Apr 262020
 


Unknown Spanish Influenza 1918

 

 

Australia’s Coronavirus Tracing App Set To Launch Today (G.)
Germany Flips On Smartphone Contact Tracing, Backs Apple And Google (R.)
WHO: No Evidence COVID-19 Antibodies Protect From Potential Re-Infection (BBG)
WHO Warns Against Coronavirus “Immunity Passports” (Vox)
Mumbai Is Trying To Stop COVID19 With Hydroxychloroquine (IT)
Trump, Putin Issue Joint Statement Promoting Unity (JTN)
UK Scientists Warn Over Grim Virus Data (G.)
US Airlines Receive Extra $9.5 Billion In Payroll Support (R.)
French PM To Present Plan To Unwind Coronavirus Lockdown On Tuesday (R.)
The Mule Business! (Kunstler)
Organizers Plan the Largest US Rent Strike in Nearly a Century (IC)
DOJ Will Appeal Ruling Over Sealed Mueller Materials To Supreme Court (Hill)
Michael Flynn Deliberately Set Up, Framed By Corrupt FBI Agents – Lawyer (JTN)

 

 

• Walking back earlier predictions of 200,000 US deaths, two weeks ago, on April 9, Dr. Fauci said overall deaths from COVID19 might be as high as 60,000. It’s at 54,000 now.

• US records 2,494 more #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

• The US overall death toll 53,511, with 936,293 confirmed cases – Johns Hopkins Saturday 8:30 pm

• New York reports 10,553 new cases of coronavirus and 437 new deaths. Total of 282,143 cases and 16,599 deaths.

• Italy reports 2,357 new cases of coronavirus and 415 new deaths.

• Middle East:
– Turkey: 2,861 new cases
– Saudi: 1,197 new cases
– Iran: 1,134 new cases
– Qatar: 833 new cases
– UAE: 532 new cases
– Kuwait: 278 new cases
– Egypt: 227 new cases
– Oman: 115 new cases
– Israel: 90 new cases
– Bahrain: 70 new cases

• @yaneerbaryam
US tests dramatically up again to 300K yesterday from 150K for much of April. NY, MA particularly.

4/25/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 282,143
New Jersey: 105,523
Mass : 53,348
Illinois: 41,777
California: 41,137
Pennsylvania: 40,049
Michigan: 37,023
Florida: 30,839
Louisiana: 26,512
Connecticut: 24,582
Texas: 23,773
Georgia: 22,695

 

 

Cases 2,934,639 (+ 88,781 from yesterday’s 2,845,858)

Deaths 203,683 (+ 5,837 from yesterday’s 197,846 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

After having failed miserably -and very deathly- to act when the virus was first detected, our “leaders” went into “Little Managers” mode, something – the only thing- they’re actually somewhat capable of. But now a new phase looms, and the abject failures start again. They all have different approaches to tracing apps, they all have their highly paid experts venting opinions on things they don’t know about (yes, it’s the same issues again) and the mess will be sensational again.

Politicians MUST admit they don’t know enough to make decisions and conveniently hide behind their experts, but who’s checking the experts?

Australia’s Coronavirus Tracing App Set To Launch Today (G.)

The controversial coronavirus tracing app will be released by the government on Sunday, despite lingering privacy concerns. The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, likened the app to a “bluetooth handshake” and said it was an important piece of the aggressive identify, trace and isolate strategy the Commonwealth is attempting, as it looks at life beyond physical distance restrictions. But Dutton’s Labor counterpart, Kristina Keneally, said she would be waiting to see how the government has addressed privacy concerns before deciding whether or not she would download it, while acknowledging the app had the potential to be a “great tool” for public health protection.


“Like many Australians, I’m waiting to see what the federal government has to say in terms of the privacy protections that are built into the app, and the legislated privacy protections they’re going to put in place,” she told the ABC on Sunday. The app, based on source code from Singapore’s Tracetogether software, maintains a log of bluetooth connections a person’s phone makes with the phones of those they have come into contact with, making it easier for health authorities to trace potential Covid-19 carriers in the case of a positive diagnosis. For the app to be successful, just under half the population would need to carry it on their phones.

Read more …

Germany failed in its first app attempt. And sure, DP-3T sounds attractive, but who knows enough about it to provide useful advice? What if it’s only the techies at Apple and Google?

Germany Flips On Smartphone Contact Tracing, Backs Apple And Google (R.)

Germany changed course on Sunday over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries. Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Berlin would adopt a ‘decentralized’ approach to digital contact tracing, in so doing abandoning a home-grown alternative. Nations are rushing to develop apps to assess at scale the risk of catching COVID-19, where the chain of infection is proving hard to break because the flu-like disease can be spread by those showing no symptoms.

In Europe, most countries have chosen short-range Bluetooth ‘handshakes’ between devices as the best approach, but have differed over whether to log such contacts on a central server or on individual devices. Germany as recently as Friday backed an initiative called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), whose centralized approach was criticized by hundreds of scientists in an open letter last Monday as opening the way to state surveillance. “We will back a decentralized architecture that will only store contacts on devices. That is good for trust,” Braun told ARD public television in an interview.

Although Bluetooth-based smartphone contact tracing is an untested technology and early results in countries like Singapore are modest, its development is already redefining the relationship between the state and individual. It would work by assessing the closeness and length of contact between people and, should a person test positive for COVID-19, tell recent contacts to call a doctor, get tested or self-isolate. One of the members of PEPP-PT, Germany’s Fraunhofer HHI research institute, was told on Saturday that it was being taken off the project, correspondence seen by Reuters showed. “The project will be handed over and others will be able to make use of the results we have achieved so far to build a decentralized solution,” Fraunhofer HHI head Thomas Wiegand said in a message to colleagues.

Germany’s change of tack would bring its approach into line with that taken by Apple and Alphabet’s Google, which said this month they would develop new tools to support decentralized contact tracing. Importantly, Apple’s iPhone would under the proposed setup only work properly with decentralized protocols such as DP-3T, which has been developed by a Swiss-led team and has been backed by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia. [..] Backers of DP-3T, short for Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, say it is still possible for users to opt in to sharing their phone number to aid contact tracing – but this would be part of an app, not of the system architecture.

Read more …

Ergo: you need a vaccine. Which may take many years to develop. There has never been a sucessful vaccine for any coronavirus developed.

WHO: No Evidence COVID-19 Antibodies Protect From Potential Re-Infection (BBG)

Catching COVID-19 once may not protect you from getting it again, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that could jeopardize efforts to allow people to return to work after recovering from the virus. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the United Nations agency said in an April 24 statement. The WHO guidance came after some governments suggested that people who have antibodies to the coronavirus could be issued an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would allow them to travel or return to work, based on the assumption that they were safe from re-infection, according to the statement. People issued such a certificate could ignore public-health guidance, increasing the risk of the disease spreading further.


[..] While there’s a consensus that the key to ending the coronavirus pandemic is establishing co-called herd immunity, there are many unknowns. One is whether researchers can develop a safe and effective vaccine. Another is how long people who’ve recovered have immunity; reinfection after months or years is common with other human coronaviruses. Finally, it’s not clear what percentage of people must be immune to protect the “herd.” That depends on the contagiousness of the virus. The WHO said it’s reviewing the scientific evidence on antibody responses to coronavirus, but as yet no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies “confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.” And while many countries are currently testing for antibodies, these studies aren’t designed to determine whether people recovered from the disease acquire immunity, the agency said.

Read more …

Because they’re meaningless if immunity doesn’t exist.

WHO Warns Against Coronavirus “Immunity Passports” (Vox)

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a scientific brief on Saturday recommending countries refrain from issuing certificates of immunity to people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus, warning there is “currently no evidence” that someone cannot be reinfected. Countries like Germany and Chile are looking into giving residents “immunity passports” that would allow people who have recovered from Covid-19 to be excluded from restrictive protection measures and to work outside the house. Public health officials would use tests that detect antibodies to the virus to determine if someone has previously had the virus.

But the WHO cautioned against this practice due to concerns that reinfection cannot be ruled out based on antibodies alone. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO says in the brief. The report went even further, suggesting immunity passports could backfire and unwittingly accelerate the spread of the virus. “People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission,” the report says.

Part of the reason the WHO is counseling caution is because scientists don’t yet understand what ensures immunity to the virus. “Most of these [antibody response] studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the virus. However, some of these people have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood, suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery,” the brief says.

Read more …

Modi needs to watch more CNN. Protects against any and all HCQ addictions.

