two weeks old. Asar was rescued along with her mother by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

The Sea-Eye, a German charity boat that helped bring to safety hundreds of people stranded on rubber dinghies off the coast of Libya Sunday said in a statement it still had 210 on board “crowded closely together, exposed to the wind, the waves and the cold without protection. It said the Italian tanker La Donna and the coast guard ship CP920 was now accompanying the boat, whilst it waits for two smaller boats from the Italian island of Lampedusa, to bring the migrants to shore. The Italian Coastguard said 1004 migrants rescued on the board the ship the Panther would be disembarked in Messina in Sicily shortly. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said in a statement it rescued more than 1,400 migrants in the central Mediterranean in 13 search and rescue operations from Friday to Sunday.

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Jan 242017
 
 January 24, 2017  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »
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Jack Delano Cars being precooled at the ice plant, San Bernardino, CA 1943


UK Supreme Court Rules Parliament Must Have Vote On Triggering Article 50 (G.)
Global Markets Turn Back On Euro As Economic Woes Reinforce Dollar (Tel.)
Trump Withdraws From TPP Amid Flurry Of Orders (G.)
Beppe Grillo Agrees With ‘Moderate’ Trump, Blasts EU ‘Total Failure’ (Exp.)
Trump is the start of Global Regime Change (Artemis)
Protest In The Era Of Trump (Krieger)
The White House Can’t Easily Repair Its Relationship With The Media (Atl.)
Congressman Introduces Bill To Withdraw The US From The United Nations (MU)
He Is Risen… But For How Long? (Jim Kunstler)
Fed Debate Over $4.5 Trillion Balance Sheet Looms In 2017 (BBG)
Greek Island Mayors Ask PM To Transfer Refugees To Mainland (Kath.)
Thousands Of Refugee Children Sleeping Rough In Sub-Zero Serbia (G.)

 

 

A country well on its way to irrelevance.

UK Supreme Court Rules Parliament Must Have Vote On Triggering Article 50 (G.)

Parliament’s approval is needed before the government can trigger article 50 and formally initiate the UK’s departure from the European Union, the supreme court has ruled. The government’s executive powers, inherited through the royal prerogative, are not sufficient to uproot citizens’ rights gained through parliamentary legislation such as the 1972 European Communities Act, the justices have declared. The justices ruled against the government by a majority of eight to three. The eagerly awaited decision by the largest panel of judges ever assembled in Britain’s highest court routes the protracted Brexit process through parliament, handing over to MPs and peers the authority to sanction the UK’s withdrawal. A summary of the decision, which has far-reaching constitutional implications, was delivered by the president of the supreme court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.

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So much for the overvalued dollar.

Global Markets Turn Back On Euro As Economic Woes Reinforce Dollar (Tel.)

Banks are using the euro less and less in international transactions, with financiers preferring to use dollars – indicating the euro’s declining importance in the global economy. Economists believe sustained political risk in the eurozone, fears that the currency area could fall apart, and the continuing hangover from the sovereign debt crisis have all contributed to the currency’s relative decline. Figures from the Bank of International Settlements show that the euro is being used less in international banking, while the US dollar continues to grow in importance. At the end of September, the BIS figures show, outstanding cross-border business in US dollars amounted to $13.9 trillion (£11.1 trillion), a rise of almost $60bn over previous three months.

By contrast, outstanding cross-border claims in euros fell by almost $160bn to a total of $8.1 trillion. Overall claims globally amount to $28.2 trillion, meaning the US dollar accounts for almost 50pc of the total. The euro is next with 29pc, while the yen is in third place – its $1.7 trillion of claims is 6pc of the total. Sterling is fourth at $1.3 trillion, or a 5pc share. By contrast, in 2012, the euro was a bigger player, with around $11 trillion of cross-border claims, but has faded sharply since then. Around half of the decline in recent years is due to the euro’s fall in value relative to the dollar, making the euro transactions appear smaller when they are compared in a common currency. But the other half is made up in large part by the eurozone’s own problems.

The most fundamental is the fear that the currency area will be stuck in permanent low growth, making investments risky. With the rise of anti-EU politicians such as Marine Le Pen in France there is also the worry that, in extreme circumstances, the euro could break up. “Partly as a result of the sovereign debt crisis, we know from investors outside Europe that they have a lot of question marks about the viability of the eurozone,” said David Owen, chief European economist at Jefferies. He was joined by Alastair Winter at Daniel Stewart, who said: “It may not be politically correct but there is a case that the euro may not survive much beyond this year. The dollar is popular because it offers a standard for value, a bit like the old gold standard. All of the other major currencies present problems.”

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Why not so the same with TISA etc. at the same time?

Trump Withdraws From TPP Amid Flurry Of Orders (G.)

Donald Trump has begun his effort to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy, formally scrapping a flagship trade deal with 11 countries in the Pacific rim. The new president also signed executive orders to ban funding for international groups that provide abortions, and placing a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers. Trump’s decision not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) came as little surprise. During his election campaign he railed against international trade deals, blaming them for job losses and focusing anger in the industrial heartland. Obama had argued that this deal would provide an effective counterweight to China in the region. “Everyone knows what that means, right?” Trump said at Monday’s signing ceremony in the White House. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. It’s a great thing for the American worker.”

The TPP was never ratified by the Republican-controlled Congress, but several Asian leaders had invested substantial political capital in it. Their countries represent roughly 13.5% of the global economy, according to the World Bank. Trump’s election opponent, the Democrat Hillary Clinton, had also spoken out against the TPP. The move also intensified speculation over the future of the 17-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). There were reports that Trump would sign an executive order on Monday to begin renegotiating terms with Canada and Mexico. He did move to reinstate a ban on providing federal money to international non-government organizations that perform abortions or provide information about them. The policy also prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method.

Republican administrations have tended to institute such a ban while Democrats have reversed it, most recently President Obama in 2009. Trump signed it one day after the anniversary of the supreme court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US. Activists fear that the precedent is now under threat. The administration was criticized after footage appeared to show only one woman in the room as this executive order, along with the other two, were signed. Only four of Trump’s cabinet picks are women.

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Beppe knows the importance for Italy of ‘protectionism’. It’s the only way to keep Italian (small) business alive.

Beppe Grillo Agrees With ‘Moderate’ Trump, Blasts EU ‘Total Failure’ (Exp.)

Italy’s populist Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo has welcomed Donald Trump’s extraordinary rise to power and dismissed the European Union (EU) as a total failure. Mr Grillo described the controversial new US President as a “moderate whose image has been distorted”. He declared he was “very optimistic” about the Trump presidency which he said would reignite the US economy and stop it from playing world police enforcer. In an interview with French magazine Journal du Dimanche, the former stand-up comic expressed his fundamental agreement with Mr Trump’s populist presidential platform. He said: “I read one of his books in which he says some really sensible things on the need, for example, to bring economic activity back to the United States.

“He said what he had to say about Chinese protectionism as well.” Mr Grillo said Mr Trump would use fiscal policy to entice large companies to keep their business in the US instead of taking it south of the border to Mexico and that he would also “relaunch small and medium enterprises”. He said: “Mr Trump will also recall the US Army stationed at the four corners of the world and I agree with all this.” The Italian nationalist accused the media of twisting the “moderate message” of Mr Trump who then “simply adapted to what was being said about him”. He said: “We consequently have a deformed perception of him.” Looking closer to home, M Grillo described the EU as “a total failure” that needed to be re-imagined.

He said: “It is an enormous apparatus, with two parliaments, in Brussels and Strasbourg, to please the French. “Europe was born with Jean Monnet but then was progressively transformed. “I liked the word ‘community’ but then it was called union for the currency, which was to be common and not unique.” He continued: “I am in favour of a different Europe, where each state can adopt its fiscal and monetary system. “I want the Eurobond, a 20% devalued euro for southern European countries, protecting our products against those arriving from abroad, and a revision of the 3% deficit budgetary rule. “I no longer feel the spirit of Europe.”

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From a much longer article on volatility trading.

Trump is the start of Global Regime Change (Artemis)

Trump is the first “populist” US president since Andrew Jackson in 1829 and takes office with a mandate to reverse the course of globalization. Denial is not a strategy and it’s time to face the reality that is coming… the good, the bad, and the ugly. First off, stop underestimating this man – you don’t become leader of the free world through stupidity and luck. The rants and twitter storms are part of a strategy of media control and distraction. Trump knows that if you can’t win, then you change the rules of the game – this is what he has already done with American politics – and what he is about to do to the entire Post-Bretton Woods World Order. If you really want to know a person, watch what they do, and not what they say… or what they tweet. Trump’s business career was largely comprised of three core strategies 1) Leverage 2) Restructure 3) Brand… in that order.

Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s Trump rode a generational decline in interest rates and debt binge to purchase a range of high profile real estate projects including the Grand Hyatt (1978). Trump Tower (1983), the Plaza Hotel (1988) and the Taj Mahal (1988). In the 1990s he went through a total of 6 bankruptcies due to over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York. In the 2000s he pivoted to move away from debt-driven property investments to building a global brand through the “Apprentice” TV show. Trump will run the country as he ran his businesses…. He will lever, and lever, and lever, and lever… and lever… and then restructure his way to success, or whatever success is defined as by the broadest measure of popularity at any given time. Trumponomics, if it delivers, will be a supply side free for all: massive tax cuts, deficit spending to create jobs, financial and energy deregulation, business creation, and trade protectionism all driving inflation.

More importantly, Trump sees bankruptcy as a tool and not an obligation and will have no problem pushing the US to the limits of debt expansion. “I do play with bankruptcy laws, they’re very good to me!” he once said. Trump may be willing to bring the US to the brink of default if it produces middle class jobs and popularity, and what he understands is that nobody can stop him, not Europe, not China. In a Trump mindset, the US national debt and deficits, or prior commitments (e.g. NATO), are not to be taken seriously as long as we hold all the cards… namely the biggest military in the world, energy independence, world reserve currency, and the world’s largest buyer of consumer goods. He is dangerously right, these geo-political solvency tools are far more powerful than the bankruptcy laws he used to protect his casino assets… the US is just another, bigger, badder, more bankrupt casino with air craft carriers.

The media doesn’t seem to understand that Trump’s overtures to Russia and Taiwan are not diplomatic gaffes but rather forms of economic leverage. He is reminding Europe that NATO is nothing without the US, and reminding China that creditor nations lose trade wars. As a negotiating tactic, it may work … or may drive the world to a hot war… or both. Like it or not – the old rules are gone. Diplomacy has been replaced by Twitter, and the unexpected is now to be expected. Trump’s world is a zero-sum game – and this means a shock doctrine of US centric re-positioning in trade in a dramatic change from the post-World War II order. The US has the largest military, the best geography, best technology innovation, the largest economy, best demographics in the developed world, and shale-driven energy independence to boot.

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A discussion that makes a lot of sense. What is being protested? If this is unclear, isn’t that perhaps counterproductive? Can you effectively protest some of Trump’s measures after having demonized him in a wide and general fashion for a long time? Shouldn’t there be millions in the streets right NOW to protest the medieval Golden Gag Rule? Where are they?

Protest In The Era Of Trump (Krieger)

The best way to control the opposition is to lead it.

[..] I’d say the most common sign seems to have been some derivative of “Women’s Rights = Human Rights.” I unquestionably agree with this statement, which begs the question, who doesn’t? Well many of the barbaric, feudalist monarchies in the Middle East for starters. Saudi Arabia being a prime example, a place where women are not permitted to drive. Fortunately for them, their money is still green and the Clinton Foundation took plenty of it (between $10 million and $25 million to be exact). Democrats protested that by rigging the primary for her. I didn’t personally attend any of the protests, so I asked my followers on Twitter who did attend to reach out to me and tell me about what they saw. I received lengthy responses from three people. One was a Gary Johnson voter, one a Hillary voter and one didn’t vote at all.

They all pretty much confirmed what you could deduct from the signs. It was a message of “women power,” seemingly focused on women’s rights, specifically abortion and contraception. This brings me to another observation, which will serve as a segue to the final thrust of this article. It appears the emotional driver of the protest was two fold — a serious concern that certain women’s rights will be rolled back, and a form of catharsis for people still reeling from the election loss. This is interesting, because the focal point appears to be not just driven by identify politics, but on preserving already existing rights. Ok, fine, but what about all the ills currently at play? The destruction of the middle class, the surveillance state, the fact that Wall Street owns every single administration no matter who wins. What about the wars and the rapidly metastasizing military-industrial-intelligence complex.

These are things that are currently happening, and have been getting worse under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Does it make sense for all this energy to be focused on a potential threat, as opposed to all of the many ongoing unethical, destructive aspects of American life in 2017? Which brings us to the most important point of this entire article. I don’t want to be too judgmental here. While much of the messaging from the Women’s March seems to have been pretty unserious and divorced from the reality of the many serious issues plaguing the nation, I want to see a silver lining here. I think there’s little doubt that Trump’s election resulted in a certain percentage of the population finally waking up to how much trouble this country is in.

The problem is that many of these people see Trump as the problem to be eliminated, as opposed to the symptom of a sick, destructive society that he actually is. This is where the entire “resistance” can be easily co-opted by the DNC and the rapidly emerging neocon/neoliberal alliance rooted in identity politics, which poses no actual threat to the people actually in power. In this sense, all of this potentially productive energy could tragically be redirected into simply bringing back the same Democratic types that were forcefully rejected during the 2016 election.

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The Trump White House couldn’t care less. “The Media” means the Old Media, and they get that.

The White House Can’t Easily Repair Its Relationship With The Media (Atl.)

After harshly condemning the media over the weekend for its coverage of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer struck a less combative tone during a press conference on Monday. But he nevertheless continued to argue that the media is trying to undermine the president, and stood by a debunked statement that the inauguration drew the “largest audience” of all time. “I believe we have to be honest with the American people,” Spicer said at the briefing, responding to a reporter’s question about his commitment to truth-telling. He added: “I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them, and if we make a mistake I’ll do our best to correct it.”

Later, however, he lamented that there is a “constant theme to undercut the enormous support” he said Trump has. “There’s an overall frustration when you turn on the television over and over again and get told that there’s this narrative.” The press secretary’s pledge to tell the truth may indicate that the administration hopes to improve its relationship with the media, or at least the appearance of it, following criticism and mockery of Spicer’s hostile interaction with reporters over the weekend. At the same time, his insistence that the media treats Trump with a double standard, and his complaints that the media has created an anti-Trump narrative, highlights how difficult it will be to repair the relationship between the administration and the media.

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Shake the cage.

Congressman Introduces Bill To Withdraw The US From The United Nations (MU)

A new bill has been introduced which would allow the United States to withdraw from the United Nations, and is now beginning to turns heads.

Representative Mike Rogers from Alabama introduced H.R. 193 American Sovereignty Act of 2017 in early January but is just now getting media exposure. The full bill can be seen here on congress.gov. The bill requires: (1) the President to terminate U.S. membership in the United Nations (U.N.), including any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body; and (2) closure of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The bill prohibits: (1) the authorization of funds for the U.S. assessed or voluntary contribution to the U.N., (2) the authorization of funds for any U.S. contribution to any U.N. military or peacekeeping operation, (3) the expenditure of funds to support the participation of U.S. Armed Forces as part of any U.N. military or peacekeeping operation, (4) U.S. Armed Forces from serving under U.N. command, and (5) diplomatic immunity for U.N. officers or employees.

Clearly, many people would be in favor of such a move and many would oppose it. Many who would support the move believe that the United Nations Agenda 30 is a blueprint for a unipolar world order with a destructive agenda, as Zerohedge reported last year. Regardless of one’s beliefs or opinions on the UN being a front for  a new world order, this bill is a direct and bold move against the elite’s plans. For any nation to reclaim true sovereignty from the United Nations is setting a powerful example for the rest of the world. It sends a message that a country does not need a global governing body, but instead can run itself without global oversight.

Essentially, if the U.S. reclaimed sovereignty from the United Nations, it would be the equivalent of what Britain did by reclaiming it’s sovereignty from the European Union…times 10. Perhaps the biggest revelations to come from such news would be the eventual exposure of the level of theft, deception and criminal activity done by the registered corporation known as The United Nations (yes it is a registered corporation).

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“..the ruins of industry stand like tombstones on the landscape.”

He Is Risen… But For How Long? (Jim Kunstler)

Returning to the first forty-eight hours of the new regime, first the ceremony itself: there was, to my mind, the disturbing sight of Donald Trump, deep in the Capitol in the grim runway leading out onto the inaugural dais. He lumbered along, so conspicuously alone between the praetorian ranks front and back, overcoat open, that long red slash of necktie dangling ominously, with a mad gleam in his eyes like an old bull being led out to a sacrificial altar. His speech to the multitudes was not exactly what had once passed for presidential oratory. It was not an “address.” It was blunt, direct, unadorned, and simple, a warning to the assembled luminaries meant to prepare them for disempowerment. Surely it was received by many as a threat.

Indeed an awful lot of official behavior has to change if this country expects to carry on as a civilized polity, and Trump’s plain statement was at face value consistent with that idea. But the disassembly of such a vast matrix of rackets is unlikely to be managed without generating a lot of dangerous friction. Such a tall order would require, at least, some finesse. Virtually all the powers of the Deep State are arrayed against him, and he can’t resist taunting them, a dangerous game. Despite the show of an orderly transition, a state of war exists between them. Anyway, given Trump’s cabinet appointments, his “swamp draining” campaign looks like one set of rackets is due to be replaced by a new and perhaps worse set.

Trump was correct that the ruins of industry stand like tombstones on the landscape. The reality may be that an industrial economy is a one-shot deal. When it’s gone, it’s over. Even assuming the money exists to rebuild the factories of the 20th century, how would things be produced in them? By robotics or by brawny men paid $15-an-hour? If it’s robotics, who will the customers be? If it’s low-wage workers, how are they going to pay for the cars and washing machines? If the brawny men are paid $40 an hour, how would we sell our cars and washing machines in foreign markets that pay their workers the equivalent of $1.50 an hour. How can American industry stay afloat with no export market? If we don’t let foreign products into the US, how will Americans buy cars that are far more costly to make here than the products we’ve been getting? There’s no indication that Trump and his people have thought through any of this.

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Eric Rosengren, stop it, you’re killing me: “If you think the economy is growing more rapidly then you want..”

Fed Debate Over $4.5 Trillion Balance Sheet Looms In 2017 (BBG)

It’s time to talk about the balance sheet. Eight years after the Federal Reserve launched the first of three controversial bond-buying campaigns to help save the U.S. economy, its holdings are stuck at $4.5 trillion, and the question of when to let them shrink is beginning to simmer. Several policy makers have pushed publicly to get the debate started. How the discussion plays out could have big implications for the pace of future interest-rate hikes and for the dollar. “They should start framing this for the market,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc. Investors need to hear what the “balance of policy” will be between the balance sheet and the central bank’s main tool, the federal funds rate, he said.

The sheer weight of the balance sheet helps hold down long-term U.S. borrowing costs, which is why the Fed bought bonds in the first place. If officials allow holdings to mature without continuing their current practice of reinvesting the principal, they could push yields higher by reducing demand in the bond market. The topic has shot to renewed prominence as the outlook for the U.S. economy has brightened. The Fed has raised rates twice in the last 13 months and penciled in three quarter-point moves this year. Moreover, newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump has put expansionary fiscal policy on the horizon. If fiscal stimulus begins to overheat the economy, the Fed might tighten policy more sharply. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said he’d prefer to use the balance sheet to do some of that lifting, echoing remarks by his Boston colleague Eric Rosengren.

“If you think the economy is growing more rapidly then you want, you can either continue to raise short-term rates, or you can also do balance sheet in conjunction with that,” Rosengren said in a Jan. 9 interview. At the very least, he said, the Fed should be talking about the issue soon. San Francisco Fed President John Williams, Atlanta’s Dennis Lockhart, Philadelphia’s Patrick Harker and Dallas chief Robert Kaplan have all agreed. None of them has expressed urgency, and the topic may not be on the agenda when the Federal Open Market Committee convenes again on Jan. 31. But each knows it can take the FOMC several meetings to make big decisions, and they are likely eyeing where rates will be a year from now. Rosengren is thought by Fed watchers to favor four hikes this year. “I don’t think it’s something they’ll do in 2017,” said Mark Zandi at Moody’s. “My guess is they view this as a 2018 project.”

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It’s not in Tsipras’ hands. The EU demands the refugees stay on the islands so they cannot move further north. The EU also makes sure conditions on the islands are miserable with the idea that this keeps others from coming to Europe. And thirdly, they claim moving refugees to the mainland would violate the treaty with Turkey.

Greek Island Mayors Ask PM To Transfer Refugees To Mainland (Kath.)

The mayors of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros on Monday jointly presented their demands for measures to ease severe overcrowding at migrant reception centers on their islands during a meeting in Athens with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. According to government sources, the meeting was held in a cordial climate and both sides agreed it remained imperative that an agreement between Ankara and the EU to curb human smuggling across the Aegean must not be allowed to collapse. However, though the sources described the mayors’ demands as “logical,” it remained unclear what action, if any, the government plans to respond with. In the meeting with Tsipras, which was also attended by senior officials of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), the mayors emphasized that the situation on the islands was very tense and required immediate action.

They called for the transfer of hundreds of migrants to facilities on the Greek mainland, the improvement of the asylum process so that migrants can leave islands without delay, and measures to boost local economies which have been hit hard by the refugee crisis on top of the country’s financial crisis. Separately, in comments to the News247.gr website, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas remarked that the mass transfer of migrants to the Greek mainland would lead the EU-Turkey deal “to collapse.” He added that while in 2015 refugees accounted for 70 to 80% of arrivals, now 70% of arrivals are economic migrants. According to a report by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the interior and defense ministers of several Balkan and Central European countries are planning to meet in Vienna on February 8 to discuss ways of bolstering their borders against illegal immigration.

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Europe’s shameful disgrace deepens and widens.

Thousands Of Refugee Children Sleeping Rough In Sub-Zero Serbia (G.)

Hundreds of new refugees and migrants, many of them children, are arriving in Serbia every day despite the prospect of sleeping rough in sub-zero temperatures and reports of violent treatment, Save the Children has said, as it calls on the EU to do more to help. The EU-Turkey deal, which was supposed to stem the flow of refugees arriving in Europe by boat, has meant many refugees are being forced to take a deadlier land route to cross the Balkans, with children as young as eight experiencing harsh weather conditions, dog bites and violent treatment by police and smugglers. Although Serbia is not part of the European Union, it borders Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, and has become a transit point for those hoping to reach western Europe. About 6,000 people are stuck in Serbia not able to cross the border into Hungary, which is the direction of travel most would like to take.

Serbia does have asylum centres but when space becomes available, many migrants and refugees are too anxious to go to them, fearing that they will be detained indefinitely or deported illegally. Many of them are turning to smugglers for help instead, charities claim. In the past two months, Save the Children estimates that 1,600 cases of illegal push-backs from Hungary and Croatia have been alleged by refugees and migrants, who have been forced – often violently – back into Serbia, despite already having crossed its border. The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed in its weekly briefing that it was continuing to receive hundreds of reports of foreign nationals being expelled from EU countries in the Balkans and sent back to Serbia.

An average of 30 cases a day of “unlawful and clandestine push-backs” highlights a disregard for the human right to an individual assessment of the need for international protection, according to Save the Children. Belgrade “risks becoming a dumping zone, a new Calais where people are stranded and stuck” the humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières has warned.

