Feb 152020
 


Harris & Ewing Gettysburg 50th reunion: Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans 1913

 

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)
Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)
Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)
Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)
Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)
Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)
Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)
Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)
DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)
Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)
Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)
United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)
Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)
US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)
Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)
Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

 

 

And we’re off to the races again. With the renewed attention for the FBI and DOJ shenanigans in the cases past and present of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and even Andrew McCabe, it’s easy to get too many articles for an effective aggregator.

 

• Cases 67,102, up 2,661 from yesterday. 11,053 – 18% of cases listed as severe.

• Deaths 1,526, up 143 from yesterday

First death in Europe, a Chinese tourist in France. Close the borders!

• 2,420 new cases (total 54,406) and 139 new deaths in Hubei province

• Chinese experts expect surge in confirmed cases inn coming days.

• 4 more cases in Japan, 3 more cases in Hong Kong

• Infected passengers and crew aboard ‘the Diamond Princess’ climbs to 218

• Lockdown in Beijing

• 217 medical teams sent to provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei, in addition to 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and 36 army medical teams across Hubei

 

 

 

 

They’re even sanitizing coins and bank notes with UV light.

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,526. There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 – 18 per cent – are severe. In Hubei province – epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday. National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan – provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged – about a week ago. Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus. Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.


[..] Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with 4 billion yuan (US$572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei before the Spring Festival holiday. Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash. Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises. Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation.

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Imagine this in Paris, London, New York.

Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)

The Chinese capital Beijing on Friday imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and threatened to punish those who failed to comply. It was not immediately clear how the restriction, relayed by the official Beijing Daily newspaper, would be enforced, or whether it would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad. [..] Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the outbreak began, has the most acute problem. With all public transport, taxis and ride-hailing services shut down in the city, volunteer drivers are responding to requests on ad hoc messaging groups to ferry medical staff and others in vital jobs to and from work, risking their own health.


Others work round the clock to find accommodation for medical workers in hotels that have volunteered rooms. Many of the drivers keep their identities secret to avoid objections from family and friends. “Everyone in our group has such a strong sense of mission,” said 53-year-old Chen Hui, who runs one of the ad hoc ride services. [..] “From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” read the notice from Beijing’s virus prevention working group cited by the Beijing Daily. “Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law.”

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He’s starting to acknowledge he can’t do both. How to save face?

Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)

Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Politburo Standing Committee is the inner circle of China’s power structure. The seven-member body, which is the core of the 25 member Politburo cabinet with general secretary Xi Jinping as its head, rarely publishes meeting schedules or agendas before or even after meetings. The details of only four standing committee meetings have been published in the two and half years since Xi consolidated his power in late 2017, even though the group is believed to have met on a weekly basis. Two of the meetings were to listen to work reports from China’s government, parliament and the top court, one was a discussion about a grand plan to build an entirely new city in Xiongan, Hebei province, and the fourth concerned a low-quality vaccine scandal.

This all changed last month with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. The conclusions of three standing committee meetings in three consecutive weeks have since been published, an attempt to make it clear that China’s leadership, in particular Xi himself, has a strong message to send to the country’s ruling apparatus and the general public. During Wednesday’s meeting, Xi said control of the coronavirus had entered a critical stage despite “positive developments” in containing the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, Xi emphasised that the outbreak of coronavirus should not stop China from achieving its social and economic goals, while also continuing the country’s long-term rise.


“This year is the last year to complete the goal of building up a comprehensively well-off society” said Xi, with all levels of the government expected to ensure economic stability and social harmony to achieve set goals despite the coronavirus. The meeting came just a day after Xi told his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, that China “has the capability, confidence and certainty to score an outright victory over the epidemic”. “We must see that the long-term sound fundamentals of our economy haven’t changed. The impact of the outbreak will only be short-term and [China] won’t be intimidated by the current problems and difficulties,” Xi said according to Xinhua.

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Africa is an ideal breeding ground for a virus like this. But who’s going to do the testing, and with what? A hospital in Cairo may do it, but what about the Congo for instance? There are at least a millionn Chinese working in Africa. Come to think of it, what will COVID19 mean for Belt and Road?

Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)

Egypt has confirmed its first case of a deadly coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said in a statement on Friday that the affected person was a “foreigner” who did not show any serious symptoms. Officials were able to confirm the case through a follow-up programme implemented by the government for travellers arriving from countries where the virus has spread. The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry. The development made Egypt the first country in the African continent to report a confirmed case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates late last month diagnosed its first cases.

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China must ask for mass assistance.

Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)

More than a thousand health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, many of whom contracted the virus that causes the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak when there was a shortage of protective equipment and the authorities said there had been few cases of human-to-human transmission. One specialist warned that frontline medical workers were paying “too high a price” in the battle to contain the disease and warned that the high number of infected health care staff increased the risk of cross-infection in hospitals. On Friday the government said a total 1,716 health care workers had been infected with the disease. The number is far higher than that recorded during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, although there have been 12 times more confirmed cases of Covid-19.

[..] Cai Haodong, a communicable diseases specialist from Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the absolute number of health care worker infections was far higher than during the Sars epidemic because there were many patients who had not initially shown any symptoms. “The enemy (coronavirus) is in the dark. The awareness of doctors of non-communicable disease was not strong. They may have lowered their guard when the patient did not show any symptoms.” Health care workers were also forced to go to the frontline without proper protective clothing and masks, she added. “The doctors in Wuhan don’t have sufficient protective gear and they are forced to go to the frontline. The price is just too high,” she said.


The large number of health care worker infections increases the risks of cross-infection in hospitals. “When doctors are infected, they may infect patients and cause cross-infections. That is why the United States requires doctors to have influenza vaccines so that they won’t pass it on to patients,” Cao said.

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How much did the industry pay for this commercial?

“We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice..”

Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)

After nearly two weeks cast away in search of a port that would take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was anything but harrowing. “Everyone says ‘poor you’. But there was no poor you. We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice,” said Zahra Jennings, a retired staff nurse from Britain. How was it? “Lovely,” she said. The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had never expected a port stop in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown fear that some of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and has killed more than 1,500 people.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that finally let the lost ship dock – and it was discovered there that none of the passengers was infected. The only complaint aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a couple of days ago, and tomato sauce,” said Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical company employee from New Zealand. “But that was it. It was fine, really.” Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus since it was found aboard the Diamond Princess that is now at anchor in Yokohama and where 218 of the passengers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday. It was Valentine’s Day when the first passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking hands with passengers and handing out roses. Government officials draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers were given free visas. Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western countries for human rights abuses said: “Our current disease around the world is fear and discrimination,” he said. “If Cambodia didn’t allow this ship to dock, where should these 2,000 passengers go?”


Holland America sent letters to all passengers saying it would reimburse the cost of the cruise, give them another free 14-day cruise, and charter them flights home. The company, it said, would do its best to match the class of flight they had originally booked. The cruise had been scheduled to end in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

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He was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated, so he didn’t need a lawyer, and now we’re off to the races.

Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told Sean Hannity on Friday that there has been “one atrocity after another” in the proceedings. “So not only was [Michael Flynn] not warned of his rights, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated,” Powell told host Sean Hannity. “In fact, he was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated.” Powell added that Michael Flynn’s case was the first instance she had heard of in which a defendant accused of making false statements to the FBI was not warned of his rights or informed that he was under investigation. “They say they can’t find [it], he can’t produce it [the 302 form],” she said of Michael Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. who she claimed has a separate conflict of interest in the case. “There is one atrocity after the other in this case.”

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Would this have happened if Powell hadn’t taken over? I don’t believe it for a second.

Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)

A week of two-tiered legal shenanigans was capped off on Friday with a New York Times report that Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the government’s case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, which the Times suggested was “highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” Notably, the FBI excluded crucial information from a ‘302’ form documenting an interview with Flynn in January, 2017. While Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to misleading agents over his contacts with the former Russian ambassador regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to oppose a UN resolution related to Israel, the original draft of Flynn’s 203 reveals that agents thought he was being honest with them – evidence which Flynn’s prior attorneys never pursued.

His new attorney, Sidney Powell, took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019 – while Flynn withdrew his guilty plea in January, accusing the government of “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.” In addition to a review of the Flynn case, Barr has hired a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review several other politically sensitive national-security cases in the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to the Times sources. Of particular interest will be cases overseen by now-unemployed former US attorney for DC, Jessie Liu, which includes actions against Stone, Flynn, the Awan brothers, James Wolfe and others. Notably, Wolfe was only sentenced to leaking a classified FISA warrant application to journalist and side-piece Ali Watkins of the New York Times – while prosecutors out of Liu’s office threw the book at former Trump adviser Roger Stone – recommending 7-9 years in prison for process crimes.


[..] New York Times: “The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office. They are part of a broader turmoil in that office coinciding with Mr. Barr’s recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim United States attorney in the District of Columbia, after Mr. Barr maneuvered out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie K. Liu. Mr. Flynn’s case was first brought by the special counsel’s office, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation, before the Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia’s election interference”.

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But that’s not the end of the line for McCabe, says Jason Chaffetz. Stay tuned.

DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)

The Justice Department has dropped its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over accusations he leaked information to news media, his attorneys said Friday. A letter to McCabe’s lawyers said the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he’d authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to media about an investigation related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


The IG report accused McCabe of subsequently misleading investigators about his role in the matter. McCabe had stepped down from his role as deputy director of the FBI months earlier. McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C., notified them the case was closed.

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How can the request be refused? Hard to see.

Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)

Attorneys for Roger Stone on Friday requested a new trial, a day after saying they were looking into potential bias by a juror who voted to convict the longtime Trump associate of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The request also comes after President Trump accused the juror of harboring “significant bias” following reports that her social media activity contained posts that were critical of Trump. “Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Stone’s attorneys would not reveal the contents of the motion, which was filed under seal to protect sensitive information, saying only that an un-redacted version will be submitted later for public filing. However, a day earlier they indicated they were looking into the newly surfaced social media activity of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart. “Mr. Stone and his defense team are diligently reviewing the newly reported information to determine any appropriate next steps,” said attorney Grant Smith, who did not refer to the juror by name. Hart’s role as the jury foreperson became publicly known Wednesday when she confirmed to CNN that she had written a Facebook post defending the prosecutors in Stone’s case.


The four-person prosecution team quit Tuesday after their recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison was overruled by top Justice Department officials, sparking questions about whether the White House had put undue political pressure on the department to seek a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime associate. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. [..] It was unclear if the request for a new trial — Stone’s second attempt after the first was denied — would delay his scheduled Feb. 20 sentencing.

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Carville is THE symbol of the demise of the Democratic Party in the past 30 years. He’s a sleaze like Roger Stone, only he’s free.

Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)

James Carville fired back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling him “a political hack,” calling the self-described democratic socialist “a communist.” The back and forth follows a week in which Carville has repeatedly sounded the alarm about a potential Sanders match-up against President Trump in November, calling the scenario “the end of days” for the Democratic Party while referring to Sanders supporters as “a cult.” Sanders returned fire on Wednesday night during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arguing that “political hack” Carville represents the establishment his campaign is running against.

“James, in all due respect, is a political hack,” Sanders said. “We are taking on Trump, the Republican establishment, Carville and the Democratic establishment. But at the end of the day, the grassroots movement that we are putting together — of young people, of working people, of people of color — want real change.” Carville, who worked as a campaign strategist for former President Clinton, escalated the feud Thursday on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack,” Carville said. “That’s exactly who the f— I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kind of like it! At least I’m not a communist.”


Trump also recently referred to Sanders as a communist. “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl. Sanders dismissed Trump’s comment a week later in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders said, adding that maybe Trump “doesn’t know the difference.”

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Does anyone think the 737 MAX will fly again this year? How about ever?

United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)

United Airlines said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights until Sept. 4, a fresh delay that comes as sources told Reuters that the timing of a key certification flight may not happen until at least April. U.S. airlines that operate Boeing’s737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide last March after two fatal crashes, had last pulled the jet from their flight schedules until early June. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines extended its MAX cancellations until Aug. 10.

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“..it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality..”

Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)

..companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions. Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money.


This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

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Time to go before things get out of hand.

US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles. Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another.


A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier. The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

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After the Greek House speaker refused to accept the recordings, Varoufakis -through DiEM25- said this:

“No one has the right to keep a sovereign Parliament, nor citizens, in the dark. This is why by the end of February we will release all recordings, so that all European citizens finally get to see the hypocrisy of the Establishment and the despicable way in which governments behave, in their name, behind closed doors.”

Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)

The head of Mera25 party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday submitted to Parliament an envelope allegedly containing his secret audio recordings from the Eurogroup meetings while he was negotiating for Greece’s SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Varoufakis said he expected House speaker Kostas Tasoulas to forward the content to Greek lawmakers. Tasoulas, however, said he had no intention of sharing the recordings. “Parliament will not shoulder [Varoufakis’] responsibilities,” he said. The exchange took place during a debate on labor issues.


Tasoulas’ reaction was welcomed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a statement, Mera25 said that Tasoulas’ refusal to accept the transcripts “confirms that Eurogroup’s wall of intransparency suited and still suits many people, while truth and transparency terrifies [them].” “All European citizens have a right to directly access the statements, the dialogues and the decisions that shape their future,” it said. Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

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Intruiging. But no answer.

Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

Every so often you encounter a chart that takes your breath away. This week I saw just such a graph and I’m still struggling to get my head round it. It depicts something which on the face of it sounds mundane — exports of gold from the UK — and it looks like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen a hockey-stick chart before. There’s the one Al Gore put up on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth showing temperatures hovering at about the same level for century after century before shooting up in recent decades. Or the one of GDP going back to the dark ages: for most of history we subsisted on meagre earnings until the industrial revolution came along and catapulted GDP into the stratosphere.

The one this week has much the same shape. Not much of anything for month after month from 1998 when it begins until October 2019. Sure, there were occasional months when the amount of gold leaving British hands would hit a few hundred million pounds. Once or twice it ticks over a billion. But nothing like what occurs in November and December last year: in those months it skyrockets at a rate that doesn’t make any sense. Until then, the monthly average of gold exports was £126 million. Then in November they leapt to £4 billion. In December they doubled to £8 billion. [..] Britain does not mine any significant quantity of gold yet we are the world’s hub for the trade in physical bullion.

This is something of an accident of history, in much the same way as we are also the world’s centre for the trade in fine wine, despite the fact that we produce very little of the stuff ourselves. Yet gold bullion is so valuable that every time it changes hands it massively distorts the trade figures. Consider: Britain has not achieved a goods trade surplus, which is where we export more goods than we import, in any single month since comparable records began more than two decades ago. Yet in December that astonishing leap in gold exports meant that the headline figures published this week showed Britain achieving its first goods trade surplus in modern times. That this was almost entirely down to a mysterious movement of gold bars was seemingly lost on Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, who promptly issued a press release hailing a “record-breaking year for UK exports”.

[..] why did gold exports soar at the end of last year? Was it down to Brexit, with traders switching out of gold in the run-up to Brexit day? Was it to do with the election? Was it central banks repatriating gold or investment banks shifting their portfolios from UK-domiciled funds to EU ones? We still don’t know. I have spoken to statisticians, to gold analysts and economists, to traders and industry experts. None of them have the foggiest idea what is going on. One analyst took a look at the chart and spluttered a four-letter word. “That’s crazy,” he said. “Must be a mistake.” Another person pointed to the fact that Poland flew back about £4 billion worth of gold from the UK last year, before remembering that this happened before December and, oh, these kinds of things don’t count as official exports anyway.


The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that this was simply an accounting change: one of London’s leading gold custodians, an American investment bank, shifted some of the gold from one column of its accounts to another. The gold didn’t leave the country; someone simply fiddled with a spreadsheet. Even so, that raises further questions: is that bank in trouble? Why do it now? Who ordered it: the bank holding the gold or the gold’s owners? If the latter, then who owns so much gold that they could single-handedly distort this country’s trade figures and surface in Britain’s national accounts?

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Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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Feb 112020
 


René Magritte La belle captive 1946

 

 

Today I took a few things out of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregator because I think they shouldn’t get lost in there. It’s interesting, for instance, that the coronavirus incubation period is now thought to be 24, not 14 days. It’s also interesting that the Chinese government tells local officials not to be too strict on companies wanting to re-open plants: “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way”.

If you ask me, that’s asking for trouble. What if one of those factories becomes a petri dish for new infections? Yesterday perhaps 10% of workers are thought to have reported back to their workplaces, today it might be 30%. Then again, in certain places the Lunar New Year has apparently been extended to February 18, so let’s not read too much into this-yet.

But that I’ll deal with later today in the February 11 Debt Rattle, which will be a bit later than usual because of this article. I’ll start this with Hong Kong University Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my February 5 article The Big Lockdown. Professor Leung has some more BIG numbers today. We’re getting into Spanish Flu territory now:

Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population

The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the WHO said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.

“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. [..]

At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread.

Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.

About that fatality rate, we read today that “The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%..

 

The most interesting part of the numbers game comes from Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory, who ‘normally’ writes about finance, investing, not viruses or epidemics. He’s the Chief Risk Officer of Salient Partners, an $18 billion asset manager. Hunt starts out his piece with showing how the US and Vietcong incessantly lied about casualties in the Vietnam war.

He then cites someone with the moniker Antimonic, I think on Reddit, who predicted the coronavirus death tolls of the past 5 days, 5 days ago, before they happened, using very simple math.

Hunt on Twitter: “I just published an update to this note, where I developed an absurdly simple model of how I’d show “Progress in the War against Coronavirus!”. It predicts the DAILY reported death rates with ridiculous accuracy. They’re. Not. Even. Pretending. Anymore.

Here’s how Hunt summarizes it in his own words:

Let’s imagine, for example, that you’re President Xi, and you’d like to show that you are Winning the War ™ against nCov2019. You can’t just say that the epidemic is over and the disease is cured, because you’ve got more than 100 MILLION people in a military quarantine, and it’s kinda obvious that the disease is anything but cured. But you want to show progress in Winning the War ™. So maybe you come up with a rough formula that goes something like this …


Yesterday we told everyone that 500 people have died since the outbreak. That’s a made-up number, of course, but that’s what we told everyone. Today let’s tell everyone that an additional 15% of that number died yesterday, so 75 new deaths for 575 total dead. And tomorrow let’s tell everyone that 14% of that total number died, and the day after 13%, and then 12% and then 11%. Clear progress! Got it, my loyal cadres?

