Edouard Vuillard The flowered dress 1891
Blamed on sell-off of dirty cars before new legislation.
China’s economy showed further signs of strain in July with output at its factories falling to its lowest level in 17 years, while investment and retail sales also slowed, official data showed Wednesday. The figures are the latest to highlight how the world’s second-largest economy is being battered by an escalating trade war with the United States, weak global demand and deteriorating conditions at home. Industrial output increased 4.8 percent on-year in July, down from 6.3 percent in June and marking the weakest pace since 2002. It was also well below the 6.0 percent forecast by economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
“Given the complicated and grave external environment and the mounting downward pressure on the economy at home, the foundation for sustainable and healthy growth of the economy still needs to be consolidated,” said Liu Aihua, a spokeswoman for the National Bureau of Statistics, which released the data. The data also suggested China’s billion-strong army of consumers were showing signs of increasing thriftiness. Retail sales – which have long been a bright spot for the economy – slowed to a 7.6 percent rise last month, sharply down from 9.8 percent in June.
I was wondering when someone would bring this up.
A prominent U.S. senator warned China on Tuesday Hong Kong could lose its special U.S. trade status if Beijing intervenes directly to crack down on increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the city. A leading Republican also said the Trump administration must make clear to Beijing it would face “profound consequences,” including sanctions, if it intervened directly. “I can assure you that if China comes down hard on the protesters that there will be action in Congress to enforce the autonomy agreements that were entered into that are part of the special recognition of Hong Kong,” Senator Ben Cardin told Reuters. He said such action had bipartisan support.
Cardin, a Democrat, has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would require the U.S. government to provide annual justification for the continuation of special treatment afforded to Hong Kong. A 1992 U.S. law affords Hong Kong preferential treatment in matters of trade and economics compared with China. Areas of special treatment include visas, law enforcement and investment. Cardin said Hong Kong enjoyed the special status in exchange for the “one country-two systems” arrangement guaranteeing it a high degree of autonomy and human rights after its handover to China from Britain in 1997. “If China interferes with the autonomy of Hong Kong, then it does affect our agreements in regard to Hong Kong as far as the trade zone is concerned,” Cardin said.
Cory Gardner, another leading senator who is Republican chair of the Senate’s East Asia subcommittee, said on Twitter the Trump administration “must make clear to Beijing that any crackdown in Hong Kong will have profound consequences for China, including imposition of U.S. sanctions.” “The voice of the people of Hong Kong must be heard without fear of repression and retaliation. The Hong Kong government must fully guarantee the democratic rights of Hong Kongers, while Beijing must fully respect Hong Kong’s autonomy. The world is watching,” Gardner said.
Cardin was sharply critical of President Donald Trump’s failure to take a stronger line on Hong Kong and his characterization of the protests there earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with. “The president has not been clear that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong in protecting their human rights and the autonomy,” Cardin said. “It is inconceivable that the president would put the blame on those who are seeking to protect their rights.” “The president was wrong to give China an excuse to come down against the protesters,” Cardin said.
The UK should give Hong Kong citizens full UK nationality as a means of reassurance amid the current standoff with Beijing, the chair of the influential Commons foreign affairs committee has argued. Tom Tugendhat said this should have happened to people in the formerly British-ruled territory in 1997, when it was handed back to Chinese control, and that doing so now would reassure Hong Kong’s people that they were supported by the UK. Hong Kong has been gripped by 10 weeks of large-scale and occasionally violent pro-democracy demonstrations, which have been met by a sometimes brutal police response, and increasingly trenchant threats from Beijing. On Monday, two Chinese state media outlets ran video footage showing armoured personnel and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, prompting concerns about military intervention.
Under the so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement that had Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, Beijing considers the population to be Chinese nationals. However, a number of people in the territory hold what is known as a British national (overseas) passport, which gives some rights, for example to stay in the UK for up to six months, but no automatic ability to live permanently or work. Tugendhat said: “The UK had obligations to Hong Kong citizens before 1997, and the extension of overseas citizenship, which is in many ways a second-tier citizenship, was a mistake, and I think it’s one that should be corrected. At a time when there are clearly tensions in Hong Kong, the UK could reassure many Hong Kong citizens that their existing rights are recognised by the UK, and they are valued.”
NY Times now reports that both of Jeffrey Epstein’s two guards fell asleep and falsified records to cover up their failure to check on him for three hours before he died.
