Jun 142020
 


Gustave Dore Dante and Virgil among the gluttons 1868

 

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)
Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)
The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)
Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)
Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)
How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)
The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)
Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)
Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)
Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 132,786 (yesterday was updated to 141,973).

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 131,902 cases. Remember: it’s weekend.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 28,487
• Brazil + 23,468
• Russia + 8,835
• India + 12,360
• Pakistan + 6,825
• Chile + 6,509

 

 

Cases 7,895,777 (+ 131,902 from yesterday’s 7,763,875)

Deaths 432,882 (+ 4,148 from yesterday’s 428,734)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

..a new outbreak has been linked to a meat and vegetable market in south Beijing..

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)

China reported 57 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for June 13, the highest since April 13, according to data released by the national health authority on Sunday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that 38 of the new confirmed cases were locally transmitted, with 36 of them in Beijing. This is the highest daily infection count for China’s capital since authorities started releasing data. Beijing recorded a jump in new confirmed cases, up from six a day earlier, after it started doing mass-testing at the Xinfadi market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district.


The district has put itself on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism and sports events on Saturday, sparking fears of a new wave of COVID-19. Nineteen of the new confirmed cases were so-called imported cases involving travellers from overseas, with 17 of them arriving in Guangdong. China also reported nine asymptomatic cases, one new suspected case and no new deaths from COVID-19 for June 13. The total number of COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 83,132, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the virus but do not display symptoms, as confirmed cases.

Read more …

Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)

We investigated clusters of COVID-19 cases and probable primary cases in Japan during January 15–April 4, 2020. We found that healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, and care facilities, such as nursing homes, were the primary sources of clusters, some of which had >100 cases. Japan experienced 2 waves of imported COVID-19 cases, after which local transmission occurred and the epidemic grew (8). Of note, clusters of COVID-19 cases at healthcare and care facilities predominated at epidemiologic weeks 11 (March 9–15) and 14 (March 30–April 4), which corresponds to ≈3 weeks after the 2 waves of imported cases (Figure 1, panel C). Healthcare and care facilities might be located at the end of the local transmission chain because clusters in those facilities only became evident several weeks after community transmission persisted.

We noted many COVID-19 clusters were associated with heavy breathing in close proximity, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gymnasiums. Other studies have noted such activities can facilitate clusters of infection (9,10). Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced 3 situations that could increase the risk for COVID-19 cases and advised the population to avoid the “Three Cs”: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places, and close-contact settings (11).

Among the probable primary COVID-19 cases we identified from non-nosocomial clusters, half (11/22) were 20–39 years of age, which is younger than the age distribution of all COVID-19 cases in Japan (Figure 2, panel A). We do not know whether social, biological, or both factors play a role in the difference in transmission patterns between the younger and older persons. We also noted probable primary COVID-19 case-patients appear to transmit the virus and generate clusters even in the absence of apparent respiratory symptoms, such as cough.


Figure 2. Analysis of probable primary cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among 22 clusters in communities, Japan. A) Age ranges of probable primary COVID-19 cases in clusters. Age distribution among all COVID-19 cases in Japan is provided as reference. B) Proportions of symptoms among probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters at transmission (n = 16) and among at laboratory confirmed diagnosis (n = 22). 1, Asymptomatic; 2, fever; 3, fatigue; 4, cough; 5, sore throat; 6, headache; 7, arthralgia or myalgia; 8, runny nose; 9, diarrhea; 10, difficulty breathing. C) Distribution of probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters by time of transmission compared with illness onset by age groups (n = 16). Six cases were excluded because the time of transmission was undetermined.

Read more …

Richard Horton’s problem today is of course, apart from his bout with cancer, that he was responsible for the entirely fake report on HCQ the Lancet published.

The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)

There is a school of thought that says now is not the time to criticise the government and its scientific advisers about the way they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Wait until all the facts are known and the crisis has subsided, goes this thinking, and then we can analyse the performance of those involved. It’s safe to say that Richard Horton, the editor of the influential medical journal the Lancet, is not part of this school. An outspoken critic of what he sees as the medical science establishment’s acquiescence to government, he has written a book that he calls a “reckoning” for the “missed opportunities and appalling misjudgments” here and abroad that have led to “the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of citizens”.

The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again is a short polemical book, building on a series of excoriating columns Horton has written in the Lancet over the past few months. He lambasts the management of the virus as “the greatest science policy failure for a generation”, attacks the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”, calls out the medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Public Health England (PHE) for not reinforcing the WHO’s public health emergency warning back in February, and damns the UK’s response as “slow, complacent and flat-footed”, revealing a “glaringly unprepared” government and a “broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity”.

On the page, Horton can sound strident, even arrogant, but that’s not his manner in person at all, at least not in our long Zoom conversation. He’s charming, open, self-critical and full of easy laughter. I suggest that, as bad as things look at the moment, surely people like the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, have been doing their best. “Individually, they’re great people,” he says. “I’m not criticising individuals, but the system was a catastrophic failure.” As editor of the Lancet, he’s particularly aggrieved that the series of five academic papers the journal published in late January first describing the novel coronavirus in disturbing detail went unheeded. “In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment,” he reminds me.

“And the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.” He still can’t understand why the government’s scientific advisers didn’t consult their counterparts in China. The world of medicine is a small one, he says, and everyone knows the people responsible for coordinating the Chinese government’s response. “These are people they could have literally sent an email to, or picked the phone up to, and said, ‘Hey, we read your paper in the Lancet, can it really be as bad as that? What is going on in Wuhan?’ And if they’d done that they would have found out that this was indeed as bad as described.”

Read more …

Whereas Jerry Nadler’s problem is that his candidate, Joe Biden, has spoken out against Medicare For All. Wait, Nadler knows that; is he trying to embarrass Biden?

Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested Friday that Congress could pay for a “Medicare for all” health care system without raising taxes by eliminating private insurance entirely. During a discussion with the Medicare for All Caucus, Nadler repeated some of the objections that critics of single-payer health care have raised including, “How are we going to pay for it?” and “We’re gonna have to raise taxes and all.” Nadler recommended that Democrats stop engaging in the tax increase debate.

“The entire mechanism, half a trillion dollars a year of private insurance, and not only the money for the profits, but the money for the markets segmenting; the money for the entire administration that all the insurance companies do; the money that all the hospitals and the doctors have to spend to deal with the bureaucracy of insurance companies – that’s half a trillion dollars a year, all of which could be spent on medical care, instead of being spent on either profits or just administrative costs,” Nader said during the discussion.

“It’s a huge amount of money and we could institute a Medicare for all system without increasing taxes. I mean, that’s not a discussion we have to get into because the cost savings from just eliminating the private insurance leech on the system would pay for all of Medicare for all, all the services, everything we’re talking about and when we get to debating this on a political level, again, we ought to be emphasizing that,” he added. Nadler urged Democrats to begin making his argument in favor of Medicare for all on the campaign trail in this election cycle. “I don’t understand why we didn’t point this out enough and we must in the future,” he said. Such an argument will continue to face strong opposition from the country’s estimated $900 billion private insurance industry and those opposed to a completely government-run health care system.

Read more …

More Nadler. He and Schiff will simply say they had every right to do the probe, and lost only because the Senate is partisan. Just like Congress is, but for the other party.

Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. This week, our award is going to the the United States Congress for spending $3.06 million in taxpayer dollars between September and December 2019 on the failed impeachment of President Trump. The recently released openthebooks.com report entitled “Congressional Membership Has Its Privileges: Salaries, Pensions, Travel & Other Taxpayer-Funded Perks” breaks down some of the exorbitant annual costs of the nation’s legislative branch.

The oversight report, which is published annually under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, was initially sponsored by the late Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and then-Senator Barack Obama. According to this year’s analysis, during the period between Sept. 24 2019, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared an impeachment inquiry, and Dec. 13, 2019, when the House Judiciary Committee sent two articles of impeachment to the Senate, the lower chamber ran up a bill to taxpayers of over $3 million. That price tag included the salaries of more than 100 congressional staffers and employees who, for those four months, essentially worked full-time on the impeachment proceedings.

It also factors in the hourly fees of the six attorneys who were hired as lawyers of record for witnesses who made appearances during hearings, and acted as impeachment counsel for the House Democratic impeachment managers throughout the trial. The high cost of the impeachment effort is primarily due to the House’s decision to use congressional staffers to investigate the president for potentially impeachable crimes. For reference, during the impeachment of President Clinton 1998, the majority of the fact-finding was done by Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s staff. For President Nixon’s impeachment inquiry, the bulk of the investigating was handled by special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, in addition to a Senate select committee.

Read more …

Nutshell: the Fed hands Goldman Sachs buckets full of billions to aid it in selling off the US to China for profit.

How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)

In November 2018 Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser who at the time was intimately involved in President Trump’s trade war with Beijing, launched a scathing attack on what he called the “globalist billionaires” of Wall Street. He accused the “self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers” of engaging in their own “shuttle diplomacy” with the Chinese side and attempting to sabotage US trade negotiations by putting enormous pressure on the White House to give way to Beijing. Navarro further accused the financial elite of being “unregistered foreign agents” acting as part of Beijing’s influence operations in Washington. It was strong stuff, but was there any foundation to it?

Beijing has been working on Wall Street for a long time. When Prime Minister Zhu Rongji visited the United States in 1999, he holed up in New York’s Astoria Hotel and spent days in back-to-back meetings with business leaders. “Zhu seems never to tire of courting Corporate America,” reported The New York Times. The titans of US finance have for decades been guiding the nation’s China policy. Whenever presidents Clinton, Bush or Obama threatened to take a tougher stance on China’s trade protectionism, currency manipulation or technology theft, Wall Street chiefs used their influence to persuade them to back off. And it was pressure from Wall Street that proved decisive in the Clinton White House’s decision to support China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation, despite China’s serial violation of trade rules.

Twenty years later, The New York Times was writing: “In Washington, on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, Beijing has used the country’s size and promise for decades to quell opposition and reward those who helped its rise.” Financial institutions have been Beijing’s most powerful advocates in Washington. The finance sector – the big banks, hedge funds and investment vehicles – is thus in the centre of the map of power in the US, and occupying pride of place is Goldman Sachs. No organisation has been more important to the CCP’s campaign to penetrate US elites, or more willing. For the CCP, titans of finance are easy targets, as there’s a concordance of interests.

Wall Street executives, anticipating an Eldorado when Beijing opens up its vast finance markets to foreigners, have been advising Chinese companies about which American companies to buy and lending them the money to do it, taking a cut from the sales. In the words of a senior White House official, “people who like making deals really like the Chinese Communist Party”. The CCP is pushing on an open door. But the alignment of interests may not be long term, as it’s Beijing’s intention to eventually make Shanghai the financial capital of the world, displacing New York and the City of London. As Lenin reputedly said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

Read more …

The markets gain a trillion on the responses to a few questions of 41,000 Americans. You get what you deserve.

The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)

The responses of fewer than 41,000 people were used to determine a major part of last month’s U.S. unemployment rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells Axios. That’s the lowest number in modern history and is one of many unusual developments in government data collection that have affected important readings for months. The surprises in May’s nonfarm payrolls report, which found there were only 21 million unemployed while 30 million Americans were collecting unemployment insurance benefits, were largely the result of oddities in data collection. A portion of the jobs report is determined by a household survey in which government workers interview people at their homes and determine whether any person over the age of 16 is “employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force” — the only three possible designations.

The coronavirus pandemic has “depressed” survey responses since March, as BLS stopped conducting in-person meetings, restricting its ability to reach new households, Julie Hatch Maxfield, BLS associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics, tells Axios. “The first month of the sample we get a lot of information and that sets up the whole thing going forward,” she says. This has taken the response rate from 82% in January to 73% in March to 67% in May. “Response rates probably will be depressed even when interviewers go back into the field,” Maxfield notes. In May, BLS identified 9 million people who had lost their jobs but were counted as “not in the labor force” rather than unemployed because they hadn’t been searching for a job in the last four weeks due to the pandemic.

If those people were considered unemployed it would have taken the unemployment rate to 17.9%. A similar calculation would have put the unemployment rate at 19.8% in April and 7.5% in March, BLS says in a report about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its data. A separate “misclassification error” categorized millions of workers who had been absent and likely lost their jobs as employed. Additionally, workers who were paid by their employer for any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month were counted as employed, even if they weren’t actually at their jobs.

Read more …

Too much power. Take it away.

Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)

133 days after Twitter “permanently” banned Zero Hedge on January 31, the social network has reinstated us after admitting it made an error. As a reminder, what happened in late January was confusing. Shortly after we asked if “This [Is] The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic”, referring to Wuhan Institute Of Virology scientist Peng Zhou (who three months later was being investigated by western spy agencies for his role in creating Covid) and some low-grade “reporter” from Buzzfeed decided to report us to Twitter for “doxxing” Zhou using publicly available information, Twitter told us that the account had been suspended for “violating Twitter rules against abuse and harassment”, which was false as we neither incited abuse nor harrassment, but merely asked questions.

But the confusing part is that at the same time, Twitter fabricated an entirely different explanation for its decision when speaking to outside media, telling them the suspension was due to “platform manipulation” – whatever that means. An odd mix of conflicting explanations but in any case, neither was true as we said at the time, and as we further told Bloomberg, the suspension was “unjustified, and likely motivated by reasons other than the stated ones” adding that “we are confident that we did not violate any of the stated Twitter terms: we neither incited harassment, nor did we ‘dox’ the public official, whose contact information is as of this moment listed on the Wuhan institute’s website.”

Fast forward to late Friday night, when unexpectedly we received a brief email from Twitter Support informing us that “we made an error in our enforcement action” as a result of which “we have unsuspended your account.” Speaking to Bloomberg, a Twitter spokesperson said that “we made an error in our enforcement action in this case. Based on additional context from the account holder in appeal, we have reinstated the account. We have a dedicated appeals process for all account holders.” Funny how mistakes happen when you ban first and ask questions later (and only when prompted to do so). In any case, no bad blood right – honest mistake? Well, not really: before all this happened, none other than Twitter’s CEO was following us.

Not anymore. The @zerohedge account also remains highly shadow banned (try searching for the actual zerohedge account on twitter, good luck), perhaps as an innocuous consequence of the “error.” That’s OK though, we never expected an apology. We are just glad that we will be able to share facts and perspectives with our now 700K Twitter followers, a number which has spiked by more than 30K in just the past few hours since the suspension was overturned.

Read more …

The Flynn hearing ended in a delay, but these wheels will churn on.

Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)

Congressional Republicans are putting the finishing touches on as many as 10 new criminal referrals asking the Justice Department to investigate key figures in the Russia probe for misconduct ranging from perjury to illegal leaking of classified information, officials told Just the News. The referrals have been spurred by recently declassified evidence that provided explosive new revelations about the conduct of investigators in the now-disproven Russia collusion case, including documents showing FBI agents planned to shut down their investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence in January 2017 before they were overruled by superiors.

Other newly released evidence showed numerous Obama administration officials engaged in unmasking Flynn’s name in secret intelligence intercepts during the transition period after the 2016 election and uncovered conflicts in testimonies previously given by former top FBI and intelligence community officials. “Congress is days away from making multiple criminal referrals to DOJ related to conspiracies against Michael Flynn, crimes committed during the conduct of Crossfire Hurricane, false testimony to Congress by top Obama officials, and criminal leaks of classified information from the top rung of the IC,” said a source with direct knowledge of the referrals. The planned referrals come as the Justice Department has expanded its own criminal investigation into the conduct of current and former employees during the Russia probe.

Attorney General William Barr said this week the investigation is looking at why the FBI tried so aggressively to open and sustain an investigation into Trump’s campaign before the 2016 election when it lacked the sort of evidence to justify it, and whether those efforts amounted to conspiracy to defraud the courts or violate the rights of some of the Americans that were targeted. “I think before the election I think we were concerned about the motive, the force behind the very aggressive investigation that was launched into the Trump Campaign without — you know, with a very thin, slender reed as a basis for it,” Barr told Fox News. “It seemed that the Bureau was sort of spring-loaded at the end of July to drive in there and investigate a campaign. And they — there really wasn’t much there to do that on.”

Read more …

Julian is not completely shut off from the world. Good.

Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

Julian called me a little earlier on, at 14.22 London time to be precise. From Belmarsh High Security Prison of course. This is not the first time but, as you can imagine, every time I hear his voice I feel honoured and moved that he should dial my number when he has such few and far between opportunities to place calls. “I want a perspective on world developments out there – I have none in here”, he said. Which, of course, placed a considerable burden on me to articulate thoughts on capitalism’s fate during this pandemic and the repercussions of it all on politics, geopolitics etc. The knowledge that Her Majesty’s Prison authorities would discontinue our discussion at any moment made the task harder.

In a feeble attempt to paint a picture for him on as broad a canvass as possible, I shared with Julian my main thought of the last weeks: Never before has the world of money (i.e. the money markets, that include the share markets) been so decoupled from the world of real people, real stuff – from the real economy. We watch in awe as GDP, personal incomes, wages, company revenues, businesses small and large, collapse while the stock market is staying relatively unscathed. The other day, Hertz declared bankruptcy. When a company does this, its share price goes to zero. Not now. In fact, Hertz is about to issue $1 billion worth of new shares. Why would anyone buy shares of an officially bankrupt company?

The answer is: Because central banks print mountain ranges of money and give it for almost free to financiers to buy any piece of junk floating around the stock exchange. “Complete zombification of the corporations”, is how I put it to Julian. Julian commented that this proves that governments and central banks can keep corporations afloat even when they sell next to nothing at the marketplace. I agreed. But, I also pointed out a major conundrum that capitalism faces for the first time. It is this: Central bank money printing keeps asset prices very high while the price of ‘stuff’ and wages fall. This disconnect can go on growing.

But, when Hertz, British Airways etc. can survive in this manner, they have no reason not to fire half the workforce and to cut the wages of the other half. This creates more deflation/depression in the real economy. Which means that the Central Banks must print more and more to keep asset and share prices high. At some point, the masses out there will rebel and governments will be under pressure to divert some income to them. But this will deflate asset prices. At that point, because these assets are used by corporations as collateral for all the loans they take out to stay afloat, they will lose access to liquidity. A sequence of corporate failures will commence under circumstances of stagnation. “I don’t think capitalism can easily survive, at least not without huge social and geopolitical conflicts, this conundrum”, was my conclusion.

Julian thought about this for a moment and asked me: “How important is consumption to capitalism? What percentage of GDP is at stake if consumption does not recover? Do the corporations need workers or customers?” I answered that it was high enough to make this conundrum real. Yes, Central Banks and robots can keep the corporations going without customers or workers. But, robots cannot buy the stuff they produce. So, this is not a stable equilibrium. The losses in people’s incomes will accelerate, thus generating pivotal discontent.

Read more …

 

 

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May 142020
 


Byron Street haberdashery, New York 1900

 

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)
Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)
Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)
Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)
Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)
Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)
72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)
36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)
Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)
Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)
COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)
FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)
US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)
Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

 

 

• US New cases 21,449

• New deaths 1,896 (yesterday 1,894, Monday: 830, Sunday: 776)

• Russia breaks its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with 9,974

 

 

 

Cases 4,451,226 (+ 93,006 from yesterday’s 4,358,220)

Deaths 298,520 (+ 5,284 from yesterday’s 293,236)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The UK never had an actual lockdown, they just pretended they did.

18.1 million arrivals to the UK by air, land and sea from 1 January to 23 March, pre-“lockdown”. Another 95,000 just by air between 1 April and 26 April, during the lockdown. With tons of stories of very few if any checked out.

The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed.

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)

At least 95,000 people have entered the UK from overseas since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, one of the government’s chief scientific advisers has revealed, while repeatedly failing to provide an estimate of how many of these people had Covid-19. Appearing before MPs on the science and technology committee, Prof John Aston, the chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, admitted that had tougher restrictions been introduced at the border, the peak of the virus may have been delayed – but he did not say by how long, or if this would have saved lives. Aston, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is advising the government during the crisis, was asked repeatedly for the estimated proportion or number of people arriving in the UK with Covid-19.

He insisted instead that a more “robust” assessment was the ratio of imported cases to domestic cases. This model, formulated by Sage, estimates 0.5% of all cases on any given day are imported from overseas. The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed. Since then, there has been little intervention other than advice provided on leaflets and posters. Arrivals will have been subjected to the same lockdown restrictions imposed on the wider population since 23 March. [..] Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, [..] asked Aston if ministers had a central estimate of the number of people arriving each week who might have Covid-19 when the decision to stop asking any arrivals to self-isolate was made.

[..] Cooper [..] said: “Previously people were asked to self-isolate at the border for 14 days. Inexplicably when other countries were increasing their restrictions or their requirements to self-isolate, the UK lifted them all. It was before the peak in Spain, it was still around the peak in Italy, it was several weeks before the peak in UK.” Aston’s evidence comes as the government prepares to enforce a 14-day quarantine for arrivals by air at the UK border – a policy that some have suggested would have been more appropriate prior to the UK lockdown on 23 March. There were 18.1 million arrivals to the UK in the period from 1 January to 23 March across air, land and sea, of whom 273 air passengers were formally quarantined. Aston told the committee that between 1 April and 26 April there were 95,000 arrivals into the UK by air, of whom about 53,000 were UK citizens.

