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Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

If you have been following the public commentary from central banks around the world the past few months, you know that there has been a considerable change in tone compared to the last several years.

For example, officials at the European Central Bank are hinting at a taper of stimulus measures by September of this year and some EU economists are expecting a rate hike by December. The Bank of England has already started its own rate hike program and has warned of more hikes to come in the near term. The Bank of Canada is continuing with interest rate hikes and signaled more to come over the course of this year. The Bank of Japan has been cutting bond purchases, launching rumors that governor Haruhiko Kuroda will oversee the long overdue taper of Japan’s seemingly endless stimulus measures, which have now amounted to an official balance sheet of around $5 trillion.

This global trend of “fiscal tightening” is yet another piece of evidence indicating that central banks are NOT governed independently from one another, but that they act in concert with each other based on the same marching orders. That said, none of the trend reversals in other central banks compares to the vast shift in policy direction shown by the Federal Reserve.

First came the taper of QE, which almost no one thought would happen. Then came the interest rate hikes, which most analysts both mainstream and alternative said were impossible, and now the Fed is also unwinding its balance sheet of around $4 trillion, and it is unwinding faster than anyone expected.

Now, mainstream economists will say a number of things on this issue — they will point out that many investors simply do not believe the Fed will follow through with this tightening program.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mastercard Pushes Biometrics, Banks Follow

Mastercard Pushes Biometrics, Banks Follow

Biometric authentication “will be of great benefit to everyone.”

Mastercard has set a deadline for widespread use of biometric identification for its services across the whole of the EU: April 2019. Mastercard Identity Check, currently available in 37 countries, enables individuals to use biometric identifiers, such as fingerprint, facial, and iris recognition, to verify their identities when using a mobile device for online shopping and banking. The technology is not mandatory for customers, but from next year it will be vigorously promoted throughout the EU and many consumers will welcome it.

The impact will be felt not just by consumers but also by most European banks, since any bank that issues or accepts Mastercard payments will have to support identification mechanisms for remote transactions, alongside existing PIN and password verification. The deadline will also apply to all contactless transactions made at terminals with a mobile device.

Citing research it carried out with Oxford University, Mastercard says that 92% of banking professionals want to introduce biometric ID. This high number shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the vast untapped value consumer data holds for banks and corporations as well the preference most banks have for electronic transactions. The study also claims that 93% of consumers would prefer biometric security to passwords, which is a surprise given the array of thorny issues biometrics throws up, including the threat it poses to privacy and anonymity and its deceptively public nature.

“A password is inherently private,” says Alvaro Bedoya, Professor of Law at Georgetown University. “The whole point of a password is that you don’t tell anyone about it. A credit card is inherently private in the sense that you only have one credit card.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Each EU Citizen Creates 31kg Of Plastic-Waste Per Year (But The Irish Are Worst)

Plastic packaging waste is a huge problem around the world.

Despite efforts in some European countries such as plastic bottle deposit schemes or having to pay for plastic bags in the supermarket, Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes that the average EU citizen creates 31kg of plastic waste per year.

Infographic: Each EU citizen creates 31kg of plastic waste per year | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

Eurostat figures show that the UK lies above this average, with its citizens responsible for 35kg of waste.

The worst country by a long way though is Ireland. 61kg of packaging is thrown away by the average Irish person, 9kg more than the second most prolific country, Luxembourg.

The least is created in Bulgaria where a more acceptable 14kg is disposed of over the year.

Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency

Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency

Bedazzled by energy efficiency illustration by diego marmolejo

To focus on energy efficiency is to make present ways of life non-negotiable. However, transforming present ways of life is key to mitigating climate change and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy efficiency policy

Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of policies to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependence in the industrialised world. For example, the European Union (EU) has set a target of achieving 20% energy savings through improvements in energy efficiency by 2020, and 30% by 2030. Measures to achieve these EU goals include mandatory energy efficiency certificates for buildings, minimum efficiency standards and labelling for a variety of products such as boilers, household appliances, lighting and televisions, and emissions performance standards for cars. [1]

The EU has the world’s most progressive energy efficiency policy, but similar measures are now applied in many other industrialised countries, including China. On a global scale, the International Energy Agency (IEA) asserts that “energy efficiency is the key to ensuring a safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy system for the future”. [2] In 2011, the organisation launched its 450 scenario, which aims to limit the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million. Improved energy efficiency accounts for 71% of projected carbon reductions in the period to 2020, and 48% in the period to 2035. [2] [3]

What are the results?

Do improvements in energy efficiency actually lead to energy savings? At first sight, the advantages of efficiency seem to be impressive. For example, the energy efficiency of a range of domestic appliances covered by the EU directives has improved significantly over the last 15 years. Between 1998 and 2012, fridges and freezers became 75% more energy efficient, washing machines 63%, laundry dryers 72%, and dishwashers 50%. [4]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Switzerland too Falls Out of Love with the EU

Switzerland too Falls Out of Love with the EU

Did someone say “referendum?”