On the morning of Jeffrey Epstein’s death there was shouting and shrieking from his jail cell, a source familiar with the situation told CBS News. Corrections officers attempted to revive him while saying “breathe, Epstein, breathe.” Congress is the latest to start investigating Epstein’s apparent suicide over the weekend, with new reports raising questions about the federal jail where he was being held. One of Epstein’s guards at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on the night he died was reportedly not a regular corrections officer. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr criticized the detention center where the disgraced financier was held.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability,” Barr said. “I was appalled and frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.” Government investigators raided the alleged sex trafficker’s private island in the Virgin Islands Monday. With Epstein gone, potential co-conspirators involved in his alleged sex-trafficking network are shifting into focus. British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is one of four women accused of recruiting underage girls for sex. She’s denied those claims in the past and has not been charged with a crime. Maxwell is said to be Epstein’s ex-girlfriend turned business associate. Her current location is unknown.
“She was more of a partner in his obsession, really,” said Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown, who spent more than two years looking into Epstein’s controversial 2008 plea deal. “And there are allegations that she was involved in having sex with some of these girls as well.” Court documents from 2011 reveal Epstein controlled several apartments in a building just blocks from his $77 million New York townhouse and allegedly housed “underage girls from all over the world.”
This could get very big.
A former Google insider claiming the company created algorithms to hide its political bias within artificial intelligence platforms – in effect targeting particular words, phrases and contexts to promote, alter, reference or manipulate perceptions of Internet content – delivered roughly 950 pages of documents to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust division Friday. The former Google insider, who has already spoken in to the nonprofit organization Project Veritas, met with SaraACarter.com on several occasions last week. He was interviewed in silhouette, to conceal his identity, in group’s latest film, which they say exposes bias inside the social media platform. Several weeks prior, the insider mailed a laptop to the DOJ containing the same information delivered on Friday, they said. The former insider is choosing to remain anonymous until Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe reveals his identity tomorrow (Wednesday).
He told this reporter on his recent trip to Washington D.C. that the documents he turned over to the Justice Department will provide proof that Google has been manipulating the algorithms and the evidence of how it was done, the insider said. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the House Judiciary Committee in December, 2018, that the search engine was not biased against conservatives. Pichai explained what algorithm’s are said Google’s algorithm was not offensive to conservatives because its artificial intelligence does not operate in that manner. He told lawmakers, “things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it” are what drives the search results. Pichai said even if his programmers were anti-Republican, the process is so intricate that the artificial intelligence could not be manipulated and it was to complicated to train the algorithm to fit their bias.
The insider says Google is aware most people are unaware or not knowledgeable about these advanced IT systems and therefore unable to determine who is telling the truth. “I honestly think that a free market can fix this issue,” he told this reporter at a meeting in Washington D.C. “The issue is that the free market has been distorted and what’s happened is that the distortion is so grotesque and the engineering is so repulsive, all we need to do is just expose what’s going on. People can hear that it is bad but that can be bias. But when they see what Google has actually written with the documents, this will actually be taught in universities of what totalitarian states can do with this type of capability.” “It will be so revolting that it doesn’t matter what the solution is, a solution will just form as a reaction to this manipulation they have done,” the Google insider said.
Total U.S. household debt increased for the 20th consecutive quarter this year, rising by $192 billion to $13.86 trillion, according to the New York Fed. And the data reveals an unsettling truth about student loan balances, which are at alarming levels of missed payments. Fed researchers noted that “in the second quarter of this year, the outstanding severely derogatory balance is comprised of 35 percent defaulted student loans, which have grown stunningly since 2012.” Severely derogatory refers to “any stage of delinquency paired with a repossession, foreclosure, or ‘charge of’” (meaning that the lender has removed the debt from its books),” the report explained.
The increase in overall household debt was “boosted primarily by a $162 billion gain in mortgage installment balances,” the Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit explained. While consumer spending has been resilient amid the U.S.-China trade war, two components within household debt are seeing worsening performance. Student loans are the biggest red flag.
