Jun 192020
 


NPC “Largest electric locomotive and Congressman John C. Schafer” 1924 (he’d be in an electric car today)

 

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)
Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)
AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)
John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)
Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)
Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)
Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)
EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)
Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-Based Cyberattacks (R.)
Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)
Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)
Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

 

 

Happy Juneteenth!

I made sure to check quite a few times, but it is what it is: according to Worldometer data, over the past 24 hours global new cases went from an almost record 141,872 on June 17 to an all-records shattering 177,168 on June 18. Maybe something’s off, but right now I couldn’t say what.

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 18 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 140,528. Third consecutive day above 140,000.

My count 6AM EDT to 6AM EDT based on Worldometer numbers is much higher today at 177,168.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 29,180
• Brazil + 23,050
• Russia + 7,790
• India + 13,827
• Mexico + 5,662

 

 

Cases 8,602,359 (+ 177,168 from yesterday’s 8,425,191)

Deaths 456,802 (+ 4,994 from yesterday’s 451,808)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunan we have a problem.

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)

Mainland China reported 32 new coronavirus cases as of the end of June 18, 25 of which were reported in the capital city Beijing, China’s National Health Commission said on Friday. This compared with 28 confirmed cases a day earlier, 21 of which were in Beijing. Local authorities are restricting movement of people in the capital and stepping up other measures to prevent the virus from spreading further following a series of local infections. Another five asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, those who are infected with the coronavirus but show no symptoms, were also reported as of June 18 compared with eight a day earlier. China does not count these patients as confirmed cases.

Read more …

Did we close the borders yet?

Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Thursday a record 5,662 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 667 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 165,455 cases and 19,747 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Read more …

“AMC Theater CEO Adam Aron says their cinemas won’t require masks upon reopening because they didn’t “want to be drawn into a political controversy.”

Is testing also a political viewpoint? How about COVID19 treatment at hospitals? Can we deny that to people who have political issues with facemasks?

AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, has unveiled plans to re-open after coronavirus forced it to close its more than 600 venues in the U.S. for nearly four months. The company is expected to resume operations in 450 of those locations on July 15 and expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31. As part of that process, AMC is reducing its seating capacity in order to help people social distance, it is implementing new cleaning procedures, placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters and encouraging contact-less and cash-free concessions. “We didn’t rush to reopen,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in an interview with Variety.

“There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.” AMC’s competitors Regal and Cinemark announced their own plans to resume business earlier this week, targeting a similar mid-July timeframe for when they expect to be fully operational. [..] Prior to coronavirus there was a great deal of consolidation in the exhibition space, much of it made possible by debt financing. AMC’s decision to acquire rivals such as Odeon Cinemas, UCI Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas left it heavily leveraged with more than $5 billion in debt. In recent filings, AMC acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic could push it into bankruptcy. [..]

AMC will not mandate that all guests wear masks, although employees will be required to do so. Nor will AMC perform temperature checks on customers, though it will monitor its employees’ temperatures and have them undergo screenings to check for signs of coronavirus. The situation will be different in states and cities that require residents to wear a mask when they’re in public, but Aron said that AMC was wary of wading into a public health issue that has become politicized. “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” said Aron. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

[..] the theater chain said that it is going to lean heavily on technological solutions such as deploying electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and upgraded MERV 13 ventilation filters, which would eliminate airborne particles and reduce the chance that COVID-19 will spread. Other procedures being implemented include cleaning auditoriums between each showtime and allowing extra time between screenings for disinfection; blocking out every other row of seats to decrease congestion; pushing guests to use online ticketing and kiosks to limit interactions with staff, and designating various points within theaters for one-way foot traffic.

Read more …

“Orange Man Bad” beats Black Lives Matter.

John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)

John Bolton’s damning indictment of the Trump presidency is soaring up online charts in the US a week before its release, despite withering reviews describing it as “bloated with self-importance”, as the Trump administration makes a last-ditch attempt to prevent its publication. In the teeth of a series of critical assessments from papers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened is currently No 1 on Amazon’s US charts. Its sales are just ahead of another scathing take on Donald Trump, this time his niece Mary Trump’s forthcoming Too Much and Never Enough, which is subtitled How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Bolton’s book, which is out on 23 June, and Mary Trump’s, scheduled for 28 July, have knocked anti-racism titles by authors including Ibram X Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo and Robin DiAngelo off the top spots.

As the US justice department on Wednesday sought an emergency order to block publication of Bolton’s memoir, copies of the book were leaked to news outlets which revealed a series of explosive claims from the former national security adviser. According to Bolton, Trump pleaded with China to help him with his 2020 re-election campaign, praised China’s president Xi Jinping for his country’s internment camps, and was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favours to dictators he liked”. Trump also weighed in, claiming on Twitter that the book is “made up of lies & fake stories”. Early reviews of the book have not been favourable. The New York Times said the memoir was “bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much”.

Filled with “minute and often extraneous details”, the review continued, it “toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged”. The Washington Post said that “for a memoir that is startlingly candid about many things, Bolton’s utter lack of self-criticism is one of the book’s significant shortcomings”, while NPR found that Bolton “clearly does not expect to attract the casual reader, or anyone else unable to digest sentences such as this one on the third page: ‘Constant personnel turnover obviously didn’t help, nor did the White House’s Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all)’.”

Read more …

Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)

President Donald Trump came under attack from both sides of the American political spectrum on Thursday as liberal Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former White House aide and conservative hawk John Bolton both declared him unfit to lead the country. “President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the president of the United States,” Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told a news briefing. In a new book, Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has accused the Republican president of sweeping misdeeds, including explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aid to win re-election in November. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told ABC News in part of an interview aired on Thursday.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.” Pelosi told a weekly news conference she was consulting with her fellow Democrats on whether to subpoena Bolton about the allegations in the book, which has not yet been distributed. If Bolton testifies before Congress, it could revive the issue of Trump’s competence as he faces a stiff challenge on Nov. 3 from Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, and fends off criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Bolton refused to testify in the House’s impeachment probe last year and threatened to sue if subpoenaed. He offered to testify in the subsequent trial in the Senate, but the Republican-controlled chamber did not take him up on the offer.

[..] Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry, sharply criticized Bolton as unpatriotic for withholding information from the probe. The new allegations are “further proof” that Trump’s actions in Ukraine were part of a pattern of abusing his power and the U.S. government for personal political gain, Schiff said in a statement.

Read more …

Abenomics will die with Abe’s political career regardless.

Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)

Japan’s core consumer prices fell for a second straight month in May, reinforcing deflation expectations and raising the challenge for policymakers battling to revive an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The data will likely complicate the Bank of Japan’s job of restoring growth and inflation, with a raft of recent indicators suggesting the nation is in the grip of its worst postwar economic slump. Several BOJ board members warned that stronger monetary support and closer policy coordination with the government were needed to prevent Japan from returning to deflation, minutes of the bank’s April meeting showed.

“With the pandemic hurting the economy, there’s a good chance Japan may slide into deflation. Downward pressure on prices will likely persist throughout this year,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil but excludes volatile fresh food prices, fell 0.2% in May from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday. That compared with market forecasts of a 0.1% fall and followed a 0.2% drop in April, which was the first year-on-year decline since December 2016. The BOJ kept policy steady this week after expanding stimulus in March and April. But governor Haruhiko Kuroda conceded that inflation would remain well short of its 2% target for years to come.

[..} Some BOJ policymakers were concerned that bolder steps are needed to prevent the country from slipping back to sustained period of damaging price declines, the April minutes showed. “Japan is now facing the risk of deflation, so it’s possible to further enhance coordination between fiscal and monetary policies,” one BOJ board member was quoted as saying.

Read more …

“The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.”

Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)

Private entities aren’t needed to build central bank digital currencies, said the head of the U.S. central bank on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, speaking before the House Financial Services Committee, said the idea of a digital dollar – a blockchain-based version of the current world reserve currency – is complex, and one that the Fed takes seriously, but also that the idea needs to be studied further before one can be created and implemented. However, in response to a question from Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Powell said he believed private entities did not have a role in designing a digital dollar.

“I do think this is something that the central banks have to design,” he said. “The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.” Emmer was asking specifically about a recommendation from the Digital Dollar Project, which was launched earlier this year by former Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, Chief Innovation Officer Daniel Gorfine and Accenture Director David Treat. The project suggested a digital dollar be issued by the Fed but designed in partnership with the private sector and accessible through a two-tiered banking system similar to the one in place in the U.S. today.

Powell said the general public may not be receptive to the idea of private employees being responsible for the money supply because they’re not accountable to “the public good.” Still, the idea is apparently being examined. A group of central banks have gotten together to discuss and better understand the concept as well as evaluate the implications on financial inclusion and concerns around cybersecurity, he said. “If this is something that is going to be good for the United States economy and for the world’s reserve currency, which is the dollar, then we need to be there and we need to understand it first and best,” Powell said. “So we’re working hard on it.”

Read more …

A guy I know said he was driving from Holland to Germany this week to pick up a car he bought, an 8-month old BMW at half the new price.

EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)

New car sales in the EU plunged in May, falling 57% to 623,812, as Europe grapples with the same problem that the U.S. has had for weeks: a glut of inventory, despite re-opening some factories and re-starting production in certain areas. All 27 EU member states posted double digit declines in new car sales, with the U.K. falling an astounding 89%, according to MarketWatch. Production coming out of the EU remains “well blow” pre-crisis levels but the lack of demand continues to contribute to a growing inventory problem. This, in turn, has created a slowdown in an industry that’s already moving at a crawl to begin with. Jobs and profits are both threatened from the glut, in addition to the monumental threat they both still continue to face from the ongoing global pandemic.

Unsold cars on dealer lots are “at least 30% above normal” according to industry analysts, while unsold inventory in Germany alone was about $17 billion worth. Antje Woltermann, managing director of the ZDK industry group: “Unsold stocks are climbing, and on the other hand vehicles are not leaving the lots.” While Europe is struggling, many have looked to China, where sales were up 6% in May, for signs of optimism. For example, Stephan Wöllenstein, chief executive of Volkswagen Group China said: “The return of these kinds of figures is encouraging and gives us continued cautious optimism going forward.”

But those numbers don’t account for the recent second wave of lockdowns, including in Beijing, that China now faces. Countries like France and Germany continues to try and spur sales with government incentives, but Germany is focusing primarily on EVs while the glut is in traditional ICE cars. Recall, in May, we were ahead of the curve when we noted that European car registrations had plunged 76% in April. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the number of new cars sold fell from 1,143,046 to just 270,682 YOY in that month.

Read more …

Australia is but a lap dog.

The story changed overnight to name China as the main “suspect”. Of course what would be really suspect is if China DID NOT spy on Australia.

Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-based Cyberattacks (R.)

Australia views China as the chief suspect in a spate of cyber-attacks of increasing frequency in recent months, three sources familiar with the government’s thinking told Reuters on Friday. The comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a “sophisticated state-based actor” had spent months trying to hack all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure. “We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting,” Morrison told reporters in the capital, Canberra, but declined to say who Australia believed was responsible.


Three sources briefed on the matter said Australia believed China is responsible, however. “There is a high degree of confidence that China is behind the attacks,” one Australian government source told Reuters, seeking anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media. Australian intelligence has flagged similarities between the recent attacks and a cyber-attack on parliament and the three largest political parties in March 2019.Last year, Reuters reported that Australia had quietly concluded China was responsible for that cyber-attack. Australia has never publicly identified the source of that attack, however, and China denied it was responsible.

Read more …

Russiagate revisited.

Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)

According to a just-released internal CIA report, “CCI had prioritized building cyber weapons at the expense of securing their own systems. Day-to-day security practices had become woefully lax.” “Most of our sensitive cyber weapons were not compartmented, users shared systems administrator-level passwords, there were no effective removable media controls, and historical data was available to users indefinitely,” the report goes on to say. The heavily-redacted document actually dates back to October 2017 and was only made public Tuesday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), in an effort to pressure the new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe into imposing new security measures. While the CIA ineptitude is the obvious takeaway, no one seems to have noticed the real bombshell: the timing of the breach and its implications.

The report says the CIA “did not realize the loss had occurred until a year later, when WikiLeaks publicly announced it in March 2017.” Now, what all was happening between March 2016 and a year later? You guessed it: Russiagate! Even as his own cyber arsenal was getting swiped from under his very nose, CIA chief John Brennan was obsessing about “Russian hackers” of the Democratic National Committee, or Hillary Clinton’s emails, or something – and pushing the bogus ‘Steele Dossier’ alleging Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia, which eventually made it into the infamous ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ that accused Moscow of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. It gets worse. According to the report, “Had the data been stolen for the benefit of a state adversary and not published, we might still be unaware of the loss—as would be true for the vast majority of data on Agency mission systems.”