Read more …

This looks more like a lockdown. Just 6,500 non-Australians arrived in April.

Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)

Australia saw overseas arrivals collapse to almost nothing in April as it closed its borders to fight the coronavirus pandemic, in a massive blow for the tourist industry. Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed arrivals of 21,600 in April, down 98.7% from a year earlier. Returning Australian citizens accounted for 15,100 of them. The biggest decline was in arrivals from New Zealand, which dived by 161,950 to just 1,180. Arrivals from China, where closures had already badly curbed tourism in March, dropped 132,040 to only 320. Departures from Australia likewise plunged 96.5% to 63,500, mostly foreigners returning home.

Read more …

50% of people still leave their homes every day. Not a lockdown.

Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)

The Times asked UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford, a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about why the plateau persists. “As long as it’s going up, it has not ended. It’s got to come down for it to end,” he said. Rutherford offered two reasons why the disease is persisting: a certain percentage of people still must go out to work, and others are getting fed up with staying at home. A significant part of the population has chosen not to say home or has been unable to do so because they’re essential workers manning supermarkets, meat processing plants, prisons and nursing homes.

A CDC study estimated that around April 1, about two weeks into a regional stay-at-home order, nearly 50% of residents in five Bay Area counties were still leaving home, down from 80% in late February. “That’s still 50%,” Rutherford said, adding that people can still get infected even if they limit their trips outside the home to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket. Essential workers who must leave home — people working in the food industry, making deliveries and staffing medical facilities — are among those contracting the coronavirus. A UC San Francisco study of thousands of residents and workers in the city’s Mission District found that 57% of those tested must leave their homes for work, and those who had to leave home to work accounted for 90% of the positive cases.

Nearly 89% of those who tested positive earn less than $50,000 a year, and most live in households with three or more people. While Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. Many residents and workers in the Mission District are employed in essential services such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, restaurants, grocery stores and janitorial and domestic services, the university said. Staying home, the researchers said, clearly seemed to make a difference.

Read more …

Ambrose Evans Pritchard quotes a “London cardiologist friendly to Boris”:

“We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that the patients were infected, no testing available, and no PPE to prevent transmission.”

Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)

More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19, academics have calculated – more than double the number stated as passing away from the disease in official figures. Academics at the London School of Economics found that data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to the virus published by the Office for National Statistics significantly underestimated the impact of the pandemic on care home residents and accounted for only about four out of 10 of the excess deaths in care settings recorded in recent weeks in England and Wales. ONS statisticians said on Tuesday that 8,314 people had died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in English care homes up to 8 May.

The figures suggest the impact of the virus in care homes is finally reducing. They are based on reports filed directly from care home operators to the regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Care Inspectorate Wales has said Covid was confirmed or suspected in a further 504 cases in homes up to the 8 May in Wales. But academics at the care policy and evaluation centre at the LSE found that when excess deaths of other care residents and the deaths of care home residents from Covid-19 in hospitals are taken into account, the toll that can be directly and indirectly linked to the virus pandemic is likely to be more than double the current official count.

[..] Care homes have been running at 10% to 20% staff absence rates and many homes have been trying to isolate residents in their rooms to reduce infection spread, but this can also make their normal care more difficult and residents’ needs less visible.

Read more …

Well, if you put them all together and insert known patients, no wonder. Do the same with younger people and you get the same result.

Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)

As Britain edges back to work and employees consider the risks of moving beyond lockdown, official figures underscore that working-age Britons are 34 times less likely to die of coronavirus than over-65s. About 12% of all deaths relating to Covid-19 have occurred among those under 65 – a total of 4,066 deaths. Most victims have been in the over-65 category, accounting for 30,978 fatalities. There have been 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people among the under-65 category, which rises to 286 deaths per 100,000 in the over-65 group, meaning pensioners are 34 times more likely to die of the illness. The contrast is even starker in data concerning those under 45. According to the Office for National Statistics figure, there have been just 401 deaths in this age group – one death for every 100,000 people, or around 1% of the overall death toll.

However, age is just one of the factors that will affect a person’s vulnerability to the virus. Research has shown that ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing health conditions and occupation also contribute to an individual’s risk of dying. The death rate among the working population differs by gender. The death rate for men is 9.9 per 100,000 people and 5.2 per 100,000 women. This may also be driven by the death rate in particular occupations, as some workers appear to be more vulnerable depending on exposure to the virus.

Death rates among some minority ethnic groups are also disproportionately high, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals was more than 2.5 times that of the white population. Guardian reporting also found that areas with high BAME populations tended to have higher death rates.

New data released by the ONS on Monday showed for the first time that people in low-paid manual jobs were at much greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Men in low-paid jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than professionals, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.6 among white-collar male workers, according to the analysis. Jobs which were found to have high death rates included security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers. Commenting on the findings, Professor Neil Pearce, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The observations are almost certainly due to … exposure to people….”

Read more …

Probably a lowball, but very far from herd immunity.

Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)

A study led by the Pasteur Institute says a mere 4.4% of the French population – or 2.8 million people – have been infected by the novel coronavirus, much higher than the official count of cases but way too low to achieve so-called “herd immunity”. In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science, researchers say the infection rate in the worst-hit parts of France – the eastern part of the country and the Paris region – is between 9 and 10 percent on average. “Around 65% of the population should be immune if we want to control the pandemic by the sole means of immunity”, the study says. Herd immunity refers to a situation where enough people in a population have immunity to an infection to be able to effectively stop that disease from spreading. The rate of infection was measured by the Pasteur Institute as of May 11, the day when France started to unwind its almost two-month-long national lockdown.


“As of a consequence, our results show that, without a vaccine, the herd immunity alone will not be enough to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Efficient control measures must thus be upheld after May 11”, researchers say. France’s overall death toll from the virus rose to 27,074 on Wednesday, the fifth-highest in the world, and total number of cases officially stood at 177,700, the seventh-highest total. The Pasteur Institute also said the lockdown put in place on March 17 in France led to a drastic decline of the coronavirus’ reproduction rate, going from 2.9 to 0.67 over the 55-day virtual standstill of the country. A Spanish study also published on Wednesday showed similar results, saying about 5% of the country’s population had contracted the disease and that there was no herd immunity in Spain, also emerging progressively for long lockdown.


Large sero-survey in Spain with 60,000 participants shows ~5% of population tested positive for #coronavirus antibodies, 11% in region with highest incidence (Madrid)
1) Infection fatality rate ~1.2%
2) Herd immunity is not an option

Read more …

Why then have a law that says you can’t drive through city center at 200 mph? Same difference. “I will not give up my freedom for your safety”.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority. In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.” The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.


The ruling says the judges weren’t challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature. One of the dissenting justices, Rebecca Dallet, said her conservative colleagues in the majority were the ones who were exceeding their authority, and she noted precedent for Palm’s directives — a monthslong stay-at-home order during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history,” she said. “And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.” [..] During oral arguments, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested that the order amounted to “tyranny,” and at another point, she referred to Japanese Americans’ internment during World War II.

Read more …

A protest meeting.

72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)

More than 70 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for coronavirus after admitting they attended a ‘large gathering’ in the state – around the same time that thousands of protesters were pictured ignoring social distancing and shunning face masks at a mass anti-lockdown rally. The state’s Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed that 72 individuals who were diagnosed with the deadly virus on or after April 26 had all attended a large gathering not long before their diagnosis. ‘We were able to pull some limited data – out of 1,986 cases with onset/diagnosis on or after 4/26, there were seventy-two cases who reported attending a large gathering,’ DHS spokesperson Jennifer Miller told The Progressive.


Two days earlier on April 24, thousands of protesters gathered outside Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison demanding Democratic Governor Tony Evers reopen the state for business. It marked one of the largest anti-lockdown rallies to take place across the country. At the time there were 5,356 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin and 262 people had died. As of Wednesday, cases have almost doubled to 10,611 and the death toll has reached 418. [..] ‘Possible exposures during protests haven’t been specifically added to the database because we already ask about large gatherings,’ Miller told The Progressive. ‘Contact tracers do ask if patients attended mass gatherings, but not specifically about protests, so there’s really no data on who may have contracted COVID-19 at a protest.’ Miller added: ‘No, it doesn’t specifically state that the 72 were at a rally, but this is the data we have.’

Read more …

Right before they go on the ventilator.

36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)

Over a third of patients treated for COVID-19 in a large New York medical system developed acute kidney injury, and nearly 15% required dialysis, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The study was conducted by a team at Northwell Health, the largest health provider in New York state. “We found in the first 5,449 patients admitted, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury,” said study co-author Dr. Kenar Jhaveri, associated chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, whose findings were published in the journal Kidney International. Acute kidney injury occurs when the kidneys fail and become unable to filter out waste. Of those patients with kidney failure, 14.3% required dialysis, Jhaveri said in a phone interview.


The study is the largest to date to look at kidney injury in COVID-19 patients. It may be helpful, Jhaveri said, as other hospitals face new waves of patients with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.3 million people and killed over 295,000 globally. Several groups have noted increased rates of kidney failure among patients with COVID-19. Jhaveri and colleagues set out to quantify it by combing through medical records of 5,449 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March 1 and April 5. They found that kidney failure occurred early on, with 37.3% of patients arriving at the hospital with failing kidneys, or developing the condition within the first 24 hours of being admitted. In many cases, the kidney failure occurred around the time severely ill patients needed to be placed on a ventilator, Jhaveri said.

Read more …

Canada’s not doing well.

Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)

The Canadian province of Ontario is allowing its education staff, including teachers and custodians, to voluntarily redeploy into the province’s long-term care homes, the provincial government said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak at just one Toronto-area home alone has killed dozens. Coronavirus deaths in long-term care nursing homes account for 815 of 1,765 total deaths in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, according to provincial data released on Wednesday. Camilla Care Community recorded 56 deaths, according to the home’s owner, Sienna Senior Living, on Wednesday. The regional health authority reported 179 residents and 39 staff have tested positive at the facility.


In March, Ontario closed schools in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, requiring many educators and other staff to leave their jobs. This latest redeployment focuses on training and moving any employees who volunteer into nursing homes. Ontario has previously moved workers from hospitals into long-term care homes, and Wednesday’s announcement expands the province’s support for the facilities, which have been hit hard by the virus. The province also issued an emergency order on Wednesday morning, allowing the provincial government to issue mandatory management orders to any long-term care home struggling to deal with an outbreak.

Read more …

Not just care homes, poor parts of town as well.

Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)

Springtime in Montreal is normally a cause for celebration. After the city’s long, arduous winters, people emerge from the confines of their apartments at the first inkling of warmth to lounge in parks and on patios – or terrasses – and enjoy a meal, beverage and the company of friends. Not this year. Montreal, a city touted by tourist guides as “North America’s Europe” for its rich culture and joie de vivre, is Canada’s centre for Covid-19. Of the entire country’s 70,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, the city of 2 million people has 20,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, or about 64% of the entire province’s death toll. Those numbers have catapulted Quebec into an unfavourable position: it is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily coronavirus deaths, according to Quebec newspaper La Presse.


[..] Earlier this month, the province admitted that its effort to manage staffing shortages by moving workers around the long-term care network could be spreading the virus. Montreal North feels the consequences of that. One in five Montrealers infected with Covid-19 are healthcare workers – none of whom are receiving danger pay. In Montreal North, 23% are infected, said community organizer Will Prosper. “It’s these people who are still taking care of us, when not too long ago they were the people who we wanted to kick out,” said Prosper.

Read more …

Just a bigger casino.

COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)

The $2.3 trillion CARES Act, the Donald Trump-led rescue package signed into law on March 27th, is a radical rethink of American capitalism. It retains all the cruelties of the free market for those who live and work in the real world, but turns the paper economy into a state protectorate, surrounded by a kind of Trumpian Money Wall that is designed to keep the investor class safe from fear of loss. This financial economy is a fantasy casino, where the winnings are real but free chips cover the losses. For a rarefied segment of society, failure is being written out of the capitalist bargain. This is a fresh take on a long-developing dynamic. Dating to the late Eighties, when then-Fed-chief Alan Greenspan slashed interest rates after the 1987 stock-market crash, there’s been an understanding that the government would be there to help Wall Street back on its feet in hard times.

[..] What’s happening in the COVID-19 crisis is the next step: a financial bubble where the Fed isn’t the cleanup mechanism, but the source of the mania itself. While the real economy is seeing record disruptions, Wall Street has seen prolonged rallies of “rational exuberance” over the Fed’s decision to usher in “QE infinity” and essentially ban losing in finance capitalism. Though this is a Trump bill — El Pompadour is so determined that the CARES Act be remembered as his work, he fought to get his signature on relief checks — it passed unanimously, by voice vote in the House, and 96-0 in the Senate. Talk to Democrats on the Hill and they will tell you this is a bailout to be cheered and supported, nothing like the 2008 rescue. This time is different, the argument goes: Three-quarters of the money goes to real people.

[..] Technically, “only” about $500 billion of the congressionally passed rescue package goes to “big business.” Moreover, the big-business aid ostensibly comes with a range of draconian-sounding conditions barring greedy hijinks, meaning no layoffs, no stock buybacks, no big bonuses, etc., if companies want the handout. The loophole comes via $454 billion created as part of that big-business package. This “emergency fund” will be dumped into a “special-purpose vehicle” used to backstop further lending by the Federal Reserve. That $454 billion is designed to grow by a factor of 10 or more. “We can lever up to $4 trillion,” said Steve Mnuchin, playing the “free-spending Goldman Sachs-trained Treasury secretary” role that apparently is a prerequisite for financial-disaster narratives in modern America.

Read more …

Lovely.

FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks. The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot. It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public. “This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it. Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.

Read more …

Or should the FBI be held in contempt?

US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)

A U.S. judge on Wednesday signaled reluctance to allow the Justice Department to drop its criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn, tasking a retired judge with advising on whether the former Trump administration official should face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury. In a short written order, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to present arguments in the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. Sullivan said he was seeking Gleeson’s recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury because he testified under oath that he was guilty of lying to the FBI but then reversed course and said he had never lied. Sullivan also said he wanted Gleeson to make the case for why a motion to dismiss the Flynn case filed by the Justice Department last week should be rejected.


The Justice Department’s bombshell May 7 decision to drop its case against Flynn came on the heels of growing pressure from Trump and Trump’s political allies who repeatedly accused the FBI of improprieties in how it handled the investigation. Up until that point, the Justice Department had staunchly defended the FBI’s actions in the case. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russia’s U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. However, later in the case he switched lawyers and tactics, accusing the FBI of tricking him and seeking to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

Read more …

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Patrick M. McLaughlin served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio from 1984-1988 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1984.

Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

For most Americans, it must be absolute confusion trying to decipher truth from non-truth as charges and countercharges are leveled by the Democrats and Republicans, and the media weigh in on the Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn case. My suggestion is to ignore the talking heads and read the DOJ’s 20-page motion to dismiss the criminal information against Flynn, and all the exhibits attached to that motion. Then, you will have the facts necessary to come to an informed opinion. I have done that, so let me give a primer. The DOJ determined that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice” because the interview of Flynn by the FBI was unjustified by the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, since that investigation “had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.’”

The DOJ is unpersuaded that Flynn’s interview “was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis” and does not believe that Flynn’s statements “were material even if untrue.” In addition, in consideration of all the evidence “including newly discovered and disclosed information,” the government doubts that it can prove “either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.” The motion, plus 86 pages of exhibits, provides evidence, at best, of the dereliction of duty by the FBI under James Comey and, at worst, possible criminal misconduct. Only a full disclosure of all relevant information, documents, and testimony under oath by participants will satisfy the right of Americans to have the evidence we deserve in order to form our opinions unfiltered by the talking heads. Let the real facts fall where they may.

[..] When you review the DOJ’s filing, put yourself in Flynn’s shoes and consider how you would feel if the government treated you in the same manner and, to top it off, hid material exculpatory information from your defense team and the court. Overlay on that: How would you handle it if legal fees had wiped you out financially and the agents and prosecutors were threatening to indict a member of your family to pressure you to cave? The conduct of Comey’s FBI, of the Special Counsel, and of some at Main Justice should be placed under the microscope of a truth-seeking, nonpartisan inquiry with the interests of the nation in mind. Find out what happened and why — then fix it.

Read more …

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 072020
 


Edward Hopper Office in a Small City 1953

 

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)
To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)
UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)
Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)
Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)
Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)
Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)
Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)
CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)
Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)
Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)
Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)
US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)
Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)
Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)
Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)
State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)
OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

 

 

• US records 1,150 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins tracker

• Reported US coronavirus cases via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

5 weeks ago: 91 cases
4 weeks ago: 678 cases
3 weeks ago: 4,459 cases
2 weeks ago: 42,663 cases
1 week ago: 160,698 cases
Right now: 367,650 cases

• Reported US coronavirus deaths via @ryanstruyk @CNN:

Feb. 6: 0
Mar. 6: 17
April 6: 10,908

 

 

Cases 1,359,010 (+ 76,627 from yesterday’s 1,282,383)

Deaths 75,900 (+ 5,717 from yesterday’s 70,183)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: US had over 30,000 new cases in 24 hours.

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“The British people were shocked” when they heard Boris went to the ICU, says a BBC Breakfast presenter. Well, of course, because you’ve all been lying about his condition the whole time, you and the government. The next thing they talk about now is how competent the medical staff is, as are the politicians taking over from the PM. La la land.

Boris is in real danger. Andrew Cuomo last week said that in New York only 20% of patients survive a ventilator. Numbers in Europe appear a bit better. But the reason Boris will be put on one is very likely that his own immune system has started to attack him in a cytokine storm. This would typically happen after the 7-10-day period since he got infected.

At the same time, because there is no vaccine, the immune system is the only thing that can save a patient’s life. There are various machines that can take over various’ organs’ functions, and there are medications that may help some, but in the end it’s the immune system.

Here’s wondering if Boris has taken any chloroquine, and if so, at what stage.

 

This is a good overview of -potential- proceedings.

PM’s Move To ICU Shows He’s Likely To Have Severe COVID19 (G.)

Boris Johnson’s move to the intensive care unit (ICU) of St Thomas’ hospital signals that he has severe Covid-19. Oxygen was available through a mask on the ward he was admitted to on Sunday, but the move to intensive care on Monday strongly suggests that was not enough to help him with the breathing problems caused by the viral pneumonia that the virus triggers. Most people in intensive care, according to the World Health Organization, require ventilation. Around 15% of people with Covid-19 become seriously ill and need oxygen therapy in hospital. A further 5% are moved into intensive care, so that their breathing can be taken over by mechanical ventilation. Some will also need support for other organs.

Anyone who is put on a ventilator will need to be sedated, although they are not unconscious. A tube must be inserted into the patient’s windpipe, so that air and oxygen from the machine can be blown into the lungs. That takes the strain off the lungs while they recover. [..] Ventilation is vital in most severe Covid-19 cases, which is why there has been a huge effort to obtain more machines and even encourage engineering businesses to switch production lines to make them. In the severest cases, patients are put on an ECMO machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which can support both the heart and lungs where somebody is in a life-threatening condition. Johnson’s admission to intensive care comes shortly after the 10th day of the illness, which has been identified as a real danger point.

During the first week, most people’s immune systems rally and manage to fight off the virus. Those who do not recover and continue to struggle for breath and have a fever often need help around the middle of the second week. In that second week, the immune system can sometimes go into overdrive. In its attempt to fight the virus, it creates what is called a cytokine storm, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own organs. The heart, the liver and kidneys are most likely to be affected and all of them can need to be supported by machines that can take over their function. The latest report into patients admitted into critical care so far from the intensive care national audit and research centre (IANARC), showed 2,621 admissions up to 3 April, most of whom are still there. The mean age was 60 and 73% of them were men. More than 35% of them were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, and 37% were obese.

Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging at University College London, said: “It seems clear that the prime minister went to hospital because he had difficulty breathing. It seems he was initially put on oxygen, and was conscious. “But as often happens with Covid-19, his condition has now deteriorated so he has been admitted to intensive care. “We understand the PM is on a type of breathing support called Continuous positive airway pressure (Cpap), which is commonly used in treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea. Experience in Italy and other European countries has shown that Cpap can be effective in Covid-19 patients, at least initially. Many Covid-19 patients progress to invasive ventilation. Invasive ventilation involves a tube being put down the patient’s airway.”

Read more …

Insult and injury. Entire industries will be forced back from China to the US and Europe.

To Use Ventilators You Need Sedatives. The US Is Running Out Of Both (Vox)

New York City may be the first city in the country to run out of ventilators, other cities are expected to follow. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently tweeted, “Ventilators are our #1 need right now. I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can.” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards predicted that his state would run out of ventilators by April 6. But to save a Covid-19 patient’s life with a ventilator, you also need an ample supply of medications, both to be able to use the machine and to prevent agonizing pain. Experts say there’s a worrisome shortage of those, too — one that’s only expected to grow worse. “The minute you talk about ventilators you need to talk about medications,” says Esther Choo, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

Choo says hospitals are already running out of medications like fentanyl, versed, propofol, and even neuromuscular blockades, what she calls “everyday bread and butter medications,” the drugs needed to induce and maintain sedation while on a ventilator. “Ventilators can’t really be used without these medications.” In severe cases of Covid-19, the patient’s’ own immune system can cause their lungs to fill with fluid. At this point, ventilators are a critical tool for keeping people alive. Medical staff insert a tube deep into the lungs in a process called intubation, in order to deliver more oxygen from a ventilator than the patient can inhale on their own.