Mumbai Is Trying To Stop COVID19 With Hydroxychloroquine (IT)

In the past fortnight, Mumbai’s Dharavi area has emerged as a major hotspot of novel coronavirus cases. To prevent further spread of Covid-19 cases in one of the largest slums in the world, the state government has chalked out a three-fold strategy. Speaking on this at a special session at e-Agenda Aaj Tak on Saturday, Maharashtra Health Minister Tajesh tope said the biggest challenge for the state government is to implement the lockdown strictly and contain the spread of novel coronavirus in densely populated areas like Dharavi. Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the government has decided to administer hydroxychloroquine to people who are quarantined in areas with a high number of Covid-19 cases.


Rajesh Tope said instead of putting people in home quarantine, the government has decided to out high-risk people in institutional quarantine. “For this, we would use schools, colleges, hotels or any institute as required and arrange facilities,” Tope said. “We are also working on early detection because many times reports of infection come after the patient reaches a critical stage,” he said. Speaking about the Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope said the number of cases are increasing in the state and the state government’s objective is to reduce the doubling rate and death rate. “The death rate has come down from seven to four,” he said.

Read more …

But there are plenty Americans willing to piss on the graves of the WWII fallen.

Trump, Putin Issue Joint Statement Promoting Unity (JTN)

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday issued a rare joint statement promoting unity and cooperation between their respective countries, calling for trust and cooperation “in pursuit of a greater cause.” The statement was meant to mark the 75th anniversary of the “Meeting on the Elbe,” the historic confluence of American and Russian troops in Germany very near the end of World War II in what was seen as one of the final blows against Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler would commit suicide five days after the two sets of troops met at the Elbe River, with Germany surrendering a week later.

In the joint statement, the two leaders said the meeting “represented a culmination of tremendous efforts by the many countries and peoples” that “required enormous sacrifice by millions of soldiers, sailors, and citizens in multiple theaters of war.” “The ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause. As we work today to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism,” the statement continues, also paying tribute to the domestic industries that supplied the efforts on the warfront.

The statement’s message of fraternal international cooperation did not impress everyone, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that “some officials within the administration” have been “concerned about the decision to issue the statement, fearing that it may undercut the stern U.S. messages toward Moscow.”

Read more …

The UK outbreak has a much longer time to go than Germany or Italy.

UK Scientists Warn Over Grim Virus Data (G.)

The number of new cases of Covid-19 being diagnosed is still much too high to allow any easing of the lockdown soon, leading scientists have warned, as the virus death toll in UK hospitals passed 20,000 on Saturday. The home secretary, Priti Patel, described the figure as a “terrible milestone” and a “deeply tragic and moving moment”. She said it showed the need for the British public to “stay strong” and remain at home for the foreseeable future. A further 813 deaths were reported in hospitals, taking the UK total to 20,319. This figure does not include deaths from Covid-19 in care homes, hospices and in the community.

As ministers came under increasing pressure to ease the lockdown from the business community and Tory MPs concerned at the plight of small firms in their own constituencies, scientists said the drop in new coronavirus cases being reported daily was disappointingly slow. Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Sage group of Covid-19 experts, said if the lockdown was eased now, the newly enhanced testing and contact tracing system being put in place would be swamped. “The strategy behind plans to lift the lockdown is based on the idea [that] you could then control the epidemic by testing people for infections before tracing their contacts,” Edmunds said.

[..] “However, if we lifted the lockdown now, the testing and tracing system would be overwhelmed. We will have to get case numbers down a lot lower than they are now before we can think of lifting current regulations.” Professor Keith Neal of Nottingham University agreed that the number of patients being taken to hospital with Covid-19 remained far too high. “This daily figure peaked on 5 April with 5,903 cases. This Saturday it stood at 3,583,” he added. This latter figure was boosted by an extra 1,330 new cases of infected care and health workers, which brought Saturday’s overall total to 4,913.

“It has therefore taken three weeks for numbers of hospitalised Covid-19 patients to decline from a daily total of 5,903 to 3,641.” Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, added: “There is no doubt this rate of decline is disappointing. Certainly it is far too high to consider lifting lockdown restrictions at present. We need to get numbers down to a few hundred new cases a day before we can do that. Such a decline could take months.”

Read more …

And AirFrance/KLM get €10 billion too. Why? It will take years to achieve the traffic they aim for.

US Airlines Receive Extra $9.5 Billion In Payroll Support (R.)

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Saturday it has released $9.5 billion in additional funds from the Payroll Support Program to U.S. air carriers, bringing to $12.4 billion the total provided to the airline sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In total, the government has disbursed grant funds to 10 major airlines and 83 smaller carriers. Congress approved $25 billion in grants for payroll assistance for passenger airlines. Treasury required major airlines receiving more than $100 million in assistance to repay 30% in low-interest loans over 10 years and issue warrants equal to 10% of the loan amount.

Airlines must not cut pay or jobs through Sept. 30 as a condition of the grants and are barred from buying back stock or paying dividends and face restrictions on executive compensation. SkyWest CEO Chip Childs told employees on Friday the airline expects to receive $438 million from Treasury in payroll assistance. “There is still much about the future and recovery that remains uncertain, and there is a very real possibility that we could be a smaller airline by the end of the year,” he wrote in a email seen by Reuters. The four largest U.S. carriers are receiving $19.2 billion in total out of the $25 billion – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Treasury is awarding major carriers 50% of the grant funds initially and then releasing the remainder through July. Treasury said additional money will continue to be provided to approved applicants “on a rolling basis.” The department is still reviewing how to award $4 billion in grants to cargo carriers and $3 billion to airport contractors such as caterers. Cargo carriers that receive $50 million or less of payroll support and contractors that receive $37.5 million or less “will not be required to provide financial instruments as appropriate compensation” for support, the department said.

Read more …

Far too soon, but Macron listens to the press.

French PM To Present Plan To Unwind Coronavirus Lockdown On Tuesday (R.)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present the government’s plan to unwind the country’s coronavirus lockdown to parliament on Tuesday, followed by a debate and vote, his office said in a statement. The lockdown ordered by President Emmanuel Macron to slow the spread of the virus has been in place since March 17 and is due to be lifted on May 11. Macron is aiming to ease some of the lockdown measures then with schools reopening first, although the government has yet to finalise how it might work in practice. France has also offered retailers some relief by saying it wants them to reopen on May 11, though some curbs could remain in certain areas to delay a new wave of the coronavirus. The death toll in France from the coronavirus now stands at 22,614, the health ministry said on Saturday.

Read more …

“Times have changed and we’re going to have to get some new good ideas that fit the new times.”

The Mule Business! (Kunstler)

The plague didn’t cause the economic crash. But the lockdown response certainly accelerated, amplified, and ramified it. The crash happened because we built up a hyper-complex, over-scaled, just-in-time economic system with all its ecological redundancy edited out for the sake of efficiency, making it hyper-fragile. The system’s basic power module (fossil fuel) was failing on a cost-basis and we tried to compensate for that with debt. The debt got out of hand in both sheer quantity and from the dishonest games that bankers and politicians were playing with it. All of this happened for the reason that most things happen in history: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The old system is permanently broken now. We’re having a hard time recognizing that, plague or no plague. Many activities have flunked the scale challenge and will not come back to running the way they used to, generally anything organized at the giant scale: global supply chains, global corporations that depend on them, fracking for shale oil, big institutions like colleges and even public school systems, commercial aviation and tourism, the auto industry, show business (including the Disney empire and things like it), suburbia as a general proposition, skyscrapers and megastructures, shopping malls, pension funds, insurance companies, mega-banks, and, of course, medical conglomerates. We’re deceived by Amazon.com, which appears to be successful at the moment because it is filling a vacuum that Amazon will also eventually fall into. Amazon’s business model is a joke.The model is: every item purchased makes a separate journey by truck to the customer. That’s a “sell” signal to me.

The lockdown is making people crazy. It’s one thing to be stuck in the house with spouses and relatives you can barely stand under normal circumstances. But to see all your financial support systems melt down at the same time, along with the implications for your hopes-and-dreams, is a pretty big shock. Naturally so many want to bust out of the waking nightmare and get going, to return to action, to at least see whether what they were doing before all this happened might restart. I dunno about that. They might flock back to restaurants to spend some of that fresh-minted $1200, and then what? Where will the next $1200 come from? Modern Monetary Theory? A new Guaranteed Basic Income? From what? From taxes paid by which businesses generating what profits from people too broke to buy goods and services?

I don’t think so. Times have changed and we’re going to have to get some new good ideas that fit the new times. But, the craziness out there is very likely to start expressing itself differently as we discover the urge to action does not produce the desired result of returning-to-normal. Instead, it produces more disorder in the foundering system, and then the question is: how much disorder do we have to slog through to get to those new ideas suited to the new times? I’ve got one of my own. The mule business! Seriously.