So if the mythic bogeymen ‘Russian hackers’ had actually wanted to harm the US, they could have just used the CIA’s own, unprotected cyberweapons to stage false flags and wreak havoc across the world? None of which happened, obviously. Yet Brennan and his confederates have been telling everyone for years that the Kremlins wanted to “hack our democracy” by publishing some Democrat emails and posting memes on social media! [..] As for how Vault 7 got to WikiLeaks, the jury is still out on that. Joshua Schulte, the employee charged with leaking the files, is being prosecuted again after a hung jury at his first trial in March. His lawyers have argued the CIA security was so lax, anyone else on the team, or even outsiders, could have done it. The next time the media report some incendiary claim based on US intelligence “assessments,” try to keep all this in mind.

Read more …

How cann you be lonely when you have a TV set to keep you company?

Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)

Happiness among Americans has fallen to the lowest level in nearly five decades during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll. The Covid Response Tracking Study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), found that morale was at the lowest point it has ever been since tracking emotional health trends began in 1972. The number of people who described themselves as very happy fell by 17 points to just 14 per cent in 2020. The previous record low – seen shortly after the 2007/8 Financial Crisis – was 29%. For the first time in 48 years, more people said they were unhappy than very happy. More than 60 per cent of Americans reported being “pretty happy”.


Interviews of the 2,279 US adults that took part in the survey took place between 21-29 May, while large parts of the country were under some form of lockdown designed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Feelings of loneliness have also increased as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, with half of all respondents saying they felt isolated either very often, often or sometimes. When asked the same question two years previously, less than a quarter of respondents said they experienced feelings of isolation.

Read more …

An alcoholic pet monkey…

Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

An alcoholic pet monkey has been locked up for good in Uttar Pradesh after a terror spree that left 250 people injured and one dead. Efforts to rehabilitate the animal were scrapped and zoo doctors affirm he’s a menace to society. The six-year-old monkey, named Kalua, received a life sentence of solitary confinement at India’s Kanpur Zoo this week after repeated attempts at normalizing his behavior left zookeepers and other monkeys much the worse for wear. Zoo doctor Mohd Nasir told local media the savage simian would harm people wherever he went if set free, explaining “he remains as aggressive as he was” when first brought to the zoo three years ago.

Kalua formerly belonged to an occultist in Mirzapur district, who fed him a diet of meat and copious alcohol. When his owner died, the grieving pet apparently went into withdrawal, becoming vicious and attacking locals. By the time forest and zoo teams succeeded in apprehending the aggressive creature, he had bitten over 250 people, including 30 children. One of his victims died of the injuries, while others – Kalua apparently has a thing for attacking women and girls – were left in need of plastic surgery. While the zookeepers had hoped to calm Kalua down, substituting a vegetarian diet for the human flesh he’d apparently come to rely on, they didn’t have much luck. The carnivorous creature has stayed hostile, especially toward female zookeepers, and plans to release him back into the wild a changed monkey have been shelved.

Kalua’s misbehavior predates the coronavirus outbreak, but he’s not the only monkey in Uttar Pradesh to make the news in recent weeks. A gang of monkeys attacked a lab technician in Meerut last month, stealing several blood samples taken from Covid-19 patients and running off with them in a scene that seemed lifted straight out of a Hollywood pandemic film.

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 102020
 


James F. Gibson Tent of A. Foulke, sutler, 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery. Brandy Station, Virginia 1864

 

Thread: Intensivist/A&E Consultant Currently In Northern Italy (Twitter)
Italy Not Europe’s Coronavirus Hotbed, Just First Country That Snapped (RT)
Trump Has Not Been Tested For Coronavirus – White House (R.)
Seattle-Area Nursing Home Unable To Test 65 Workers With COVID-19 Symptoms (R.)
Coronavirus Symptoms Usually Take 5 Days To Appear – Study (CNN)
Bail Out The People First, Before Companies, In Coronavirus Crisis (Ghitis)
China’s Hubei Province May Allow Residents To Travel (R.)
Singapore Charges Visitors For Coronavirus Treatment (R.)
No Coronavirus Risk From Holy Communion, Says Greek Holy Synod (K.)
Smartphone Sales In China Were Halved In February (ZH)
Boeing Shares Plunge On Coronavirus, 737 MAX Wiring Bundle Setback (R.)
In Brussels, Erdogan Asks NATO For ‘Assistance’ On Syria And Migrants (RT)
Prince Andrew Won’t Voluntarily Cooperate In Epstein Inquiry – Prosecutor (G.)
Court Case Against Alleged CIA Vault 7 Whistleblower Ends In Mistrial (WSWS)
Democrats Were The FIrst To Discuss Biden’s Cognitive Fitness (Greenwald)
Russia ‘Hired Network Of Britons To Go After Enemies Of Putin’ (G.)

 

Cases 114,614 (+ 4,007 from yesterday’s 110,607)

Deaths 4030 (+ 199 from yesterday’s 3,831)

 

Italy’s the story. 100 deaths a day. Germany finally has (acknowledged) its first two deaths. Spain gets very ugly. Lots of clocks ticking.

Lombardy’s world-class health care system has basically collapsed. You’re looking at your future, unless you’re very very lucky.

It’s not about the number or percentage of deaths and cases, it’s about the capacity of the system, and the speed with which countries react. Both fall very short.

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

And the suspects for Wave 2 continue to rise.

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Most poignant news today. A Twitter thread that describes an American emergency doctor working in Lombrady, Italy. The system’s collapsed.

Thread: Intensivist/A&E Consultant Currently In Northern Italy (Twitter)

1/ ‘I feel the pressure to give you a quick personal update about what is happening in Italy, and also give some quick direct advice about what you should do.

2/ Lumbardy is the most developed region in Italy and it has a extraordinary good healthcare, I have worked in Italy, UK and Aus and don’t make the mistake to think that what is happening is happening in a 3rd world country.

3/ The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by Covid-19, they are running 200% capacity

4/ We’ve stopped all routine, all ORs have been converted to ITUs and they are now diverting or not treating all other emergencies like trauma or strokes. There are hundreds of pts with severe resp failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.

5/ Patients above 65 or younger with comorbidities are not even assessed by ITU, I am not saying not tubed, I’m saying not assessed and no ITU staff attends when they arrest. Staff are working as much as they can but they are starting to get sick and are emotionally overwhelmed.

6/ My friends call me in tears because they see people dying in front of them and they can only offer some oxygen. Ortho and pathologists are being given a leaflet and sent to see patients on NIV. (Noninvasive ventilation)

Read more …

This may be true, but Italy did screw up badly multiple times. Thing is, at least other countries will, too.

Italy Not Europe’s Coronavirus Hotbed, Just First Country That Snapped (RT)

With the entirety of Italy put under quarantine, the Mediterranean nation has been seen as the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in Europe. Italian journalist Evgeny Utkin believes, however, that it’s just the most tested one.
Utkin, a journalist based in Italy and an expert on economics and politics, told RT that he believes the situation with the coronavirus as reported in the press – namely, that it is ravaging Italy and yet somehow affecting its neighbors, such as Switzerland and Germany, on a far smaller scale – does not represent the reality on the ground. The catch, he said, is that while in some countries the number of those infected might be underreported, in Italy – at least at the beginning of the outbreak – there was an overreaction instead.

“Italy was the first country whose nerves snapped,” Utkin said. “They started testing absolutely everyone.” Such rigorous testing sent the number of confirmed cases skyrocketing, Utkin believes, with the alarming statistics soon driving panic and scoring international headlines. Over that past weekend, northern Italy, where the outbreak erupted, was put on lockdown, which was further extended to the whole of the country on Monday. At least 463 died of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – across Italy as of Monday, and the total number of cases stands at over 9,000. While the spread of the outbreak is a legitimate reason for concern, Utkin said he does not believe that Italy will bear the brunt of the newest virus scourge in the Old World.

“I don’t’ believe that Italy is the European hotbed of coronavirus. It’s more or less the same everywhere. If you take the percentage [of tests], it’ll turn out, I think, that other countries have had it worse, even.” With Italy’s hospitals filled to the brim with coronavirus patients, suspected and confirmed, authorities have scaled back their zeal for testing, and are now screening only those who display particular symptoms or are considered to be at risk of complications. Italy will be reeling from the economic damage caused by the outbreak for the years to come, the expert told RT, predicting the country’s GDP might plummet as much as 10 percent in the first quarter of 2020.

“It would be a colossal slump, I don’t know how it will recover,” Utkin said, adding that the outbreak has completely “killed” the country’s burgeoning tourism and restaurant industries. Utkin is convinced that Italy will ask for financial assistance from the international community, but noted it will hardly be enough to offset the losses its economy has already suffered. “Italy has never fallen so deeply. I have not seen a crisis like this, in terms of economy as well as privacy.”

Read more …

Don’t think they thought this through. Trump and Pence are seen together all the time. If both fall gravely ill, Pelosi takes over. Is that what they want? No-go for the same reason they can’t travel together. President must be tested, VP too.

Trump Has Not Been Tested For Coronavirus – White House (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus, the White House said on Monday, though at least two lawmakers with whom he has recently come into contact have announced they were self-quarantining after attending a conference with a person who had tested positive for the virus. “The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, referring to the acronym describing the virus.

Read more …

US health care is already overwhelmed.

Seattle-Area Nursing Home Unable To Test 65 Workers With COVID-19 Symptoms (R.)

The Seattle-area nursing home at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak said on Monday it had no kits to test 65 employees showing symptoms of the virus that has killed at least 13 patients at the long-term care center. The staffers, representing more than a third of the Life Care Center’s 180 employees, are out sick with symptoms resembling the coronavirus and a federal strike team of nurses and doctors is helping care for 53 patients remaining in the center. With the Kirkland, Washington, home accounting for over half of all coronavirus deaths in the United States, and all its patients tested, it was unclear why it had not been given kits for staff even as the University of Washington offered to process tests.

“We would like more kits to test employees,” Life Care Center spokesman Tim Killian told reporters, adding he did not know why they had not been forthcoming. “We’ve been asking the various government agencies that have been supplying us with test kits.” Twenty-six of the nursing home’s 120 patients have died since Feb. 19, with 13 of 15 autopsies carried out so far showing that the coronavirus was the cause. Twenty-one of the center’s residents, including those now in hospitals, have tested positive for the virus. The outbreak has shown how quickly the coronavirus spreads through elderly residents with weak immune systems and underlying health conditions living in close quarters.

“We’ve had patients who, within an hour’s time, show no symptoms to going to acute symptoms and being transferred to the hospital,” Killian told a news conference on Sunday. “And we’ve had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances.”

Read more …

This will tempt people to party on day 6. Smart?

Coronavirus Symptoms Usually Take 5 Days To Appear – Study (CNN)

People infected by the novel coronavirus tend to develop symptoms about five days after exposure, and almost always within two weeks, according to a study released Monday. That incubation period is consistent with previous estimates from public health officials, and the findings suggest that 14 days of quarantine are appropriate for people potentially exposed to the coronavirus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has used that standard during the current pandemic — recommending, for example, that people self-quarantine for two weeks after traveling to countries with widespread coronavirus transmission, such as Italy or South Korea.

When it comes to those quarantines, the incubation period “tells us how long it’s reasonable to do that,” said Justin Lessler, an author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, also suggests that symptomatic screening for the virus — such as temperature checks at an airport — may be missing recently infected people. “If somebody is in their incubation period, that is the window when somebody who’s already been infected can walk into the country and not be detected by symptom-based surveillance” said Lessler. That could explain why the CDC’s efforts to screen more than 46,000 fliers for “fever, cough, and shortness of breath” have resulted in just one positive coronavirus case, according to the CDC’s most recent screening data, which was released at the end of February.

[..] To estimate the incubation period, researchers scoured more than 180 reports of coronavirus in places without widespread transmission of the virus — areas, in other words, where infection was likely due to outside travel. Because the study was conducted early in the coronavirus epidemic, community transmission at the time was limited to Wuhan, China. That allowed researchers to estimate the “time of exposure” to the coronavirus by determining when a person was in Wuhan — the only plausible source of infection. By comparing travel to Wuhan with the emergence of symptoms, researchers could then estimate an incubation period for the virus: usually about 5 days, and rarely more than 12. “We have sort of a narrow window at the beginning of the epidemic to really tease out what’s going,” said Lessler. “If it’s everywhere, you don’t know where people got infected.”


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Smart comment. On CNN no less.