“You can imagine if I tried to shove a plastic tube down your throat, it’s a very human reflex not to let someone do that,” Choo says. “So we place people in deep sedation.” After the tube is placed in the trachea, patients have to stay sedated — in the case of some Covid-19 patients, that can last for several weeks. [..] It’s alarming that hospitals are already experiencing shortages of these drugs, knowing what’s coming. Although President Trump has invoked the wartime Defense Production Act to start producing the additional 40,000 ventilators New York alone has requested, these won’t help stem the crisis for long without the drugs needed to use them — to say nothing of the freewheeling chaos of inter-state bidding wars for scarce supplies.

https://twitter.com/ColumbiaBugle/status/1247335654423322625

Read more …

Meanwhile in Borisland (Q: how much did you pay for those things?):

UK Testing Chief Admits None Of 3.5 Million Antibody Kits Work (Ind.)

The UK government’s new testing chief has admitted that none of the 3.5 million antibody tests ordered from China are fit for widespread use. Professor John Newton, who was appointed by health secretary Matt Hancock to oversee testing, reportedly said the tests were only able to identify immunity in people who had been severely sick with coronavirus. The tests did not pass the evaluation stage, and he was quoted by The Times as saying they were “not good enough to be worth rolling out in very large scale”. Prof Newton, director of public health improvement for Public Health England (PHE) said three “mega labs” for testing NHS staff was his top priority and did not expect university and commercial labs to be able to help.


He said: “We are not relying on lots of people coming forward to help us to achieve what’s required and we shouldn’t get too distracted by that. “There’s a big, big ask at the moment which is quite specific [on testing NHS staff]. So a lot of these companies who are offering their capacity may not be directly related to that ask and therefore they might not be as helpful at the moment.” Mr Hancock has also acknowledged that early analysis of the tests showed “some of them have not performed well”. He added, speaking on Thursday, that: “We’re hopeful that they [the tests] will improve and that the later tests that we’ve got our hands on will be able to be reliable enough for people to use them with confidence.”

Read more …

Does that mean everyone without symptoms? Every country needs to focus on this, but nobody does. They failed to secure the kits.

Spain To Extend Coronavirus Testing To People Without Symptoms (RT)

Hopes are growing that lockdown measures in Spain may be relaxed after figures suggested the country has “passed the peak” as tentative optimism moves across Europe. Spain will extend coronavirus testing to people showing no symptoms as new infection rates slow in the country, the country’s foreign minister announced. On Sunday, 647 deaths were reported over 24 hours – half the rate recorded during the previous week. Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez told TV station Antena 3:”We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation, for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lockdown.” He added that Spanish companies were manufacturing 240,000 test kits a week and were still ramping up capacity.


Gonzalez’s colleague, Health Minister Salvador Illa said that Spain wanted to strengthen the coronavirus contagion slowdown as the country entered its fourth week of confinement. Elsewhere, Italy recorded its lowest daily death toll for over two weeks, as 525 people succumbed to the virus on Sunday. Germany recorded its lowest number of deaths in a week with 92 dying yesterday. Berlin announced plans to end the lockdown on April 19. France’s mortality rate also slowed for the second day running. Austria’s government revealed that it plans to start reopening shops from next week as a further indication of a tentative wave of optimism beginning to move across Europe.

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The war on chloroquine is on.

Dem Lawmaker Says Trump Saved Her Life By Recommending Hydroxychloroquine (NW)

Michigan Democratic State Representative Karen Whitsett told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine stopped her coronavirus symptoms “within a couple hours.” Whitsett represents parts of Detroit, a city that has been labeled a coronavirus “hot spot.” Recent data indicated 5,032 positive cases in Detroit with 196 deaths attributable to the virus reported in the city. Used primarily to treat malaria, hydroxychloroquine has been praised by President Donald Trump as a potential therapeutic for the virus. Sunday, Trump suggested taking the drug to prevent contracting the virus. “I’m not looking at it one way or the other,” Trump said, “but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs.”


While the FDA has not yet approved hydroxychloroquine for treatment of the coronavirus, Whitsett claims it worked for her. “I really want to say that you have to give this an opportunity,” Whitsett said Monday. “For me, it saved my life.” Whitsett did not receive hydroxychloroquine until the day of her coronavirus test. She was able to have her husband pick up the medication after her symptoms reached a critical phase. Hospitals in her area were full. “I honestly believed that once I got into something like that, I may not actually come out and that was my biggest fear,” Whitsett said. “And I knew that this medication would possibly save me.” Whitsett credited Trump’s mention of hydroxychloroquine during news briefings for giving her the idea of trying the drug. “If President Trump had not talked about this, it would not be something that’s accessible for anyone to get, not right now,” Whitsett said.

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Et tu, the Intercept? Chloroquine is not “untested”, just not officially as a COVID19 treatment. That’s a different thing. It’s precisely used less for malaria these days because after decades of use, the parasite that causes is suspected to have developed immunity. Plenty testing for side-effects etc. in those decades.

And do you really need to follow the New York Times in suggesting Trump touts the drug only for his own profit? Is nothing safe from the drive for clickbait and paper sales?

Untested COVID19 Treatment Trump Talks Up Can Have Fatal Side Effect (IC)

An experimental treatment for Covid-19 championed by President Donald Trump — in which patients are given doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, along with the antibiotic azithromycin — raises the risk for some patients of dangerous irregular heartbeats that could be fatal, cardiologists warn in new guidance published by the American College of Cardiology. According to the lead author of the paper, Dr. Eric Stecker, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, any patients treated with the combination therapy should be monitored for ventricular arrhythmia, the irregular beating of the heart’s lower chambers, which can lead to cardiac arrest.

“We don’t know the magnitude of the risk,” Stecker said in an interview on Sunday, but both drugs can raise the odds of irregular heartbeats for some patients, and the risk is greater when they are taken together. The president has repeatedly dismissed warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that the drugs might not be as safe or effective for people infected with the new coronavirus as they are for other illnesses. On Saturday, at a White House briefing on the global pandemic, Trump urged Americans to try hydroxychloroquine and suggested that people infected with the virus had nothing to lose by taking it, as long as their doctors agree.

[..] “One of the problems with knowing very little about the Trump family’s finances,” the New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote, “is when the president gets fixated on something like hydroxychloroquine, we don’t know if it reflects his obsession with quick fixes and miracle cures or if he’s trying to juice an investment.” The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump does have “a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.” In a financial disclosure released last year, the president listed among his assets three family trusts that invested in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, which had shares of Sanofi as its largest holding.

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Because there’s no time to collect the evidence, and there’s nothing else that works. The reported numbers of doctors who take it themselves might give you a hint about its dangers.

Doctors Embrace Drug Touted By Trump Without Hard Evidence It Works (R.)

The decades-old drug that President Donald Trump has persistently promoted as a potential weapon against COVID-19 has within a matter of weeks become a standard of care in areas of the United States hit hard by the pandemic — though doctors prescribing it have no idea whether it works. Doctors and pharmacists from more than half a dozen large healthcare systems in New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington and California told Reuters they are routinely using hydroxychloroquine on patients hospitalized with COVID-19. At the same time, several said they have seen no evidence that the drug, used for years to treat malaria and autoimmune disorders, has any effect on the virus.

Use of hydroxychloroquine has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic. More than 355,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and more than 10,000 have died. The federal government estimates that as many as 240,000 people in the country may die from the disease before the outbreak is over. Facing those numbers, and in the absence of any known effective treatments, doctors on the frontlines said they began using hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine on patients who are deteriorating based on a few small studies suggesting a possible benefit. Some said they had come under pressure from patients to use the therapies widely touted by Trump and other supporters.

“I may take it,” Trump said on Saturday, referring to hydroxychloroquine, though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus, according to the White House. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data.” Potential side effects of hydroxychloroquine include vision loss and heart problems. But doctors interviewed by Reuters say they are comfortable prescribing the drug for a short course of several days for coronavirus patients because the risks are relatively low and the therapies are inexpensive and generally available.

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3M will move much of its operations back to the US.

Trump, 3M Deal Allows N95 Face Masks To Be Exported To Canada (G.)

The Trump administration has agreed a deal with the US manufacturer 3M to import more than 166 million respirators from China over the next three months and allow 3M to continue exporting its US-made respirators. The agreement breaks a deadlock which resulted in Washington stopping nearly three million of the specialized masks from being exported to Ontario, stirring fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff battling coronavirus by the end of the week. Donald Trump, who had lambasted 3M over the weekend, had warm words for the company on Tuesday, following the agreement, and its chairman and CEO, Mike Roman offered praise for the president.


“I want to thank President Trump and the administration for their leadership and collaboration,” Roman said in a written statement. “These imports will supplement the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.” Under the plan, 3M will import 166.5 million respirators (masks which form a seal over the mouth and nose and offer much greater protection than surgical masks) from its factories in China, over the coming three months. Meanwhile, the 3M statement said: “The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending US produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply.”

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I would fire him on the spot. Is he just seeking attention? Redfield was quite prominent when the US started its nightmare, but he’s pretty much gone now.

CDC Director Says Death Toll Will Be ‘Much Lower’ Than Projected (ABC)

One of the nation’s top public health officials suggested Monday that because Americans are taking social distancing recommendations “to heart,” the death toll from the novel coronavirus will be “much, much, much lower” than models have projected. “If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that’s what you’re seeing,” said Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control. “I think you’re going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models,” he said. Redfield’s remarks on Monday to AM 1030 KVOI Radio in Tucson, Arizona, struck a rosier tone than some other recent predictions.

On Monday morning, for example, the U.S. Surgeon General equated the coming week’s fallout to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. But officials on the White House task force have said they believe that even with a tough week ahead, the numbers in some places suggest that social distancing is working and could provide a reprieve eventually. National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci said he was very interested in data in New York that the number of admissions to intensive care and intubations in the last three days had started to level off. “We just got to realize that this is an indication despite all the suffering and the death that has occurred that what we have been doing has been working,” he told reporters.

At the same time, Dr. John Brownstein, a Harvard epidemiologist and ABC News contributor, said that Redfield’s comments could mislead Americans into feeling a sense that the disease’s spread is under control. “Projections and models across the board are accounting for a reduction in mobility because of social distancing, so it’s way too soon to declare any kind of victory,” he said. “This is not a moment for people to relax because they feel the models are wrong.”

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But he’s still focusing on businesses, not people.

Missouri GOP Senator Sets Up Potential Clash With Own Party (Pol.)

Most Senate Republicans are taking a cautious approach to the next step of Congress’ coronavirus response. Not Josh Hawley. The freshman Missouri GOP senator is pitching far-reaching proposals, including the federal government directly financing businesses to keep millions of workers on their payrolls — part of what he calls a “survival then surge” strategy in the face of a sputtering economy and dozens of state stay-at-home orders. It’s not exactly GOP orthodoxy to push for even greater intervention in the economy after providing new unemployment benefits, direct cash payments and more than a quarter trillion dollars in loans and grants to small businesses.

But Hawley argued in a telephone interview Monday that the economic severity in the country is “much bigger and much more severe than many other people anticipated,” and Congress needs to act accordingly. “We seem to be on a roller coaster that is currently plunging down,” Hawley said. “I personally do not want to ride that roller coaster and find where the bottom is. And I don’t think American workers should be forced to.” Hawley is one of the first Republicans to push a major add-on to Congress’ already extraordinary relief effort, and he’s fighting an uphill battle with his guarded colleagues. But the early maneuvering is a hint of the debate to come in what was once a budget-slashing party that must now weigh just how big to go in the face of a terrifying crisis.

After preaching a go-slow approach early last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has acknowledged a fourth bill will be needed, likely concentrating on health care. And action is almost certain to be necessary in the coming weeks in other areas: The bill’s signature $377 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses is expected to run out of funding well before its June 30 end date, aides tracking the program say. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen forecast potential 13 percent unemployment; Hawley fears 20 percent or worse. [..] Hawley’s proposal would provide businesses with refundable payroll tax rebates that reimburse 80 percent of payroll costs and give a rehiring bonus for businesses for the duration of the crisis. He says that will prevent unemployment offices from being overwhelmed, keep Americans from going into debt and give families a sense of confidence that a job is waiting for them when the crisis is over.

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Included for the headline. People should know that.

Almost a Third of Young Americans Have Lost Their Jobs So Far (Vice)

An Axios-Harris survey conducted through March 30 showed that 31 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 had either been laid off or put on temporary leave because of the outbreak, compared with 22 percent of those 35 to 49 and 15 percent of those 50 to 64. John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, said it was important to note that the latest survey data do not factor in the doubling of U.S. jobless claims to over 6.6 million in the past week. That number “would suggest further pain and dislocation to 18-34 year olds,” he said. But the economic fears of many young people, even ones with uncomplicated medical histories, are increasingly counterbalanced by health worries as they grow more aware of the risks of COVID-19.


After hearing for months that it threatens primarily seniors and people with chronic diseases, they are now seeing how it imperils their own age group, with consequences such as lung failure. “It’s natural that as we learn more, it’ll become clear that there are substantial costs for young people, even if the risks are, in fact, much greater for the elderly,” said Jeffrey Clemens, a health and labor economist at the University of California-San Diego. “Whether people want to work depends in part on other qualities of the job, one of which is whether it comes with serious health, physical or other risks.”

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I think the answer is the Fed. Only the most crooked survive.

Nobody Asks Why Our Economy Is So Rigged, Brittle and Exploitive (CHS)

What’s remarkable about the lockdown isn’t the hue and cry about the economic damage–it’s the absence of any critical curiosity as to how our economy became so fragile that only the wealthiest contingent can survive a few weeks on savings or rainy-day funds. A healthy, resilient economy would be able to survive a few weeks of lockdown without a multi-trillion dollar bailout of every racket in the land. A society that wasn’t threadbare financially and socially would be able to function and accept individual sacrifices for the common good.

Rather than being organized to serve the common good, our economy and social order is little more than overlapping rackets: rigged “markets” operated by quasi-monopolies to enrich the few at the expense of the many; brittle bureaucracies bound by thousands of pages of mindless “compliance” and exploitive neofeudal structures in which debt-serfs are paid just enough to service their debt but not enough to afford skyrocketing costs for housing, healthcare, higher education, childcare, junk fees and taxes. While everyone is busy screaming about the damage done by the lockdown, nobody’s asking why costs are so high that few can survive a few weeks on their own means.

Nobody dares look at the soaring costs imposed by cartels and monopolies (including government and government-funded rackets such as healthcare and higher education) because it might shine a light on the money-trough they’re feeding from. (Crush every racket but mine…)

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But Russia!

US Army Temporarily Stops Sending New Recruits To Basic Training (JTN)

The Army has temporarily stopped sending new recruits to basic training, the U.S. military service announced Monday. The hiatus is an effort to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and is effective immediately. The measure will remain in place for two weeks. “This tactical pause will allow commands to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place and are operating effectively at training installations,” the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) wrote in a release to Just the News. The pause will protect the current and future force, the organization’s leader said in a statement. “One of TRADOC’s main focuses is to develop leaders by accessing, training and educating soldiers,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk, II, who leads the command.


“We have to do so responsibly, and we’ve already begun protecting those currently in our ranks with social-distanced-enabled training, reduced movement of our soldiers and trainees, and increased screening of those moving across our commands.” Soldiers now in the training pipeline will finish their schools and upon graduation proceed to their next assignment, the Army said. Under new guidelines, the graduates will be medically screened before shipping out, then travel aboard sterilized buses while maintaining spaced-apart intervals. “The decision to pause the shipment of trainees to BCT [Basic Combat Training] for two weeks will allow leaders to focus on setting conditions so movement can be conducted in a safer manner in the future,” Funk said.

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One of the countries I singled out recently. Turkey’s soccer league continued playing to crowds until 10 days ago IIRC.

Turkey Sets Strict Measures As Cases Soar (BBC)

Turkish authorities have imposed new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, as the number of infections continues to rise sharply. The country has reported 30,217 confirmed cases and 649 deaths. Face masks are mandatory on public transport, in markets and other communal spaces, and 31 cities are now closed to all but essential traffic. Turkey now has the ninth-highest number of cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Some 1.3 million people have fallen ill globally and more than 70,000 have died. On Twitter, Turkey’s Health Minister Dr Fahrettin Koca urged people to “stay at home”, saying the virus “draws its power from contact”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked people to practice social distancing and stay “three paces” from one another. Schools are closed, many international and domestic flights are suspended, and mass prayers and public gatherings have been banned. But critics – including doctors and opposition politicians – say more needs to be done. The government still has not imposed a full lockdown like those in place in European countries. Data suggests Turkey now has the fastest rising number of confirmed cases in the world. Mr Erdogan imposed a nationwide confinement order on Friday, for those under 20 years old and anyone over 65 or with a chronic medical condition.

[..] “When we counted there were about 1.1 million people using public transport on a work day, and we’ve seen a lot of private cars on the streets,” key opposition figure and Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu told the BBC. Asked if it was crazy how many people continue to move around, he replied: “It is, absolutely.”

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Time for a revolution.

Wall Street Wins – Again (Nomi Prins)

As in 2008, the most beneficial policies and funding will be heading for Wall Street banks and behemoth corporations. Far less will be going directly to American workers through tangible grants, cheaper loans, or any form of debt forgiveness. Even the six months of student-loan payment relief (only for federal loans, not private ones) just pushes those payments down the road. The historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package is heavily corporate-focused. For starters, a quarter of it, $500 billion, goes to large corporations. At least $454 billion of that will back funding for up to $4.5 trillion in corporate loans from the Fed and the remainder will be for direct Treasury loans to big companies. Who gets what will be largely Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s choice. And mind you, we may never know the details since President Trump is committed to making this selection process as non-transparent as possible.

There’s an additional $50 billion that’s to be dedicated to the airline industry, $25 billion of which will be in direct grants to airlines that don’t place employees on involuntary furlough or discontinue flight service at airports through September. Right after the bill passed, the airline industry announced that more workforce cuts are ahead (once it gets the money). Another $17 billion is meant for “businesses critical to maintaining national security,” one of which could eventually be White House darling Boeing. There’s also a corporate tax credit worth about $290 billion to corporations that keep people on their payrolls and can prove losses of 50% of their pre-coronavirus revenue. More than $370 billion of that congressional relief package will go into Small Business Administration loans meant to cover existing loans and operating and payroll costs as well.

Yet receiving such loans will involve a byzantine process for desperate small outfits. Meanwhile, the big banks will get a cut for administering them. About $150 billion is pegged for the healthcare industry, including $100 billion in grants to hospitals working on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis and other funds to jumpstart the production of desperately needed (and long overdue) medical products for doctors, nurses, and pandemic patients. Another $27 billion is being allocated for vaccines and stockpiles of medical supplies. An extra $150 billion will go to cities and states to prop up budgets already over-stretched and in trouble. Those on unemployment benefits will get an increase of $600 per week for four months in a $260 billion unemployment expansion.

Ultimately, however, the relief promised will not cover the basic needs of the majority of bereft Americans. With Main Street’s economy sinking right now, it won’t arrive fast enough either.

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The overwhelming need for crazy theories…

Money Minus Value, No Limit (Kunstler)

[..] an interesting debate rages internationally as to whether the Covid-19 virus was some kind of engineered event designed to bring about various political outcomes. One thread declares that the Democratic Party, its media handmaidens, and a helpful Chinese leadership used the virus to blow up the US economy and finally, after several botched attempts, get rid of the vexing Mr. Trump. It’s a tidy story, but I don’t buy it, for the simple reason that the entire global economy has blown up, including China’s, so you can file that meme in the Wile E. Coyote folder. A gloss on that one is the idea that NIAID director Anthony Fauci and other medical experts are wicked conspirators bent on destroying American morale by overstating the threat of Covid-19.

This includes the phrase that the novel corona virus is “just another seasonal flu,” and so ordering people to stay away from work and business was unnecessary. Again, you’d have to ask yourself why medical experts and other plausibly intelligent people in so many other countries would do exactly the same thing. They can’t all be orcs. Then there’s the one that has Bill Gates so worked up about climate change that he’s using his foundation’s deep resources to reduce the world’s population by sowing maximum disorder onto the scene with Covid-19 hysteria. This one casts Mr. Gates as something like a villain from a James Bond movie, deep in his Seattle mega-fortress petting a Persian cat as millions perish. Sounds like another case of Americans confusing movies with real life.

Another story has a shadowy gang of “globalists” using the disorder spawned by the virus to impose a centralized global uber-government run by international financiers. First of all, that one smacks of the hoary conspiracy theory that Bilderberger bankers (Jews especially) are scheming to take over the world – yet these supposedly hyper-clever “puppet-masters” are proving that they can’t even run the banks and their own financial ops, which are now crashing down around their ears along with everybody else’s. Thirdly, if there is trend anywhere in this collapse scenario, it is for the devolution of power downward, away from floundering centralized power structures and institutions. As they flounder, the faith of their subject peoples ebbs away and the trust horizon shrinks so that the people are no longer willing to depend on distant authorities for anything.