This way, the absolute numbers can rise, while the percentages fall.

 

Body Count (Ben Hunt)

The daily body count of killed and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers was, in Epsilon Theory-speak, a cartoon – an abstraction of an abstraction in service to the creation of Common Knowledge. Hey, everyone knows that everyone knows that we’re winning the war in Vietnam. Didn’t you see the body count numbers on CBS last night? Once you start looking for cartoons, you will see them everywhere. Inflation numbers? Cartoon. Employment data? Cartoon. Asset allocation? Electoral coverage? Financial journalism? Cartoon, cartoon, cartoon. And yes, we write a lot about cartoons. But this is the kicker.


Because it was so important to maintain the fiction that we were Winning the War ™, and that fiction required metrics like a body count of North Vietnamese that was always a multiple of the South Vietnamese casualties and always a factor of the American casualties, American war-fighting policy was soon driven by the narrative requirement to find and count the “right number” of North Vietnamese casualties! These were the infamous search-and-destroy missions of the Vietnam War. This is The Maw in action. Do a little research on search-and-destroy. Read about My Lai and Son Thang. Read Matterhorn. And then take a fresh look at the coronavirus stats coming out of China. Here’s the core post in a reddit thread that’s Matterhorn-esque in its truth (and a heck of a lot shorter to read).

 

 

The point of this quadratic regression on Chinese infection and death numbers as reported by the World Health Organization from the first official announcement through February 4 was the publication of this projection.

 

 

Sure enough, the WHO announcements since this prediction was published have been eerily close.
• 2/5 — 24,363 cases — 491 fatalities
• 2/6 — 28,060 cases — 564 fatalities
• 2/7 — 31,211 cases — 637 fatalities
• 2/8 — 34,598 cases — 723 fatalities
• 2/9 — 37,251 cases — 812 fatalities
• 2/10 — 40,171 cases — 908 fatalities


Crazy, right? The deaths being reported out of China are particularly accurate to the model, while the reported cases are leveling off (which is what you’d expect from a politically adjusted epidemic model over time … at some point you have to show a rate-of-change improvement from your epidemic control measures). But wait, there’s more. The really damning part of Antimonic’s modeling of the reported data with a quadratic formula is that this should be impossible. This is not how epidemics work. All epidemics take the form of an exponential function, not a quadratic function.

 

 

All epidemics – before they are brought under control – take the form of a green line, an exponential function of some sort. It is impossible for them to take the form of a blue line, a quadratic formula of some sort. This is what the R-0 metric of basic reproduction rate means, and if – as the WHO has been telling us from the outset – the nCov2019 R-0 is >2, then the propagation rate must be described by a pretty steep exponential curve. As the kids would say, it’s just math.

Read more …

Today according to “official” numbers we have 43,103 cases and 1,018 fatalities, which is up 108 from yesterday’s 910. What’s that, 10.5%? Close enough for discomfort.

And we now have a whole new way to interpret the offical numbers.

 

 

 

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Feb 072020
 


Takeuchi Seiho Bear in snow 1940

 

 

As I said earlier today, I picked up a whole slew of articles on the “coronavirus” through the day yesterday, collected some more today, and then decided not to put them in my daily Debt Rattle news aggregator today because it would have been too much.

I wasn’t trying to focus on number of deaths or cases, interest in that is overblown by now. What I look for is news about the consequences of the “coronavirus” epidemic. See, most people look at the numbers, think that they are lower than they could be, and lower than in armageddon predictions, so we’ll all be alright.

And I’m not saying that we won’t be, never have, I’m saying the numbers are no longer the main story. The story has changed into the effects of the virus on domestic and international policies, and ultimately -especially- on global trade and travel. And those effects have only just started. Just like I said 2 days ago in The Big Lockdown.

Initially, the effects, the fallout, from the epidemic, will appear minor, companies will be able to switch things a little and do their thing. But at some point that changes. As I saw somebody say earlier, if even just 1% of your car parts are from China, and you can’t get them anymore, you’re not going to be building a car. The vast majority of carmakers use 30% Chinese parts or more.

And then you also have many thousands of cancelled flights, and cruises, and what has a much bigger impact: shipping of goods to, but of course mostly from, China. Chinese ports are already filing up with items like fruits, but that’s nothing yet. If you put half your country on lockdown, who’s going to service incoming and outgoing ships?

The Lunar New Year is done this Monday, but we know Chinese trains are down 75% of their passengers, and plane travel is off by over 50%. Xi Jinping allegedly told Trump yesterday that “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change”, but how much of that is wishful thinking?

How do you restart an economy that has 400 million people under lockdown, and that sees all westerners leave? Xi must be getting anxious and nervous by now. And renditioning people is not going to do the trick. Ideally, he would convince the rest of the world that the virus is contained and no longer dangerous. No doubt the lowering rates of change in new cases is step one in trying to do that.

Xi would have had it easier if China hadn’t first attempted to wipe the disease under the carpet for 1-2 months. But that would be against longstanding Party lines, as I wrote in The Party and the Virus. Step one is always: “complete denial, not a word”.

And now he doesn’t just have western governments to deal with anymore, there’s also the people (both at home and abroad). Just wait until the first death is recorded in the US, Britain, France or somewhere near. The west will tend strongly towards a lockdown too. Politicians will cry: “it’s too expensive”, but that won’t be people’s priority. Fear will be.

So, three essays so far on the topic, 2019-nCoV, The Party and the Virus and The Big Lockdown, and here goes with lockdown fallout.

 

 

This is like a quarter of the population. 80 million in US terms. Do the math for your own country. 20 million French, 25 million Germans? Wow. Let’s see that one.

400 Million People Are On Lockdown In China As Guangzhou Joins Quarantine

Guangzhou, the capital of China’s southwestern Guangdong Province and the country’s fifth largest city with nearly 15 million residents, has just joined the ranks of cities imposing a mandatory lockdown on all citizens, effectively trapping residents inside their homes, with only limited permission to venture into the outside world to buy essential supplies.

The decision means 3 provinces, 60 cities and 400 million people are now facing China’s most-strict level of lockdown as Beijing struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak as the virus has already spread to more than 2 dozen countries. That’s more than 400 million people forcibly locked inside their homes for 638 deaths? Just think about that: If there was ever a reason to believe that Beijing is lying about the numbers (and not just because Tencent accidentally leaked the real data), this is it.

Read more …

Saw this yesterday and thought: that’s very extreme. Again, imagine this in your own country or city. What would that take? 100 infections and 2 deaths?

Wuhan Ordered To Round Up All Infected Residents For Mass Quarantine

A senior Chinese official has ordered Wuhan authorities to immediately round up all residents infected with the novel coronavirus and place them in isolation, quarantine camps, or designated hospitals, according to the New York Times. City investigators have also been ordered to go to each home and check the temperature of every resident, as well as conduct interviews with infected patients’ close contacts.


“Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever,” said Sun Chunlan, a vice premier in charge of leading the CCP’s response to the outbreak. “The city’s authorities have raced to meet these instructions by setting up makeshift mass quarantine shelters this week. But concerns are growing about whether the centers, which will house thousands of people in large spaces, will be able to provide even basic care to patients and protect against the risk of further infection.” -NYT

Read more …

No wedding parties, locked in your home just like those cruise passengers are in their cabins. The idea of switching off elevators so people don’t go out is “brilliant”.

China Imposes Tougher Lockdown Measures

Beijing has banned group dining for events such as birthdays and weddings while cities such as Hangzhou and Nanchang are limiting how many family members can leave home each day. Hubei province, the worst hit by the virus, has switched off lifts in high-rise buildings to discourage residents from going outside. Its capital, Wuhan, has a lack of beds and equipment, one senior city official said. Despite the rapid construction of two hospitals, the volume of patients is causing severe strain. Reports on social media say the Wuhan government is to carry out door-to-door temperature checks on residents.


Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth said China had suppressed reports in the early days of the outbreak and clamped down on criticism of its handling of the crisis. “There’s no place for secrecy in fighting an epidemic,” he said. Although he praised Beijing for quickly sharing the DNA sequence of the virus, he attacked the lockdowns policy. “Quarantines of this sort typically don’t work. Quarantines, the kind that public health officials advocate, are much more targeted. They’re aimed at people who have been identified as having the virus,” he said. Mr Roth said there were “huge gaps” in getting people fed, housed and treated. Chinese officials have strongly defended their approach.

Read more …

This morning’s numbers. “We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control..”

And Trump told Xi he would win that war. But only after he closed the borders with a 14-day quarantine even for Americans,

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday that China’s economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started. “We have adopted the most comprehensive and strictest prevention and control measures through mobilising and rapid responses. We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control,” Xi was quoted as saying. “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

Read more …

It’s either one giant dilemma or very many smaller ones. But I don’t see him solving it before the peak of the epidemic in 2-3 months. What are Chinese workers do in the meantime?

China Faces Dilemma As It Tries To Get Back To Work

China is facing a dilemma as it tries to get back to business after the extended Lunar New Year holiday amid fears that a mass movement of workers across the country will worsen the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has struck nearly 30,000 people. Allowing the workforce to return to their jobs was crucial both for sustaining economic growth and providing support to fight the outbreak, according to Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at the Industrial Bank in Shanghai. “It’s obviously desirable for employers who are now paying rent, salaries and social welfare for their employees, for nothing in return,” he said, adding that most small and medium enterprises in China could only last about a month in the current situation.

After the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a directive to extend the holiday until last weekend as part of measures to contain the virus outbreak, a number of provinces and municipalities – including Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong – pushed back the return to work to this Monday. That extended hiatus of business operations will have an impact on the country’s economy, which has already been battered by the protracted trade war with the United States. Advisory firm Oxford Economics has lowered its growth outlook for China to 5.4 per cent in 2020, compared with 6 per cent previously, according to its chief Asia economist Louis Kuijs. Meanwhile, Tao Wang, China economist at UBS, forecast the country’s first-quarter growth at 3.8 per cent, and 5.4 per cent for the whole year.

[..] Huang Xin, an official with the China Railway Corporation, said about 2 million to 3 million passengers were expected to travel each day from Saturday to Tuesday – only about one-quarter of the normal peak number following the Lunar New Year break. “We will be paying extra attention to return trips of college students and migrant workers,” he said at a press briefing in Beijing. “We will also use big data to adjust our railway capabilities.” [..] Similar arrangements had been made for air passengers, said Yu Biao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Yu said the number of flights in China had been halved in the past week, and only 45 per cent of seats had been filled.

Read more …

Mandatory 14-day quarantines for US citizens. What will people do, use their remaining vacation days? Or not go?! I think I know.

China Grows Isolated As Airlines Cancel More Than 50,000 Flights

One by one, air carriers have cut service after demand fell sharply and governments took more drastic measures that they say aim to curb the spread of the disease [..] These steps have left China, the world’s second-largest air travel market after the U.S., more isolated. Airlines in dozens of countries have scaled back service or in the case of U.S. airlines canceled flights altogether to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong as the coronavirus spreads.

This will drive down airlines’ 2020 revenue and deprive other segments of the travel industry, including hotels and retailers, of high-spending tourists. The outbreak has some travelers exercising more caution with their travel, even for destinations other than China. Many travelers would be inquiring about spring travel during this time of year, said Cindy Guo, who runs Top Travel International in Flushing. “Some people prefer to stay home” because of the virus, she said. The U.S. instituted travel restrictions on Sunday that include requiring returning U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province — where Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, is located — to face mandatory, 14-day quarantines.

The Trump administration has ordered self-quarantines for U.S. citizens who have been in other parts of mainland China. Additionally, foreigners who have been in China in the last two weeks, except for immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents and a few others, won’t be allowed in at all. [..]

At stake are more than 165,000 scheduled flights in and out of China between Jan. 29 and March 28 that would affect 27 million travelers, according to data from aviation consulting firm Cirium. More than 54,011 flights, or 28% of the scheduled flights to, from and within China between Jan. 23 and Feb. 4 were canceled, 14% of them the international scheduled flights. Getting around within China is also becoming more complicated, and close to 32% of domestic flights were called off in that period.

Read more …

And of course it’s not just airlines. Shipping is a much bigger driver of the economy. It’s been less than 3 weeks, and goods are getting stranded, Try 2-3 more months and tell me what you find.

Global Shipping Being Hit By The Coronavirus. Now Goods Are Getting Stranded

The arteries of global trade are clogging up. Shipping companies that carry goods from China to the rest of the world say they are reducing the number of seaborne vessels, as measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus crimp demand for their services and threaten to disrupt global supply chains. About 80% of world goods trade by volume is carried by sea and China is home to seven of the world’s 10 busiest container ports, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Nearby Singapore and South Korea each have a mega port too.

[..] “This will affect many industries and limit demand for containerized goods transport,” Sand told CNN Business. Everything from cars and machinery to apparel and other consumer staples are shipped in containers, and disruption to the industry could reverberate far beyond China as the country seeks to contain the coronavirus outbreak by keeping factories shut and workers at home. The longer the health crisis lasts, the harder it will be to move goods around the world.

Already, carmaker Hyundai has suspended production at its plants in South Korea because of a disruption to the supply of parts caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China, the company said in a statement. The shutdowns mean that some ships can’t get into Chinese ports, as the loading and discharging of goods slows, said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, a trade body.

Others are stuck in dock, waiting for workers to return to ports so that construction and repairs can be completed, Platten added. Still more vessels are idling in “floating quarantined zones,” as countries such as Australia and Singapore refuse to allow ships that have called at Chinese ports to enter their own until the crew has been declared virus-free, added Sand. Platten said he knew of at least one crew that is running low on food because their ship has been idled for so long.

Read more …

I so feel for these people. Claustrophobic as hell I am.

Coronavirus Infections Triple On Cruise Liner Quarantined In Japan

Dozens of additional passengers aboard a cruise liner in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections on the ship to 61 as 3,700 people remain trapped on the quarantined vessel.
Stuck at the port of Yokohama since earlier this week, the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew face weeks of quarantine as medical workers test for signs of the deadly contagion. The ship is now like a “floating prison,” one passenger said on social media, where haunting images have emerged showing its abandoned halls, once bustling with activity. Of the thousands of passengers on board, 273 have shown symptoms of illness, such as cough and fever, or came in contact with those who have.


All of those passengers have now been tested, Japan’s Health Ministry said, noting the 41 new patients will be transferred to medical facilities in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures, as well as Kanagawa. It remains unclear whether additional cases could arise on the ship, as the novel coronavirus has been found to spread person-to-person, even among those not yet showing symptoms, with a long incubation period. Some passengers already expressed fear that they could eventually end up stuck on the vessel for much longer than 14 days if new infections occur. With the number of infections on the ship tripling on Thursday as health screenings continue, Japan now counts at least 86 cases of the lethal coronavirus nationwide.

Read more …

Welcome! Bring ’em on!

Now the CDC has to figure out who all these people have been in contact with the past 2 weeks and more.

How do they test for asymptomatic carriers? Does the US have enough testing kits? Even if they do, does Britain, does Belgium, France?

And would the US give them away? In China, cities steal each other’s supplies of face masks etc.

Royal Caribbean Ship With 12 Quarantined Passengers Docks In NJ

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that has 12 passengers quarantined over fears of coronavirus has docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, this morning with ambulances on the scene. The “Anthem of the Seas” arrived in New Jersey just hours ago, at about 6AM, in thick dense fog, according to ABC 6. Several ambulances were on standby at the scene. The passengers in quarantine will all be tested by the CDC, who was also awaiting the arrival of the ship on the scene. The passengers of the ship are all Chinese nationals – many of whom started exhibiting symptoms while aboard the ship, which was coming back from the Bahamas.

Read more …

From planes to ships to automobiles. It’s a small step for man, big step for us all.

The Global Car Industry Is Bracing For A Huge Shock From China /span>

China makes more cars than any other country, and is also the world’s biggest market. When car plants across China shut last month for the Lunar New Year holiday, the industry was already under huge pressure: sales had been falling for two years due to the loss of tax incentives for electric cars and the slowing economy, and officials were expecting an unprecedented third year of stagnation.

Many of those plants have since been ordered to remain shut at least until next week as the Chinese government scrambles to contain the virus that first appeared in Wuhan, a major autos hub [..] Automakers are bracing for even longer shutdowns and a deeper recession in global sales.

[..] The extended factory closures are expected to make it much more difficult for the industry to emerge from its recession. According to S&P Global Ratings, the outbreak will force carmakers in China to slash production by about 15% in the first quarter. The auto industry is particularly exposed because the virus originated in one of China’s “motor cities.” General Motors, Nissan, Renault, Honda and Peugeot owner PSA all have large factories in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown since late January. Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province account for 9% of total Chinese auto production, according to S&P Global Ratings. PSA Group told CNN Business this week that its Wuhan plant would remain closed until at least February 14.

Volkswagen is most exposed to potential damage. The world’s largest automaker has 24 plants making cars or parts in China, accounting for 40% of its production. [..] The situation could get worse before it gets better. S&P Global Ratings researchers said the Chinese government could extend factory shutdowns in order to limit contagion risk, affecting as much as half of China’s car and auto parts production.

Read more …

9-10 days? You really think that’ll do it?

Toyota Keeps China Plant Output Stopped Till Feb. 16 As Virus Hits Supply

Toyota Motor Corp on Friday said production at all of its plants in China would remain suspended through Feb. 16, joining a growing number of automakers facing output stoppages due to supply chain issues as the coronavirus outbreak spreads. The Japanese automaker, which operates 12 vehicle and vehicle components factories in China, said it would extend its production stoppage “after considering various factors, including guidelines from local and region governments, parts supply, and logistics.” The decision extends Toyota’s initial plans to suspend operations through Sunday, and comes as the threat from the coronavirus crisis closes in on the global auto industry.

Read more …

Big one. What’s in the fine print of the contract? What’s the use of going to court if the buyer can’t take delivery? How long would a court case take? How much do you value your buyer?