Bail Out The People First, Before Companies, In Coronavirus Crisis (Ghitis)

Unlike during the 2008 Great Recession, when the government leaped to assist financial institutions, the first priority this time should be helping individuals in need. Only then should we help businesses caught in this storm. By now, Trump should be wishing that the Federal Reserve Bank had ignored his pressure to lower interest rates. If rates were higher, the Fed would have much more powerful ammunition: it would be able to aggressively lower rates, which is the strongest weapon in its arsenal. But that arsenal is much depleted. In 2008, the government distributed hundreds of billions of dollars, mostly to bail out banks and large corporations. (GM was the main manufacturer rescued by the Obama administration.) While most banks survived, close to 10 million homeowners lost their houses to foreclosure; millions of people lost their jobs.


That overwhelming tilt in favor of helping struggling businesses instead of suffering individuals is, in my view, one of the reasons populism gained strength, as demonstrated by elections throughout western democracies in the 2010s. This time, the source of the problem is not a breakdown in the financial system. This is very different. We now face a major health assault. The pandemic is not only causing illnesses and straining health care resources, it is attacking the economy from a multitude of angles. Manufacturers are facing supply chain disruption, shortages are developing and demand is collapsing. [..] The obvious first order of business is clear: Everyone should have access to health care right now. It’s not only the humane thing to do, it’s the smartest way to slow the contagion. People who become infected should not fear bankruptcy if they go to the doctor. If they do, the epidemic will continue to spread.

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Chinese roulette?! Is this just so you can make a few extra iPhones?

China’s Hubei Province May Allow Residents To Travel (R.)

China’s Hubei province is studying plans to allow people in areas at a medium- or low-risk of contracting the coronavirus to start traveling, state media reported on Tuesday, citing a meeting chaired by the province’s party chief Ying Yong. The meeting, reported by the official Hubei Daily, said that they may allow people to start traveling by using a “health code”, a mobile-based monitoring system that has been rolled out by many local authorities in China in recent weeks. Hubei province and its capital Wuhan are at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

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Oh, get a life.

Singapore Charges Visitors For Coronavirus Treatment (R.)

Singapore has started charging visitors for coronavirus treatment, the city-state said as it reported three new imported infections, two of which involved Indonesians. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, reported its first virus case earlier this month and officially has just 19 infections compared to 160 in Singapore. Disease experts have questioned how many cases go undiagnosed in Indonesia. Singapore’s new measures announced late Monday came into effect on March 7, when authorities said two symptomatic Indonesian travelers arrived in Singapore. Both had reported coronavirus symptoms in Indonesia before arriving in Singapore. One had previously sought treatment at a hospital in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.


Another case involved a Singaporean who had visited her sister in Indonesia who had pneumonia. Declaring its new stance on payment for treatment, the health ministry did not mention these specific cases. “In view of the rising number of COVID-19 infections globally, and the expected rise in the number of confirmed cases in Singapore, we will need to prioritise the resources at our public hospitals,” the health ministry said in a statement. Foreigners who are short-term visit pass holders who seek treatment for COVID-19 in Singapore need to pay but testing for the virus remains free. Treatment of severe respiratory infections in Singapore public hospitals typically cost between S$6,000 – S$8,000 ($4,300-5,800), according to the Ministry of Health’s website.

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Sure, funny at first. But not very long.

No Coronavirus Risk From Holy Communion, Says Greek Holy Synod (K.)

Amid fears of a broader coronavirus contagion across the country, the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, on Monday issued a statement saying that the disease does not transmit through the distribution of holy communion by the chalice. “For the members of the Church, attending the Holy Eucharist… certainly cannot be a cause of disease transmission,” the Holy Synod said. “Faithful of all ages know that coming to receive the holy communion, even in the midst of a pandemic, is both a practical affirmation of self-surrender to the Living God and a potent manifestation of love,” it said. The Geek federation of hospital doctors has stressed that no exception “for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons” should be made to state health warnings to please the Church. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Greece stands at 73.

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The worst effect of the virus, I’m sure.

Smartphone Sales In China Were Halved In February (ZH)

Update (2015ET): Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called the decline of iPhone sales in China a “doomsday type” like decline. Ives said the fall was an “unprecedented” drop and was “not surprising given the essential lockdown that most of China saw” in February. Wedbush expects Chinese demand to come back online in the second half of the year. [..] Alternative data first showed us the incoming economic crash developing in early February, only to be confirmed weeks later. Twin shocks plague the Chinese economy, which is a supply shock with manufacturers operating at less than full capacity, along with a demand shock, where consumers have been confined to their homes in forced quarantine, unable to spend.


So, on Monday morning, when new data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) reveals Apple smartphone sales in China were halved in February, this really shouldn’t surprise ZeroHedge readers, considering they’ve been well informed about what would happen next. And it wasn’t just Apple with plunging activity, all mobile phone brands operating in China saw shipments halved over the month. CAICT said 6.34 million devices were shipped last month, down 54.7% from 14 million in the same month the previous year. This was the lowest level of February shipments since 2012, when the CAICT data first became available. Android brands, including Huawei and Xiaomi, accounted for most of the drop, collectively saw shipments at 5.85 million units for the month, compared to 12.72 million units last year. Apple shipped 494,000 last month, down from 1.27 million in February 2019.

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Even if they got permission to fly the 737Max, there’d be no passengers on them.

Boeing Shares Plunge On Coronavirus, 737 MAX Wiring Bundle Setback (R.)

Shares of Boeing dropped more than 12% on Monday amid a broader market plunge as pressure mounted on global aviation from the spread of the coronavirus and U.S. regulators said they disagreed with Boeing’s argument about the safety of wiring bundles on the grounded 737 MAX jet. Underscoring the global risks for America’s largest exporter, Ethiopian investigators singled out faulty 737 MAX systems in a new interim report on last year’s crash, the second of two fatal accidents that plunged Boeing into its worst-ever crisis. Industry sources said airlines, facing a sharp drop in travel demand due to rising coronavirus outbreaks, were starting to request deferring aircraft deliveries and cash downpayments to Boeing and European rival Airbus.

Boeing shares were down at $229.12 in afternoon trading, a level not seen since 2017. Adding to a sense of mounting anxiety, Boeing’s new Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun was forced to apologize to senior staff after a rare attack on his predecessor and company leadership, which sources say provoked criticism from within the senior ranks of the company as well as the rank-and file. Calhoun, who took over as CEO in January after serving about a decade on Boeing’s board, told senior staff by email on Friday he was “both embarrassed and regretful” over his comments in a New York Times interview earlier in the week. “It suggests I broke my promise to former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, the executive team and our people that I would have their back when it counted most,” Calhoun said.

“I want to reassure you that my promise remains intact.” Calhoun’s email came as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Boeing on Friday it did not agree with the planemaker’s argument that its 737 MAX wiring bundles meet safety standards. Nonetheless, the FAA said it was now up to Boeing to decide how to proceed. [..] Boeing in February said it did not believe it was required to separate or move wiring bundles on its grounded 737 MAX jetliner that regulators had warned could cause a short circuit on the 737 MAX, and lead to a crash if pilots did not react soon enough. There are more than a dozen different spots on the 737 MAX where wiring bundles may be too close together. Most of the locations are under the cockpit in an electrical bay.

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“Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan.”

In Brussels, Erdogan Asks NATO For ‘Assistance’ On Syria And Migrants (RT)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Brussels, demanding help from NATO with both the conflict on his southern border and the migrants he tried to unleash on the West, now that neither situation is going according to plan. After meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday, the Turkish leader said he requested “additional assistance” from the alliance, for the “defense” of the Turkish border with Syria and “in connection with the migration challenge.” “We expect concrete support from all our allies to this struggle,” Erdogan added, urging the allies to support Turkey “without discrimination and with no political preconditions.” Stoltenberg praised Turkey as an “important” ally which has “contributed to our shared security in many ways,” and said the alliance is “prepared to continue to support Turkey and we are exploring what more we may be able to do.”


It is unclear what those platitudes may amount to in practice, however. Ankara did not bother coordinating with its NATO allies when it sent troops into Syria’s Idlib province last month – or back in October 2019, causing some strain within the bloc. Though it seemed for a moment that Turkish and Russian troops in Syria might come to blows, the crisis was averted when Erdogan went to Moscow and agreed to a ceasefire last week. The main focus of Erdogan’s trip to Brussels is Greece’s refusal to open its border to a wave of migrants that the Turkish president unleashed amid the recent fighting in Syria. Tens of thousands of migrants – only a few actual refugees from the Syrian conflict among them, apparently – heard the borders were open and surged towards Greece, only to be halted at the border fence.

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International arrest warrant?

Prince Andrew Won’t Voluntarily Cooperate In Epstein Inquiry – Prosecutor (G.)

Prince Andrew has “completely shut the door” on cooperating with US investigators in the Jeffrey Epstein case and they are now “considering” further options, a New York prosecutor said on Monday. Andrew was a friend of Epstein, the wealthy financier and convicted sex offender whose death in custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in New York last year was ruled a suicide. Andrew denies all claims of sexual misconduct relating to the Epstein case but has stepped back from public duties as a result of his connection to it. Speaking to reporters on Monday, the Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options.”


In November, Andrew said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”. Berman made a similar claim in January, which former sex crimes prosecutors told the Guardian was most likely a move designed to win political support for the investigation. Buckingham Palace said then it would not comment and the matter was being dealt with by the prince’s legal team. Contacted on Monday, a Palace spokeswoman said: “The issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.” Buckingham Palace has consistently refused to reveal any details of Andrew’s legal team but the Duke has reportedly hired Clare Montgomery, a senior barrister at Matrix Chambers, whose clients have included Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former dictator [..] She also prosecuted the Metropolitan police over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead in a failed anti-terror operation.

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A new element: Assange could face death penalty after all. The UK cannot extradite if it’s in play.

Court Case Against Alleged CIA Vault 7 Whistleblower Ends In Mistrial (WSWS)

The federal proceedings against Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was accused by the American government of providing WikiLeaks with a trove of documents exposing illegal spying operations, have ended in a mistrial. After a week of deliberations, the jury returned on Monday to state that it could not reach an agreement on the most serious charges facing Schulte. The divided opinion centred on eight counts under the Espionage Act, including illegally gathering and transmitting national defence information. The jury had only agreed to convict Schulte on the lesser counts of contempt of court and making false statements to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Schulte will remain imprisoned and likely faces a retrial.

The failure of the prosecution to convict Schulte of the charges relating to WikiLeaks’ 2017 Vault 7 publication, which consisted of leaked documents from within the CIA, is significant. It may mark a hurdle in the campaign of the US government against WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, who faces extradition from Britain to the US and prosecution under Espionage Act charges over separate 2010 and 2011 releases. It is clear that if he is extradited, Assange could face additional US charges, possibly related to Vault 7. Three days after closing arguments in the Schulte trial, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials confirmed that it was possible that Assange would face additional counts carrying the death penalty if he was dispatched to the US.

The timing of their statements, which contradict the previous claims of US allies, could indicate that there is much at stake for Assange in the attempted US prosecution of Schulte. [..] The publication of Vault 7 in early 2017 was the trigger for a major escalation in the US government vendetta against Assange, culminating in his illegal expulsion from Ecuador’s London embassy last year, his arrest by the British police and imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Schulte’s trial, moreover, coincided with the first week of the British extradition hearing against Assange, which underscored the similarities in the lawless treatment of the WikiLeaks publisher and his alleged CIA source. Prosecutors have described the Vault 7 leak, which they accuse Schulte of being responsible for, as the largest in the entire history of the CIA.

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[..] establishment Democrats were the ones who first spread insinuations and even explicit accusations about Biden’s cognitive decline when they thought doing so could help them defeat him and/or because it genuinely concerned them regarding his ability to defeat Trump.

Democrats Were The FIrst To Discuss Biden’s Cognitive Fitness (Greenwald)

it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline. That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries.

But, as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

CNN’s Democratic Party consultant Karen Finney condemned the discussion of Biden’s cognitive capabilities as “truly a disgusting low blow,” demanding that former Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Cory Booker — both of whom themselves had commented upon Biden’s cognitive failures (on camera!) — announce (falsely) that their prior comments about Biden had been distorted. Castro’s Communication’s Director, Sawyer Hackett, dutifully accused those who were raising these concerns of “push[ing] Trump messaging about Biden”; he also denied that Castro (or Booker) had ever themselves questioned Biden’s cognitive competence, warning those who are raising the issue: “don’t try to throw Julián and Cory in front of you when you do.”