[..] Save the Children estimates that there are up to 100 refugees and migrants arriving in Serbia every day and is supporting the government to refurbish safe spaces and support services prioritising lone children. About 46% of refugee and migrant arrivals in Serbia are children and 20% are unaccompanied. The UNHCR said at least five refugees had died of cold since the start of the year. “Saving lives must be a priority and we urge state authorities across Europe to do more to assist and protect refugees and migrants,” a UNHCR spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, told a press briefing in Geneva on Friday. This week, the Serbian authorities made additional temporary space available to get people off the snowy streets and into shelters. The charities have warned, however, that it still far from enough to meet the needs of people who are sleeping rough.

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Jan 212017
 
 January 21, 2017  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Bettmann/Getty Minimum Wage 1963


Trump’s Declaration of War (Paul Craig Roberts)
The Audacity of Trump (WSJ)
Trump Trade Strategy Starts With Quitting TPP – White House (R.)
Trump, in Oval Office, Signs First Order on Obamacare (R.)
Trump Reverses Obama’s Mortgage Fee Cuts on First Day (BBG)
Far-Right Leaders Meet To Discuss ‘Free Europe’ Vision (R.)
As Housing Bubble Pops, Chinese Real Estate Firms Halt Monthly Pricing Data (ZH)
The Curse of Econ 101 (Atlantic)
Economics, Society, And The Environment (EI)
Turkish Parliament Approves Constitutional Reform, Expanded Powers For Erdogan
With New Constitution, Erdogan Eyes For One-Man Rule (GP)
Greek Have Lost Wealth Worth One Year’s GDP Since 2009 (Kath.)

 

 

Who are Trump’s real enemies? There’s no easy answer. PCR concludes: “President Trump has declared a war far more dangerous to himself than if he had declared war against Russia or China.”

Trump’s Declaration of War (Paul Craig Roberts)

President Trump’s brief inaugural speech was a declaration of war against the entirety of the American Ruling Establishment. All of it. Trump made it abundantly clear that Americans’ enemies are right here at home: globalists, neoliberal economists, neoconservatives and other unilateralists accustomed to imposing the US on the world and involving us in endless and expensive wars, politicians who serve the Ruling Establishment rather than the American people, indeed, the entire canopy of private interests that have run America into the ground while getting rich in the process. If truth can be said, President Trump has declared a war far more dangerous to himself than if he had declared war against Russia or China.

The interest groups designated by Trump as The Enemy are well entrenched and accustomed to being in charge. Their powerful networks are still in place. Although there are Republican majorities in the House and Senate, most of those in Congress are answerable to the ruling interest groups that provide their campaign funds and not to the American people or to the President. The military/security complex, offshoring corporations, Wall Street and the banks are not going to roll over for Trump. And neither is the presstitute media, which is owned by the interest groups whose power Trump challenges. Trump made it clear that he stands for every American, black, brown, and white. Little doubt his declaration of inclusiveness will be ignored by the haters on the left who will continue to call him a racist just as the $50 per hour paid protesters are doing as I write.

Indeed, black leadership, for example, is enculturated into the victimization role from which it would be hard for them to escape. How do you pull together people who all their lives have been taught that whites are racists and that they are the victims of racists? Can it be done? I was just on a program briefly with Press TV in which we were supposed to provide analysis of Trump’s inaugural speech. The other commentator was a black American in Washington, DC. Trump’s inclusiveness speech made no impression on him, and the show host was only interested in showing the hired protesters as a way of discrediting America. So many people have an economic interest in speaking in behalf of victims that inclusiveness puts them out of jobs and causes.

So along with the globalists, the CIA, the offshoring corporations, the armaments industries, the NATO establishment in Europe, and foreign politicians accustomed to being well paid for supporting Washington’s interventionist foreign policy, Trump will have arrayed against him the leaders of the victimized peoples, the blacks, the hispanics, the feminists, the illegals, the homosexuals and transgendered. This long list, of course, includes the white liberals as well, as they are convinced that flyover America is the habitat of white racists, misogynists, homophobes, and gun nuts. As far as they are concerned, this 84% of geographical US should be quarantined or interred.

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WSJ licking up to power?

The Audacity of Trump (WSJ)

Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office on Friday facing unprecedented opposition but also an extraordinary opportunity. He confronts the paradox of a country skeptical that he has the personal traits for the Presidency but still hopeful he can fulfill his promise to shake up a government that is increasingly powerful even as it fails to work. In this respect he is the opposite of President Obama, whom Americans admire personally but see as a failure in delivering on his promises. Mr. Trump begins his Presidency without a reservoir of personal goodwill, so more than most Commanders in Chief he will have to win over Americans with results. He will have to do this, moreover, against a political opposition that is blunt and relentless in wanting him to fail. Inaugurations are typically moments of political unity and appeals to larger national purpose, but Mr. Trump will get no honeymoon.

Democratic leaders are calling his election illegitimate, and most of the media wants Mr. Trump to implode—for reasons of partisanship, ideology or simply to vindicate their view during the campaign that he couldn’t and shouldn’t win. No President since Nixon will face a more hostile resistance in the press and permanent bureaucracy. Yet rather than rage against this hostility, Mr. Trump should view it as an opportunity. So many elites expect him to fail that even small early successes will confound them. So many on the left are predicting the rise of fascism that he can make them look foolish by working well with Congress. So many in the media will portray him as the leader of a gang of billionaires that he can turn the tables with an up-from-poverty and education choice campaign.

Mr. Trump owes his narrow election victory to center-right and independent voters who decided he was a risk worth taking. Notably, they seem to be reserving judgment. In the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Mr. Trump’s personal popularity rating is 10 points underwater, 38% positive, 48% negative—the lowest of any modern President at inauguration. But as notably, the public is better disposed to Mr. Trump’s agenda than to his character and temperament. Tax reform, a faster campaign against Islamic State, improving roads and bridges, and fixing health care enjoy widespread support. If voters are ambivalent about Mr. Trump personally, he has a policy opening to earn their support.

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Hard not to be happy about this.

Trump Trade Strategy Starts With Quitting TPP – White House (R.)

The new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump said on Friday its trade strategy to protect American jobs would start with withdrawal from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. A White House statement issued soon after Trump’s inauguration said the United States would also “crack down on those nations that violate trade agreements and harm American workers in the process.” The statement said Trump was committed to renegotiating another trade deal, NAFTA, which was signed in 1994 by the United States, Canada and Mexico. “For too long, Americans have been forced to accept trade deals that put the interests of insiders and the Washington elite over the hard-working men and women of this country,” it said.

“As a result, blue-collar towns and cities have watched their factories close and good-paying jobs move overseas, while Americans face a mounting trade deficit and a devastated manufacturing base.” The statement said “tough and fair agreements” on trade could be used to grow the U.S. economy and return millions of jobs to America. “This strategy starts by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers.” If NAFTA partners refused to give American workers a fair deal in a renegotiated agreement, “the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA,” the statement added.

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Better get a replacement fast. You don’t want stories of people dying due to lack of access to health care, in your first weeks or months.

Trump, in Oval Office, Signs First Order on Obamacare (R.)

President Donald Trump directed government agencies on Friday to freeze regulations and take steps to weaken Obamacare, using his first hours in the White House to make good on a campaign promise to start dismantling his predecessor’s healthcare law. Heading into the Oval Office shortly after the conclusion of his inaugural parade, Trump signed an order on the Affordable Care Act that urged government departments to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of provisions that imposed fiscal burdens on states, companies or individuals. It also called for efforts to give states greater flexibility in implementing healthcare programs while developing “a free and open market in interstate commerce for the offering of healthcare services and health insurance.”

Health experts had speculated that Trump could expand exemptions from the so-called individual mandate, which requires Americans to carry insurance or face a penalty, or the requirement that employers offer coverage. Experts also believe the administration could try to reduce the “essential benefits,” such as maternity care and mental health services, that insurance plans must cover. The White House did not provide further details about the executive order. Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer said the White House also directed an immediate regulatory freeze for all government agencies in a memo from Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus. He did not offer details. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature laws, was a central pledge for Trump during the presidential election campaign.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have not yet laid out a plan to recast the insurance program. In a hastily arranged ceremony, surrounded by some of his aides, Trump sat behind the presidential Resolute Desk and signed the order. He also signed commissions for his newly confirmed defense secretary, James Mattis, and his homeland security secretary, John Kelly. Trump spoke briefly about his day with reporters. “It was busy, but good. It was a beautiful day,” he said. Vice President Mike Pence then swore in Mattis and Kelly in a separate ceremony. There were other signs of change in the Oval Office, which Obama vacated on Friday morning. Golden drapes hung where crimson ones had earlier in the day and new furniture dotted the room.

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The entire US housing system is such a mess it’s hard to know where to begin. Whatever happens, it will be painful.

Trump Reverses Obama’s Mortgage Fee Cuts on First Day (BBG)

Soon after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, his administration undid one of Barack Obama’s last-minute economic-policy actions: a mortgage-fee cut under a government program that’s popular with first-time home buyers and low-income borrowers. The new administration on Friday said it’s canceling a reduction in the Federal Housing Administration’s annual fee for most borrowers. The cut would have reduced the annual premium for someone borrowing $200,000 by $500 in the first year. The reversal comes after Trump’s team criticized the Obama administration for adopting new policies as it prepared to leave office. In the waning days of the administration, the White House announced new Russia sanctions, a ban on drilling in parts of the Arctic and many other regulations.

Last week, Obama’s Housing and Urban Development secretary, Julian Castro, said the FHA would cut its fees. The administration didn’t consult Trump’s team before the announcement. Republicans have argued in the past that reductions put taxpayers at risk by lowering the funds the FHA has to deal with mortgage defaults. [..] A letter Friday from HUD to lenders and others in the real-estate industry said, “more analysis and research are deemed necessary to assess future adjustments while also considering potential market conditions in an ever-changing global economy that could impact our efforts.” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York took to the chamber’s floor to denounce the reversal. “It took only an hour after his positive words on the inaugural platform for his actions to ring hollow,” Schumer said. “One hour after talking about helping working people and ending the cabal in Washington that hurts people, he signs a regulation that makes it more expensive for new homeowners to buy mortgages.”

Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies for the libertarian Cato Institute, said it was appropriate for the administration to examine last-minute decisions by its predecessor, “especially when those decisions appear to be purely motivated by politics.” Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to lead HUD, FHA’s parent agency, said at his confirmation hearing last week that he was disappointed the cut was announced in Obama’s final days in office. The FHA sells insurance to protect against defaults and doesn’t issue mortgages. It is a popular program among first-time home buyers because it allows borrowers to make a down payment of as low as 3.5% with a credit score of 580, on a scale of 300 to 850. The Obama administration announced last week it would cut the insurance premium by a quarter of a %age point to 0.60%, effective on Jan. 27.

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The products of a failed consensus system. Or in other words: “While you were sleeping”. Obama’s last phone call from the White House was to Merkel, not a coincidence.

Far-Right Leaders Meet To Discuss ‘Free Europe’ Vision (R.)

Far-right populist leaders from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands meet in the German city of Koblenz on Saturday to present their vision for “a free Europe” that would dismantle the European Union. Marine Le Pen, who is expected to make it into a May 7 second-round run-off for the French presidency, is due to speak at the meeting, along with Frauke Petry of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD). They will be joined by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV) who was last month convicted of discrimination against Moroccans, and Matteo Salvini of the Northern League who wants to take Italy out of the euro. Emboldened by Britons’ vote last year to leave the European Union, the leaders are meeting under the slogan “Freedom for Europe” and aim to strengthen ties between their like-minded parties, whose nationalist tendencies have hampered close collaboration in the past.

“This gives us an opportunity to see how we stand with other European parties,” a spokeswoman for Salvini said. Le Pen told France’s Radio Classique that the meeting was proof that her party was not isolated. “It is therefore the revolution of the people that we are taking part in. It is obviously very important to show that the cooperative Europe we want to achieve (is reflected) in our cooperation,” she said. Several leading German media have been barred from the meeting, which is being organized by the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), the smallest group in the European Parliament, in a year when the parties are hoping for electoral breakthroughs. Populist anti-immigration parties are on the rise across Europe as high unemployment and austerity, the arrival of record numbers of refugees and militant attacks in France, Belgium and Germany feed voter disillusionment with traditional parties.

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“Judged by current conditions, we won’t publish it in the future..”

As Housing Bubble Pops, Chinese Real Estate Firms Halt Monthly Pricing Data (ZH)

That didn’t take long. Earlier this week we reported that after 19 straight months of continued acceleration in home prices, China’s latest housing bubble may have finally burst (again) after December prices in the 70 cities tracked by the NBS, rose by 12.7%, below the 12.9% annual growth rate in the previous month – the first annual decline in nearly 2 years. Fast forward to Friday, when at least two major Chinese private providers of home price data stopped publishing the figures, just as the housing market is stating to cool off at a dramatic pace across all Tier cities. According to Reuters, the China Index Academy, a unit of U.S.-listed Fang Holdings, has stopped distributing monthly housing price index data for 100 cities that it usually issued at the start of the month. The academy said it had suspended distribution indefinitely, without giving a reason for the suspension.

“I don’t know who exactly is making the order, and it’s not mandatory,” said a source with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified as the topic is a sensitive one. Home price data from private providers tends to show sharper increases than official data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which publishes monthly and annual %age changes in 70 major cities. It also overextends on the downside, which according to official data, has now begun, and may explain the self-imposed censorship. Since last summer, in an attempt to cool the overheating housing market, China’s government had levied curbs on buying and ownership to rein in soaring prices and limit asset bubble risks. E-house China, another influential private real estate consultancy also indefinitely suspended its monthly housing price index for 288 cities.

“Judged by current conditions, we won’t publish it in the future,” said Cherilyn Tsui, a public relations officer at CRIC, the consultancy’s real estate research branch. “We stopped distributing prices data a few months ago. At first it was just no external distribution, but now even internally we don’t distribute any more,” she told Reuters. While Tsui said she did not know the reason for the halt, she added that data on sales volumes and inventories would still be published. “Housing prices are an extremely sensitive matter right now,” a second source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Perhaps the reason is that having created a massive bubble to the upside, Beijing is hoping to delay the descent in prices in order to attain a smooth landing at a time when China is already faced with record capital outflows, a plunging currency and all time high levels of debt.

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Treating people like tradable resources is always a bad idea.

The Curse of Econ 101 (Atlantic)

In a rich, post-industrial society, where most people walk around with supercomputers in their pockets and a person can have virtually anything delivered to his or her doorstep overnight, it seems wrong that people who work should have to live in poverty. Yet in America, there are more than ten million members of the working poor: people in the workforce whose household income is below the poverty line. Looking around, it isn’t hard to understand why. The two most common occupations in the United States are retail salesperson and cashier. Eight million people have one of those two jobs, which typically pay about $9–$10 per hour. It’s hard to make ends meet on such meager wages. A few years ago, McDonald’s was embarrassed by the revelation that its internal help line was recommending that even a full-time restaurant employee apply for various forms of public assistance.

Poverty in the midst of plenty exists because many working people simply don’t make very much money. This is possible because the minimum wage that businesses must pay is low: only $7.25 per hour in the United States in 2016 (although it is higher in some states and cities). At that rate, a person working full-time for a whole year, with no vacations or holidays, earns about $15,000—which is below the poverty line for a family of two, let alone a family of four. A minimum-wage employee is poor enough to qualify for food stamps and, in most states, Medicaid. Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum is roughly the same as in the 1960s and 1970s, despite significant increases in average living standards over that period. The United States currently has the lowest minimum wage, as a proportion of its average wage, of any advanced economy, contributing to today’s soaring levels of inequality. At first glance, it seems that raising the minimum wage would be a good way to combat poverty.

The argument against increasing the minimum wage often relies on what I call “economism”—the misleading application of basic lessons from Economics 101 to real-world problems, creating the illusion of consensus and reducing a complex topic to a simple, open-and-shut case. According to economism, a pair of supply and demand curves proves that a minimum wage increases unemployment and hurts exactly the low-wage workers it is supposed to help. The argument goes like this: Low-skilled labor is bought and sold in a market, just like any good or service, and its price should be set by supply and demand. A minimum wage, however, upsets this happy equilibrium because it sets a price floor in the market for labor. If it is below the natural wage rate, then nothing changes. But if the minimum (say, $7.25 an hour) is above the natural wage (say, $6 per hour), it distorts the market. More people want jobs at $7.25 than at $6, but companies want to hire fewer employees. The result: more unemployment.

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I could write a lot about this. For now let’s just say that the lack of virtually any discussion of energy shows just how poor a field economics is. One other thing: one must at least bring to the table that the 2nd law of thermodynamics contradicts the very term ‘sustainable’.

Economics, Society, And The Environment (EI)

A common view of some is that the relationship between economics and the environment is that environmental considerations are “externalities” for economic systems. In other words, effects produced by economic activity in the environment result from a limited overlap between the economic “system” and the environment, such as the diagram shown (from Giddings, Hopewood and O’Brien): The diagram above is adopted by some to describe the fields of enivonmental economics and environmental science. EnviromentalScience.org describes their discipline: “Environmental economics is an area of economics dealing with the relationship between the economy and the environment. Environmental economists study the economics of natural resources from both sides – their extraction and use, and the waste products returned to the environment. They also study how economic incentives hurt or help the environment, and how they can be used to create sustainable policies and environmental solutions.”

This seems a resonable description. But the accompanying diagram indicates a lack of understanding of the scope of the field. Giddings, Hopewood and O’Brien point out the logical shortcomings of the traditional concept above, and suggest a more correct way of conceptualizing the relationships: “A more accurate presentation of the relationship between society, economy and environment than the usual three rings is of the economy nested within society, which in turn is nested within the environment (Figure 2). Placing the economy in the centre does not mean that it should be seen as the hub around which the other sectors and activities revolve. Rather it is a subset of the others and is dependent upon them. Human society depends on environment although in contrast the environment would continue without society (Lovelock, 1988). The economy depends on society and the environment although society for many people did and still does (although under siege) exist without the economy.”

The importance of recognizing that all of society is a subset of functions within the environment is that society cannot violate the proven physical laws of the physical world (actually universe, but we will return to that thought later). Likewise, the economy exists totally within society so economics must also obey the same physical laws. Steve Keen has argued that the forgotten parameter in economics is energy. Whereas economists develop models and theories based on labor and capital as the components of production, energy should also be explicitly defined as separate and co-variant with labor and capital. Keen argues that failure to do so has led economists to propose models and theories which violate the fundamental laws of our environment, the Laws of Thermodynamics.

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This will not end well.

Turkish Parliament Approves Constitutional Reform, Expanded Powers For Erdogan

In a night-long session, lawmakers voted in favor of a set of amendments presented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was founded by current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003. The reform bill is designed to widen Erdogan’s powers, who presently only occupies a largely ceremonial role. The bill cleared the minimum parliamentary threshold necessary to put the measures to a national referendum for final approval, which could be held as early as in the spring. The vote took place with 488 lawmakers out of the 550-seat assembly in attendance. A total of 339 parliamentarians voted in favor of the motion and 142 against it, while five cast empty ballots and two of the votes were ruled out as invalid.

The measure required at least 330 votes to be approved and be put forward to a plebiscite. Some of the lawmakers not attending the vote were absent on account of remaining in detention; as part of a wide-ranging purge on dissidents Turkey has detained opposition HDP politicians, whom it accuses of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim celebrated the result saying “we are now entrusting this to the people, its actual owners. Now it’s the people’s word. It is the people’s decision.” Critics, however, say the amendments will weaken checks and balances in Turkey’s democracy, leading to too much power being consolidated in the office of the president.

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More detail; looks Google translated, but may just be poorly written.

With New Constitution, Erdogan Eyes For One-Man Rule (GP)

The Turkish Republic is on the throes of a radical transformation, even regime change, as Parliament completed 2nd round of voting 18-article constitutional reform bill, which gives expanded powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a way that removes last vestiges of separation of powers. While the world watch inauguration ceremony of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Turkish Parliament paved way for a referendum to significantly expand powers of Mr. Erdogan, the president’s long-held political ambition. The breathtaking speed of the first round vote was a clear-cut indication of a strong will on behalf of government and its ardent backer, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to quickly push through the controversial package.

The vote reflected the emergence of a new alignment in the Turkish political landscape, formation of an Islamist-nationalist front that harbor similar views on a number of political issues concerning the fate of the country. While the first round of voting was a scene of brawls among men, the 2nd round was women’s turn. The fighting among differing factions in Parliament reflected the deep divide the voting created in the society, with critics blasting the government for transforming the country’s regime from a parliamentary democracy into a the rule of a strongman. Aylin Nazliaka, an independent lawmaker, handcuffed herself to the rostrum to protest the voting, prompting a scuffle that hospitalized several female lawmakers. What constitutional bill brings to Turkey is at the core of ensuing debates amid ongoing emergency rule that rendered free discussion of the proposed changes in public sphere near impossible.

While dozens of national TV channels live aired Mr. Erdogan’s address to village administrators in the presidential palace a few days ago, almost no TV station broadcasted the parliamentary session where lawmakers squabbling over momentous decisions that have the power of shattering roots of the republic’s established system. A CHP lawmaker set his own “studio” in Parliament to bypass the censorship. For supporters of the bill, the shift to executive presidency long sought by President Erdogan will provide a bulwark against return to fragile coalition governments of the past. But for the critics of the proposal, it will cement Erdogan’s power and turn Turkey into a dictatorship with scrapping checks and balances, regarded as central pillars of any democratic system. Main opposition CHP says the new scheme will create one-man dictatorship.

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Not sure that reporting “data show that the net wealth per adult Greek inhabitant amounted to €114,000 in 2009” helps. Let alone that it’s correct.

Greek Have Lost Wealth Worth One Year’s GDP Since 2009 (Kath.)

The wealth of Greeks shrank by €167 billion during the years of the financial crisis – i.e. almost one year’s GDP – according to a survey by Credit Suisse included in the weekly bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV). The Swiss bank estimates the net wealth of Greeks – that is with their loans deducted – at €856 billion, against €1,023 billion in 2009, just before the country entered the bailout process.The data show that the net wealth per adult Greek inhabitant amounted to €114,000 in 2009, while in the rest of Europe it came to €93,000 per adult inhabitant. According to SEV, what puts Greece in a different category to the rest of Europe is the excessive borrowing.

SEV stresses that what is not obvious in the data on the fortune of Greek people and is not sufficiently presented is the huge deficits of the local social security system that will continue to absorb considerable resources in the future, putting a lid on the country’s growth unless tackled sufficiently. In practice, the older generations have not just borrowed from the savings of fellow Europeans, but also from the future savings of their children.

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Nov 222016
 
 November 22, 2016  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
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Library of Congress Crowds of people waving at President Kennedy’s motorcade, Dallas, Texas Nov. 22 1963


Donald Trump To Withdraw From TPP On First Day In Office (G.)
Fed Should Allow “Elephant Size Quantitative Eurodollar Easing” (BBG)
China May Have To Float The Yuan If Tighter Capital Controls Fail (BBG)
Eurozone Nations Turn To Hedge Funds To Meet Borrowing Needs (R.)
Goldman: How Corporations Will Spend Their Huge Piles of Overseas Cash (BBG)
Why Free Trade Doesn’t Work for the Workers – Steve Keen (ET)
Boo-Hoo (Jim Kunstler)
Top Network Executives, Anchors Meet With Donald Trump (CNN)
Trump Is ‘Just The President’ – Snowden (AFP)
Nigel Farage Would Be Great UK Ambassador To US – Trump (G.)
Richard Branson To Bankroll Secret Blairite Campaign To Stop Brexit (Ind.)
Brexit Vote Wiped $1.5 Trillion Off UK Household Wealth In 2016 (G.)
Merkel’s ‘Days Are Numbered’, Warns France’s Le Pen (CNBC)
Greek Doctors Continue To Emigrate In Large Numbers (Kath.)
Why Don’t We Grieve For Extinct Species? (G.)

