Pablo Picasso Rest 1932
No, no fireworks, jets or tanks here.
The world of finance has developed a whole new logic.
U.S. job growth likely rebounded in June, with wage gains expected to pick up, but that would probably not be enough to discourage the Federal Reserve from cutting interest rates this month amid growing evidence the economy is slowing. Lack of concrete progress in resolving an acrimonious trade war between the United States and China was also seen forcing the U.S. central bank’s hand, regardless of a strong employment report from the Labor Department on Friday. The Fed last month signaled it could ease monetary policy as early as July, citing low inflation as well as growing risks to the economy from an escalation in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week agreed to a trade truce and a return to talks. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Tuesday talks were heading in the right direction, but it would take time to get the right deal made. The trade fight has undercut business confidence, leading to a downturn in equipment spending and manufacturing. “Given signs of slowing growth and little material progress on the trade war, a rebound in job growth would still leave the Fed on course to cut rates at the July meeting and we expect a 25 basis points cut,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 160,000 jobs last month after rising by only 75,000 in May, according to a Reuters survey of economists. May marked the second time this year that job gains dropped below 100,000. Reports on Wednesday showed private employers hired far fewer-than-expected workers last month and a measure of services industries employment declined.
When Germany has a problem, the entire EU does.
German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry warned on Friday that this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in the coming months. Contracts for ‘Made in Germany’ goods were down by 2.2% on the month after rising slightly in March and April, data from the Economy Ministry showed. The reading undershot the Reuters consensus forecast for a 0.1% decline. “The great order book deflation continues,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said. Devastating new orders data just undermined any hopes for an industrial rebound.”
Other recent data have painted a gloomy picture of the sector too, with engineering orders falling and activity in the manufacturing sector contracting. In a sign that the economic slowdown is beginning to bite, a survey by the Ifo institute published on Thursday showed German manufacturers expect to make more use of “Kurzarbeit” — a short-hours facility aimed at avoiding mass lay-offs. “What misery!” VP Bank economist Thomas Gitzel said after the orders data was published. “Given the significant decline in incoming orders, industrial production will remain extremely weak in the second half of the year and that increases the risk of recession for the German economy.”
It didn’t even dock, it just slowed down to take on provisions. In waters that EU member Spain says are Spanish.
Iran demanded Friday that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it has detained in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States. A senior foreign ministry official “described the UK move as unacceptable” in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire, who had been summoned to hear a formal protest, the ministry said in a statement. He “called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available”, the statement added. Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean, said they suspected the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The detention of the 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1 vessel comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it is poised to breach the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal. The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines. The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometres) south of Gibraltar in what it considers British waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish. It was boarded when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to vessels.
So how do we link the seized Iran tanker to the new Instex trade channel set up to bypass the US?
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he hoped a special trade channel set up with Iran would complete a first, limited transaction in the coming days. Set up by France, Britain and Germany, Instex is a barter trade mechanism that aims to avoid direct financial transfers by offsetting balances between importers and exporters on the European side. The mechanism is aimed at making it possible for trade between European Union members and Iran to continue in the face of stiff U.S sanctions since Washington quit a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers last year.
Those sanctions have effectively suffocated Iran’s economy by clamping down on its oil sales. “We want Instex to enter into force in a few days, and I hope that we will be able to operate in a few days. I hope the first transaction will be completed in a few days,” Le Maire told journalists at a meeting in Poland. “The first transaction will be a limited one, but this is a starting point and we expect Instex to be an efficient tool,” Le Maire added. [..] France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Instex would become operational based on Iran’s “full compliance with its JCPOA (Iran deal) commitments.” “We aren’t going to press the yes button if there are doubts about its compliance,” said one European diplomat.
Bolton in Mongolia, Tucker Carlson in Air Force One.
Donald Trump’s surprise visit to North Korea last week was impressive. It was a bold first step in repairing a foreign policy in tatters after more than a year of assaults by his neoconservative boobsie-twins Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump took Kim at his word who said after talks broke down thanks to Bolton and Pompeo in Hanoi that no dialogue would be possible if Bolton was involved. So, Trump sent Bolton to Mongolia. Then he went to Korea and did the one thing he had to do to begin unraveling the mess he’d gotten himself into. Last week I asked where does Trump go after his confrontation with Iran? Trump answered that question in dramatic fashion. And he deserves a lot of credit for it.
But what does this mean in the wider context? It’s a good first step but we’ve seen this game from him before, making bold moves only to be reined in by his staff. I would say that the optics of sending Bolton to Mongolia are pretty clear. Bolton’s time in the White House is nearly over. This is also a strong signal to Iran that Trump trying to back down without actually saying that. The drone incident was intended to box Trump into a path to war with Iran after the tanker attack in the Gulf of Oman two weeks prior. That was likely not the Iranians but the Saudis and/or MEK, again trying to get Trump to fly off the handle, since he’s easily manipulated into emotional acts. But he was talked out of it at the last minute, presumably by Tucker Carlson, who was with him on Air Force One when Trump went to meet Kim.