Read more …

400 families, 5,000 commitments. So far it doesn’t sound like a very big movement.

Organizers Plan the Largest US Rent Strike in Nearly a Century (IC)

At least 400 hundred families who live in buildings each containing over 1,500 rent units are coordinating building-wide rent strikes, according to Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All, a New York-based coalition of tenants and housing activists. Additionally, over 5,000 people have committed, through an online pledge, to refuse to pay rent in May. Precise strike numbers will be impossible to track, but the number of commitments alone points to a historic revival of this tenant resistance tactic. Coordinated rent strikes of this size in New York City haven’t been seen since the 1930s, when thousands of renters in Harlem and the Bronx successfully fought price gouging and landlord neglect by refusing to pay rent en masse.


The numbers committing to a rent strike might seem insignificant compared to the millions who don’t frame nonpayment as a strike, but simply will not be able to pay rent in the coming month. By the first week of April, one-third of renters nationwide — approximately 13.4 million people — had not paid rent; since then, 26 million workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Meanwhile, government stimulus checks of $1,200 are disorganized, overdue, and woefully inadequate. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, for example, was $2,980 last year. The federal government’s pitiful offering is also, of course, unavailable to many immigrants. Since we can therefore expect nonpayment of May’s rent to reach an unprecedented scale anyway, the idea of advocating for a rent strike might at first seem moot.

Read more …

Schiff kicking Mueller in the balls.

DOJ Will Appeal Ruling Over Sealed Mueller Materials To Supreme Court (Hill)

The Department of Justice will appeal to the Supreme Court after it was ordered to hand over sealed documents from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to Congress. The department on Friday asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay its ruling while it petitions the high court. “Whether and under what circumstances Congress may resort to the courts to seek grand jury materials generated in a criminal investigation in aid of an impeachment inquiry is plainly a question of great significance to all three branches of government, as well as to the functioning of the grand jury system in high-profile, politically-charged matters,” the Justice Department wrote.


The move comes after a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that the Trump administration would have to hand over to Congress grand jury materials from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “The Department has objected to disclosure of the redacted grand jury materials, but the Department has no interest in objecting to the release of these materials outside of the general purposes and policies of grand jury secrecy, which as discussed, do not outweigh the Committee’s compelling need for disclosure,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote in a majority opinion.

Read more …

People must be prosecuted for this.

Michael Flynn Deliberately Set Up, Framed By Corrupt FBI Agents – Lawyer (JTN)

Attorneys for retired Gen. Michael Flynn asked a judge Friday to dismiss his criminal conviction immediately, saying new evidence belatedly turned over by federal prosecutors proves the former national security adviser to President Trump was framed in the Russia investigation. “This afternoon, the government produced to Mr. Flynn stunning Brady evidence that proves Mr. Flynn’s allegations of having been deliberately set up and framed by corrupt agents at the top of the FBI,” Flynn’s attorneys said in an eight page filing Brady evidence is pretrial information that could exonerate a defendant. The attorneys also argued in the filings that the long-awaited evidence defeats any argument that a key interview with Flynn on January 24, 2017, was material to any “investigation.”


The redacted documents were filed in a District of Columbia federal court as a supplement to Flynn’s court motion in January to dismiss charges against him. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI in connection with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. “The government has deliberately suppressed this evidence from the inception of this prosecution – knowing there was no crime by Mr. Flynn,” the attorneys also wrote in Friday’s filings. “All this new evidence, and the government has advised there is more to come, proves that the crimes were committed by the FBI officials and then the prosecutors. The government’s misconduct in this case is beyond shocking and reprehensible. It mandates dismissal.”

Read more …

 

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Jan 192020
 
 January 19, 2020  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


John Collier “Grandfather Romero, a member of the family of Juan Lopez, the majordomo, is ninety-nine years old.” Trampas, New Mexico 1943

 

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)
Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)
DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)
House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)
Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)
Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)
Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)
A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)
The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)
Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)
Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

 

 

Does Biden know how a video is doctored? He’s handing the Sanders camp a big freebee.

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)

Joe Biden accused Bernie Sanders’ campaign Saturday of issuing a “doctored video” to attack him over Social Security, a false claim that ratcheted up the tension between the two campaigns in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. “Let’s get the record straight,” Biden said at Simpson College here. “There’s a little, doctored video going around … saying I agreed with Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, about wanting to privatize Social Security.” But the video in question — of Biden’s 2018 remarks to the Brookings Institution think tank — was not doctored by Sanders, whose campaign this month stepped up criticisms of Biden’s record on Social Security.

Sanders’ campaign did say in a recent campaign email that “Biden lauded Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare” — which PolitiFact said Sanders’ campaign got wrong. But there is no evidence that the campaign altered any video. Biden, however, referenced the fact-checking website in making a muddled claim: “PolitiFact looked at it and they doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.”


Sanders’ campaign bristled at the criticism from Biden — a serious charge that Democrats recently have begun to level at Republicans, including Donald Trump, for manipulating images and videos on social media. An aide said Sanders might address the criticism head on. “Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security,” said Sanders Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir in a statement Saturday. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security — he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions.”

Read more …

Things are moving too fast for me to keep up. Rosenstein was in the Trump camp’s crosshairs forever, but now all of a sudden he’s the other camp’s worst enemy?

Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)

Mystery solved. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has ‘fessed up to giving explosive text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press in 2017. The messages between the two, exchanged in 2016 while both were involved in sensitive political probes, revealed their antipathy to then-candidate Donald Trump and loyalty to Hillary Clinton. Rosenstein’s admission came in a Friday-night court filing by the Department of Justice, which is seeking to dismiss Strzok’s lawsuit challenging his June 2016 firing, Politico reported. The former agent’s case seeks damages for invasion of privacy, arguing that the texts were disclosed due to political pressure from the White House.

But Rosenstein, who left the DOJ last year, says he made the texts public to protect Page and Strzok — because Congress was about to hear about the embarrassing messages anyway. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures” from leaky congressional staffers, wrote Rosenstein, who now has a corporate law gig. The texts showed that Page and Strzok had feared Trump might win the election. Both had worked on the probe into whether Clinton jeopardized classified information by using a private email server while she was secretary of state as well as Crossfire Hurricane, the feds’ investigation into the Trump campaign.

Later, they worked briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. “This man cannot be president,” Page wrote in March 2016. “She just has to win now,” she said in a July 2016 message, referring to Clinton. In his texts to Page, Strzok referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “douche.” Shortly before the 2016 election, he wrote that the prospect of a Trump presidency made him “scared for our organization.”

Read more …

Strzok and Page sent 100s, 1000s of messages to each other, often during work hours, but they still get to claim invasion of their privacy?

DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release to the media of text messages between ‘FBI lovebirds’ Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, many of which revealed deep animus towards then-candidate Donald Trump while they were investigating him during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Politico. In a Friday night court filing submitted shortly before midnight, Rosenstein says he made the decision to protect Strzok and Page from the damaging effects of lawmakers and others releasing the texts for use as political ammunition.


“In the messages, Strzok and Page regularly disparaged Trump and appeared to seek to reassure each other he could not be elected. Both called Trump an “idiot” and said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deserved to win. The texts also included murky discussions of an “insurance policy” to guard against Trump’s election. Trump backers have interpreted the reference as a plan to use the then-ongoing investigation into ties between Trump advisers and Russia as way to prevent him from taking office or undermine his presidency, but Strzok and Page have denied any such intent.” -Politico. Lisa Page – who sued the DOJ and FBI in December over the release, appears to be pissed.

Strzok has separately sued the agencies as well – for which Rosenstein’s admission was submitted as part of the government’s defense. The former DAG says that public disclosure of the texts was inevitable in connection with testimony he was set to give the next day in front of the House Judiciary Committee. “With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [Justice’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” wrote Rosenstein.


“In November, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to throw out Strzok’s suit, which challenges both his firing from the FBI and the release of the texts. However, Strzok’s attorneys countered in a court filing last month that one reason to allow the suit to proceed was that Justice Department was being vague about just who made the final call to give the messages. Arguing that an air of mystery continued to surround the disclosure, Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman called “revealing” Justice’s decision to seek dismissal of the suit without identifying the responsible official. “An agency cannot avoid Privacy Act liability for a disclosure actually made for an improper purpose by eliciting a sanitized after-the-fact rationale from an official who does not have all of the facts,” Goelman wrote. -Politico

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Always wonder why people claim to know exactly what the Framers meant, and to the exclusion of their political rivals.