 

 

Still think it’s a lot of fuzz over a Pacific deal that excludes China.

Donald Trump To Withdraw From TPP On First Day In Office (G.)

Donald Trump has issued a video outlining his policy plans for his first 100 days in office and vowing to issue a note of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “from day one”. In the brief clip posted to YouTube on Monday, the president-elect said that “our transition team is working very smoothly, efficiently, and effectively”, contradicting a wealth of media reports telling of chaos in Trump Tower as Trump struggles to build a team. He said that he was going to issue a note of intent to withdraw from the TPP trade deal, calling it “a potential disaster for our country”. Instead he said he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back”.

Hours before Trump’s announcement, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, warned that the TPP would be “meaningless” without US participation. Speaking to reporters in Buenos Aires on Monday, Abe conceded that other TPP countries had not discussed how to rescue the agreement if Trump carried out his promise to withdraw. Abe, a vocal supporter of the 12-nation agreement, appears to have failed in his recent attempts to coax Trump out of his “America first”, protectionism. The TPP, which excludes China, is thought to have been high on Abe’s agenda when he became the first foreign leader to meet the president-elect in New York last week.

While details of their 90-minute meeting have not been released, Abe would have used the time to try to persuade Trump to go back on his campaign threat to pull the US out of TPP on day one of his presidency. “The TPP would be meaningless without the United States,” Abe said, after Japan and other TPP countries had discussed the agreement on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Lima at the weekend. He added that the pact could not be renegotiated. “This would disturb the fundamental balance of benefits,” he said.

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Dollar liquidity is under severe strain. There’s only one reserve currency. And letting this push up the value of the USD without limit will hurt the US in the end.

Fed Should Allow “Elephant Size Quantitative Eurodollar Easing” (BBG)

As Donald Trump threatens to turn away from the rest of the world, the Fed will find itself under increasing pressure to extend a helping hand outwards. That’s the prognosis from Credit Suisse Director of U.S. Economics Zoltan Pozsar, who contends that the U.S. central bank needs to take a much more activist approach to ensuring adequate availability of the world’s reserve currency in light of recent regulatory changes that have raised bank funding costs and constrained sources of dollar funding. The liquidity financial institutions can draw upon has been drained by new rules that require banks to hold vast buffers of easy-to-sell assets, on the one hand, and a larger-than-expected exodus from prime money-market funds linked to financial reforms implemented in October, on the other.

That’s induced a pick-up in bank funding costs that looks to be permanent, the analyst said. That means that when foreign banks need dollars, they’re increasingly forced to procure them through currency swaps from U.S. banks and asset managers — who are themselves balance-sheet constrained. The cost of converting local currency payments in euros and yen into dollars is now at its most expensive since 2012, as implied by persistently negative cross-currency basis swap rates. The net result is an “existential trilemma” for the Federal Reserve, as it is forced to choose between two of the following three objectives: shoring up banks’ balance sheets, stabilizing costs for onshore and offshore dollar borrowing, and an independent monetary policy.

The best possible solution, according to Pozsar, is for the U.S. central bank to let its own balance sheet go: serving as a “dealer of last resort” by way of “elephant size quantitative eurodollar easing,” in other words, that it should allow the unlimited use of its dollar swap lines to prevent foreign banks’ dollar borrowing costs from getting too high in an environment of constrained bank balance sheets. “The tool to use is the Fed’s dollar swap lines but the aim would no longer be to backstop funding markets, but to police the range within which various cross currency bases trade,” Pozsar writes, arguing for the “fixed-price, full-allotment broadcast of eurodollars globally” by the U.S. central bank.

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The flipside of a strong dollar. And of Trump’s America first.

China May Have To Float The Yuan If Tighter Capital Controls Fail (BBG)

Dollar strength and rising U.S. interest rates under President-elect Donald Trump would intensify pressure on capital outflows from China, forcing its policy makers to choose between tightening capital controls or a drastic floating of the currency in coming months. That’s according to Victor Shih, a University of California at San Diego professor who studies China’s government and finance and specializes in tracking politics at the most elite level. “Given the Chinese government’s consistent preference for control, we may see much more Draconian capital controls before a decision to float the currency can be made,” Shih said in an interview in Beijing. “The main objective is to avoid a panicky float.”

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has indicated a rate hike could be appropriate “relatively soon,” and investors anticipate Trump’s proposals to cut taxes and boost infrastructure will spur faster U.S. growth and inflation. At the same time, the record indebtedness of China’s companies limits the government’s ability to raise interest rates because doing so would increase the cost of repaying debt. China may face a stark choice between abandoning recent policy changes to tie the yuan more to a basket of currencies and letting it float more freely or stringent capital controls sometime in the next six to 18 months, said Shih. The Communist Party’s preference for control suggests economic reform is unlikely to accelerate, Shih said. He sees China following Russia toward slower growth and rising currency volatility.

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More signs the euro is failing.

Eurozone Nations Turn To Hedge Funds To Meet Borrowing Needs (R.)

Eurozone governments are increasingly relying on hedge funds to help them meet their borrowing needs, which risks leaving them vulnerable to a debt market sell-off driven by a class of investors dubbed “fast money” for their speculative approach. With banks playing a less active part in the sovereign debt market because of pressures on their balance sheets, several countries have turned to hedge funds to sell their targeted amount of bonds, according to data, officials and bankers. Hedge funds tend to look for quick returns on investments, which could increase the volatility of government bond markets as they face several tests of sentiment in coming months.

A populist revolt that propelled Donald Trump and the Brexit vote is sweeping the developed world and threatens to unseat established leaders in an Italian referendum next month, and Dutch, French and German elections in 2017. Any such political shocks, compounded by rising bond market volatility, could potentially trigger a sell-off – a risk that stirs painful memories of the region’s debt crisis in 2010-2012 when a bond rout led to several countries unable to pay their debts and raised fears the euro zone could unravel. Hedge funds have been particularly active in the market for long-dated bonds as they offer the higher risk and reward that they traditionally seek.

Spain, Italy, Belgium and France have sought to lock in record-low borrowing rates this year with 50-year bond issues for €3-5 billion. Each of them reported a historically high allocation of 13-17% to hedge funds. By contrast, just three years ago, Spain, Italy and Belgium were selling only 4-7% of their syndicated bond sales to that community of investors.

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Trump should penalize buybacks, make sure the money is used productively.

Goldman: How Corporations Will Spend Their Huge Piles of Overseas Cash (BBG)

Companies in the S&P 500 Index will spend most of their sizable cash hoard buying back stock next year, analysts at Goldman Sachs write in a new note. If so, it would be only the second time in the past 20 years that buybacks have accounted for the largest share of cash usage. Much of this, Goldman says, would be due to the enacting of plans President-elect Donald Trump proposed on the campaign trail, such as a tax holiday for overseas income and changes to the corporate tax code. “A significant portion of returning funds will be directed to buybacks based on the pattern of the tax holiday in 2004,” the team, led by Chief U.S. Equity Strategist David Kostin, write. They estimate that $150 billion (or 20% of total buybacks) will be driven by repatriated overseas cash.

They predict buybacks 30% higher than last year, compared to just 5% higher without the repatriation impact. Other areas that will see a boost include capital expenditures, research and development, as well and mergers and acquisitions. Here’s a broader look at how the analysts see firms allocating their cash in 2017. Other Wall Street banks have started looking at the potential impacts of repatriation as well. A new note from Morgan Stanley analysts Todd Castagno and Snehaja Mogre says that this is one of the top questions they are receiving from clients, and that most are overestimating how much cash will be brought back from overseas.

“The often cited $2.5 trillion statistic [of cash for repatriation] represents accumulated foreign earnings that companies have declared permanently reinvested abroad for GAAP accounting purposes,” they write. “We estimate that only 40% of this amount, or roughly $1 trillion, is available in the form of cash and marketable securities. Thus, the other $1.5 trillion has been reinvested to support foreign operations and exists in the form of other operating assets, such as inventory, property, equipment, intangibles and goodwill.” The note did not provide more detail on how much of that available cash the analysts expect to be used for buying back stock.

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Can America still reverse this, or is it too late? “You haven’t just lost the industrial capacity, you have lost the skill-base as well, you don’t have the engineers and designers anymore.”

Why Free Trade Doesn’t Work for the Workers – Steve Keen (ET)

Once you have transferred all your capacity offshore, it’s very hard to reverse the process. You haven’t just lost the industrial capacity, you have lost the skill-base as well, you don’t have the engineers and designers anymore. They used to build news versions every year; now they are gone. What [Trump] can do on the fiscal front is his plan to invest in infrastructure. If he goes into this massive program as he has talked about and insists on a made-in-America policy, which he will do, that will provide the financing for the reindustrialization to occur. I’m not worried about a potential deficit because he has the world reserve currency in his hands and the Fed can print as much of it as necessary.

Then, if you produce all the infrastructure components onshore, you don’t even need trade tariffs. In my opinion, this wouldn’t be a trade barrier under WTO rules, but this could be the first dispute he has with the WTO. Because there is demand by the government and the components have to be manufactured onshore, capital needs to be invested and workers trained for the job. On top, you have the increases in productivity through infrastructure, another positive.

Epoch Times: What about tariffs? Mr. Keen: It’s not going to be peaceful, and there will be repercussions for American companies. Trump is used to playing hardball, and now he will have to negotiate with bureaucrats and their corporate backers. There will be attempts to control what Trump does through the WTO and it will be interesting to see how successful those attempts will be.


World Merchandise Exports in trillions of dollars. (World Bank)

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“Mommy is all about feelings and Daddy’s role is action and that is another reason that Hillary lost and Trump won.”

Boo-Hoo (Jim Kunstler)

America didn’t get what it expected, but perhaps it got what it deserved, good and hard. Daddy’s in the house and he busted straight into the nursery and now the little ones are squalling in horror. Mommy was discovered to be a grifting old jade who ran the household into a slum and she’s been turned out to solemnly await the judgment of the courts, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The kids on campus have gone temporarily insane over this domestic situation and some wonder if they’ll ever get over it. Trump as The USA’s Daddy? Well, yeah. Might he turn out to be a good daddy? A lot of people worry that he can’t be. Look how he behaved on the campaign trail: no behavioral boundaries… uccchhh. He even lurches as he walks, like Frankenstein.

Not very reassuring — though it appears that somehow he raised up a litter of high-functioning kids of his own. Not a tattoo or an earplug among them. No apparent gender confusion. All holding rather responsible positions in the family business. Go figure…. Judging from the internal recriminations among Democratic Party partisans playing out in the newspapers, it’s as if they all woke up simultaneously from a hypnotic trance realizing what an absolute dud they put up for election in Hillary Clinton — and even beyond that obvious matter, how deeply absurd Democratic ideology had become with its annoying victimology narrative, the incessant yammer about “diversity” and “inclusion,” as if pixie dust were the sovereign remedy for a national nervous breakdown. But can they move on from there?

I’m not so sure. For all practical purposes, both traditional parties have blown themselves up. The Democratic Party morphed from the party of thinking people to the party of the thought police, and for that alone they deserve to be flushed down the soil pipe of history where the feckless Whigs went before them. The Republicans have floundered in their own Special Olympics of the Mind for decades, too, so it’s understandable that they have fallen hostage to such a rank outsider as Trump, so cavalier with the party’s dumb-ass shibboleths. It remains to be seen whether the party becomes a vengeful, hybrid monster with an orange head, or a bridge back to reality. I give the latter outcome a low percentage chance.

Mommy is all about feelings and Daddy’s role is action and that is another reason that Hillary lost and Trump won. We’ve heard enough about people’s feelings and it just doesn’t matter anymore. You’re offended? Suck an egg. Someone appropriated your culture? Go shit in your sombrero. What matters is how we’re going to contend with the winding down of Modernity — the techno-industrial orgy that is losing its resource and money mojo. The politics of sacred victimhood has got to yield to the politics of staying alive.

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“Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who arranged the meeting, said afterward that it was “very cordial, candid and honest.”

Top Network Executives, Anchors Meet With Donald Trump (CNN)

Executives and anchors from the country’s five biggest television networks met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Monday afternoon. And they got an earful. Trump vented about media coverage, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He was highly critical of CNN and other news organizations. But while Trump showed disdain for the news media, he also answered questions; listened to the journalists’ arguments about the importance of access; and committed to making improvements. A source in the room told CNNMoney that there was “real progress” made with regards to media access to Trump and his administration. One specific topic was the importance of the “press pool,” a small group of journalists that traditionally travels with the president.

The hour-long meeting was off the record, meaning the participants agreed not to talk about the substance of the conversations. But Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who arranged the meeting, said afterward that it was “very cordial, candid and honest.” While there was “no need to mend fences,” she said, “from my own perspective, it is great to hit the reset button, it was a long, hard-fought campaign.” Some of the attendees were struck by Trump’s anti-media posture. During the meeting, Trump revived some of the specific arguments he made weeks before winning the presidency. According to Politico, among Trump’s complaints, even as he asked for a “cordial” relationship, was that NBC had used unflattering pictures of him. But one of the participants told CNNMoney that Trump also asked for a positive relationship between his White House and the media.

The participant said that a New York Post account – which had a source describing it as Trump giving the assembled members of the media a “dressing down” like a “firing squad” – was overstated. Conway herself has also criticized the Post report. [..] NBC’s Chuck Todd and Lester Holt; CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett; CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose, John Dickerson, and Gayle King; and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Martha Raddatz were some of the anchors seen entering Trump Tower shortly before 1 p.m. Several executives from the network news divisions were also spotted on the way into Trump Tower, including ABC News president James Goldston; CNN president Jeff Zucker; Fox News co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy; NBC News president Deborah Turness; MSNBC president Phil Griffin; and CBS News vice president Chris Isham.

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“But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesn’t actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that I’ve already made.”

Trump Is ‘Just The President’ – Snowden (AFP)

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden on Monday downplayed the importance of President-elect Donald Trump and again defended his decision to leak documents showing massive surveillance of US citizens’ communications. “Donald Trump is just the president. It’s an important position. But it’s one of many,” Snowden told an internet conference in Stockholm, speaking via a video link from Russia, where he has been living as a fugitive. The 33-year-old is wanted in the United States to face trial on charges brought under the tough Espionage Act after he leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the vast US surveillance of private data put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

He said he was not worried about the Trump administration stepping up efforts to arrest him and stood by his decision to leak the classified material. “I don’t care,” he said. “The reality here is that yes, Donald Trump has appointed a new director of the CIA who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death. “But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesn’t actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that I’ve already made.”

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Just a president-to-be having some fun.

Nigel Farage Would Be Great UK Ambassador To US – Trump (G.)

US president-elect Donald Trump has suggested that Nigel Farage, controversial leader of the United Kingdom Independence party, should be the UK’s ambassador to the US. “Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States,” Trump tweeted on Monday evening. “He would do a great job!” In a brief call with BBC Breakfast, Farage said he had been awake since 2am UK time when the tweet was first posted. The Ukip leader said he was flattered by the tweet, calling it “a bolt from the blue” and said he did not see himself as a typical diplomatic figure “but this is not the normal course of events”. But a Downing Street spokesman said: “There is no vacancy. We already have an excellent ambassador to the US.”

Farage, a member of the European parliament and on-again-off-again leader of Ukip for a decade, recently suggested he could launch an eighth bid to become an MP. Seven previous attempts were unsuccessful. It is unprecedented for an incoming US president to ask a world leader to appoint an opposing party leader as ambassador, and the statement puts British prime minister Theresa May in a difficult position. The role of UK ambassador to the US is among the most prestigious in the diplomatic service. Sir Kim Darroch, formerly the UK’s national security adviser and permanent representative to the European Union (EU), took over the role in January this year. The Ukip leader has previously said it was “obvious” that Darroch should resign his post, calling him part of the “old regime”.

But he told Sky News at that time he did not see himself as Darroch’s replacement: “I don’t think I will be the ambassadorial type. Whatever talents or flaws I have got I don’t think diplomacy is at the top of my list of skills.”

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Bringing Blair back would be the end of Labour.

Richard Branson To Bankroll Secret Blairite Campaign To Stop Brexit (Ind.)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is to help bankroll a campaign set up in secret by Blairite former ministers and advisers to derail Brexit, The Independent can reveal. An email seen by The Independent highlights the scale of backing the group has already secured. It shows the campaign has been months in the planning and claims “substantial progress” has already been made, including the identification of “an excellent potential CEO”. The memo was written by Alan Milburn, who was one of Tony Blair’s closest cabinet allies. It reveals the group has heavy financial, political and corporate backing and is receiving advice and support from a host of high-level business and communications organisations. High-profile MPs including former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour MP Chuka Umunna are believed to have had contact with the group, as have celebrities such as Bob Geldof.

Freuds, a leading public relations agency that was founded by Matthew Freud, a close friend of both Mr Blair and David Cameron, is understood to have been commissioned to manage the strategy and marketing of the campaign. The email says: “We have been beavering away over the last few months to get a Europe campaign up and running. I’m pleased to say that substantial progress has been made.” “I have met the Freuds team several times and we are making good progress. “I have been in discussions with an excellent potential CEO to lead the campaign. “Virgin … are keen to help … Since we last spoke [they] have offered a further £25k, plus bigger office space, help with legal advice and a possible secondment. “I have held discussions with Stronger In, Chuka Umunna, a new organisation called Common Ground, Bob Geldof and a number of senior politicians across the party spectrum.”

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Catchy headline and all, but hardly what the report in question is about.

Brexit Vote Wiped $1.5 Trillion Off UK Household Wealth In 2016 (G.)

The UK saw $1.5tn (£1.2tn) wiped off its wealth during 2016 after the Brexit vote sent the pound tumbling and the stock market into reverse, according to a survey by Credit Suisse. A fall in values at the top-end of the property market also contributed to about 400,000 Britons losing their status as dollar millionaires and one of the biggest drops in wealth among the major economies. But the UK remained third for the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, who own more than £50m in assets, behind the US and China. And the UK’s top 1% of richest people also continued to own 24% of the nation’s wealth, the report said.

Across the globe, the richest 1% own more wealth than the rest of the world put together, continuing the dominance seen in last year’s report. A recovering in the global stock markets in recent weeks is also likely to reverse some of the losses suffered by pension savers and wealthy individuals. Oxfam said the huge gap between rich and poor was “undermining economies, destabilising societies and holding back the fight against poverty”.

The findings from the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s seventh annual global wealth report that found the overall growth in global wealth remained flat in 2016, following a trend that emerged in 2013 and contrasting sharply with the double-digit growth rates witnessed before the global financial crisis of 2008. Michael O’Sullivan, chief investment officer in Credit Suisse’s wealth management arm: “The impact of the Brexit vote is widely thought of in terms of GDP but the impact on household wealth bears watching. “Since the Brexit vote, UK household wealth has fallen by $1.5tn. Wealth per adult has already dropped by $33,000 to $289,000 since the end of June. In fact, in US dollar terms, 406,000 people in the UK are no longer millionaires.”

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“Merkel is isolated given she represents the status quo while the pace of change in Europe is accelerating”

Merkel’s ‘Days Are Numbered’, Warns France’s Le Pen (CNBC)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “days are numbered,” according to the leader of France’s right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen. Merkel confirmed on Sunday she would run for a fourth term in 2017, however, Le Pen says the German leader does not fit the mood of the times. Speaking to CNBC on Monday, the National Front’s presidential candidate claims Merkel is isolated given she represents the status quo while the pace of change in Europe is accelerating. Turning to another international relationship, Le Pen said it would be natural for France to retain relations with Russia given the close history of the two countries. Arguing she sees no reason why we cannot live in a multi-polar world, she lambasted the U.S. for taking the world into the Cold War, saying it put France and Europe at great risk, given they were caught in the middle.

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The numbers look a bit shaky, but the trend is glaringly obvious. The Troika is dismantling what until just a few years ago was an absolute world class health system.

Greek Doctors Continue To Emigrate In Large Numbers (Kath.)

For a sixth consecutive year, Greece has been unable to stem the flow of doctors leaving the country. The numbers emigrating during 2016 have been high again, with most opting for work in other European countries. The only difference this year is that there has been a slight dip in those leaving for the UK, which may be due to Brexit. Overall, the Athens Medical Association (ISA) issued a total of 1,018 certificates between January 1 and October 24 allowing Greek doctors to practice abroad. During the whole of 2015, ISA issued 1,521 such documents, which was slightly higher than the 1,380 it produced in 2014 and 1,488 in 2013. The year which saw the highest level of emigration among Greek doctors was in 2013, when ISA issued 1,808 certificates. In total, between 2010 and this year, ISA has readied paperwork for more than 9,300 medical professionals looking to leave Greece.

[..] While Greek doctors pursue their futures abroad, the Greek National Health System (ESY) is buckling due to the shortage of medical staff. According to the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors’ Unions (OENGE), Greece lacks some 6,000 specialized doctors. The vast majority of doctors hired over the last few years were on fixed-term contracts, which is not a very attractive proposition for those in the medical field. According to the Health Ministry, ESY employs 1,464 auxiliary doctors at the moment. “The medical world has been seriously affected by the crisis over the last few years,” ISA president Giorgos Patoulis told Kathimerini. “The proliferation of mostly young doctors and the low rate at which they are absorbed into the public or private sector creates serious challenges for them in finding work and drives wages down.

“In combination with the government’s failure to set out a sustainable and effective health policy, this has caused an unprecedented migratory wave. This leaves us facing a paradox: Even though there is a plethora of young doctors who are unemployed, the health system is getting old and collapsing due to a lack of personnel.”

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Seems a tad quirky, but there’s more than meets the initial eye.

Why Don’t We Grieve For Extinct Species? (G.)

In early 2010, artist, activist and mother, Persephone Pearl, headed to the Bristol Museum. Like many concerned about the fate of the planet, she was in despair over the failed climate talks in Copenhagen that winter. She sat on a bench and looked at a stuffed animal behind glass: a thylacine. Before then, she’d never heard of the marsupial carnivore that went extinct in 1936. “Here was this beautiful mysterious lost creature locked in a glass case,” she said. “It struck me suddenly as unbearably undignified. And I had this sudden vision of smashing the glass, lifting the body out, carrying the thylacine out into the fields, stroking its body, speaking to it, washing it with my tears, and burying it by a river so that it could return to the earth.”

[..] .. grief doesn’t occur only when we lose loved ones. Ask anyone who has seen a local forest they once played in as a child demolished for another cookie-cutter development or has watched as fewer bees and butterflies show up in their garden each summer. Or ask any conservationist who has to witness year-after-year as the species they work with slowly vanish, ask any marine biologist about coral reefs or any Arctic biologist about sea ice. Grief can extend far beyond our human parochialism. “We realised that there was a hunger for a way of grieving ecological loss through ritual,” said Porter who in 2011 directed a Funeral for Lost Species through her group, Feral Theatre. This was an outdoor theatrical performance in a churchyard that included various traditional forms of mourning and tilted between somber and whimsical.