France’s Total Rejects Force Majeure Notice From Chinese LNG Buyer

French oil major Total has rejected a force majeure notice from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer in China, the first global energy supplier to publicly push back against firms backing out of deals amid the coronavirus outbreak. Concerns that Chinese companies could back out of contracts because of the coronavirus epidemic have slowed down spot crude oil and LNG sales into China, the world’s top energy consumer, increasing global supplies and depressing prices of energy products. “Some Chinese customers, at least one, are trying to use the coronavirus to say I have force majeure,” Philippe Sauquet, head of Total’s gas, renewables and power segment, said during the company’s full-year results presentation on Thursday.

“We have received one force majeure that we have rejected.” Companies invoke force majeure when they cannot meet their contractual obligations because of circumstances beyond their control. Sauquet did not disclose the name of the buyer Total rejected a force majeure notice from. Reuters reported on Thursday that China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the country’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has declared force majeure on some prompt deliveries with at least three suppliers because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, two sources said on Thursday. Total is one of the biggest suppliers of LNG to CNOOC, industry sources said.

Last week, a Chinese international trade promotion agency said it would offer force majeure certificates to companies struggling with the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic to give to their overseas partners. Lawyers told Reuters that LNG contracts are typically governed by English law which spell out events that constitute a force majeure and some may include the epidemic clause. Serving the force majeure notice is the first step in a long-drawn out process, they said. The onus is also on buyers to prove that they are not physically able to receive the cargo to demonstrate a force majeure. For instance, if there are port closures or if workers are unable to get to the ports due to the virus.

Read more …

I love lines like: ““There is absolutely no need to panic buy..”, because what’s the other side of that? You can trust us to tell you when there’s a need to panic?

But a government could never tell you to panic.

Best version is “This is not the time to panic”. And then you go: Okay, I’ll watch some TV then, and I’ll make sure I get my ten hours of sleep. But first thing in the morning….

Panic Buying As Hong Kong Government Silent On Coming Quarantine Move

Anxious Hongkongers scrambled on Thursday to stock up on essentials over fears that border restrictions to contain the coronavirus would choke off shipments, while the government provided scant details on the mandatory quarantine taking effect in less than 36 hours on arrivals from mainland China. As long queues formed at shops all over the city for the second straight day and people jostled to grab toilet and tissue paper, as well as rice and perishables, food suppliers sought to assure the public there was no need for hoarding. “There is absolutely no need to panic buy. We have always worked to ensure a stable supply of food and all these years, throughout all sorts of big events, we have never had a shortage,” Thomas Ng Wing-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Food Council, told a press conference.


The fears, fed by online rumours, mounted when the government announced on Wednesday it would impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering from mainland China, sparking concerns that supplies would also be held up. But while the government said it would reveal more on the quarantine measures on Thursday, the day ended with no information forthcoming, as sources told the Post that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was still locked in meetings over facilities and details on implementation. Even as they gave assurances, representatives of rice, pork, egg, seafood, poultry and fruit-and-vegetable merchants urged the government to exempt cross-border truck drivers from the 14-day quarantine set to kick in on Saturday, to avert any delays in supplies reaching the city.

Read more …

Li Wenliang appears to have been off by a week or so. Bless his soul, he got caught in Phase 1, in which the Party’s knee-jerk reaction is “complete denial, not a word” (they can’t help themselves). One week later he would have come in in Phase 2, “damage control, massaging the numbers downward”. He would have gotten much less Party flack… See again The Party and the Virus.

Coronavirus Kills ‘Hero’ Chinese Doctor Who Sounded Alarm

A Chinese doctor who tried to warn the world about a new coronavirus died of the disease on Friday, prompting an outpouring of sorrow as the death toll passed 630 and Beijing declared a “people’s war” on the rapidly spreading pathogen. Li Wenliang, 34, died in the early hours of the morning at the hospital where he worked and first raised the alarm about the new coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, hospital officials said. An ophthalmologist, Li was one of eight people reprimanded by Wuhan police last month for spreading “illegal and false” information about the coronavirus, a flu-like pathogen that since triggered a global health emergency.


His messages to a group of doctors on Chinese social media warning of a new “SARS-like” coronavirus – a reference to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed almost 800 people around the world in 2002-2003 – triggered the wrath of Wuhan police. China was accused of trying to cover up SARS. He was forced to sign a letter on Jan. 3 saying he had “severely disrupted social order” and was threatened with criminal charges.

Read more …

… but Phase 2 already gave way to Phase 3: “close all the doors, not to worry, nothing to see here, we got this, no you can’t come in, too risky!”

That’s what these guys get.

Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Vanished

Bloomberg reports that Beijing has silenced two of the citizen journalists responsible for much of the horrifying footage seeping onto western social media. As BBG’s reporter explains, Chinese citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin have effectively been “the world’s eyes and ears” inside Wuhan (much of the film produced by American news organizations has consisted of drone footage). In recent days, SCMP and other news organizations reporting on the ground and publishing in English have warned that Beijing has stepped up efforts to censor Chinese social media after allowing citizens to vent their frustrations and share news without the usual scrutiny.

On Wednesday, China said its censors would conduct “targeted supervision” on the largest social media platforms including Weibo, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Douyin. All in an effort to mask the dystopian nightmare that life in cities like Wuhan has become. But that brief period of informational amnesty is now over, apparently. Fang posted a dramatic video on Friday showing him being forcibly detained and dragged off to a ‘quarantine’. He was detained over a video showing corpses piled up in a Wuhan hospital. However, he has already been released.

Chen, meanwhile, seems to have vanished without a trace, and is believed to still be in government detention. Last week, we shared one of Chen’s more alarming videos documenting the severe medical supply shortages and outnumbered medical personnel fighting a ‘losing battle’ against the outbreak.

Read more …

 

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Feb 072020
 
 February 7, 2020  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


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

 

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)
Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)
The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)
Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)
UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)
Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)
Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)
Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)
Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)
End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)
Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)
Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)
Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)
Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

 

I collected so many “corona”-related articles over the past 24 hours, I’ll do a separate thread with them, because this one would get too long. It’ll be up in a few hours.

China is making an effort to make it seem like they have things under control to the extent that numbers are rising less. Don’t trust them. For one thing, it’s not reflected at all in this graph. For another, Xi is real anxious to get the economy restarted. But that’s not possible while the lockdowns remain. Nice quote I heard: if even just 1% of your car parts are from China, and you can’t get them anymore, you can’t build a car.

 

 

Asking myself: why are there practically no children infected? Does anyone know?

Numbers today:

• China reports 73 new deaths from coronavirus and 3,143 new cases (from 3,797 yesterday)
• Hubei province reports 69 new deaths and confirms 2,447 new cases
• 185,555 people under medical observation, down from 186,354 yesterday
• Japan says 41 new infections on board Yokohama cruiseliner, total now 61 out of 273 tested

 

 

 

Most interesting here is XI: “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases (SCMP)

Health authorities in China pegged deaths caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic on Thursday at 73, with 69 in Hubei province, according to official figures released early Friday. The updated numbers raise the death toll in mainland China to 636. Newly confirmed cases rose by 3,143, a second consecutive daily drop, bringing the total to 31,161 cases in the country, according to data released on Friday morning by China’s National Health Commission (NHC). Most the deaths came from Hubei province, epicentre of the outbreak, where 69 new fatalities from the epidemic were reported on Thursday, one less fatality compared with the day before. The total death toll in Hubei rose to 618, the province’s health commission said.


[..] Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday that China’s economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started. “We have adopted the most comprehensive and strictest prevention and control measures through mobilising and rapid responses. We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control,” Xi was quoted as saying. “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

Read more …

After closing the borders.

Trump Expresses Confidence In China’s Confronting Its Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed confidence in China’s strength and resilience in confronting its coronavirus outbreak during a conversation with President Xi Jinping on Thursday, a White House spokesman said. The two leaders agreed to continue extensive communication and cooperation between both sides, the spokesman, Judd Deere, added. Trump and Xi also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing Phase 1 of the trade deal between the United States and China, he added.

Read more …

Honest question: what do you think is more dangerous, RussiaRussiaRussia or the coronavirus?

Texas Congresswoman Says Russia Responsible For Iowa Caucus Mess (WE)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, suggested during an FBI oversight hearing on Wednesday that Russia is responsible for the vote-reporting issues from Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. “I hope that the Iowa Democrats will ask for an FBI investigation on the app,” the Texas Democrat told FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I believe that Russia has been engaged in and interfering with a number of our elections dealing with the 2016 election.” Wray responded by reassuring Jackson Lee that the FBI shares her concern about Russian interference. “Certainly, we are also concerned about potential Russian interference with our elections,” Wray said. “That’s why I created the foreign influence task force, which is acutely focused on that topic among other nation-states that are attempting to influence our elections.”


Democrats have faced criticism for not properly testing the voting system in Iowa, which includes an app the Iowa Democratic Party spent $60,000 to implement. “How can anyone trust you now?” a reporter yelled at the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party after reporting issues had still not been cleared up the day after voters caucused. An official winner has still not been announced as of Thursday evening. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez expressed his frustration on Thursday by calling for a recanvassing. “Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

Read more …

Starting to feel Turley is writing more than he should.

The GIGO Impeachment (Turley)

Every line of work — from law to carpentry to software — has its own house rule about how bad results come from bad beginnings. There is even an initialism for this: GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. Unless senators use their closing arguments this week to clarify that they are not endorsing either the prosecution or defense premises in reaching their verdicts, this will go down as the GIGO impeachment: precedent created by false assumptions in both houses. The House blundered in rushing an impeachment by Christmas rather than waiting a couple of months to submit a more complete case with added witnesses, court orders and evidence.

Instead of seeking to compel such direct evidence, the House pushed the vote to impeach on the basis of what my co-witnesses called by the Democrats admitted was an inferential case. There is no question that you can make an inferential case for impeachment, but it is the difference between a strong and a weak case. Rather than wait a couple months to strengthen that record (as I suggested at the Judiciary hearing), the House muscled through an impeachment after the shortest investigation of a president in history. The greatest concern in the House’s case was always the obstruction-of-Congress charge. The House declared that the administration’s failure to yield to demands for witnesses and evidence was by itself a high crime and misdemeanor.

The problem is that other administrations have raised the presidential immunity claims made by the Trump administration, and those claims were supported by legal opinions from the Justice Department. Both Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton were able to litigate their privilege claims all the way to the Supreme Court before facing impeachment. [..] This is a great case marred by passion and distortion. What is surprising is that both blunders were not “accidental” but premeditated by the two parties. It undermined the legitimacy and authenticity of the actions in both chambers. Even if the senators cannot agree on what is appropriate for impeachment, they should at least agree on what is not appropriate.

Read more …

Who supports those terrorists? Is it Turkey or the US?

Russian, Turkish Military Among 100s Killed & Injured In Idlib Terrorism (RT)

Terrorists took over the Idlib de-escalation zone and carried out thousands of attacks in the last two months, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the West is portraying them as “moderate opposition.” Idlib governorate, the last stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria, saw a surge of violence by radical jihadists who have no desire for a peaceful resolution to the almost nine-year-long conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Most of the attacks are carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the latest iteration of al-Qaeda in Syria. The area was proclaimed a de-escalation zone under the Russia-Turkey agreements. In mid-January, Russian and Turkish forces tried to impose a ‘regime of silence’ there, but the attacks only escalated.


In December 2019 there were over 1,400 terrorist attacks staged from Idlib, with some operations seeing the use of armor and even tanks. The scale of violence remains high, with over 1,000 attacks recorded in the last two weeks of January. Hundreds of Syrian civilians and government troops have been killed, as well as “Russian and Turkish military specialists.” “The relocation of some armed groups out of the de-escalation zone to northeastern Syria and later to Libya has boosted the concentration of radical extremists over the boiling point,” the ministry said. This situation was recently discussed during an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He explained that Turkey needed to separate the armed opposition it is working with from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists, saying that it has failed to do so.

Read more …

Retracted now, but still illustrative of post-Brexit Britain. Ruled by white guys from the 18th century.

UK Town Halls Told To Fly Union Jack For Prince Andrew’s Birthday (Ind.)

Town halls across the UK have been officially reminded they must fly the Union Jack flag on 19 February, to celebrate Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday. Politicians and public alike have slammed the Whitehall order, which they say puts protocol before principles. The prince is not currently performing royal duties amid an ongoing scandal over his friendship with millionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and claims that then-teenager Virginia Roberts was coerced into having sex with Prince Andrew in 2001 and 2002. He denies the allegation, saying he was at a birthday party at the Woking branch of Pizza Express on one of the nights the pair are said to have slept together.


However, the order is now likely to be withdrawn, after the prime minister’s spokesman described it as “an administrative email about a longstanding policy”. “I understand that DCMS [the digital, culture and media department] and the royal household are considering how the policy applies for changed circumstances, such as when members of the Royal Family have stepped back from public duties,” the spokesman said – in a clear hint it will be pulled. The instruction had drawn heavy criticism, Labour MP and deputy leadership candidate Ian Murray saying: “This protocol has to be binned given the allegations against the prince.” [..] ..a council source said: “It seems ridiculous. The government doesn’t appear to be noticing what has happened recently, or factoring in the mood of the nation.”

Read more …

And that’s before the virus halted 10s of 1000s of flights.

Boeing’s Fraying 737 MAX Suppliers See Capacity Crunch (R.)

Boeing Co suppliers are shedding jobs and capacity to cope with a halt in 737 MAX output, but while that staves off chaos, aerospace executives worry the industry might be unable to ramp factories quickly enough when the plane wins approval to fly again. Boeing, struggling to restore public confidence and recover from the biggest crisis since its founding in 1916, has halted production of the once fast-selling 737 MAX, which was grounded in March following two deadly crashes. As a result, industrial heavyweights like fuselage maker Spirit Aerosystems have already laid off workers. Now a cluster of other crucial companies small and big that forge metal, assemble and paint 737 MAX winglets, and build data systems have followed suit with no indication that Boeing will offer a lifeline, people familiar with the matter said.


Losing payments and workers in a tight labor market heaps pressure on Boeing’s U.S.-dominated 737 MAX supply chain, which involves hundreds of suppliers of more than half of the roughly 400,000 parts for each 737 built in the Seattle-area. “One of the main questions is how much capacity will be lost in the supply chain by the time production resumes at significant rates,” said an industry executive with knowledge of Boeing’s industrial network. Such concerns dominated the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference north of Seattle this week, where some executives vented frustration over what they called Boeing’s lack of financial support. One executive from a supplier that derives a quarter of its business from the MAX said Boeing has treated his company like “a commodity” in a “transactional” relationship. He predicted Boeing would let some suppliers fail.

Read more …

The Fed’s (and ECB’s) ultra-low interest rates killed all pension systems. We just don’t -want to- realize it yet.

Ohio Pension System Slashes Health-Care Benefits To Stave Off Insolvency (ZH)

For the first time in years, a major public pension system has slashed benefits for retirees: The Ohio Public Employees’ Retirement System voted last week to cut health care benefits provided to the pension’s current and future retirees beginning in 2022 to try and prevent the fund from plunging into insolvency in the not-too-distant future. It’s just the latest reminder that America’s ‘pension timebomb’ isn’t as far off into the future as many retirees, investors and public officials would like to believe. According to Chief Investment Officer and the Bond Buyer, if these changes had not been enacted, the fund would run out of money in about 11 years, executive director Karen Carraher said during a board meeting. The measure passed by a 9-2 vote.

“There is no available funding for health care,” a report from the board said. “All of the employer contribution[s] must be allocated to pension funding until that funding improves. Based on current projections, no funding will be available for health care for 15 or more years.” The vote, which was undertaken after polls showed members would be open to the changes to preserve their retirement benefits, eliminated the system’s group health-care plan and replaced it with stipends that will defray costs for members who purchase plans on the state ObamaCare exchange. Beneficiaries will receive a wide variety of quantitative cuts, depending on their age of retirement, the year in which they retired, and the number of years working in the state.

“Surveys indicate members willing to accept changes/reductions in health care in the interest of preserving it,” the board’s report said. Nearly everyone in OPERS likely will be affected by these changes. The board’s vote constituted the elimination of the pension’s healthcare group plan, and replaced it with a stipend that will help supplement for some members the cost of a new healthcare plan on the marketplace. “Pre-Medicare group plan is unsustainable for OPERS and members as risk core and costs continue to increase,” the report said. The board “needs to reduce the cost of health care to preserve current health care trust fund until such time funding can resume.”

Read more …

Protesting what your own employer supports, and after the damage is done. Lovely.

Interest Rate Controls Could Reduce Real Per Capita Growth (IMF)

With the surge in public debt in the wake of the global financial crisis, financial repression—administrative restrictions on interest rates, credit allocation, capital movements, and other financial operations—has come back on the agenda. In our recent working paper, we argue that countries would be better-off without financial repression. By distorting market incentives and signals, financial repression induces losses from inefficiency and rent-seeking that are not easily quantified. Losses from rent-seeking might occur when administrative restrictions reduce access to certain financial services (such as credit) and improve the benefits (e.g., through low interest rates) for the selected users (at the cost of those excluded), and when these lead to wasteful competition among potential users for such gains.


Using an updated index of interest rate controls covering 90 countries over 45 years, this IMF staff study estimates that financial repression in the form of interest rate restrictions could reduce real per capita growth by about 0.4–0.7 percentage points, on average, with the effect being larger in countries with larger financial systems. The study also finds that a full liberalization of interest rates is necessary to significantly increase growth, and changes in interest rate restrictions short of full liberalization have a limited impact. The case studies suggest that interest rate controls may also disrupt financial stability and may reduce access to financing for small enterprises.

Read more …

The Fed should take care of people, not banks, by now. No body has ever been more destructive to a society.

Encourage Banks To Tap Discount Window To Prevent Repo Freeze – Quarles (MW)

The Federal Reserve could encourage banks to tap a key funding source that has been scarcely used since the financial crisis as a solution to the September dislocations in short-term lending markets, said Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles on Thursday. Quarles said financial institutions should not be afraid of accessing the discount window, where banks have historically borrowed funds from the Fed in return for collateral during short-term liquidity shortages, in a speech held at an event by the Money Marketeers of New York University. The use of the window, however, has been stigmatized following the financial crisis amid worries that tapping the window could end up creating the perception that a bank was in precarious shape and could even be insolvent, precipitating further outflows.