While outstanding student debt declined slightly from $1.49 trillion in Q1 to $1.48 trillion this quarter — a “typical change” for the quarter, the report stated — the proportion of student loan borrowers who are unable to pay back their loans has increased rapidly. And the pressure to repay their student loans — which in many cases exceeds tens of thousands of dollars — affects borrowers in several ways. A separate study by JPMorgan Chase Institute, which looked at 4.9 million checking accounts, found that some families are spending up to 17% of their annual income as they repay their debts. They’re even putting off “basic necessities,” in some cases, the study noted.
War on pensions and savings.
A Danish bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage – handing out loans to homeowners where the charge is minus 0.5% a year. Negative interest rates effectively mean that a bank pays a borrower to take money off their hands, so they pay back less than they have been loaned. Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third largest, has begun offering borrowers a 10-year deal at -0.5%, while another Danish bank, Nordea, says it will begin offering 20-year fixed-rate deals at 0% and a 30-year mortgage at 0.5%. Under its negative mortgage, Jyske said borrowers will make a monthly repayment as usual – but the amount still outstanding will be reduced each month by more than the borrower has paid.
“We don’t give you money directly in your hand, but every month your debt is reduced by more than the amount you pay,” said Jyske’s housing economist, Mikkel Høegh. In recognition of how puzzling the new mortgage is for customers, the bank’s FAQ is littered with questions and statements such as Hvordan kan det lade sig gøre? (How is that possible?) and Ja, du læste rigtigt (Yes, you read that right). The mortgage is possible because Denmark, as well as Sweden and Switzerland, has seen rates in money markets drop to levels that turn banking upside-down. Høegh said Jyske Bank is able to go into money markets and borrow from institutional investors at a negative rate, and is simply passing this on to its customers. But the flipside is that savers will see nothing paid in interest on their deposits – and may also suffer as they go negative.
Richard Werner: “ECB crushes German community banks, making up 80% of banks and the bulk of lending to the real economy and SMEs, forcing them to join the ECB-induced property bubble Germany, in pursuit of its official program to reduce the number of banks & commentators wonder why economy tanks.”
It’s official: the German economy shrank by 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter of the year, from +0.4% QoQ in the first quarter. On the year, the economy still grew by 0.4%, calendar and seasonally adjusted. GDP components will only be released at the end of the month, but available monthly data and the press release of the Statistical Agency suggest that private and government consumption were slightly up but trade and the construction sector were a drag on growth. Today’s GDP report definitely marks the end of a golden decade for the German economy. Since the end of the 2008/09 recession, the economy has grown by an average of 0.5% QoQ every quarter. In fact, the economy grew in 35 out of the last 40 quarters.
However, under the surface of these impressive headline numbers, a worrisome trend has emerged. Since 3Q 2018, the economy has been in a de facto stagnation, with quarterly GDP growth at an average of zero percent. Trade conflicts, global uncertainty and the struggling automotive sector have finally brought the German economy down on its knee. In particular, increased uncertainty, rather than direct effects from the trade conflicts, have dented sentiment and hence economic activity. Who remembers that one year ago, the biggest problem for the German economy was supply-side constraints? Last summer the entire economy was close to overheating; now the lack of demand has become a pressing issue.
Even worse, this transition has taken place without the expected boost to investments. While the slowdown of the industry is not really new, recent developments show that the resilience of the domestic economy to external shocks is crumbling. Profit warnings, first lay-offs, an increase in short-time work schemes, falling consumer confidence and weaker activity in the service sector have sounded the alarm bells. Let’s be clear: the fact that the German economy is currently in stagnation is not the most disconcerting message after a long period of strong growth. It is the weakening of the domestic economy that is most worrisome.
They’re going to do Bernie 2016 all over again.
The Democratic party has a candidate problem. Twenty-four candidates are currently in the race, and after two rounds of primary debates, the field still feels crowded. The DNC is hoping that their stricter qualification rules for the September and October debates will significantly thin the pack. For these debates, candidates must get 130,000 unique donors and reach 2% or higher in four different DNC-approved polls. As of this article’s publication, only nine candidates have qualified: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang. Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is one qualifying poll away from meeting the criteria as well.
The only other candidate that is close to doing so is Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who saw a massive uptick in donors after her debate performance in which she roasted Harris. Since then, Gabbard has shot past the 130,000 donor threshold, and as of Aug. 11, she was sitting at 159,514 individual donors. That took care of one-half of the qualification criteria for the next two debates. Where Gabbard is seeing some struggles is in the polling numbers. Well, sort of. The reality is that since June 28 (the first day of the time in which polls can be counted towards September qualification), Gabbard has hit 2% or higher in eight different polls, which is more than the already-qualified Klobuchar and Yang.