Porter believes many people are simply “stuck in a kind of denial” when it comes to extinction, biodiversity loss and environmental crises. “If we face it honestly and fully we have to face our own collective shadow, our out-of-control destructive urges and acts. These are terrible, terrifying things to face alone,” she said. Part of this denial is also due to our growing disconnect from nature. “Many humans now solely interact with domesticated animals and plants. Some have no experience whatsoever of intact forest, field, and aquatic community. The total loss of other community members, their families, and life affirming ways then is an utterly distant abstraction,” Hollingsworth said. “Yet in grief, as in love, humans are wired for intimacy. “


A thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, in captivity sometime in the 1920s. The thylacine was killed off by European settlers in Australia who erroneously viewed it as a sheep killer. Photograph: Popperfoto

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Nov 212016
 
 November 21, 2016  Posted by at 9:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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NPC Fordson tractor exposition at Camp Meigs, Washington DC 1922


Japan Exports Drop 13th Month By 10.3%, Imports Down 22nd Month By 16.5% (WSJ)
Negative Rates Are Failing to Halt Savings Obsession in Europe (BBG)
More Than 1 in 3 European Workers Have Difficulty Making Ends Meet (ETUC)
Now it Begins to Unravel (WS)
Former UBS, Credit Suisse CEO: “A Recession Is Sometimes Necessary” (ZH)
Big Shock In France’s Presidential Election As Sarkozy Eliminated (BBG)
The EU’s New Bomb Is Ticking in the Netherlands (WSJ)
APEC Summit Closes With Call for More Globalization, Free Trade (AP)
Obama Says World Leaders Want To Move Forward With TPP (AFP)
The Grey Champion Assumes Command – Part 1 (Quinn)
The Silver Lining In This Disaster: Clinton & Co Are Finally Gone (G.)
Disaffected Rust Belt Voters Embraced Trump. They Had No Other Hope (G.)
Tsipras Ready To Give In On Labor Reform To Ensure Debt Relief (Kath.)

 

 

With trade growth goes globalization.

Japan Exports Drop 13th Month By 10.3%, Imports Down 22nd Month By 16.5% (WSJ)

Japanese exports extended their losses to a 13th straight month in October, indicating that the world’s third-largest economy has yet to regain full fitness despite better-than-expected growth in the third quarter. Exports fell 10.3% from a year earlier in October to 5.870 trillion yen, figures released Monday by the Ministry of Finance showed. The reading came in worse than a 9.4% drop forecast by economists polled by WSJ. Exports decreased 6.9% in September. Despite the grim monthly figures, exports appear to be in better shape than in the spring, when Japan’s manufacturers were being buffeted by worries over a Chinese slowdown and other headwinds from abroad. Government estimates released last week showed that Japan’s economy grew 2.2% from the previous quarter in the July-September period, beating economists’ expectations.

Exports were stronger than in the previous three months. The near-term prospects for exports have also improved after Donald Trump’s victory of U.S. presidential election put the yen’s previous uptrend in reversal. The finance ministry said export volumes for October fell 1.4% from their year-earlier levels. That marked the first fall in three months. But seasonally adjusted month-on-month figures showed exports increased 1.6%. Imports declined 16.5% on year in October to Y5.374 trillion, the 22nd consecutive month of contraction, the ministry said. Japan’s trade balance came to Y496.2 billion in surplus, according to the data. Economists polled by the Nikkei expected a surplus of Y610.0 billion.

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Anything reported as a ‘savings obsession’ can be filed under ‘fake news’. It takes this article a while to get to it, but then it does: “About 44% of all Europeans were unable to pay at least one bill on time during the last 12 months, mainly because of a lack of money..” Combine that with the accounting practice of filing ‘paying off debts’ under ‘saving’, and you know what’s really happening.

Negative Rates Are Failing to Halt Savings Obsession in Europe (BBG)

After years of turbo-driven central bank stimulus, most Europeans still want to leave their spare cash in savings accounts, even if those accounts pay zero interest. That’s the finding of a survey by Europe’s biggest debt collector, Stockholm-based Intrum Justitia AB. “After the financial crisis, people have felt a need – even if they have small means – to create some kind of security,” CEO Mikael Ericson said in an interview in Stockholm on Nov. 16. “It can’t be that people save in a bank account because of the fantastic returns, so it must be about a sense of security, having money in the bank.” Some 69% of Europeans put their savings into bank accounts, according to Intrum Justitia’s European Consumer Payment Report.

The survey is based on feedback gathered in September and covers about 21,000 people in 21 countries. The survey also shows that 26% of Europeans prefer keeping their surplus funds in cash, while 16% hold stocks. Only 14% turn to investment funds, 8% invest in real estate and 8% in bonds. In Denmark and Sweden, where central bank benchmark rates are negative, almost 80% of people put their surplus cash in bank accounts. In France, the U.K. and the Netherlands, the figure is above 80%. [..] The survey also revealed how financially fragile many Europeans continue to be almost half a decade after the region’s debt crisis. About 44% of all Europeans were unable to pay at least one bill on time during the last 12 months, mainly because of a lack of money, the survey found. Greece was worst, with 76% of households failing to pay on time.

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Yeah. Savings Obsession. Sure.

More Than 1 in 3 European Workers Have Difficulty Making Ends Meet (ETUC)

According to the European Working Conditions Survey launched today more than one third of workers report some or great difficulty in making ends meet. This is the reality behind the rosier picture painted by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions which highlights an “increasingly skilled workforce, largely satisfied with work”. However, the study also reveals that • A shocking 1 in 5 workers “has a poor quality job with disadvantageous job quality features and job holders …. reporting an unsatisfactory experience of working life.” • Only 1 in 4 workers have “a smooth running job where most dimensions of job quality are satisfactory”.

Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation said “European workers are struggling to make ends meet. Work no longer assures a decent life. Is it any wonder that more and more voters are losing their faith in “the European Union and mainstream political parties? ”These results only strengthen the ETUC’s determination to fight for more public investment to create quality jobs, and for a pay rise for European workers to tackle poverty and drive economic recovery for all. Economic policies that result in 1 in 3 workers struggling to make ends meet are fundamentally wrong and must be radically changed.” “These are deeply worrying results that cannot be hidden by claiming that the world of work is increasingly complex. The survey actually shows that work is unsatisfactory or unrewarding for far too many workers.”

“The picture painted by the European Working Conditions Survey of widespread poverty in improving working conditions highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to tackle inequality across Europe. Improvements in labour markets and working conditions are modest and uneven at best; what’s more, these are being wiped out by spiralling costs of housing and austerity policies that drive insecurity for workers and their families.”

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“Debt is good” is just another way of saying “Greed is good”.

Now it Begins to Unravel (WS)

Debt is good. More debt is better. Funding consumer spending with debt is even better – that’s what economists have been preaching – because the consumed goods and services are gone after having been added to GDP, while the debt, which GDP ignores, remains until it is paid off with future earnings, or until it blows up. Corporations too have gone on a borrowing binge. Unlike consumers, they have no intention of paying off their debts. They issue new debt and use the proceeds to pay off maturing debts. Funding share-buybacks and dividends with debt is ideal. It’s called “unlocking value.” Debt must always grow. For that purpose, the Fed has manipulated interest rates to rock bottom. Actually paying off and reducing debt has the dreadful moniker, bandied about during the Financial Crisis, “deleveraging.”

It’s synonymous with “The End of the World.” At the institutional level, “debt” is replaced with more politically correct “leverage.” More leverage is better. Particularly if you can borrow short-term at near zero cost and bet the proceeds on risky illiquid long-term assets, such as real estate, or on securities that become illiquid without notice. Derivatives are part of this institutional equation. The notional value of derivatives in the US banking system is $190 trillion, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Four banks hold over 90% of them: JP Morgan ($53 trillion), Citibank ($52 trillion), Goldman ($44 trillion), and Bank of America ($26 trillion). Over 75% of those derivative contracts are interest rate products, such as swaps.

With them, heavily leveraged institutional investors that borrow short-term to invest in illiquid long-term assets hedge against interest rate movements. But Treasury yields and mortgage rates have moved violently in recent weeks, and someone is out some big money. These credit bubbles always unravel to the greatest surprise of those institutions and their economists. When they unravel, the above “End-of-the-World” scenario of orderly deleveraging turns into forced deleveraging, which can get messy. Assets that had previously been taken for granted are either repriced or just evaporate. But they’d been pledged as collateral. Suddenly, the collateral no longer exists….

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“..the Swiss National Bank’s balance sheet now accounts for 100% of GDP. Japan is also 100%, but mainly invested in its own state paper. The ECB and the Fed are 30%.”

Former UBS, Credit Suisse CEO: “A Recession Is Sometimes Necessary” (ZH)

Remember when bashing central banks and predicting financial collapse as a result of monetary manipulation and intervention was considered “fake news” within the “serious” financial community, disseminated by fringe blogs? Good times. In an interview with Swiss Sonntags Blick titled appropriately enough “A Recession Is Sometimes Necessary”, the former CEO of UBS and Credit Suisse, Oswald Grübel, lashed out by criticizing the growing strength of central banks and their ‘supremacy over the markets and other banks’. He claimed that the use of negative interest rates and huge positive balance sheets represent ‘weapons of mass destruction’. He calls for an end to the use of negative interest rates. Sounding more like a “tinfoil” blog than the former CEO of the two largest Swiss banks, Grübel warned that central banks have “crossed the point of no return” which will ultimately “end in a crash.”

Joining Deutsche Bank in slamming NIRP, Grubel said that banks are losing hundreds of millions of francs each year to negative interest rates paid to central banks. Worse, he warned that central banks will eventually lose their credibility in the markets but that this could take 10 years or more, at which point it will “all end in a crash.” What happens then? The former CEO believes that the final outcome will be wholesale financial nationalization: “after that all banks could belong to the state” Grubel also the doubted the wisdom of the Swiss National Bank’s balance sheet: “the Swiss National Bank’s balance sheet now accounts for 100% of GDP. Japan is also 100%, but mainly invested in its own state paper. The ECB and the Fed are 30%. Switzerland is far, far, far ahead. Is that wise?”

Grübel also touched on a point we have made ever since 2010 when we said that in a world of unprecedented political polarity, politicians now control the world almost exclusively through monetary policy, to wit: “After the financial crisis, politics has taken power in the banking sector: It has bound the banks into a regulatory corset and now they can no longer move. Politicians have told central banks: now you determine what is going on with the economy.” What are the implications of this power shift? “Previously, the risk was distributed to thousands of banks. They had to pay for their mistakes. The risk lay with the shareholders. Today, more and more the state carries the risk.” Which, of course, is another word for taxpayers. In other words, the next crash will be one where central – not commercial – banks are failing, and the one left with the bill will once again be the ordinary person in the street.

In a tangent, Grübel gave his thoughts on what makes a man rich: “rich is a man when he goes to bed in a carefree manner and wakes up without care.” He is then asked if, by that definition, a billionaire is rich to which he replied: “No. Money has little to do with wealth. The real rich are carefree. Those who are healthy, are not dependent. The greatest wealth is independence.”

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“..the winner will be favorite to become president in May..”. Really? Then why am I thinking Le Pen is the favorite?

Big Shock In France’s Presidential Election As Sarkozy Eliminated (BBG)

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, the new front-runner in France’s 2017 presidential election, is offering voters an economic-policy revolution inspired by Margaret Thatcher. Fillon, 62, vaulted from third position in most polls to win the first round of the Republican primary by 16 percentage points from the veteran Alain Juppe on Sunday with the most free-market platform among the seven candidates. They’ll face each other again in next Sunday’s runoff and the winner will be favorite to become president in May 2017. The lifelong politician is pledging to lengthen the work week to 39 hours from 35, to increase the retirement age to 65 and add immigration quotas. He’s vowed to eliminate half a million public-sector jobs and cut spending by €100 billion over his five years in office.

And he proposes a €40 billion tax-cut for companies and a constitutional ban on planned budget deficits. “Who is Fillon? The classic conservative, right-wing candidate,” Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at the Sciences Po Institute in Paris, said in an interview. “He wants a deep reform of the French model: shrinking the role of the state and cutting the welfare system.” Compared with the brash style of former boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, Fillon has a more low-key approach but he makes a virtue of telling it straight. When he took office as premier in 2007, he shocked even Sarkozy by announcing that France was a bankrupt state. Today he’s promising to reverse that, just like his role model when she became U.K. prime minister in 1979.

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Europe and the scourge of direct democracy.

The EU’s New Bomb Is Ticking in the Netherlands (WSJ)

If the European dream is to die, it may be the Netherlands that delivers the fatal blow. The Dutch general election in March is shaping up to be a defining moment for the European project. The risk to the EU doesn’t come from Geert Wilders, the leader of anti-EU, anti-immigration Party for Freedom. He is well ahead in the polls and looks destined to benefit from many of the social and economic factors that paved the way for the Brexit and Trump revolts. But the vagaries of the Dutch political system make it highly unlikely that Mr. Wilders will find his way into government. As things stand, he is predicted to win just 29 out of the 150 seats in the new parliament, and mainstream parties seem certain to shun him as a coalition partner. In an increasingly fragmented Dutch political landscape, most observers agree that the likely outcome of the election is a coalition of four or five center-right and center-left parties.

Instead, the risk to the EU comes instead from a new generation of Dutch euroskeptics who are less divisive and concerned about immigration but more focused on questions of sovereignty—and utterly committed to the destruction of the EU. Its leading figures are Thierry Baudet and Jan Roos, who have close links to British euroskeptics. They have already scored one significant success: In 2015, they persuaded the Dutch parliament to adopt a law that requires the government to hold a referendum on any law if 300,000 citizens request it. They then took advantage of this law at the first opportunity to secure a vote that rejected the EU’s proposed trade and economic pact with Ukraine, which Brussels saw as a vital step in supporting a strategically important neighbor. This referendum law is a potential bomb under the EU, as both Dutch politicians and Brussels officials are well aware.

Mr. Baudet believes he now has the means to block any steps the EU might seek to take to deepen European integration or stabilize the eurozone if they require Dutch legislation. This could potentially include aid to troubled Southern European countries such as Greece and Italy, rendering the eurozone unworkable. Indeed, the Dutch government gave a further boost to Mr. Baudet and his allies when it agreed to accept the outcome of the Ukraine referendum if turnout was above 30%, even though it was under no legal obligation to do so. This was a major concession to the euroskeptics, as became clear when strong turnout among their highly motivated supporters lifted overall turnout to 31%. With Mr. Wilders’s party, currently polling above 25%, and both Mr. Baudet and Mr. Roos having launched their own parties, Dutch euroskeptics are confident they will be able to reach the 30% threshold in future referendums.

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Do they mean things would have been even worse without free trade? (if they do, let them say so): “..the benefits of trade and open markets need to be communicated to the wider public more effectively, emphasizing how trade promotes innovation, employment and higher living standards.”

APEC Summit Closes With Call for More Globalization, Free Trade (AP)

Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific nations ended their annual summit Sunday with a call to resist protectionism amid signs of increased free-trade skepticism, highlighted by the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also closed with a joint pledge to work toward a sweeping new free trade agreement that would include all 21 members as a path to “sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth,” despite the political climate. “We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism,” the leaders of the APEC nations said in a joint statement. APEC noted the “rising skepticism over trade” amid an uneven recovery since the financial crisis and said that “the benefits of trade and open markets need to be communicated to the wider public more effectively, emphasizing how trade promotes innovation, employment and higher living standards.”

Speaking to journalists at the conclusion of the summit, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said the main obstacle to free trade agreements in Asia and around the world is the frustration felt by those left behind by globalization. “Protectionism in reality is a reflection of tough economic conditions,” said Kuczynski, the meeting’s host. Referring to Brexit and Trump’s election win in the U.S., he said those results highlighted the backlash against globalization in former industrial regions in the U.S. and Britain that contrasts with support for trade in more-prosperous urban areas and developing countries. “This is an important point in recent economic history because of the outcome of various elections in very important countries that have reflected an anti-trade, anti-openness feeling,” he said.

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Fuhget about it.

Obama Says World Leaders Want To Move Forward With TPP (AFP)

US President Barack Obama said Sunday that leaders from across the Asia-Pacific have decided to move ahead with a trade deal opposed by his successor Donald Trump. “Our partners made clear they want to move forward with TPP,” Obama said at a press conference after meeting leaders in Peru. “They would like to move forward with the United States.” It is unclear whether there is any future for the TPP, a vast, arduously negotiated agreement between 12 countries that are currently at different stages of ratifying it. It does not include China. Trump campaigned against the proposal as a “terrible deal” that would “rape” the United States by sending American jobs to countries with cheaper labor.

The agreement must by ratified in the US Congress – which will remain in the hands of Trump’s Republican allies when the billionaire mogul takes office on January 20. Without the United States, it cannot be implemented in its current form. However, some have suggested Trump could negotiate a number of changes and then claim credit for turning the deal around. Obama defended the increasing integration of the global economy at the close of his final foreign visit as president – a trade summit held against the backdrop of rising protectionist sentiment in the United States and Europe, seen in both Trump’s win and Britain’s “Brexit” vote. He said that “historic gains in prosperity” thanks to globalization had been muddied by a growing gap “between the rich and everyone else.” “That can reverberate through our politics,” he said.

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Jim Quinn’s longtime series on the Fourth Turning continues. A problem might be that you can’t really know who’s who until afterwards. Maybe Mike Pence will turn out to be the real grey champion, or someone as yet unknown.

The Grey Champion Assumes Command – Part 1 (Quinn)

In September 2015 I wrote a five part article called Fourth Turning: Crisis of Trust. In Part 2 of that article I pondered who might emerge as the Grey Champion, leading the country during the second half of this Fourth Turning Crisis. I had the above pictures of Franklin, Lincoln, and FDR, along with a flaming question mark. The question has been answered. Donald J. Trump is the Grey Champion. When I wrote that article, only one GOP debate had taken place. There were eleven more to go. Trump was viewed by the establishment as a joke, ridiculed by the propaganda media, and disdained by the GOP and Democrats. I was still skeptical of his seriousness and desire to go the distance, but I attempted to view his candidacy through the lens of the Fourth Turning. I was convinced the mood of the country turning against the establishment could lead to his elevation to the presidency. I was definitely in the minority at the time:

“Until three months ago the 2016 presidential election was in control of the establishment. The Party was putting forth their chosen crony capitalist figureheads – Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. They are hand-picked known controllable entities who will not upset the existing corrupt system. They are equally acceptable to Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, the military industrial complex, the sickcare industry, mega-corporate America, the moneyed interests, and the never changing government apparatchiks. The one party system is designed to give the appearance of choice, while in reality there is no difference between the policies of the two heads of one party and their candidate products. But now Donald Trump has stormed onto the scene from the reality TV world to tell the establishment – You’re Fired!!!”

Strauss and Howe wrote their prophetic tome two decades ago. [..] They did not know which events or which people would catalyze this Fourth Turning. But they knew the mood change in the country would be driven by the predictable generational alignment which occurs every eighty years. “Soon after the catalyst, a national election will produce a sweeping political realignment, as one faction or coalition capitalizes on a new public demand for decisive action. Republicans, Democrats, or perhaps a new party will decisively win the long partisan tug of war. This new regime will enthrone itself for the duration of the Crisis. Regardless of its ideology, that new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention. The regeneracy will be solidly under way.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

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“This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making.”

The Silver Lining In This Disaster: Clinton & Co Are Finally Gone (G.)

Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party – the party of FDR – away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers. For three decades they have kept us in line with threats of a Republican monster-president should we stay home on election day. Election day has come and passed, and many did stay home. And instead of bowing out gracefully and accepting responsibility for their defeat, they have already started blaming it largely on racist hordes of rural Americans. That explanation conveniently shifts blame away from themselves, and avoids any tough questions about where the party has failed.

In a capitalist democracy, the party of the left has one essential reason for existing: to speak for the working class. Capitalist democracies have tended towards two major parties. One, which acts in the interest of the capitalist class – the business owners, the entrepreneurs, the professionals – ensuring their efforts and the risks they took were fairly rewarded. The other party represented workers, unions and later on other groups that made up the working class, including women and oppressed minorities. This delicate balance ended in the 1990s. Many blame Reagan and Thatcher for destroying unions and unfettering corporations. I don’t. In the 1990s, a New Left arose in the English-speaking world: Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and Tony Blair’s New Labour. Instead of a balancing act, Clinton and Blair presided over an equally aggressive “new centrist” dismantling of the laws that protected workers and the poor.

[..] .. let us be as clear about this electoral defeat as possible, because the New Democratic elite will try to pin their failure, and keep their jobs, by blaming this largely on racism, sexism – and FBI director Comey. This is an extremely dangerous conclusion to draw from this election. So here is our silver lining. This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making. And their failure is our chance to regroup. To clean house in the Democratic party, to retire the old elite and to empower a new generation of FDR Democrats, who look out for the working class – the whole working class.

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What happens when you think the economy means the rich.

Disaffected Rust Belt Voters Embraced Trump. They Had No Other Hope (G.)

The industrial midwest is the vast sweep, from western Pennsylvania through eastern Iowa, that drove the American economy for nearly a century. The great industrial cities, such as Chicago and Detroit, led the way, but it spread into hundreds of small towns and cities – from the steel mills of Ohio to the auto parts factories of Michigan and Wisconsin and the appliance makers of Iowa and Illinois. This was Hillary Clinton’s blue wall, the states she had to win to become president. Of the 11 swing states that decided the election, five – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa – lie in this battered old industrial heartland. If, as expected, Trump’s lead in Michigan holds, she lost them all. How did it happen? There are many reasons. The Clinton team barely campaigned there and in Wisconsin until it was too late.

Misogyny played a role. So did Clinton’s personal unpopularity and the relatively low turnout. But the real reason is that the industrial era created this region and gave a good middle-class way of life to the people who worked there. That economy began to vanish 40 years ago, moving first to the sun belt and then Mexico, before finally China. The good jobs that were left increasingly went to robots. Factories closed. So did the stores and bars and schools around them. The brightest kids fled to universities and then to the cities – to New York or Chicago or the state capital. Those left behind worked two or three non-union jobs just to stay afloat. Families broke up. Drug use increased. Life spans shortened. And nobody seemed to care – until Trump. But does he really? Who knows? He said he did.

His tirades – against trade, against elites, against Obamacare, against immigrants, against the Clintons – sounded like unhinged rants in cities and on campuses, which never took him seriously. In the old industrial zones and withering farm towns, he echoed their own resentments. Mitt Romney couldn’t do this; neither could John McCain. But Trump did, and so they embraced him. Why was this such a surprise? It’s impossible to overstate the alienation between the two Americas, between the global citizens and the global left-behinds, between the great cities that run the nation’s economy and media, and the hinterland that feels not only cheated but, worse, disrespected.

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Tsipras goes from one blunder to the next. Still, as long as he’s there, the streets are quiet, amazingly quiet for a society that’s under such economic fire. But he is soon going to be voted out in favor of someone, anyone, who will then see things get much worse in the streets. A smouldering powder keg.

Tsipras Ready To Give In On Labor Reform To Ensure Debt Relief (Kath.)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is prepared to make further concessions to Greece’s creditors in tough negotiations that are currently under way to ensure that there is no delay in launching crucial talks on relief for the country’s debt burden, Kathimerini understands. According to sources, Tsipras and his key ministers are ready to give in to calls by foreign auditors for more flexibility in the crucial area of labor laws. The government has already agreed to put off its demands for the restoration of collective wage bargaining, a key pledge of leftist SYRIZA before it came to power last year. It is unclear to what degree the Greek side is willing to concede on other issues – such as calls by foreign officials for facilitating mass layoffs for struggling employers and making it harder for unions to call strikes.