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Judicial Watch FOIA.

State Dep’t Refuses To Back Hillary Clinton Attempt To Avoid Deposition (JTN)

The State Department on Monday rejected Hillary Clinton’s effort to avoid depositions for herself and her former chief of staff in a lawsuit brought by the government watchdog organization Judicial Watch. The former Secretary of State and her former top aide Cheryl Mills are seeking a writ of mandamus to avoid a judge’s order requiring their testimony in an open records case involving Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business. “The government did not seek and thus does not support the extraordinary relief of mandamus due to the unique circumstances of this case,” reads the State Department’s response signed by multiple members of the Justice Department.


“One aspect of the district court’s rulings, although not central to the pending petition, is of particular concern to the government: assertions that the government acted in bad faith in litigating this FOIA request are wholly without basis,” the Department’s response says. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in early March granted the request to depose Clinton about why she utilized a private email server, her grasp of “State’s records management obligations,” and any information she has about materials pertaining to the 2012 Benghazi attack.

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Can you report on the OPCW without citing the multiple whistleblowers from within its own organization? If you’re the Guardian, you can. You just call it a “supposed whistleblower controversy” and blame it all on RussiaRussia and conspiracy theories:

“… the supposed whistleblower controversy at the OPCW last year, which the organisation comprehensively rejected with an official inquiry. Even though the criticism was found to be baseless it does not stop the conspiracy theorists.”

There was nothing “supposed” about the people who came forward to prove the attacks had been staged.

The OPCW, like the WHO, has turned into a political instrument. As of course the Guardian has.

OPCW Report Set To Blame Syria Chemical Attacks On Assad (G.)

The UN’s chemical weapons watchdog is expected to release its first report explicitly blaming Bashar al-Assad for sarin and chlorine gas attacks on civilians in Syria as efforts to establish accountability for the use of chemical agents in the nine-year-old conflict gain momentum. Observers anticipate that public and classified versions of a report by a new unit at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be published on Wednesday, close to the anniversaries of a major chlorine attack on the then rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma that killed at least 85 people in 2018 as well as a deadly sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun in 2017 which killed at least 89. The report is believed to focus on 2017 attacks on the village of al-Lataminah.


The investigation is the outcome of new powers granted to the OPCW by a 2018 UN resolution specifically calling for the watchdog to “put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons”. Previously, OPCW fact-finding missions did not have the mandate to apportion blame in chemical weapons attacks. The resulting newly created investigation and identification team (IIT) at the OPCW was designed as a work-around to counter Russia, Syria’s closest political ally. Moscow has repeatedly used international forums – and its veto as a permanent member of the UN security council – to block independent investigations into chemical weapons attacks allegedly launched by the Assad regime.

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It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of the process.

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

 

 

A bit of relief in Italy:

 

 

 

While Greece appears to be doing very well compared to Holland, Belgium, Portugal.

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. It’s good for your health.

 

Aug 302019
 

 

Of course the notion of addressing Hong Kong has been in my mind for a while, but it’s a bit of a moving target: things change all the time, and seemingly on the fly. However, with today’s fresh developments, it seems silly to wait any longer. Hong Kong Civic party lawmaker Dennis Kwok yesterday expressed the reason way better than I could:

As I said time and again, the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong, and I would warn against any such move on the part of the central people’s government.”

He said that before today’s arrests -and subsequent release on bail- of a handful of alleged protest leaders Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow. Who, if you read between the lines, didn’t lead much of anything; they may be figure-heads, but that’s not the same thing. The protests are either lacking leaders or everyone’s a leader, depending on who you ask. So why arrest them to begin with? You tell me.

What I did find enlightening was Reuters’ report yesterday on Beijing having rejected Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (how is CEO a political function?) proposal to communicate with the protesters and perhaps allow some concessions to their demands. I know it’s only one source, but it appears quite feasible.

Carrie Lam is between a rock and a hard place, and she admits it -at least according to the Reuters piece-, though not to the protesters. Beijing is in exactly such a spot, but won’t admit it, ever. And that right there is Hong Kong’s main issue.

 

China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters

Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory.

The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

Beijing’s rebuff of Lam’s proposal for how to resolve the crisis, detailed for the first time by Reuters, represents concrete evidence of the extent to which China is controlling the Hong Kong government’s response to the unrest. The Chinese central government has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned other nations against interfering in Hong Kong, reiterating that the situation there is an “internal affair.”

Why the extradition bill, which would have allowed for people to be extradited from Hong Kong to the mainland was ever proposed, g-d only knows. Remember, the transfer of control over the city to China is still 28 years away. Why do it now? It was obvious all along it would meet with fierce resistance.

Blindness or blinders in the Politburo? Quite possible, it’s not as if those guys typically get out much. It’s just that they’re taking a giant risk, because as Dennis Kwok says, “the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong”. What he means, and Beijing surely understands, is the end of Hong Kong’s status as a trade and finance center.

Not a trifle matter for sure. Hong Kong has built that status over a long period -that happens in fields where trust is so crucial-, much like the City of London and Wall Street. You can break that down in no time, but you can’t rebuild the trust elsewhere in anywhere near that timeframe, it takes many years.

China has major plans to ‘move’ and/or ‘share’ Hong Kong’s financial and trade ‘qualities’ to/with neighboring Macau and Shenzhen, but it’s nowhere near ready to make that transition. Remember, Hong Kong has its own dollar, the HKD. That’s not going to move to the mainland, not even in 2047. China only have the yuan, which is quite useless for international trade and FX.

 

 

Alors, what are we going to do about it, guys? On the one side, you have Beijing, which tried to push through the extradition bill and got it thrown back in its face with interest. But Beijing is allergic to losing face. On the other side you have the protesters, who realize this is now or never, that if they give in now, their freedom(s) will never come back.

Two immovable entities, but Beijing seems to think they can move this, that they have the upper hand. Do they, though? 7.5 million people live in Hong Kong, a fair amount of whom are below the age of 10 or above the age of 75. So the 1.5 million that were already out on the streets in some of this year’s protests added up to a quarter of the population. That’s a lot of people.

Sending in troops would hurt China’s economy something real bad, because it would mean the end of the Hong Kong trade hub (corporations, banks, rich people would leave). And most of the population understand the now-or-never notion. I read somewhere that though 92% of the people are ‘Chinese’, only 11% call themselves that.

The vast majority ‘identifies’ as Hong Kongers. And (perceived) freedom is a big part of that. Many of those Hong Kongers are young and highly educated, salaries are high (finance sector), they can travel freely, study abroad. Those who are older are often the parents of these young people, who’ve worked very hard to give their kids these options.

There have been -and will be again- protests from groups of doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, you name it. They don’t want to run the risk of being picked off the streets by mainland Chinese soldiers OR by Hong Kong police forces instructed by Beijing.

When/If things get down to the wire, Hong Kongers will prove very much to be an immovable force. They have too much to lose not to be. They have, in their own view, everything to lose (which some people would translate as nothing to lose, but meaning the same). And they’re up against a Politburo that reacts to them like it’s never left the early 1900s.

This does not bode well for anyone, and if g-d forbid it comes down to serious fighting in the streets, it will bode ill for the entire world. Not only China depends on Hong Kong for much of its trade, the US and EU do, too, for their trade with China, from which they procure much of what is sold in their stores.

 

High time for everyone to sit down and talk. If there’s still time. The mass protest scheduled for tomorrow, August 31, may have been ‘officially’ called off, but there’s no proof Hong Kongers will stay home because of that. There IS proof of more military movements just across the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, however.

Pre-emptively arresting and releasing a pair of 22-year-old kids may not do the job anymore for Beijing. But the Communist Party CCP thinks they cannot possibly lose. They may be wrong. 1.3 billion people is a mighty potential force, but it’s not always only about numbers. Sometimes it’s about now or never.

To me, personally, it feels like what is needed is for the CCP to modernize. But its very structure is set against that. It appears to be this inertia-laden colossus attempting to rule the 21st century with 100-year-old ideas. And yes, they’re talking about shutting down the internet in Hong Kong.

But that would mean shutting down the banks and trading houses too. As would sending in the tanks. According to the 1990s transition treaty signed with the UK, Beijing has until 2047 to fully incorporate Hong Kong. It may not go down smoothly then either, granted, but why push it today?

The West, the EU, UK, US -Putin even?!- can easily come up with a proposal for meetings on Hong Kong to be held over the next 28 years until 2047 that would allow Beijing to save face today. Let’s get it done, soon, win everyone involved some time, they all need it. We need it. And 28 years is plenty time. Before we inadvertently land in another Boxer War or Opium War or WWIII.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 292019
 
 June 29, 2019  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Salvador Dali Paranoiac Woman-Horse (Invisible Sleeping Woman, Lion, Horse) 1930

 

Wall Street Wraps Up Its Best June In Generations (R.)
Not A Rate-Cut Economy (WS)
You Are Nuts To Think A July Interest-Rate Cut Is A Slam Dunk (MW)
Deutsche Bank To Fire Up To 20,000: One In Six Full-Time Positions (ZH)
China and US Agree To Restart Trade Talks (R.)
Russia-India-China Will Be The Big G20 Hit (Escobar)
Trump Offers To Meet Kim Jong-Un At The DMZ (R.)
Boeing 737 Max Likely Grounded Until The End Of The Year (CNBC)
Boeing 787 Dreamliner Caught In Deepening 737 MAX Probe (RT)
EU Leaders Decide Against Weber For Commission Presidency (R.)
Say Anything! (Kunstler)

 

 

And nobody cares that none of it is real… Or that 3/4 of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Wall Street Wraps Up Its Best June In Generations (R.)

Wall Street advanced in heavy trading on Friday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow closing the book on their best June in generations, ahead of much-anticipated trade talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 summit now underway in Japan. All three major U.S. stock indexes gained ground at the close of the week, month, quarter and first half of the year, during which time the U.S. stock market has had a remarkable run. The S&P 500 had its best June since 1955. The Dow posted its biggest June percentage gain since 1938, the waning days of the Great Depression.


From the start of 2019, after investors fled equities amid fears of a global economic slowdown, which sent stock markets tumbling in December, the benchmark S&P 500 jumped 17.3%, its largest first-half increase since 1997. “The market came to the realization that the world is not going to end,” said John Ham, financial adviser at New England Investment and Retirement Group in North Andover, Massachusetts. “Also, (Federal Reserve chair) Powell did a 180 since (the Fed’s) last (interest) rate hike, which has put wind in our sails in the first half of the year.”

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Mostly it all just sounds stupid to me.

Not A Rate-Cut Economy (WS)

The inflation index that the Fed has anointed to be the yardstick for its inflation target – the PCE price index without the volatile food and energy components – rose 0.19% in May from April, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis this morning. This increase in “core PCE” was near the top of the range since 2010. It followed the 0.25% jump in April, which had been the third largest increase since 2010. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, at the press conference following the no-rate-hike FOMC meeting last week, gave a clear and succinct summary of the US economy. It was mostly in good shape, he said, in particular where it mattered the most: “All of the underlying fundamentals for the consumer-spending part of the economy, which is 70% of the economy, are quite solid,” he said.

[..] The Fed’s “symmetric” target is a 2% annual increase in the core PCE index, meaning the increase can fluctuate some above or below the target without causing the Fed to act. Core PCE inflation was in the 2%-range for much of last year. But early this year, the increases softened. So in his opening remarks at the press conference, Powell said that “committee participants expressed concerns about the pace of inflation’s return to 2 percent.” [..] a trigger for a rate cut would be a “sustained” period significantly below the 2% target. Inflation data is volatile and jumps up and down. Earlier this year, when core PCE inflation fell significantly below 2%, Powell said that the factors behind this low inflation were “transitory.”


Janet Yellen, when she was still Fed Chair, also used “transitory” to describe the factors that in early and mid-2017 were causing an actual dip in core PCE – which hasn’t happened this year. And a few months later, she was proven right. After today’s data on the increase in the core PCE index, following the jump in April, the three-month increase – March, April, and May – has now hit 0.50%. Annualized, this amounts to 2.0% core PCE inflation over the past three months, in the bull’s eye of the Fed’s symmetrical target, with the last two months being substantially above the Fed’s target. But note the sharp decline in January, February, and March, and how it has now reversed:

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The sooner the Fed is gone the better.

You Are Nuts To Think A July Interest-Rate Cut Is A Slam Dunk (MW)

The markets have gotten so used to the Federal Reserve doing whatever it takes to keep the S&P 500 and bond prices rising that traders and investors are now expecting the Fed to go against its own judgment and aggressively cut interest rates next month. In putting a 100% probability on a cut in the federal funds target rate at the next Fed meeting on July 30 and 31, traders — and the economists who advise them — seem to have forgotten how language and math work. Not to mention economics. Comments by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in the past 10 days have indicated that the Fed is open to cutting rates if necessary to keep the expansion going, but there’s no sign that policy makers have made up their minds about a July cut — or any cut at all, for that matter.


Powell said it would depend, “you know, on actual data and evolving risks.” The Fed might very well deliver the rate cut that the market is demanding, but only if something significant changes in the next four and a half weeks. The Fed won’t cut rates because it promised to do so at the last Fed meeting (it didn’t). And it won’t cut rates because the U.S. economy is teetering on the edge of recession (it isn’t), or because inflation is dropping (uh-uh), or because fragile financial markets could use a shot of confidence (nope). Before they cut rates, Fed officials would want to see some hard evidence that the outlook for the economy has materially worsened since they met on June 19. About the only thing that would qualify would be a disastrous meeting between Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping this weekend.

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No more global player.

Wall Street may have the best June in generations, but not all of Wall Street.

Deutsche Bank To Fire Up To 20,000: One In Six Full-Time Positions (ZH)

While Deutsche Bank finally delivered some good news for a change to its long-suffering investors, when it miraculously failed to fail the latest Fed stress test, on Friday the chronically sick bank reverted to its “cutting into muscle” baseline when the largest German lender with the €45 trillion notional derivatives was said to be preparing “to cut as much as half its global workforce in equities trading as part of a broad restructuring to boost profitability”, according to Bloomberg with the WSJ adding that the total number could be between 15,000 and 20,000 job cuts, or more than one in six full-time positions globally. The cuts being contemplated by senior executives reflect an acceleration of Deutsche Bank’s downsizing and another major pullback from its global ambitions.


If followed through, the reduction would represent 16% to 22% of Deutsche Bank’s workforce of 91,463 employees, as disclosed by the bank as of the end of March. According to the proposed plan the bank will eliminate hundreds of positions in equities trading and research, as well as derivatives trading, and is expected to start informing staff of cuts – including in the U.S. and Asia – as soon as next month. Rates trading is also affected. While the move begs the question just how effective half of the bank’s equity trading desk was, it will likely be welcomed by the market even if by slashing revenue producers the bank confirms that its trading margins have dropped to negative levels, a virtually unheard of event.

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They should always talk.

China and US Agree To Restart Trade Talks (R.)

The United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks and that Washington would hold off on imposing new tariffs on Chinese exports, signaling a pause in the trade hostilities between the world’s two largest economies. The truce offered relief from a nearly year-long dispute in which the countries have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports, disrupting global supply lines, roiling markets and dragging on global economic growth. “We’re right back on track and we’ll see what happens,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters after an 80-minute meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Japan.


Trump said while he would not lift existing import tariffs, he would refrain from slapping new levies on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods – which would have effectively extended tariffs to everything China exports to the America. “We’re holding back on tariffs and they’re going to buy farm products,” he said at a news conference. “If we make a deal, it will be a very historic event.” Trump said China would buy more farm products but did not provide specifics. In a lengthy statement on the talks, China’s foreign ministry said the United States would not add new tariffs on Chinese exports and that negotiators of both countries would discuss specific issues. Xi told Trump he hoped the United States could treat Chinese companies fairly, the statement added.

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India and Iran.

Russia-India-China Will Be The Big G20 Hit (Escobar)

It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula. A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable.

Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say. Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.


At the SCO summit we had Putin, Xi, Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sitting at the same table. Hanging over the proceedings, like concentric Damocles swords, were the US-China trade war, sanctions on Russia, and the explosive situation in the Persian Gulf. Rouhani was forceful – and played his cards masterfully – as he described the mechanism and effects of the US economic blockade on Iran, which led Modi and leaders of the Central Asian “stans” to pay closer attention to Russia-China’s Eurasia roadmap. This occurred as Xi made clear that Chinese investments across Central Asia on myriad BRI projects will be significantly increased.

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“While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

Trump Offers To Meet Kim Jong-Un At The DMZ (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would like to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this weekend at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, and North Korea said a meeting would be “meaningful” if it happened. Trump, who is in Osaka, Japan, for a Group of 20 summit, is due to arrive in South Korea later on Saturday. He is scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday. If Trump and Kim were to meet, it would be for the third time in just over a year, and four months since their second summit, in Vietnam, broke down with no progress on U.S. efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.


Trump made the offer to meet Kim in a comment on Twitter about his trip to South Korea. “While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” he said. Trump later told reporters his offer to Kim was a spur-of-the-moment idea: “I just thought of it this morning.” “We’ll be there and I just put out a feeler because I don’t know where he is right now. He may not be in North Korea,” he said. “If he’s there, we’ll see each other for two minutes, that’s all we can, but that will be fine,” he added. Trump said he and Kim “get along very well”.

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They still pretend it’s about software.

Boeing 737 Max Likely Grounded Until The End Of The Year (CNBC)

Boeing’s 737 Max could stay on the ground until late this year after a new problem emerged with the plane’s in-flight control chip. This latest holdup in the plane’s troubled recertification process has to do with a chip failure that can cause uncommanded movement of a panel on the aircraft’s tail, pointing the plane’s nose downward, a Boeing official said. Subsequent emergency tests to fix the issue showed it took pilots longer than expected to solve the problem, according to The Wall Street Journal. This marks a new problem with the plane unrelated to the issues Boeing is already facing with the plane’s MCAS automated flight control system, an issue the company maintains can be remedied by a software fix.


Boeing hopes to submit all of its fixes to the Federal Aviation Administration this fall, the Boeing official said. “We’re expecting a September time frame for a full software package to fix both MCAS and this new issue,” the official said. “We believe additional items will be remedied by a software fix.” Once that software package is submitted, it will likely take at least another two months before the planes are flying again. The FAA will need time to recertify the planes. Boeing will need to reach agreement with airlines and pilots unions on how much extra training pilots will need. And the airlines will need some time to complete necessary maintenance checks.

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There we go…

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Caught In Deepening 737 MAX Probe (RT)

Federal prosecutors are expanding their Boeing probe, investigating charges the 787 Dreamliner’s manufacture was plagued with the same incompetence that dogged the doomed 737 MAX and resulted in hundreds of deaths. The US Department of Justice has requested records related to 787 Dreamliner production at Boeing’s South Carolina plant, where two sources who spoke to the Seattle Times said there have been allegations of “shoddy work.” A third source confirmed individual employees at the Charleston plant had received subpoenas earlier this month from the “same group” of prosecutors conducting the ongoing probe into the 737 MAX.

Boeing is in the hot seat over alleged poor quality workmanship and cutting corners at the South Carolina plant. Prosecutors are likely concerned with whether “broad cultural problems” pervade the entire company, including pressure to OK shoddy work in order to deliver planes on time, one source told the Seattle Times. The South Carolina plant manufactured 45 percent of Boeing’s 787s last year, but its supersize -10 model is built exclusively there. Prosecutors are on the hunt for “hallmarks of classic fraud,” the source said, such as lying or misrepresentation to customers and regulators. Whistleblowers in the Charleston factory who pointed to debris and even tools left in the engine, near wiring, and in other sensitive locations likely to cause operating issues told the New York Times they were punished by management, and managers reported they had been pushed to churn planes out faster and cover up delays.


[..] A critical fire-fighting system on the Dreamliner was discovered to be dysfunctional earlier this month, leading Boeing to issue a warning that the switch designed to extinguish engine fires had failed in “some cases.” While the FAA warned that “the potential exists for an airline fire to be uncontrollable,” they opted not to ground the 787s, instead ordering airlines to check that the switch was functional every 30 days.

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Tidings from the Empire.

EU Leaders Decide Against Weber For Commission Presidency (R.)

European Union leaders have agreed that conservative German candidate Manfred Weber will not become president of the bloc’s executive Commission, Germany’s Die Welt daily reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the decision. The decision was reached during talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Die Welt said. If confirmed, the compromise would be a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had backed Weber’s bid to replace Jean-Claude Juncker. French President Emmanuel Macron had opposed Weber’s candidacy, partly because of his lack of experience in high office.

EU leaders failed at a summit earlier this month to agree on who should hold the bloc’s top jobs after European Parliament elections last month, including on the Commission, which has broad powers on matters from trade to competition and climate policy. Weber is the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), the conservative bloc that won most seats in the election and which includes Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). A senior European diplomat told Reuters that socialist Dutchman Frans Timmermans, a deputy head at the Commission, was the front-runner to succeed Juncker. “Timmermans is the best placed,” the diplomat said.