Meanwhile, Politico and CNN reporter Ryan Lizza, more devoted to defending Biden than even DNC functionaries, spent all weekend conspiratorially insinuating that journalists who were raising concerns over Biden’s cognitive fitness were part of a joint “coordinated” attack from the Sanders and Trump campaigns. Lizza and others like him promoted various outraged articles from Democratic Party-loyal sites expressing all kinds of indignation — after four years of open season of musing casually about Trump’s dementia — that anyone would even dare discuss Biden’s cognitive fitness to occupy the most powerful political position in the world. They all insisted that this was some sort of very recent invention on the part of the Sanders and Trump world to stop the Biden juggernaut: a last-minute act of desperation from the Far Right and the Far Left as Biden ascends to his rightful place in the Oval Office.

The problem with all of this? Aside from the fact that Biden’s cognitive decline is visible to the naked eye and it is incredibly reckless and repressive to demand that it be supressed, these concerns were first raised not by Trump operatives nor by Sanders supporters, nor were they first raised within the last several weeks. Quite the opposite is true: they were raised repeatedly over the last year principally by Democratic Party officials and their most loyal allies in the media.

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The day the stupid MH17 trial starts, which will take years, The Guardian runs this by Luke Harding. And if there’s anyone to rival Harding in the lying sack-of-shit department, it’s Bill Browder. So that’s who Harding writes about.

Russia ‘Hired Network Of Britons To Go After Enemies Of Putin’ (G.)

Russia has been accused of hiring a network of British politicians and consultants to help advance its criminal interests and to “go after” Vladimir Putin’s enemies in London, MPs who drew up the Russia report suppressed by Boris Johnson were told. In secret evidence submitted to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), the campaigner and financier Bill Browder claimed Moscow had been able to “infiltrate” UK society by using well-paid British intermediaries. Some had “reason to know exactly what they are doing and for whom”, Browder told the committee. Others “work unwittingly for Russian state interests”, he said.

The alleged intermediaries include politicians from both Labour and the Conservative parties, former intelligence officers and diplomats, and leading public relations firms. Collectively, they form what Browder calls a “western buffer network”. There is no suggestion in Browder’s testimony that British citizens broke the law. The regime in Moscow uses these professionals to mask its “entangled” state and criminal interests, he alleged. It deploys them to attack Putin critics, “enhance Russian propaganda and disinformation” and to “facilitate and conceal massive money-laundering operations”, he said. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Browder’s claims false and “totally groundless”. Questions about corruption at the heart of the Russian state were “a perfect example of a maniac-style Russophobia”, Peskov said.

[..] Browder was one of several expert witnesses invited to give evidence to MPs and peers. In September 2018 he submitted a 14-page statement, which included a number of recommendations. They include setting up a US-style register of individuals working for foreign state interests, as well as extra resources for regulators, investigators, police and prosecutors. He calls on Companies House in London to review filings made by firms linked to Russian money-laundering scandals. Speaking to the Guardian, Browder said: “Yes, there are members of the Russian security services working out of the Russian embassy under diplomatic cover. [..] “There are Russian oligarchs who have a much greater impact on the security of this country. What’s most shocking is that the Russian government is indirectly hiring British nationals to assist them in its intelligence operations.”

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Do it yourself face mask

 


 

 

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Mar 092017
 
 March 9, 2017  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Marjory Collins “Crowds at Pennsylvania Station, New York” 1942

 

WikiLeaks Says Just 1% Of #Vault7 Covert Documents Released So Far (RT)
US Private Sector Adds 298,000 Jobs In February – ADP (R.)
Trump Begins to Map Out $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan (WSJ)
US Oil Price Plunges Toward $50 As A Perfect Storm Brews (CNBC)
Professor Steve Keen On The Problem With Europe (DR)
Varoufakis Back In Brussels In Push For ECB Transparency (EUO)
Germans Really, Really Love the Euro (BBG)
The Meltdown in Politics (Martin Armstrong)
Macron Faces A Really Big Problem If He Becomes French President (Con.)
French Insurgents Thrust Establishment Aside in Crucial Election (BBG)
Iceland First Country In The World To Make Firms Prove Equal Pay (Ind.)
Fukushima Clean-Up Falters 6 Years After Tsunami (G.)
Eurostat: Greece Is The Only EU Country Still In Recession (NE)
Greek Farmers Clash With Riot Police In Athens Over Austerity (G.)
It Takes 10 Workers In Greece To Pay One Pension (K.)

 

 

How is this going to affect Apple and Microsoft sales in China?

WikiLeaks Says Just 1% Of #Vault7 Covert Documents Released So Far (RT)

WikiLeaks’ data dump on Tuesday accounted for less than 1% of ‘Vault 7’, a collection of leaked CIA documents which revealed the extent of its hacking capabilities, the whistleblowing organization has claimed on Twitter. ‘Year Zero’, comprising 8,761 documents and files, was released unexpectedly by WikiLeaks. The organization had initially announced that it was part of a larger series, known as ‘Vault 7.’ However, it did not give further information on when more leaks would occur or on how many series would comprise ‘Vault 7’. The leaks have revealed the CIA’s covert hacking targets, with smart TVs infiltrated for the purpose of collecting audio, even when the device is powered off. The Google Android Operating System, used in 85% of the world’s smartphones, was also exposed as having severe vulnerabilities, allowing the CIA to “weaponize” the devices.

The CIA would not confirm the authenticity of the leak. “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.” Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, is cited as saying in The Washington Post. WikiLeaks claims the leak originated from within the CIA before being “lost” and circulated amongst “former U.S. government hackers and contractors.” From there the classified information was passed to WikiLeaks. End-to-end encryption used by applications such as WhatsApp was revealed to be futile against the CIA’s hacking techniques, dubbed ‘zero days’, which were capable of accessing messages before encryption was applied. The leak also revealed the CIA’s ability to hide its own hacking fingerprint and attribute it to others, including Russia. An archive of fingerprints – digital traces which give a clue about the hacker’s identity – was collected by the CIA and left behind to make others appear responsible.

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The Trump bull is alive for now.

US Private Sector Adds 298,000 Jobs In February – ADP (R.)

U.S. private employers added 298,000 jobs in February, well above economists’ expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 190,000 jobs, with estimates ranging from 150,000 to 247,000. Private payroll gains in the month earlier were revised up to 261,000 from an originally reported 246,000 increase. The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department’s more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment. Economists polled by Reuters are looking for U.S. private payroll employment to have grown by 193,000 jobs in February, down from 237,000 the month before. Total non-farm employment is expected to have changed by 190,000. The unemployment rate is forecast to tick down to 4.7% from the 4.8% recorded a month earlier.

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How much of it will be put to good use, and how much merely siphoned off?

Trump Begins to Map Out $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan (WSJ)

President Donald Trump pushed his White House team on Wednesday to craft a plan for $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that would pressure states to streamline local permitting, favor renovation of existing roads and highways over new construction and prioritize projects that can quickly begin construction. “We’re not going to give the money to states unless they can prove that they can be ready, willing and able to start the project,” Mr. Trump said at a private meeting with aides and executives that The WSJ was invited to. “We don’t want to give them money if they’re all tied up for seven years with state bureaucracy.” Mr. Trump said he would was inclined to give states 90 days to start projects, and asked Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, to provide a recommendation.

He expressed interest in building new high-speed railroads, inquired about the possibility of auctioning the broadcast spectrum to wireless carriers, and asked for more details about the Hyperloop, a project envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk that would rapidly transport passengers in pods through low-pressure tubes. “America has always been a nation of great promise, because we dream big,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to really dream big now.” The president called for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan last month in his address to a joint session of Congress and added that the projects would be financed through public and private capital. The White House was considering a repatriation tax holiday to generate about $200 billion in funding, but other sources also were being considered, a senior administration aide said.

In the meeting, the president said he aimed to win approval for an infrastructure plan once Congress finishes deliberations on health care and a reform of tax laws. Mr. Trump suggested that an infrastructure plan may be part of the tax-reform debate. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. Vice President Mike Pence, who sat across from the president during the meeting, said that Congress is “committed to the president’s vision.” “There’s a great of interest in Congress in doing this,” Mr. Pence said. “But there’s also just as much interest in listening to leaders in the private sector to identify the capital and identify the needs to be able to finance this in a way that really captures the energy of the American economy.”

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Time to acknowledge demand isn’t coming back?

US Oil Price Plunges Toward $50 As A Perfect Storm Brews (CNBC)

Oil is on track to break through the key psychological level of $50 a barrel after a ninth straight rise in U.S. crude stockpiles came at exactly the wrong moment, analysts said Wednesday. The amount of crude oil in U.S. storage rose to another record high on Wednesday, jumping 8.2 million barrels from the previous week, the Energy Information Administration reported. The increase was more than four times what analysts expected. Weekly figures also showed U.S. oil production continuing to tick up toward 9.1 million barrels a day, the highest level in more than a year. That provided further evidence that rising American output is confounding efforts by OPEC, Russia and 10 other exporters to reduce global oil inventories by curbing their own output. The data sent U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude prices plunging more than 5% to a nearly three-month low.

The plunge through a number of lows on Wednesday puts oil on a path to test the December low of $49.95 a barrel, said John Kilduff at energy hedge fund Again Capital. “From there you could accelerate,” he told CNBC, adding that $50 “was the fail-safe.” Kilduff’s downside target, once oil breaks below $50 a barrel, is $42. For the last three months, oil has traded in a range between $49.61 and $55.24. According to Kilduff, all the elements are in place for oil to break below its three-month range: lack of cohesion among OPEC members, bearish statements from oil ministers at CERAWeek conference by IHS Markit and subdued refinery activity as operators perform seasonal maintenance in the United States. On Tuesday, Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih warned at CERAWeek that the kingdom would only support OPEC’s intervention in markets for a “restricted period of time” and would not “underwrite the investments of others at our own expense and long-term interests.”

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Snippets from an interview. The euro was doomed from the start because of conditions put on it.

Professor Steve Keen On The Problem With Europe (DR)

But the trouble is, you see, they didn’t have to have a single currency combined with the 60% limit on government debt and the 3% limit on government deficits. If they simply had a currency and made no rules whatsoever about that, then it would have been feasible, potentially, to say okay, well it’s not working as well as we would like it to, but not imposing austerity on economies in a downturn, which is what they ended up doing courtesy of those rules. Maybe we need a treasury to make it work better, but it wasn’t just the fact that it was only the central bank, it was also the rules on government spending.

[..] another part of it, which is quite intriguing, I heard in Berlin just recently, is that also, one of the other rules they agreed to, or one of the other objectives they agreed to, not a rule, was to target a 2% rate of inflation. Now what you actually had happen was that Germany hit about 1%, France actually hit about 2%, Italy hit about 3%, the three major trading partners of course on the block. Well, that means, as a result, over every year, German manufacturers were gaining a 2% cost advantage over Italian manufacturers. Which ultimately means of course that people don’t buy Lamborghinis and Fiats anymore, they buy Mercedes, because for the same features they’re cheaper.

It’s not about labour productivity alone, it’s about the rate of inflation, which comes down to the rate of wage change, because the Germans suppressed the rate of wage change, the rate of inflation was lower, and that was 1% below the level they agreed to. Now, if they’d agreed to 2%, and France did 2%, and Italy maybe suppressed its wage change and they hit 2%, you wouldn’t have these imbalances. But they’ve built up over 15 – going on close to 20 years now – and those level of imbalances mean that, fundamentally, Italian industry can’t compete with German industry, not because of productivity differences so much but wage costs combined with that.

[..] That’s why Trump’s complaining about Germany having an undervalued currency, and he’s bloody right on that front. If you can run a 9% of GDP trade surplus, which is the level Germany’s now hit, a lot of that is with the rest of the world, the EU itself overall is balanced, so there’s a huge imbalance – Germany’s got a huge trade surplus with the rest of Europe, but it’s also got it with the rest of the world, and on that scale I think Germany’s trade balance now is the same scale as China’s. Now that’s ludicrous.

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Perhaps the biggest problem with Europe is that transparency and the EU don’t mix. In this case it’s clear why: the ECB was used as a -very blunt- tool for political pressure. Their defense is basically: if we become transparent, we’re no longer independent. And people buy that?!

Varoufakis Back In Brussels In Push For ECB Transparency (EUO)

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has joined forces with the German left-wing MEP Fabio De Masi in a bid to clarify whether the ECB had a legal right to limit the liquidity of Greece’s banks in 2015. The duo told journalists in Brussels on Wednesday (8 March) that they were collecting signatures for a petition to ECB president Mario Draghi, asking him to disclose two legal opinions commissioned by the bank. The first study was ordered in February, before the ECB decided to limit the access of Greek banks to ECB funding and opted instead to open access to the emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) – a fund with more restrictive access conditions. The decision was taken a few days after the radical left-wing Syriza party came to power, with Varoufakis as finance minister.