Yet, the DNC only counts one of those as an approved poll, meaning Gabbard still needs three more polls to her resume. If she can’t do that, missing the September debates will be a de facto death blow to her campaign. Gabbard, a staunch anti-war candidate, has been getting the ‘Ron Paul treatment’ from the DNC and the media since ABC’s first primary debate. While her appeal to the voters has been demonstrated (as she was the most googled candidate after each debate), she’s still getting push back. It seems almost improbable that Gabbard can continually pull between 2 and 3% in some polls and then struggle to register even 1% in what the DNC counts as polls.
“Within the GDP framework, the aspect of funding economic activity never emerges. In this framework goods emerge because of people’s desires.”
To gain insight into the state of an economy, most financial experts and commentators rely on a statistic called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP framework looks at the value of final goods and services produced during a particular time interval, usually a quarter or a year. This statistic is constructed in accordance with the view that what drives an economy is not the production of wealth but rather its consumption. What matters here is the demand for final goods and services. Since consumer outlays are the largest part of the overall demand, it is commonly held that consumer demand is the key driver of economic growth.
All that matters in this view is the demand for goods, which in turn will give rise almost immediately to their supply. Because the supply of goods is taken for granted, this framework ignores the whole issue of the various stages of production that precede the emergence of the final good. However, in order to manufacture a car, there is a need for coal to be employed in the production of steel, which in turn will be employed to manufacture an array of tools. These in turn are used to produce other tools and machinery and so on, until we reach the final stage of the production of a car. The harmonious interaction of the various stages of production results in the final product.
Within the GDP framework, the aspect of funding economic activity never emerges. In this framework goods emerge because of people’s desires. In the real world, it is not enough to have demand for goods – one must have the means to accommodate people’s desires. The means are various final goods that are required to sustain various individuals in the various stages of production. [..] The GDP framework is hostile to savings given that in this framework more savings weakens consumption and weakens the so-called Keynesian multiplier. The GDP framework gives the impression that it is not the activities of individuals that produce goods and services, but something else outside these activities called the “economy.” However, at no stage does the so-called “economy” have a life of its own independent of individuals. The so-called economy is a metaphor—it does not exist.
This is going to the courts.
The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has said he will “fight with every breath in my body” to stop Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit without the consent of MPs. Bercow, who has previously said he did not believe it would be possible to suspend parliament to force through no deal, gave his strongest signal yet he was prepared to personally intervene to stop prorogation. Speaking at the Edinburgh festival fringe, the Speaker said he would insist on the right of parliament to continue to sit and debate. “The one thing I feel strongly about is that the House of Commons must have its way,” he said. “And if there is an attempt to circumvent, to bypass or – God forbid – to close down parliament, that is anathema to me.
“I will fight with every breath in my body to stop that happening. We cannot have a situation in which parliament is shut down. We are a democratic society and parliament will be heard. “Nobody is going to get away, as far as I’m concerned, with stopping that happening. Nobody should be afraid to say what he or she thinks.” Asked by an audience member if parliament was able to stop a no-deal Brexit, Bercow replied: “Yes.” Speaking in the Commons in June, Bercow warned the then-Tory leadership candidates that prorogation was not an option. “That is simply not going to happen. It is just so blindingly obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently, it does and therefore I have done,” he told MPs.
Led by Donkeys: Hi @BorisJohnson & @MichaelGove, we heard about your plan to spend £100m on a No Deal advertising campaign. The thing is you’re both liars who can’t be trusted to tell the public the truth. So we’re doing it for you. More details at http://NoDealBrexit.info (location: Salisbury)
Thatcher said there’s no such thing as “society”. And now there isn’t.
Whole swaths of Britain experience a blackout and the country lights up with fury. Cabinet minsters, the press, members of the public rightly demand answers: why was Newcastle airport plunged into darkness? Who is responsible for rail services being halted for hours? Threats are issued of a whopping fine, an official inquiry, heads rolling. Days of rage for a power cut of less than an hour. When it works, infrastructure is invisible. Point out the crumbliness, by all means, and lament the dangerous compromises – but as long as the wretched system judders on, voters shrug and politicians look the other way. Until the day the bridges collapse, the trains seize up and the lights no longer come on. By which time it is too late for anything but blame in 24-point headlines.