The EU’s 28 national leaders will meet on June 30 to decide who fills the five prominent positions that would help the bloc navigate through internal and external challenges. The jobs include the presidency of the European Central Bank, which has helped the bloc’s economy return to growth after the financial crisis thanks to an extraordinary monetary stimulus programme.

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“..a wayward jellyfish blown hither and yon by Progressive winds..”

Say Anything! (Kunstler)

Apart from the colorful homage to all things Mexican, the signal event of the night was Elizabeth Warren’s stealth political suicide when the popular question of Medicare-for-all came up and NBC’s Lester Holt asked the candidates for a show of hands as to who would abolish private health insurance altogether. Up shot Liz’s hand. Only New York’s mayor, the feckless Bill DeBlasio joined her. If the contest was a game of “Survivor” both would have thereby voted themselves off the island — except Big Bill was never really on the island, just circling around it like a wayward jellyfish blown hither and yon by Progressive winds.


The only “B” Team figure onstage who appeared to be a serious candidate was Hawaiian congressperson Tulsi Gabbard, a major in the US Army Reserve with tours-of-duty in Iraq and Kuwait — especially impressive when smacking down cretinous Ohio congressman Tim Ryan, who mistakenly asserted that the Taliban were behind 9/11. Uh, no, Tulsi informed him, it was al Qaeda (sponsored by our “friend” Saudi Arabia). I predict Tulsi will make the cut to the “A” team, despite the news media’s desperate efforts to shove her off the playing field.

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Jun 172019
 


Pablo Picasso The sculptor and his statue 1933

 

The Bleak Mood Of Pre-Brexit UK (O.)
Boeing May Never Recover From 737 Debacle (Auerback)
Huawei Prepares For 40%-60% Fall In International Smartphone Shipments (R.)
Huawei Moves To Russia-China Operating System (Escobar)
Deutsche Bank To Set Up €50 Billion Bad Bank (R.)
How Wall Street Got Rich Off The Fresh Market Deal (Cohan)
Japan Demands More Proof From US That Iran Attacked Tankers (JT)
The S-400 Is a Formidable Threat to US Arms Industry (Pieraccini)
While Lam Relents, Hong Kong Calls Massively For Her Ouster (AT)
Chinese Activists Seek UN Investigation Into Tiananmen Crackdown (R.)

 

 

Broken. Completely.

The Bleak Mood Of Pre-Brexit UK (O.)

The survey by BritainThinks reveals an astonishing lack of faith in the political system among the British people, with less than 6% believing their politicians understand them. Some 75% say that UK politics is not fit for purpose. As the Conservative party focuses on who its new leader should be, and the Brexit impasse continues with no solution in sight, 86% think the UK needs a strong leader more than ever – but only 21% think the next prime minister, whoever it may be, will be up to the job. Some 52% believe the country is heading for a Boris Johnson premiership.

Pollster Deborah Mattinson said she was shocked by the findings. “I have been listening to people in focus groups since the late 1980s and I cannot recall a time when the national mood was more despairing. ‘Broken’, ‘sad’, ‘worried’, ‘angry’– the negatives tumble out, as does the long list of grievances. I’m hearing anxieties voiced in a way that I haven’t heard since the 1990s: a rundown NHS, job insecurity, teacher shortages.” BritainThinks polled more than 2,000 people and hosted several focus groups in London and Leicester to gauge the national mood.

Almost three-quarters of the British public believe the divisions on Brexit between Leavers and Remainers will deepen and get worse within the next year. Two-thirds feel depressed by rising poverty and homelessness. While people say Brexit has made them more politically engaged – 40% are paying more attention since the 2016 referendum, rising to 50% in those aged between 18 and 24 – the polling suggests the bitter political debate over leaving the EU has shattered public trust in the way the nation is governed. Some 83% feel let down by the political establishment and almost three-quarters (73%) believe the country has become an international laughing stock and that British values are in decline.

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Ralph Nader says the 737 MAX should never fly again.

Boeing May Never Recover From 737 Debacle (Auerback)

Many of us are familiar with the acronym “FUBAR.” A recent New York Times article on the Boeing 737 fiasco provides a perfect illustration of the concept. We’re now learning that the company “built deadly assumptions” into its newly designed 737 Max aircraft and, specifically, its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Even worse, the Times account concludes that the recent air crashes that have resulted in a worldwide grounding of the Boeing Max plane “might have been avoided, if employees and regulators had a better understanding of MCAS” and if the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) itself was not operating with outdated data on the software changes (which Boeing failed to provide).

The analysis is excellent as far as it goes. But the most damning fact only briefly hinted at in the article is that the problems were evident as early as 2012, some five years before the newest 737 version was marketed and sold across the globe. “At its core, this was a hardware problem, not a software issue. Even when Boeing was using a relatively “safer” version of the early MCAS software (that was later changed to a more dangerous version), the new 737 still had an engine too large to be accommodated in its traditional spot on the plane, which ultimately distorted “the relationship between the engine’s ‘thrust’ and its center of gravity,” as I’ve written before. The resultant aerodynamic problems could not be solved with a software “solution,” no matter how “safe” the original MCAS version (that was ultimately changed to an even more dangerous version) was purported to be.”

Just don’t expect any blowback from Washington. The whole episode provides yet another sick illustration of how the entire system of governance in the US has degenerated into a fully fledged “predator state.” About the only good thing that might emerge from this whole fiasco is that Boeing will provide future Master of Business Administration students with a textbook example of how not to manage a crisis. Likewise, future historians and political scientists will marvel in incredulity at the magnitude of corruption that enveloped the US during this very dark time in the life of the republic. Assuming, of course, that there still anything left worth studying by that point.

[..] Recall that the genesis of this disaster was a problem of hardware, not just MCAS. The extra lift of the far larger-diameter engines of the 737 Max (placed on a different position on the wing) caused the plane to pitch up whenever it approached stall angles of attack at both high and low speeds. This is a problem that should have become glaringly obvious to the greenest of aerodynamics personnel at Boeing the moment the first wind-tunnel model was tested at angles of attack higher than stall (it may have even been obvious on even earlier fluid-dynamics computer-simulation results).

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“.. In order to offset overseas decline, Huawei is aiming to grab up to half of China’s smartphone market in 2019..”

Huawei Prepares For 40%-60% Fall In International Smartphone Shipments (R.)

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is preparing for a 40% to 60% decline in international smartphone shipments, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. The Chinese technology company is looking at options that include pulling the latest model of its marquee overseas smartphone, the Honor 20, according to the article, which cited people familiar with the matter. The device will begin selling in parts of Europe, including Britain and France, on June 21, the report said. Executives will be monitoring the launch and may cut off shipments if the sales are poor, it said. Marketing and sales managers at the tech giant are internally expecting a drop in volumes of anywhere between 40 million to 60 million smartphones this year, the report said. In order to offset overseas decline, Huawei is aiming to grab up to half of China’s smartphone market in 2019, Bloomberg said.

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Be careful what you wish for. Sanctions made Russia stronger too.

Huawei Moves To Russia-China Operating System (Escobar)

Google cuts Huawei off Android; so Huawei may migrate to Aurora. Call it mobile Eurasia integration; the evolving Russia-China strategic partnership may be on the verge of spawning its own operating system – and that is not a metaphor. Aurora is a mobile operating system currently developed by Russian Open Mobile Platform, based in Moscow. It is based on the Sailfish operating system, designed by Finnish technology company Jolla, which featured a batch of Russians in the development team. Quite a few top coders at Google and Apple also come from the former USSR – exponents of a brilliant scientific academy tradition.

In 2014, Russian entrepreneur Grigory Berezkin started co-owning Jolla, and from 2016 his Mobile Platform company started developing a Russian version of the operating system. In 2018, Rostelecom, a state company, bought a 75% share in Open Mobile Platform. Ahead of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, Huawei chairman Guo Ping discussed the possibility of adopting Aurora with Russian minister of digital development and communications, Konstantin Noskov. According to Guo, “China is already testing devices with the Aurora pre-installed.” In Moscow, before moving to St Petersburg, Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping discussed multiple possible deals; and these include Huawei-Aurora, as well as where to locate some of Huawei’s production lines in Russia.

Aurora could be regarded as part of Huawei’s fast-evolving Plan B. Huawei is now turbo-charging the development and implementation of its own operating system, HongMeng, a process that started no less than seven years ago. Most of the work on an operating system is writing drivers and APIs (application programming interfaces). Huawei would be able to integrate their code to the Russian system in no time. HongMeng, for its part, is a key project of Huawei 2012 Laboratories, the innovation, research and technological development arm of the Shenzhen colossus. No Google? Who cares? Tencent, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo are already testing the HongMeng operating system, as part of a batch of one million devices already distributed.

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Mutti is not happy.

Deutsche Bank To Set Up €50 Billion Bad Bank (R.)

Deutsche Bank is planning to overhaul its trading operations by creating a “bad bank” to hold tens of billions of euros of assets and shrinking or shutting its U.S. equity and trading businesses, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The bad bank would house or sell assets valued at up to 50 billion euros ($56.06 billion)- after adjusting for risk – and comprise mainly long-dated derivatives, the FT reported, citing four people briefed on the plan. With the creation of the bad bank, Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing is shifting the German lender away from investment banking and focusing on transaction banking and private wealth management, the newspaper said.


As part of the restructuring, the lender’s equity and rates trading units outside continental Europe will be shrunk or closed entirely, the report said. The bank is planning cuts at its U.S. equities business, including prime brokerage and equity derivatives, to win over shareholders unhappy about its performance, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in May. “As we said at the AGM on May 23, Deutsche Bank is working on measures to accelerate its transformation so as to improve its sustainable profitability. We will update all stakeholders if and when required,” Deutsche Bank said in an emailed statement on Sunday in response to the FT report.

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Grand theft auto made legal.

How Wall Street Got Rich Off The Fresh Market Deal (Cohan)

Take the case of the March 2016, $1.36 billion cash buyout of a supermarket chain, Fresh Market, by Apollo Global Management, the firm started by Leon Black nearly 30 years ago that now manages more than $300 billion. In that deal Apollo teamed up with Ray Berry, the company’s founder, and his son, Brett, to buy out the company’s public stockholders. Before the buyout the Berrys owned about 10% of the public Fresh Market. They agreed to roll over that stake into the newly private Fresh Market, giving them about the same ownership in the private company—worth somewhere between $136 million and $930 million, if the alchemy of leveraged buyouts worked out. Apollo would own the remaining 90% of the equity of the private company.

Because the deal was, in effect, a management buyout of the company, Fresh Market set up a special three-member committee of independent directors to evaluate the Apollo proposal, as well as any others that might come in over the transom after the company decided to put itself up for sale shortly after September 1, 2015. As professional referees, the special committee hired JPMorgan Chase as its financial adviser, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore as one of its legal advisers. Their job was to evaluate the various proposals to buy Fresh Market, a collection of 186 stores in 27 states as of March 2016, and to make sure that the one chosen was, in the parlance of Wall Street, “fair” to the public shareholders of the company “from a financial point of view.”

That’s when things got interesting, especially since Apollo was the only final bid the company received. According to a class action shareholder lawsuit that is still wending its way through the Delaware Court of Chancery, Apollo used its long-standing financial ties to JPMorgan Chase and Cravath to co-opt the process for the benefit of itself and the Berrys, allowing them to buy the company on the cheap. In effect, the lawsuit alleges, by teaming up with the Berrys on an exclusive basis, Apollo was able to buy Fresh Market knowing that its competition for the company would be at a severe disadvantage, without being able to count on the Berrys support, and that JPMorgan Chase would likely bless the fairness of the deal.

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Japan, Germany, Corbyn…

Japan Demands More Proof From US That Iran Attacked Tankers (JT)

The Japanese government has been requesting the United States for concrete evidence to back its assertion that Iran is to blame for the attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, government sources said Sunday. The request came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a statement hours after the attacks blaming Iran but without offering proof. The Department of Defense later released a video allegedly showing an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the side of the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous. But Japanese government officials remain unconvinced, the sources said. “The U.S. explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation,” said one senior government official.


Japan has been seeking more concrete evidence through various channels, including Foreign Minister Taro Kono who is likely to have made the request during a call with his counterpart on Friday, the sources said. Pompeo said in a press conference Thursday that the United States’ assessment was based on their “intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” A source close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “These are not definite proof that it’s Iran.” “Even if it’s the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it,” he said.

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AI at its best.

The S-400 Is a Formidable Threat to US Arms Industry (Pieraccini)

The US finds itself faced with a situation it has not found itself in over the last 50 years, namely, an environment where it does not expect to automatically enjoy air superiority. Whatever semblance of an air defense that may have hitherto been able to pose any conceivable threat to Uncle Sam’s war machine was rudely dismissed by a wave of cruise missiles. To give two prime examples that occurred in Syria in 2018, latest-generation missiles were intercepted and shot down by decades-old Russian and Syrian systems. While the S-400 system has never been employed in Syria, it is noteworthy that the Serbian S-125 systems succeeded in identifying and shooting down an American F-117 stealth aircraft during the war in the Balkans.

There is a more secret aspect of the S-400 that is little disclosed, either within Russia itself or without. It concerns the S-400’s ability to collect data through its radar systems. It is worth noting Department of Defense spokesman Eric Pahon’s alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400: “We have been clear that purchasing the S-400 would create an unacceptable risk because its radar system could provide the Russian military sensitive information on the F-35. Those concerns cannot be mitigated. The S-400 is a system built in Russia to try to shoot down aircraft like the F-35, and it is inconceivable to imagine.

Certainly, in the event of an armed conflict, the S-400’s ability to shoot down fifth-generation aircraft is a huge concern for the United States and her allies who have invested so heavily in such aircraft. Similarly, a NATO country preferring Russian to American systems is cause for alarm. This is leaving aside the fact that the S-400 is spreading around the world, from China to Belarus, with dozens of countries waiting in line for the ability to seal their skies from the benevolent bombs of freedom. It is an excellent stick with which to keep a prowling Washington at bay.

[..] The ability of the S-400 to collect data on both the F-35 and F-22 – the crown jewels of the US military-industrial complex – is a cause for sleepless nights for US military planners. What in particular causes them nightmares is that, for the S-400 to function in Turkey, it will have to be integrated into Turkey’s current “identification friend or foe” (IFF) systems, which in turn are part of NATO’s military tactical data-link network, known as Link 16.

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2 million. Beijing has said it stands behind her.

While Lam Relents, Hong Kong Calls Massively For Her Ouster (AT)

Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a public apology Sunday evening (June 16) as hundreds of thousands of protestors dressed in black clogged the city’s streets in another massive protest demanding her resignation and the scrapping of a contentious bill that would allow for the extradition of suspects to mainland China. A day after Lam announced a surprise decision to indefinitely postpone the bill in a press conference on Saturday, the city’s leader vowed to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public” in a statement released at 8:30 pm as chanting crowds stood outside the gates of her office calling for her to step down.


“Carrie Lam’s press conference yesterday just made Hong Kong people angrier. We don’t think she will step down, but we must force her out,” said 27-year-old Chiew minutes before demonstrators began marching from Victoria Park in the scorching afternoon heat with the aim of forcing the government to rescind, rather than postpone, the controversial bill. Gripped by a surge of mass dissent, the Asian financial hub has been thrust into political crisis amid the largest political demonstrations and some of the worst scenes of violence since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Organizers from the Civil Human Rights Front said almost two million people took part in Sunday’s march.


Protest organizers said almost two million people took part in a mammoth June 16 protest march. Photo: Nile Bowie

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Yeah, that’s going to happen.

Chinese Activists Seek UN Investigation Into Tiananmen Crackdown (R.)

More than 20 Chinese activists who took part in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement called on Monday on the United Nations’ top human rights body to investigate Beijing’s deadly crackdown 30 years ago. Wang Dan and 21 others, backed by the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said they had submitted the complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva forum which opens a three-week session on June 24. “We request the HRC investigate the gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Chinese government during its military assault on peaceful protests,” they said in statement.


They also sought action over “the consistent pattern of human rights violations in persecuting Chinese citizens during the past three decades who broke the silence” about the events of June 3-4, 1989. The anniversary remains taboo in China. Beijing has not held a public inquiry nor permitted an independent investigation, the statement said. Beijing enjoys strong support among developing countries at the Human Rights Council, a 47-member state forum that has never adopted a resolution on China since being set up in 2006.

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Aug 052018
 


Claude Monet Hollowed Cliff near Étretat 1883

 

The Real Threat To The Fed’s Independence Is Wall Street, Not Trump (WM)
The Trillion-Dollar Question: Can The Tech Giants Keep Growing? (G.)
Light It Up (Kunstler)
IMF Option Looms Larger For Turkey Amid Row With US (AL M.)
Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship (Matt Taibbi)
Why Theresa May Must Stop The Brexit Clock (O.)
UK Trade Minister Fox Says EU Is Pushing Britain To No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Separating Children From Their Parents Puts UK Government To Shame, Too (O.)
Britain’s Economics Students Are Dangerously Poorly Educated (G.)
How Reality Is Being Redefined (Slog)
Greece’s Unemployment Highest in Developed World (GR)
Greece: An Economy That Has Shrunk So Much It Looks War-Torn (WaPo)

 

 

But we’ve given them all the power…

The Real Threat To The Fed’s Independence Is Wall Street, Not Trump (WM)

[..] the real threat to the Fed’s independence isn’t coming from Trump—it’s coming from Wall Street. The Fed’s structural flaws have led to regulatory capture, which compromises its ability to set monetary and regulatory policy in a manner that isn’t tilted to favor those at the very top of the economic ladder. Trump may have broken a norm by commenting on monetary policy, but the Fed’s status quo is unaccountable, opaque decision-making shaped by deep conflicts of interest with the very financial institutions the Fed is ostensibly supposed to supervise. Consider, for instance, the abrupt resignation in March of David Cote from the New York Fed’s board of directors—a move that came as a shock to many Fed watchers.

Cote was one of just a couple people responsible for choosing the next president of the New York Fed, the most powerful economic policymaking position in the country that Trump doesn’t control. Yet before the search for New York Fed President Bill Dudley’s successor had formally concluded, Cote left the board to pursue “new business opportunities that could affect his eligibility to serve”—later revealed to be helping Goldman Sachs undertake an ambitious corporate acquisition strategy. The New York Fed claims that Cote and his fellow board members had already decided on former San Francisco Fed President John Williams to succeed Dudley by the time that Cote announced his resignation, but that means that Cote was simultaneously negotiating a new gig at Goldman Sachs while selecting one of Goldman’s top regulators.

The entire ordeal served as an unsettling reminder of the cozy relationship between the Federal Reserve and the biggest behemoth on Wall Street. Prior to being selected as New York Fed president in 2009, Dudley was Goldman Sachs’s chief economist. In 2008, Goldman Sachs Director Stephen Friedman chaired the New York Fed’s board of the directors at the same moment that it was reviewing Goldman’s application to become a bank holding company. In 2014, leaked tapes exposed New York Fed regulators pressuring one of their examiners to back off of a finding that would have imperiled Goldman Sachs’s ability to engage in a deal with Banco Santander. And in 2015, the Fed chose three consecutive men with strong ties to Goldman Sachs to be new Federal Reserve Bank presidents.

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Only if we let them.

The Trillion-Dollar Question: Can The Tech Giants Keep Growing? (G.)

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for America’s high-flying technology stocks, even by their own unique standards. Their shares have been soaring since the start of the year, despite being buffeted by trade war fears as President Trump talked of limiting Chinese investments in the US and restricting American technology imports to China. But now there are signs that cracks may be starting to appear in some of the biggest firms in the sector. Facebook suffered the biggest ever one-day drop in a company’s market value – losing more than £90bn – after its growth slowed in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Twitter lost 20%, or $5bn, as it reported a surprise fall in active monthly users, while streaming service Netflix missed its targets for subscriber numbers.

On the other hand, electric car specialist Tesla managed to head in the right direction despite making a $717m second-quarter loss, as its controversial chief executive, Elon Musk, regained investor confidence after apologising for previous outbursts. That was in marked contrast to a conference call for the company’s previous set of figures, when he accused a Wall Street analyst of “boring bonehead questions” and ignored queries from investors. But the pick of the bunch remains Apple, which beat Amazon and Google to reach the landmark $1 trillion valuation on Thursday.

Despite the recent rollercoaster ride, the five key tech stocks, known as the “Faangs” – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet-owned Google – have reached breathtaking heights. The total value of the five companies amounts to a staggering 19% of total US GDP. But their surge in value has prompted fears of a re-run of the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, when technology businesses dominated the stock market before coming crashing to earth. Russ Mould at investment group AJ Bell says: “That [19%] compares to the 15.5% of US GDP reached by the five biggest companies by value at the US stock market’s peak in the fourth quarter of 1999, just before the technology, media and telecoms bubble burst and that particular mania came to grief.”

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“That’s my theory about what Russia is up to. If you have a better one, let’s hear it?”

Light It Up (Kunstler)

The Guardians of the Galaxy at National Public Radio were beside themselves Wednesday night reporting that “the lights are blinking red for a 2018 election attack by Russia.” Well, isn’t that an interesting set-up? In effect, NPR is preparing its listeners in advance to reject and dispute the coming midterm election if they’re not happy with the results. Thus continues America’s institutional self-sabotage, with the help of a news media that’s become the errand boy of the Deep State.