The second study, in June 2015, was about the ECB’s decision to freeze the amount of money available through the ELA after the Greek government’s decision to hold a referendum on the bailout conditions required by the country’s creditors. The measure was taken over concerns that Greek banks would become insolvent because of the deadlock in bailout talks. It also put more pressure on the Greek government to accept the lenders’ conditions. To avoid a bank run, where large numbers of people withdraw money from their deposit accounts at the same time, the government introduced capital controls. This meant that Greek people were only able to withdraw a maximum of €60 per day. The measure prevented a capital run, but also put pressure on Athens to agree to creditors’ terms for a third bailout.

Varoufakis, who was finance minister at the time, said this was a breach of the independence of the bank. “The ECB has the capacity to close down all the banks of a member state. At the same time, it has a charter which grants it – supposedly – complete independence from politics. And yet, there is no central bank, at least in the West, which has less independence of the political process,” Varoufakis said. He said Draghi was “completely reliant” on the decisions of an “informal group of finance ministers”, referring to the fact that the Eurogroup, which gathers the finance ministers of the 19 eurozone countries, isn’t enshrined in EU treaties. “It is apparent that Draghi didn’t feel that the was on solid legal ground when proceeding with the closing of Greek banks,” Varoufakis said.

[..] In September 2015, Fabio De Masi already asked Draghi for the opinions. But the ECB chief, in a letter made public by the MEP, said the bank does not plan to publish the legal opinions because this would “undermine the ECB’s ability to obtain uncensored, objective and comprehensive legal advice, which is essential for well-informed and comprehensive deliberations of its decision-making bodies”. “Legal opinions provided by external lawyers and related legal advice are protected by legal professional privilege (the so-called ‘attorney-client privilege’) in accordance with European Union case law,” Draghi said. “Those opinions were drafted in full independence, on the understanding that they can only be disclosed by the addressee and only shared with people who need to know in order to take reasoned decisions on the issues at stake,” he added.

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No cashless society there.

Germans Really, Really Love the Euro (BBG)

As worries over the future of the euro zone heat up, the union’s biggest member is doubling down on the single currency in an underappreciated way. Germany’s central bank is by far the biggest issuer of cash in the bloc, with the Bundesbank the source of more euro banknotes in circulation than all of its peers combined. The size of the imbalance is underscored by new data from the ECB, showing nations’ contributions towards the Eurosystem’s consolidated financial statement. Each national central bank, or NCB, has a notional banknote allocation that’s tied to its share of Eurosystem capital. At the end of last year, there were €1.1 trillion euros ($1.25 trillion) in circulation, breaking down like this:

That accounts for how euro cash would be distributed in theory. In order to find out how much cash is actually issued you have to make adjustments that take into account variations in demand, which push the number higher in some countries and lower in others. The adjustments look like this:

The Bundesbank has, since the introduction of the euro in 2002, put a net €327 billion into circulation above its on-paper allocation. By combining the figures in the two charts, we arrive at a true picture of the origin of banknotes in the European economy:

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“The mainstream media are not honorable independent people. They are big business not much different from the banks.”

The Meltdown in Politics (Martin Armstrong)

The bias of the press is getting so bad, they are undermining everything they were supposed to stand for. This is a critical aspect in the decline and fall of an empire, nation, or city state. Once the news is compromised, confidence not just in the press, but in everything crumbles. The mainstream media are not honorable independent people. They are big business not much different from the banks. They lobby for their special deals and the support the status quo. The New York Times at least admitted their coverage of the election was biased. They apologized, but nothing has really changed. “As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you. It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly.”

Even if Trump met with Putin, exactly what does that infer? Did it alter the election? No. Even Obama admitted that no hack altered the vote count. So what is the issue? The press aids the Democrats in trying to blame Putin for Hillary’s loss. But there is not a single shred of evidence that ANY of the leaked emails from the Democrats was ever altered or was fake. The Democrats simply got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and blame Putin. So what is all this Russia thing about? It seems to be just a diversion to discredit Trump and stop the agenda of any reform. A simple technical analysis of Democrat v Republican shows that the former is in a major decline and their agenda has been dying. In fact, look out for 2018-2019. Sheer chaos is coming.

In Europe, political forces are also in a state of denial. The EU is collapsing and the politicians refuse to surrender their goals. Instead, they lash out at what they are calling “populism” as with the election of Trump, BREXIT, and the developments in France. The will of the people is not worth anything when it goes against their dreams. So in both cases, we are witnessing the demise of the West. All of this political fighting is setting the stage for the shift from the West to the East of financial power. The wheel of fortune spins. We lost. What is accomplished by overthrowing Trump? What is accomplished by forcing Europe to remain in the EU with unelected people controlling everything from Brussels? If the press succeeds in overturning Trump, what is accomplished? Do they really think everything can go back to the way it was before?

[..] the media in the USA has degenerated to fake news, but in Europe the very same trend has emerged. This is a serious nail in our coffin and mainstream media has indeed become the sword of our own destruction. Can we prevent this outcome? No. All we can do is hopefully learn from our mistakes and this time try to create a system that prevents such an oligarchy from rising. All Republics historically collapse into oligarchies. As we head into 2018, this is going to get really bad. This is going to be a turning point of great importance in the political world.

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A president without a party. Or a program. Doesn’t seem to add up.

Macron Faces A Really Big Problem If He Becomes French President (Con.)

Currently riding high in the polls, Emmanuel Macron, the self-styled “beyond left and right” candidate for the French election, has been tipped to become the next president in May. But if he does, will he actually run the country? This question might sound odd but the nuances of the French political system put Macron in a spot of bother. The president derives their power from the support of a majority in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly. Macron was a minister for the Socialist Party government but quit in 2016 to form his own political movement. Now he doesn’t even have a party, let alone a majority. Although the constitution of the French Fifth Republic, created by Charles De Gaulle in 1958, extended presidential powers, it did not enable the president to run the country.

There are only a few presidential powers that do not need the prime minister’s authorisation. The president can appoint a prime minister, dissolve the National Assembly, authorise a referendum and become a “temporary dictator” in exceptional circumstances imperilling the nation. They can also appoint three judges to the Constitutional Council and refer any law to this body. While all important tasks, this does not, by any stretch of the imagination, amount to running a country. The president can’t suggest laws, pass them through parliament and then implement them without the prime minister. The role of a president is best defined as a “referee”. Presidential powers give the ability to oversee operations and act when the smooth running of institutions is impeded.

So a president is able to step in if a grave situation arises or to unlock a standoff between the prime minister and parliament, such as by announcing a referendum on a disputed issue or by dismissing the National Assembly. So, why does everyone see the president as the key figure? In a nutshell, it’s because the constitution has never been truly applied. There lies the devilish beauty of French politics. A country known since the 1789 revolution for its inability to foster strong majorities in parliament has succeeded, from 1962, in providing solid majorities.

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This is what happens everywhere, in varying ways. In France, both establishment blocks look to be cast aside.

French Insurgents Thrust Establishment Aside in Crucial Election (BBG)

The old order is fading in France. Every election since Charles de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic more than half a century ago has seen at least one of the major parties in the presidential runoff and most have featured both. With Republicans and Socialists consumed by infighting and voters thoroughly fed up, polls suggest that neither will make it this year. For the past month, survey after survey has projected a decider between Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old rookie who doesn’t even have a party behind him, and Marine Le Pen, who’s been ostracized throughout her career because of her party’s history of racism. “We’ve gone as far as we can go with a certain way of doing politics,” said Brice Teinturier, head of the Ipsos polling company and author of a book on voters’ disillusionment. “Everyone feels the system is blocked.”

Claude Bartolone, the Socialist president of the National Assembly, said in an interview with Le Monde Tuesday he may back Macron because he doesn’t “identify” with the more extreme platform put forward by his party’s candidate Benoit Hamon. De Gaulle’s latest standard-bearer Francois Fillon has spent the past week facing down rebellions in his party triggered by a criminal probe of his finances. Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls hasn’t campaigned for Hamon since losing to him in the primary and Socialist President Francois Hollande hasn’t even endorsed his party’s candidate either. Instead, senior figures from the Socialist camp are endorsing Macron, with former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe the latest to offer his backing on Wednesday. “There’s a breakdown of parties in France,” Francois Bayrou, a two-time centrist candidate who is now backing Macron, said Tuesday on RMC Radio. “There are hostile battles between factions within each party, which has ruined the parties and ruined the image of politics.”

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Crazy that such differences still persist.

Iceland First Country In The World To Make Firms Prove Equal Pay (Ind.)

On International Women’s Day, Iceland became the first country in the world to force companies to prove they pay all employees the same regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality, The country’s government announced a new law that will require every company with 25 or more staff to gain a certificate demonstrating pay equality. Iceland is not the first country to introduce a scheme like this – Switzerland has one, as does the US state of Minnesota – but Iceland is thought to be the first to make it a mandatory requirement. Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said that “the time is right to do something radical about this issue.” “Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that,” he said.

The move comes as part of a drive by the Nordic nation to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022. In October, thousands of female employees across Iceland walked out of workplaces at 2.38pm to protest against earning less than men. After this time in a typical eight-hour day, women are essentially working without pay, according to unions and women’s organisations. Iceland has been at the forefront of establishing pay equality, having already introduced a minimum 40% quota for women on boards of companies with more than 50 employees. The country has been ranked the best in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for eight years running, but despite this, Icelandic women still earn 14 to 18% less than men, on average.

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“Cleaning up the plant [..] is expected to take 30 to 40 years, at a cost Japan’s trade and industry ministry recently estimated at 21.5tr yen ($189bn).” Uh, no, it will cost far more than $189 billion, and it’s to NOT clean up the plant. They have no idea how to do it. It’s all just fantasy.

Fukushima Clean-Up Falters 6 Years After Tsunami (G.)

Barely a fifth of the way into their mission, the engineers monitoring the Scorpion’s progress conceded defeat. With a remote-controlled snip of its cable, the latest robot sent into the bowels of one of Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged reactors was cut loose, its progress stalled by lumps of fuel that overheated when the nuclear plant suffered a triple meltdown six years ago this week. As the 60cm-long Toshiba robot, equipped with a pair of cameras and sensors to gauge radiation levels was left to its fate last month, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), attempted to play down the failure of yet another reconnaissance mission to determine the exact location and condition of the melted fuel. Even though its mission had been aborted, the utility said, “valuable information was obtained which will help us determine the methods to eventually remove fuel debris”.

The Scorpion mishap, two hours into an exploration that was supposed to last 10 hours, underlined the scale and difficulty of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi – an unprecedented undertaking one expert has described as “almost beyond comprehension”. Cleaning up the plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl after it was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on the afternoon of 11 March 2011, is expected to take 30 to 40 years, at a cost Japan’s trade and industry ministry recently estimated at 21.5tr yen ($189bn). The figure, which includes compensating tens of thousands of evacuees, is nearly double an estimate released three years ago. The tsunami killed almost 19,000 people, most of them in areas north of Fukushima, and forced 160,000 people living near the plant to flee their homes. Six years on, only a small number have returned to areas deemed safe by the authorities.

[..] Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who is based in Japan, describes the challenge confronting the utility as “unprecedented and almost beyond comprehension”, adding that the decommissioning schedule was “never realistic or credible”. The latest aborted exploration of reactor No 2 “only reinforces that reality”, Burnie says. “Without a technical solution for dealing with unit one or three, unit two was seen as less challenging. So much of what is communicated to the public and media is speculation and wishful thinking on the part of industry and government. “The current schedule for the removal of hundreds of tons of molten nuclear fuel, the location and condition of which they still have no real understanding, was based on the timetable of prime minister [Shinzo] Abe in Tokyo and the nuclear industry – not the reality on the ground and based on sound engineering and science.”

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And it will remain in recession for a long time.

Eurostat: Greece Is The Only EU Country Still In Recession (NE)

Household consumption and a rebound in investment drove economic growth in the euro zone in the last three months of last year, the latest data from EU statistics office Eurostat shows. Eurostat confirmed its earlier estimate that the economy of the 19 countries sharing the euro grew 0.4% quarter-on-quarter and 1.7% year-on-year. It said household consumption added 0.2 % points to the final quarterly growth number and capital investment added another 0.1 points, rebounding from a 0.1 point negative contribution in the third quarter. Growing inventories added another 0.1 points and government spending another 0.1 points while net trade subtracted 0.1 points.