He noticed that despite the equivalence between Treasurys and reserves as sources of capital that could meet the Fed’s liquidity coverage regulations, which are designed to ensure banks can meet sudden cash outflows, the reality was banks would prefer to hold cash reserves as banks could struggle to sell government bonds swiftly if it wanted to raise funds. Quarles’ remarks come as investors and bank executives have pointed to the preference of reserves over Treasurys as one factor that contributed to the surge in overnight repo rates in September, which briefly pushed the benchmark fed funds rates above its target range and raised questions whether the Fed was losing its grip on a key monetary policy tool.

Pushing banks to use the discount window during stress scenarios could help resolve the issues in money markets, as it gave banks sufficient time to sell high-quality capital like Treasurys and raise cash, diminishing the need to accrue reserves as a way of handling liquidity issues. “I think it is worth considering whether financial-system efficiency may be improved if reserves and Treasury securities’ liquidity characteristics were regarded as more similar than they are today,” said Quarles.

Read more …

Stupid games. Close it down or it will destroy you.

End of QE-4: Fed’s Repos Drop Below Oct 2 Level, T-Bills Balloon (WS)

Under these “repurchase agreements,” the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, whereby the counterparties commit to buy back these securities at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day (overnight repo) or a longer period, such as 14 days (term repo). Repos are by definition in-and-out transactions. When a repo matures and unwinds, the Fed gets its money back, and the repo on the Fed’s balance sheet goes to zero. By buying these securities, the Fed adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo. When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained from the market. When a new repo transaction occurs, the process starts over again, but with a different amount and with a different maturity date.

The Fed raised the interest rate at which it offered the repos – for borrowers, the money is getting a little less cheap. Through January 29, the Fed’s average offering rate for overnight repos was 1.55%. On January 30, this increased to 1.60%. And the rate for 14-day repos increased from 1.58% effective through January 29, to about 1.61%. The Fed had been the lender-of-first-resort in the repo market, by offering to lend at these low rates. By increasing the rate, the Fed is gradually making the cash it is handing out less cheap and less attractive compared to what banks might offer, and more of the demand is switching over to banks. Overnight repos have been undersubscribed all year, so there is less and less demand for them at this rate. But the 14-day term repos are often oversubscribed, meaning there is more demand for this two-week cash at 1.61% than the amount the Fed is offering.


[.] The Fed continued to increase its ballooning stash of T-bills (Treasuries with maturities of one year or less) at a rate of about $60 billion per month. To increase its stash, the Fed has to buy the amount of the maturing T-bills, and it has to buy the amounts needed to obtain the targeted increase of about $60 billion a month. Over the five weekly balance sheets since January 1, the Fed has added $78 billion in T-bills, and the total amount of T-bills on the Fed’s balance sheet has now ballooned to $248 billion: These T-bills are a major part of the Fed’s strategy to bail out the repo-market. The purpose is to increase Excess Reserves that banks have on deposit at the Fed. The Fed blames low Excess Reserves last September for the banks’ refusal to lend to the repo market, which then caused the repo market to blow out. So bringing up Excess Reserves to an “ample” level is the goal of these T-bill purchases.

Read more …

Greece is being hit hard by the virus’s effect on tourism. But that’s just the icing on the cake.

Seven In 10 Greeks Threatened By Poverty (K.)

Almost seven in every 10 Greeks are in a dire financial situation, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The figures published in the bulletin of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) indicate that 68.3 percent of the population in Greece are living close to or below the poverty line, with 12.9 percent already having to make do with an income below that line and 55.4 percent categorized as vulnerable, as they too could drop below the poverty line if they miss out on three months’ salary.


The proportion of Greeks who are unable to make a decent living is far above the OECD average, which stands at 50.4 percent. In the United States, which also shows high levels of inequalities, the rate comes to 55.5 percent, while in Denmark it stands at 36.3 percent. Greece’s rate is second only to Latvia’s in the European Union. SEV commented that Greece is among the European countries with the greatest inequalities in incomes, a situation that has been aggravated by the financial crisis of the 2010s, which hurt lower incomes in particular.

Read more …

This sounds too bland for me. Been there done that. And I don’t think suggesting that it’s all climate change is all that smart. If only because it isn’t. Chemicals still play a major role.

Bumblebee Survival Chances In EU, US Drop 30% In Single Generation (Hill)

Bumblebee populations are in decline across North America and Europe due to hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures, and climate change is playing a big role, according to a recently released study. The study by researchers from the University of Ottawa published in the journal Science examined changes in the populations of 66 bumble species across the two continents, and compared them with climate changes. The research found that in the course of one human generation, the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in a given place in North America and Europe declined by an average of over 30 percent.


“We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world,” lead author of the study Peter Soroye said in a statement. “Bumblebees are the best pollinators we have in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for crops like tomato, squash, and berries,” Soroye said. “Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates.” Researchers used data collected over a 115-year period showing where bumblebees have been found over the decades. They mapped the places the bees lived and how their distribution changed over time. They found the bees were disappearing in areas that had gotten hotter, and some are colonizing in new areas that were previously too cold.

Read more …

Ideal world: “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? (New Yorker)

“If growth were to be abandoned as an objective of policy, democracy too would have to be abandoned,” Wilfred Beckerman, an Oxford economist, wrote in “In Defense of Economic Growth,” which appeared in 1974. “The costs of deliberate non-growth, in terms of the political and social transformation that would be required in society, are astronomical.” Beckerman was responding to the publication of “The Limits to Growth,” a widely read report by an international team of environmental scientists and other experts who warned that unrestrained G.D.P. growth would lead to disaster, as natural resources such as fossil fuels and industrial metals ran out. Beckerman said that the authors of “The Limits to Growth” had greatly underestimated the capacity of technology and the market system to produce a cleaner and less resource-intensive type of economic growth—the same argument that proponents of green growth make today.

Whether or not you share this optimism about technology, it’s clear that any comprehensive degrowth strategy would have to deal with distributional conflicts in the developed world and poverty in the developing world. As long as G.D.P. is steadily rising, all groups in society can, in theory, see their living standards rise at the same time. Beckerman argued that this was the key to avoiding such conflict. But, if growth were abandoned, helping the worst off would pit winners against losers. The fact that, in many Western countries over the past couple of decades, slower growth has been accompanied by rising political polarization suggests that Beckerman may have been on to something.

Some degrowth proponents say that distributional conflicts could be resolved through work-sharing and income transfers. A decade ago, Peter A. Victor, an emeritus professor of environmental economics at York University, in Toronto, built a computer model, since updated, to see what would happen to the Canadian economy under various scenarios. In a degrowth scenario, GDP per person was gradually reduced by roughly fifty per cent over thirty years, but offsetting policies—such as work-sharing, redistributive-income transfers, and adult-education programs—were also introduced. Reporting his results in a 2011 paper, Victor wrote, “There are very substantial reductions in unemployment, the human poverty index and the debt to GDP ratio. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by nearly 80%. This reduction results from the decline in GDP and a very substantial carbon tax.”

More recently, Kallis and other degrowthers have called for the introduction of a universal basic income, which would guarantee people some level of subsistence. Last year, when progressive Democrats unveiled their plan for a Green New Deal, aiming to create a zero-emission economy by 2050, it included a federal job guarantee; some backers also advocate a universal basic income. Yet Green New Deal proponents appear to be in favor of green growth rather than degrowth. Some sponsors of the plan have even argued that it would eventually pay for itself through economic growth.

Read more …

Upside down world. You now have to pay for what nature provides for free. Pay people not to pollute. You want less pollution? Sure, but it’s going to cost you… Nice place you got there. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it, would you?

Canada To Aid Alberta As Deadline For Massive Oil Sands Project Nears (R.)

Canada is preparing an aid package for Alberta, heart of the country’s struggling oil industry, that would help dull the pain if it blocks an oil sands project that could create thousands of jobs, sources familiar with the matter said this week. Ottawa must decide by end-February if Teck Resources Ltd can build the C$20.6 billion ($15.7 billion) Frontier mine in northern Alberta despite climate and wildlife concerns. The decision is a major test of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2019 election pledge to put Canada on the path to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Complicating the decision, unhappiness with the government’s energy and pipeline policy cost Trudeau’s Liberals all their Alberta seats in October 2019 elections.


“There will be a big fight inside cabinet over this,” said one source directly familiar the matter who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. “Rejecting Teck without providing Alberta something in return would be political suicide,” the source added. In Alberta, the project is considered essential for employment and growth. Teck says it would eventually create 7,000 jobs, although the company’s chief executive recently questioned whether it will ever be built. About 20 oil sands projects currently sit dormant despite receiving approval.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Feb 062020
 


Seattle, WA during Spanish Influenza. No ride on street cars without wearing a mask 1918/19

 

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)
“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)
Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)
With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)
Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)
Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)
Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)
Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)
Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)
In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)
Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)
Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

 

 

There we go again:

• 565 deaths (up 72 from yesterday, biggest increase in official numbers to date)

• 28,339 cases (up 3,797 from yesterday’s 24,542, and yeserday’s rise of 3872)

• There are suggestions from China that the increase in cases is slowing, but that’s after yesterday’s record increase. We’ll see.

• At the same time, the increase in severe cases appears to be accelerating.

• 10 more infections on cruise ship off Yokohama

• One thing that’s certainly increasing is the skepticism about the official numbers.

 

 

 

Some interesting things in this article:

1) Officials returning to Beijing from other provinces after Lunar New Year are in 14-day quarantine. First time I see mandatory quarantines for Beijing.

2) There’s talk of delaying the (10+ days) National People’s Congress, which only starts on March 5.

Events have been cancelled as far out as April 15. That syncs quite well with what I said in my article The Big Lockdown.

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)

China is considering delaying the annual meeting of its top legislative body, five people familiar with the matter said, as it grapples with a coronavirus epidemic that has forced drastic curtailment of travel and other activity to curb its spread. The National People’s Congress (NPC), made up of about 3,000 delegates, typically gathers for a session lasting at least 10 days in Beijing, beginning on March 5, to pass legislation and unveil key economic targets for the year. A postponement would be the first since China adopted the current March schedule in 1995 for the meeting of parliament. “The focus remains on taking steps forward towards meeting on schedule, but we are discussing a range of options as the (virus) situation doesn’t look likely to be contained by March,” a senior government official told Reuters, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“A delay is one of those options,” the official said. “It should come as no surprise given that we are in a very difficult time.” Many officials who would ordinarily be involved in preparation for the NPC are staying at home under 14-day mandatory quarantines after returning to Beijing from their home provinces following the Lunar New Year holidays. Central government officials in Beijing were told to resume work on Feb. 3. China has already postponed a high-level business event, the China Development Forum, which is usually held in late March, and the venue for the Canton Fair, a trade fair in the southern city of Guangzhou, has been suspended until further notice. The spring session of the trade fair was due to begin on April 15.

The NPC gathering is crucial this year, as it is set to ratify China’s first-ever civil code, a key milestone in President Xi Jinping’s legal reform effort. The NPC is also widely expected to discuss the months-long protests in Hong Kong, and to announce the annual economic growth target along with China’s defence budget. Under China’s constitution, a full plenary session of the NPC must be held every year. Chucheng Feng, a partner at Plenum, an independent research firm in Hong Kong, put the chance of a delay at just 10% because of the meeting’s political importance. “However, as the epidemic extends into February, the gathering of China’s entire political elite in a confined Great Hall of the People for over a week looks quite dangerous,” he said.

Read more …

Tyler broke the story. This is a handy write-up. It’s the smaller numbers above the big ones that all but prove we’re looking at an automatically updating database.

“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)

Zero Hedge reported this morning, “As Taiwan [News] reports in a report first spotted by user @TheHKGroup, over the weekend, Tencent “seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically higher than official figures”, and were far closer to the catastrophic epidemic projections made by Jonathan Read.” According to official numbers from mainland China, which are updated daily, the current number of coronavirus infections is still under 25,000. Even then, it currently appears to be expanding at roughly 20% per 24-hour period, which represents a doubling of infections every 3.5 days (because the growth is compounded). (The left column is infections, and the right column is deaths.)

However, observers have noted that the official numbers reported by the communist Chinese government recently slipped into the “real numbers,” suddenly showing far higher confirmed infections and deaths: 154,024 infections and 24,589 deaths. Here’s a screen shot that was captured before the numbers reverted back to the lower, “official” numbers:The initial reaction from observers might be something along the lines of, “That was just a typo. So they corrected it.” However, there’s more to this story:

The higher numbers didn’t merely appear by themselves, out of context. Above each number is an “increase” factor that calculates how much larger today’s numbers are compared to yesterday’s numbers. For the 24,589 deaths, located at the lower right of this graphic, you’ll notice a number above it that states, “+1546.” The Chinese characters next to the numbers explain, “Compared to yesterday.” This means there is an underlying database that’s tracking daily numbers and being used to calculate the day-to-day differences. Similarly, there’s a number above the infection count of 154,023 that explains, “+20979.” This indicates the day-over-day increase from the previous day.


These numbers are clearly being automatically calculated, because if human error were to blame for typing the wrong numbers representing infections and deaths, it would be extremely unlikely that two more typos would coincidentally appear above those numbers, accidentally showing day-to-day increases that are consistent with a second set of numbers that are obviously being stored in parallel.

Read more …

The highest paid.

Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)

All foreign pilots working for China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and a host of smaller mainland Chinese carriers have been placed on indefinite unpaid leave, according to multiple sources and a memo seen by the Post. With the coronavirus crisis forcing airlines to slash flights, several hundred foreign pilots have seemingly become surplus overnight, with some telling the Post they were considering their options amid the uncertainty now facing the world’s fastest-growing air market. “All foreign pilots, including those who have applied for leave exemption and those who have not, shall start a non-fixed term leave without pay as soon as possible,” a Tuesday memo to a batch of foreign pilots for China Southern, the country’s largest carrier, said.


Their grounding was effective that day, with the pilots told they would “return to work when [the] situation gets better.” Xiamen Airlines along with Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and Beijing Capital Airlines (BCA) – a trio of carriers owned by debt-laden HNA Group – have also placed foreign aircrew on unpaid leave, according to multiple sources. A source at BCA said their pilots had been offered the option of taking a significant pay cut that would bring them in line with their Chinese counterparts. China Eastern Airlines, meanwhile, was understood to have offered unpaid leave to its foreign pilots but had not made it mandatory at this point.

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The trade deal should be the least of Beijing’s worries by now.

Also, there are suggestions here that new cases rise less fast than before. But severe cases seem to rise.

With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)

Daily deaths caused by the new coronavirus have reached another record in China, with 73 fatalities confirmed in figures released by health authorities on Thursday morning, taking the death toll in mainland China to 563. The number of new infections in mainland China and Hubei province both fell on Wednesday compared to the day before, with 3,694 additional cases in the country and 2,987 in Hubei, national and provincial health authorities announced Thursday morning. The last time new infection figures dropped was January 28, with the daily increase in confirmed cases in China and Hubei steadily rising to a record high on Tuesday – 3,887 and 3,156, respectively. The deadly new coronavirus, which first emerged at the end of December, has killed at least 565 people worldwide, and sickened more than 28,000.

Mainland media on Tuesday reported that China may consider using a disaster-related clause in the phase one trade deal with the US because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated to People’s Daily, cited an unnamed Chinese trade expert close to the government as saying a decision on launching a consultation with the US on the disaster clause was unlikely until the end of the first quarter. In a commentary published on Wednesday, the newspaper said that even if China was unable to reach the goal of increasing purchases from the US, there was still a sensible path forward without jeopardising the agreement and the negotiation process.

“The phase one agreement clearly stated that the two parties would consult with each other, ‘in the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations under this agreement’. Without doubt the epidemic fits this scenario,” it said.

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Very popular man, I’m sure.

Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)

A prominent Chinese scholar has published an article criticising the country’s leadership for failing to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected almost 25,000 people around the world. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who has been under close surveillance by the authorities, blamed Communist Party leaders for putting politics ahead of the people in his strongly worded piece, which was published on several overseas Chinese-language websites this week. “The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered,” he said in a reference to how reform-minded leaders sought to rebuild the country and modernise the government after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and moved away from one-man rule to collective leadership.

Xu was suspended from teaching at Tsinghua University in 2018, after the publication of an article in which he criticised the decision by party leaders to lift the two-term limit for presidents, allowing Xi Jinping to remain in office beyond his second term, which ends in 2023. His latest criticism came as China’s leaders and law enforcement officials warned that internet controls must be tightened to prevent the spread of rumours and misinformation. On Monday, Xi chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee at which it was agreed that officials must maintain a tight grip on online media and direct public opinion about “winning the war over the virus”.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Public Security held a meeting to remind all police officers that political security was of utmost importance in handling the outbreak. The police would “strike harshly” on any and all disruption by “hostile forces”, according to a report by Xinhua. One of Xu’s close friends confirmed on Wednesday that the professor had written the article. “He has already been stripped of his teaching position but he is likely to face more punishment this time,” said the person, who asked not to be named. “We are concerned they [the police] will take him away now that he has published this article.”

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There’s no such thing. Ridiculous headline.

Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)

China has applied to patent a drug candidate being developed by Gilead Sciences as the government rushes to find the cure for the deadly coronavirus, a move that could raise questions on intellectual property and marketing rights. The state-backed Institute of Virology in Wuhan filed the patent for using remdesivir to fight the novel coronavirus on January 21, according to a statement posted on its website two weeks later on February 4. If approved, the drug will be used to facilitate its potential global market entry, it added. Studies have been conducted outside the human bodies and found that Gilead’s remdesivir compound and the off-patent chloroquine malaria drug are both “highly effective” in the control of coronavirus infection, the Wuhan institute and the Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology said in a research published in Cell Research Journal.


“Since these compounds have [separately] been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease,” the researchers wrote. Remdesivir has not been approved anywhere globally and has not been showed to be safe or effective for any use, Gilead’s chief medical officer Merdad Parsey said in a statement on Friday. The firm is working with Chinese health authorities to conduct a clinical trial on patients with pneumonia symptoms to test its safety and efficacy, it said. Past clinical data on other coronaviruses give it “hope,” it added.

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3 Turley articles today. One at the Hill, one at the BBC, one on his own site.

When The Dems lost to Trump in 2016, I said his role was to show how rotten the entire system is. And that they should take a good look at themselves, and try to figure out how that loss could ever come about. They never did, they only ever and exclusively looked at Trump, not themselves. This will not change as long as Hillary, Biden, Schiff et al lead the party.

Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)

Forty-four years ago, I walked on to the floor of the House of Representatives as a new Democratic 15-year-old page from Chicago. I stood and marveled at the beehive of activity on the floor in the People’s House. I can still remember that moment because it forged a bond and reverence that has never weakened for me. As a Democratic leadership page during the speakership of Tip O’Neill, I watched some of the most passionate and important debates of the generation from the Neutron Bomb to civil rights legislation to sweeping national park bills. The country was deeply divided, but both parties maintained the tradition of civility and decorum. I was struck how members, even in the heat of furious debates, would not attack each other by name and followed rigid principles of decorum.

They understood that they were the custodians of this institution and bore a duty to strengthen and pass along those traditions to the next generation. That is why I was (and remain) so offended by this display. I believe that President Trump himself is worthy of criticism for not shaking the hand of Pelosi. I also did not approve of aspects of his speech, including bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Rush Limbaugh in the gallery like a reality show surprise scene. There was much to object to in the address, but presidents often make comments that enrage or irritate speakers. However, none of that excuses Pelosi. At that moment, she represents the House as an institution — both Republicans and Democrats. Instead, she decided to become little more than a partisan troll from an elevated position.

The protests of the Democratic members also reached a new low for the House. Pelosi did not gavel out the protest. She seemed to join it. It was the tradition of the House that a speaker must remain in stone-faced neutrality no matter what comes off that podium. The tradition ended last night with one of the more shameful and inglorious moments of the House in its history. Rather than wait until she left the floor, she decided to demonstrate against the President as part of the State of the Union and from the Speaker’s chair. That made it a statement not of Pelosi but of the House. For those of us who truly love the House as an institution, it was one of the lowest moments to unfold on the floor. That is why I argue in the Hill that, if Pelosi does not apologize and agree to honor the principle of neutrality and civility at the State of the Union, she should resign as speaker.

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Tweet: “Buttigieg campaign manager’s wife owns the app company that ruined the Iowa caucuses, and his campaign DONATED $42,500.00 to that same company, Shadow Inc.”

The video is educative.

Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)

Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck in the Iowa caucuses with almost all of the votes counted. Buttigieg has 26.23 percent of the state delegate count to 26.06 percent for Sanders with 97 percent of precincts reporting, making the race too close to call, according to The Associated Press. Elizabeth Warren is in third at 18 percent of the state delegate count, followed by Joe Biden at nearly 16 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 12 percent. After a technical meltdown created significant delays in the reporting of results in Monday’s caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party released almost all of the remaining data Wednesday night. The latest results came as CNN wrapped up a series of town halls with candidates in New Hampshire.

Earlier results came Wednesday afternoon as Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar were in the Senate voting in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The Republican-led chamber ultimately voted to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as the numbers from Iowa were released. The latest results don’t change the order of the top five candidates, but they do show a razor-thin race at the top, where both the Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have already declared themselves winners. Buttigieg insisted as early as Monday night that he was the clear victor, and he reportedly reassured supporters of that in a phone call on Wednesday. Sanders, meanwhile, told supporters in New Hampshire that he was leading in popular-vote totals and would come out of Iowa with the same number of national convention delegates as Buttigieg.


In terms of raw votes, Sanders leads in by more than 2,500 votes in the final alignment of Iowa caucus-goers, after supporters of non-viable candidates had the chance to realign at their precincts on Monday night.

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The entire impeachment trial was based on Trump wanting dirt on his “main political rival”. But Biden was never that. At the time of the Trump/Zelensky call, enough was known about Hunter/Burisma to realize Joe had no chance. And there was very little to suggest that Hunter/Burisma did not warrant an investigation. But Dems keep on saying it was “debunked”, without being able to suggest who did the debunking.

Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)

White House hopeful Joe Biden has called his poor performance in the Democrats’ first 2020 leadership vote, in Iowa’s caucuses, a “gut punch”. Mr Biden has come fourth, according to incomplete results from the election to pick a Democratic presidential nominee. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Mr Biden said. “This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.” With most results declared in Monday’s glitch-plagued caucuses, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are neck and neck. But Mr Biden told an audience in New Hampshire: “I’m not going anywhere.”

According to partial results from Iowa, the former US vice-president under Barack Obama has failed to pick up a single one of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic White House nomination under America’s quirky political system. New Hampshire will be the next state to vote on 11 February in a string of nationwide votes culminating with the crowning of the party’s presidential candidate in July. Eleven contenders remain in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, a Republican, in November’s election.

[..] On Wednesday, Mr Biden sharpened his attacks, targeting the two Democratic front-runners by name. “We need a nominee who can help Democrats up and down the ticket,” Mr Biden said. He suggested that self-described democratic socialist Mr Sanders would be unelectable in a general election. Mr Biden also said it would be a “risk” to nominate 38-year-old Mr Buttigieg, “someone who’s never held an office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people”. Mr Buttigieg responded by saying “the bulk of the credit for the achievements of the Obama administration belong with President Obama”.

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As go strictly partisan battles.

In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)

Recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell declared that his show will not allow Trump supporters on as guests because all Trump supporters are “liars”. Likewise, Trump recently denounced Fox for even interviewing Democratic senators. When that is the state of our news, why should trials be any different? In our hardened political silos, even Framers are bit players in a crushingly formulaic play. Witnesses are as immaterial as facts when the public demands the same predictability from politicians that they do from cable hosts. We are all to blame. Politicians achieve their offices by saying what voters want to hear and today voters have little tolerance for hearing anything that contradicts their preset views of Trump.

As a result, the trial was pre-packed by popular demand. Speaker Nancy Pelosi even declared that Trump would “not be acquitted” even if he was acquitted. When the actual vote doesn’t matter, why should the actual testimony? Just as voters get the government that they deserve, they also get the impeachment trials that they demand. Watching on their favourite biased cable networks, voters raged at the bias of the opposing side in the impeachment as refusing to see the truth. Viewers thrilled as their side denounced their opponents and hissed when those opponents returned the criticism. The question and answer period even took on a crossfire format as senators followed up one side’s answer with a request for the other side to respond.

It was precisely the “fight, fight” tempo that has made cable news a goldmine. As the trial ends, perhaps justice has been done. The largely partisan vote showed that the trial could have had the sound turned off for the purposes of most viewers. We are left with our rage undiluted by reason. It really did not matter what anyone had to say because we were only hearing half of the trial anyway. It provided the perfect verdict on our times.

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Nancy should go home and be a grandma. She acted like a 5-year old during and after the SOTU. You don’t express your “hatred” of someone by imitating their behavior. Grace.

Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)

The House has its share of infamies, great and small, real and symbolic, and has been the scene of personal infamies from brawls to canings. But the conduct of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the State of the Union address this week will go down as a day of infamy for the chamber as an institution. It has long been a tradition for House Speakers to remain stoic and neutral in listening to the address. However, Pelosi seemed to be intent on mocking President Trump from behind his back with sophomoric facial grimaces and head shaking, culminating in her ripping up a copy of his address.

Her drop the mic moment will have a lasting impact on the House. While many will celebrate her trolling of the president, she tore up something far more important than a speech. Pelosi has shredded decades of tradition, decorum and civility that the nation could use now more than ever. The House Speaker is more than a political partisan, particularly when carrying out functions such as the State of the Union address. A president appears in the House as a guest of both chambers of Congress. The House Speaker represents not her party or herself but the entirety of the chamber. At that moment, she must transcend her own political ambitions and loyalties.

Tensions for this address were high. The House impeachment managers sat as a group in front of the president as a reminder of the ongoing trial. That can be excused as a silent but pointed message from the Democrats. Trump hardly covered himself with glory by not shaking hands with Pelosi. I also strongly disliked elements of his address which bordered on “check under your seat” moments, and the awarding of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom inside the House gallery like a Mardi Gras bead toss. However, if Trump made the State of the Union look like Oprah, then Pelosi made it look like Jerry Springer.

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Yeah. Buttigieg’s campaign manager is married to a woman who owns Shadow Inc. , which produced an app developed by among others Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook. And Bloomberg has his people inside the DNC. As does Biden, obviously. It smells like incest.

Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

As the Democratic National Committee establishes procedures for the Democratic presidential nominating process, two members of DNC rules committees simultaneously work on the campaign of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Having surrogates on the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee and the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee could be a boon for Bloomberg if nominating rules are re-opened for amendment ahead of the July convention. Some DNC members who are concerned about the polling support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) have discussed reversing rule changes limiting the power of superdelegates that were put in place after the 2016 election, according to a report from Politico. Those discussions have been sharply rebuked by DNC leadership.

The DNC passed intensely-negotiated rule changes in August 2018 that sought to reduce the influence of superdelegates—appointed at-large delegates whose ranks include influential party consultants—primarily by preventing them from casting votes on the first nomination ballot, as they did in 2016. If no candidate receives a majority on the first ballot at the upcoming convention, which will be voted on by 3,979 pledged delegates, then the 771 superdelegates—including some lobbyists for corporate clients—can vote on the second ballot, under the new rules. If the superdelegates were to vote as a block, they could add over 16% to a candidate, potentially pushing their favorite over the top.

Michael Nutter, the former Mayor of Philadelphia who is a member of the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee, was selected by Bloomberg in December 2019 to serve as his campaign’s national political chair. “Nutter will advise the campaign on policy development and strategy, and serve as a national surrogate on behalf of the campaign, recruiting key voices to join the campaign and traveling to field offices and events, speaking to constituents and press about why Mike Bloomberg is uniquely qualified to unite and rebuild the country at a time when it is more divided than ever,” the Bloomberg campaign said in a December statement.

Nutter was nominated by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in 2013 and he has served on the rules committee since 2017. Nutter co-hosted a kick-off fundraiser for former vice president Joe Biden in April 2019 after Bloomberg announced a month earlier that he would not run for president, but he quickly switched to Bloomberg’s camp after the former New York mayor reversed course and entered the race.

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Who needs drug labs?

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Feb 052020
 


Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950

 

Hi, it’s me again, with more virus stories. I know you may think it’s enough now, but I do want to do this one. Actually, I haven’t written all that much about it, just two essays, 2019-nCoV and The Party and the Virus, but the topic has become a staple of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregators lately. So much that I find I need to remind myself all the time that it’s been a news item for only two weeks, going back to January 20 or so.

Through those two weeks, I’ve seen a number of studies, simulations, models, of where the virus can be expected to go going forward. And I want to take a look at some of them. I said early on that I didn’t like people talking about the economy as soon as the first people died, but 2 weeks later, given the growth of the epidemic, that doesn’t appear avoidable anymore.

People are starting to wonder what’s going to happen to society at large, and in “the markets” -or what’s left of them after central bank manipulation- if and when the virus remains an issue for an X amount of time. I think I can explain some of the parameters, though I want to make clear predicting what viruses do is, even for virologists, crystal ball material, and I ain’t got one of those.

 

China injected $242.74 billion into the markets via reverse repos on Monday and Tuesday, and stocks seem to have made up for their $445 billion losses on Monday. But what exactly is that optimism based on? Is it that “investors” think the PBOC will have their backs no matter what? Is it the reports of companies like Gilead testing possible solutions, vaccines?

I’m not an expert, but I do know it takes a sophisticated drug company about a year to develop a drug/vaccine for a novel disease, as “WuhanCorona” is. From what I can gather, the Gilead drug (co-)tested by the Chinese is basically an anti-viral developed with Ebola in mind, which may or may not work. Ebola is somewhere related to “WuhanCorona”, in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, but that’s it. HIV drugs could also perhaps work to some extent, but that’s a big question.

So what the optimism in the “markets” is based on, you tell me. Are people so afraid of what might be coming that their minds switch off, are they afraid to get informed, or do they genuinely think it’ll all soon be over? Me, I hope it’ll turn out fine, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. And that’s based on what I’ve been reading.

 

When reporting on the Wuhan situation started for real in the west, let’s say January 20 (that’s just 16 days ago!), there were 291 registered infection cases. There are 27,648 now, and 564 people have died. Those are “official” Chinese numbers, and there are plenty doubts about their accuracy (see today’s stories about Tencent posting 10x higher numbers), but let’s roll with the official ones for the moment. I’m going to hop through time a little, but please bear with me, there is a logic.

First, there’s this from January 28 in the SCMP (South China Morning Post), a major Hong Kong news outlet owned by -very Chinese- Alibaba. Zhong Nanshan is a scientist working for the government. My first reaction when I saw this was: it looks like he’s doing damage control for the CCP.

 

Chinese Experts Say Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Will Not Last

One of China’s top experts said the Wuhan coronavirus infection rate could peak in early February. “I estimate that it will reach its peak in around the next week or 10 days, after that there will be no more major increases,” said Zhong Nanshan, the respiratory disease scientist who played the pivotal role in China’s fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) coronavirus epidemic in 2002-03.


[..] Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention [said] he was “optimistic” that the outbreak’s “turning point” could arrive by February 8 if current disease control protocol is maintained.

3 days earlier, January 25 (that’s just 11 days ago!), the SCMP ran this piece on the same Zhong Nanshan, which reinforces my image of him a bit more. One might argue that Beijing has become more transparent recently, but the facts remain that for instance the WuhanCorona virus can be traced back to early December if not earlier, and that after the first death on December 9 no testing at all was done in Wuhan for a week.

Just to name a few things. So for a scientist to claim that “Beijing has no secrets to hide” and “has not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan” is at the very least over the top.

 

China Has Been Transparent About Wuhan Outbreak, Virus Expert Zhong Nanshan Says

Chinese officials have been transparent in handling the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and the participation of a Hong Kong professor through the process indicates that Beijing has no secrets to hide, said one of the country’s leading experts on communicable diseases. Dr Zhong Nanshan, whose team is advising the leadership on how to handle the crisis, told a news conference in Guangzhou on Tuesday that China had not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan, which has sickened more than 300 people across the country since early December.

But also on January 25, there was this Zero Hedge piece about British scientist Jonathan Read, who had completely different ideas about the outbreak. Note: both predictions focus on Feb 4.

 

UK Researcher Predicts Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In Ten Days

[..] in 10 days time, or by February 4, 2020, Read’s model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250 thousand (with an prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396); [..] Read estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24)..


[..] Read’s model alleges that Beijing was woefully late in its response and that recently imposed “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February.”

Very different. Remember his “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China”, it’ll come in handy later. Now, I’ve been posting a few math sequences, Fibonacci and otherwise, and those are way too negative, or at least would seem to be.

Problem with that is, as with many facets of the whole thing, we don’t know. There are simply too many scientists who state that real infection- and fatality numbers are much higher than what Beijing reports. They do that based on models, simulations etc. Not because they want The Party (CCP) to look bad, but because the models tell them.

An example: SCMP reported early Tuesday that the mortality rate for the city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%, while the mortality rate for Hubei province as a whole is 3.1%. They added that the mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop, because extra medical attention is available etc. But we know that extra attention threatens to be overwhelmed by too many patients, shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc. Nice try, but…

 

All this just to get to why I started writing this, which is a report published at The Lancet on January 31, from Hong Kong University (HKU). I have cited previously that it estimated 75,815 people had been infected in Wuhan on January 25, a far cry from the 1,300 official number at that point. And yes, I do want to use the discrepancy to cast at least some doubt on the official numbers.

But there’s something else that I would like to focus on. The same report also says that the epidemic -or episode, pandemic- would end “around April” 2020, so between, say, mid-March and mid-May, 6 weeks and 14 weeks from now, if certain conditions are met. And that’s just Wuhan. Add another 2 weeks “across cities in mainland China”.

The full name of the paper by Prof Joseph T. Wu, PhD, Kathy Leung, PhD and Prof Gabriel M. Leung, MD is “Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study”

It says: “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

[..] In this modelling study, we first inferred the basic reproductive number of 2019-nCoV and the outbreak size in Wuhan from Dec 1, 2019, to Jan 25, 2020, on the basis of the number of cases exported from Wuhan to cities outside mainland China. We then estimated the number of cases that had been exported from Wuhan to other cities in mainland China. Finally, we forecasted the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China, accounting for the Greater Wuhan region quarantine implemented since Jan 23–24, 2020, and other public health interventions.

Figure 2 summarises our estimates of the basic reproductive number R0 and the outbreak size of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. In our baseline scenario, we estimated that R0 was 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) with an epidemic doubling time of 6·4 days (95% CrI 5·8–7·1;).

We estimated that 75 815 individuals (95% CrI 37 304- 130 330) had been infected in Greater Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. We also estimated that Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, had imported 461 (227–805), 113 (57–193), 98 (49–168), 111 (56–191), and 80 (40–139) infections from Wuhan, respectively.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen were the mainland Chinese cities that together accounted for 53% of all outbound international air travel from China and 69% of international air travel outside Asia, whereas Chongqing is a large metropolis that has a population of 32 million and very high ground traffic volumes with Wuhan. Substantial epidemic take-off in these cities would thus contribute to the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China.

 


Figure 2 – Posterior distributions of estimated basic reproductive number and estimated outbreak size in greater Wuhan
NOTE: a zoonosis is an infectious disease that can spread between animals and humans. FOI = force of infection

 

Figure 4 shows the epidemic curves for Wuhan, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen with a R0 of 2·68, assuming 0%, 25%, or 50% decrease in transmissibility across all cities, together with 0% or 50% reduction in inter-city mobility after Wuhan was quarantined on Jan 23, 2020.

The epidemics would fade out if transmissibility was reduced by more than 1–1/R0=63%. Our estimates suggested that a 50% reduction in inter-city mobility would have a negligible effect on epidemic dynamics.

We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.

If transmissibility was reduced by 25% in all cities domestically, then both the growth rate and magnitude of local epidemics would be substantially reduced; the epidemic peak would be delayed by about 1 month and its magnitude reduced by about 50%.

A 50% reduction in transmissibility would push the viral reproductive number to about 1·3, in which case the epidemic would grow slowly without peaking during the first half of 2020.

However, our simulation suggested that wholesale quarantine of population movement in Greater Wuhan would have had a negligible effect on the forward trajectories of the epidemic because multiple major Chinese cities had already been seeded with more than dozens of infections each.

The probability that the chain of transmission initiated by an infected case would fade out without causing exponential epidemic growth decreases sharply as R0 increases (eg, <0·2 when R0>2).