What do I mean by the Deep State? The vested permanent bureaucracy of Washington DC, and especially its vastly overgrown and redundant “Intel Community,” which has achieved critical mass to take on a life of its own within the larger government, makes up its own rules of conduct, not necessarily within the rule of law, and devotes too much of its budget and influence defending its own prerogatives rather than the interests of the nation.

Personally, I doubt that President Putin of Russia is dumb enough to allow, let alone direct, his intel services to lift a finger “meddling” in the coming US midterm election, with this American intel behemoth vacuuming every digital electron on earth into the NSA’s bottomless maw of intercepted secrets. Mr. Putin must have also observed by now that the US Intel Community is capable of generating mass public hallucinations, to the beat of war-drums, and determined not to give it anything to work with. That’s my theory about what Russia is up to. If you have a better one, let’s hear it?

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Turkey double-crossed the US in a prisoner swap deal. Bad idea of course. Erdogan wants Gulen, but this is not the way.

IMF Option Looms Larger For Turkey Amid Row With US (AL M.)

While the climate of uncertainty is discouraging investments, inflation is eroding real incomes and curbing domestic consumption. As a result, the shrinking demand is bearing on economic growth, which has relied largely on the domestic market. The Turkish economy, which grew 7.4% in 2017, is expected to slow in the third quarter before beginning to contract.

The growing uncertainties are discouraging also the inflow of hot money from abroad, which Turkey desperately needs. Moreover, existing foreign investors have been fleeing the Turkish stock market, albeit slowly — a trend that contributes to sustaining the high prices of foreign exchange, especially the dollar. Accordingly, Turkey’s risk premium — reflected in credit default swaps (CDS) — is on the rise. Turkey’s CDS, which had stood at 166 basis points Feb. 1 and 199 basis points May 1, hit a record high of 334 basis points on the evening of Aug. 1 — up from 321 points in the morning. The increasing risk premium means that Turkey will now face higher interest rates when it tries to borrow from foreign creditors.

The country’s external financing needs for the next 12 months amount to $230 billion, including $180 billion to roll over external debts and $50 billion to cover its gaping current account deficit. Hence, the question of how the required funds will be secured and at what cost is crucial. The tensions with Washington came amid this already serious crunch, exacerbating the woes of Erdogan’s regime. The row over Brunson had flared last week, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened sanctions unless Ankara took “immediate action” to release the pastor, who is being held on what Washington sees as bogus charges of espionage and collaboration with terrorist groups.

The warnings had an immediate economic effect, pushing up Turkey’s risk premium, as pundits sought to predict the scope of the upcoming sanctions. Some suggested that Washington’s hardening stance would bear on the flow of foreign capital to Turkey and the support it might seek from the IMF, while others saw trouble looming over Halkbank, the Turkish public lender embroiled in a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran. Ultimately, Washington announced sanctions on Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul under the 2016 Magnitsky Act, which targets individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses. According to Bloomberg, this “could be just the start of what would look like a US assault on Turkey’s vulnerable economy,” including a potentially hefty fine on Halkbank.

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There’s Mark Warner again, the guy who with Comey screwed up the Assange deal with the DOJ.

Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship (Matt Taibbi)

You may have seen a story this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of accounts. As noted by Politico, Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.” Similar? What does “similar” mean? The death-pit for civil liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people or ideas and a national security emergency. This is where we are with this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump administration.

Read this jarring quote from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the shutting down of the “inauthentic” accounts: “Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…” This was in a story in which Facebook stated that it did not know the source of all the pages. They might be Russian, or they might just be Warner’s idea of “sowing division.” Are we comfortable with that range of possibilities?

[..] Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.) These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors. As noted in Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what information does and does not reach the public will amplify significantly.

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Makes sense. But too much of the whole thing doesn’t.

Why Theresa May Must Stop The Brexit Clock (O.)

May’s cabinet colleagues, fanning out across the continent like Patton’s Third Army to advance her Chequers compromise, do not appear to have fared any better. Especially embarrassing are the efforts of Jeremy Hunt, the new foreign secretary. He gravely warned puzzled Europeans last week that Britain was heading for “no-deal by accident” by pushing itself off a cliff. The UK would not “blink first”, he added. Perhaps Hunt thinks he is Clint Eastwood. It matters not. On Brexit, this government has its eyes tight shut. It is blind to the consequences – and the waiting chasm. Blinking does not come into it. What part of the EU’s unchanging position on the principles governing Britain’s future relationship with Europe does May’s government not understand?

For two years or more, Barnier, the chief negotiator, firmly backed by 27 governments, has been telling London there can be no compromise and no fudge that weakens the integrity of the single market, pan-European customs and legal regulations and Europe’s borders. Yet May’s Chequers plan, seeking exceptional (and unworkable) arrangements, blithely ignores all that. In case the European public did not appreciate what was at stake, or was taken in by chauvinistic Tory claims of EU vindictiveness and dogmatism, Barnier published an op-ed in 20 European newspapers last week. Amid Brexit’s baffling complexities, his concision and clarity were refreshing. He explained the EU’s justified fears about the impact of Brexit on Europe and why it cannot reasonably be expected to bow to May’s demands for special treatment:

“The UK knows well the benefits of the single market. It has contributed to shaping our rules over the last 45 years. And yet some UK proposals would undermine our single market, which is one of the EU’s biggest achievements. The UK wants to keep free movement of goods between us, but not of people and services. And it proposes to apply EU customs rules without being part of the EU’s legal order. The UK wants to take back sovereignty and control of its own laws, which we respect, but it cannot ask the EU to lose control of its borders and laws,” Barnier wrote.

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Oh, yeah, they’re going to blame it on the EU.

UK Trade Minister Fox Says EU Is Pushing Britain To No-Deal Brexit (R.)

British trade minister Liam Fox said “intransigence” from the European Union was pushing Britain toward a no-deal Brexit, in an interview published on Saturday by the Sunday Times. With less than eight months until Britain quits the EU, the government has yet to agree a divorce deal with Brussels and has stepped up planning for the possibility of leaving the bloc without any formal agreement. Fox, a prominent Brexit supporter in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, put the odds of Britain leaving the European Union without agreeing a deal over their future relationship at 60-40. “I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us toward no deal,” Fox told the Sunday Times after a trade mission in Japan.

“We have set out the basis in which a deal can happen but if the EU decides that the theological obsession of the unelected is to take priority over the economic wellbeing of the people of Europe then it’s a bureaucrats’ Brexit — not a people’s Brexit — (and) then there is only going to be one outcome.” It was up to the EU whether it wanted to put “ideological purity” ahead of the real economy, Fox said. If Britain fails to agree the terms of its divorce with the EU and leaves without even a transition agreement to smooth its exit, it would revert to trading under World Trade Organization rules in March 2019.

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All sociopaths do it. They are defined by their lack of empathy.

Separating Children From Their Parents Puts UK Government To Shame, Too (O.)

Donald Trump’s policy of forcibly separating immigrant parents and children at the US border has been greeted with shock and abhorrence. Around the world, people have listened to audio of young children sobbing for their parents while federal agents crack jokes and heard the stories of children locked up in cages in the richest country in the world. Even the prime minister broke with her usual timidity about Trump’s transgressions to call his family separation policy “deeply disturbing”. What hypocrisy. Less noticed – although no less inhumane – is the British government’s policy of separating parents from their young children as part of immigration detention, all conducted on Theresa May’s watch, first as home secretary, then as prime minister.

Charities such as Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) have for years been raising the cases of children, many of whom are British citizens, taken into care because their parents have been detained, or even deported, without them. In recent months, a long list of cruelties meted out in the name of the government’s “hostile environment” policy has come to the public’s attention: people who’ve lived in Britain legally for decades, paying their taxes, suddenly denied life-saving NHS care; young people who’ve grown up in Britain facing many thousands of pounds in fees and a multi-year slog to get permanent residency; children raised in care facing the risk of deportation as an adult to a country they don’t know. Any sense of basic justice or human compassion seems to have eluded the Home Office.

But separating tiny children from their parents is cruelty of a whole different order. Today, we report on the case of Kishi, a young mother who dropped her two-year-old off at nursery in order to attend an appointment at an immigration reporting centre. There, she was restrained by immigration security officials and taken to an immigration removals centre. No arrangements were made for her toddler, who was put into emergency foster care when no one came to pick her up, and Kishi was not told where her daughter was for two days. It was another month before she saw her. Kishi and her child are not alone. BID says more than 300 children were removed from their parents in the last 12 months, an increase of 16% on the previous year. Many of those will have been taken into care as a result. The Home Office does not keep records on this; perhaps because it contravenes its own guidance, which says children must not be separated from their parents for immigration purposes if it means they will be taken into care.

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Sometimes I think in Britain it’s not only the economists.

Britain’s Economics Students Are Dangerously Poorly Educated (G.)

This month, the pressure group Rethinking Economics said Britain’s universities were failing to equip economics students with the skills that businesses and the government say they need. Following extensive interviews with employers, including organisations such as the Bank of England, it found that universities were producing “a cohort of economic practitioners who struggle to provide innovative ideas to overcome economic challenges or use economic tools on real-world problems”. Moreover, the group said, “when political decisions are backed by economics reasoning, as they so often are, economists are unable to communicate ideas to the public, resulting in a large democratic deficit.”

You could easily level that criticism at the economists forecasting the impact of AI. What are people supposed to think when those who study the field come up with such wildly varying predictions? More importantly, what will politicians think they should do? Nothing, probably, given the confusion. The Rethinking group is concerned that university departments only train, rather than educate, huge numbers of graduates for econometrics jobs across the banking, insurance and consulting sectors. In our increasingly student-led system, these young people don’t want to mess around with history or modules on inequality. They are on a mission to make money for themselves in the private sector.

If they were diverted into discussions of economic history, they might find out we are about to repeat the mistakes of the past and trigger another financial crisis. Even more inhibiting, their course might show that higher inequality dampens workers’ incentives to increase productivity, and might prompt them to ask why young economists in the City are paid colossal amounts of money to analyse bond yields or forecast oil prices. Pay them less, share the money around, and productivity might improve. Failing that, let a robot do their job.

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John put something like dictatorship in the title. Bit much.

How Reality Is Being Redefined (Slog)

The last burgeoning growth sector on the Planet is the pursuit of redefinition. The idea is first to confuse, then create a climate of acceptance, and finally do away with every form of liberty that stands in the way of power. Both Capital and Labour are actively following the same road. It will be the end of the road for citizen freedom unless they’re both stopped. John Williams at Shadowstats.com reckons that the real unemployment rate in the US is 21.4%. Unimpressed by the US State’s insane assumption that all those no longer able to claim unemployment welfare “have found a job”, Mr Williams provides further fuel for my longstanding thesis that no real recovery can occur – if more and more mass-market consumers work fewer and fewer hours for less and less money or have no job at all – because their personal disposable income is disappearing out of sight. The term ‘in employment’ has been redefined.

When he arrived at the UK Treasury as Chancellor, George Osborne immediately gave notice that he’d be switching from the higher RPI measure of inflation (then at 5.2%) to the lower CPI at 4.5%. That doesn’t sound like much, but one has to remember two things: first, that is a 14% difference in levels that makes inflation look much lower; and second, over time the different impression given is huge: from 1996 to 2011, under the RPI system prices rose 53.6%….but using the CPI method, it only came to 35.6%. Significantly, the CPI system excludes financial services costs and government charges to the consumer. Just fancy that. So the term ‘inflation’ has been redefined.

Within two years of taking office, the Conservative-led coalition’s leader David Cameron started claiming that “the Government’s long-term economic plan is working to create more jobs”. Government Party Political Broadcasts showed the statistics, and yes, it certainly looked that way. But “a job” to most people over the last half century meant 38-40 hours a week with a month’s notice. When analysed, these new jobs were averaging 20 hours a week, often at unsocial hours and frequently on no contracts at all. They typically demand, for example, that the “employee” be ready to come into the workplace without notice. When using the weasel term ‘job’, Cameron was comparing meat and two veg with bread and dripping. So the term ‘job’ has been redefined.

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One thing: people earning a low income ‘rate’ is much higher than 10.6%, and up by much more than 2% in 10 years. Lost in translation?

Greece’s Unemployment Highest in Developed World (GR)

Greece tops all countries in the developed world in unemployment according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Employment Outlook 2018. Greece has suffered a dramatic spike in unemployment, with the 2017 total climbing to 21.7% of the working population, more than double the 2006 figure.

Large increases in unemployment and an underutilized workforce were accompanied by falling output, very high debt, a serious GDP deficit and deflation, the report says. Along with its impact on employment levels, the financial crisis caused a reduction in wage growth in a lot of countries, leading to a drop in living standards for many.

The proportion of working-age people earning the “low-income” rate jumped to 10.6%, up from 9.56% a decade earlier. Although Korea, Mexico, and Chile have seen a decrease in the number of low-income households, most of the countries hit hardest by the euro crisis, such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Slovenia, have suffered a 2% rise.

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Thank you Brussels and Berlin.

Greece: An Economy That Has Shrunk So Much It Looks War-Torn (WaPo)

The point is that this kind of economic collapse is usually the symptom of a broader state collapse. Which is why it almost never happens in rich countries. That’s clear enough if you look at the late Angus Maddison’s historical GDP per capita numbers. Going back to 1900, there have been only three general times when European economies have shrunk over a 10-year period as much as Greece’s has since 2008: after World War I, after World War II and after the fall of communism. Most of the exceptions to this involve other wars – in particular, the Balkan wars of the 1910s, the Spanish Civil War, the Greek Civil War and the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s — but there is one that largely took place during peacetime. That was Weimar Germany’s hyperinflation.

It’s worth pointing out what isn’t here: the Great Depression. That wasn’t quite as bad in Europe as it was in the United States — at its nadir in 1933, the U.S. 10-year decline was actually comparable to Greece’s today — partly due to the fact that most European countries were quicker to leave the gold standard when things did start to get more dire. That allowed them to inject enough monetary stimulus into their economies to jump-start almost immediate recoveries. The problem, of course, is that it’s a lot harder for Greece to do the equivalent of that right now. The gold standard and the euro are similar in that they are both fixed-exchange rate systems that can get countries into trouble if they are hit by a big enough shock that their economy “needs” a cheaper currency than it has under the system.

But they’re different in that it’s a lot simpler to say your currency won’t be worth as much gold as it used to than to replace all of your currency with a new one. So instead of stimulus, Greece has gotten austerity — and a lot of it. Under the terms of its just-about-to-be-completed bailout agreement, Greece is actually supposed to keep running primary budget surpluses of at least 2.2 percent of GDP until 2060. That’s right: four more decades of austerity. It’s no wonder, then, that Greece’s economy might not get back to where it was in 2008 until 2030. This is what Europe calls a success: an economy that has shrunk so much it looks war-torn.

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Aug 242017
 
 August 24, 2017  Posted by at 9:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Egon Schiele Meadow, Church and Houses 1912

 

Wall Street Banks Warn Downturn Is Coming (BBG)
Big US Banks Could See Profit Jump 20% With Deregulation (BBG)
ECB Chief Draghi: QE Has Made Economies More Resilient (BBC)
Yellen’s Coming Speech Could Mark The ‘End Of An Era’ (BI)
Here’s Why New Home Sales Tanked (CNBC)
Autos Put Economic Downside Risks on Full Display (DDMB)
Merkel Aide Says Germany Has ‘Vital Interest’ in Diesel Survival (BBG)
China’s ‘Belt And Road’ Could Be Next Risk To Global Financial System (CNBC)
Being Here (Brodsky)
All The Countries The USA Has Invaded, In One Map (Indy)
America, Home of the Transactional Marriage (Atlantic)

 

 

More cycles.

Wall Street Banks Warn Downturn Is Coming (BBG)

HSBC, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley see mounting evidence that global markets are in the last stage of their rallies before a downturn in the business cycle. Analysts at the Wall Street behemoths cite signals including the breakdown of long-standing relationships between stocks, bonds and commodities as well as investors ignoring valuation fundamentals and data. It all means stock and credit markets are at risk of a painful drop. “Equities have become less correlated with FX, FX has become less correlated with rates, and everything has become less sensitive to oil,” Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley’s chief cross-asset strategist, wrote in a note published Tuesday. His bank’s model shows assets across the world are the least correlated in almost a decade, even after U.S. stocks joined high-yield credit in a selloff triggered this month by President Donald Trump’s political standoff with North Korea and racial violence in Virginia.

Just like they did in the run-up to the 2007 crisis, investors are pricing assets based on the risks specific to an individual security and industry, and shrugging off broader drivers, such as the latest release of manufacturing data, the model shows. As traders look for excuses to stay bullish, traditional relationships within and between asset classes tend to break down. “These low macro and micro correlations confirm the idea that we’re in a late-cycle environment, and it’s no accident that the last time we saw readings this low was 2005-07,” Sheets wrote. He recommends boosting allocations to U.S. stocks while reducing holdings of corporate debt, where consumer consumption and energy is more heavily represented. That dynamic is also helping to keep volatility in stocks, bonds and currencies at bay, feeding risk appetite globally, according to Morgan Stanley. Despite the turbulent past two weeks, the CBOE Volatility Index remains on track to post a third year of declines.

Oxford Economics macro strategist Gaurav Saroliya points to another red flag for U.S. equity bulls. The gross value-added of non-financial companies after inflation – a measure of the value of goods after adjusting for the costs of production – is now negative on a year-on-year basis. “The cycle of real corporate profits has turned enough to be a potential source of concern in the next four quarters,” he said in an interview. “That, along with the most expensive equity valuations among major markets, should worry investors in U.S. stocks.” The thinking goes that a classic late-cycle expansion – an economy with full employment and slowing momentum – tends to see a decline in corporate profit margins. The U.S. is in the mature stage of the cycle – 80% of completion since the last trough – based on margin patterns going back to the 1950s, according to Societe Generale.

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They warn about a downturn, but not for themselves. Their asses are covered.

Big US Banks Could See Profit Jump 20% With Deregulation (BBG)

The deregulation winds blowing through Washington could add $27 billion of gross profit at the six largest U.S. banks, lifting their annual pretax income by about 20%. JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley would benefit most from changes to post-crisis banking rules proposed by Donald Trump’s administration, with pretax profit jumping 22%, according to estimates by Bloomberg based on discussions with analysts and the banks’ own disclosures. Goldman Sachs would have the smallest percentage increase, about 16%. Bloomberg’s calculations are based largely on adjustments banks could make to the mix of securities they hold and the interest they earn from such assets. The proposed changes would allow the largest lenders to take on more deposits, move a greater portion of their excess cash into higher-yielding Treasuries and municipal bonds, and issue a lower amount of debt that costs more than customer deposits.

Of the changes proposed in June by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the one that would probably have biggest impact on profit is allowing banks to buy U.S. government bonds entirely with borrowed money. Three others could also boost income: counting municipal bonds as liquid, or easy-to-sell, assets; requiring less debt that won’t have to be paid back if a bank fails; and making it easier to comply with post-crisis rules. Regulators appointed by Trump could make these changes without congressional approval. Doing so would reverse their agencies’ efforts since 2008 to strengthen capital and liquidity requirements for U.S. banks beyond international standards. While bringing U.S. rules in line with global ones probably wouldn’t threaten bank safety, some analysts and investors worry the pendulum could swing even further.

“Since the crisis, we’ve had the luxury of excess capital buildup in the banking system and regulators reining in risky activities,” said William Hines at Standard Life Aberdeen. “If there’s too much pullback on minimum capital requirements, too much relaxation of restraints, we’re concerned there’ll be more risk-taking by banks, and the system will become vulnerable.”

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Blowing bubbles everywhere and claiming they bring strength. It’s Orwell.

ECB Chief Draghi: QE Has Made Economies More Resilient (BBC)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has said unconventional policies like quantitative easing (QE) have been a success both sides of the Atlantic. QE was introduced as an emergency measure during the financial crisis to pump money directly into the financial system and keep banks lending. A decade later, the stimulus policies are still in place, but he said they have “made the world more resilient”. But he also said gaps in understanding these relatively new tools remain. As the economic recovery in the eurozone gathers pace, investors are watching closely for when the ECB will ease back further on its €60bn a month bond-buying programme. Central bankers, including Mr Draghi, are meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this week, where they are expected to discuss how to wind back QE without hurting the economy.

On Monday, a former UK Treasury official likened the stimulus to “heroin” because it has been so difficult to wean the UK, US and eurozone economies off it. In a speech in Lindau, Germany on Wednesday, Mr Draghi defended QE and the ECB’s policy of forward guidance on interest rates. “A large body of empirical research has substantiated the success of these policies in supporting the economy and inflation, both in the euro area and in the United States,” he said. The ECB buying relatively safe assets such as government bonds means that banks can lend more and improve access to credit for riskier borrowers, Mr Draghi said. He added: “Policy actions undertaken in the last 10 years in monetary policy and in regulation and supervision have made the world more resilient. But we should continue preparing for new challenges.”

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End the Fed.