Greece was the only country that was in negative territory, with GDP declining by 1.1% compared with the last quarter of 2015 and by 1.2% compared to the third quarter of 2016. Combined, the eurozone continued steady recovery, with the economy growing by 1.7% year on year and 0.4% on a quarterly basis. Messages were positive in the eurozone core. Germany grew by 1.8% and France by 1.2%, while the third largest economy of the euro, Italy, increasing by 1%. Impressive was the growth of Spain as it reached 3%. Social protection spending in Greece represented 20.5 % of the country’s GDP in 2015.

This is slightly higher than both the Eurozone average ratio (20.1% of GDP) and the EU28 average ratio (19.2% of GDP). Social protection expenditure in EU member-states ranged from 9.6% of GDP in Ireland to 25.6% of GDP in Finland in that year. Eight member-states (Finland, France, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Greece and Belgium) spent more than 20% of GDP on social protection while Ireland, the Baltic states, Romania, Cyprus, Malta and the Czech Republic spend less than 13%.

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“Tax rates are expected to reach 26%, while pensions are being cut by as much as 22% by 2022.”

Greek Farmers Clash With Riot Police In Athens Over Austerity (G.)

Farmers who travelled to Athens from Crete have clashed with riot police in the latest unrest on the streets of the Greek capital, prompted by the government’s austerity policies. The confrontation occurred outside the agriculture ministry, where farmers wielding staffs engaged with police firing teargas to prevent them from entering the building. More than 1,100 stockbreeders and farmers arrived on overnight ferries in the early hours of Wednesday, to protest against increases in tax and social security contributions demanded by the creditors keeping Greece afloat. Footage showed the farmers, many wearing black bandanas, smashing the windows of riot vans with shepherds’ staffs, setting fire to rubbish bins and hurling rocks and stones.

When the agriculture minister, Evangelos Apostolou, initially refused to meet a 45-member delegation representing protesters, anger peaked. “Dialogue is one thing, thuggery quite another,” the minister said, before attempts at further talks also foundered. Greek farmers, long perceived to be the privileged recipients of generous EU funds, have historically been exempt from taxation. However, the barrage of cuts and increases in the price of everything from fuel to fertilisers will hit them hard. Tax rates are expected to reach 26%, while pensions are being cut by as much as 22% by 2022. Prof George Pagoulatos, who teaches European politics and economy at the University of Athens, said: “Farmers, in many ways, are a classic example of one of Greece’s protected groups. “In certain rural constituencies, like Crete, they are also electorally very influential.”

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Wages have become too low to pay for pensions. 23% unemployment. Almost half of Greeks depend on pensions to stay alive. More cuts are inevitable. The only way is down.

It Takes 10 Workers In Greece To Pay One Pension (K.)

The constant decline in salaries and the rise of flexible forms of employment are undermining the sustainability of the country’s social security system despite the numerous interventions in terms of pensions. According to social security experts, the slide in the average salary means that it now takes the contributions of 10 workers to pay one pension; before the crisis it required the contributions of four workers. The deterioration of that ratio highlights the system’s viability problem. The main feature of that problem is that the contributions of today’s workers go in their entirety toward covering the pensions of today’s pensioners.

According to data from the new Single Social Security Entity (EFKA), the analysis of employers’ declarations from May 2016 showed that the average salary of 1.4 million workers with full employment amounted to €1,176 per month. The average monthly gross earnings of the 588,000 part-time workers amounted to just €394; their number increased by about 11% from a year earlier. The same data show that bigger enterprises pay higher salaries: Businesses with fewer than 10 employees have an average full-employment salary that amounts to just 58.9% of that paid to employees of companies with more than 10 workers.

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Mar 082017
 


Dorothea Lange A Family Of Mexican Migrants, On The Road In California 1936

 

Wikileaks ‘Vault 7’, Largest Ever Publication Of Confidential CIA Docs (ZH)
Snowden: What The Wikileaks Revelations Show Is “Reckless Beyond Words” (ZH)
WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged CIA Hacking Documents (NYT)
Wikileaks: CIA Capable Of Cyber “False Flag” Attack To Blame Russia (TAM)
CIA Contractor on #VAULT7 Leak: ‘There is Heavy Shit Coming Down’ (RF)
US Trade Deficit Jumps To Five-Year High On Imports (R.)
China Posts Rare Trade Deficit As February Imports Surge in Yuan Terms (R.)
Why Are Europe’s Small Central Banks Stocking Up Foreign Money? (WSJ)
Dispel The Economic Myths That Hold Women Back (Ann Pettifor)
Austerity Is A Feminist Issue (G.)
The Women’s Protest That Sparked The Russian Revolution (G.)
Vacant Homes Are A Global Epidemic (BD)
There’s No Housing Bubble in Australia, Heads of Big Banks Say (BBG)
Australian Lenders Are Handing Out Mortgages Like Confetti (LF)
Greece’s Still-Falling GDP Dispels Creditors’ “Recovery” Myth (Prime)
Tax Weary Greek Employers Pay In Kind As Creditor Demands Rise (BBG)
America’s Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations (Atlantic)

 

 

It’s obvious there is only one story today, which ironically(?!) blows the whole Trump-Russia accusation narrative to bits, even though of course Russia gets the blame for this too in all sorts of corners. But the files are reported to have been ‘out there’ for a while, in the hands of hackers and possible foreign agencies. The CIA spent a huge wad of taxpayer money on this, and then lost it all. It’s early days to say what this will mean for the agency’s abilities, and the nation’s safety, as well as that of American citizens, but it’s not good. Question is: who’s going to investigate how this could have happened? (Snowden and Kim Dotcom could)… And who’s going to repair the damage done? Anyone could be spying on your phone and your TV by now, not just the CIA -as if that wouldn’t be bad enough.

And this is just the first part. Wikileaks has announced more from where this came from.

Wikileaks ‘Vault 7’, Largest Ever Publication Of Confidential CIA Docs (ZH)

A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of ‘Year Zero’, the first in a series of leaks the whistleblower organization has dubbed ‘Vault 7.’ WikiLeaks said that ‘Year Zero’ revealed details of the CIA’s “global covert hacking program,” including “weaponized exploits” used against company products including “Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”

WikiLeaks tweeted the leak, which it claims came from a network inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

Among the more notable disclosures which, if confirmed, “would rock the technology world“, the CIA had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Another profound revelation is that the CIA can engage in “false flag” cyberattacks which portray Russia as the assailant. Discussing the CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group, Wikileaks’ source notes that it “collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

“With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from. UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.”

As Kim Dotcom summarizes this finding, “CIA uses techniques to make cyber attacks look like they originated from enemy state. It turns DNC/Russia hack allegation by CIA into a JOKE

But perhaps what is most notable is the purported emergence of another Snowden-type whistleblower: the source of the information told WikiLeaks in a statement that they wish to initiate a public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”  Policy questions that should be debated in public include “whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency,” WikiLeaks claims the source said.

The FAQ section of the release, shown below, provides further details on the extent of the leak, which was “obtained recently and covers through 2016”. The time period covered in the latest leak is between the years 2013 and 2016, according to the CIA timestamps on the documents themselves. Secondly, WikiLeaks has asserted that it has not mined the entire leak and has only verified it, asking that journalists and activists do the leg work.

Among the various techniques profiled by WikiLeaks is “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

As Kim Dotcom chimed in on Twitter, “CIA turns Smart TVs, iPhones, gaming consoles and many other consumer gadgets into open microphones” and added ” CIA turned every Microsoft Windows PC in the world into spyware. Can activate backdoors on demand, including via Windows update”

Dotcom also added that “Obama accused Russia of cyberattacks while his CIA turned all internet enabled consumer electronics in Russia into listening devices. Wow!”

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of “Year Zero” goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”

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“…first public evidence US [Government] secretly paying to keep US software unsafe”

Snowden: What The Wikileaks Revelations Show Is “Reckless Beyond Words” (ZH)

While it has been superficially covered by much of the press – and one can make the argument that what Julian Assange has revealed is more relevant to the US population, than constant and so far unconfirmed speculation that Trump is a puppet of Putin – the fallout from the Wikileaks’ “Vault 7” release this morning of thousands of documents demonstrating the extent to which the CIA uses backdoors to hack smartphones, computer operating systems, messenger applications and internet-connected televisions, will be profound. As evidence of this, the WSJ cites an intelligence source who said that “the revelations were far more significant than the leaks of Edward Snowden.”

Mr. Snowden’s leaks revealed names of programs, companies that assist the NSA in surveillance and in some cases the targets of American spying. But the recent leak purports to contain highly technical details about how surveillance is carried out. That would make them far more revealing and useful to an adversary, this person said. In one sense, Mr. Snowden provided a briefing book on U.S. surveillance, but the CIA leaks could provide the blueprints. Speaking of Snowden, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower, who now appears to have a “parallel whisteblower” deep inside the “Deep State”, i.e., the source of the Wikileaks data – also had some thoughts on today’s CIA dump.

In a series of tweets, Snowden notes that “what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal”, and makes the following key observations “If you’re writing about the CIA/@Wikileaks story, here’s the big deal: first public evidence USG secretly paying to keep US software unsafe” and adds that “the CIA reports show the USG developing vulnerabilities in US products, then intentionally keeping the holes open. Reckless beyond words.” He then asks rhetorically “Why is this dangerous?” and explains “Because until closed, any hacker can use the security hole the CIA left open to break into any iPhone in the world.” His conclusion, one which many of the so-called conspiratorial bent would say was well-known long ago: “Evidence mounts showing CIA & FBI knew about catastrophic weaknesses in the most-used smartphones in America, but kept them open – to spy.”

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“..WikiLeaks, which has sometimes been accused of recklessly leaking information that could do harm, said it had redacted names and other identifying information from the collection. It said it was not releasing the computer code for actual, usable weapons “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should be analyzed, disarmed and published.”

WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged CIA Hacking Documents (NYT)

In what appears to be the largest leak of C.I.A documents in history, WikiLeaks released on Tuesday thousands of pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions. The documents amount to a detailed, highly technical catalog of tools. They include instructions for compromising a wide range of common computer tools for use in spying: the online calling service Skype; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers. A program called Wrecking Crew explains how to crash a targeted computer, and another tells how to steal passwords using the autocomplete function on Internet Explorer. Other programs were called CrunchyLimeSkies, ElderPiggy, AngerQuake and McNugget.

The document dump was the latest coup for the antisecrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which uses its hacking abilities to carry out espionage against foreign targets. The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first installment in a larger collection of secret C.I.A. material, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, many of them partly redacted by WikiLeaks editors to avoid disclosing the actual code for cyberweapons. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, the group claimed. In one revelation that may especially trouble the tech world if confirmed, WikiLeaks said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services have managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Unlike the National Security Agency documents Edward J. Snowden gave to journalists in 2013, they do not include examples of how the tools have been used against actual foreign targets. That could limit the damage of the leak to national security. But the breach was highly embarrassing for an agency that depends on secrecy. Robert M. Chesney, a specialist in national security law at the University of Texas at Austin, likened the C.I.A. trove to National Security Agency hacking tools disclosed last year by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. “If this is true, it says that N.S.A. isn’t the only one with an advanced, persistent problem with operational security for these tools,” Mr. Chesney said. “We’re getting bit time and again.”

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No ‘evidence’ (and remember none was provided to date) of Russian spying is the least bit credible anymore after today.

Wikileaks: CIA Capable Of Cyber “False Flag” Attack To Blame Russia (TAM)

According to a Wikileaks press release, the 8,761 newly published files came from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI) in Langley, Virginia. The release says that the UMBRAGE group, a subdivision of the center’s Remote Development Branch (RDB), has been collecting and maintaining a “substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states, including the Russian Federation.” As Wikileaks notes, the UMBRAGE group and its related projects allow the CIA to misdirect the attribution of cyber attacks by “leaving behind the ‘fingerprints’ of the very groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.”

In other words, the CIA’s sophisticated hacking tools all have a “signature” marking them as originating from the agency. In order to avoid arousing suspicion as to the true extent of its covert cyber operations, the CIA has employed UMBRAGE’s techniques in order to create signatures that allow multiple attacks to be attributed to various entities – instead of the real point of origin at the CIA – while also increasing its total number of attack types. Other parts of the release similarly focus on avoiding the attribution of cyberattacks or malware infestations to the CIA during forensic reviews of such attacks. In a document titled “Development Tradecraft DOs and DON’Ts,” hackers and code writers are warned “DO NOT leave data in a binary file that demonstrates CIA, U.S. [government] or its witting partner companies’ involvement in the creation or use of the binary/tool.” It then states that “attribution of binary/tool/etc. by an adversary can cause irreversible impacts to past, present and future U.S. [government] operations and equities.”

