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How black swans are shaping planet panic

How black swans are shaping planet panic

A case can be made that the current financial panic will only subside when the ultimate black swan – Covid-19 – is contained. 

Is the planet under the spell of a pair of black swans – a Wall Street meltdown, caused by an alleged oil war between Russia and the House of Saud, plus the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 – leading to an all-out “cross-asset pandemonium” as billed by Nomura?   

Or, as German analyst Peter Spengler suggests, whatever the averted climax in the Strait of Hormuz has not brought about so far “might now come through market forces”?

Let’s start with what really happened after five hours of relatively polite discussions last Friday in Vienna. What turned into a de facto OPEC+ meltdown was quite the game-changing plot twist.

OPEC+ includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Essentially, after enduring years of OPEC price-fixing – the result of relentless US pressure over Saudi Arabia – while patiently rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves, Moscow saw the perfect window of opportunity to strike, targeting the US shale industry.

Shares of some of these US producers plunged as much as 50% on “Black Monday.” They simply cannot survive with a barrel of oil in the $30s – and that’s where this is going. After all these companies are drowning in debt. 

A $30 barrel of oil has to be seen as a precious gift/stimulus package for a global economy in turmoil – especially from the point of view of oil importers and consumers. This is what Russia made possible.

And the stimulus may last for a while. Russia’s National Wealth Fund has made it clear it has enough reserves (over $150 billion) to cover a budget deficit from six to ten years – even with oil at $25 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has already gamed a possible Brent crude at $20 a barrel.

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Germany’s overdose of renewable energy

Germany’s overdose of renewable energy
In this 2010 file photo, Germany’s Green Party leaders Cem Oezdemir (R) and Renate Kuenast give a statement against nuclear energy while standing between two inflated nuclear power stations in front of the Chancellery in Berlin. Photo: AFP / Tim Brakemeier/ dpa

Germany’s overdose of renewable energy

Anti-nuclear hysteria is destroying the environment

This is part 2 in a series. Click here to read part 1.

Germany now generates over 35% of its yearly electricity consumption from wind and solar sources. Over 30 000 wind turbines have been built, with a total installed capacity of nearly 60 GW. Germany now has approximately 1.7 million solar power (photovoltaic) installations, with an installed capacity of 46 GW. This looks very impressive.

Unfortunately, most of the time the actual amount of electricity produced is only a fraction of the installed capacity. Worse, on “bad days” it can fall to nearly zero. In 2016 for example there were 52 nights with essentially no wind blowing in the country. No Sun, no wind. Even taking “better days” into account, the average electricity output of wind and solar energy installations in Germany amounts to only about 17% of the installed capacity.

The obvious lesson is: if you want  a stable, secure electricity supply, then you will need reserve, or backup sources of electricity which can be activated on more or less short notice to fill the gaps between electricity demand and the fluctuating output from wind and solar sources.

The more wind and solar energy a nation decides to generate, the more backup capacity it will require. On “bad days” these backup sources must be able to supply up to 100% of the nation’s electricity demand. On “good days” (or during “good hours”) the backup sources will be used less, or even turned off, so that their capacity utilization will also be poor. Not very good economics.

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Iran’s ‘only crime is we decided not to fold’

Iran’s ‘only crime is we decided not to fold’ 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the annual Astana Club meeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan last week. Photo: Asia Times / Pepe Escobar 

Iran’s ‘only crime is we decided not to fold’ 

Foreign Minister Zarif sketches Iran-US relations for diplomats, former presidents and analysts


Just in time to shine a light on what’s behind the latest sanctions from Washington, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a speech at the annual Astana Clubmeeting in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan delivered a searing account of Iran-US relations to a select audience of high-ranking diplomats, former Presidents and analysts.

Zarif was the main speaker in a panel titled “The New Concept of Nuclear Disarmament.” Keeping to a frantic schedule, he rushed in and out of the round table to squeeze in a private conversation with Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

During the panel, moderator Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, managed to keep a Pentagon analyst’s questioning of Zafir from turning into a shouting match.