A source at the Labor Ministry said over the weekend that the Greek side has submitted its proposals for changes to labor laws and is awaiting the reaction of foreign officials. Tsipras is said to be set on a strategy of withdrawal despite the risks. The key danger is that cohesion in the ranks of leftist SYRIZA, which has already been tested by a series of concessions to foreign creditors, is further compromised, weakening the beleaguered coalition. The other risk is that the further concessions may boost the lead of conservative New Democracy over SYRIZA in opinion polls, which is already significant, thereby enhancing the sense that SYRIZA’s coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks is on its way out.

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


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

 

 

Excellent by the Danish banker, h/t Mish.

Escaping the Soulless Machine (Steen Jakobsen)

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

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

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

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Too many are too emotionally invested to make that move.

Moving Past Never Trump (NR)

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

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

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

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

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Of course he does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit to Trump’s America (Speed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Spells End of Normality for Europe (Spiegel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dancing the Con Tango.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was dead anyway.

White House Gives Up On Passing TPP (Hill)

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Obama Goes to Greece (TEI)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek Hospitals Scrounging For Cash (Kath.)

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

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Aug 182016
 
 August 18, 2016  Posted by at 8:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
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NPC George W. Cochran & Co., 709 14th Street NW, Washington DC 1920


Japanese Imports Drop -24.7%, Exports Crash -14.1% (ZH)
A Physics Lesson for Central Bankers (BBG)
The Idea Of The Fed Raising The Inflation Target Is Outrageous (Boockvar)
On The Impossibility Of Helicopter Money And Why The Casino Will Crash (DS)
US Buyback Announcements Tumble to a 2012 Low (BBG)
Oil Drillers Have Slashed Spending For 2015-2020 By $1 Trillion
Only 37% Of Borrowers Are Paying Down Their Student Loans (WSJ)
Chinese Airlines Need To Hire 100 Pilots A Week For The Next 20 Years (BBG)
Hillary Clinton Picks TPP and Fracking Advocate To Set Up Her White House (IC)
Is US Moving Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania? (EurA)
America Is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen (NYT Editorial Board)
California Slaughter: The State-Sanctioned Genocide of Native Americans (NW)
Uncovering The Brutal Truth About The British Empire (G.)
Greek Villagers Rescued Refugees. Now They Are the Ones Suffering. (NYT)

 

 

Apparently Kuroda doesn’t buy enough yet.

Japanese Imports Drop -24.7%, Exports Crash -14.1% (ZH)

For the 19th month in a row, Japanese Imports plunged – dropping 24.7% YoY (worse than expected), the biggest drop since Oct 2009. Exports were just as dismal, also missing expectations, plunging 14.1% YoY – worst since Oct 2009. The biggest driver of the collapse of Japanese trade was a 44% crash in the Chinese trade balance. There’s no lipstick to put on this pig… it’s a disaster.. and worse still Yen is strengthening back below 100 against the USD.

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Why not simply admit that central bankers and economists alike have no idea what they’re doing?! Even if they ever had a clue, we’re now 8 years into ‘uncharted territory’, and it’s all anyone‘s guess. That’s what ‘uncharted territory’ means.

Moreover, central bankers and economists come in with dogmatic school book theories that don’t apply in ‘uncharted territory’, and those school book educations make sure they’re the very last candidates for finding creative solutions. Comparing economics to actual science does not help one bit.

A Physics Lesson for Central Bankers (BBG)

The world is braced for the discovery of a fifth fundamental forces of nature – the four known ones being electromagnetism, gravity, and strong and weak nuclear forces – that subverts the so-called standard model of particle physics. Given the lackluster outlook for global growth, maybe economics needs a similar revolution. Quantitative easing’s failure to quash the threat of deflation is finance’s equivalent of the bump in the data that alerted physicists to the possibility of a new boson. The mismatch between economic theory and the real-world outcome of zero interest rates poses a direct challenge to the current orthodoxy that puts a 2% inflation target at the heart of monetary policy in most of the developed world.

Figures earlier this week showed inflation running at an annual pace of just 0.8% in the U.S. and 0.6% in the U.K. Consumer prices in the euro zone are rising by about 0.2% a year; in Japan, prices dropped by 0.4% in June. The consensus forecast among economists surveyed by Bloomberg News is for none of the four central banks in those regions to meet their targets in 2016, and for the ECB and the BOJ to continue falling short for at least the next year:

Years of pumping trillions of dollars, euros, yen and pounds into the economy by buying government debt and other securities hasn’t produced the rebound in inflation that economics textbooks predicted. Record low borrowing costs haven’t led to a surge in investment and spending that would lead to higher prices. That’s the kind of empirical evidence that should produce a reconsideration of what Rothschild Investment Trust Chairman Jacob Rothschild this week called “the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world.” Neil Grossman, director of Florida-based bank C1 Financial and former chief investment officer at TKNG Capital Partners, likens the need to abandon the current economic orthodoxy with the impact of quantum physics on science in the last century.

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“There is no science to this 2% number, it is all art.”

The Idea Of The Fed Raising The Inflation Target Is Outrageous (Boockvar)

I can’t let an opportunity go by without criticizing a Fed official. I believe their feet should be held to the fire after creating a huge asset price bubble and culture of debt that is dragging down economic growth. Fed President John Williams comments yesterday really got me angry. First, he suggested possibly raising the Fed’s 2% inflation target. This reflects an amazing cluelessness of the damage this would do if realized. We are in an epic bond bubble globally where higher inflation would be kryptonite. With the bond monster central bankers have created, the last thing they should want is higher inflation. Also, many U.S. citizens are literally living paycheck to paycheck and a higher cost of living without a corresponding increase in wages or any interest income would damage the largest component of the U.S. economy and the lives of millions.

Second, he said, “Conventional monetary policy has less room to stimulate the economy during an economic downturn.” This we know is true. But he then added, “This will necessitate a greater reliance on unconventional tools like central bank balance sheets, forward guidance, and potentially even negative policy rates.” This last sentence proves he’s blind to the negative consequences of what unconventional tools have wrought and he believes in negative rates even in the face of all the evidence of how damaging the idea is. Let me expand on the first issue of inflation. Central banks in the U.S., Eurozone, UK and in Japan have tethered their monetary policy decisions on growth certainly but also the desire for 2% annual inflation. There is no science to this 2% number, it is all art.

The reason for this target and desire for this level of inflation is a matter of control. While they like to keep interest rates artificially low, they also understand the need to have them higher than they are in order to respond to any economic challenges. The fallacy with this theory that higher inflation is good and deflation is bad, is inflation is just a symptom of underlying supply and demand and technological improvements, and thus shouldn’t be manipulated.

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Stockman: “..earnings had fallen by 19% since then, even as the stock market moved from 1950 to nearly 2200 or 13% higher..”

On The Impossibility Of Helicopter Money And Why The Casino Will Crash (DS)

[..] .. the S&P 500 companies posted Q2 2016 earnings for the latest 12 month period at $86.66 per share. So at the August bubble high the market was being valued at a lunatic 25.1X. Even in a healthy, growing economy that valuation level is on the extreme end of sanity. But actual circumstances are currently more nearly the opposite. That is, earnings have now been falling for six straight quarters in line with GDP growth that has slumped to what amounts to stall speed. In fact, reported earnings for the S&P 500 peaked at $106 per share in the 12 months ended in September 2014. That means that earnings had fallen by 19% since then, even as the stock market moved from 1950 to nearly 2200 or 13% higher.

This is called multiple expansion in the parlance of Wall Street, but it’s hard to find a more bubblicious example. Two years ago the market was trading at just 18.4X, meaning that on the back of sharply falling earnings the PE multiple had risen by 36%! Valuation multiples are supposed to go up only when the economic and profits outlook is improving, not when it’s unmistakably deteriorating as at present. But during the spring-summer melt-up these faltering fundamentals were blithely ignored on the hopes of a second half growth spurt and, failing the latter, that the Fed would again pull the market’s chestnuts out of the fire.

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Time for Yellen to buy those stocks? Buybacks were the no. 1 reason the S&P looked good till now. Better find something to replace them, or else…

US Buyback Announcements Tumble to a 2012 Low (BBG)

Stock buybacks appear to be slowing down, suggesting either corporate America’s outlook has dimmed, stock valuations have become prohibitively high or, most optimistically, that companies are starting to listen to investors and put funds toward other uses. Buybacks announced for the second quarter’s earnings season between July 8 and August 15 totaled an average of $1.8 billion a day, the lowest volume in an earnings season since the summer of 2012, according to TrimTabs Investment Research.
Share repurchases have been a key driver of this year’s stock market rally, despite a notable deceleration relative to to the same period in 2015. In the first seven months of 2016, buybacks totaled $376.5 billion, according to TrimTabs.

That’s down 21% from $478.4 billion in the first seven months of last year. Equity buybacks last week totaled just $2.6 billion, while record highs in U.S. stocks triggered an increase in new equity offerings. “The reluctance to pull the trigger on share repurchases suggests corporate leaders are becoming less enthusiastic about what they see ahead,” David Santschi, chief executive officer of TrimTabs, said in a press release on Tuesday. That means “buybacks aren’t likely to provide as much fuel for the stock market as they have in the recent past.” According to TrimTabs, just five companies have announced buybacks of more-than $3 billion this earnings season: Biogen ($5 billion), Visa ($5 billion), CBS ($5 billion), AIG ($3 billion), and 21st Century Fox ($3 billion).

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Hard to admit to something that will cost you your livelihood. They all keep hoping for rising prices.

Oil Drillers Have Slashed Spending For 2015-2020 By $1 Trillion

Mad Dog, BP’s drilling project deep in the Gulf of Mexico, could be Exhibit A in the oil industry’s war on cost. When the British oil giant announced the project’s second phase in 2011, it put the price at $20 billion. Last month, after simplifying plans and benefiting from a sharp drop in everything from steel to drilling services, Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said he could do the job for $9 billion.

Across the industry, companies have taken a chainsaw to expenses, slashing spending for the 2015-to-2020 period by $1 trillion through cutting staff, delaying projects, changing drilling techniques and squeezing outside contractors, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. That’s cushioned businesses as oil prices plunged 60% since 2014. Now producers seek to show they can make the savings stick, while service providers try to reverse their losses. Industry costs “may be the defining issue of the next six to 12 months,” said J. David Anderson, a Barclays analyst in New York. “As you start ramping up, the fact is you’re going to need more services and they’re going to have to come in at a higher price.”

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Someone will come with an across the board forgiveness plan. But it’ll be contentious.

Only 37% Of Borrowers Are Paying Down Their Student Loans (WSJ)

A largely overlooked report released in February by the Government Accountability Office suggests that the Obama administration’s policies have exacerbated student debt, which equals nearly a quarter of annual federal borrowing. With only 37% of borrowers actually paying down their loans, the federal student-loan program more closely resembles the payday-lending industry than a benevolent source of funds for college. As this newspaper reported in April, “43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with federal student loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1,” and a staggering “1 in 6 borrowers, or 3.6 million, were in default on $56 billion in student debt.”

If student debt continues to skyrocket, the federal government may have to deal with as much as a $500 billion write-down when future defaults and loan-forgiveness programs are factored in. In 2010, the Obama administration dispensed with the private intermediaries that had administered federal loans since the 1960s. It put in their place Direct Lending, a program administered by the Education Department. At the time, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Direct Lending would save $62 billion from 2010 to 2020. That didn’t happen. The program’s advocates failed to anticipate how two other Obama-backed college affordability initiatives—Income-Driven Repayment and loan forgiveness—would create a cataclysmic hit to the federal student-loan program’s finances.

There are more than 20 Income-Driven Repayment programs, but they all work essentially the same way. Students struggling financially can defer their payments. When no or limited payments are made, their balances grow. Today, over 20 million borrowers are watching their loan balances increase thanks to these programs. The average balance ballooned to approximately $25,000 in 2014 from $15,000 in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and has grown still larger since then.

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In their dreams.

Chinese Airlines Need To Hire 100 Pilots A Week For The Next 20 Years (BBG)

Chinese airlines need to hire almost 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet skyrocketing travel demand. Facing a shortage of candidates at home, carriers are dangling lucrative pay packages at foreigners with cockpit experience. Giacomo Palombo, a former United Airlines pilot, said he’s being bombarded every week with offers to fly Airbus A320s in China. Regional carrier Qingdao Airlines promises as much as $318,000 a year. Sichuan Airlines, which flies to Canada and Australia, is pitching $302,000. Both airlines say they’ll also cover his income tax bill in China. “When the time to go back to flying comes, I’ll definitely have the Chinese airlines on my radar,” said Palombo, 32, now an Atlanta-based consultant for McKinsey. “The financials are attractive.”

Air traffic over China is set to almost quadruple in the next two decades, making it the world’s busiest market, according to Airbus Group SE. Startup carriers barely known abroad are paying about 50% more than what some senior captains earn at Delta Air Lines, and they’re giving recruiters from the U.S. to New Zealand free rein to fill their captains’ chairs. With some offers reaching $26,000 a month in net pay, pilots from emerging markets including Brazil and Russia can quadruple their salaries in China, said Dave Ross, Las Vegas-based president of Wasinc International. Wasinc is recruiting for more than a dozen mainland carriers, including Chengdu Airlines, Qingdao Airlines and Ruili Airlines. “When we ask an airline, ‘How many pilots do you need?,’ they say, ‘Oh, we can take as many as you bring,”’ Ross said. “It’s almost unlimited.”

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Incredible, but he really said it: “..there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone..”

Hillary Clinton Picks TPP and Fracking Advocate To Set Up Her White House (IC)

Two big issues dogged Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) and fracking. She had a long history of supporting both. Under fire from Bernie Sanders, she came out against the TPP and took a more critical position on fracking. But critics wondered if this was a sincere conversion or simply campaign rhetoric. Now, in two of the most significant personnel moves she will ever make, she has signaled a lack of sincerity. She chose as her vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine, who voted to authorize fast-track powers for the TPP and praised the agreement just two days before he was chosen.

And now she has named former Colorado Democratic Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to be the chair of her presidential transition team — the group tasked with helping set up the new administration should she win in November. That includes identifying, selecting, and vetting candidates for over 4,000 presidential appointments. As a senator, Salazar was widely considered a reliable friend to the oil, gas, ranching and mining industries. As interior secretary, he opened the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling, and oversaw the botched response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since returning to the private sector, he has been an ardent supporter of the TPP, while pushing back against curbs on fracking.

The TPP would enhance the ability of corporations to sue to overturn environmental regulations, but Salazar helped a pro-TPP front group, the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” argue the opposite. In a November 2015 USA Today op-ed that Salazar co-wrote with Bruce Babbitt, the two men argued that the TPP would be the “the greenest trade deal ever” by promoting sustainable energy. Both Salazar and Babbitt cited their former positions as interior secretaries to boost their credibility. The following month, Salazar authored a Denver Post op-ed with two former Colorado governors also affiliated with PCAJ, arguing that the agreement would protect the state’s scenic beauty: “And as a state rich with natural wonder and a long history of conservation, Colorado can be proud that the TPP includes the highest environmental standards of any trade agreement in history.”

Shortly after leaving his post at the Obama administration, Salazar appeared at an oil and gas industry conference to argue in favor of fracking. “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone,” Salazar told the attendees, who included the vice president of BP America, another keynote speaker at the conference. “We need to make sure that story is told.”

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Not confirmed. But moving them out of Turkey seems logical. Not exactly a safe third country these days.

Is US Moving Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania? (EurA)

Two independent sources told EurActiv.com that the US has started transferring nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, against the background of worsening relations between Washington and Ankara. According to one of the sources, the transfer has been very challenging in technical and political terms. “It’s not easy to move 20+ nukes,” said the source, on conditions of anonymity. According to a recent report by the Simson Center, since the Cold War, some 50 US tactical nuclear weapons have been stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, approximately 100 kilometres from the Syrian border.

During the failed coup in Turkey in July, Incirlik’s power was cut, and the Turkish government prohibited US aircraft from flying in or out. Eventually, the base commander was arrested and implicated in the coup. Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question, the report says. Another source told EurActiv.com that the US-Turkey relations had deteriorated so much following the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara to host the weapons. The American weapons are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania, the source said. Deveselu, near the city of Caracal, is the new home of the US missile shield, which has infuriated Russia.

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It doesn’t sit well with me at all that the NYT editors are saying this. Far too much blood on those hands. It doesn’t feel right one bit.

America Is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen (NYT Editorial Board)

A hospital associated with Doctors Without Borders. A school. A potato chip factory. Under international law, those facilities in Yemen are not legitimate military targets. Yet all were bombed in recent days by warplanes belonging to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, killing more than 40 civilians. The United States is complicit in this carnage. It has enabled the coalition in many ways, including selling arms to the Saudis to mollify them after the nuclear deal with Iran. Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.

The airstrikes are further evidence that the Saudis have escalated their bombing campaign against Houthi militias, which control the capital, Sana, since peace talks were suspended on Aug. 6, ending a cease-fire that was declared more than four months ago. They also suggest one of two unpleasant possibilities. One is that the Saudis and their coalition of mostly Sunni Arab partners have yet to learn how to identify permissible military targets. The other is that they simply do not care about killing innocent civilians. The bombing of the hospital, which alone killed 15 people, was the fourth attack on a facility supported by Doctors Without Borders in the past year even though all parties to the conflict were told exactly where the hospitals were located.

In all, the war has killed more than 6,500 people, displaced more than 2.5 million others and pushed one of the world’s poorest countries from deprivation to devastation. A recent United Nations report blamed the coalition for 60% of the deaths and injuries to children last year. Human rights groups and the United Nations have suggested that war crimes may have been committed.

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Today Yemen, yesterday California. Maybe if we stop trying to hide the past, we’re less likely to repeat it?!

California Slaughter: The State-Sanctioned Genocide of Native Americans (NW)

The tally is relentlessly grim: a whole settlement wiped out in Trinity County “excepting a few children”; an Indian girl raped and left to die somewhere near Mendocino; as many as 50 killed at Goose Lake; and, two months later, as many as 257 murdered at Grouse Creek, scores of them women and children. There were the four white ranchers who tracked down a band of Yana to a cave, butchering 30. “In the cave with the meat were some Indian children,” reported a chronicle published later. One of the whites “could not bear to kill these children with his 56-calibre Spencer rifle. ‘It tore them up so bad.’ So he did it with his 38-calibre Smith and Wesson revolver.”

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We might as well stop speaking about western ‘civilization’.

Uncovering The Brutal Truth About The British Empire (G.)

Help us sue the British government for torture. That was the request Caroline Elkins, a Harvard historian, received in 2008. The idea was both legally improbable and professionally risky. Improbable because the case, then being assembled by human rights lawyers in London, would attempt to hold Britain accountable for atrocities perpetrated 50 years earlier, in pre-independence Kenya. Risky because investigating those misdeeds had already earned Elkins heaps of abuse. Elkins had come to prominence in 2005 with a book that exhumed one of the nastiest chapters of British imperial history: the suppression of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion. Her study, Britain’s Gulag, chronicled how the British had battled this anticolonial uprising by confining some 1.5 million Kenyans to a network of detention camps and heavily patrolled villages.

It was a tale of systematic violence and high-level cover-ups. It was also an unconventional first book for a junior scholar. Elkins framed the story as a personal journey of discovery. Her prose seethed with outrage. Britain’s Gulag, titled Imperial Reckoning in the US, earned Elkins a great deal of attention and a Pulitzer prize. But the book polarised scholars. Some praised Elkins for breaking the “code of silence” that had squelched discussion of British imperial violence. Others branded her a self-aggrandising crusader whose overstated findings had relied on sloppy methods and dubious oral testimonies. By 2008, Elkins’s job was on the line. Her case for tenure, once on the fast track, had been delayed in response to criticism of her work.

To secure a permanent position, she needed to make progress on her second book. This would be an ambitious study of violence at the end of the British empire, one that would take her far beyond the controversy that had engulfed her Mau Mau work. That’s when the phone rang, pulling her back in. A London law firm was preparing to file a reparations claim on behalf of elderly Kenyans who had been tortured in detention camps during the Mau Mau revolt. Elkins’s research had made the suit possible. Now the lawyer running the case wanted her to sign on as an expert witness. Elkins was in the top-floor study of her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when the call came. She looked at the file boxes around her. “I was supposed to be working on this next book,” she says. “Keep my head down and be an academic. Don’t go out and be on the front page of the paper.”

She said yes. She wanted to rectify injustice. And she stood behind her work. “I was kind of like a dog with a bone,” she says. “I knew I was right.” What she didn’t know was that the lawsuit would expose a secret: a vast colonial archive that had been hidden for half a century. The files within would be a reminder to historians of just how far a government would go to sanitise its past. And the story Elkins would tell about those papers would once again plunge her into controversy.

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But not everyone has lost it: “If it happens again, everyone will do the exact same thing: We will help.”

Greek Villagers Rescued Refugees. Now They Are the Ones Suffering. (NYT)

Stratis Valamios revved the motor on his small white boat and steered under a thumbnail moon out of the harbor of this fishing village, perched on the northern tip of Lesbos, Greece’s third-largest island. Skies were clear enough to see the purple mountains of Turkey a short distance across the Aegean Sea. It would be easy on this tranquil evening to catch calamari. These days, he needed a good haul to make ends meet. A year ago, he and other fishermen in the tiny village, Skala Sikaminias, were making a more unusual catch: thousands of sea-drenched asylum seekers who streamed across the Aegean to escape conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

As one of the landfalls in Greece that is closest to Turkey, Skala Sikaminias, with its 100 residents, fast became ground zero for the crisis, the first stop in Europe for people trying to reach Germany in a desperate bid to start new lives. “I’d be in the middle of the sea, and I would see 50 boats zigzagging toward me,” Mr. Valamios said, gazing across the narrow channel. “I would speed toward them, and they would throw their children into my boat to be saved.” Today the migrants have mostly stopped coming. The coastline, once littered with orange life vests and wrecked boats, has been cleaned to a near-spotless white. But the human drama has left an imprint here, and across all of Lesbos, in ways that have only begun to play out.

The village is nearly empty of tourists this year as Germans, Swedes and other visitors who had long flocked to the crystalline waters of Lesbos go elsewhere, wary of spending their vacations in a place now associated with human desperation. Business at the island’s hotels and tavernas has slumped around 80%, especially along the 7.5-mile stretch between Skala Sikaminias and the vacation town of Molyvos, where many of the more than 800,000 migrants who survived the crossing last year washed ashore. Mr. Valamios used to supplement his income as a fisherman by working five months of the year at Myrivilis’ Mulberry taverna, facing the bucolic port where fishermen mend yellow nets beneath oleanders and village cats prowl for fish. This year, he was asked to work just one month amid a dearth of customers. Nearly 1,000 Greeks in the area have lost seasonal employment.

[..] The villagers no longer experience the sea in the same way. When they look at the horizon, some say they think for a split second that another refugee boat is coming. “We have to be ready,” Mr. Valamios said. “If it happens again, everyone will do the exact same thing: We will help.”

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Jun 072016
 
 June 7, 2016  Posted by at 8:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »
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Esther Bubley Soldiers with their girls at the Indianapolis bus station 1943


This Job Market Slump Started In January
Yellen Sees Rates Rising Gradually But .. (BBG)
The Shadow Looming Over China (Balding)
Nation of Debt: New Zealand Sitting on Half-Trillion-Dollar Debt Bomb (NZH)
Sterling Swings Wildly As Polls Suggest UK Heading For EU Exit (G.)
S&P Downgrades Royal Bank of Canada Outlook (WSJ)
Goldman Probed Over Malaysia Fund 1MDB (WSJ)
This Fannie-Freddie Resurrection Needs To Die (WaPo ed.)
State Department Blocks Release Of Hillary Clinton’s TPP Emails (IBT)
Debt Buyers (John Oliver)
Taxes And Recession Slash Income Of Greek Households (Kath.)
Nausea Rising (Jim Kunstler)
NATO Countries Begin Largest War Game In Eastern Europe Since Cold War (G.)
Finns To Bury Nuclear Waste In World’s Costliest Tomb (AFP)
Great Barrier Reef: The Stench Of Death (G.)