House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)

Ahead of Tuesday’s opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats – seven impeachment managers led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff – filed their legal brief today. The 111-page summons urges the Senate to “eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security” as it lays out the case against President Trump. The House legal filing (due by 5pmET) reiterates the findings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels, which, after hearing from witnesses and experts, settled on charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Additionally, the case that House prosecutors sent to the Senate references new evidence that wasn’t part of the impeachment inquiry, including material from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Democratic officials familiar with the argument. “The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the brief reads. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution.”

Compiled by the seven Democrats serving as impeachment managers, the brief describes the president’s conduct as “the Framer’s worst nightmare” in arguing that he should be impeached and removed from office. “President Trump’s ongoing pattern of misconduct demonstrates that he is an immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Senate convict and remove him from office now, and permanently bar him from holding federal office,” they write. President Trump’s legal team outlined the fiery response to its impeachment summons, calling the two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

The six-page document – which they stressed is different from the brief that is not due until Monday – offers a taste of the rhetoric expected to be deployed by the president’s defenders in the Senate. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,” the filing states. Trump’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds, claiming Trump has been mistreated by House Democrats and that he did nothing wrong. Notably, at least four of the impeachment managers, including Schiff, are scheduled to appear Sunday on political talk shows.

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Only six weeks? But that only takes us to early March, 8 whole months before the election.

Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Fox News this week that he predicts President Donald Trump’s Senate trial will be short and that the president’s best defense is a review of the transcript. “The transcript is the single best piece of evidence that the president has,” Gowdy said. “Who brought up Rudy Giuliani’s name? It wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Zelensky. This was the second call, not the first call. If President Trump were really hell-bent on ensuring that Ukraine investigate the Bidens, would he not have brought that up in the first telephone call he had with Zelensky? Why wait till the second?” “As far as the timing of this trial is concerned, Trey, they are estimates that it could be quick, it could last as long as six weeks,” Fox News co-host Sandra Smith said. “Where do you fall on that, and what is the length of time mean?”

“I mean God help us if it lasts six weeks,” Gowdy responded. “The investigation is over, so it’s Schiff’s job to present the case. If he’s going to present the case on the paper with the depositions, it shouldn’t take that long. I don’t need Adam to read the depositions to me; the jury can go read it themselves.” “If they open it up to witnesses, and they want Bolton, and then there’s some Republicans that want four or five other witnesses, it could last six weeks,” Gowdy continued. “Sandra, I just have not met anyone whose opinion has changed during the pendency of this investigation. I can’t identify – maybe three open-minded jurors in the U.S. Senate. I just don’t, no matter how long it lasts, I don’t think it’s gonna change anyone’s mind in the Senate or among my fellow citizens. The shorter the better.”

Fox News co-host Bill Hemmer asked, “Did you want to give us a time frame for that?” “I’m saying two weeks,” Gowdy said. “If it goes six weeks, then they’re going to have to make some hard decisions on which witnesses are important enough to hear from and which ones, while they may have relevant evidence, we just don’t – I think in terms of a real trial.” “Why would you ever not call a witness if that witness has relevant information?” Gowdy continued. “How do you pick which ones to call and which ones not to? You can never do that in a real trial. So, if we’re going to open this thing up anew to a brand new investigation, then call everybody, and God knows how long that’ll take.”

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Nobody feels bad he didn’t get the job, himself least of all.

Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)

If things had gone a little differently, Rudy Giuliani might have been elected president in 2008. The former New York City mayor turned Donald Trump stooge led polling in the Republican primaries for almost a year, and was seen as someone who could defeat Hillary Clinton – then the presumptive Democratic nominee – in key metropolitan areas. Giuliani, still riding a wave of good feeling from his handling of the 9/11 attacks, was raising serious amounts of cash, and was the best-known of the Republican candidates. He had a very real chance of succeeding George W Bush. But Giuliani’s campaign collapsed in chaotic fashion, and he became a political irrelevance – until re-emerging a decade later as Donald Trump’s lawyer, mouthpiece, bungling envoy to Ukraine and a central character in the third impeachment of an American president.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the end of 2006, Giuliani was the most popular politician in the country. In March 2007, after Giuliani formally announced his White House campaign, he was the early favorite to win the Republican primary contest, with 44% support nationwide. (John McCain, the eventual nominee, was second with 20%.) Giuliani maintained that lead throughout the year, and raised the most money. Armed with a campaign slogan that read like the responses to a word-association examination – “Tested. Ready. Now” – Giuliani seemed destined to represent the Republican party in the November 2008 election.

“When Rudy Giuliani entered the race he was seen as the frontrunner,” said Capri Cafaro, a former minority leader of the Ohio senate and an adjunct professor at the American University school of public affairs. Oprah Winfrey had dubbed Giuliani “America’s mayor” following the 9/11 attacks – a moniker that stuck – while Time magazine went further, naming Giuliani its person of the year for 2001 and branding him “mayor of the world”. Cafaro said: “His strength predominantly came from being seen as America’s mayor – in light of this being just a few years after 9/11. [He was] playing to his strengths: his strengths in national security and essentially being able to rise to the occasion as a leader.”

[..] Giuliani was still leading the polls in the summer of 2007, six months out from the first Republican vote in Iowa. But he hit an unexpected problem, in the form of a man dressed in a chicken suit – the “Iowa Chicken” – who tirelessly followed Giuliani around in protest at him skipping the Ames straw poll, a traditional barometer of the Republican primary race.

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Can we move the Senate to the Appalachians?? Alabama?

Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to relocate parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to the northern English city of York, the Sunday Times reported. In last month’s national election for the lower house, Johnson’s Conservatives won a swathe of seats in the traditional Northern English heartland of the opposition Labour Party as he secured a large majority in parliament. With a view to securing these gains, Johnson has promised to ramp up investment in the north of England, which suffered under the decline of heavy industries and austerity policies since the financial crisis, the Sunday Times said, without citing sources.


York, founded by the Romans and famed for its large minster, is first choice for the move, ahead of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. The unelected House of Lords, which dates back to the 14th Century, is principally seen as a revising and refining mechanism but it technically has the power to block laws.

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Whitney’s laying it on a little thickish.

A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.” While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East.

Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China. While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role.

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

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Part 2 from the article above. Of course the US is worried about China’s growing influence, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But how much oil can you trade for services before you run out of those? That only seems a concern if Iraq would become a Chinese satellite. Not going to happen.

China is a threat to the petrodollar only when the yuan becomes freely tradable. But that would be a direct threat to the CCP and Xi.

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that: “Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

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Putin is being practical.

Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he did not want Russia to return to the late Soviet-era practice of having lifelong rulers who died in office without a proper succession strategy. His comments, made to World War Two veterans in St Petersburg, came days after he unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister along with his government. Putin, in a surprise move, picked Mikhail Mishustin, the low-profile head of the country’s tax service, as the country’s next prime minister. Russians are now waiting to hear which ministers will keep their jobs in a new government.


Putin’s changes, which would amend the constitution to create new centers of power outside the presidency, were widely seen as giving the 67-year-old scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024. He has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades. Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends. They suspect he wants to continue to wield power over the world’s largest nation, which is also one of its two leading nuclear powers. In his comments on Saturday, Putin, who has already said he wants to limit future presidents to two terms in power despite currently serving out his fourth term himself, rejected the idea of Russian presidents for life.

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I don’t get why RT has to repeat the “shut your filthy mouth” phrase multiple times. Obviously lost in translation. But the narrative changes are real. Poland was very wrong in WWII (see Shoah). And now they try and rewrite that.

Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

Moscow is to create the most extensive collection of WWII documents, open to all persons anywhere, to once and for all “shut the filthy mouth” of those seeking to rewrite history for short-term gains, the Russian president said. Any person, Russian or non-national, will be able to access the archive, including through a website resource, and the ultimate goal is to debunk any disinformation about the most devastating conflict in human history, President Vladimir Putin pledged, during a meeting with veterans of the Great Patriotic War, held in St. Petersburg on Saturday. The creation of the center would leave no chance to those willing to distort the truth about the war for their own political needs, he argued. “We will shut the filthy mouth of some public figures abroad, who open theirs only to achieve short-term political goals. We will shut them up with reliable and fundamental facts.”

The center is expected to incorporate the biggest and most extensive collection of documents, as well as photos and video footage dating back to the World War II era. The president first floated this idea during his annual state-of-the-nation address earlier this week, arguing that Russia should combat “brazen lies and attempts to distort history.” In St. Petersburg, Putin also said that Moscow should follow the example of Tel Aviv, which virtually allows no one on Earth to forget about the true horrors of the Holocaust. “Among the Holocaust victims, a large number were Soviet Jews,” he said, adding that “we should also not forget about the sacrifices of other Soviet peoples, the Russian people” who defended “their homeland and the whole world from the brown plague [of Nazism].”