Previously, I had extensively discussed with Syed Rasoul Mousavi, minister for West Asia at the Iran Foreign Ministry, myriad details on Iran’s stance everywhere from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. I was at the James Bond-ish round table of the Astana Club, as I moderated two other panels, one on multipolar Eurasia and the post-INF environment and another on Central Asia (the subject of further columns).

Zarif’s intervention was extremely forceful. He stressed how Iran “complied with every agreement and it got nothing;” how “our people believe we have not gained from being part of” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; how inflation is out of control; how the value of the rial dropped 70% “because of ‘coercive measures’ – not sanctions because they are illegal.”

He spoke without notes, exhibiting absolute mastery of the inextricable swamp that is US-Iran relations. It turned out, in the end, to be a bombshell. Here are highlights.

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Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) hug during their meeting before a session of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: AFP / Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik

Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

India under Modi, an essential cog in US strategy, gets cozy with China and Russia

It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula.

A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable. Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say.

Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.

At the SCO summit we had Putin, Xi, Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sitting at the same table. Hanging over the proceedings, like concentric Damocles swords, were the US-China trade war, sanctions on Russia, and the explosive situation in the Persian Gulf.

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US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

A container ship unloads cargo at the port terminal in Long Beach, California on May 10, as talks to resolve the US-China trade battle ended Friday with no deal, but no breakdown. Photo: Mark Ralston / AFP

US-China: the hardcore is yet to come

The Trump administration’s response to China’s emergence has been to throw all sorts of spanners in the works, but tariffs won’t bring back manufacturing jobs

Let’s start with the “long” 16th Century – which, as with the 21st, also saw a turbulent process of marketization. At that time, the Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation were trying to rebound across Asia – but within a context where the rivalry between the Iberian superpowers of the age, Spain and Portugal, still lingered. 

The Reformation first attached itself to the Dutch trade thalassocracy – a seaborne empire, under which commerce was paramount – over strict propaganda of religious dogma. Britain’s maritime realm was still biding its time. The emergence of Protestantism proceeded in parallel to the emergence of neo-Confucianism in East Asia.

Fast forward to our turbulent times. Marketization – renamed as globalization – seems to be in crisis. But not in the Middle Kingdom, which is now investing in globalization 2.0 amid increasing rivalry with the other superpower, the US. 

The American thalassocracy is being superseded by the Revenge of the Heartland, in the form of the Russia-China strategic partnership – for whom Eurasian trade integration, as expressed by the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is paramount over the Make America Great Again (MAGA) dogma. 

Meanwhile, the re-emergence of Right populism in the West mirrors the re-emergence of pragmatic neo-Confucianism across Asia.

BRI – the prime vehicle for Eurasia integration – would have never come to light without China’s four decades of breakneck economic development.

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

Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

RUSSIA-POLITICS

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state of the nation address in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo: AFP / Alexander Nemenov

Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

Russian President warns West that deploying missile launchers in Europe could ignite ‘tit for tat’ response

President Putin’s state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow this week was an extraordinary affair. While heavily focused on domestic social and economic development, Putin noted, predictably, the US decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and clearly outlined the red lines in regard to possible consequences of the move.

It would be naïve to believe that there would not be a serious counterpunch to the possibility of the US deploying launchers “suitable for using Tomahawk missiles” in Poland and Romania, only a 12-minute flight away from Russian territory. 

Putin cut to the chase: “This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced – I want to emphasize this – forced to take tit-for-tat steps.”

Later that night, many hours after his address, Putin detailed what was construed in the US, once again, as a threat.

“Is there some hard ideological confrontation now similar to what was [going on] during the Cold War? There is none. We surely have mutual complaints, conflicting approaches to some issues, but that is no reason to escalate things to a stand-off on the level of the Caribbean crisis of the early 1960s”.

This was a direct reference to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when President Kennedy confronted USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev over missiles deployed off the US mainland. 

The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has discreetly assured that conference calls with the Pentagon are proceeding as scheduled, every week, and that this bilateral dialogue is “working”.