And this is Yellen’s favorite index?! Makes you wonder.

This Job Market Slump Started In January

The sharp May hiring slowdown revealed in Friday’s employment report took a lot of people – including me – by surprise. It shouldn’t have. Things have actually been on the downswing for the U.S. labor market for months, according to the Federal Reserve’s Labor Market Conditions Index. The LMCI is a new measure cooked up by Federal Reserve Board economists in 2014 that consolidates 19 different labor market indicators to reflect changes in the job market. They calculated it going all the way back to 1976; the chart above shows its movements since the end of the last recession in June 2009. The May index, released Monday morning, showed a 4.8-point decline from April. As you can see from the chart, the index has now declined for five straight months — its worst performance since the recession.

The index does get revised a lot. When the January number was first reported on Feb. 8, for example, it was still modestly positive. Still, since the February number was released on March 7 the news from the LMCI has been unremittingly negative. Which probably should have told us something. Not many people were paying attention, though. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is apparently a fan of the LMCI, but I have to admit that I first learned of its existence Monday when Erica Groshen, the Commissioner of the BLS, mentioned it at a conference for BLS data users in New York. It was a good reminder, as were a lot of the other presentations at the conference, that the headline jobs numbers that get the lion’s share of attention – the monthly change in payroll employment and the unemployment rate – aren’t always the best places to look for information on the state of the jobs market.

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They should really start having her do these speeches in a cave filled with smoke and vapors.

Yellen Sees Rates Rising Gradually But .. (BBG)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy was making progress but was silent on the timing of another interest-rate increase, an omission viewed as a signal that a June move was off the table. “I continue to think that the federal funds rate will probably need to rise gradually over time to ensure price stability and maximum sustainable employment in the longer run,” Yellen said Monday during a speech in Philadelphia. Her comments were less specific than in her previous remarks in describing when she thought the Fed should raise rates again.

On May 27 at Harvard University, she said an increase would likely be appropriate in “coming months,” a phrase she didn’t repeat on Monday. Since then, the Labor Department reported U.S. employers in May added the fewest number of new jobs in almost six years, causing expectations for a rate increase to plunge. “She did not address the timing of the Fed’s next gradual move, which suggests to us that she is in no hurry,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd, arguing that her comments on the payroll report “largely rules out a move in rates next week. July is not a strong bet either.”

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Beijing has not just allowed shadow banks to grow much too big, it has used this growth to hide its actions behind. Local governments got most of their credit to build highways to nowhere from shadow banks. It’s really weird that the western press only catches on now.

The Shadow Looming Over China (Balding)

Of all the topics sure to be come up in Sino-U.S. economic talks this week – from the problem of excess capacity to currency controls – the health of China’s financial sector will no doubt feature high on the list. Especially worrying are the multiplying links between the country’s commercial and “shadow” banks – the name given to a broad range of non-bank financial institutions from peer-to-peer lending platforms to trusts and wealth management companies. All told, the latter now hold assets that exceed 80 percent of China’s gross domestic product, according to Moody’s – much of them linked to the commercial banking sector in one way or another. That poses a systemic threat, and needs to be treated as such. There’s nothing inherently wrong with shadow banks, of course.

Largely owned by the government, China’s commercial banks focus primarily on directing capital from savers to state-owned enterprises, leaving Chinese households and smaller private enterprises starved for funds. Shadow banks have grown to meet the demand. At their best, they allocate capital more efficiently than state-owned lenders and keep afloat businesses that create jobs and growth. The line between good shadow banks and dodgy ones is increasingly fuzzy, however, as is the divide between shadow and commercial banking. Traditional banks often assign their sales teams to sell shadow products. This gives an unwarranted sheen of legitimacy to schemes that are inherently risky. Buyers trust that the established bank will make them whole if their investment goes south.

Shadow banks are also selling more and more products directly to commercial banks. Wealth management products held as receivables now account for approximately 3 trillion yuan of interbank holdings, or around $500 billion — a number that’s grown sixfold in three years. According to Autonomous Research, as much as 85 percent of those products may have been resold to other shadow banks, creating a web of cross-ownership with disturbing parallels to the U.S. mortgage securities market just before the 2008 crash. In total, the big four state-owned banks hold more than $2 trillion in what’s classified as “financial investment,” much of it in trusts and wealth-management products.

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A nation of lost souls.

Nation of Debt: New Zealand Sitting on Half-Trillion-Dollar Debt Bomb (NZH)

New Zealand is sitting on a half-a-trillion-dollar debt bomb and Kiwis are increasingly treating their houses like cash machines, piling on the debt as they watch the value of their properties soar. Reserve Bank figures show household debt, excluding investment property, has risen 23% in the past five years to $163.4 billion. Incomes have risen only 11.5%. Households are now carrying a debt level that is equivalent to 162% of their annual disposable income – higher than the level reached before the global financial crisis. Including property investment the total debt households owed as of April was $232.9 billion, according to the Reserve Bank. Satish Ranchhod, a senior economist at Westpac Bank, says the main driver has been low interest rates.

“Continued low interest rates have sparked a sharp increase in household borrowing at a time when income growth has been very modest.” And it’s housing loans where the growth has mainly come from. Housing loan debt has risen 23.4% to $132.83 billion. Student loans were up 22.9% to $14.84 billion and consumer loans are up 16.6% to $15.7 billion. Ranchhod said much of the rising debt on housing was down to investors, as more people jumped into the property market on the back of rising house prices. He also believed many people were using their home loans to make consumer purchases. “We think a lot of the increase in lending on housing loans will also be an increase in spending … people feel wealthy when the value of their home goes up.”

Hannah McQueen, an Auckland financial coach and managing director of EnableMe, said she had seen three clients in the past week alone who had paid for a new car by using the equity in their home to increase their mortgage debt. “It’s definitely on the increase … People think, ‘I’m worth so much more now …'”

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Volatility just getting started.

Sterling Swings Wildly As Polls Suggest UK Heading For EU Exit (G.)

The pound swung wildly on currency markets on Monday, reaching extremes of volatility not seen since the financial crisis, as City traders reacted to polls suggesting voters were increasingly likely to send Britain out of the EU this month. The poll boost to the Vote Leave campaign sent the pound tumbling by up to 1.5 cents to below $1.44, adding to a decline of 2 cents last week and indicating the degree of pressure on the UK currency since the remain camp’s lead in the polls began to evaporate. A dovish speech by the US central bank chief, Janet Yellen, hinting that poor jobs data meant the Federal Reserve was unlikely to raise rates this month, steadied the pound – despite her comments that a vote to leave the EU could hurt the US economy.

“One development that could shift investor sentiment is the upcoming referendum in the United Kingdom. A UK vote to exit the European Union could have significant economic repercussions,” she said. Sterling’s value has become increasingly volatile as fears of a Brexit have increased among investors. The index charting the daily swings in the pound’s value has risen to its highest level of volatility since the first quarter of 2009. It is double the level seen in April when the remain camp was ahead in the polls. Elsa Lignos, a foreign exchange expert at City firm RBC, one of many to warn that the pound would come under further pressure should the lead established by Vote Leave be consolidated, said: “Brexit is almost all that matters for the pound at the moment.”

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Hmm.. “..speculative-grade borrowers..”, “..highly indebted Canadian consumers ..”

S&P Downgrades Royal Bank of Canada Outlook (WSJ)

Standard & Poor’s is downgrading the outlook for Royal Bank of Canada, a change it says reflects the lender’s increased risk appetite and credit-risk exposure relative to other domestic banks. The credit-ratings firm said Monday it was revising its outlook on RBC, Canada’s largest bank by assets, to “negative” from “stable,” but would leave its credit ratings untouched. The move comes less than two weeks after the Toronto-based lender reported a stronger-than-expected fiscal second-quarter profit but set aside bigger provisions to cover soured loans. “The outlook revision reflects concerns over what we see as RBC’s higher risk appetite, relative to peers,” said S&P credit analyst Lidia Parfeniuk in a release.

“We see one example of this in its aggressive growth in loans and commitments in the capital markets wholesale loan book, particularly in the U.S., with an emphasis on speculative-grade borrowers, including exposure to leveraged loans,” she added. S&P also pointed to RBC’s “higher-than-peer average exposure” to highly indebted Canadian consumers and to the country’s oil- and gas-producing regions, which have been hard hit by the collapse in crude-oil prices. S&P, however, affirmed RBC’s ratings including its “AA-/A-1+” long- and short-term issuer credit ratings. “RBC is one of the strongest and highest rated banks in Canada, reflecting our strong financial profile and the success of our diversified business model,” said RBC in an emailed statement. “This outlook change will have no direct impact to RBC clients,” it later added.

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“..Goldman wired the $3 billion in proceeds to a Singapore branch of a small Swiss private bank instead of to a large global bank, as would be typical for a transfer of that size..”

Goldman Probed Over Malaysia Fund 1MDB (WSJ)

U.S. investigators are trying to determine whether Goldman Sachs broke the law when it didn’t sound an alarm about a suspicious transaction in Malaysia, people familiar with the investigation said. At issue is $3 billion Goldman raised via a bond issue for Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. Days after Goldman sent the proceeds into a Swiss bank account controlled by the fund, half of the money disappeared offshore, with some later ending up in the prime minister’s bank account, according to people familiar with the matter and bank-transfer information viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The cash was supposed to fund a major real-estate project in the nation’s capital that was intended to boost the country’s economy.

U.S. law-enforcement officials have sought to schedule interviews with Goldman executives, people familiar with the matter said. Goldman hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. The bank says it had no way of knowing how 1MDB would use the money it raised. Investigators are focusing on whether the bank failed to comply with the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions to report suspicious transactions to regulators. The law has been used against banks for failing to report money laundering in Mexico and ignoring red flags about the operations of Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff. The investigators believe the bank may have had reason to suspect the money it raised wasn’t being used for its intended purpose, according to people familiar with the probe.

One red flag, they believe, is that Goldman wired the $3 billion in proceeds to a Singapore branch of a small Swiss private bank instead of to a large global bank, as would be typical for a transfer of that size, the people said. Another is the timing of the bond sale and why it was rushed. The deal took place in March 2013, two months after Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, approached Goldman Sachs bankers during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And it occurred two months before voting in a tough election campaign for Mr. Najib, who used some of the cash from his personal bank account on election spending, the Journal has reported, citing bank-transfer information and people familiar with the matter.

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This being from the mouthpiece WaPo, g-d only knows what’s behind it.

This Fannie-Freddie Resurrection Needs To Die (WaPo ed.)

It’s been said that Washington is where good ideas go to die. We don’t know about that, but some bad ideas are certainly hard to get rid of. Consider the persistent non-solution to the zombie-like status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac known as “recap and release.” The plan is to return the two mortgage-finance giants to their pre-financial-crisis status as privately owned but “government-sponsored” enterprises. That is to say, to recreate the private-gain, public-risk conflict that helped sink them in the first place. Their income would recapitalize the entities, rather than be funneled to the treasury, as is currently the case. Then they could exit the regulatory control known as “conservatorship” that has constrained them since 2008 — and resume bundling home loans and selling them, as if it had never been necessary to bail them out to the tune of $187 billion in the first place.

Congress last year effectively barred recap and release, at least for the next two years. Coupled with the Obama administration’s firm opposition, you’d think that would put a stake through its heart. But “no” is not an acceptable answer for the handful of Wall Street hedge funds that scooped up Fannie and Freddie’s beaten-down common stock for pennies a share after the bailout — and would realize a massive windfall if the government suddenly decided to let shareholders have access to company profits again. With megabillions on the line, the hedge funds have been arguing high-mindedly that their true concerns are property rights and the rule of law; they have also made common cause with certain low-income-housing advocates who see a resurrected Fan-Fred as a potential source of funds for their programs.

Left unexplained, because it’s inexplicable, is how the hedge funds’ arguments square with the fact that there wouldn’t even be a pair of corporate carcasses to fight over but for the massive infusion of taxpayer dollars and the public risk that represented. The latest iteration of recap and release is a hedge-fund-backed bill sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), which would set Fannie and Freddie, unreformed, loose on the marketplace again and do so under terms wildly favorable to the hedge funds. Specifically, shareholders would be charged nothing for the government backing the entities would retain, supposedly to save scarce resources for the capital cushion. But as the WSJ recently noted, capital could be “risk-weighted” so forgivingly that the actual cushion required might be considerably less than headline numbers suggest.

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Desperate move.

State Department Blocks Release Of Hillary Clinton’s TPP Emails (IBT)

Trade is a hot issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. But correspondence from Hillary Clinton and her top State Department aides about a controversial 12-nation trade deal will not be available for public review — at least not until after the election. The Obama administration abruptly blocked the release of Clinton’s State Department correspondence about the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), after first saying it expected to produce the emails this spring. The decision came in response to International Business Times’ open records request for correspondence between Clinton’s State Department office and the United States Trade Representative. The request, which was submitted in July 2015, specifically asked for all such correspondence that made reference to the TPP.

The State Department originally said it estimated the request would be completed by April 2016. Last week the agency said it had completed the search process for the correspondence but also said it was delaying the completion of the request until late November 2016 — weeks after the presidential election. The delay was issued in the same week the Obama administration filed a court motion to try to kill a lawsuit aimed at forcing the federal government to more quickly comply with open records requests for Clinton-era State Department documents.

Clinton’s shifting positions on the TPP have been a source of controversy during the campaign: She repeatedly promoted the deal as secretary of state but then in 2015 said, “I did not work on TPP,” even though some leaked State Department cables show that her agency was involved in diplomatic discussions about the pact. Under pressure from her Democratic primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, Clinton announced in October that she now opposes the deal — and has disputed that she ever fully backed it in the first place.

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John Oliver buys $15 million of unpaid debt for $60,000. And then forgives it. Now there’s an idea. Unless I’m very mistaken, that means $1 million could forgive $250 million in debt. $10 million, you free $2.5 billion in debt. Well, quite a bit more, actually, because now we’d be talking wholesale. People raise a millon bucks for all sorts of purposes all the time. Know what I mean?

Someone get this properly organized in a fund, and why wouldn’t they (?!), means: You donate $1 and $250 in debt goes away. Donate $100 and $25,000 goes up in air. 100 people donate $100 each, $2,500,000 in debt is gone. I’m not the person to do it, but certainly somebody can?! (Do call me on my math if I missed a digit..). It’s crazy people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg are not doing this. Or even Janet Yellen. Not all that smart after all, I guess. $1 billion can buy off $250 billion in debt. Want to fight deflation?

Debt Buyers (John Oliver)

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How to make sure an economy and society cannot recover.

Taxes And Recession Slash Income Of Greek Households (Kath.)

The avalanche of new taxes that began this month will deal a devastating blow to household incomes, consumption and the prospects of the Greek economy in general. As the dozens of new measures are implemented, the market will also be forced to deal with the higher charges that will strengthen the lure of tax evasion. All this is expected to extend the recession and deter investment, while leading to more business shutdowns. Crucially, the disposable income of households will shrink anew due to the increase in taxation and the hikes in almost all indirect taxes and social security contributions.

Hundreds of thousands of families are cutting down on their basic expenses while many have run into debt over various obligations: For example, unpaid Public Power Corporation bills now total €2.7 billion. All that has resulted in major drop in retail spending. A consumer confidence survey carried out by Nielsen for the first quarter of the year shows that eight out of 10 Greeks are constantly attempting to reduce their household expenditure. Their main targets for cuts are going out for entertainment and food delivery, while they are buying cheaper and fewer groceries.

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JHK: “As you may know, Kunstler.com is currently under an aggressive Denial of Service (DoS) attack. My web and server technicians are working to get the website and blog back up and live soon (though it’s going to cost a pretty penny). In the meantime, here is today’s blog. Please share this with any of your friends so they don’t miss out.”

Nausea Rising (Jim Kunstler)

The people of the United States have real grievances with the way this country is being run. Last Friday’s job’s report was a humdinger: only 38,000 new jobs created in a country of over 300 million, with a whole new crop of job-seeking college grads just churned out of the diploma mills. I guess the national shortage of waiters and bartenders has finally come to an end. What’s required, of course, is a pretty stout restructuring of the US economy. And that should be understood to be a matter of national survival. We need to step way back on every kind of giantism currently afflicting us: giant agri-biz, giant commerce (Wal Mart etc.), giant banking, giant war-making, and giant government — this last item being so larded with incompetence on top of institutional entropy that it is literally a menace to American society.

The trend on future resources and capital availability is manifestly downward, and the obvious conclusion is the need to make this economy smaller and finer. The finer part of the deal means many more distributed tasks among the population, especially in farming and commerce operations that must be done at a local level. This means more Americans working on smaller farms and more Americans working in reconstructed Main Street business, both wholesale and retail. This would also necessarily lead to a shift out of the suburban clusterfuck and the rebuilding of ten thousand forsaken American towns and smaller cities.

For the moment, many demoralized Americans may feel more comfortable playing video games, eating on SNAP cards, and watching Trump fulminate on TV, but the horizon on that is limited too. Sooner or later they will have to become un-demoralized and do something else with their lives. The main reason I am so against the Hillary and Trump, and so ambivalent on Bernie is their inability to comprehend the scope of action actually required to avoid sheer cultural collapse.

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Completely crazy. Is Trump really the only person who can stop this? For the first time since the Nazi invasion of Soviet-occupied Poland began on 22 June 1941, German tanks will cross the country from west to east.

NATO Countries Begin Largest War Game In Eastern Europe Since Cold War (G.)

The largest war game in eastern Europe since the end of the cold war has started in Poland, as Nato and partner countries seek to mount a display of strength as a response to concerns about Russia’s assertiveness and actions. The 10-day military exercise, involving 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries, has been welcomed among Nato’s allies in the region, though defence experts warn that any mishap could prompt an offensive reaction from Moscow. A defence attache at a European embassy in Warsaw said the “nightmare scenario” of the exercise, named Anaconda-2016, would be “a mishap, a miscalculation which the Russians construe, or choose to construe, as an offensive action”. Russian jets routinely breach Nordic countries’ airspace and in April they spectacularly “buzzed” the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.

The exercise, which US and Polish officials formally launched near Warsaw, is billed as a test of cooperation between allied commands and troops in responding to military, chemical and cyber threats. It represents the biggest movement of foreign allied troops in Poland in peace time. For the first time since the Nazi invasion of Soviet-occupied Poland began on 22 June 1941, German tanks will cross the country from west to east. Managed by Poland’s Lt Gen Marek Tomaszycki, the exercise includes 14,000 US troops, 12,000 Polish troops, 800 from Britain and others from non-Nato countries. Anaconda-2016 is a prelude to Nato’s summit in Warsaw on 8-9 July, which is expected to agree to position significant numbers of troops and equipment in Poland and the Baltic states.

It comes within weeks of the US switching on a powerful ballistic missile shield at Deveselu in Romania, as part of a “defence umbrella” that Washington says will stretch from Greenland to the Azores. Last month, building work began on a similar missile interception base at Redzikowo, a village in northern Poland. The exercise comes at a sensitive time for Poland’s military, following the sacking or forced retirement of a quarter of the country’s generals since the nationalist Law and Justice government came to power in October last year. So harsh have the cuts to the top brass been that the Polish armed forces recently found themselves unable to provide a general for Nato’s multinational command centre at Szczecin.

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Tell me, do I feel safe now? 100,000 years is a long time. No fault lines? Volcanic activity?

Finns To Bury Nuclear Waste In World’s Costliest Tomb (AFP)

Deep underground on a lush green island, Finland is preparing to bury its highly-radioactive nuclear waste for 100,000 years — sealing it up and maybe even throwing away the key. Tiny Olkiluoto, off Finland’s west coast, will become home to the world’s costliest and longest-lasting burial ground, a network of tunnels called Onkalo – Finnish for “The Hollow”. Countries have been wrestling with what to do with nuclear power’s dangerous by-products since the first plants were built in the 1950s. Most nations keep the waste above ground in temporary storage facilities but Onkalo is the first attempt to bury it for good. Starting in 2020, Finland plans to stow around 5,500 tons of nuclear waste in the tunnels, more than 420 metres (1,380 feet) below the Earth’s surface.

Already home to one of Finland’s two nuclear power plants, Olkiluoto is now the site of a tunnelling project set to cost up to €3.5 billion until the 2120s, when the vaults will be sealed for good. “This has required all sorts of new know-how,” said Ismo Aaltonen, chief geologist at nuclear waste manager Posiva, which got the green light to develop the site last year. The project began in 2004 with the establishment of a research facility to study the suitability of the bedrock. At the end of last year, the government issued a construction license for the encapsulation plant, effectively giving its final approval for the burial project to go ahead. At present, Onkalo consists of a twisting five-kilometre (three-mile) tunnel with three shafts for staff and ventilation. Eventually the nuclear warren will stretch 42 kilometres (26 miles).

[..] The waste is expected to have lost most of its radioactivity after a few hundred years, but engineers are planning for 100,000, just to be on the safe side. Spent nuclear rods will be placed in iron casts, then sealed into thick copper canisters and lowered into the tunnels. Each capsule will be surrounded with a buffer made of bentonite, a type of clay that will protect them from any shuddering in the surrounding rock and help stop water from seeping in. Clay blocks and more bentonite will fill the tunnels before they are sealed up.

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Long piece on bleaching by the Guardian. Depressing.

Great Barrier Reef: The Stench Of Death (G.)

It was the smell that really got to diver Richard Vevers. The smell of death on the reef. “I can’t even tell you how bad I smelt after the dive – the smell of millions of rotting animals.” Vevers is a former advertising executive and is now the chief executive of the Ocean Agency, a not-for-profit company he founded to raise awareness of environmental problems. After diving for 30 years in his spare time, he was compelled to combine his work and hobby when he was struck by the calamities faced by oceans around the world. Chief among them was coral bleaching, caused by climate change. His job these days is rather morbid. He travels the world documenting dead and dying coral reefs, sometimes gathering photographs just ahead of their death, too.

With the world now in the midst of the longest and probably worst global coral bleaching event in history, it’s boom time for Vevers. Even with all that experience, he’d never seen anything like the devastation he saw last month around Lizard Island in the northern third of Australia’s spectacular Great Barrier Reef. As part of a project documenting the global bleaching event, he had surveyed Lizard Island, which sits about 90km north of Cooktown in far north Queensland, when it was in full glorious health; then just as it started bleaching this year; then finally a few weeks after the bleaching began. “It was one of the most disgusting sights I’ve ever seen,” he says. “The hard corals were dead and covered in algae, looking like they’ve been dead for years. The soft corals were still dying and the flesh of the animals was decomposing and dripping off the reef structure.”

[..] When the coral dies, the entire ecosystem around it transforms. Fish that feed on the coral, use it as shelter, or nibble on the algae that grows among it die or move away. The bigger fish that feed on those fish disappear too. But the cascading effects don’t stop there. Birds that eat fish lose their energy source, and island plants that thrive on bird droppings can be depleted. And, of course, people who rely on reefs for food, income or shelter from waves – some half a billion people worldwide – lose their vital resource.