As such, given the substantial volume of case importation from Wuhan, local epidemics are probably already growing exponentially in multiple major Chinese cities.

Given that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen together accounted for more than 50% of all outbound international air travel in mainland China, other countries would likely be at risk of experiencing 2019-nCoV epidemics during the first half of 2020.

 


Figure 4 – Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility

 

Ergo: reducing mobility is ineffective because too much mobility had already happened prior to the lockdowns. That ship has sailed. Not that one shouldn’t try to limit mobility, but it can’t stop the disease from spreading. The HKU team doesn’t say much about how they would see transmissibility lowered, but that seems to come down to more, and intense, lockdowns.

There’s a cruise ship floating off Yokohama where everyone is ordered to stay in their cabin because of the virus. Think along those lines: ordering people to stay in their homes. Sort of like the Black Death plague in 14th century Europe.

Perhaps there are anti-virals that can lower transmissibility somewhat, but that is by no means sure. The discovery ofasymptomatic transmitters doesn’t help either. You can’t very well test everyone, you test those with symptoms.

Chinese health authorities have identified a number of patients who have become carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus despite showing no outward symptoms of the disease. Li Xingwang, chief infectious diseases expert at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said most of the “dormant” carriers were related to and had caught the virus from patients with symptoms.


“These [carriers] have the virus and can transmit it. The amount of virus correlates to the severity of the illness, which means these patients carry less of the virus and their ability to transmit disease is weaker,” Li said.

 

Lunar New Year holidays have been extended everywhere across China, except in a few rare places. Major cities are under full lockdown. Western companies are scrambling to find alternative suppliers. Just 2 weeks into the epidemic. What happens when the factories stay closed for 6 or 16 more weeks?

Where will Chinese and western stocks be then? Xi Jinping has declared the WuhanCorona virus the number 1 threat. How can he order the factories to re-open before mid-April at the earliest then, when the peak of the epidemic hasn’t even been reached? But at the same time, can he afford to order all production shut for 2-3-4 months?

Thing about such peaks is, you can only see them in the rearview mirror. But you can bet that in 2-3 weeks max, people will solemnly declare the peak is here. Because the existing but especially potential economic damage will be so great. Bur declaring a peak too soon, let alone the end of the epidemic, is too much of a risk.

The way things are going, pretty soon there won’t be any westerners left in China, other than those who wish to stay permanently. Many if not most factories will be closed. No Chinese will be allowed to visit the rest of the world, while Chinese products will not ship there.

The big lockdown has just begun. Because once you start it, you can’t go back until you can prove that everything is safe. And that will in all likelihood take a long time, months. When will absolutely everybody have faith that everything is safe? When nobody falls ill anymore, when nobody can infect other people anymore.

But that’s a long way away. April, May, or later? And that in an economic system built on just-in-time delivery? Chinese oil demand is allegedly down 20% already. How can oil prices not fall if that is true? Since those prices are linked to the US dollar, what will happen with the currency?

There are too many questions that nobody can answer, or even try to. That’s complex systems for you. And I really really hope I’m wrong, but the way out of the lockdown is not clear at all.

The world cannot afford the risk of consciously helping to spread a lethal pandemic. And the only way to prevent it may be the big lockdown. Unless there’s a vaccine. But there isn’t one right now.

Overly alarmist, you say? Let’s hope so.

 

 

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Dec 222019
 
 December 22, 2019  Posted by at 10:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Esther Bubley Passengers on Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus 1943

 

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)
Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)
Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)
Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)
The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)
We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)
2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)
2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)
Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)
Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

 

 

But then he says it on average every other day.

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)

US President Donald Trump has said that Beijing and Washington, locked in a bitter trade dispute, will be inking a trade deal “very shortly,” claiming a breakthrough has been achieved in the recent talks. Trump was speaking at the Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, as he made the announcement. “We just achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal and we will be signing it very shortly,” he said, without providing any additional details as to the terms of the mooted agreement or the timeframe within which it is expected to be signed.

Trump said that he spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday, noting that Beijing has been “already buying billions and billions of agricultural products” from US farmers. The US push for China to step up purchase of US farm products has been one of the key demands of the Trump administration in the negotiations, that had dragged on for almost two years without bearing much fruit. However, last week Washington and Beijing announced that they finally reached “a historic and enforceable agreement” that will see the US lowering levies on $120 billion worth of Chinese imports, while 25% tariffs an another $250 billion worth of Chinese goods would still remain in effect.

China reciprocated by agreeing to boost purchase of American products to up to $200 billion over the next two years, that include agricultural products. In addition, Beijing suspended a new tariff hike on a series of US goods, ranging from corn and wheat to vehicles and auto parts.

Read more …

If the deal is so good for the US, why this? Is Xi just saving face?

Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Friday the “phase one” trade deal is beneficial to both China and the U.S., according to state-run media agency Xinhua. “The first-phase economic and trade agreement reached between the U.S. and China is a good thing for the U.S., China, and the entire world,” Xi said. “Both the U.S. and Chinese markets and the world have responded very positively to this. The U.S. is willing to maintain close communication with China and strive to sign and implement it as soon as possible.”


Xi acknowledged a phone call he had on Friday with President Donald Trump regarding the trade agreement. Trump said earlier Friday that they had a “very good talk,” that China has started “large scale” purchases of U.S. agricultural products and a formal deal signing is being arranged. The Xinhua report didn’t mention any detail in the limited trade deal. The two countries announced last week that they had agreed on the text of the agreement that includes some tariff relief and increased agricultural buying. Xi expressed serious concerns over the U.S.2 recent involvement in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, saying these practices interfered with China’s internal affairs, harmed China’s interests, and were not conducive to mutual trust and cooperation.

Read more …

The SCMP lifts part of the veil.

Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)

The different approaches adopted by American and Chinese officials in dealing with the long-awaited first trade deal reflect their different sentiments and views on the result of the marathon deliberations. US President Donald Trump has been super proud of the accord, praising it as “a big deal”, “an amazing deal”, and “a historic deal”. In sharp contrast, Beijing has maintained a rarely seen cautious attitude, with its often superlatively upbeat state media muted and shying away from commenting on the development. The only positive word used in China’s official statement is “significant”. In news briefings, United States officials gave detailed information and specific numbers about the accord, trying to give the impression that the deal is “measurable, enforceable and verifiable”.

Chinese officials, by comparison, released just the outlines of agreement in nine areas without giving any specifics. The fact that Beijing has released fewer details about the deal than Washington might speak volumes. The downgraded signing ceremony for the “significant” deal might be more evidence of differing views over the significance of the accord. The deal will not be signed by both presidents as planned, but instead by their lead negotiators – US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a change that is likely to have been a Chinese suggestion. From the beginning, the US-China trade talks have been a one-way avenue as they are all about a deal between what the US wants and what China can give.

Trump initiated the tariff war with the aim of forcing China to overhaul its state-dominated system and market-unfriendly policy, and to change what the US claimed were unfair trade practices. The nine areas outlined in the 86-page document China released are largely about how it has to make changes – in other words, the accord is a must-do list for Beijing. In the tariff war, Washington apparently has the upper hand as the US has imported much more from China than vice versa. Thus Washington slapped tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products, while Beijing, in turn, lashed back at US$185 billion worth of American products – with the sum of both figures equivalent to about the entire trade volume between the two countries.

[..] Beijing’s compromises are substantive. For instance, the Chinese pledge to purchase an additional US$100 million of American products and services in each of the next two years represents a 77 per cent jump in US imports from the 2017 level of US$130 billion. Beijing’s commitment to purchase US$40 billion to US$50 billion of agricultural produce over that period also represents a sharp increase from an all-time peak of US$29 billion and a current annual run rate of less than US$10 billion. These pledges, as they are easily described and verifiable, reflected China’s eagerness to reach a deal.

Read more …

I know many people don’t like Bannon, and don’t like Fox, but that doesn’t make this less interesting.

Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be the “trial of the century” in an interview with FOX Business Network’s Trish Regan. “I think this trial is going to be the trial of the century, and the mainstream media is going to be all over it,” Bannon said. “That’s why I think it’s so important not just for his legacy, but for his presidency and his second term. He’s got to engage in this. He’s got to take them on. He’s got to have the whistleblower; we have to have the Bidens in front of the nation and the world. They’re going to have to stand and deliver under oath. And we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And I think that’s going to lead to an exoneration, not just an acquittal, but an exoneration of President Trump.”

“The trial of the century. Wow. You know, a lot of people are worried, well, you get John Bolton. What is he going to do? What is John Bolton going to say? And what is this one going to say? What is that one going to say? What do you say to those concerns?” Regan asked. “The call was perfect. He looked at everything that led up to it,” Bannon answered. “This is why the American people heard him. And you just saw the bureaucrats that were in it that were testified. This is because that is the managed decline of the United States. This is about the Washington consensus. The Washington Post published the Afghanistan papers last week. Two trillion dollars. 2,400 dead. Tens of thousands wounded.

What’s that? That’s the inter-agency consensus in 18 years that betrayed our country. That’s what betrayed our countries. With Brennan, that’s what betrayed our country, not Donald Trump. Donald Trump has stood up. The reasons people cheer for him, it’s their sons and daughters that have died in Afghanistan. It’s their lives, their kids’ lives being thrown away, and their tax dollars. And they understand that Donald Trump is fighting that. That’s why we need a trial, a real trial and Senate with witnesses. So, before the world, Donald Trump could get his day in court.”

Read more …

Tulsi reveals how democratic the Democratic party really is.

The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)

Along strongly partisan lines, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two articles, by a total of 230-197-1 on abuse of power and 229-198-1 on obstruction of Congress. The first stems from his alleged pressuring of the Ukranian government to announce investigations into his political rival, Joe Biden. The second is because of his alleged refusal to cooperate with the investigation, withholding evidence and barring aides from testifying. The notable “1” in both counts was Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who, instead of siding with the overwhelming majority of her fellow Democrats, voted “present” both times.

[..] The Hawaii congresswoman explained her stance yesterday with a press release on her campaign website. “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she said. “I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.”

She also introduced a resolution calling on the House to censure Trump on five issues she implied were far more substantial. Those include carrying out wars without congressional approval, illegally “occupying and pillaging” Syria, “recklessly enabling” Turkey to invade Northern Syria and ethnically cleanse Kurds (a U.S. ally), continuing to support Saudi Arabia’s “genocidal war” in Yemen and scrapping nuclear agreements with Iran and Russia, thereby strongly increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

While her move was undeniably unpopular within the Democratic Party she is hoping to lead into the next election, impeachment itself is a highly controversial tactic. The latest poll from Gallup (published Wednesday) shows support for impeachment dropping well below 50 percent while the president’s approval ratings continue to move upwards. Furthermore, it is entirely unclear how Democrats intend to actually remove Trump from office as to do so would require a similar vote from the Republican-controlled Senate.

[..] the entire process is a high-risk strategy from the Democrats that some feel could end up backfiring. “Trump is going to be able to say there was a conspiracy against him– with some justification,” Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said. “It’s a disaster. If they had just not done this and argued against Trump’s presidency on other grounds– on how is America doing, inequality, all those things, it would have been tough for him. But now they’ve handed him a couple of issues, huge ones, that he’ll be able to carry all the way to the finish line…it’s amazing that they did this.”

Read more …

Team Maggot and Team Corpse..

We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)

With Trump’s impeachment it’s time to say goodbye to yesteryear’s Team Evil and Team Stupid. Say hello in 2020 to Team Maggot and Team Corpse! Even though Trump has not turned out to be the transformative and restorative president that many of his supporters might have hoped for, he certainly will be (assuming he survives impeachment, which he probably will) the lesser of evils in November 2020 compared to whoever ends up as the Maggot Party nominee. Worse from his opponents’ point of view, he remains a toxic avatar of the old America they thought would be well and truly laid to rest for ever and ever, amen, when Hillary Clinton came into her kingdom.

That having misfired in 2016, partisans of that legacy America’s marginalization, displacement, and eventual extinction can’t breathe easy while Trump remains in office lest he, however unlikely in view of his failures of performance, serve as a catalyst for revival of the historic American nation facing loss of its birthright: an organic, uncontrived, living ethnos characterized by European, mainly British origin (a/k/a, “white”); Christian, mainly Protestant; and English-speaking, as augmented by members of other groups who have totally or partially assimilated to it. The certified victim classes standing on the threshold of the permanent, total power that eluded them three years ago are haunted by the knowledge that there’s still lots of them Muricans in red MAGA hats rallying to Trump out there in Flyover Country ….

In short, Democrats hate Trump not so much for what he’s done (which, contrary to what his passionate supporters think based on his Tweets, isn’t much) but as an expression of an amorphous dread that by some mysterious populist alchemy he might still breathe life back into the Corpse Party’s deplorable base.

Read more …

Lots of 2019 overviews, of course. I don’t agree with thinking that this is a 2019 issue, though. For hysteria, look at 2020.

2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)

Then it happened … perhaps the loudest popcorn fart in political history. The Mueller Report was finally delivered. And just like that, Russiagate was over. After three long years of manufactured mass hysteria, corporate media propaganda, books, T-shirts, marches, etc., Robert Mueller had come up with squat. Zip. Zero. Nichts. Nada. No collusion. No pee-tape. No secret servers. No Russian contacts. Nothing. Zilch.

Cognitive dissonance gripped the nation. There was beaucoup wailing and gnashing of teeth. Resistance members doubled their anti-depressant dosages and went into mourning. Shell-shocked liberals did their best to pretend they hadn’t been duped, again, by authoritative sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, et al., which had disseminated completely fabricated stories about secret meetings which never took place, power grid hackings that never happened, Russian servers that never existed, imaginary Russian propaganda peddlers, and the list goes on, and on, and on … and hadn’t otherwise behaved like a bunch of mindless, shrieking neo-McCarthyites.

Except that Russiagate wasn’t over. It immediately morphed into “Obstructiongate.” As the corporate media spooks explained, Mueller’s investigation of Trump was never about collusion with Russia. No, it was always about Trump obstructing the investigation of the collusion with Russia that the investigation was not about, and that everyone knew had never happened. In other words, Mueller’s investigation was launched in order to investigate the obstruction of his investigation.

[..] Never mind that the entire planet continues to be ruled by global capitalism, transnational corporations, and supra-governmental bodies, and that most of it is occupied by the U.S. military, NATO, and other GloboCap allies, and assorted corporate military contractors. Never mind that Russia isn’t “attacking” anyone, and that the “Nazis” haven’t taken over anything, and that no one is rounding up and murdering the Jews, or the Mexicans, or anyone else for that matter … because when have facts had anything to do with maintaining an official narrative?

The answer, in case you were wondering, is “never.” We are, all of us, living in a fiction. A fiction authored by those in power to serve the interests of those in power. That’s what an official narrative is. It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. It functions as “reality” regardless. If you doubt that … well, just ask Jeremy Corbyn. Or watch as the Labour “anti-Semitism crisis” evaporates into thin air, as the War on Terror did in 2016, once it no longer served a useful purpose.

Read more …

We go back a long way with Dave. Which has been hindered a lot by Twitter removing him from my feed. Extra good to see he still reads the Automatic Earth as one of his staples.

As for the review.. who has the time?

2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)

I read many blogs, but those I read religiously include mailings from Ron Griess’s The Chart Store, Jim Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, Bill Fleckenstein’s Daily Rap, Tony Greer’s daily TGMacro mailings, Grant Williams Things That Make You Go Hmmm, Automatic Earth, Jesse Felder’s blog, and selected podcasts from Grant Williams’ and Raoul Pal’s RealVisionTV. I am a huge supporter of Adam Taggart’s and Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity. And then there’s Zerohedge: you can love ‘em or hate ‘em, but I am a die-hard fan of Zerohedge.

“Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.”

~ @LifeTipsPage

Read more …

Sweden has lots of serious issues, Assange is just one of them. I’m still surprised at the lack of assertiveness of the Swedish people. So much so that sometimes I think perhaps they deserve what’s happening to them. That this may be the only way to wake them from their mental slumber.

Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)

Sweden’s Ministry of Justice pressured the country’s Crime Prevention Council to hide, manipulate, or ignore potentially embarrassing crime statistics, a university study has found. Sweden’s Crime Prevention Council (Brå) has a difficult task. In a country where media outlets omit police-circulated descriptions of suspects’ ethnicity, and the government actively downplays the surge in gun crime and bombings in its immigrant ghettoes, Brå is charged with compiling factual, accurate crime statistics. According to a study published by Linköping University this week, the government intervenes here too to downplay “politically sensitive” data.


Employees told the university researchers that their managers – acting on orders from the country’s Justice Ministry – instructed them to manipulate results on “hot potato” issues. Presumably, these results were ones that could embarrass the government, and likely dealt with issues of race or immigration. One interviewee stated that “methodological deficiencies” was the reason given for the change. Brå’s own statistics show an upsurge in lethal violence since 2014, particularly among criminals and in disadvantaged and immigrant neighborhoods. They also show a sharp rise in sexual violence, assaults, threats and robbery since 2015, when the country welcomed more than 160,000 refugees and migrants – more per capita than any other European country.

Read more …

Not the greatest interview, but a great message nonetheless. Julian should be with his family for Christmas.

Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

Exclusive: The mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be celebrating Christmas again this year. Distraught that her son remains in the notorious Belmarsh prison, Australian Christine Assange said she has nothing to mark. “All I want for Christmas is my son Julian to be home safe with his family, under the protection of his country, to be free from this nine-year unlawful and brutal political persecution and to heal from the human rights abuses and torture which have damaged his mind and body,” said Ms Assange. Unable to speak with her son since he was jailed earlier this year, Ms Assange said all she has for Christmas this year are memories.

“Our Christmases were never boring. Julian would delight the children in the family with special Christmas performances,” said Ms Assange, in her first interview since his imprisonment. She revealed he would delight the children with a trick involving shaving sparklers and putting them in the mouth of a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur toy, lighting it, giving the impression that he was alive and breathing fire. She said Julian had a lot of fun with his own son Daniel, decorating the Christmas tree. “He was a devoted, innovative and playful father,” she said. “Julian would love to string up the fairy lights …. we would make homemade decorations together.