Putin’s words come amid a row between Moscow and Warsaw over the events that led to the Second World War. Poland has been revising that devastating conflict’s history for quite some time, seeking to shun any responsibility relating to events during that period, while presenting itself as a victim of both Nazi and Soviet aggression and occupation. Warsaw has been removing monuments to Soviet soldiers who died while liberating the city from Nazi Germany occupation, and also initiated an EU Parliament resolution in September, which claims that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

This last move did not sit well with Moscow, which labeled it a falsification of history. Putin himself eventually joined the heated debate between the two nations, when he called Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin from 1934 to 1939, “a bastard and an anti-Semitic pig.” The Russian president referred to the fact that the envoy had promised Adolf Hitler that Poles would “erect for him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he expelled all European Jews to Africa. Warsaw took offense to Putin’s remarks, though no one disputed Lipski’s words, which have long been known to the public.

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Apr 112015
 
 April 11, 2015  Posted by at 7:08 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


G. G. Bain Goose Creek, houses on the water, Jamaica Bay, Long Island 1910

Euro’s Reserve Status Jeopardized As Central Banks Dump Holdings (Blooomberg)
Why The Euro Could Fall Even Further (CNBC)
Putin’s New Problem Is The Strong Ruble (Bloomberg)
Greece: The Next Deadline Approaches (CNBC)
Greek Finance Minister Steers Debt Talk His Way (NY Times)
100,000 Italians Sign Petition For Eurozone Exit Referendum (RT)
PetroChina Overtakes Exxon Mobil To Become World’s Biggest Energy Company (RT)
China Bears on Wrong End of $4 Trillion Rally Refuse to Go Away (Bloomberg)
WWII Reparations: Rare Footage From Greece’s Occupation By The Nazis (KTG)
EU Leaders Snub Moscow World War II Commemorations (Spiegel)
Obama Says ‘Days Of Meddling’ In Latin America Are Past (BBC)
Sneak Peek At Pope’s Crusade (Paul B. Farrell)
Agriculture Poses Immense Threat To Environment (EurActiv)
California’s New Era of Heat Destroys All Previous Records (Bloomberg)

“As a reserve currency, the euro is falling apart..”

Euro’s Reserve Status Jeopardized As Central Banks Dump Holdings (Blooomberg)

Quantitative easing may be helping Europe achieve its economic targets, but it’s also undermining the long-term viability of the euro by tarnishing its allure as a global reserve currency. Central banks cut their euro holdings by the most on record last year in anticipation of losses tied to unprecedented stimulus. The euro now accounts for just 22% of worldwide reserves, down from 28% before the region’s debt crisis five years ago, while dollar and yen holdings have both climbed, the latest data from the IMF show. “As a reserve currency, the euro is falling apart,” said Daniel Fermon, a strategist at SocGen. “As long as you have full quantitative easing, there’s no need to invest. The problem for the moment is we don’t see a floor for the currency. Money’s flowing out.”

ECB President Mario Draghi has in the past welcomed the drop-off in reserve managers’ holdings because a weaker exchange rate makes the continent more competitive. Yet firms including Mizuho Bank Ltd. warn the currency’s waning popularity reflects a more lasting loss of confidence in an economy that shrank in two of the past three years. “Global reserve managers may be thinking the euro is going to sink economically if it continues this way,” said Daisuke Karakama, the Tokyo-based chief market economist at Mizuho and a former European Commission official. With yen allocations rising, “they may be expecting Japan’s positive economic growth to continue as a result of” that nation’s record stimulus, Karakama said.

The decline in euro reserves suggests other central banks consider the ECB’s €1.1 trillion of QE bond purchases, which started a month ago, to be the biggest threat to the currency’s global status since its 1999 debut. Greece’s debt woes aren’t helping, either. The ECB ramped up the emergency funding available to Greek banks Thursday to alleviate the country’s worsening liquidity issues amid drawn- out negotiations over its bailout. All this is prompting banks from Citigroup, the world’s biggest foreign-exchange trader, to Goldman Sachs to predict the euro will fall below parity with the dollar this year, from a 12-year low of $1.0458 last month and $1.0617 Friday.

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Plenty reasons.

Why The Euro Could Fall Even Further (CNBC)

It’s been a one-way euro trip lower. The common currency has fallen every day this week, and is now near the lowest levels in 12 years. Now, currency traders are keenly watching American economic data, as better news about the economy could lead the euro drop to intensify. It all comes down to expectations about the Federal Reserve’s next move. Most market participants believe the Fed will raise short-term rate targets this year. That should help the U.S. dollar and hurt the euro, as it means that holding dollars will produce greater returns than holding euros, increasing demand for the greenback.

Expectations about a June Fed move have been tamped down due to a bevy of soft economic readings, most conspicuously the March jobs number. But this week, the Fed minutes and hawkish words from William Dudley have told investors that a June hike is still on the table, according to Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management. Dudley, the generally dovish New York Fed president, told Reuters on Wednesday that depending on how the data develops, a June move could be “still in play.” In the week ahead, Schlossberg says the biggest data point he will watch is Tuesday’s retail sales report. If it indicates that “the U.S. consumer finally started to spend, then dollar bulls run wild, and we may see 1.0500 break” on the euro, which is currently a bit below 1.0600 per dollar.

That’s because better data could serve to convince traders that the much-awaited Fed move will come sooner than previously anticipated. However, some traders say the move is overdone. “This short-term move is technical, so I expect to see the euro bounce and the dollar pull back off of the recent move,” said David Seaburg at Cowen.

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Not that big a problem. It allows for the interest rate to come down further.

Putin’s New Problem Is The Strong Ruble (Bloomberg)

Vladimir Putin is facing a problem few could have anticipated: The ruble is becoming too strong. Last year’s worst-performing major currency is this year’s best and while that’s buoying the nation’s bonds, driving yields to the lowest in four months, it’s also crimping Russia’s export revenue. Even though oil is little changed in dollars this year, the price when converted to rubles has plunged to the lowest since 2011. The currency rout in 2014 helped Russia to keep its budget deficit within 1% of GDP as the ruble weakened in lockstep with a 50% slump in oil. Now, with the cease-fire in Ukraine and the allure of higher-yielding assets attracting investors to ruble debt, the government is seeing the opposite effect.

“The current ruble level is already uncomfortable for the budget considering the oil price in rubles is already low,” Vladimir Bragin, head of research at Alfa Capital in Moscow, said by phone on Thursday. “In order to reach macroeconomic stability, Russia needs to limit its budget deficit and a weaker ruble is an easy way to do that.” The ruble’s 14% gain this month is making it easier for central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina to push ahead with rate cuts this year after she hoisted the benchmark to 17% in December to stem the currency’s slide. Nabiullina lowered the rate by 3 percentage points so far in 2015.

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“The prospect of a negotiated exit within a month is now close to 40%..”

Greece: The Next Deadline Approaches (CNBC)

Greece repaid one of its key loans on Thursday, but with the country’s coffers still close to empty, the government may merely have earned short-term respite. As the holiday of the Orthodox Easter Weekend approaches, newly minted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are unlikely to be unwinding for the long weekend. Greece has been given six working days by the euro zone technical staff of the Euro Working Group to come up with proposals for a reform agenda—on which further financial aid is conditional—ahead of a key meeting of euro zone finance ministers on April 24 in Riga, Latvia. The struggling Greek economy still needs financial support. It faces two redemptions of bills for a total of €2.4 billion as soon as April 14 and 17.

“Euro area finance ministers are probably at the end of their tether, after ten weeks of the new government’s foot-dragging and game-playing, and any sympathy for the Greek position has long disappeared,” the economic research team at Daiwa wrote in a research note. Tsipras is barely off the plane from a trip to Russia, which seemed on the surface to have achieved little in terms of concrete promises from Russia to assist Greece in the event of it defaulting on its debt repayments, leaving the euro or losing financial support from its creditors.

Economists are now increasingly taking the possibility of a “Grexit”, deemed incredibly unlikely by many just a couple of years ago. The risk of Greece defaulting on its debt repayments is now 50-50%, according to UBS, although its analysts argue that default does not necessarily mean euro zone exit. The prospect of a negotiated exit within a month is now close to 40%, according to Gabriel Sterne, head of global macro research at Oxford Economics. And capital controls – limits on the amount of money that can be taken out of the country—usually a sign of severe economic distress—are just “one more turn of the financial screw away” he added.

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“After five years of austerity imposed by creditors, “the word ‘reform’ resonates in Greece like the word ‘democracy’ in Iraq,” he said. “It’s a dirty word.”