The EU’s relations with key third-party country Switzerland have sunk to their lowest point in years thanks to a last-minute decision by the European Commission to grant Swiss stock exchanges just one year’s further access to the single market. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but it does have close links to the bloc, having signed 120 bilateral trade agreements with Brussels in the last few decades.

Furious Backlash

“[Access for Switzerland] can be extended provided there is sufficient progress on a common institutional framework,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU commissioner in charge of financial-services policy, just before Christmas. In other words, for Switzerland’s stock exchanges to continue to enjoy full access to the single market, it must accept further integration. By contrast, other foreign exchanges such as those in the US or Hong Kong were given open-ended access.

The decision, which formed part of the EU’s new sweeping MiFID II financial regulations, has triggered a furious backlash from Swiss policymakers. “We are in front of a pile of s***,” thundered Leader of the Social Democrats Christian Levrat. “The relationship with the EU is worse than ever. [Switzerland needs] a serious domestic political debate on the basis of facts.”

Mr Levrat’s comments chime with the views expressed somewhat more diplomatically by the country’s outgoing President Doris Leuthard, who called for a referendum to clarify what sort of future relationship, if any, the country should have with the EU. Some EU member states are putting Switzerland in the same basket as Britain and want to set an example while others see its financial center as a competitive threat that needs to be kept in check, Leuthard complained.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU Opens Article Seven Process Against Poland: Poland to Leave the EU?

The EU opened up Article 7 charges against Poland for having non-EU values. Poland is a serious risk to leave the EU.

Article seven is a charge against a country for having non-European values.

Specifically, the charge against Poland relates to its judiciary, but the EU also took Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over migrant issues.

Eurointelligence Synopsis of Poland

Yesterday the European Commission triggered an Article 7 procedure under the Lisbon treaty, which could, in theory, lead to the imposition of sanctions against a member state. This procedure’s final vote by the European Council will require unanimity, and Hungary has already said it would veto any attempt to impose sanctions on Poland. For that reason alone, the procedure is likely to fail. The Commission is going ahead because the symbolic act of starting the procedure matters more than the eventual outcome.

In the next step of the process, the Council has to pass a vote by a majority of four-fifths to determine that there is a serious risk of a member state failing to comply with the democratic values of the EU. The European Parliament will first have to give its consent. The procedure culminates with a vote at the European Council, where unanimity would apply. A veto by Hungary ends the process. The question is whether Hungary will actually come to the aid of Poland, and risk political isolation in the EU, or whether they will stick to their pre-announced position.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Greek Fraud Reads Like a Crime Novel


Tamara de Lempicka The refugees 1937
Note: I feel kind of sorry this has become such a long essay. But I still left out so much. You know by now I care a lot about Greece, and it’s high time for another look, and another update, and another chance for people to understand what is happening to the country, and why. To understand that hardly any of it is because the Greeks had so much debt and all of that narrative.

The truth is, Greece was set up to be a patsy for the failure of Europe’s financial system, and is now being groomed simultaneously as a tourist attraction to benefit foreign investors who buy Greek assets for pennies on the dollar, and as an internment camp for refugees and migrants that Europe’s ‘leaders’ view as a threat to their political careers more than anything else.

I would almost say: here we go again, but in reality we never stopped going. It’s just that Greece’s 15 minutes of fame may be long gone, but its ordeal is far from over. If you read through this, you will understand why that is. The EU is deliberately, and without any economic justification, destroying one of its own member states, destroying its entire economy.

A short article in Greek paper Kathimerini last week detailed the latest new cuts in pensions the Troika has imposed on Greece, and it’s now getting beyond absurd. For an economy to function, you need people spending money. That is what keeps jobs alive, jobs which pay people the money they need to spend on their basic necessities. If you don’t do at least that, there’ll be ever fewer jobs, and/or ever less money to spend. It’s a vicious cycle.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU To Restrict Movement of Cash

The EU is now developing strict rules for carrying cash when traveling to non-European countries and returning to Europe. The revision of the First Cash Control Regulation from 2005, which stipulated that EU citizens should register cash in excess of € 10,000 when leaving the EU or when returning to the customs authorities have to, is what is under review. They want to lower the number and include gold, gemstones, and cash debit cards.

Interestingly, cryptocurrencies are not to be regarded as cash. Why? They are not sure how to detect them. The EU explanation reads: “Despite the high risk emanating from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, these are not added to the cash. The reason for this is that the customs authorities lack the technical means to discover cryptocurrencies. “

The customs authorities can now seize any amount of cash less than € 10,000 if they suspect that the money is somehow involved in any criminal activity. This is authorizing the Civil Asset Forfeiture that has been so profitable to the United States. Hence, the EU does not clearly define what suspicion is required to classify as a possible criminal activity. That will be avoiding taxes.