While a major motivating factor in the CIA’s use of UMBRAGE is to cover it tracks, events over the past few months suggest that UMBRAGE may have been used for other, more nefarious purposes. After the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election shocked many within the U.S. political establishment and corporate-owned media, the CIA emerged claiming that Russia mounted a “covert intelligence operation” to help Donald Trump edge out his rival Hillary Clinton.[..] the U.S. intelligence community’s assertions that Russia used cyber-attacks to interfere with the election overshadowed reports that the U.S. government had actually been responsible for several hacking attempts that targeted state election systems.

For instance, the state of Georgia reported numerous hacking attempts on its election agencies’ networks, nearly all of which were traced back to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Now that the CIA has been shown to not only have the capability but also the express intention of replacing the “fingerprint” of cyber-attacks it conducts with those of another state actor, the CIA’s alleged evidence that Russia hacked the U.S. election – or anything else for that matter – is immediately suspect. There is no longer any way to determine if the CIA’s proof of Russian hacks on U.S. infrastructure is legitimate, as it could very well be a “false flag” attack.

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“..we come to find out the same people who told us the Russians were our enemy, revealing corruption and depravity on a monumental scale via the Podesta emails, they were, in fact, the ones spying on us all along – both lying and mocking us like Lords in a fiefdom.”

CIA Contractor on #VAULT7 Leak: ‘There is Heavy Shit Coming Down’ (RF)

Everything that Wikileaks has revealed over the past year has hurt both the integrity and honor of the United States. The question you have to grapple with, is it well deserved? After all, living inside of a vast and powerful empire has its benefits. As the empire expands, so does the wealth of its citizens. But it hasn’t worked out that way, has it? The CIA deep staters have turned their guns on the people they serve – using third world banana republic tactics to silence opposition, take down regimes not beholden to their world view, using advanced technology to both spy and monitor on American citizens – infringing on our civil rights like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The reason for the populist uprising and the lack of equanimity amongst those traditionally supportive of the CIA lies in the improper distribution of the spoils of war. There aren’t any.

All the average American has received from $10 trillion in Obama inspired deficit spending is American casualties of war, jobs lost to cheaper labor overseas, expensive oil prices, expensive healthcare, and run away education costs – along with a sundry of social disturbances that have people fed up. While the elite flaunt hedonistic lifestyles, eschewing basic decency for the perverse, normies get more of the same old bullshit. After electing a true agent of change in Donald Trump, the people are laughed at and impugned by the elitist media. Their President is set upon by ‘permanent government’ officials in the intelligence agencies – whose only goal is to derail and destroy his term before it even begins.

Then we come to find out the same people who told us the Russians were our enemy, revealing corruption and depravity on a monumental scale via the Podesta emails, they were, in fact, the ones spying on us all along – both lying and mocking us like Lords in a fiefdom. Here’s Fox News reporting on the latest scandal to hit the wires, #VAULT7 Fox New sources inside the CIA said the agency was running around like headless chickens, saying ‘there is heavy shit coming down.’

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US exports are plunging. 10.7% to Germany, 13.4% to China.

US Trade Deficit Jumps To Five-Year High On Imports (R.)

The U.S. trade deficit jumped to a near five-year high in January as cell phones and rising oil prices helped to push up the import bill, suggesting trade would again weigh on economic growth in the first quarter. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the trade gap increased 9.6% to $48.5 billion, the highest level since March 2012. The deficit was in line with economists forecasts. December’s trade shortfall was unrevised at $44.3 billion. When adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit rose to $65.3 billion from $62.0 billion in December. Both the inflation-adjusted exports and imports were the highest on record in January.

The wider trade gap added to weak data such as housing starts, consumer and construction spending in suggesting the economy struggled to regain momentum early in the first quarter after growth slowed to a 1.9% annualized rate in the final three months of 2016. The economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter. Trade cut 1.7 percentage points from GDP in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting GDP rising at a 1.8% rate in the first quarter. The dollar was trading marginally higher, while prices for U.S. government bonds were little changed. U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower. The Trump administration is eyeing trade as it seeks 4% annual GDP growth. President Donald Trump has vowed sweeping changes to U.S. trade policy, starting with pulling out of the 12-nation TPP.

[..] The bulk of the increase in the trade-weighted value of the greenback occurred in the final months of 2016 and will probably take a while to reflect in the trade data. Exports to Germany tumbled 10.7%. A Trump trade adviser has accused Germany of unfairly benefiting from a weak euro. Shipments of goods to China, also singled out by the Trump administration, dropped 13.4%. The politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit increased 12.8% to $31.3 billion in January, while the trade gap with Germany fell 8.0% to $4.9 billion. The United States also saw its trade deficit with Mexico shrink 10.1% to its lowest level since July 2015.

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We need to see: 1) dollar terms and 2) Lunar New Year distortions.

China Posts Rare Trade Deficit As February Imports Surge in Yuan Terms (R.)

China unexpectedly posted a rare trade deficit in February as imports surged far more than expected to feed a months-long construction boom, driven by commodities from iron ore and copper to crude oil and coal. Imports in yuan-denominated terms surged 44.7 percent from a year earlier, while exports rose 4.2 percent, official data showed on Wednesday. That left the country with a trade deficit of 60.63 billion yuan ($8.79 billion) for the month, the General Administration of Customs said. Customs has not yet published dollar-denominated trade figures, on which most economists and investors base their forecasts and analysis. Apart from currency fluctuations, higher commodity prices and the timing of the long Lunar New year holidays early in the year also may have distorted the data.

Most of China’s commodity imports grew strongly in volume terms from a year earlier, but dipped from January. Still, economists say the upbeat readings reinforced a growing view that economic activity in China and globally picked up in the first two months of the year. That could give China’s policymakers more confidence to press ahead with oft-delayed and painful structural reforms such as tackling a mountain of debt. Containing the risks from years of debt-fueled stimulus and heavy spending has been a major focus at the annual meeting of China’s parliament which began on Sunday.

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They know something?!

Why Are Europe’s Small Central Banks Stocking Up Foreign Money? (WSJ)

Europe’s smaller central banks are loading up on foreign currencies at rates usually associated with periods of intense global stress, highlighting the fragile underpinnings of the global economic recovery despite the recent upbeat mood in financial markets. Switzerland’s holdings of foreign assets jumped last month at their fastest pace in over two years as its central bank fought the strong franc, which weakens exports and inflation. The Czech central bank intervened in January on a massive scale to maintain its currency target against the euro. Denmark has also stepped up its foreign-currency purchases to keep the krone from strengthening too much. These central banks are showing crisis-like behavior to protect their currencies even in the absence of obvious trouble. This exposes them to losses if their currencies fail to weaken on their own.

It also raises doubts as to how long they can keep this up in an era when economic and political uncertainties appear to be a lasting feature of the world economy. “There is a little bit of survivor behavior,” said Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank. “They’ve been protecting their currencies so long and it’s hard to give up that defensive position.” The Swiss National Bank said Tuesday its foreign exchange reserves swelled nearly 25 billion Swiss francs ($24.63 billion) last month to 668 billion francs, the biggest rise since December 2014, the month before the Swiss abandoned a cap on the franc’s value. The pile of foreign reserves is greater than Switzerland’s entire gross domestic product. “It’s quite bizarre. You’d think at some time you’d run out of surprises,” said Stefan Gerlach, chief economist at BSI Bank in Zurich and a former deputy governor at Ireland’s central bank.

[..] Central banks accumulate foreign reserves when they purchase assets denominated in other currencies, using freshly created money. They do this to weaken their currencies, protecting exports and giving a boost to inflation. Foreign reserves can waver slightly due to changes in currency values, but big increases like Switzerland’s signal aggressive intervention. This tool has gained traction in recent years as official rates have turned negative in Denmark and Switzerland and are near zero in the Czech Republic.

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A few good articles for International Women’s Day. Pettifor’s insistence that households are not like governments is important.

Dispel The Economic Myths That Hold Women Back (Ann Pettifor)

There are two economic myths that fail the interests of women. The first is the fallacy that government budgets conform to “the household analogy”: that, as with family budgets, a state’s outgoings cannot exceed its income. The second is that “there is no money” for the services women use and need. On the first, the public are told that cuts in spending and in some benefits, combined with rises in income from taxes will – just as with a household – balance the budget. Even though a single household’s budget is a) minuscule compared to that of a government; b) does not, like the government’s, impact on the wider economy; c) does not benefit from tax revenues (now, or in the foreseeable future); and d) is not backed by a powerful central bank. Despite all these obvious differences, government budgets are deemed analogous (by economists and politicians) to a household budget.

To understand why the government/household analogy is false it is important to understand that the balance of the government budget, unlike that of a household, is entirely a function of the wider economy. If the economy slumps (as in 2008-9) and the private sector weakens, then like a see-saw the public sector deficit, and then the debt, rises. When private economic activity revives (thanks to increased investment, employment, sales etc) tax revenues rise, unemployment benefits fall, and the government deficit and debt follow the same downward trajectory. So, to balance the government’s budget, efforts must be made to revive Britain’s economy, including the indebted private sector.

Because government spending (unlike a household’s spending) has a big impact on the economy, governments can use loan-financed investment to expand tax-generating employment – both public (for example, nurses and teachers) and private sector employment (construction workers). Both nurses and construction workers will return a large part of their incomes into the economy through spending, benefitting the private sector. Thanks to the multiplier effect, that spending will generate VAT and corporation tax revenues – for repaying government debt. George Osborne believed that government spending cuts would be offset by a rise in private sector confidence, inspired by a government “getting its house in order”. But that did not happen.

As many of us predicted, government spending cuts contracted the economy further. Economic activity (investment, sales, employment) was weaker than expected. Even when employment revived, lower wages and insecure, part-time work meant that income and corporate taxes were lower than expected. So government borrowing did not fall. As a result, public debt as a share of GDP was higher than expected. In the meantime, massive harm had been done to public sector services and those employed in the sector – while the economy endured the slowest post-crisis recovery in history. And it was women who largely paid the price.

One woman can be said to have given the phrase “there is no money” much credibility. In her 1983 speech to the Conservative party conference, Margaret Thatcher declared that: “The state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more … There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.” Today this framing of the debate is at odds with reality. After the financial crisis, the Bank of England injected £1,000bn into the private finance sector to prevent systemic economic failure. And after the shock of the Brexit vote, the Bank unveiled the “Term Funding Scheme” as part of a £170bn “stimulus package” aimed at the private finance sector. The money was “public money” offered at a historically low interest rate – to bankers. It was not raised by cutting spending, and it was not raised from “your taxes”, even while its issue was backed by Britain’s taxpayers.

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Good points.

Austerity Is A Feminist Issue (G.)

Women are massively more affected by budget cuts than men, says the Labour peer. They are more likely to be single parents, earn less and work part time than their male counterparts. She argues the government must replace ‘gender-neutral’ budgeting with economic policies that put women first.

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100 years ago.

The Women’s Protest That Sparked The Russian Revolution (G.)

The first day of the Russian revolution – 8 March (23 February in the old Russian calendar) – was International Women’s Day, an important day in the socialist calendar. By midday of that day in 1917 there were tens of thousands of mainly women congregating on the Nevsky Propsekt, the principal avenue in the centre of the Russian capital, Petrograd, and banners started to appear. The slogans on the banners were patriotic but also made forceful demands for change: “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland”, read one; another said: “Supplement the ration of soldiers’ families, defenders of freedom and the people’s peace”. The crowds of demonstrators were varied. The city’s governor, AP Balk, said they consisted of “ladies from society, lots more peasant women, student girls and, compared with earlier demonstrations, not many workers”. The revolution was begun by women, not male workers.

In the afternoon the mood began to change as female textile workers from the Vyborg side of the city came out on strike in protest against shortages of bread. Joined by their menfolk, they swelled the crowds on the Nevsky, where there were calls for “Bread!” and “Down with the tsar!” By the end of the afternoon, 100,000 workers had come out on strike, and there were clashes with police as the workers tried to cross the Liteiny bridge, connecting the Vyborg side with the city centre. Most were dispersed by the police but several thousand crossed the ice-packed river Neva (a risky thing to do at -5C) and some, angered by the fighting, began to loot the shops on their way to the Nevsky. Balk’s Cossacks struggled to clear the crowds on the Nevsky. They would ride up the demonstrators, only to stop short and retreat. Later it emerged that they were mostly young reservists who had no experience of dealing with crowds.

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How to kill a city part 829.