Greek Finance Minister Steers Debt Talk His Way (NY Times)

You would never know from his demeanor that Yanis Varoufakis, the celebrity Greek finance minister, was carrying the weight of a nation on his shoulders. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was his country’s uncompromising creditors who were on the defensive. On Thursday, at a conference of economic luminaries, Mr. Varoufakis was working hard to divert the discussion from Greece’s shrinking financial freedom and fears that it might default. (He had a bit of wind at his back with news that Greece on this same day had just met its deadline for repaying a €460 million, or $491 million, loan installment to the IMF. Rather than concede any Greek missteps, Mr. Varoufakis wanted to assess the flaws of the eurozone that he said had been revealed by the 2008 global meltdown and its aftermath.

“There is no doubt that if we had a federal republic, if we had a United States of Europe, we would not be here discussing the Greek crisis, the eurozone crisis, banking union or anything of the sort,” he said in an onstage conversation with the Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, at a conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. “Unfortunately,” he added, “the way we designed the eurozone, it was crying out for a crisis.” Mr. Varoufakis, as is now well known, became finance minister in January as part of the Syriza-led leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which came to power promising voters to renegotiate the €240 billion international bailout, whose terms Athens blames for sending the economy into a tailspin and leaving more than 50% of Greek youth jobless.

When Mr. Stiglitz asked him how Greece’s creditors could have repeatedly overestimated the country’s ability to grow under the terms of the bailout, Mr. Varoufakis replied, “I think it’s the politics of denial.” Even making Thursday’s payment to the I.M.F. required scraping together money from the government’s dwindling resources. It staved off a default for now, but did nothing to solve the bigger problem: that the government is running out of cash to meet obligations like paying pensions and the wages of public employees. To obtain another tranche of desperately needed bailout funds, Greece still has to persuade its highly skeptical creditors — which also include the ECB and the European Commission — that Athens has a credible economic overhaul plan. [..]

Mr. Varoufakis, 54, comes across as a sort of debonair Mr. Spock, a financial Vulcan of the eurozone. Dressed in a dark jacket with his trademark casual, open-collared shirt, he speaks clearly about the currency bloc’s awkward truths, avoiding the jargon and evasiveness that normally characterizes the region’s dreary politics. Appearing on a separate panel with Mr. Varoufakis on Thursday, the Irish central bank chief, Patrick Honohan, referred to the “glass being half full” after Ireland’s bailout and tentative recovery. “I don’t like the metaphor,” Mr. Varoufakis said. “In the case of my country, the glass is broken.”

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“..Italy’s debt increased dramatically after the introduction of the euro..”

100,000 Italians Sign Petition For Eurozone Exit Referendum (RT)

Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) party has collected more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for a law that would allow a referendum on withdrawal from the eurozone. M5S MP Carlo Sibila says he expects a referendum to take place at the start of next year. Though the petition has already surpassed the required amount of signatures needed for the initiative, Sibila said that he hopes it will gather another 50,000 by early May in order to highlight the issue. “Who wants to stay in euro? This is the main question,” Sibila told RT. “But we don’t want to get out just like this – we want a program and a discussion, and then let the citizens decide. It’s really necessary today as the situation in Italy is going from bad to worse where jobs and economy are concerned.” The Italian constitution, however, does not provide for the cancellation of international agreements through referenda.

According to Sibila, Italy’s debt increased dramatically after the introduction of the euro. He also noted that Italy’s unemployment rate hovers around 12.7%, the sixth highest in the EU. “We can’t have our own fiscal policy, but without the euro it is possible in Italy,” Sibila said. The Five Star Movement, formed in 2009 by comedian and activist Beppe Grillo, finished second in the 2014 European Parliament election with 21% of the vote. Sibila stressed that M5S does not seek to leave the European Union, but merely to leave the currency union. “Italian citizens need to have the right to decide if they want to stay inside or outside the monetary union,” Sibila told RT. “We are not questioning the EU, it is only the monetary union.” Italy joined the Eurozone in 1999, and the currency was introduced into circulation three years later.

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“..the Chinese company’s Class-A shares have gained 61% since last April..”

PetroChina Overtakes Exxon Mobil To Become World’s Biggest Energy Company (RT)

The capitalization of China’s biggest oil producer PetroChina reached $352.8 billion during Thursday trading in Shanghai, surpassing ExxonMobil as the world’s most valuable energy company for the first time since 2010. The market cap of America’s Exxon reached $352.6 billion in Shanghai Thursday trading, Bloomberg reports. PetroChina’s market cap has gone up 13.81% in the last 12 months while Exxon’s market value has fallen by 14%, following the slump in oil prices. Moreover, the Chinese company’s Class-A shares have gained 61% since last April. The last time PetroChina was more valuable than Exxon was at the close of trading on June 25, 2010, according to Bloomberg.

“PetroChina has multiple positives at the moment: it’s got a reform story, it’s also listed in Hong Kong, and China has more freedom for mainland fund managers in the works,” said Mark Matthews head of Asia research at Bank Julius Baer & Co. in Singapore. “China is also planning to transfer stakes in state-owned enterprises away from their regulator, which will on the whole be positive for SOEs,” he added. Oil companies across the world have been facing difficult times since crude prices started to plunge last summer. ExxonMobil’s adjusted net income of $6.3 billion in the fourth quarter was the lowest since a loss in the final three months of 2009, according to Bloomberg data. PetroChina’s net profit was $1.8 billion in the same period.

The Shanghai Composite closed at its highest level in seven years on Thursday gaining about 88% over the past year as the best performer among major indexes. Meanwhile, the Chinese yuan has declined 0.1% versus the dollar in the past year. PetroChina is the listed arm of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), with almost all of its operating profit coming from the exploration and production sector along with a small contribution from its natural gas and pipeline unit.

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Some bubbles these days take on grotesque proportions.

China Bears on Wrong End of $4 Trillion Rally Refuse to Go Away (Bloomberg)

Bull markets are always tough on short sellers. This one in China right now, though, is proving downright brutal. Bearish wagers on the Shanghai Stock Exchange have climbed threefold in the past nine months and reached a record 6.09 billion yuan ($981 million) on Wednesday, a period in which the benchmark equity index jumped 94%. Across the border in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Composite Index has surged 7.6% in just the past two days, the gauge’s 20 most-shorted stocks surged 18% on average. The gains show the dangers of betting against a Chinese market where new investors are flocking to stocks at a record pace and traders have taken out an unprecedented 1.06 trillion yuan of debt in Shanghai to amplify their buying power.

While technical indicators show shares in both the mainland and Hong Kong are more vulnerable to a reversal than any other market, Marco Polo Pure Asset Management says bears may be setting themselves up for more losses if China’s stimulus efforts produce an economic recovery later this year. “It’s not a market you want to bet against,” said Aaron Boesky, who oversees about $125 million as the chief executive officer of Marco Polo in Hong Kong. The firm’s Pure China fund was the top performer in the second half of 2014 among China-focused hedge funds tracked by AsiaHedge Intelligence. “I can respect people who might want to stay out of it, because it is a very volatile market, even for local Chinese,” he said. “Staying out is respectable. Shorting it could be suicidal.”

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“Greece lost 13% of its population during WWII..”

WWII Reparations: Rare Footage From Greece’s Occupation By The Nazis (KTG)

Greek Defense Ministry has published a video with rare footage from the occupation of Greece by the Nazis during the World War II. Among others, the footage shows children suffering from malnutrition and emaciated adults, victims of the Great Famine during the Nazi occupation. The video should be seen in the context of the Greek claim of €278.7 billion in WWII reparations from Germany. According to the video voice-over, the Enforced Loan by the Nazis was to blame for the mass starvation of estimated 300,000 people in Athens alone. “The agreement of 14 March 1942 foresaw that Greece paid to its occupiers 1.5 billion drachmas per month, a total of 3.5 billion USD, according to the Dollar value of 1938.

The current value of the enforced loan is 54 billion euro without the interest. The agreement had to be implemented retrospectively as of 1.1. 1942. The agreement was signed by Germany and Italy and Greece was notified later. Two agreement modifications were added on 2. December 1942, with the effect that Germany had to start repaying the loan by April 1943. Germany paid back two installments only. In the Peace Paris Treaties (1947) Greece claimed 14 billion USD in war reparations, but the allies reduced the Greek claim down to 7.1 billion USD.” According to the video “Greece lost 13% of its population during the WWII. One part was lost in the battlefield, but the largest part due to Famine and the Nazis’ atrocities.”

The Great Famine, the period of mass starvation during the occupation of Greece by the powers of Axis – the fascist Italy and the Nazi Germany – hit especially the urban areas and some islands. The Great Famine was initiated by a large scale plunder by the Axis forces and as soon as the German army entered Athens 0n 27. April 1941. The Nazis confiscated fuel and all means of transportation, including fishing boats, preventing any transfer of food and other supplies and seized strategic industries. They proceeded with the wholesale and food looting , unemployment and hyperinflation skyrocketed, the black market flourished. The price of bread was increased 89-fold from April 1941 to June 1942.