[..] A lot has changed in the past four months since the end of the Mueller investigation. And the signs are all there that Trump is feeling a lot more secure both politically and financially that would allow him to not only make bold first moves but follow through on them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed down on border wall funding. She’s ruled out impeachment as a bad political tactic. And she’s under fire from the hard-core Progressives in the party. This makes them weak. So, from a re-election standpoint Trump looks very secure, especially after the “I’m more woke than you” fest that was the first debate among DNC candidates. We’re looking at a mirror of 2016 with the Republicans that Trump beat. A wide and shallow pool of less than capable candidates who will all eat each other alive while he rides to re-election.
“On the issue of Browder, the Magnitsky story and the essence of the Trump Tower meeting, the Mueller Report is a deception intended to keep the myth of collusion in the air while dismissing that any collusion took place.”
The Mueller report thus focuses instead on “efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.” But the report on this topic is deceptive. Ironically, as it attacks Donald Trump and top campaign officials for lying, the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed. It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian lawyer did not have and never produced. That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone, a British music publicist whose job is to get what his clients want, in this case, a meeting. So, recklessly, he invented the idea of Clinton dirt as a bait-and-switch to get Trump’s people to come to it. He got the lawyer the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act, which is why she was in the United States in the first place.
The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 U.S. law that was promoted by William Browder, an American-born British citizen and hedge fund investor, who claimed his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky had been imprisoned and murdered because he uncovered a scheme by Russian officials to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury. It sanctioned Russians he said were involved or benefitted from Magnitsky’s death. It has since been used by the U.S. to put sanctions on other Russians and nationals from other countries.
The lawyer lobbying against the act, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort that Browder’s story was fake, a smokescreen to block the Russians from going after him for multi-millions in tax evasion. She argued the Magnitsky Act was built on this fraud. Manafort’s notes, included in the Mueller Report, trace what she said.
At the heart of Belt and Road is Chinese overcapacity.
The future rail link cuts its way through the jungles of Laos for over 400 kilometers. Soon, trains will be rolling through — over bridges, through tunnels and across dams built just for the line, which runs from the Chinese border in the north to the Laotian capital of Vientiane on the Mekong River. After five years of construction, the line is set to go into service in 2021. And the Chinese head of one of the sections has no doubt that it will be finished on time. “Our office alone employs 4,000 workers,” he says. There is also no lack of money: The Chinese government in Beijing has earmarked around 6 billion dollars for the project and has recently become both Laos’s largest creditor and most significant provider of development aid.
China, after all, isn’t just directly financing 70 percent of the new train lain, it is also building dams, schools, military hospitals and has even launched a communications satellite into space for the country. In April, Beijing loaned Laos another 40 million dollars for road construction — a credit that was provided through the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank based in Beijing, a financial institution that China established as an alternative to Western development banks. If Hong Kong is included, China isn’t just the largest creditor in Laos, but in the entire world. Beijing’s foreign loans dominate global markets almost to the same degree as its toys, smartphones and electric scooters do.
From Kenya to Montenegro, from Ecuador to Djibouti, roads, dams and power plants are being built with billions in loans from Beijing. And all of those countries will have to pay back those loans in the years to come. With interest. The flood of capital from China helped prevent the global economy from plunging into depression following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing financial crisis. But it isn’t without controversy. For some, the billions of dollars from China are a welcome contribution to helping many underdeveloped regions in Asia and Africa expand infrastructure. For others, the loans from Beijing have forced half the world into economic and political dependency on Beijing.
What is left of Americans’ wealth dies by a thousand cuts. A predator society.
Increasingly, the old family homestead is not being passed down to the family when the parents die. Older parents are taking advantage of reverse mortgages to pay off credit cards and to escape poverty and debt. This reduces equity in the home and often leads to foreclosure, leaving traditional heirs with nothing but memories. Not only are reverse mortgage companies feasting upon the assets of older Americans; so too are health insurers and prescription drug companies. Moreover, seniors on a fixed income were adversely affected by President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which raised the threshold on medical expense tax deductions and placed a cap of $10,000 on the itemized deductibility of state and local taxes.
America seems to be in the midst of a paradigm shift. Wealth transfer is skipping the deceased’s traditional heirs and going directly into the pockets of mortgage companies, banks, international corporations and the government. An alarming percentage of older Americans have insufficient money to cover basic necessities. According to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, one-third of senior households have no money left over each month or are in debt after meeting essential expenses. This makes them vulnerable to the lure of reverse mortgages.
Reverse mortgages allow homeowners age 62 and above to withdraw a portion of their home’s equity to help them pay expenses in retirement. The debt usually comes due when the borrower dies and is repaid through the sale of the home. However, borrowers can face foreclosure while living if they fall behind on property taxes or homeowner’s insurance.
That a report must be written on this is what drives me to despair.
Car use will still need to be curbed even when all vehicles are powered by clean electricity, a report has said. It warns that electrifying cars will not address traffic jams, urban sprawl and wasted space for parking. The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) report calls on the government to devise a strategy allowing people to have a good standard of living without needing a car. The government said it was spending £2bn to promote walking and cycling. It also says it plans to spend £50bn on improving roads. However, critics accuse the government of not having a serious plan to deal with the social problems associated with mass car ownership.