Vacant Homes Are A Global Epidemic (BD)

Runaway real estate speculation has been filling global capitals with vacant homes, creating artificial shortages in the world’s most sought after cities. The “shortage” has made local home owners wealthy overnight, but it comes at the cost of turning lively cities into empty shells. The city of Paris has decided it’s had enough, and implemented a tax in 2015. They didn’t quite get the results they wanted, so they’re now tripling the tax to 60%. Paris has been trying to deal with vacant property owners for some time. Despite warnings that the city will have to take action, the number of vacant homes is growing. There’s now 107,000 vacant homes, representing 7.5% of all residential dwellings in the city according to France’s INSEE. Deputy Mayor Ian Brossat told Le Monde that 40,000 of those vacant homes aren’t even connected to the electrical grid.

Local developers have argued that more new construction is the solution. However Brossat argues “In a city as dense as Paris, where it is very difficult to build, controlling the occupancy of housing is strategic.” It appears the city believes they have 107,000 reasons more construction is not the solution. Paris implemented a tax recently, but it didn’t quite produce the desired outcome. Starting in 2015 the city elected to tax vacant homes the equivalent of 20% of the fair market value of rent. On January 30 this year, they decided to triple that amount to 60%. The idea isn’t to punish those fortunate enough to own a second (or twelfth) home. They’re trying to discourage speculation and promote a healthy rental market.

Paris’ 107,000 empty homes might seem like a lot, but it’s becoming strangely normal around the world. New York City had a whopping 318,831 vacant units in 2015. It’s a hot topic in Sydney, where 118,499 vacant units were counted in 2013. Heck, London considers it a critical issue, and they “only” have 22,000 empty homes. There’s a massive numbers of vacant homes across the globe, but only Paris has decided to take aggressive action to tackle it. Growing populations have barely put a dent in the vacant homes in global real estate capitals. The amount of speculation has been scaling with demand, which is a curious paradox. This signifies an issue that’s more complex than just a basic supply and demand problem.

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And you can’t call it perjury. But look at the article below this one.

There’s No Housing Bubble in Australia, Heads of Big Banks Say (BBG)

Soaring home prices in Australia’s biggest cities don’t necessarily mean the country is in the grip of a housing bubble, according to the heads of the nation’s biggest banks. Testifying before a parliamentary committee, the chief executives of National Australia, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia all said that while they are worried about elements of the housing market, prices aren’t over-inflated. “I would draw the distinction between a speculative bubble in prices and prices beyond what fundamentals would justify,” Westpac’s Brian Hartzer told the committee in Canberra Wednesday. A bubble isn’t occurring in Sydney or Melbourne, where house prices have risen the most, he said.

“There are increasing risks, but I still believe the answer is no,” National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn said when asked if houses in Sydney and Melbourne are overpriced. Commonwealth Bank, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, is “lending at levels we are comfortable with” across Australia, CEO Ian Narev told the committee when he testified Tuesday. The bank chiefs were appearing in front of the committee, which was set up by the government to ward off calls for a more far-reaching inquiry into the financial industry, for the second time within six months. The banks have been under pressure from opposition parties after a series of scandals in their insurance and wealth divisions and concern they failed to pass on the full benefits of central bank interest-rate cuts to borrowers.

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“Boosting leveraged demand to make housing affordable makes no sense.”

Australian Lenders Are Handing Out Mortgages Like Confetti (LF)

In the thrall of irrational exuberance, Australia is experiencing a debt-financed housing bubble. In our two major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the housing markets are out of control due to the rapid acceleration of debt enabled by lenders issuing remarkable amounts of mortgages. Household debt to income ratios for the states of NSW and VIC suggest this to be the case. Australian lenders are handing out mortgages like confetti – why? It demonstrates banks and non-bank lenders are quite willing to issue risky mortgages to applicants who will not have the long-term financial capability to repay. Lenders are indeed taking on these excessive risks. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink is today the common approach governments take to ensure housing prices continually rise given their fear of the political and economic damage caused by falling prices.

Governments engaged in co-buying and co-owning housing with FHBs stimulates debt accumulation and hence prices. The VIC government, for instance, is attempting to provide a large gift to current residential land owners and lenders at the cost of FHBs acquiring mortgages they cannot afford to service over the long-run. This is done through the proposed shared equity model whereby the government acquires 25% of the home price. To make matters worse, the VIC government is also cutting stamp duty for FHBs and doubling the FHOB (for new properties in regional areas); both in theory have the effect of boosting housing prices. The VIC government cannot allow housing prices in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria decline significantly because it will suffer the same adverse impact that Dublin and Ireland experienced last decade.

The problems are the same and the end result will be the same. Unfortunately, just like the federal government, the VIC government is stuck. Implementing policies on the demand and supply sides to reduce land prices will cause a great deal of pain to all stakeholders: governments, lenders, homeowners, investors, including employees – many may lose their jobs if debt growth craters and removes a considerable portion of demand from the economy. Government has dug itself into a hole but instead of assessing a way out, it simply continues to dig, hoping to kick the can down the road long enough for the next party in power to deal with the problems. Both the LNP and ALP at the federal and state levels have refused to deal with the issues at hand, and prefer to enslave a generation of Aussies to the most profitable and high-risk banking system in the western world.

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As I’ve been saying forever. Recovery is unpossible in Greece.

Greece’s Still-Falling GDP Dispels Creditors’ “Recovery” Myth (Prime)

The latest GDP figures for Greece, relating to Q4 of 2016, are disastrous. For Greece first and foremost, but also for the credibility of the EU and IMF’s failed harsh austerity (but on the EU side no-debt-cancellation) policy. Far from evidencing the long-promised recovery, they show a new decline in GDP – both on the previous quarter (after seasonal adjustment) and year on year. In fact, the economy has been broadly stagnant at a low level since 2013. In constant volume terms, GDP fell by over 27% from (peak) Q2 2007 to Q4 2013, and in Q4 2016 it was 0.3% smaller than in Q4 2013. In Q4 it was only marginally higher than the post-crisis record low to date, Q3 2015. This chart from Elstat (the Greek Statistical Office) shows the development of GDP over the last decade:

What is more extraordinary is that current price (i.e. nominal) GDP has fallen even further than real GDP over the decade – by 28.5% From 2008 to 2016, GDP fell quarter-on-quarter in no fewer than 27 out of 36 quarters, of which two in 2016. [..] there has been some modest improvement, with unemployment in November 2016 about 66,000 lower than a year before, and employment up by about 50,000. But employment is still 200,000 below its 2011 level. The unemployment rate remains a disastrous 23%, which reminds one of chronic European levels in the 1920s and 1930s:

The Financial Times’ Mehreen Khan yesterday (6 March) described the current state of negotiations towards the absurd requirement of a contractionary 3.5% of GDP budget surplus (i.e. after interest): “Progress on the country’s €86bn rescue deal has stuttered this year following a standoff between the EU and IMF over the level of austerity, reforms and debt relief baked into Greece’s three-year programme. Bailout monitors however returned to Athens last week to ensure the left-wing Greek government was making steps towards legislating for around €2bn in tax and pension measures that will help the country meet a surplus target of 3.5 per cent of GDP from 2018. Approval of the second review would unlock around €6bn in rescue cash for the economy.”

And ah yes, as Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Chair of the Eurogroup finance ministers, put it on 20th February, in an interview with CNBC (h/t Professor Helen Thompson ): “…anyone who wants to talk about crisis can talk to someone else because the Greek economy is gradually recovering and what we need to do is to strengthen that and give that more opportunity and that is what I’m trying to do.” Alas, Mr Dijsselbloem comes from the Dutch Labour Party, not the conservatives, and here symbolizes all that is so profoundly wrong with the Eurozone’s economic policy and ideology. It’s high time he looked again at that table of unemployment in the 1930s – and the terrible ordeal imposed on the Dutch working class.

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The creditors force Greek companies into contortionist tricks just to survive. There is such a thing as too much tax.

Tax Weary Greek Employers Pay In Kind As Creditor Demands Rise (BBG)

When Maria’s employer, a large communications company in Athens, gave her additional tasks at one of its new units, it told her she wouldn’t be paid for the work in euros. “I was informed that this extra payment of 150 euros per month would be in coupons that I can use in supermarkets,” said the 45-year-old, declining to provide her last name for fear of losing her job. Payments in kind are among practices companies are using in Greece as they seek to cap payroll costs, undermining efforts to balance the books of the country’s cash-strapped social security system. As creditors push the government to boost its budget surplus, companies avoiding payroll charges and effectively expanding the shadow economy are making the task harder. By some estimates, the so-called black market already accounts for as much as a quarter of Greece’s economy.

“Such practices help companies to avoid social contributions, but the burden for the economy is huge,” said Panos Tsakloglou, a professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business. “Less contributions for pensions means more budget transfers to them which then leads to more austerity measures to meet fiscal targets, measures that will probably hit pensioners.” Greek officials have been meeting in Athens with representatives of the euro area and IMF to set out the policies the country must undertake to unlock more bailout loans. The government foresees an accord in March or early April, but the scale of pending issues raises concerns they may be politically hard to sell at home. Greece has agreed to target for a budget surplus before interest payments equal to 3.5% of GDP for 2018, which could mean more belt-tightening.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government finds itself between a rock and a hard place as it tries to appease creditors while avoiding mass protests. After an anemic recovery, the Greek economy shrank again in the fourth quarter, raising the specter of growing tensions at home even as European creditors and the IMF push for more austerity. With an economy that has shrunk by more than a quarter in the last seven years, Greece has an unemployment rate of 23%, close to a historic high. Creditors, meanwhile, are demanding greater labor-market flexibility that would make it easier for companies to hire and fire people. They want the threshold of collective dismissals to be doubled to 10% and demand that Athens not revoke any of the measures legislated during the crisis.

[..] For overtaxed Greek companies, dodging social security contributions through payments in kind has become a way to make ends meet. According to the latest available data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average single worker in Greece faced a tax wedge of 39.3% compared with an average of 35.9% among developed economies. About half of the burden falls upon employers. “We do not have the exact picture,” said Nasos Iliopoulos, an official in Greece’s Labor Ministry. “But it is clear that it is not legal to replace payments with coupons. It is only permitted to give coupons as an extra bonus. Companies are seeking to gain from lower social contributions and also from not paying for extra working hours.”

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There’s nothing new.

America’s Forgotten History of Illegal Deportations (Atlantic)

It was a time of economic struggle, racial resentment and increasing xenophobia. Installed in the White House was a president who had never before held elected office. A moderately successful businessman, he promised American jobs for Americans—and made good on that promise by slashing immigration by nearly 90 percent. He wore his hair parted down the middle, rather than elaborately piled on top, and his name was Herbert Hoover, not Donald Trump. But in the late 1920s and early 1930s, under the president’s watch, a wave of illegal and unconstitutional raids and deportations would alter the lives of as many as 1.8 million men, women and children—a threat that would seem to loom just as large in 2017 as it did back in 1929.

What became colloquially known as the “Mexican repatriation” efforts of 1929 to 1936 are a shameful and profoundly illustrative chapter in American history, yet they remain largely unknown—despite their broad and devastating impact. So much so that today, a different president is edging towards similar solutions, with none of the hesitation or concern that basic consciousness would seem to require. [..] Back in Hoover’s era, as America hung on the precipice of economic calamity—the Great Depression—the president was under enormous pressure to offer a solution for increasing unemployment, and to devise an emergency plan for the strained social safety net. Though he understood the pressing need to aid a crashing economy, Hoover resisted federal intervention, instead preferring a patchwork of piecemeal solutions, including the targeting of outsiders.

According to former California State Senator Joseph Dunn, who in 2004 began an investigation into the Hoover-era deportations, “the Republicans decided the way they were going to create jobs was by getting rid of anyone with a Mexican-sounding name.” “Getting rid of” America’s Mexican population was a random, brutal effort. “For participating cities and counties, they would go through public employee rolls and look for Mexican-sounding names and then go and arrest and deport those people,” said Dunn. “And then there was a job opening!” “We weren’t rounding up people who were Canadian,” he added. “It was an absolutely racially-motivated program to create jobs by getting rid of people.”

[..] The so-called repatriation effort was, in large part, a misnomer, given the fact that as many as sixty percent of those sent to “home” Mexico were U.S. citizens: American-born children of Mexican-descent who had never before traveled south of the border. (Dunn noted, “I don’t know how you can repatriate someone to a country they’ve not been born or raised in.”) “Individuals who left at 5, 6 and 7 years old found themselves in Mexico dealing with process of socialization, of learning the language, but they maintained an American identity,” said Balderrama. “And still had the dream to come back to ‘my country.’”

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