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“Since it was declared an official holiday in 1965, May 9, with its spontaneous gatherings of veterans in the streets, public festivals and gun salutes in the evening, has in fact become Russia’s most moving holiday..”

EU Leaders Snub Moscow World War II Commemorations (Spiegel)

This Monday, Russia President Vladimir Putin visited the cemetery in the village of Marfino, not far from the old western Russian city of Staraya Russa, where he placed a bouquet of red roses. Then he met with veterans of the “Great Patriotic War,” the term Russians use to describe their battle against Hitler. It would be hard to find another part of Russia that is as saturated with the blood of that war than the earth around Staraya Russa. Officially, 850,000 soldiers died there during the two-and-a-half-year German occupation. The real figure is probably higher, because the Red Army long attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to fend off repeated attacks by the enemy along the northwestern front.

The encounter near Marfino was one of the events with which the Russian president is preparing his country for May 9, which marks the anniversary of the end of the war with Hitler’s Germany. It is “our country’s most important and most honest holiday,” Putin said in Staraya Russa. “It is the day of the great victory.” The end of the war will be commemorated in Russia for the 70th time this year. Since it was declared an official holiday in 1965, May 9, with its spontaneous gatherings of veterans in the streets, public festivals and gun salutes in the evening, has in fact become Russia’s most moving holiday — and perhaps the only one that has truly united the people. The victory over Hitler happened three generations ago.

Still, during Putin’s visit to Staraya Russa, the veterans reminded him of the words of military commander Alexander Suvorov, who said that a war is not over “until the last soldier has been buried.” Last year, search teams recovered the remains of 12,900 fallen soldiers from swamps near Novgorod, the forests of Smolensk and the region around St. Petersburg.

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Right. Sure.

Obama Says ‘Days Of Meddling’ In Latin America Are Past (BBC)

US President Barack Obama has told Latin American leaders that the days when his country could freely interfere in regional affairs are past. He was speaking just before the seventh Summit of the Americas was due to kick off in Panama City. Mr Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will meet face-to-face for the first time since a December detente. But their much-anticipated meeting could be overshadowed by tensions between the US and Venezuela. Mr Obama told a forum of civil society leaders in Panama City that “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past”.

At past Summits of the Americas, which bring together the leaders of North, Central and South America, the US has come in for criticism for its embargo against Cuba and its objection to having Cuba participate in the gatherings. This seventh summit is the first which Cuba will attend and much of the attention will be focussed on the body language between the former foes. The meeting will the be first formal encounter between the leaders of the US and Communist-run Cuba in more than five decades. Mr Obama stressed that he hoped the thaw in relations would improve the lives of the Cuban people. “Not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspiration and the conversation among Cubans, among all walks of life. So they can decide what is the best course of prosperity.”

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“If we destroy Creation … Creation will destroy us..”

Sneak Peek At Pope’s Crusade (Paul B. Farrell)

Here’s a sneak peak of Pope Francis’s historic “Climate Change Encyclical,” soon to be released, complete with talking points for his upcoming address to the joint session of Congress. We’ll analyze them: The encyclical’s likely headline: “Safeguard Creation … We are the custodians of Creation … If we destroy Creation … Creation will destroy us,” a public warning often repeated by the pontiff this past year, a message certain to intensify the anger of GOP climate-science deniers, Big Oil, Koch Bros, Exxon Mobil and most fossil-fuel firms, as well as their banks, investors owning their stocks and capitalists everywhere. Here’s why: Pope Francis’s much-anticipated encyclical will be broadcast worldwide to billions, including 5,000 bishops, 400,000 priests and 1.2 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church.

He will be encouraging his army of the faithful to take strong action, fight climate change and global warming threats to the environment. The encyclical will also be translated into hundreds of languages and broadcast worldwide. At the same time, Pope Francis will be lobbying heads of state and religious leaders, and inspiring billions of people worldwide, encouraging them to join this revolution. This historic encyclical will also set the stage for everything else Pope Francis has planned in 2015. He’s a man with a mission to save the world from the accelerating threats to the planet’s natural resources. More immediate, the encyclical will serve as major talking points for his address to the joint session of Congress in September, his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and his December message to the historic UN Climate Conference in Paris. Many of his points on the environment are already well known.

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“.. instead of realising initial plans to stop and reverse the trend of species loss by 2010, more and more species are disappearing from the agrarian landscape..”

Agriculture Poses Immense Threat To Environment (EurActiv)

Conventional agriculture is causing enormous environmental damage in Germany, warns a study by the country’s Federal Environment Agency, saying a transition to organic farming and stricter regulation is urgently needed. EurActiv Germany reports. Spanning over 50% of the country, agriculture takes up by far the biggest amount of land in the country, and is one of its most important economic sectors. But intensive farming still harms the environment to an alarming extent, according to a study conducted by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The use of pesticides and fertilisers as well as intensive animal husbandry, have a negative impact on humans and nature, the 40-page document indicates. “Over the last 30 years, innovation and technical progress in most sectors has led to great successes in reducing the amount of substance that reaches the environment.

But agriculture emissions show only marginal improvements,” the study’s authors write. One of the most controversial issues concerns greenhouse gas emissions. According to the researchers, the use of moors and clear-cutting for agriculture, as well as fertilisers, soil cultivation and animal husbandry produce a high level of emissions that impact the climate. In 2012, agriculture-related emissions were around 70 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent – about 7.5% of the year’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This means that after industry, which made up 84%, agriculture was the second largest emitter in Germany. Biodiversity is also threatened by intensive farming. Agriculture burdens the environment with nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals. Broad-spectrum pesticides not only wipe out parasites, but also kill other beneficial insects.

As a result, this has adverse effects on birds and other mammals, who lose their food resources. The unfortunate result is that instead of realising initial plans to stop and reverse the trend of species loss by 2010, more and more species are disappearing from the agrarian landscape. The authors write that excessive nitrogen emissions are still alarmingly high, with 60% of nitrogen emissions originating from agriculture. Still, the country’s nitrogen surplus has been stagnating at a high level for years. At an average of 97 kg per hectare, it exceeds the German government’s target value within the sustainability strategy by almost 20 kg per hectare. As a result, agriculture, with a share of 57%, is the nation’s largest source of nitrogen emissions into the environment.

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A lot more serious than people seem to think.

California’s New Era of Heat Destroys All Previous Records (Bloomberg)

The California heat of the past 12 months is like nothing ever seen in records going back to 1895. The 12 months before that were similarly without precedent. And the 12 months before that? A freakishly hot year, too. What’s happening in California right now is shattering modern temperature measurements—as well as tree-ring records that stretch back more than 1,000 years. It’s no longer just a record-hot month or a record-hot year that California faces. It’s a stack of broken records leading to the worst drought that’s ever beset the Golden State. The last 12 months were a full 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 Celsius) above the 20th century average. Doesn’t sound like much? When measuring average temperatures, day and night, over extended periods of time, it’s extraordinary.

On a planetary scale, just 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit is what separates the hottest year ever recorded (2014) from the coldest (1911). California’s drought has already withered pastures and forced farmers to uproot orchards and fallow farmland. It’s costing the state billions each year that it goes on. Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order this month for the first mandatory statewide water restrictions in U.S. history, with $10,000-a-day penalties against water agencies that fail to reduce water use by 25%. California has seen droughts before with less rainfall, but it’s the heat that sets this one apart. Higher temperatures increase evaporation from the soil and help deplete reservoirs and groundwater. The reservoirs are already almost half empty this year, and gone is the snowpack that would normally replenish lakes and farmlands well into June.

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Mar 202015
 
 March 20, 2015  Posted by at 8:59 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


DPC Provision store. Caracas, Venezuela 1905

Once again, a look at Greece and the Troika, because it amuses me, it angers me, and also because it warms my cockles, in an entirely metaphorical sort of way. The Troika members love to make it appear (and everyone swallows it whole) as if in their ‘negotiations’ with Greece all sorts of things are cast in stone and have no flexibility at all. Humbug.

First, another great piece by Rob Parenteau (via Yves Smith), who lays it out in terms so simple they can’t but hit the issue square on the nose. For Europe and the Troika, there’s Greece, and then there’s the rest. No money for the Greeks lining up at soupkitchens (not even for the soupkitchens themselves), but $60 billion a month for the bond market. The $200 million anti-poverty law – a measly sum in comparison – that Athens voted in this week is a no-no because Greek government has to ask permission for everything in Brussels first, says Brussels, no matter that that only prolongs the suffering. It’s not about money, in other words, it’s about power, and the Greeks must be subdued.