Yellen’s Coming Speech Could Mark The ‘End Of An Era’ (BI)

Janet Yellen could be on her way out as chair of the Federal Reserve. On Friday, she’s set to deliver a speech on financial stability at the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It could be her last, following months of speculation that President Donald Trump plans to nominate a different candidate when her four-year term ends in February. And Yellen’s successor could have a very different approach to the job. Yellen’s Jackson Hole showing could be the last one, for now, under a Fed chair who takes a technocratic approach to monetary policy, according to Luke Bartholomew, an investment strategist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “There could be an end-of-an-era feel to Jackson Hole this year,” Bartholomew told Business Insider.

The Fed chair could be replaced by someone who’s “probably not the sort of academic economist that’s been leading it through the Bernanke/Yellen period,” he said, adding that there’s “a broader feeling that under the Trump administration, the technocratic approach of the Fed is increasingly out of favor.” Yellen, 71, was a career economist and academic before President Barack Obama nominated her to replace Ben Bernanke in 2014. Trump told The Wall Street Journal last month that Gary Cohn, Yellen, and “two or three” other candidates were in the running for the job. One of those other people could be Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor who is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution. But Cohn, the National Economic Council director and Trump’s top economic adviser, is reportedly the top contender. He’s the “archetype of Wall Street, given his job at Goldman in the past,” Bartholomew said. “He certainly brings financial acumen to the job. I’m not sure that’s what the job of Fed chairman is, but he’s a fine candidate.”

Walsh brings some years of Fed experience to the table. But he has worked for seven years in investment banking, at Morgan Stanley, and isn’t an academic policymaker like Yellen or Bernanke. That’s not the only red flag Yellen’s exit would raise. On one extreme, Yale School of Management’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld thinks markets would crash if Cohn were to leave the White House for the Fed. Stocks dipped last week as rumors spread that he was leaving the administration following Trump’s response to the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there is a lot of faith that he is going to help carry through the tax reform that people are looking for,” Sonnenfeld told CNBC last week.

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“Long term, the new home median price has been mostly 10% to 20% above the existing home median since 1990. Since 2011, however, new home prices have been at a 35% to 40% premium over resale prices..”

Here’s Why New Home Sales Tanked (CNBC)

Newly built homes are more expensive than they’ve ever been before. They are also more expensive when compared to similar existing homes than they’ve ever been before. And that is why sales are suffering, dropping an unexpected 9.4% in July compared to June, according to the U.S. Census. They are simply out of reach for too many potential buyers. You don’t have to do a lot of math to see it. The median sale price of a newly built home in July jumped more than 6% compared to July 2016, to $313,700. That marks the highest July price ever. Last December, the median price hit the highest of any month on record. In addition, the price premium for newly built homes compared to comparable existing homes has more than doubled since 2011, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

“Long term, the new home median price has been mostly 10% to 20% above the existing home median since 1990. Since 2011, however, new home prices have been at a 35% to 40% premium over resale prices,” John Burns wrote in a recent note to clients. “While the exact percentages aren’t perfect due to ‘apples and oranges’ comparisons, our consultants have been confirming for years that new home sales have been slowed by larger than usual new home premiums.” The supply of existing homes for sale is still extremely low, but the supply of newly built homes moved higher in July to 5.8 months of inventory. “The scars of the housing bust are still fresh in the minds of many homebuilders, so it is not surprising that many are taking a cautious approach to ramping up production,” noted Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow, in reaction to the July report.

Homebuilders are feeling slightly better about their business lately, but they continue to complain about the costs of land, labor, materials and regulation. They claim that is why they cannot build cheaper homes. Unfortunately, the lower end of the market is where most of the demand is and where supply is weakest. “There is still no pickup in sales for homes priced below $300,000, and this is where most of the first time households would be shopping in,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group in a note following the Census release on new home sales. “I repeat that the housing industry needs a moderation in home price gains in order to better compete with renting where rents increases are now moderating.”

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Auto loans are a huge part of money creation.

Autos Put Economic Downside Risks on Full Display (DDMB)

Federal Reserve data released last week on July industrial production offered little more than more of the same. Despite post-election optimism for a rebound in activity on the nation’s factory floors, the data reveal a continued throttling down in the growth rate to just over 2% compared with this time last year. The main drag on activity – the auto sector – should come as no surprise to investors. Rather than rising by 0.2% over June as projected, manufacturing production contracted by 0.1%, marking the third decline in five months. Motor vehicles and parts production fell by 3.6% on the month, taking the year-over-year slide to 5%. Evidence continues to build that a sampling error may be to blame for the surprising strength in June and July car sales.

Inventory continues to pile up, suggesting more production cuts are in the offing: As of June, the latest data on hand, auto inventories were up 7.4% over last year, leaving manufacturers choking for air. In July, General Motors alone was sitting on 104 days of supply, well above its target of 70 days. Industry-wide, the July/August average of 69 days ties the August 2008 record and sits above the historic average of 56 days of supply. In all, automakers have 3.9 million units of unsold light vehicles, up 324,600 from last August and the highest on record for the month. For context, July and August tie for the leanest stock levels of the year. The decline in July sales was already the steepest this year. Fresh loan delinquency data suggest more pain ahead.

“Deep subprime” borrowers have been a big boost at the margin, propelling back-to-back record years of sales in 2015 and 2016 as lending standards loosened sufficiently to allow millions with credit scores below 530 to access financing. Equifax, the consumer credit reporting firm, didn’t hold back in its second-quarter update, saying the performance of recent vintages of deep subprime loans was “awful.” While industry insiders are quick to point out that the overall pace of defaults across all borrowers remains in check, up just marginally over last year, there is growing concern that deep subprime delinquencies are back at 2007 levels. “The bottom line is excess auto inventories are clearly evident and the auto sector is now in recession,” said The Lindsey Group’s Peter Boockvar.

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We’re about to winess the political power of German carmakers. How many execs are being prosecuted? Right.

Merkel Aide Says Germany Has ‘Vital Interest’ in Diesel Survival (BBG)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said Germany has a “vital interest” in ensuring diesel engines survive, defending the embattled technology as the industry comes under fire for cheating on emissions tests. Excessive pollution from diesel, as well as traditionally close ties between the government and auto industry, have emerged as a campaign issue in the run up to the country’s federal election in September. Merkel has been confronted by voters on the campaign trail, who accused the government of being too lenient on automakers, prompting the chancellor to question high bonuses for auto executives embroiled in Volkswagen’s cheating scandal. “We have a vital interest in preserving diesel as a technology because it emits far less CO2 than other technologies,” Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, said in a Bloomberg TV interview in Berlin.

“At the same time we have to make sure that all the rules are respected and all the regulations are fully implemented.” Car bosses and government officials reached a compromise deal earlier this month to lower pollution that calls for software updates on million of vehicles instead of more costly hardware fixes. Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW also agreed to a trade-in bonus for cars with outdated emissions controls. The measures have been criticized as a slap on the wrist for Germany’s biggest industry. “We have the responsibility to fight for a good deal but also to preserve the strength and the performance of the automobile industry,” Altmaier said in the interview late on Tuesday. “I’m very optimistic that we will overcome this.”Diesel software updates alone are “insufficient” for many cities to meet the legal limit for nitrogen oxides in the air, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks told reporters on Wednesday, citing ministry tests conducted this month.

Excessive pollution impacts 70 German towns and cities, and the fixes agreed earlier this month would cut car emissions by a maximum of 6%, she said. Hendricks – a member of Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats – said her ministry and others will ascertain in the coming weeks whether hardware changes in diesels currently on the road are necessary to further lower emissions and will present their findings after the election. “Nobody wants to ban diesels from our cities,” she said. Merkel, who has so far largely steered clear of the debate, is hosting a meeting on Sept. 4 with representatives of the major cities, including the hometowns of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, struggling to lower their pollution levels. A number of cities and courts continue to evaluate potential diesel driving bans as the most effective means to meet regulation quickly.

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China exports its Ponzi.

China’s ‘Belt And Road’ Could Be Next Risk To Global Financial System (CNBC)

China has pitched its mammoth, pan-Eurasian “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative as a means of promoting economic prosperity and fostering diplomatic ties on a global scale. That rhetoric may win plaudits at a time when other global powers are voicing increasingly protectionist agendas, but it also comes with risks, and increasing levels of state-backed funding have raised concerns about just how safe of a gamble it is. Reports on Tuesday claimed that some of China’s biggest state-owned commercial banks will begin raising capital to fund investments into the initiative, also known as “One Belt, One Road,” which aims to connect more than 60 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa with physical and digital infrastructure. China Construction Bank, the country’s second-largest bank by assets, has been conducting roadshows to raise at least 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) from on- and offshore investors.

Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Agricultural Bank of China are also said to be raising tens of billions of dollars. The news highlights the risk that the state could amass hundreds of billions of dollars in nonperforming loans if the projects fail. For Xu Chenggang, professor of economics at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, it was not a surprise. “It supports my concerns,” Xu told CNBC over the phone. “The impact could be damaging not just for China, but for the global financial system.” “These loans are being extended to governments in risky countries to fund risky infrastructure projects. If the projects were launched by private firms we wouldn’t have to worry because they would know they had to bear the consequences. But here we are talking about government-to-government lending and, ultimately, intergovernmental relations.”

[..] It took decades of economic reforms and loss-making firms before it succeeded in what Xu termed a process of “quiet privatization” at the turn of the 21st century. However, the process has lost momentum over the past 10 years, and the state remains burdened with issues of overcapacity and myriad “zombie firms,” especially within the metals and construction and materials sectors. Xu said that has partially been the motivation for the “Belt and Road” initiative: “Instead of solving the overcapacity problems, they are expanding the problem to projects overseas.” “They (China) are proposing lending money to foreign governments, who will then use the Chinese funds to pay the Chinese companies,” he explained.

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“.. one might say Mr. Trump represents a triumph of democracy..”

Being Here (Brodsky)

It should not surprise anyone that Western societies are becoming restless. Trump, Brexit, Charlottesville and, arguably, even radical Islamic terrorism are bi-products of global economic distortions largely created by the unwillingness of the Western political dimension to let the global factors of production naturally settle global prices and wages. (Sorry, it had to be said.) Donald Trump is a sideshow. His ascension, or someone like him, was inevitable. He may have official authority to behave like the leader of the free world (even if he is unable to do so), but so far he has only shown that virtually anyone can become president. Indeed, one might say Mr. Trump represents a triumph of democracy. Behold the robustness of America: the most powerful nation on Earth is unafraid to elect a cross between P.T. Barnum and Chauncey Gardner!

This is not to say a US president cannot raise and emphasize truly meaningful economic goals and mobilize countries around the world to help achieve them; but it is to say that this President seems to not know or be interested in what those goals might be. As discussed, the biggest challenges facing the US economy and US labor stem from a distorted global price and wage scale. Mr. Trump’s domestic fiscal, regulatory, tax and immigration goals seek only to raise US output and wages. This cannot be achieved without the participation of global commerce. There is no such thing anymore as a US business that makes US products sold only in the US without being influenced by global prices, wages and exchange rates. The romantic, patriotic “made in the USA” theme does not comport with the reality that the US also seeks to keep the dollar the world’s reserve currency and that maintaining America’s power requires the US to control the world’s shipping lanes.

Mr. Trump and his base cannot have one without the other. (Do we really have to articulate this?) Mr. Trump’s “Being There” presidency is reflecting an inconvenient truth back on a society that has, until maybe now, successfully deluded itself into believing government is functionally the glue holding society together. Though he does not mean to, Mr. Trump is single-handedly demonstrating to groups ranging from idealistic Washington elites to social media zombies to southern white supremacists that Madisonian government has become a dignified cover for the financial, commercial and national security interests that control it. We suspect those interests would rather the reach of their power be less visible.

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Two maps, actually. Click the link for fully interactive versions.

All The Countries The USA Has Invaded, In One Map (Indy)

From Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, the US has had a military presence across the world, from almost day one of her independence. What constitutes invasion? As one map below shows, the US has a military presence in much of the world without being an occupying force (though some would dispute that definition). For instance, although the Confederacy considered the US to be a hostile invading power, indy100 are not counting the Civil War or any annexation within the continental United States as an ‘invasion’. Using data on US military interventions published by the Evergreen State College, in Olympia Washington, indy100 has created this map (below). The data was compiled by Dr Zoltan Grossman, a professor of Geography and Native Studies. The map documents a partial list of occasions, since 1890, that US forces were used in a territory outside the US.

Caveats: This includes: Deployment of the military to evacuate American citizens, Covert military actions by US intelligence, Providing military support to an internal opposition group, Providing military support in one side of a conflict (e.g. aiding Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War 1988-89), Use of the army in drug enforcement actions (e.g. Raids on the cocaine region in Bolvia in 1986 It does not include threats of nuclear weapons against a territory, such as during the Berlin Air Lift (1948-49). It also excludes any time US military personnel were deployed to a foreign country for an exclusively humanitarian purpose – e.g. sending troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide assistance to refugees fleeing the Rwandan genocide (1996-97).

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The demise of a society. Not because of marriages declining, but because of why they are.

America, Home of the Transactional Marriage (Atlantic)

Over the last several decades, the proportion of Americans who get married has greatly diminished—a development known as well to those who lament marriage’s decline as those who take issue with it as an institution. But a development that’s much newer is that the demographic now leading the shift away from tradition is Americans without college degrees—who just a few decades ago were much more likely to be married by the age of 30 than college graduates were. Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference. The marriage gap for men has changed less over the years, but there the trend lines have flipped too: 25% of men with high-school degrees or less education have never married, compared to 23% of men with bachelor’s degrees and 14% of those with advanced degrees.

Meanwhile, divorce rates have continued to rise among the less educated, while staying more or less steady for college graduates in recent decades. The divide in the timing of childbirth is even starker. Fewer than one in 10 mothers with a bachelor’s degree are unmarried at the time of their child’s birth, compared to six out of 10 mothers with a high-school degree. The share of such births has risen dramatically in recent decades among less educated mothers, even as it has barely budged for those who finished college. (There are noticeable differences between races, but among those with less education, out-of-wedlock births have become much more common among white and nonwhite people alike.)

[..] Autor, Dorn, and Hanson found that in places where the number of factory jobs shrank, women were less likely to get married. They also tended to have fewer children, though the share of children born to unmarried parents, and living in poverty, grew. What was producing these trends, the researchers argue, was the rising number of men who could no longer provide in the ways they once did, making them less attractive as partners. Furthermore, many men in these communities became no longer available, sometimes winding up in the military or dying from alcohol or drug abuse. (It’s important to point out that this study and similar research on employment and marriage focus on opposite-sex marriages, and a different dynamic may be at work among same-sex couples, who tend to be more educated.)

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Jan 042017
 
 January 4, 2017  Posted by at 10:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Readers browse bomb-damaged library of Holland House, London 1940

The Wrong Things Are Being Forecast (Morgan)
China Calls US ‘A Shooting Star In The Ample Sky Of History’ (G.)
China’s New Year Currency Moves Won’t Make Donald Trump Happy (CNBC)
Banks Create Money From Nothing. And It Gets Worse (ND)
India Government Set To Endorse Universal Basic Income (BI)
US Banks Gear Up To Fight Dodd-Frank Act’s Volcker Rule (R.)
Wall Street Banks Have $2 Trillion European Exposure (Martens)
How to Make America Great Again with Other People’s Money (Orlov)
The Trump Effect Will Accentuate Unrest (Nomi Prins)
Anti-Surveillance Clothing Aims To Hide Wearers From Facial Recognition (G.)
Guardian Report On Ailing Greek Health System Sparks Ugly Row (Kath.)
The Necessity of Maintaining Borders (Kath.)

 

 

If all ‘growth’ is borrowed anyway, and then some, as in every dollar of ‘growth’ takes $10 of debt, maybe you should stop calling it growth?!

The Wrong Things Are Being Forecast (Morgan)

It is customary to use the start of the year to set out some forecasts. Though I’ve not previously done this, I’ve decided to make an exception this time – mainly because I’m convinced that the wrong things are being forecast. Central forecasts tend to focus on real GDP, but in so doing they miss at least three critical parameters. The first is the relationship between growth and borrowing. The second is the absolute scale of debt, and our ability to manage it. The third is the impact of a tightening resource set on the real value of global economic output. Most commentators produce projections for growth in GDP, and mine are for global real growth of around 2.3% between 2017 and 2020. I expect growth to slow, but to remain positive, in countries such as the United States, Britain and China.

It’s worth noting, in passing, that these growth numbers do not do much to boost the prosperity of the individual, since they correspond to very modest per capita improvements once population growth is taken into account. Moreover, the cost of household essentials is likely to grow more rapidly than general inflation through the forecast period. What is more intriguing than straightforward growth projections, and surely more important too, is the trajectory of indebtedness accompanying these growth estimates. Between 2000 and 2015, and expressed at constant 2015 dollar values, global real GDP expanded by $27 trillion – but this came at the expense of $87 trillion in additional indebtedness (a number which excludes the inter-bank or “financial” sector). This meant that, in inflation-adjusted terms, each growth dollar cost $3.25 in net new debt.

If anything, this borrowing-to-growth number may worsen as we look forward, my projection being that the world will add almost $3.60 of new debt for each $1 of reported real growth between now and 2020. On this basis, the world should be taking on about $5.8 trillion of net new debt annually, but preliminary indications are that net borrowing substantially exceeded this number in 2016. China has clearly caught the borrowing bug, whilst big business continues to take on cheap debt and use it to buy back stock. Incredible though it may seem, the shock of 2008-09 appears already to be receding from the collective memory, rebuilding pre-2008 attitudes to debt. On my forecast basis, global real “growth” of $8.2 trillion between now and 2020 is likely to come at a cost of $29 trillion in new debt. If correct, this would lift the global debt-to-GDP ratio to 235% in 2020, compared with 221% in 2015 and 155% in 2000.

Adding everything together, the world would be $116 trillion more indebted in 2020 than in 2000, whilst real GDP would have increased by $35 trillion. Altogether, what we are witnessing is a Ponzi-style financial economy heading for end-game, for four main reasons. First, we have made growth dependent on borrowing, which was never a sustainable model. Second, the ratio of efficiency with which we turn borrowing into growth is getting steadily worse. Third, the demands being made on us by the deterioration of the resource scarcity equation are worsening. Fourth, the ageing of the population is adding further strains to a system that is already nearing over-stretch. One thing seems certain – we cannot, for much longer, carry on as we are. y

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This calls for the poet in Trump to respond.

China Calls US ‘A Shooting Star In The Ample Sky Of History’ (G.)

Donald Trump has doubled down on his plans to transform US trade policy, picking a longtime China critic and protectionist to be America’s next chief trade negotiator. Robert Lighthizer, 69, has advocated for increasing tariffs and repeatedly criticised China for failing to adhere to international trade practices, saying tougher methods were needed to change the system. The move is likely to further alarm Beijing, where state-controlled media said on Wednesday “Trump is just fixated on trade” and warned the president elect “not try to boss China around” on economic and security issues. “May the arrogant Americans realise that the United States of America is perhaps just a shooting star in the ample sky of history,” said an editorial in the Communist party-affiliated Global Times newspaper.

It follows the selection by Trump last month of Peter Navarro to lead a new presidential office for US trade and industrial policy. Navarro has previously described China’s government as a “despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power”. Trump has packed his cabinet with tycoons, vowed to renegotiate trade deals and crack down on what he says are China’s unfair policies. Lighthizer is a former Reagan-era trade official and had a previous stint in the Office of the US Trade Representative, where he travelled the world negotiating deals to curb steel imports. He then went on to a career as a trade lawyer, representing giants such as US Steel Corp working to fend off foreign imports.

In 2011, he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Times: “How does allowing China to constantly rig trade in its favour advance the core conservative goal of making markets more efficient? Markets do not run better when manufacturing shifts to China largely because of the actions of its government.” While less prone to bombast than Navarro, he and Lighthizer share the view that China’s economic policies are fundamentally flawed. Years of passivity and drift among US policymakers have allowed the US-China trade deficit to grow to the point where it is widely recognised as a major threat to our economy, Lighthizer wrote. Going forward, US policymakers should take these problems more seriously, and should take a much more aggressive approach in dealing with China.

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Excuse me? “China has put a new chip on the table to counter trade adventurism by the Trump administration.” Other than that, the new capital controls seem to work so far, to an extent.

China’s New Year Currency Moves Won’t Make Donald Trump Happy (CNBC)

Call it a New Year’s greeting from the Chinese government to the incoming administration of Donald Trump. As the president-elect rang in 2017 entertaining guests at his opulent Mar-a-Lago estate, China quietly ushered in a series of measures aimed at better controlling the value of its local currency, the yuan. Throughout his campaign, Trump accused China of “manipulating” the yuan to make Chinese exports more competitive in global markets. China’s latest announcement will likely add fuel to that debate. Unlike countries that mostly let markets determine the value of their currencies, Beijing tries to peg the yuan to a basket of other currencies. Starting Jan. 1, the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange will use a new, broader basket of global currencies to benchmark the yuan’s value.

The change will have the effect of reducing the impact of the U.S. dollar on the official valuation. “This is unambiguously bad news for the United States,” High Frequency Economics Chief Economist Carl Weinberg said in a note to clients Tuesday. “China has put a new chip on the table to counter trade adventurism by the Trump administration.” While China has sought to dampen the value of its currency in the past, the People’s Bank of China has more recently been scrambling to support the yuan. Beijing is deeply concerned that the weakening yuan is encouraging Chinese to shift their wealth out of the country into stronger currencies or other, more stable holdings. China needs a lot of capital in the country in order to continue to fund its growth, which is very heavily reliant on borrowing.