The EU is also extending the new rules to any freight shipment involving cash. Already, one cannot send cash by mail. This is now freight shipments. A friend used the service where you can send your baggage ahead of you for a trip. He was called down and had to remove $2.75 cents that were in a suitcase headed back to London. So there is no amount too small.

The purpose of the rules is now openly being justified to fight against tax evasion, along with moonlighting and terror financing. The government clearly understands that cash is the only way for citizens to protect their savings from access by states and banks and any special levies or wealth taxes. Closing this door merely opens the door to cash investment turning to movable assets particularly shares.

A New Stealth Attack in EU’s “War on Cash”

A New Stealth Attack in EU’s “War on Cash”

And the definition of “cash” widens.

The EU’s Orwellian-dubbed Civil Liberties and Economic Affairs committee has approved tough new rules on cash that travelers might bring into or take out of the bloc. It’s also broadened the definition of cash to include precious stones and metals and prepaid credit cards.

For the moment the new definition does not include Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, for one simple reason: “customs authorities lack the resources to monitor them.”

Most importantly, the draft law will enable authorities to impound “cash” below the traditional €10,000 threshold, if criminal activity is suspected. The new rules would repeal the First Cash Control Regulation (CCR) from 2005, which requires individuals to declare sums over €10,000 when leaving or entering the EU.

The draft law still needs to be approved by the European Parliament. Then the legislation needs to be negotiated with EU governments. If the law is passed, anyone acting suspiciously carrying any amount of cash, whether in notes, precious stones, precious metals or prepaid credit cards, could face having their “money” impounded.

“Large sums of cash, be it banknotes or gold bullion, are often used for criminal activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing,” said Mady Delvaux, the Committee’s co-rapporteur. “With this legislation, we give our authorities the tools they need to improve their fight against those crimes.”

It could be argued that any legislation aimed at disrupting criminal financial networks is, de facto, a welcome move, but that would ignore the fact that many forms of modern-day tax evasion, avoidance and money laundering are conducted without cash through shell corporations located across multiple jurisdictions, including Luxembourg.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe Is Flirting with a Disaster for Free Speech

Europe Is Flirting with a Disaster for Free Speech

The controversial Article 13 is getting some push-back from some officials, but it isn’t dead yet.

Freedom of speech is undoubtedly one of the most important features of any democratic society. Without it, knowledge could not be shared, injustices could not be called out, and the marketplace of ideas would be reduced to a single, miserable stall. Yet the state seems to need constant reminding of the importance of free expression; to them, it always seems to take second place.

The European Union, for example, sort of dodged a bullet recently as the European Parliament’s (EP) Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) voted against the controversial Article 13 of a directive on copyright infringement on November 20th.

If passed, this article would require internet companies to take measures to ensure that copyright agreements are observed and protected. In other words, the article would force companies and providers to filter out anything which could potentially breach copyright.

The LIBE vote against this article, however, in no way means we’re out of the woods yet; this vote was simply the last in a series of advisory votes before the Legal Affairs (JURI) committee takes the final vote on the directive this coming January.

Where’s the Problem?

You may wonder where the threat to free speech comes from in this directive. How do measures to protect against copyright infringement affect the rights of Europeans to express themselves?

The issue is that there is currently no effective, foolproof way to completely separatecopyright-infringing material from perfectly above-board speech. Oftentimes, online measures against “unacceptable” material such as copyright infringement, hate speech, disinformation, etc. winds up overzealously censoring legitimate speech.

A computer algorithm would have to be sophisticated enough to do the job of a judge.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Jeffrey Sachs Still Promotes Disaster


Amedeo Modigliani Elvira Resting at a Table 1919
Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with Naomi Klein’s 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, in which she describes how neoliberalism, as developed by Milton Friedman and his Chicago School, wreaks often very brutal and bloody havoc upon societies under the guise of ‘crisis as an opportunity for change’, first in Latin America and later also in Eastern Europe.

One of the most prominent actors in the book, the man behind the term ‘shock therapy’ for economies, is Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard prodigy. In an interview at the time, Klein had this to say:

Q: You mention the shift from shock therapy to shock-and-awe, but there are also attempts to soften the image of neoliberalism. Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who pioneered shock therapy, wrote his latest book on The End of Poverty. Is there any more to this than a rebranding exercise?

A: A lot of people are under the impression that Jeffrey Sachs has renounced his past as a shock therapist and is doing penance now. But if you read The End of Poverty more closely he continues to defend these policies, but simply says there should be a greater cushion for the people at the bottom. The real legacy of neoliberalism is the story of the income gap. It destroyed the tools that narrowed the gap between rich and poor.