Both the financial and the political press have by now perfected their picture of Yanis Varoufakis as a combination of some kind of incompetent blunderer on the one hand, and a threat the size of Vladimir Putin on the other, while the rudeness of German FinMin Schäuble is not discussed at all. The media are no longer capable of reporting anything outside of their propaganda models. The ‘middle finger’ video turns out to be a fake, but who cares, it’s done its damage. Parenteau:

Goebbelnomics – Austerian Duplicity and the Dispensing of Greece

So let’s get this straight. The Troika does not have enough money to roll over Greek debt (in a Ponzi scheme like fashion, mind you) – debt that was incurred not so much as a bailout of Greece, but more as a bailout of German and other core nation banks and insurance companies and private investors who made stupid loans to or investments in Greece, but refused to fob them off on their own taxpayers.

But the Troika does have enough money to adequately perform damage control for the eurozone if Greece, because, you know, Greece is a “dispensable” eurozone member – even though ECB lawyers themselves say there is no legal mechanism for disposing of eurozone members in any such fashion.

No money in Greece for humanitarian aid in a country that may be on its way to becoming a failed nation state. No money outside Greece to roll over existing debt, or when necessary to extend and pretend, add more debt on existing debt to service the old debt, Charles Ponzi style. But somehow there is still “sufficient” money to ring fence Greece from the rest of the eurozone once Greece figures out it is dispensable and so must exit.

But that is not even the whole deception. It turns out the ECB does happen to have enough money to buy €60 billion per month of bonds from now until at least September 2016. Which means the same bondholders who are benefitting from the misnamed “bailout” funds used to keep the core nation financial institutions from collapsing under the weight of failed loans, can now count on a monthly government handout, courtesy of the ECB.

Some are more equal than others, in other words. That is true also of Ukraine, which gets to issue bonds guaranteed by the American taxpayer. If Greece could do that, they‘d have a way out of the dark pit austerity has thrown it in. And Greece isn’t even killing its own people…. But then Kiev doesn’t need to be subdued, it’s already being ruled exclusively by US stooges.

To come back to Schäuble lack of basic civil manners for a moment, it’s of course not true that Germany has an ironclad case against the Greek demands for WWII reparations. If it did, none of the rudeness would be necessary. And aside from that, even if the case was indeed closed, Germany would still need to be open and respectful and way more civilized than it is at present. WWII is a very black chapter in world history, and it’s not some very remote event. Even if post-WWII German schoolchildren never learned anything about what their parents and grandparents had done.

Maybe there’s a task here for the world Jewish community. Schäuble’s attitude smacks of denial, much more than respect for victims and their surviving family members. And besides, there were a lot of Greek Jews who became victim of German atrocities.

But to focus for now on the purely legal side of the matter, there’s at the very least a large grey area:

Legal Experts: Greece Has Grounds for WWII Reparations

A growing number of legal experts are supporting Greece’s demands over the German war reparations from the country’s brutal Nazi occupation during World War II. Despite the official German refusal to address the issue, legal experts say now Athens has ground for the case. The hot issue is expected to be brought up by Greece’s newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during his official visit to Berlin on Monday, where he is scheduled to hold a meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. [..]

The Greek leftist-led coalition government has repeatedly raised the issue causing Germany’s firm reaction as expressed by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who recently warned Athens to forget the war reparations, underlining that the issue has been settled decades ago. Central to Germany’s argument is that 115 million deutschmarks have been paid to Greece in the 1960s, while similar deals were made with other European countries that suffered a Nazi occupation.

At the same time, though, lawyers from Germany and other countries have said the issue is not wrapped up, as Germany never agreed a universal deal to clear up reparations after its unconditional surrender. The German answer on that is that in 1990, before its reunification, the “Two plus Four Treaty” agreement was signed with the United Kingdom, the United States, the former Soviet Union and France, which renounced all future claims. According to Berlin, this agreement settles the issue for other states too.

“The German government’s argument is thin and contestable. It is not permissible to agree to a treaty at the expense of a third party, in this case Greece,” international law specialist Andreas Fischer-Lescano said, as cited by Reuters. Mr. Lescano’s opinion finds several other experts in agreement. One of them, the Greek lawyer Anestis Nessou, who works in Germany highlighted that “there is a lot of room for interpretation. Greece was not asked, so the claims have not gone away.”

Merkel had better start taking the matter very serious, and in a very respectful way to boot. Because no matter how well oiled the publicity spin machine is, Schäuble’s attitude, mirrored by many of his countrymen, will awaken in countries all across Europe the realization that they don’t want this from Germany, they won’t be ruled by Berlin, and they won’t stand for more German uncivilized behavior either. The memories are far too fresh for that.

As I said the other day, Merkel had better take the reins in all this, because she risks blowing up the entire European Union if she lets things slip further. Let Greece go, if only by trying to force it into some sort of debt servitude which the Greek people deem unacceptable on moral grounds, and the EU project will start shaking on its already feeble foundations.

There’s only one thing that can save the Union now: for Merkel to show compassion, with the Greeks, and with all other weaker members. And to stop the anti-Greek propaganda, immediately. Or else. It’s nonsense to pretend that this is merely a business issue, as is made clear by Parenteau above: there is very clearly plenty space to negotiate solutions with Greece that preserve everyone’s dignity. Refuse that, and you can kiss the EU goodbye. There’s alot more that plays into this than mere money issues. Ignore that, and you might as well dismantle the Union right now.

And there are indeed other approaches too. Like that of the German couple, whose story I picked up some 24 hours ago on RT, and which has since appeared on a whole scale of media:

German Couple Pays €875 To Greece For Their Share Of WWII Reparations

A German couple visiting Greece have handed over a check for €875 to the mayor of the seaport town of Nafplio, saying they wanted to make amends for their government’s attitude for refusing to pay Second World War reparations. Nina Lahge, who works a 30-hour week, and Ludwig Zacaro, who is retired, made the symbolic gesture and explained that the amount of €875 would be the amount one person would owe if Germany’s entire war debt was divided by the population of 80 million Germans.

“If we, the 80 million Germans, would have to pay the debts of our country to Greece, everyone would owe €875 euros. In [a] display of solidarity and as a symbolic move we wanted to return this money, the €875 euros, to the Greek population,” they said.

They apologized for not being able to afford to pay for both of them. “We are ashamed of the arrogance, which our country and many of our fellow citizens show towards Greece,” they told local media in Nafplio, southern Greece. The Greek people are not responsible for the fiasco of their previous governments, they believe.

“Germany is the one owing to your country the World War II reparation money, part of which is also the forced loan of 1942,” they added. The couple was referring to a loan which the Nazis forced the Greek central bank to give the Third Reich during the WWII thus ruining the occupied country’s economy. The mayor of Nafplio, Dimitris Kotsouros, said the money had been donated to a local charity.

And a perhaps even better story comes, almost entirely under the radar, through Kathimerini. Turns out, where Brussels and Berlin spend their time blaming Tsipras and Varoufakis for everything that happens, Norway, not an EU or eurozone member, steps in to alleviate the worst of the suffering:

Athens Mayor Unveils Scheme To Support Poor With Help From Norway

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, Norwegian Ambassador Sjur Larsen and the president of nongovernmental organization Solidarity Now, Stelios Zavvos, on Wednesday inaugurated a new program to provide support to the Greek capital’s poor. The Solidarity & Social Reintegration scheme comprises a food program benefiting 3,600 households, as well as a space provided by City Hall and managed by Solidarity Now where the organization will provide social, medical and legal aid, among other services.

“The aim is the immediate relief of those in need by providing food, medical care, social services, legal support, help finding employment, and support for single-parent families, children and other vulnerable groups,” said Larsen, whose country has donated 95.8% of the €4.3 million needed to fund the program. The other donors are Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Note: Brussels and the IMF have refused to do what Norway does. They have also refused to let the elected Greek government take care of its own people, without first asking permission to do so. It’s an insane situation, if you ask me. And I don’t see why the Greeks would stand for it any longer. If they vote to leave the eurozone, and perhaps the EU, they will have a hard time for a while, for sure, and it will be made much harder by the Troika, simply out of spite.

But they would face an at least equally hard time if they choose to stay inside the shackles Brussels and Berlin want to lock them in. The EU is supposed to be made up of independent nations. And while it’s certainly true that that is perhaps its fatal flaw, trying to take away that status from the Greeks will drive them away, and warn other countries as well that they could be next in line for the same shackles.

We’re looking at economic warfare here, and there can be no doubt that it will end with only losers on all sides. Unless Merkel wakes up and smells the roses.