[..] What’s at stake here is the largest living structure in the world, and by far the largest coral reef system. The oft-repeated cliche is that it can be seen from space, which is not surprising given it stretches more than 2,300km in length and, between its almost 3,000 individual reefs, covers an area about the size of Germany. It is an underwater world of unimaginable scale. But it is up close that the Great Barrier Reef truly astounds. Among its waters live a dizzying array of colourful plants and animals. With 1,600 species of fish, 130 types of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins, it is one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet.


Coral off Lizard Island, bleached in March, and then dead and covered in seaweed in May. Photo: the Ocean Agency

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May 292016
 
 May 29, 2016  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
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Matt Black/Magnum Photos USA. El Paso, Texas. 2015


Iceland Puts Freeze on Foreign Investors (WSJ)
Japan’s Abe To Delay Sales Tax Hike Until 2019 (R.)
Fade The Oil Bounce (CNBC)
Trade Deals Going Nowhere (DR)
Schrödinger’s Cat Gets a Playmate (CSM)
The Geography of American Poverty (G.)
Miracle In Athens As Greek Tourism Numbers Keep Growing (Observer)
The EU Has Turned Greece Into a Prison for Refugees (Nation)
13,000 People Rescued In Mediterranean In One Week (G.)
Rescued Migrants Say Ship Sank Off Italy With Hundreds Aboard (R.)

Recovering from debt addiction: “We don’t need the money..”

Iceland Puts Freeze on Foreign Investors (WSJ)

Iceland has spent eight years locking down its financial markets to keep foreign investors in. Now some are complaining the island nation is trying to shove them out. A law passed May 22 by Iceland’s parliament offers the foreign holders of about $2.3 billion worth of krona-denominated government bonds a Hobson’s choice: Sell out in June at a below-market exchange rate, or have the money they receive when their bonds mature impounded indefinitely in low-interest bank accounts. Investors, including Boston-based mutual-fund companies Eaton Vance and Loomis Sayles, a unit of Natixis, don’t want to go. They say they will reject the government’s offer. “We would like to stay invested,” said Patrick Campbell, a global bond analyst at Eaton Vance.

The dispute is the result of a wholesale turnaround in Iceland’s relationship with foreign investors. The country became synonymous with financial alchemy after its banks ballooned by borrowing in bond markets and attracting foreign depositors with high interest rates. That system imploded in 2008 when depositors made a run on the banks just as their bonds fell due, causing the krona to sharply devalue against the euro. Yet a growing number of fund managers are now buying Icelandic government bonds, including those that were marooned on the island when it applied capital controls. The country is now one of the few offering a combination of high interest rates and strong economic growth prospects.

Eaton Vance and another holder of the legacy debt, also called “offshore” debt, hedge fund Autonomy Capital LP, have been courting the government for months to allow them to keep their cash on the island, even offering to swap their holdings into long-term bonds that they would pledge to hold on to.But the country isn’t interested. Instead, officials behind the law say they aim to keep the $16.7 billion economy of the island with a population of 327,386 from being swamped anew by the ebb and flow of offshore funds. “We don’t need the money,” said Mar Gudmundsson, governor of Iceland’s central bank. “These are remnants from the last boom and bust, and we are not going to repeat that mistake.”

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“..Japan “must reignite powerfully the engine of Abenomics”..”

Japan’s Abe To Delay Sales Tax Hike Until 2019 (R.)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to delay an increase in sales tax by two and a half years, a government official said on Sunday, as the economy sputters and Abe prepares for a national election. Abe told Finance Minister Taro Aso and the secretary general of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Sadakazu Tanigaki, on Saturday of his plan to propose delaying the tax hike for a second time, until October 2019, said the official, who was briefed on the meeting. The prime minister, who has promised to announce steps on Tuesday to spur economic growth and promote structural reform, is also expected to order an extra budget to fund stimulus measures, just two months into the fiscal year and on the heels of a supplementary budget to pay for recovery from recent earthquakes in southern Japan.

After chairing a summit of Group of Seven leaders on Friday, Abe said Japan would mobilize “all policy tools” – including the possibility of delaying the tax hike – to avoid what he called an economic crisis on the scale of the global financial crisis that followed the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. “There is a risk of the global economy falling into crisis if appropriate policy responses are not made,” Abe told a news conference after the summit. To play its part, Japan “must reignite powerfully the engine of Abenomics,” he said, referring to his easy-money policies aimed at getting Japan out of two decades of deflation and fitful growth. Abe has long said he would proceed with a plan to raise the tax rate to 10% from 8% next April unless Japan faced a crisis on the magnitude of the Lehman shock.

He said the G7 “shares a strong sense of crisis” about the global outlook, with the most worrisome risk being a global contraction led by a slowdown in emerging economies like China. Other G7 leaders, however, appeared to differ with Abe on the risk of a global crisis, fuelling comment that Abe was using the G7 to justify delaying the painful tax hike.

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Interesting graph.

Fade The Oil Bounce (CNBC)

This week, oil broke above the key $50 level for the first time since October 2015. Yet rather than interpret the move as a sign to buy, one top technician is warning investors not to chase the rally. “I think it’s all about risk-reward and there’s probably no more important chart right now than the oil chart,” Chris Verrone, a technician at Strategas Research Partners, told CNBC’s “Fast Money” this week. According to Verrone, it’s the steepness of the move that bothers him most. In the past 72 days, oil has moved 20% above its 200-day moving average. “It looks excessive to us, we think there’s a higher likelihood you come back and retest the 200 near 39, 40 bucks,” said Verrone.

Also troubling to Verrone is the fact that while crude has surged to new highs, energy stocks and the Mexican peso — both of which are closely tied to oil — have not made new highs in a month. Energy names have fallen since peaking on April 27, whereas crude has surged 12%. Since peaking back April 29, the peso’s gains are still lagging those in oil. They are up 8% and 33%, respectively, this year. Indeed, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned this week that continued strength in the dollar could trigger a series of knock-on effects that may push crude off its new highs. The bank said a “black swan event” such as Saudi Arabia removing its currency peg could lead to a collapse of Brent crude to as deep as $25 per barrel, and it expects oil prices to average $46 per barrel this year. On Friday, crude ended the session above $49 per barrel.

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Pretty soon exactly zero people outside of the elite will want these deals.

Trade Deals Going Nowhere (DR)

As the politics of this election year heat up, the chances of Congress debating — let alone passing — either of the White House’s marque trade deals continue to melt away. Oh, there’s plenty of talk about the westward-looking Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Euro-centered Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TPP and TTIP, respectively. Most of the yakking, however, flows from Obama Administration officials; nary a word trickles out of Congress. Worse than Capitol Hill silence is the vocal pounding free trade takes when any of Obama’s would-be successors talk trade.

Bernie Sanders, a Democrat by name but socialist by heart, makes it crystal clear that he would rather eat glass than back “free” trade. Hillary Clinton, who three years ago called the TPP “exciting,” “innovative” and “ambitious,” now sees it as an agreement that has “failed to provide the basic safety net support needed” for American workers. Take that as an “innovative” no. And the Donald? He’s against TPP because, as he noted in one Republican debate this spring, “It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door … ” China, however, is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so whatever Trump meant must have been more of a “suggestion” than a fact. Whatever.

[..] Big Ag’s big push for the pending trade deals is understandable, given the two changed realities of today’s election year politics. First, even as we lean on the EU to alter its biotech food rules, the U.S. Senate still can’t agree on how to write a biotech food labeling law here. Members know the tide has turned on labeling; 89 out of 100 Americans want it. Majority Republicans, however, don’t and they continue to search for a way to be anti-labeling without becoming anti-incumbents. Second, not one presidential contender sees free trade as a vote-winning issue. Taken together, it’s hard to see how any trade deal goes anywhere this year. After that, you have to take the word of Hillary or Bernie or Donald. Well, maybe not Donald. Or Hillary. Bernie’s solid, though.

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Entanglement is poorly understood, and poorly explained.

Schrödinger’s Cat Gets a Playmate (CSM)

Schrödinger’s cat is something many of us have heard of, but perhaps fewer actually understand. The idea was first dreamed up by an Austrian physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, who wanted to illustrate the mind-bending nature of quantum mechanics. He created a thought experiment in this world to illustrate the point, which would allow a cat to be both dead and alive in a box at the same time. Now, scientists have added another box. And another cat. And the first cat being dead and alive simultaneously in the first box, so this causes the second cat in the second box to also be dead and alive at the same time. Makes perfect quantum sense, right? “It’s understandable that people don’t understand it,” lead author Chen Wang of Yale University told The Washington Post.

“You can’t understand it using common sense. We can’t either.” But here’s the premise: A cat sits in a box. Alongside the cat, there’s poison. That poison will only be released upon the decay of a radioactive subatomic particle. According to quantum mechanics, and specifically the theory of “superposition,” these particles actually exist in all possible states at the same time – until, that is, someone takes a measurement. At that point, the particle falls into a single, known state. So, the particles could be decaying, and not decaying, simultaneously. As a consequence, the poison is being released – and not released. And so the cat is both dead and alive. Until someone opens the box, of course, and is observed. Then, the cat can’t be doing both things at once.

What Dr. Wang and his team have done is to add another dimension: the concept of “entanglement.” This proposes that two objects can be intimately linked, even if billions of light-years separate them, and any change that happens to one will happen to the other instantaneously, a relationship Einstein once described as “spooky action at a distance.” For our cat, this means, quite simply, that there’s a twin, in another box. And everything that happens to one, happens to the other. In Wang’s experiment, there were no cats, just light. He used two aluminum cavities, each with a wave of light bouncing around inside. The researchers induced such a state so that the light existed in two different wavelengths at the same time, in both boxes.

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‘Poverty Is Often Looked At In Isolation, But It Is An American Problem’

The Geography of American Poverty (G.)


USA. Allensworth, California. 2014. Fence post. Allensworth has a population of 471 and 54% live below the poverty level. Matt Black/Magnum Photos

Last summer Matt Black left the Central Valley of California, where he lives, to travel 18,000 miles across the US on a road trip that took him through 30 states and 70 of the poorest towns in America. The startling image of a hand resting on a fence post against a barren backdrop was taken in the small town of Allensworth, California, where 54% of the population of 471 people live below the poverty level. “California always seemed special and unique in terms of how it symbolised promise and progress,” says Black, 45, during a break in shooting landscapes in Idaho, where he’s working on another stage of the same series, Geography of Poverty. “So it seemed somehow symbolic to begin there and travel east, but what has surprised me is the similarities I have encountered as I travelled from one community to another.

All these diverse communities are connected, not least in their powerlessness. In the mainstream media, poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem. It seems to me that it goes unreported because it does not fit the way America sees itself.” As if to bear this out, Black tells me that the route he took was mapped out in advance using geotagged photographs found online alongside census information to identify the poorest areas. In each instance, the communities he visited were never more than a two-hour drive apart. “I was able to drive from California to the east coast and back without ever leaving these poor areas.” Black’s striking images are on show in a group exhibition, New Blood, at the Magnum Print Room in London…


USA. El Paso, Texas. 2015. El Paso has a population of 649,121 and 21.5% live below the poverty level. Matt Black/Magnum Photos

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More tourists, more refugees.

Miracle In Athens As Greek Tourism Numbers Keep Growing (Observer)

It’s been a busy winter in downtown Athens, where scaffolding, tarpaulins and dust have been symbols of hope: a mini construction boom heralding a tourist renaissance. Nine hotels are being built or restored around the city centre. Their arrival correlates with the huge upturn in holidaymakers visiting the Greek capital since a low point in late 2008, when Athens erupted into riots after the police killing of a teenage boy. “It’s a miracle, what’s been happening in Athens,” Greece’s tourism chief, Andreas Andreadis, told the Observer. “The tourist industry in Greece grew two to three times faster than in Spain, Portugal, Italy or France last year. This year we expect around 4.5 million visitors in Athens alone.”

For an economy stuck in depression-era recession, dependent on emergency bails and seemingly locked in a perpetual fiscal vice, tourism is vital. A record 23.5 million holidaymakers visited Greece in 2015 – generating €14.2bn in direct receipts, or 24% of GDP. In 2010, at the start of the country’s debt crisis – which has seen it struggle to avert default and remain in the euro – revenues from tourism were €10bn, or 15% of GDP. The Greek Tourism Confederation, Sete, is predicting another bumper season for an industry that has long been the single biggest contributor to the economy and job market. Arrivals could reach 25 million (27.5 million including cruise ship passengers), which is more than twice the country’s population. Economic recovery will depend on the sector to a great degree.

Andreadis said: “If we get 1.5 million more visitors it will produce an additional €800m in direct receipts. Such a positive kick that would come in the third and fourth quarters.” Much of the upsurge is linked to Greece’s safety record. Tourists are staying away from resort in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and elsewhere in the wake of high-profile attacks. Countries whose economies are also dependent on holidaymakers have suffered incalculable damage following a severe drop in arrivals. Travel advice from governments and fears of fresh violence are simply keeping tourists away. But other countries’ loss could be Greece’s gain. And it could not come at a better time: tourism provides one in five jobs in Greece, at a time when unemployment in the effectively bankrupt nation has hovered stubbornly around 25%. Youth unemployment stands at an astonishing 67%.

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And Greece has no way of dealing with it.

The EU Has Turned Greece Into a Prison for Refugees (Nation)

In the port-side café before the sun comes up, a group of men are talking. “In the beginning, when there were maybe 40 of them in the boats, all wet, we helped them. Now they’re too many. They steal chickens. They shit in the fields. They threw stones at a woman.” “Do you think it’s chance that they’re all coming here? The NGOs, the whatever they’re called, are making money off it. It’s a plan. A racket.” “Eventually they’ll set off a bomb and sink the island.” “Sink or float, what difference does it make? Are we happy, now we’re floating?” Chios, my grandfather’s island in the northeast Aegean Sea, has become an open-air prison for more than 2,000 refugees. Almost all of them arrived after the March 20 “statement” signed by the EU and Turkey, designed to stop the flow of people from Turkey to the Greek islands and then to mainland Europe.

The statement, which followed the unilateral closure by Central European countries of the western Balkans route, cut time and space like a guillotine, arbitrarily separating those who’d arrived before it from those who landed after, trapping more than 50,000 refugees and migrants in Greece. These late arrivals can’t leave the islands until their cases have been decided by the Greek asylum system, which is overloaded to the point of paralysis. The refugees are supposed to prove not only that they’re at risk in their home country but that they’d be at risk in Turkey, which the EU (but not Greece) considers a “safe third country,” if they want to have their asylum claim heard in Greece. Otherwise, they will be returned to Turkey.

Of the 8,500 women, children, and men who have landed on the islands since the agreement was signed, 400 have been returned so far, some to be detained for weeks without legal representation. About 200 have been granted asylum in Greece. The rest are rotting in overcrowded camps, “hot spots,” and locked detention centers, without information, adequate food, medical care, or security. And the boats from Turkey, though many fewer than before, continue to come in.

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Are we going to keep acting as if this will stop when we simply look away?

13,000 People Rescued In Mediterranean In One Week (G.)

A flotilla of ships saved 668 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, authorities in Italy said, bringing the week’s total of refugees plucked from the sea to 13,000 people. The rescues by the Italian coast guard and navy ships, aided by Irish and German vessels and humanitarian groups, are the latest by a multinational patrol south of the Italian island of Sicily. Warner spring weather has led to a surge of people attempting the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. The Irish military said the vessel Le Roisin saved 123 people from a 12m-long (40-ft) rubber dinghy and recovered a male body. A German ship was involved in four separate rescue operations, the Italian coast guard said on Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, with shelters filling up in Sicily, the Italian navy vessel Vega headed toward Reggio Calabria, a southern Italian mainland port, bringing 135 survivors and 45 bodies from a rescue a day earlier. The Vega was due to dock on Sunday. Other survivors who arrived on Saturday in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo told authorities they had witnessed a fishing boat filled with“ hundreds” of people sink on Thursday, a Save The Children spokeswoman, Giovanna Di Benedetto, told The Associated Press by telephone from Sicily. According to survivors, two smugglers’ fishing boats and a dinghy set sail on Wednesday night from Libya’s coast. Di Benedetto said the survivors were among 500 or so aboard the one fishing boat that didn’t sink and the dinghy. “All of this must be verified, of course,” said Di Benedetto, but if the survivors’ accounts bear out, as many as 400 people could have drowned, with only a very few of those on the vessel that sank able to reach the other boats.

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Not an isolated incident.

Rescued Migrants Say Ship Sank Off Italy With Hundreds Aboard (R.)

Migrants rescued from two boats in the Mediterranean this week told humanitarian workers in Italy that they saw another vessel carrying some 400 migrants sink, Save the Children said on Saturday. Three vessels carrying migrants already are confirmed to have sunk or capsized this week. More than 60 bodies are said to have been recovered, including those of three infants, and hundreds are believed to be missing. But the possible sinking of a fourth vessel on Thursday had not been reported, said Giovanna Di Benedetto, spokeswoman for Save the Children in Italy. That ship along with another fishing boat and a rubber boat left Sabratha in Libya late Wednesday night, according to interviews on Saturday with some of the more than 600 survivors from the two other vessels in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.

They said the rubber boat had its own motor, but the smaller fishing boat, carrying some 400 migrants, did not. It was towed by the larger fishing vessel, which held about 500 others. Eventually the smaller boat began to take on water and, when the captain of the larger boat ordered the tow line cut, sank with most of its passengers, the survivors told Save the Children. Those aboard the other two vessels were not rescued until much later. “There were many women and children on board,” the survivors said, according to Di Benedetto. “We collected testimony from several of those rescued from both (the rubber and fishing) boats. They all say they saw the same thing.”

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Feb 212016
 
 February 21, 2016  Posted by at 9:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle February 21 2016
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Wyland Stanley Boeing 314 flying boat Honolulu Clipper. 1939


BofA: ‘Shanghai Accord’, Massive Central Bank Intervention Imminent (ZH)
I Don’t Know What The Bulls Are Smoking: Stockman (CNBC)
China Lenders’ Foreign-Exchange Holdings Omitted From PBOC Data (BBG)
Sensitive Financial Data ‘Missing’ From PBOC Report On Capital Outflows (SCMP)
Xi Jinping Demands ‘Absolute Loyalty’ From Chinese State Media (AP)
The Only Thing Worse Than Oil? Investing in It (WSJ)
A Furious Turkey Says US Is “Acting Like An Enemy” (ZH)
TPP, Abe Set To Demolish Japan’s Small Scale Agriculture Model (FT)
EU-US TTIP Talks Seen By The French Threatening Small Farms (BBG)
Calais ‘Jungle’ Eviction Postponed Because Of Risk To Lone Children (G.)
Razor Wire Fence Fails To Keep Refugees, Migrants Out Of Hungary (BBC)
Despite Aegean Rescuers’ Best Efforts, Not All Migrants Are Saved (NPR)

Shanghai Accord to be like Plaza Accord, mass devaluation of the yuan, to “reset global monetary policy stability if only for a few more months”…

BofA: ‘Shanghai Accord’, Massive Central Bank Intervention Imminent (ZH)

Any time the relative performance of global financials to US Treasuries has stumbled as far as it has, as shown in the chart below, it has meant one thing – a major central bank intervention was imminent. At least that’s the interpretation of BofA’s Michael Hartnett, who shows that in order to provide the kick for the bounce in this all too important “deflationary leading indicator”, central banks engaged in major unorthodox easing episodes, whether QE1-3, or the ECB’s QE.

Why intervene now? Here are the problems according to Hartnett:
• Problem 1: US economy in “bad Goldilocks”, i.e. US economy not hot/strong enough to lift global GDP & EPS; but not cold/bad enough to induce global coordinated response
• Problem 2: global policy-maker rhetoric in recent days shows “coordinated innocence” not stimulus, all blaming global economy for weak domestic economies (“Overseas factors are to blame”…Japan PM Abe; “drag on U.S. economy from greater-than-expected-slowdown in China & other EM economies“…FOMC minutes; “increasing concerns about the prospects for the global economy”…ECB Draghi; “the change in China’s growth rate can be attributed in part to weak performance of the global economy”…PBoC)

Problem 2 is static, meant for media propaganda and jawboning; it can easily be removed once the global economy takes the next leg lower. Which incidentally would also resolve the gating factor of Problem 1 – as we have said for months, the Fed and its central bank peers need the political cover to launch more stimulus.

And in a reflexive world, where the “economy is the market”, this means just one thing – a big leg lower in stocks is the necessary and sufficient condition to once again push stocks higher, as policy failure is internalized, and global risk reprises from square 1. This is Bank of America’s summary, warning that unless a major policy intervention is enacted, the market will then sell off to the next support level, below the 1,812 which has proven so stable since August. Stabilization of “4C’s” (China, Commodities, Credit, Consumer) allowed SPX 1800 to hold/bounce to 1950-2000; weak policy stimulus in coming weeks could end rally/risk fresh declines to induce growth-boosting policy accord.

Here is a summary of the near-term events which stocks are betting on do not disappoint: G20 Shanghai (February 26-27); ECB (March 10), BoJ (March 15) & FOMC (March 16). And as documented previously, the one main near-term event Hartnett is focusing on is the Shanghai meeting next weekend. Recall: “We remain sellers into strength in coming weeks/months of risk assets at least until a coordinated and aggressive global policy response (e.g. Shanghai Accord) begins to reverse the deterioration in global profit expectations (currently heading sharply south – Chart 1) and credit conditions.”

In other words, Hartnett expects a “Shanghai Accord” to be unveiled next weekend, one where like the Plaza Accord three decades earlier, the Yuan will be massively depreciated, which ironically would halt all piecemeal Yuan devaluation on expectation of future devaluation (as it will have already happened), and reset global monetary policy stability if only for a few more months. Said otherwise, if next weekend the G-20 disappoints and unveils nothing, the next big leg down in the selloff will have arrived.

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“They should have the good graces to resign. They are lost. None of this is helping the economy..”

I Don’t Know What The Bulls Are Smoking: Stockman (CNBC)

Anyone who believes that the global economy isn’t crashing must be delirious, according to David Stockman. The former director of the Office of Management and Budget argues that a rapidly deteriorating economic environment is going to send stocks and oil prices spiraling even lower than they already have. “I think your traders are smoking something stronger than what I can legally buy here in Colorado,” Stockman said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” The S&P 500 has fallen 6% year to date, and crude oil has plunged more than 17%. However, Stockman still sees a long way to go.

He expects the S&P 500 to drop to 1,300 before making any new highs, and sees oil falling below $20. Investors have been too optimistic about the U.S. economy because they are not factoring in global risk, said Stockman, who expects to see a recession by the end of the year. “Everywhere trade is drying up, shipping rates are at all-time lows,” he said. “There is a recession that’s going to engulf the entire world economy, including the United States.” Contributing to the turmoil is the ineptitude of central banks, he said. While Stockman doesn’t expect the Federal Reserve to adopt a negative interest rate policy, he said monetary policymakers have exhausted all other options.

“They should have the good graces to resign. They are lost. None of this is helping the economy,” he said. Add in the 2016 presidential election, and Stockman said the markets will find themselves in a situation similar to that of the global financial crisis. “The out-of-control election process will feed into and create an environment that we haven’t seen since the fall of 2008,” he said. Of course, this isn’t the first time Stockman has been bearish. For years, he has been predicting a crash worse than 2008. Stockman headed the White House OMB during President Ronald Reagan’s first term.

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Creative accounting 2.0. Don’t like what you see? Just stop reporting it. The US learned this trick a long time ago.

“..the slide in foreign-currency assets held by Chinese financial institutions “is typically much larger than the decline in foreign reserves..”