“Julian’s Christmas presents were always very thoughtful. “He chose presents for the children in the family that would encourage curiosity, creativity and inventiveness.” “He would give me art books and materials because he knew I had a passion for art.” “I really miss our family Christmases … they have never been the same without him. There is something missing. We haven’t had a proper family Christmas since he has been detained … nothing is the same”.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Mar 042019
 


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

Read more …

Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

Read more …

Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

Read more …

This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

Read more …

25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

Read more …

Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

Read more …

You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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Feb 262019
 


Salvador Dali The Feeling of Becoming 1931

 

Bubble-Era Home Mortgages Are A Disaster Waiting To Happen (Jurow)
18 Reasons Why Australian Property Prices Will Fall Further (AFR)
Imports by China, Emerging Asia Plunge Most Since 2008 (WS)
Debt Roars Back in China, Deleveraging Is Dead (BBG)
With 10-to-1 Leverage, Shadow Banks Fuel China’s Huge Stock Boom (BBG)
Paul Volcker Is Worried About the ‘Culture of the Financial System’ (Fortune)
Rising Level Of Corporate Debt A Risk To Global Economy – OECD
Germany & Netherlands The Only Real Euro Winners (RT)
Jeremy Corbyn: We’ll Back A Second Referendum To Stop Tory No-Deal Brexit (G.)
UK and US Agree Post-Brexit Derivatives Trading Deal (G.)
Judge Threatens To ‘Shut Down’ Cancer Patient’s Lawyer in Monsanto Case (G.)
Concrete Is Tipping Us Into Climate Catastrophe. It’s Payback Time (Vidal)

 

 

“..almost one-third of these delinquent owners had not paid the mortgage for at least five years..”

Bubble-Era Home Mortgages Are A Disaster Waiting To Happen (Jurow)

Remember all those sub-prime mortgages that blew up in 2007 and popped the housing bubble? The widely-held consensus is that millions of them were foreclosed as housing markets cratered. [..] The truth is these mortgages are still dangerous and could soon undermine the housing recovery. Collectively, loans from the bubble period that were not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were called non-agency securitized mortgages. Researcher Black Box Logic had an enormous database of non-agency loans until it was sold to Moody’s three years ago. At the peak of the buying madness — November 2007 — its database showed 10.6 million loans outstanding with a total balance of $2.43 trillion.

In 2016, Fitch Ratings first published a spreadsheet showing what percentage of these loans had been delinquent for more than three-, four-, or five years. Here is an updated table showing the 10-worst states and how the number of deadbeat borrowers has soared.

In 2012, just 2% of all these delinquent borrowers had not paid for more than five years. Two years later that number had skyrocketed to 21%. Why? Mortgage servicers around the country had discontinued foreclosing on millions of delinquent properties. Homeowners got wind of this and realized they could probably stop making payments without any consequences whatsoever. So they did. Take a good look at the figures for 2016. Nationwide, almost one-third of these delinquent owners had not paid the mortgage for at least five years.

In the worst four states, more than half of them were long-term deadbeats. Notice also that four of the other states were those you would not expect to have this rampant delinquency — North Dakota, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland. Another way to gauge the extent of the problem is to look at the major metros with the highest delinquency rate. Here is a table of the 10 metros with the worst delinquency rate in early 2016, taken from Black Box Logic’s database.

Within the last two years, important graphs and tables showing the extent of the delinquency mess have disappeared from reports issued regularly by Fannie Mae, mutual fund provider TCW, and data provider Black Knight Financial Services. According to a TCW spokesperson, the graph is no longer published in the firm’s Mortgage Market Monitor because there did not seem to be much demand for it. Really? This graph had appeared in their report for years and showed the extremely high percentage of modified non-agency loans where the borrower had re-defaulted. Meanwhile, the omitted Fannie Mae table also showed the rising percentage of modified Fannie Mae loans that had re-defaulted. Its last published table showed re-default rates of almost 40%. Do you think these important omissions are just coincidence?

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25% in 2019 alone?!

18 Reasons Why Australian Property Prices Will Fall Further (AFR)

The housing market has taken a turn for the worse moving deeper into the decline of a debt-financed asset bubble, possibly driving house prices to fall by as much as 25 per cent in 2019 on nominal terms, according to housing bear and analyst LF Economics. The group made up of Lindsay David and Philip Soos, who have authored books on boom and bust in housing markets, lists 18 factors that are putting extreme pressure on the Sydney and Melbourne markets. Their baseline prediction is a 15 per cent to 20 per cent fall in prices just in 2019 although 25 per cent is possible.

One of the main factors driving the pressure is $120 billion worth of interest-only loans that are transitioning to principal and interest loans between now and 2021. “Banks and regulators have already softened their stance on these borrowers, allowing some greater time to sell or extending the interest-only period ,” LF Economics said in a new report “Let The Bloodbath Begin”. “Nevertheless, with debt repayments rising anywhere between 20 [per cent] to 50 per cent upon conversion, many recent borrowers will be placed under considerable financial stress.”

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Question: how are the shadow banks linked to international trade?

Imports by China, Emerging Asia Plunge Most Since 2008 (WS)

Imports by China and other emerging Asian economies in December plunged to the lowest level in two years, in the steepest one-month plunge since 2008, after having already plunged in November, according to the Merchandise World Trade Monitor, released on Monday by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, a division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. For November and December combined, imports by China and other Emerging Asian Economies plunged 13%, the steepest two-month plunge since November and December 2008 (-18%). In point terms, it was the largest plunge in the data going back to 2000. “Emerging Asia” includes China, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Singapore. But China is by far the largest economy in the group, and by far the largest importer in the group.

The fact that imports into Emerging Asia are plunging is a sign of suddenly and sharply weakening demand in China. This type of abrupt demand-downturn was clearly visible in the double-digit plunge in new-vehicle sales in China over the last four months of 2018, plunging demand in many other sectors in China, and record defaults by Chinese companies. When it comes to China, “plunge is no longer an exaggeration. So the US trade actions against China – the variously implemented, threatened, or delayed tariffs – was largely geared toward hitting exports by China to the US. But it was imports that plunged! Exports from Emerging Asia too dropped in November and December, but not nearly as brutally as imports, down by 6.7% over the two months combined. And these drops were not all that unusual in the export index:

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Xi has lost control. There are reports about him being replaced, but that would be way into the future, if it happens.

Debt Roars Back in China, Deleveraging Is Dead (BBG)

For almost two years, the question has lingered over China’s market-roiling crackdown on financial leverage: How much pain can the country’s policy makers stomach? Evidence is mounting that their limit has been reached. From bank loans to trust-product issuance to margin-trading accounts at stock brokerages, leverage in China is rising nearly everywhere you look. While seasonal effects explain some of the gains, analysts say the trend has staying power as authorities shift their focus from containing the nation’s $34 trillion debt pile to shoring up the weakest economic expansion since 2009.

The government’s evolving stance was underscored by President Xi Jinping’s call for stable growth late last week, while on Monday the banking regulator said the deleveraging push had reached its target. “Deleveraging is dead,” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist at Natixis in Hong Kong. Investors reacted positively to the official remarks, with the more than 30 brokerages listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen up by the 10 percent daily limit on Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s biggest lender by assets, rose 6.3 percent.

[..] China’s overall leverage ratio stood at 243.7 percent at the end of 2018, with corporate debt reaching 154 percent, household borrowings at 53 percent and government leverage at 37 percent, according to Zhang Xiaojing, deputy head of the Institute of Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Before that, the nation’s leverage ratio climbed at an average 12 percentage points each year between 2008 and 2016. China’s total debt will rise relative to GDPthis year, after a flat 2017 and a decline in 2018, Wang Tao, head of China economic research at UBS in Hong Kong, predicted in a report this month. While Wang cautioned that “re-leveraging” may increase concerns about China’s commitment to ensuring financial stability, investors have so far cheered the prospect of easier credit conditions.

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The shadows reign supreme in China.

“..a rally that added more than $1 trillion to stock values since the start of 2019.”

With 10-to-1 Leverage, Shadow Banks Fuel China’s Huge Stock Boom (BBG)

Eager to pile into the world’s most-volatile major stock market with 10-to-1 leverage? China’s shadow bankers are happy to help – and that has the nation’s policy makers worried. Just hours after China’s CSI 300 Index notched a 6 percent surge on Monday, its biggest gain in more than three years, the country’s securities regulator warned of a rise in unregulated margin debt and asked brokerages to increase monitoring for abnormal trades. The China Securities Regulatory Commission’s statement followed a pickup in advertising by margin-finance platforms, which operate with little to no supervision and offer far more leverage than the country’s regulated securities firms.

While margin debt in China is much lower today than when it helped precipitate a market collapse in 2015, investors are taking on leverage quickly as they chase a rally that added more than $1 trillion to stock values since the start of 2019. The risk is that a sudden reversal would force leveraged traders to sell, exacerbating volatility in a market that posted bigger swings than any of its peers over the past 30 days. That prospect may unnerve Chinese policy makers, who have a history of trying to protect the nation’s 147 million individual investors from outsized losses. “If the market continues to go up, the situation will get worse and so will the risks,” said Yang Hai, an analyst at Kaiyuan Securities Co. in Shanghai. “Under the current regulatory scope, investors have to shoulder risks themselves.”

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Finally someone talks to Volcker and he doesn’t say anything.

Paul Volcker Is Worried About the ‘Culture of the Financial System’ (Fortune)

Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker has some serious fears about the banking industry. And he believes supporting regulators to combat those fears is imperative. Speaking to analyst Mike Mayo in a CFA Enterprising Investor interview published on Monday, Volcker said that he’s “concerned” about the current “culture of the financial system, banking in particular.” He told Mayo that banks have been dominated by “how much profit the firm (and you) make.” And he believes that the focus on profitability could ultimately affect corporate oversight. “What’s the role of directors in keeping culture under control?” he asked. “Can the directors of a big bank really do an effective job of overseeing an institution? Or do they see their job as protecting the CEO who they appointed?

Or maybe the CEO appointed them, so there is a certain amount of built in mutual interest in ducking emphasis on internal controls.” Volcker, who served as Fed chairman during the Carter and Reagan administrations, has been one of the more vocal supporters of controlling and regulating banks. He’s the namesake for the Volcker Rule, which aims at limiting banking activity and bank interaction with hedge funds and private equity funds. It also puts the onus on banks to protect customers. In his interview with Mayo, Volcker talked about the importance of banks protecting their customers. He said that a right and good banking culture is one where “the customer comes first.” The issue, however, is that banks sometimes fail in doing that, Volcker said.

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No kidding.

Rising Level Of Corporate Debt A Risk To Global Economy – OECD

The global economy faces escalating risks from rising levels of corporate debt, with companies around the world needing to repay or refinance as much as $4tn (£3.1tn) over the next three years, according to the OECD. Sounding the alarm over the scale of the debt mountain built up over the past decade since the last financial crisis, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that global company borrowing has ballooned to reach $13tn by the end of last year – more than double the level before the 2008 crash. Nearly the equivalent of the entire US Federal Reserve balance sheet – roughly $4tn – will need to be repaid or refinanced over the coming years, the report said. However, the task is complicated by cooling economic growth from trade tensions and a slower rate of expansion in China ..

Financial market investors have grown increasingly concerned that high debt levels in the US could turn a looming slowdown for the world’s largest economy into a full-blown recession. High debt levels in several other nations as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates has also rattled financial markets in recent months. According to research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, a potential meltdown in the US bond market is the second biggest risk to the world economy after the US-China trade standoff, amid a combination of global economic headwinds “more wide-ranging and complex than at any point since the great recession”. The IMF has previously warned of gathering “storm clouds” for the world economy, including from trade tensions and heightened levels of debt – particularly in China.

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.. since 1999, Germans on average cumulatively richer by $26,120. Italians poorer by $84,000.

Germany & Netherlands The Only Real Euro Winners (RT)

The eurozone’s single currency, the euro, has been a serious drag on the economic growth of almost every member of the bloc, according to a study by German think tank, the Centre for European Politics (CEP).
Germany and the Netherlands, however, have benefited enormously from the euro over the 20 years since its launch, the study showed. The currency triggered credit and investment booms by extending the benefits of Germany’s low interest-rate environment across the bloc’s periphery. However, those debts became hard to sustain after the 2008 financial crisis, with Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus forced to seek financial aid as growth slowed and financing became scarce.

According to CEP, over the entire period since 1999, Germans were on average estimated to be cumulatively richer by €23,000 ($26,120) than they would otherwise have been, while the Dutch were €21,000 ($23,850) wealthier. To compare, Italians and French were each €74,000 ($84,000) and €56,000 ($63,600) poorer, respectively. The survey did not include one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies, Ireland, due to a lack of appropriate data. [..] In the first few years after its introduction, Greece gained hugely from the euro but since 2011 has suffered enormous losses,” the authors wrote, explaining that over the whole period, Greeks were each €190 ($216) richer than they would have been.

The study concluded that since the loser countries could no longer restore their competitiveness by devaluing their currencies, they had to double down on structural reforms. Spain was highlighted as a country that was on track to erase the growth deficit it had built up since the euro’s introduction. “Since 2011, euro accession has resulted in a reduction in prosperity. Losses reached their peak in 2014. Since then, they have been falling steadily,” said the report, adding: “The reforms that have been carried out, are paying off.”

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Corbyn should have been much more concerned about his credibility. This late in the game, does it even matter anymore?

Jeremy Corbyn: We’ll Back A Second Referendum To Stop Tory No-Deal Brexit (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has finally thrown his party’s weight behind a second EU referendum, backing moves for a fresh poll with remain on the ballot paper if Labour should fail to get its own version of a Brexit deal passed this week. The decision to give the party’s backing to a second referendum follows a concerted push by the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, and deputy leader, Tom Watson, who fear any further delay could have led to more defections to the breakaway Independent Group (TIG), whose members all back a second referendum. Although the move has delighted MPs who are backing the People’s Vote campaign, Corbyn is likely to face determined opposition from dozens of MPs in leave seats if the party whips to back a second referendum, including a significant number of frontbenchers.

The former shadow minister Lucy Powell said she believed at least 25 MPs would vote against any whip to back a second referendum, meaning that it would face an uphill struggle to pass the Commons without significant Conservative support. A private briefing sent to Labour MPs on Monday night and seen by the Guardian makes it clear that Labour’s policy would be to include remain as an option in any future referendum. “We’ve always said that any referendum would need to have a credible leave option and remain,” the briefing said. “Obviously at this stage that is yet to be decided and would have to be agreed by parliament.”

The briefing also makes it clear that the party would not support no deal being included on the ballot paper. “There’s no majority for a no-deal outcome and Labour would not countenance supporting no deal as an option,” the briefing says. “What we are calling for is a referendum to confirm a Brexit deal, not to proceed to no deal.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1100294356706168832

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No matter how big the political mess,

UK and US Agree Post-Brexit Derivatives Trading Deal (G.)

The US has lent its backing to Britain to protect the City from losing trillions of pounds of complex financial derivatives business after Brexit, warding off a potential banking industry land grab by the EU. In a joint announcement heralded as a sign of the special relationship between the UK and the US, the two countries said they would take every step to ensure the continued trading of derivatives across the Atlantic under every Brexit eventuality. Derivatives are financial contracts widely used by companies to manage risks, ranging from hedging against changes in central bank interest rates to fluctuations in commodity prices. Brexit threatens to unpick trading in the UK, even with the US, as City banks currently operate under EU rules while Britain is a member of the bloc.

Under the steps announced by the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority and the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, firms working in the US and the UK will continue to meet the requirements required to operate in both countries, even if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. London and New York sit at the centre of the world’s multitrillion-pound derivatives market, with the US and the UK controlling 80% of the $594tn (£454tn) a year business – worth more than five times world GDP. About a third of the £230tn of derivatives contracts traded in the UK every year come from US companies, more than any other jurisdiction. The development comes as Brussels prepares rules that would force clearing houses – financial institutions key to the trading of derivatives – outside the EU to come under the supervision of its regulators.

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This is getting awfully close to class justice. Monsanto has hundreds of the top lawyers, and what do the plaintiffs have?

Judge Threatens To ‘Shut Down’ Cancer Patient’s Lawyer in Monsanto Case (G.)

Monsanto is facing its first federal trial over allegations that its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, but a US judge has blocked attorneys from discussing the corporation’s alleged manipulation of science. In an extraordinary move in a packed San Francisco courtroom on Monday, US judge Vince Chhabria threatened to sanction and “shut down” a cancer patient’s attorney for violating his ban on talking about Monsanto’s influence on government regulators and cancer research. “You’ve completely disregarded the limitations that were set upon you,” the visibly angry judge said to attorney Aimee Wagstaff, threatening to prevent her from continuing. “If you cross the line one more time … your opening statement will be over … If I see a single inappropriate thing on those slides, I’m shutting you down.”

The unusual conflict in the federal courtroom has fueled concerns among Monsanto’s critics that the trial may be unfairly stacked against the plaintiff, Edwin Hardeman, a 70-year-old Santa Rosa man who alleges that his exposure to Roundup over several decades caused his cancer. Building on longstanding allegations, Hardeman’s lawyers and other critics have argued that Monsanto has for years suppressed negative studies and worked to promote and “ghostwrite” favorable studies about its herbicide to influence the public and regulators.

In a blow to the plaintiffs, Chhabria this year approved Monsanto’s request to prohibit Hardeman’s attorneys from raising allegations about the corporation’s conduct, saying issues about its influence on science and government were a “significant … distraction”. That means jurors must narrowly consider the studies surrounding Roundup’s cancer risks, and if they rule that Monsanto caused Hardeman’s illness, then in a second phase the jury would learn about the company’s conduct when assessing liability and punitive damages.

[..] Wagstaff told the Guardian last week before trial began that the limitations on evidence in the first phase meant the “jury will only hear half of the story”. “The jury will hear about the science, but they won’t get to hear about how Monsanto influenced it,” she said. “The jury won’t have a complete understanding of the science. If we win without the jury knowing the complete science, that’s a real problem for Monsanto.” Chhabria repeatedly interrupted Wagstaff’s opening statement Monday morning, reminding jurors that her comments did not constitute evidence and should be taken with a “grain of salt”. He also asked her to speed up when she was introducing Hardeman and his wife and discussing how they first met in 1975.