CREDS is an academic consortium of more than 80 academics across the UK. “Car use is a massive blind spot on government policy,” Prof Jillian Anable, one of the authors of the report, said. She added: “For many years ministers have adopted the principle of trying to meet demand by increasing road space. “They need to reduce demand instead.” The authors say there will always be people who depend on cars, especially in the countryside or suburbs. But, they point out that many young people in cities are choosing not to buy cars. Instead they are using public transport, walking, cycling, taking minicabs and hiring cars when they are needed.
Imagine all the species that vanish with the trees.
Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest soared more than 88% in June compared with the same month a year ago, the second consecutive month of rising forest destruction under new President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for development of the region. According to data from Brazil’s space research agency, deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rainforest totaled 920 square km (355 square miles). The data showing an 88.4% deforestation increase is preliminary but indicates the official annual figure, based on more detailed imaging and measured for the 12 months to the end of July, is well on track to surpass last year’s figure.
In the first 11 months, deforestation already has reached 4,565 square km (1,762 square miles), a 15 percent increase over the same period in the previous year. That is an area larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Environmentalists have warned that Bolsonaro’s strong remarks calling for the development of the Amazon and criticizing the country’s environmental enforcement agency Ibama for handing out too many fines would embolden loggers and ranchers seeking to profit from deforestation. “Bolsonaro has aggravated the situation. … He has made a strong rhetorical attack,” said Paulo Barreto, a researcher at Brazilian nongovernment organization Imazon.
“..more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone – most of that in the last 50 years..”
Researchers have identified swathes of lost tropical rainforests as the best places to replant trees, hoping to redress some of the damage done by deforestation and limit climate change. A four-year study used high-resolution satellite imagery to pinpoint more than 100 million denuded hectares (247 million acres) – from South Sudan to Brazil and India – that would deliver good results if reforested. “Globally, more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone – most of that in the last 50 years,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of the study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
“These forests provide a huge amount of functioning and services for our planet and people that have gone unappreciated,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since records began in 2001, according to forest monitoring service Global Forest Watch. Of greatest concern, it said, was the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, much due to fires, land-clearing for farms and mining. Environmentalists say protecting existing forests and restoring damaged ones prevents flooding, stores carbon, limits climate change and protects biodiversity.
Strong contender for stupidest headline.
Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas. As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”. The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined.
Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy. The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle. “This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”
“This year alone, just under 600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, a figure that is far greater than the number who have died along the U.S.-Mexican border.”
Today’s migration policies in the European Union are even more brutal than those pursued by Donald Trump. It may be true that the Europe doesn’t have border officials separating children from their parents, but the Europeans have entered into pacts with Libyan militias that operate horrific camps where torture and rape are commonplace, and they work together with the so-called Libyan coast guard, which is little more than a militia at sea. Sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean have practically been shut down, and Italian hardliner Matteo Salvini is no longer allowing private rescue ships to come ashore in the country.
The aim of all of this is clear: The crossing to Europe should be made more dangerous as a way of discouraging migrants from attempting it. And it seems to have worked: Fewer boats are coming. But more of those who try are dying. This year alone, just under 600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, a figure that is far greater than the number who have died along the U.S.-Mexican border. The horrors of the EU’s migration policies aren’t playing out in front of the cameras — they are unfolding in North Africa and on the high seas. There was one exception last week: The captain of a ship with the German rescue organization Sea Watch, Carola Rackete, steered her ship to Lampedusa because people on board had already spent two weeks crammed together on deck and she felt the situation was no longer tenable. The captain was promptly arrested upon the vessel’s arrival in Italy. She was released by an Italian court on Tuesday.
Despite the suffering, the situation in the Mediterranean Sea is quite convenient for countries in northern Europe, while Italian Interior Minister Salvini is playing the role of brutal doorman and scapegoat. The numbers of refugees are stable, but the status quo also means that the issue of migration isn’t being solved. And meanwhile, the EU is selling its soul.
Time to normalize Libya.
A boat carrying at least 86 refugees and migrants has capsized off the coast of Tunisia with most feared drowned. Some of the four initial survivors told the Tunisian coastguard on Thursday the boat sank off the town of Zarzis, Tunisian Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters news agency. Tunisian fishermen came across the sinking boat and were able to pull four survivors out on Wednesday night, but could not find any of the other passengers, said Lorena Lando, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tunisia.
Eighty-two people remain missing in the incident, which comes a day after a deadly air attack on a Libyan detention centre killed at least 44 migrants. Al Jazeera’s Sarah Khairat, reporting from a refugee camp in Zarzis where the survivors were brought, said the vessel was heading from the west of Libya to Europe when it capsized. The four survivors were all men – three from Mali and one from the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast national later died and two of the others are in hospital. Slim told dpa news agency the boat set sail from Libya on Monday. Earlier this week, another boat from Libya made it to the Tunisian port of Sfax with 65 people on board.