China Lenders’ Foreign-Exchange Holdings Omitted From PBOC Data (BBG)

China’s central bank omitted details of financial institutions’ foreign-exchange holdings from monthly data that sheds light on the scale of its intervention to support the yuan. The change took effect in its report for January, when the currency’s slide to a five-year low roiled global financial markets and prompted the People’s Bank of China to step up efforts to boost the exchange rate amid record capital outflows. While the authority announced a $99.47 billion slide in its foreign-exchange reserves for last month, less than December’s record $107.9 billion drop, the figure may not represent the true extent of dollar sales if state-owned lenders were also used to intervene. “Sometimes it’s the commercial banks that sell a lot of dollars when the PBOC wants to prop up the yuan,” said Zhou Hao at Commerzbank in Singapore.

When this happens, the slide in foreign-currency assets held by Chinese financial institutions “is typically much larger than the decline in foreign reserves,” he said. In September, the assets dropped by a record $117 billion – almost triple the $43.3 billion decline in the nation’s reserves – as large state banks sold borrowed dollars for yuan and used forward contracts with the central bank to hedge those positions. Historically, the numbers tend to be broadly in line with one another. China used intervention, verbal warnings and a tightening of capital controls in its bid to quell speculative attacks on the yuan in the offshore market last month. The measures, which caused overnight borrowing costs for the currency to surge to an unprecedented 66.82% in Hong Kong, enjoyed some success and the offshore exchange rate has strengthened 3.6% to 6.5244 a dollar since sinking to a five-year low on Jan. 7. The onshore rate gained 1.2% to 6.5201 in Shanghai.

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More detail on this creative outburst in China. Funny thing is, this will backfire. Analysts have other ways of getting the data, and they will do so now with a lot more scrutiny and suspicion.

Sensitive Financial Data ‘Missing’ From PBOC Report On Capital Outflows (SCMP)

Sensitive data is missing from a regular Chinese central bank report amid concerns about capital outflow as the economy slows and the yuan weakens. Financial analysts say the sudden lack of clear information makes it hard for markets to assess the scale of capital flows out of China as well as the central bank s foreign exchange operations in the banking system. Figures on the “position for forex purchase” are regularly published in the People’s Bank of China’s monthly report on the “Sources and Uses of Credit Funds of Financial Institutions”. The December reading in foreign currencies was US$250 billion. But the data was missing in the central bank s latest report. It seemed the information had been merged into the “other items” category, whose January figure was US$243.9 billion a surge from US$20.4 billion the previous month.

Another key item of potentially sensitive financial data was altered in the latest report. The central bank also regularly publishes data on the forex purchase position in renminbi, which covers all financial institutions including the central bank. The December reading was 26.6 trillion yuan (HK$31.7 trillion). But the January data gave information on forex purchases made only by the central bank, detailing the lower figure of 24.2 trillion yuan. China’s foreign exchange reserves shrank almost US$100 billion last month as the central bank sells dollars and buys renminbi to shore up the country s weakening currency. It followed a record US$108 billion drop in December. Optimism for the yuan has taken a hit from continuous capital outflows amid growing concern about China s economic outlook.

The central bank has been criticised for contributing to the panic through its poor communication with the market and its foreign counterparts. PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan last week told Caixin the central bank was “neither a god nor a magician”, though it was very willing to improve communication with the public. This is not the first time the PBOC has tweaked items in its financial reports, but the unannounced changes come at a sensitive time as Beijing tries to stabilise the yuan exchange rate. “Its non-transparent method has left the market unable to form a clear picture about capital flows,” said Liu Li-Gang, ANZ’s chief China economist in Hong Kong. “This will fuel more speculation that China is under great pressure from capital outflows. It will hurt the central bank’s credibility.”

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He can bully his own people, unlike foreign investors.

Xi Jinping Demands ‘Absolute Loyalty’ From Chinese State Media (AP)

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has made a rare and high-profile tour of the country’s top three state-run media outlets, telling editors and reporters they must pledge absolute loyalty to the Communist party and closely follow its leadership in “thought, politics and action”. His remarks are the latest sign of Beijing’s increasingly tight control over the media and Xi’s unceasing efforts to consolidate his power as head of the party. Xi overshadowed the propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan, who accompanied him on his visits to the newsrooms of the party newspaper People’s Daily, state-run news agency Xinhua, and state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). At CCTV, Xi was welcomed by a placard pledging loyalty. “The central television’s family name is the party,” the sign read, anticipating remarks made by Xi at a later meeting.

“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name,” Xi told propaganda workers at the meeting, during which he demanded absolute loyalty from state media. “All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority, and safeguard the party’s unity,” he said. “They must love the party, protect the party, and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.” Willy Lam, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Xi is raising standards for state media by requiring they obey the will of the Communist party’s core leadership, which is increasingly defined by Xi himself in another sign of how he has accrued more personal authority than either of his last two predecessors.

“This is a very heavy-handed ideological campaign to drive home the point of total loyalty to the party core,” Lam said. “On one hand, Xi’s influence and power are now unchallenged, but on the other hand, there is a palpable degree of insecurity.” Lam said Xi faces lurking challenges not only from within different party factions but also from among a disaffected public, who are unhappy with the slowing economy and a recent stock market meltdown. Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based independent historian and political observer, said the tour of state media further added to Xi’s burgeoning personality cult. “I am afraid we will see more personal deification in the media in the future,” Zhang said. “I think Xi is declaring his sovereignty over the state media to say who’s really in charge.”

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Gentlemen, count your losses.

The Only Thing Worse Than Oil? Investing in It (WSJ)

One of the few assets performing worse than oil is a set of products used to bet on it. The $3.86 billion United States Oil Fund LP, an exchange-traded fund that goes by the ticker USO, is down 22% so far this year, while the $575 million iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index exchange-traded note, known as OIL, is down 26% in that period. In comparison, U.S. crude-oil futures for March delivery settled at $29.64 a barrel on Friday, down 20% this year. The poor returns illustrate the difficulty of making such bets, particularly on oil prices, which have confounded investors by continuing to sink in 2016. Even after oil’s fall over the past year, investors in products that track crude have something else dragging on returns: it’s more costly to make long-term bets.

A glut of oil has shifted the dynamics of the futures market, which reflects the cost of holding oil, and that has further weighed on the performance of some of the products in recent weeks. Many commodity-investment products hold or track the nearest-month futures and regularly rebalance into the following month’s contracts. If the nearer-term contract costs less than the further-dated one, a condition known as contango, the rotation involves getting rid of cheaper contracts to buy more expensive ones. The bigger the difference between the two, the more this so-called roll cost drags on performance. Crude has been in contango since mid-2014, but the differential has risen sharply recently. The difference in the settlement price between March and April oil futures contracts has more than doubled since the end of last year.

At Thursday’s settlement, it cost $2.16 more to buy a barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil for April delivery than oil for March delivery, compared with 96 cents at the end of 2015. The differential was as high as $2.62 on Feb. 11. If left unchanged at Thursday’s settlement prices, the difference between the two contracts implies a monthly loss of 7.02% simply from roll costs, according to FactSet. It “hurts returns,” said Alan Konn at Uhlmann Price Securities, a wealth-management firm in Chicago. The firm has investments tied to the Rogers International Commodity Index, which tracks a basket of 37 commodities. The index is down close to 6% this year and more than 29% over the past 12 months.

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A longer quote than usual for a Debt Rattle of Tyler Durden describing how convoluted the position of the US, EU and NATO is becoming because of their support for Erdogan. Then again, our main export these days is failed states. I added the graph (Who fights what in Syria) from another source.

A Furious Turkey Says US Is “Acting Like An Enemy” (ZH)

As you might have noticed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to lose his mind with the situation in Syria. To be sure, the effort to usurp the Bashar al-Assad government wasn’t exactly going as planned in the first place. Regime change always takes time, but the conflict in Syria was dragging into its fifth year by the time the Russians got directly involved and although it did indeed look as though the SAA was on the verge of defeat, the future of the rebellion was far from certain. But to whatever extent the rebels’ fate was up in the air before September 30, the cause was dealt a devastating blow when Moscow’s warplanes began flying sorties from Latakia and while Ankara and Riyadh were initially willing to sit on the sidelines and see how things played out, once Russia and Hezbollah encircled Aleppo, it was do or die time.

The supply lines to Turkey were cut and without a direct intervention by the rebels’ Sunni benefactors, Moscow and Hassan Nasrallah’s army would ultimately move in on Aleppo proper and that, as they say, would be that. The problem for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar is optics. That is, everything anyone does in Syria has to be justified by an imaginary “war on terror.” Turkey can’t say it’s intervening to keep the rebels from being defeated by the Russians, and similarly, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, France and everyone else needs to preserve the narrative and pretend as though this all doesn’t boil down to the West and the Sunnis versus the Russians and the Shiites. Here’s what we said earlier this month: somehow, Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to figure out how to spin an attack on the YPG and an effort to rescue the opposition at Aleppo as an anti-ISIS operation even though ISIS doesn’t have a large presence in the area.

Well it turns out that’s an impossible task and so, Turkey has resorted to Plan B: a possible false flag bombing and the old “blame the Kurds” strategy. The attack on military personnel in Ankara this week was claimed by The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (an offshoot of the PKK) in retaliation for Turkey’s aggressive campaign in Cizre (as documented here), but Erdogan has taken the opportunity to remind the world that the PKK and the YPG are largely synonymous. That is, they’re both armed groups of non-state actors and if one is a terrorist organization, then so is the other. Erdogan’s anti-Kurd stance is complicated immeasurably by the fact that both the US and Russia support the YPG out of sheer necessity. The group has proven especially adept at battling ISIS and has secured most of the border with Turkey.

As we noted way back in August, it was inevitable that Washington and Ankara would come to blows over the YPG. After all, the US only secured access to Incirlik by acquiescing to Erdogan’s crackdown on the PKK, but some of the missions the US was flying from Turkey’s air base were in support of the YPG. The whole thing was absurd from the very beginning. Well now, Turkey is not only set to use the fight against the YPG as an excuse to intervene in Syria on behalf of the Sunni rebels battling to beat back the Russian and Iranian advance, but Ankara is also demanding that the US recognize the YPG as a terrorist group. If Washington refuses, “measure will be taken.” “If the Unites States is really Turkey’s friend and ally, then they should recognize the PYD — a Syrian branch of the PKK — as a terrorist organization.

If a friend acts as an enemy, then measures should be taken, and they will not be limited to the Incirlik Airbase, Turkey has significant capabilities,” Erdogan advisor Seref Malkoc told Bugun newspaper. So yeah. Turkey just threatened the US. It’s notable that Malkoc specifically said actions would go “beyond Incirlik,” because pulling access to the base would be the first thing any regional observers would expect from Ankara in the event of a spat with Washington. For Turkey to say that measures will go beyond that, opens the door for Erdogan to become openly hostile towards his NATO allies. “The only thing we expect from our U.S. ally is to support Turkey with no ifs or buts,” PM Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conferenceon Saturday. “If 28 Turkish lives have been claimed through a terrorist attack we can only expect them to say any threat against Turkey is a threat against them.”

In other words, Turkey is explicitly asking the US to support Ankara’s push to invade Syria and not only that, Erdogan wants Washington to sanction attacks on the YPG which the US has overtly armed, trained, and funded. “The disagreement over the YPG risks driving a wedge between the NATO allies at a critical point in Syria’s civil war,” Reuters wrote on Saturday. “On Friday, a State Department spokesman told reporters Washington would continue to support organizations in Syria that it could count on in the fight against Islamic State – an apparent reference to the YPG.”

Right. “Washington will continue to support organizations in Syria that it can count on in the fight against Islamic State.” So we suppose that means the US will support Russia. And Iran. And Hezbollah. But most certainly not Turkey, who is the biggest state sponsor of the Islamic State on the face of the planet.

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Japan ag works fine, so that should be destroyed.

TPP, Abe Set To Demolish Japan’s Small Scale Agriculture Model (FT)

It is a source of national angst: why is Japan — culinary superpower and undisputed champion of the Michelin guide — so terrible at exporting food? In 2014, Japan’s food exports were about $5bn. The Netherlands, a country with a fraction of Japan’s population, exported food worth $103bn — with all the delights of sushi, green tea and wagyu beef generating about the same export sales as Edam cheese. For the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a missed economic opportunity is now colliding with the political imperative to help Japan’s farmers survive the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which will slash tariffs on ultra-efficient farmers in the US and Australia. The government has set a goal of more than doubling agricultural exports to Y1trn from 2012 to 2020.

Despite an emerging market slowdown that is hurting Japan’s exports overall, this week trade minister Nobuteru Ishihara said there was a chance of hitting the target early. In yen terms, food exports surged by 24.3% to Y599bn last year, even as overall exports rose by a disappointing 3.5%. Masayoshi Honma, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Tokyo, said the reason for low exports is not complicated. “Japanese exports are so low because they’re expensive,” he says. “There’s a huge differential between the Japanese price and the overseas price.” Japan’s obsession with rice production, a longstanding focus on national self-sufficiency in food and the low productivity of its small-scale, highly-subsidised farms all contribute to high prices.

For years, the importance of rural votes to the ruling Liberal Democratic party meant agriculture was sacred, but as the farming population ages — the average farmer is now 70 — it is one area where Mr Abe has proved willing to grasp the nettle on reforms. One of the few measures his government hopes to pass before upper house elections this summer will permit corporate ownership of agricultural land. That is regarded as crucial to allowing more efficient, large-scale agriculture. Mr Honma is cautious about the Y1trn exports target. “It’s not really agricultural exports because it includes marine and processed products,” he says. Most of Japan’s existing agricultural exports are seafood caught by its vast fishing fleet.

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And the same goes for France.

EU-US TTIP Talks Seen By The French Threatening Small Farms (BBG)

For Bruno Dufayet, the latest round of trade talks between the European Union and the U.S. could sound the death knell for France’s small cattle farms. “For a beef farmer in Europe now, the biggest threat is massive imports of U.S. beef produced in feedlots,” said Dufayet, who notes that his 50 beef-cattle farm in south-central France is typical for the country. “The end could be nigh for this type of livestock farm in France.” French farmers and lawmakers fear free-trade talks with the U.S. will pit Europe’s small family operations against intensive American animal farming. Dufayet is a member of French meat lobby Interbev, which hosted senators and members of parliament at a meeting in Paris on Tuesday that finished over beef canapes and red Bordeaux wine.

European farmers would be unable to compete with a “massive opening” of the region’s markets to U.S. operations that handle thousands of animals at a time, the lobby said. The 12th round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership, or TTIP, starts in Brussels on Feb. 22. The contents of any proposed deal are still to be discussed, and there will be no full liberalization for agricultural products, said Daniel Rosario, a spokesman for the EC. The trade concerns come as farmers across France, Europe’s largest agricultural producer, are protesting against plunging prices of everything from pork to milk. The EU needs to protect its family-owned livestock farms based on extensive grazing and beef should be excluded from the talks, Jean-Paul Denanot, a member of the European Parliament and a substitute member on its agriculture committee, said at the Interbev meeting.

“This is a face-off between systems that have nothing in common,” Jean-Pierre Fleury, who heads the beef working group at EU farm lobby Copa-Cogeca. In addition to differences in scale, the EU tracks animals from birth, while U.S. traceability only applies to livestock moving interstate and exempts beef cattle under 18 months. While the EU banned antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed in 2006, many U.S. states still allow the routine use of the drugs to promote growth in cows, chickens and pigs. There’s also the argument of higher animal welfare standards in the EU than in the U.S., according to the U.S.-based Humane Society International.

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The French were ‘only’ some 300% off in their estimates. That tells you something about their priorities.

Calais ‘Jungle’ Eviction Postponed Because Of Risk To Lone Children (G.)

The forced eviction of thousands of migrants and refugees from the sprawling “Jungle” camp on the outskirts of Calais has been put on hold by the French authorities, the Observer has learned. French courts have postponed Tuesday’s planned eviction after a census conducted by the charity Help Refugees found that far more refugees were living in the area of the camp earmarked for demolition than French authorities had calculated. Researchers for the charity counted 3,455 people living in the southern stretch of the Jungle, which is scheduled to be destroyed. Of these, 445 were children and 315 were without their parents, the youngest was a 10-year-old Afghan boy. By contrast, French authorities had estimated between 800 and 1,000 people were living there.

The eviction has been placed on hold until a judge visits the camp on Tuesday morning to re-assess the situation, with the case being heard in Lille later that afternoon. Under the previous expulsion order, refugees had been ordered to remove their makeshift homes and possessions by 8pm on Tuesday, while camp shops, cafes, churches and mosques would be razed. Josie Naughton, co-founder of Help Refugees, said: “Hopefully it’s all going to be OK. The judge will decide yes or no, so we hope they show compassion. The figures highlight the brutality of destroying these homes before proper child protection schemes have been put in place. These children have post-traumatic stress, you can’t just put them on a bus, they are going to be in danger.”

George Gabriel of Citizens UK, a group involved in the growing campaign calling for children stranded in the jungle to be allowed into the UK said: “It’s great news that the French courts have put the breaks on the demolition of wide sections of the Jungle. Day after day we find more refugee children living in that terrible camp and risking their lives each night as they try to reach their families. “They have a full legal right to do so, and so for as long as the British and French governments refuse to properly implement the law, it’s vital those boys aren’t dispersed away from the legal advice they so badly need.” However Naughton warned that if the judge does decide that the eviction can go ahead as French authorities want, then the bulldozers would arrive at the Jungle on Wednesday morning.

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How long does it take to figure this out?

Razor Wire Fence Fails To Keep Migrants Out Of Hungary (BBC)

Police in Hungary say increasing numbers of migrants are breaching a razor wire fence built to stop them crossing the border from Serbia. In January, 550 people were caught getting through – up from 270 in December. More than 1,200 were caught in the first 20 days of February. Hungary caused controversy with the 4m barrier, completed in September. However, several other countries have since introduced tough border controls to stop the influx of migrants. The number of people crossing from Serbia dropped after Hungary built the fence along the 175km border with its neighbour last year. But police say migrants are now increasingly getting through, mostly by cutting through or climbing over the barrier. Most are from Pakistan, Iran and Morocco, who are no longer admitted through other routes.

It follows moves by Austria, Slovenia, and Balkan countries to limit the nationalities and the numbers of those being allowed through. More than a million people arrived in the EU in 2015, creating Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two. The majority of migrants and refugees have headed for countries like Germany and Sweden via Hungary and Austria after crossing from Turkey to Greece. Many are fleeing the conflict in Syria. Far fewer migrants are entering Hungary than Austria but the sharply increasing trend of people breaching the border fence is alarming the authorities, reports the BBC’s Central Europe correspondent, Nick Thorpe.

More people crossed from Serbia into Hungary in the first 20 days of February than in the same period in 2015, before a fence was even contemplated, our correspondent adds. Once in Hungary, they face criminal charges or deportation. Meanwhile Interior Minister Sandor Pinter has renewed the closure of three railway crossings to Croatia, for fear that migrants and refugees will again start walking down the tracks into Hungary. On Friday Austria introduced a daily cap on the number of migrants and refugees allowed into the country. Just 80 asylum applications will be accepted each day at the country’s southern border, in a move condemned by critics as incompatible with European law.

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Oh God almighty… How do we sleep?

Despite Aegean Rescuers’ Best Efforts, Not All Migrants Are Saved (NPR)

It’s just before midnight on a February night when the crew of the Responder gets word from the Greek coast guard that a boat with migrants aboard is nearby. It’s in trouble somewhere in Greek territorial waters in the Aegean Sea. “There’s a light, a flash,” says Eugenio Miuccio, a 38-year-old Italian doctor, pointing to a flicker in the pitch-black sea. He and an Italian nurse, 27-year-old Roberto Pantaleo, pull on red life jackets as the ship heads toward the light. Iain Brown, a volunteer rescue diver from Scotland, is also ready. He’s listening, trying to make out people’s voices. “We can hear them screaming before we see them,” he says. “The boats they are in are so thin. We can hear them breaking up.” They’re ready to jump into a small speedboat piloted by Dominic “Mimmo” Vella, a 44-year-old father of three from Malta and a member of the Responder’s crew.

“If something happens and people fall in the water,” Vella says, “with the big boat, we cannot go near them, so we go with the small ones.” The Responder arrives where the migrant boat is supposed to be. But there is no boat, no people. Just empty sea. “False alarm,” Brown says. “We found nothing,” Vella says. “So we’re going to keep on patrolling.” The Responder, a 167-ft. search and rescue tug vessel has been patrolling these waters for the past two months. False alarms come with the territory, but the dangers for which the crew remains prepared are real. The boat is leased by a Malta-based nonprofit called the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). An American businessman, Christopher Catrambone, and his Italian wife, Regina, started MOAS in early 2014 to help rescue asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy.

Then, last September, 3-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. The Syrian toddler had drowned trying to reach Greece with his family. The image of his lifeless body jolted the world’s empathy. Donations flooded into MOAS. The charity leased the Responder, hired a crew and recruited volunteers. The Responder arrived in the Aegean at the end of December. The two speedboats aboard are named after Alan and his 5-year-old brother, Galip, who also drowned in September. Brown, the diver, heard about MOAS on the news. He’s 51 and volunteers with the Coast Guard back home in Ayr, Scotland. “I couldn’t stand it anymore, sitting at home while kids were drowning here,” he says. “So I [took] time off and came here. I can help. I understand the sea.”

The Responder patrols a stretch of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and the tiny Greek islet of Agathonissi, just south of the larger island of Samos. The distance between Greece and Turkey is relatively short, as close as 8 miles here. But the sea can look deceptively calm to migrants. “They could leave from a sheltered bay,” says MOAS search and rescue operations officer John Hamilton, as he monitors a radar on deck. “Once they get out of this bay, they come across rough seas.” More than 400 people fleeing war and poverty have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year, according to the U.N. refugee agency. At least 311 have drowned in the Aegean, according to the International Organization for Migration. The Responder has been backing up the Greek coast guard in the southern Aegean Sea, and has rescued 739 people here so far. And since 2014, MOAS crews have rescued nearly 12,000 people.

But the crew can’t stop thinking about a boat that capsized on January 15. “That night, we got a call that there was a boat,” Vella says. “And when we arrived to where the boat was supposed to be, we didn’t find the boat. But we found the people. They were screaming.” As the boat sank, people hung onto its blue-and-white hull, moaning loudly for help. “It was so cold that night, so very cold,” Vella says. “I prayed there were no kids in the water.” Miuccio, the Italian doctor, did too. He worried about hypothermia. “Children and babies can only stay in such cold water for a few minutes,” he says. A diver jumped into the sea and swam to the people clinging to the hull. “Children? Children?” the diver screamed. “Babies?”

The first baby was a chubby-cheeked little boy, no more than 2-years-old. Miuccio, on the speedboat that night, remembers that the little boy’s face was blue and he was foaming at the mouth. He had no pulse. “I gave him CPR for 15 minutes,” he says. “But nothing worked.” Pantaleo, the nurse, tried to revive another little boy, also to no avail. A third child, a 4-year-old girl, was also found dead. Then two more children, a boy and a girl, arrived — unconscious but with a pulse. “They responded immediately [after] CPR,” Miuccio recalls. “They started crying, which is a good sign. We took off their wet clothes and immediately wrapped them in isothermal blankets.”

[..] The morning after the three children died in January, Mimmo Vella called his own kids back in Malta. He told them he loved them so much. He told them they were lucky to be safe at home. As MOAS begins yet another patrol, he calls them again. His youngest son’s tiny voice rises above the wind and the waves.

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