Wagstaff spoke in detail about the research on cancer and glyphosate, about some of Monsanto’s involvement in studies, and about the company’s communications with the Environmental Protection Agency. [..] The restrictions on testimony about Monsanto’s conduct and alleged manipulation of science is likely to be a major detriment to Hardeman and future plaintiffs, said Jean M Eggen, professor emerita at Widener University Delaware Law School. “It was a brilliant move on the part of the defendant Bayer to try to keep [out] all of that information,” she said. “And it may pay off for them.”

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We paved paradise. Which is a much wider and bigger issue than just a climate one.

Concrete Is Tipping Us Into Climate Catastrophe. It’s Payback Time (Vidal)

Because of the heat needed to decompose rock and the natural chemical processes involved in making cement, every tonne made releases one tonne of C02, the main greenhouse warming gas. Including the new Crossrail line through London, the building of Britain’s four largest current construction projects will, if completed, together emit more than 10m tonnes of CO2 – roughly the same amount as a city the size of Birmingham, or what 19 million Malawians emit in a year. Nearly 6% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 8% of the world’s, are now sourced from cement production. If it were a country, the cement industry would be the third largest in the world, its emissions behind only China and the US.

So great is its carbon footprint that unless it is transformed and made to adopt cleaner practices, the industry could, on its own, jeopardise the whole 2015 Paris agreement which aims to hold worldwide temperatures to a 2C increase. To bring it into line, the UN says its annual emissions need to fall about 16% in the next 10 years, and by far more in the future. While some of the biggest cement companies have reduced the carbon intensity of their products by investing in more fuel-efficient kilns, most improvements gained have been overshadowed by the massive increase in global cement and concrete production. Population increases, the urban explosion in Asia and Africa, the need to build dams, roads and houses, as well as increases in personal wealth have stoked demand.

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Feb 122019
 
 February 12, 2019  Posted by at 11:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh On the outskirts of Paris 1887

 

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)
Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)
Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)
Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)
Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)
Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)
Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)
May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)
Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)
“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)
Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)
China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)
History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

 

 

Roaches in a nuclear winter.

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)

A scientific review of insect numbers suggests that 40% of species are undergoing “dramatic rates of decline” around the world. The study says that bees, ants and beetles are disappearing eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles. But researchers say that some species, such as houseflies and cockroaches, are likely to boom. The general insect decline is being caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. Insects make up the majority of creatures that live on land, and provide key benefits to many other species, including humans. They provide food for birds, bats and small mammals; they pollinate around 75% of the crops in the world; they replenish soils and keep pest numbers in check.

Many other studies in recent years have shown that individual species of insects, such as bees, have suffered huge declines, particularly in developed economies. But this new paper takes a broader look. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, it reviews 73 existing studies from around the world published over the past 13 years. The researchers found that declines in almost all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades. One-third of insect species are classed as Endangered. “The main factor is the loss of habitat, due to agricultural practices, urbanisation and deforestation,” lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, told BBC News.

“Second is the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds. Thirdly, we have biological factors, such as invasive species and pathogens; and fourthly, we have climate change, particularly in tropical areas where it is known to have a big impact.” [..] “Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear,” said Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex who was not involved in the review. “It’s quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want, like bees and hoverflies and butterflies and dung beetles that do a great job of disposing of animal waste.” Prof Goulson said that some tough, adaptable, generalist species – like houseflies and cockroaches – seem to be able to live comfortably in a human-made environment and have evolved resistance to pesticides.

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Nobody listened so far; why would they now?

Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)

• Topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes • Since the mid-20th Century, 30% of the world’s arable land has become unproductive due to erosion • 95% of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050 • Since 2005, the number of floods has increased by a factor of 15, extreme temperature events by a factor of 20, and wildfires sevenfold • Vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 60% since the 1970s, and insect numbers – vital for pollination – have declined even faster in some countries.

Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are “driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels. “This destabilisation is occurring at speeds unprecedented in human history and, in some cases, over billions of years.” The UK is described as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Some 2.2 million tonnes of UK topsoil is eroded annually, and over 17% of arable land shows signs of erosion. Nearly 85% of fertile peat topsoil in East Anglia has been lost since 1850, with the remainder at risk of being lost over next 30–60 years. The IIPR says many scientists believe we have entered a new era of rapid environmental change.

The report warns: “We define this as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to better highlight the severity of the scale, pace and implications of environmental destabilisation resulting from aggregate human activity.” Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at University College London, told BBC News: “IPPR are right to say that environmental change is happening ever-faster and threatens to destabilise society. “Future problems with food supplies could cause price spikes that drive civil unrest, while increases in levels of migration can strain societies. “Both together could overload political institutions and global networks of trade. “This century will be marked by rapid social and environmental change – that is certain. What is less clear is if societies can make wise political choices to avoid disaster in the future.”

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Written of course by a politician. Who thinks politicians can turn this around. Because they can do anything.

Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)

Most of us spend more time swatting away or avoiding wasps and moths than we do contemplating their importance to the web of life. But it is no exaggeration to say that the horrifying decline in the number of these creatures – the most widespread on Earth – is a barometer for the whole planet. The new global scientific review into the perilous condition of our insects reports that more than 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction while the mass of insects is declining by 2.5% a year. This catastrophic decline is a direct cause of the existential threat to other animals, insects being at the bottom of the chain and the primary food source. Since 1970, 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out.

The review identifies a key driver towards this mass extinction: habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture with its associated use of pesticides. Given this is a manmade disaster, surely we are capable of tackling and reversing it? As a member of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, I regularly debate the use of pesticides in farming with my colleagues. I have lost count of the number of times I have begun meetings with what feels like a sermon on the Armageddon taking place in our countryside. I am always greeted with patient, patronising smiles from many of my fellow MEPs, before they go on to ignore the warnings and refuse to limit the use of pesticides in our fields.

Some of the members of this committee are themselves farmers who have grown increasingly dependent on powerful and toxic pesticides. But others have taken the agribusiness shilling and believe that their role in policymaking is simply to support the corporations that sell these poisons. And this is the nub of the issue. What might accurately be dubbed insectageddon is being driven by the agrichemicals industry. This situation is compounded by compliant politicians and policymakers who fall prey to lobbying pressure and then refuse to implement science-driven policy to protect wildlife.

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What we should do is end the Fed. And replace it with markets.

Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)

Bill Dudley, who is now a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Economic Policy Studies and previously served as president of the New York Fed and was vice-chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, recently penned an interesting piece from Bloomberg stating: “Financial types have long had a preoccupation: What will the Federal Reserve do with all the fixed income securities it purchased to help the U.S. economy recover from the last recession? The Fed’s efforts to shrink its holdings have been blamed for various ills, including December’s stock-market swoon. And any new nuance of policy — such as last week’s statement on “balance sheet normalization” — is seen as a really big deal. I’m amazed and baffled by this. It gets much more attention than it deserves.”

[..] In his opening paragraph, Bill attempts to dismiss the linkage between the balance sheet and the financial markets. “Yes, it’s true that stock prices declined at a time when the Fed was allowing its holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to run off at a rate of up to $50 billion a month. But the balance sheet contraction had been underway for more than a year, without any modifications or mid-course corrections. Thus, this should have been fully discounted.” While this is a true statement, what Bill forgot to mention was that Global Central banks had stepped in to flood the system with liquidity. As you can see in the chart below, while the Fed had stopped expanding their balance sheet, everyone else went into over-drive.

The chart below shows the ECB’s balance sheet and trajectory. Yes, they are slowing “QE” but it is still growing currently.

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Far from over.

Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)

Democratic and Republican leaders announced late Monday that they had reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown when funding under a stopgap agreement expires at midnight on Friday. The proposal would require the signature of Donald Trump to avert a new shutdown. The agreement would allocate far less money for Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7bn wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4bn, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends 30 September. The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”, he added. Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February. Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.

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Warren is irrelevant.

Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)

The United States, Warren says, has embarked on “a series of seemingly endless wars, engaging in conflicts with mistaken or uncertain objectives and no obvious path to completion”. It’s fine rhetoric but the obvious path to completion is merely to end the wars. And yet the Bush White House couldn’t or didn’t want to. And Obama vacillated and expanded to the point where bombing and killing was being pursued in almost a dozen countries when he left office. And as for Trump? He’s done little and he’s been publicly admonished by his own secretary of defense when he decided he wanted to end just one of those conflicts.

But “the United States”? Really? Other than Afghanistan after 9/11 – and that’s all – “the United States” didn’t embark on these wars. The national security community did. The government. Overtly, covertly, with high hopes or unwarranted self-confidence, they got their way. Who is the real culprit then? It isn’t Warren’s “elites”, the corporation, or Trump. It is Washington and its ability, indeed even its self-appointed duty, to stand in the way of anything that it sees as not in its interest.

She may not think it, but Warren is merely genuflecting before this deep state, declaring her allegiance to a “muscular military” and calling for “strong yet pragmatic security policies”. She of course offers a laundry list of things that must be preserved or strengthened that’s non-military – from technological superiority to diplomacy to strong alliances. And she decries the military and civilian policymakers who “seem [in]capable of defining success”. But in her innocence as to why we are stuck in seemingly endless wars she also seems oblivious to the fact that she is already capitulating to the very forces that ensure that we can’t change anything.

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Will the Green New Deal Make America Great Again?

Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone. The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism.

We have a new kind of mass squalor in America: a great many people who have nothing to do, no means of support, and the flimsiest notions of purpose in life. The socialists have no answers for them. They will not be “retrained” in some imagined federal crusade to turn meth freaks into code-writers for Google. Something the analysts are calling “recession” is ploughing across the landscape like one of those darkly majestic dust-storms of the 1930s, only this time we won’t be able to re-fight anything like World War Two to get all the machines running again in the aftermath. Nor, of course, will the Make America Great Again fantasy work out for those waiting in the squalid ruins of the post-industrial rust-belt or the strip-mall wastelands of the Sunbelt.

Most of the beliefs and attitudes of the present day will be overturned with the demise of the industrial orgy, like the idea that humanity follows an unerring arc of progress, that men and women are interchangeable and can do exactly the same work, that society should not be hierarchical, that technology will rescue us, and that we can organize some political work-arounds to avoid the pain of universal contraction. There are no coherent ideas in the political arena just now. Our prospects are really too alarming. So, jump on-board the socialism ship and see if it makes you feel better to sail to the end of the earth. But mind the gap at the very edge. It’s a doozie.

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And 2 more weeks after that etc. till the clock runs out.

May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)

Theresa May hopes to convince the House of Commons on Tuesday to give her another fortnight’s grace to keep pushing for changes to the Irish backstop – despite the insistence of Michel Barnier that it is Britain that must compromise. With 45 days to go until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, with or without a deal, the prime minister will address MPs about progress in the Brexit talks, No 10 announced on Monday. She is unlikely to signal any shift towards a closer future relationship with the EU, after writing to Jeremy Corbyn to underline her continued objections to a customs union, and instead she will focus on the backstop.

“We are absolutely clear on this: we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals, we’re not considering any proposals to remain in the customs union. We must have our own, independent trade policy,” May’s spokesman said on Monday. May will stress her continued focus on the backstop, but the EU’s chief negotiator insisted on Monday there was no question of Brussels giving in to Downing Street’s demands. “We’re waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom,” Barnier told reporters after talks in Luxembourg with the country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel.

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The EU has the exact same flaws as its member states, but in the latter the losers can get voted out.

Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)

Populism is sweeping Europe, because the European Union and its constituent governments have become as unresponsive as the 18th century aristocracies those replaced.The EU antecedent, the European Economic Community (1957) was created to prevent another World War by integrating the continent’s iron and steel industries and then its broader continental markets for goods, services, capital and labor. The process created a politically unaccountable bureaucracy, whose broad policy directions are set by consensus among the national heads of government and cabinet ministers. However, Brussels enjoys wide administrative discretion in supervising the customs union, agricultural and fisheries management, and national subsidies, anticompetitive practices, and other behavior that could undermine the “single market.”

Through a succession of treaties and agreements, national leaders “pooled sovereignty” to empower the European Commission to issue edicts that member states must directly obey or conform national laws and regulations in areas such as social policy and human rights, consumer protection and product standards, transportation, and immigration. European Court rulings have direct application in national courts, and 19 of the 28 states have ceded monetary policy to the European Central Bank by adopting the euro. To win votes, mainstream national politicians have endemically statist impulses, and hue to globalist views regarding the virtues of freer trade and more open immigration, regulatory responses to environmental challenges like climate change rather than mitigation, and impelling cultural diversity as opposed to preserving local cultures.

In Europe, national leaders have empowered the commission to impose the pain and constraints on private freedoms that such globalist policies require. Then they can point to Brussels to alibi they are just advancing a stronger European Union.

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Deutsche is a wager gone horribly wrong.

“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)

Following years of dismal performance, uncovered attempts at market manipulation and fraudulent activities, and painful corporate reorganizations which its latest earnings report showed have “cut deeply into the muscle”, Deutsche Bank is a shadow of its former self, with its stock price trading just shy of all time lows. But an even bigger problem for Germany’s biggest lender is that it is now forced to pay the highest financing rates on the euro debt market for a leading international bank this year according to the FT, and also the highest rates among large banks to raise debt this year according to Bloomberg, in a further sign of the German lender’s uphill struggle to turn its operations around and reduce its funding costs.

As the FT first reported, followed promptly by Bloomberg, the bank raised eyebrows last week when it sold a total of €3.6BN in euro-denominated debt, paying 180 bps over the benchmarks for a two-year bond, a steep rate for short-term funding. Deutsche Bank also paid 230 bps over benchmarks for a senior seven-year bond that can absorb losses in a crisis. By comparison, French banking giant BNP Paribas SA last month offered 50 bps less for equally-ranked notes that mature one year later. More embarrassing, Deutsche Bank paid a higher rate than Spanish lender CaixaBank, which recently raised five-year bonds at 225bp.

In a latest note to clients, Corinna Dröse, a Frankfurt-based bond analyst at DZ Bank, said: “The high spreads reflect [Deutsche’s] high idiosyncratic risk, which is rooted in the lender’s chronic weakness in earnings.” “Deutsche has to pay significantly higher risk premiums than almost all other large European banks . . . [the] high spreads express severe doubts, mainly triggered by its poor revenue,” said Michael Hünseler, head of credit portfolio management at Assenagon. Intimately linked with the bank’s deteriorating fortunes – and stock price – investors are increasingly demanding that Deutsche Bank pay higher rates of return than even some of Europe’s “most troubled banks” as the firm grapples with a prolonged decline in revenue.

Finance chief James von Moltke said last year that the bank was caught in a “vicious circle” of declining revenue, sticky expenses, a lowered credit rating and rising funding costs. While the firm cut expenses, revenue and the price of funding remain a concern. “A key priority for us now is lowering our funding costs and improving our credit ratings,” von Moltke said during a call with fixed-income investors last week. “We must not compromise on the strength of our capital, funding, or liquidity, but we have to prove that we can generate long-term, sustainable profitability.”

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It’s not about eating meat, it’s about industrial farming. All these scientists telling people what to eat are useless.

Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)

Nearly a fifth of the EU’s total budget – more than £24bn of taxpayer money – goes to support livestock farming across Europe, according to new research by Greenpeace. At a time when scientists are calling for significant reductions in meat consumption, the report’s authors say taxpayers’ money should be redirected away from grain-fed, industrial animal farming. Last month, the Eat-Lancet Commission of scientists called for a new plant-focused diet to help avoid dangerous levels of climate change and the destruction of wildlife. Such a diet would require cutting red meat consumption in Europe by 77%.

Public Health England’s dietary guidelines recommend that meat and dairy, including non-animal-based protein alternatives such as beans and pulses, should make up no more than our 20% of dietary intake. Yet, Europeans eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend, as well as twice the global average. “Adopting diets lower in meat and dairy would not only tackle health problems but would also reduce the pressure on land, freeing up more space for nature,” said the Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. [..] Researchers calculated that 125 million hectares (308 million acres) of land in Europe is used to graze livestock or produce feed – this includes more than 60% of arable land that could otherwise be used to grow food directly for human consumption.

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China has no idea what democracy is. But it has a ruling class just like our countries.

China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to meet nearly every Chinese leader since the 1930s (with the exception of Mao Zedong), including Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Jingwei and more contemporary figures such as Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Xi. As individuals, they frequently came off as kind, caring and intelligent. From afar, as I watched them govern, I would view them in a different light, as dictators. This is the reality of leadership in China. Previously, emperors in China were said to rule because of their “Mandate of Heaven”. When Mao seized power, it was clear that he had won his position through revolution. Yet the selection of Xi, like the selection of his predecessors since Mao’s death in 1976, is cloaked in secrecy.

Even those in the US who question whether, and to what degree, Russian interference influenced the 2016 election will concede that, based on US law, Trump is a legally elected president. These results are publicly available, and have been analysed repeatedly by the media, politicians and the American public. But China lacks such luxuries. Its citizens have no official records to turn to for an explanation of why and how Xi was chosen. [..] Under Xi’s leadership, China has adopted a more aggressive stance internationally, imprisoned thousands of party members on corruption charges and removed constitutional limitations on presidential term limits. Amid these developments, the question of how Xi was chosen again comes to mind. The short answer is, we can only guess.

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Why, why and why?

History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

The AMI-Jeff Bezos scandal is set up to dominate headlines for a while. Who knows where it will lead? In the third world, an oligarch-president proxy war playing out in public like this usually presages a coup. If this were Thailand or Uruguay, bookies would already have odds on a Bezos-Mark-Zuckerberg-Sundar-Pichai junta being in power by May. This scandal will at least drag us through unprecedented legal and ethical conundrums. Can the president use the surveillance powers of the state to go after political enemies? Can a billionaire intelligence contractor and administrator of one of earth’s largest private data collections — including the so-called “Secret Region” cloud — fight back using his own surveillance trove through a newspaper he owns?

This story could blur the lines between public and private power to the point of meaninglessness. America could very well find its fate decided by a series of pre-dawn phone calls, after which we’d wake up to find Trump flying to Switzerland, Amazon lieutenants in the Joint Chiefs office and the presidency replaced by an executive board. At the center of all of this: a dick pic. Nothing could be more American than the fate of our democracy now hanging (!) on what Enquirer editor Dylan Howard euphemistically describes as a “below-the-belt selfie.”

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