The very people who opened up this violent divide might now be saying that we have to do something for the people at the very bottom, but they still have nothing to say for the people in the middle who’ve lost everything.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

EU Concern Rising About Italian Debt

The EU Commission is deeply concerned that Italy is under pressure to spend frivolously because of the upcoming elections. The EU is apply more scrutiny for Italy’s huge sovereign debt. Because of the vast size of the Italian economy, the high level of total debt is a major cause for the Eurozone as a whole. The EU Commission sent a letter to the Italian government warning them not to deviate from the course of fiscal consolidation before the parliamentary elections in the spring.

Instead of creating simply a trade union, the idea that a single currency would save the day has seriously distorted reality. This idea of surrendering sovereignty by each member state to maintain a single currency if the worst possible design. Had the EU consolidated the debts and thereby created a federal EU debt, then each member state would have been responsible for themselves. In the USA, we have 50 states issuing debt in dollars, yet they have no part in the dollar. Had Europe consolidated the debts and drew the line in the sand at that moment, then states would be able to issue whatever debt the market would accept. This way, Brussels imposes austerity upon member states simply because they failed completely to comprehend the nation of the system they were creating.

EU Preparing for the Banking Crisis

Subtly, the EU is looking to establish preparations for the coming banking crisis and how to protect the banks from massive withdrawals. The solution? The EU wants to be able to temporarily free up credits for the banks and at the same time to freeze bank deposits, In other words, like Greece, you just won’t be able to withdraw funds.  Obviously, everything will be frozen. The current EU plan envisages blocking account disbursements for five working days and with the authority to extend any suspension to up to 20 days. They may need longer!

I recommend that you have 30 days worth of cash on hand. What the authorities do not understand is that if they freeze one bank, a run will unfold on all banks. The public will not believe whatever the government says. Therefore, banks that are not in crisis can be pushed into a crisis by a contagion. That is simply how it all unfolded in 1931-1933. The only way to stop a contagion will be a bank holiday and you have to close them all.

Where are Europe’s Fault Lines?

Where are Europe’s Fault Lines?

Beneath the surface of modern maps, numerous old fault lines still exist. A political earthquake or two might reveal the fractures for all to see.

Correspondent Mark G. and I have long discussed the potential relevancy of old boundaries, alliances and structures in Europe’s future alignments.Examples include the Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League, among others.

In the long view, Europe has cycled between periods of consolidation and fragmentation for two millennia, starting with the Roman Empire and its dissolution. Various mass movements of tribes/peoples led to new political structures and alliances, and a dizzying range of leaders rose to power and schemed their way through an equally dizzying array of wars, alliances and betrayals.

Regardless of the era or players, security is a permanent priority: this includes defensible borders, alliances to counter potential foes, treaties to end hostilities and whatever is necessary to secure access to resources and trade routes.

When consolidation served these priorities, then fragmented polities either consolidated by choice or by conquest. When smaller polities served these priorities, then imperial structures fragmented into naturally cohesive territories that were unified by language, culture and geography.

Security is also economic, as people support structures that keep their bellies filled and enable social stability and mobility.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the European Union is the high water mark of consolidation, and the next phase is fragmentation. Where are Europe’s natural fault lines? Much has changed in the past 600 years, but geography hasn’t changed, and that defines some basic security threats.

German Army Prepares For “Break-Up Of European Union” Or Worse

The Germans are making contingency plans for the collapse of Europe

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Centrally Planned UK Generation Scenarios for 2030

Centrally Planned UK Generation Scenarios for 2030

The economies of the European Union have centrally planned energy delivery strategies where the amount of electricity to be generated from a particular source by a particular time is planned in minute detail by legions of civil servants and academics.

This post summarises some of the scenarios for 2030 from The UK Committee on Climate Change and discusses the consequences for the grid, companies and consumers.

Dieter Helm’s recent independent review into the UK’s Cost of Energy (big pdf) provides a stark reminder of the scale of State intervention into the electricity generation sector. Figure 1 (Helm p40) summarises the various State sponsored organisations involved.

Figure 1 17 State-sponsored organisations involved in the centralised planning and delivery of UK electricity supplies.

Helm also reminds us of the Committee on Climate Change (COCC) plan for the UK 2030 (Figure 2) which forms the basis of the analysis presented in this post.

Figure 2 The plan for the fifth carbon budget ~ 2030 (Helm p11) showing scenarios for installed generation capacities.

With four scenarios offered, and 12 months/year to analyse, this presents a total range of 48 monthly scenarios to evaluate. In this post, I have reduced this to 4 monthly scenarios looking at the High Nuclear (High N) and High Renewables (High RE) scenarios for the months of January and July.

Notably the COCC has a low electricity demand scenario simultaneous with the policy of electrifying motor vehicle transport and heating.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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