Between these two extremes lies a much rarer phenomenon, which blights Britain today. We are right in the middle of an infrastructure breakdown – we just haven’t named it yet. You’ll know what I mean when we list the component parts. More than 760 youth clubs have shut across the UK since 2012. A pub closes every 12 hours. Nearly 130 libraries were scrapped last year, and those that survive in England have lopped off 230,000 opening hours. Each of the above is a news story. Each stings a different group: the books trade, the real-ale aficionados, the trade unions. But knit them together and a far darker picture emerges. Britain is being stripped of its social infrastructure: the institutions that make up its daily life, the buildings and spaces that host friends and gently push strangers together.
Public parks are disappearing. Playgrounds are being sold off. High streets are fast turning to desert. These trends are national, but their greatest force is felt in the poorest towns and suburbs, the most remote parts of the countryside, where there isn’t the footfall to lure in the businesses or household wealth to save the local boozer. When I am out reporting it is not uncommon to go into a suburban postcode short of money yet still bustling with people – but the banks have nearly all cleared out, the church has gone and all that’s left of the last pub is an empty hulk. The private sector has buggered off, the state is a remote and vengeful god who dispenses benefits or sanctions, and the “big society” never made it out of the pages of a report from a Westminster thinktank.
“After the saga went viral, with more than 12,000 retweets, Twitter itself stepped in and joined the calls for Dorothy to be returned to the internet, tweeting #FreeDorothy.”
A resourceful teenager has taken the rise of increasingly powerful smart home devices to its logical conclusion – tweeting from her family’s smart fridge after her mother confiscated her phone. The 15-year-old Ariana Grande fan known only as “Dorothy” was barred from using her phone but managed to find a number of innovative ways to reach her thousands of followers – a handheld Nintendo device, a Wii U gaming console, and finally, her family’s LG Smart Refrigerator. Dorothy, who declined to share her last name, says her mother disciplined her two weeks ago after she got too distracted while cooking and caused a fire. “She took all my tech so I’d pay more attention to my surroundings,” said the teen, who messaged the Guardian from her cousin’s iPad because she was still facing a tech ban.
“I felt mortified! I was worried because I’ve been bored all summer and Twitter passes the time for me.” The user was worried about losing her “mutuals” – accounts she follows that follow her back – and devised other ways to get tweets out. Her self-described “fan account” is used primarily to send tweets about Ariana Grande. Dorothy then sent a tweet saying: “my mom took my phone and my nintendo ds so i have no choice but to use my wii … thank u all for the support and love.” The tweet’s source label, which indicates the device from which a tweet was sent, confirmed that the tweet came from a Wii U. Finally, after her mother apparently took her Wii U away as well, she sent a tweet from her LG Smart refrigerator: “I’m talking to my fridge what the heck,” she said.
The speed at which this is happening is literally more than we can comprehend.
The amount of wildlife in the world’s forests has plummeted by more than half (53 per cent) in just over 40 years, conservationists have found. Humanity is killing the Earth’s greatest natural ally in the fight against climate breakdown, our forests, according to the report by the WWF. The charity is calling on world leaders to declare a planetary emergency and develop a “new deal for nature and people” to halt climate breakdown, restore nature and fix food systems. The first ever global assessment of forest biodiversity shows that habitat loss and degradation, chiefly caused by people, account for 60 per cent of the threats to forests and forest species.
The report, ‘Below the Canopy’, written jointly by WWF and ZSL, found the drops in wild animal and bird populations were greatest in tropical forests such as the Amazon rainforest, where there is the most wildlife to lose. Monitored populations of forest-living birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined, on average, by 53 per cent between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data. Protecting and restoring forests must be at the heart of the global plan, the charity says. WWF says that forests, which are home to more than half of the world’s land-based species, are vital to the health of the planet, absorbing damaging greenhouse gases.
The report outlines how in the vast tropical forests of South America and Africa, the carbon locked in would decline if large birds and primates in particular were lost. “When animals are lost from forests this has severe implications for forest health, the livelihoods of more than a billion humans who depend on forests, and our opportunity to mitigate against climate disaster,” WWF says.
Day’s Edge Productions / WWF-US
Minoan fresco depicting a bull leaping scene, found in Knossos, 1600-1400 BC