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I was thinking about exactly this, the other day. That a basic income scheme may be a Trojan horse AND a wolf in sheep’s clothing if it comes entirely digitized.

Banks Create Money From Nothing. And It Gets Worse (ND)

Richard Werner, the German professor famous for inventing the term ‘quantitative easing’, says the world is finally waking up to the fact that “banks create money out of nothing” – but warns this realisation has given rise to a new “Orwellian” threat. In an exclusive interview with The New Daily, Professor Werner says the recent campaigns around the world, including in India and Australia, to get rid of cash are coordinated attempts by central bankers to monopolise money creation. “This sudden global talk by the usual suspects about the ‘need to get rid of cash’, ostensibly to fight tax evasion etc, has been so coordinated that it cannot but be part of another plan by central bankers, this time to stay in charge of any emerging reform agenda, by trying to control, and themselves run, the ‘opposition’,” he says.

“Essentially, the Bank of England and others are saying: okay, we admit it, you guys were right, banks create money out of nothing. So now we need to make sure that you guys will not be able to set the agenda of what happens in terms of reforms.” [..] The main point is that the banks do not lend existing money, but add to deposits and the money supply when they ‘lend’. And when those loans are repaid, money is removed from circulation. Thus, the supply of money is constantly being expanded and contracted by banks – which may explain why the ‘credit crunch’ of the global financial crisis was so devastating. Banks weren’t lending, so there was a shortage of money. By some estimates, the banks create upwards of 97% of money, in the form of electronic funds stored in online accounts. Banknotes and coins? They are just tokens of value, printed to represent the money already created by banks.

Professor Werner is pleased the world is waking up to the truth of how money is created, but is very displeased with what he sees as the central bankers’ reaction: the death of cash and the rise of central bank-controlled digital currency. This will further centralise what he describes as the “already excessive and unaccountable powers” of centrals banks, which he argues has been responsible for the bulk of the more than 100 banking crises and boom-bust cycles in the past half-century. “To appear active reformers, they will push the agenda to get rid of bank credit creation. This suits them anyway, as long as they can fix the policy recommendation of any such reform, to be … that the central banks should be the sole issuers of money.”

The professor also fears the global push for ‘basic income’, which is being trialled in parts of Europe and widely discussed in the media, will form part of the central bankers’ attempt to kill off cash. ‘Basic income’ is a popular idea that can be traced back to Sydney and Beatrice Webb, founders of the London School of Economics. It proposes we abolish all welfare payments and replace them with a single ‘basic income’ that everyone, from billionaires to unemployed single mothers, receives. Either we accept the digital currency issued by central banks, or we miss out on basic income payments. That is Professor Werner’s theory of what might happen. His solution to this “Orwellian” future is decentralisation, in the form of lots of non-profit community banks, as exist in his native Germany.

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That same basc income danger of course looms large in India.

India Government Set To Endorse Universal Basic Income (BI)

The Indian government is set to endorse Universal Basic Income, according to one of the leading advocates of the scheme. Professor Guy Standing, an economist who co-founded advocate group Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) in 1986, told Business Insider that the Indian government will release a report in January which says the idea is “feasible” and “basically the way forward.” The idea behind universal basic income is simple: a regular state payment made to all citizens (one variation specifies adults), regardless of working status. Advocates say it would provide a vital safety net for all citizens and remove inefficient benefit systems currently in place; critics say it would remove the incentive for citizens to work and prove to be wildly expensive.

It has, however, attracted a growing amount of attention across the world, in both rich and developing countries. Standing, professor of development at the School for African and Oriental Studies, is considered one of the leading proponents of UBI. He has advised on numerous UBI pilot schemes, and recently returned from California, where he consulted on a $20 million trial set to launch in California this year. He was closely involved with three major pilot schemes in India — two in Madhya Pradesh, and a smaller one in West Delhi. The pilots in Madhya Pradesh launched in 2010, and provided every man, woman, and child across eight villages with a modest basic income for 18 months. Standing reports that welfare improved dramatically in the villages, “particularly in nutrition among the children, healthcare, sanitation, and school attendance and performance.”

He also says the scheme also turned out some unexpected results. “The most striking thing which we hadn’t actually anticipated is that the emancipatory effect was greater than the monetary effect. It enabled people to have a sense of control. They pooled some of the money to pay down their debts, they increased decisions on escaping from debt bondage. The women developed their own capacity to make their own decision about their own lives. The general tenor of all those communities has been remarkably positive,” he said. “As a consequence of this, the Indian government is coming out with a big report in January. As you can imagine that makes me very excited. It will basically say this is the way forward.”

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No, someone at Reuters really wrote this: “The Obama administration’s regulators and enforcement agencies have been tough on banks..” And then they printed it.

US Banks Gear Up To Fight Dodd-Frank Act’s Volcker Rule (R.)

Big U.S. banks are set on getting Congress this year to loosen or eliminate the Volcker rule against using depositors’ funds for speculative bets on the bank’s own account, a test case of whether Wall Street can flex its muscle in Washington again. In interviews over the past several weeks, half a dozen industry lobbyists said they began meeting with legislative staff after the U.S. election in November to discuss matters including a rollback of Volcker, part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform that Congress enacted after the financial crisis and bank bailouts. Lobbyists said they plan to present evidence to congressional leaders that the Volcker rule is actually bad for companies, investors and the U.S. economy. Big banks have been making such arguments for years, but the industry’s influence waned significantly in Washington after the financial crisis.

The Obama administration’s regulators and enforcement agencies have been tough on banks, while lawmakers from both parties have seized opportunities to slam Wall Street to score political points. Banks now see opportunities to unravel reforms under President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration and the incoming Republican-led Congress, which appear more business-friendly, lobbyists said. While an outright repeal of the Volcker rule may not be possible, small but meaningful changes tucked into other legislation would still be a big win, they said. “I don’t think there will be a big, ambitious rollback,” said one big-bank lobbyist who was not authorized to discuss strategy publicly. “There will be four years of regulatory evolution.” Proponents of the Volcker rule say lenders that benefit from government support like deposit insurance should not be gambling with their balance sheets. They also argue such proprietary bets worsened the crisis and drove greedy, unethical behavior across Wall Street.

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Darn Europeans. The US would be fine without them.

Wall Street Banks Have $2 Trillion European Exposure (Martens)

Just 17 days from today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th President and deliver his inaugural address. Trump is expected to announce priorities in the areas of education, infrastructure, border security, the economy and curtailing the outsourcing of jobs. But Trump’s agenda will be derailed on all fronts if the big Wall Street banks blow up again as they did in 2008, dragging the U.S. economy into the ditch and requiring another massive taxpayer bailout from a nation already deeply in debt from the last banking crisis. According to a report quietly released by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research less than two weeks before Christmas, another financial implosion on Wall Street can’t be ruled out.The Office of Financial Research (OFR), a unit of the U.S. Treasury, was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010.

It says its role is to: “shine a light in the dark corners of the financial system to see where risks are going, assess how much of a threat they might pose, and provide policymakers with financial analysis, information, and evaluation of policy tools to mitigate them.” Its 2016 Financial Stability Report, released on December 13, indicates that Wall Street banks have been allowed by their “regulators” to take on unfathomable risks and that dark corners remain in the U.S. financial system that are impenetrable to even this Federal agency that has been tasked with peering into them. At a time when international business headlines are filled with reports of a massive banking bailout in Italy and the potential for systemic risks from Germany’s struggling giant, Deutsche Bank, the OFR report delivers this chilling statement:

“U.S. global systemically important banks (G-SIBs) have more than $2 trillion in total exposures to Europe. Roughly half of those exposures are off-balance-sheet…U.S. G-SIBs have sold more than $800 billion notional in credit derivatives referencing entities domiciled in the EU.”

When a Wall Street bank buys a credit derivative, it is buying protection against a default on its debts by the referenced entity like a European bank or European corporation. But when a Wall Street bank sells credit derivative protection, it is on the hook for the losses if the referenced entity defaults. Regulators will not release to the public the specifics on which Wall Street banks are selling protection on which European banks but just the idea that regulators would allow this buildup of systemic risk in banks holding trillions of dollars in insured deposits after the cataclysmic results of similar hubris in 2008 shows just how little has been accomplished in terms of meaningful U.S. financial reform.

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“What’s a poor bankrupt former superpower to do?” Lovely from Dmitry. Go after Saudi Arabia.

How to Make America Great Again with Other People’s Money (Orlov)

1. It all started when the US decided to leave the British Empire. This event is often portrayed as a tax revolt by rich landholders, but there is more to it than that: it allowed the former colonies to loot and plunder British holdings by funding and outfitting “privateers”—pirates, that is. This went on for quite some time.

2. Another major boost resulted from the Civil War, which destroyed the agrarian economy of the south and by so doing provided cheap labor and feedstocks to industries in the north. Plenty of people in the south are still in psychological recovery from this event, some 15 decades later. It was the first war to be fought on an industrial scale, and a fratricidal war at that. Clearly, Americans are not above turning on their own if there’s a buck or two to be made.

3. Early in the 20th century, World War I provided the US with a rich source of plunder in the form of German reparations. Not only did this fuel the so-called “roaring twenties,” but it also pushed Germany toward embracing fascism in furtherance of the long-term goal of creating a proxy to use against the USSR.

4. When in 1941 this plan came to fruition and Hitler invaded the USSR, the US hoped for a quick Soviet surrender, only joining the fray once it became clear that the Germans would be defeated. In the aftermath of that conflict, the US reaped a gigantic windfall in the form of Jewish money and gold, which fled Europe for the US. It was able to repurpose its wartime industrial production to make civilian products, which had little competition because many industrial centers of production outside of the US had been destroyed during the war.

5. After the USSR collapsed in late 1991, the US sent in consultants who organized a campaign of wholesale looting, with much of the wealth expropriated from the public and shipped overseas. This was the last time the Americans were able to run off with a fantastic amount of other people’s money, giving the US yet another temporary lease on life.

But after that the takings have thinned out. Still, the Americans have kept working at it. They destroyed Iraq, killed Saddam Hussein and ran off with quite a bit of Iraqi gold and treasure. They destroyed Libya, killed Muammar Qaddafy and ran off with Libya’s gold. After organizing the putsch in the Ukraine in 2014, shooting up a crowd using foreign snipers and forcing Viktor Yanukovich into exile, they loaded Ukrainian gold onto a plane under the cover of darkness and took that too. They hoped to do the same in Syria by training and equipping a plucky band of terrorists, but we all know how badly that has turned out for them. But these are all small fry, and the loot from them is too meager to fuel even a temporary, purely notional rekindling of erstwhile American greatness. What’s a poor bankrupt former superpower to do?

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Only point 10 of 10 in Nomi’s “My Political-Financial Road Map for 2017”. But it fits my format quite well. DO read the whole thing.

The Trump Effect Will Accentuate Unrest (Nomi Prins)

Trump is assembling the richest cabinet in the world to conduct the business of the United States, from a political position. The problem with that is several fold. First, there is a woeful lack of public office experience amongst his administration. His supporters may think that means the Washington swamp has been drained to make room for less bureaucratic decisions. But, the swamp has only been clogged. Instead of political elite, it continues business elite, equally ill-suited to put the needs of the everyday American before the needs of their private colleagues and portfolios.

Second, running the US is not like running a business. Other countries are free to do their business apart from the US. If Trump’s doctrine slaps tariffs on imports for instance, it burdens US companies that would need to pay more for required products or materials, putting a strain on the US economy. Playing hard ball with other nations spurs them to engage more closely with each other.That would make the dollar less attractive. This will likely happen during the second half of the year, once it becomes clear the Fed isn’t on a rate hike rampage and Trump isn’t as adept at the economy as he is prevalent on Twitter. Third, an overly aggressive Trump administration, combined with its ample conflicts of interest could render Trump’s and his cohorts’ businesses the target of more terrorism, and could unleash more violence and chaos globally.

Fourth, his doctrine is deregulatory, particularly for the banking sector. Consider that the biggest US banks remain bigger than before the financial crisis. Deregulating them by striking elements of the already tepid Dodd-Frank Act could fall hard on everyone. When the system crashes, it doesn’t care about Republican or Democrat politics. The last time a deregulation and protectionist businessmen filled the US presidential cabinet was in the 1920s. That led to the Crash of 1929 and Great Depression. Today, the only thing keeping a lid on financial calamity is epic amounts of artisanal money. Deregulating an inherently corrupt and coddled banking industry, already floating on said capital assistance, would inevitably cause another crisis during Trump’s first term.

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Nice.

Anti-Surveillance Clothing Aims To Hide Wearers From Facial Recognition (G.)

The use of facial recognition software for commercial purposes is becoming more common, but, as Amazon scans faces in its physical shop and Facebook searches photos of users to add tags to, those concerned about their privacy are fighting back. Berlin-based artist and technologist Adam Harvey aims to overwhelm and confuse these systems by presenting them with thousands of false hits so they can’t tell which faces are real. The Hyperface project involves printing patterns on to clothing or textiles, which then appear to have eyes, mouths and other features that a computer can interpret as a face. This is not the first time Harvey has tried to confuse facial recognition software. During a previous project, CV Dazzle, he attempted to create an aesthetic of makeup and hairstyling that would cause machines to be unable to detect a face.

Speaking at the Chaos Communications Congress hacking conference in Hamburg, Harvey said: “As I’ve looked at in an earlier project, you can change the way you appear, but, in camouflage you can think of the figure and the ground relationship. There’s also an opportunity to modify the ‘ground’, the things that appear next to you, around you, and that can also modify the computer vision confidence score.” Harvey’s Hyperface project aims to do just that, he says, “overloading an algorithm with what it wants, oversaturating an area with faces to divert the gaze of the computer vision algorithm.” The resultant patterns, which Harvey created in conjunction with international interaction studio Hyphen-Labs, can be worn or used to blanket an area. “It can be used to modify the environment around you, whether it’s someone next to you, whether you’re wearing it, maybe around your head or in a new way.”

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“The lives of patients that are lost are considered collateral damage in the conservation of power.”

Guardian Report On Ailing Greek Health System Sparks Ugly Row (Kath.)

A report by The Guardian on Sunday on the problems faced by Greece’s ailing public healthcare system has sparked an ugly war of words between Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis and unionists. The row started with a social media post made by Polakis on Tuesday, in which he accuses the head of the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN), Michalis Giannakos, who is extensively quoted in the report, of “despicable lies.” Polakis went on to say that Giannakos’s comments to Guardian reporter Helena Smith were “slandering to the country and the SYRIZA government, which cut off access to the chow trough and special favors,” and called the unionist a “louse.” In the same post, Polakis also suggested that local media quoting Giannakos’s “vomit-inspiring interview” were lashing out at the leftist-government for cutting advertising revenues from the Center of Disease Prevention and Control (KEELPNO).

“No one who works in a public hospital believes you anymore, just your posse of friends,” Polakis said in his comments, which were directed at Giannakos, adding that the data the unionist cited was from 2012 and no longer valid. “Your time has finished, your place is on history’s trash heap,” Polakis said. His comments prompted an equally vehement response from POEDIN on Tuesday, calling Polakis a “political miasma” and accusing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of appointing him “to do the dirty work.” “With his latest misspelt, badly written and delusional post on Facebook against the president of POEDIN, Mr. Polakis has once more confirmed that he is the political miasma of the country’s civil and social life,” the union said in its statement.

In the interview, Giannakos suggested that cutbacks are putting patients’ lives at risk by over-taxing dwindling staff and curbing hospitals’ access to basic necessities and equipment. “The interview in The Guardian underscores the collapse of the public health system and public hospitals. Why doesn’t the government use the publication as an opportunity in its negotiations with the lenders to exempt healthcare from the memorandums? It is clear from its reaction that the government intends to achieve high primary surpluses by the continued reduction of public healthcare spending,” POEDIN said. “The lives of patients that are lost are considered collateral damage in the conservation of power.” The union also said that it is planning to take legal action against Polakis, accusing the health official of using “degrading, insulting and wholly inappropriate” language in his post.

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Erdogan makes Greeks nervous. And mainatining your borders, like maintaining your culture, is not a bad thing. Nor will it lead to war. Quite the opposite.

The Necessity of Maintaining Borders (Kath.)

Since the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, I have been rather surprised by the silence of the country’s intellectuals, who up until recently had been very talkative. Whether they kept silent out of fear or discomfort, we should respect it. Nevertheless, Orhan Pamuk’s silence, for instance, cannot go unnoticed. The point is not to carry out direct political interventions, but to bare the essential transformations that Turkish society has gone through in the nearly 15 years that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power – changes that are obvious even to non-Turkish experts like myself. The mere presence (2002-17) of the same party in government for so long makes you wonder about the nature of our neighboring democracy.

I read in Monday’s Corriere della Sera that prior to the attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, Turkey’s director for religious affairs, who represents the state, had accused those preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve of being “infidels.” Meanwhile, author Burhan Sonmez told the same paper that similar complaints, regarding both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, were made by several leading AKP officials. While Turkey officially condemned the attack, on social media and elsewhere online, many defended the assassin in the name of religion. In a statement claiming responsibility for yet another mass murder, the slaughterers’ group referred to the “apostate Turkish government.” These are the same people Erdogan helped in the past but was forced to drop when he started reaching an understanding with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, abandoning the US, which is helping the Kurds and which forced him to move away from his friend Bashar al-Assad.

There is something wrong with the sultan of democracy. He now claims that Kurdish terrorism is equal to Islamic terrorism. The result of the equation is weekly massacres. How can social cohesion be maintained faced with weekly attacks on civilians from Diyarbakir to Istanbul? How much can you trust a leader who does not hide his autocratic tendencies, who has changed his country’s allies on numerous occasions in the last decade and who undermines his own military and secret service forces? Given that Greece and Europe have based their entire management of the refugee-migrant crisis on Erdogan’s word, should we start worrying? Instead of looking for frigates invading our islets, should we be looking out for dinghies flooding our cities with human despair? Until the world becomes paradise, you need borders, even those at sea.

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Sep 162015
 
 September 16, 2015  Posted by at 10:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


NPC Fire at S. Kanns warehouse, Washington, DC 1908

It’s highly amusing to read all the ‘expert’ theories on a Federal Reserve hike or no hike tomorrow, but it’s also obvious that nobody really has a clue, and still feel they should be heard. Don’t know if that’s so smart, but I guess in that world being consistently wrong is not that big a deal.

Thing is, US economic numbers are so ‘massaged’ and unreliable, the Fed can pick whichever way the wind blows to argue whatever decision it makes. As long as jobs numbers get presented for instance without counting the 90-odd million Americans who are not in the labor force, and a majority of new jobs are waiters, just about anything goes in that area. Numbers on wages are just as silly.

And people can make inflation a big issue, but hardly anyone even knows what inflation is. Wonder if the Fed does. It had better, because if you don’t look at spending, prices don’t tell you a thing. They surely must look at velocity of money charts from time to time?!

The biggest thing for the Fed might, and perhaps must, be the confidence factor. It’s been talking about rate hikes for so long now that if it decides to leave rates alone, it will only create more uncertainty down the road. Uncertainty about the economy (no hike would suggest a weak economy), and also about its own capabilities.

If all you have is talk, people tend to take you a lot less serious. Moreover, the abject -and grossly expensive- failure of the Chinese central bank to quiet down its domestic stock markets has raised questions about the omnipotence of all central banks.

This morning’s spectacle of a 5% rise in Shanghai in under an hour near the close no longer serves to restore confidence, it further undermines it. Beijing doesn’t seem to get that yet. But the Fed might.

No rate hike is therefore an enormous potential threat to Fed credibility. And that’s a factor it may well find much more important than a bunch of numbers it knows are mostly fake anyway. It has for years been able to fake credibility, but that is no longer all that obvious. And delaying a hike will certainly not boost that credibility.

Sure, volatility is an issue too, but volatility won’t go down on a hike delay. It’ll simply continue – and perhaps rise- until the next meeting. There’s nothing to gain there.

Besides, don’t let’s forget how crazy it is that the entire financial world is dead nervous ahead of a central bank meeting, even as everyone knows it’s all just about a decision on a very small tweak in rates.

Yellen et al are very aware of the risks of that, even if they love the limelight it brings. All that attention tells people, meeting after meeting, that the US economy is not functioning properly, no matter what the official statements say.

There are ‘experts’ talking about the dangers of emerging markets if the Fed votes Yes on a hike, but those markets are not even part of its mandate. if Yellen thinks something can be gained from pushing emerging markets and currencies down further, she’ll do just that.

Still, all this is just pussyfooting around the bush. The Fed may have noble mandates to help the real economy, but it will in the end always decide to do what’s best for Wall Street banks. And these banks could well make a huge killing off a rate hike.

They can profit from trouble and volatility in emerging markets as well as domestic markets, provided they’re well-positioned. Given that they’ve had ample time, and it’s hard to answer the question who else is in a good position, we may have an idea which wind the wind will blow.

Increasing credibility for the Fed and increasing profits for Wall Street banks. Might be a winning combination. And if Yellen is realistic about the potential for a recovery in the American economy, why would she not pick it?