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Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

What sanctions on Russia and China really mean

What sanctions on Russia and China really mean

The Pentagon may not be advocating total war against both Russia and China – as it has been interpreted in some quarters

The Trump administration has taken a hard line against China and Russia. Photo: IStock

The Trump administration has taken a hard line against China and Russia. Photo: IStock

IMF Issues Dire Warning – ‘Great Depression’ Ahead?

IMF Issues Dire Warning – ‘Great Depression’ Ahead?

– “Large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression” warn IMF
– Massive government debts and eroded fiscal buffers since 2008 suggest global dominos await a single market crash
– 2008 crisis measures cast long, dark “terrifying” shadow

Is another “Great Depression” on the horizon?

It would be easier to dismiss these words from Nouriel Roubini, Marc Faber or other doom-and-gloom prognosticators. Coming from Christine Lagarde’s team, though, they take on a new dimension of scary.

The International Monetary Fund head isn’t known for breathlessness on the world stage. And yet the IMF sounded downright alarmist in its latest Global Financial Stability report, stating that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.”

Even some market bears were taken aback. “Why,” asks Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse Blog would the IMF use this phrase “in a report that they know the entire world will read?”

Perhaps because, unfortunately, the findings of other referees of global risks – including the Bank for International Settlements – hint at similar dislocations.

Ten years after the Lehman Brothers crisis, these worrisome warnings that will be explored in depth at this week’s annual IMF meeting in Bali. The tranquil setting, though, will offer few respites from cracks appearing in markets everywhere – from Italy to China to Southeast Asia, where currencies are cratering like it’s 1998 again.


Source: Wikipedia

Potential flashpoints and a long line of dominos

Italy is the current flashpoint – and the latest target of “domino effect” chatter in frothy world markets. China’s shadow-banking bubble, and the extreme opacity and regulations that enable it, also came in for criticism. And, of course, the 800-pound beast in any room where global investors gather these days: Donald Trump’s assault on world trade.

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EU finally stands up to US ‘bullying’ over Iran sanctions

From left, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian,  Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Britain's former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after a meeting in Brussels, on May 15, 2018.  Photo: AFP

From left, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Britain’s former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after a meeting in Brussels, on May 15, 2018. Photo: AFP

EU finally stands up to US ‘bullying’ over Iran sanctions

Brussels sets up a ‘special purpose vehicle’ to bypass the US dollar and allow financial transactions with Tehran to continue

History may one day rule this was the fateful geopolitical moment when the European Union clinched its PhD on foreign policy.

Last week, EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, announced at the UN a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) to deal with the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iran after the US unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA,  also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The SPV, which according to Mogherini “is aimed at keeping trade with Tehran flowing while the US sanctions are in place,” could be in effect before the second stage of US sanctions begin in early November.

This single initiative means Brussels is attempting to position itself as a serious geopolitical player, openly defying the US and essentially nullifying the Iran demonization campaign launched by the White House, CIA and State Department.

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

Here comes the 30-year trade war

Here comes the 30-year trade war

Trade tensions between the US and China could drag on for decades but China’s focus on its Belt and Road Initiative could provide relief

We might be at the start of a decades-long trade war between China and the US. Photo: iStock

We might be at the start of a decades-long trade war between China and the US. Photo: iStock

‘Resistance’ runs amok in the US Deep Throat War

‘Resistance’ runs amok in the US Deep Throat War

Bob Woodward’s book and the ‘resistance’ op-ed look increasingly like a sophisticated psy-ops scheme and a prelude for a ‘Deep State’ coup

The New York Times front page, dated August 9, 1974, on President Richard Nixon's resignation. Photo: iStock

The New York Times front page, dated August 9, 1974, on President Richard Nixon’s resignation. Photo: iStock

Crashing currency chaos spreads across the Global South

Crashing currency chaos spreads across the Global South

Cryptocurrencies show promise as economies stumble under sanctions and other pressures

Iran oil exports will likely drop to just over 2 million barrels a day pushing the rial lower. Photo: iStock

Iran oil exports will likely drop to just over 2 million barrels a day pushing the rial lower. Photo: iStock

‘Tweet of Mass Destruction’ ratchets up tension on Iran

‘Tweet of Mass Destruction’ ratchets up tension on Iran

The Trump administration’s ultimate goal is regime change in Tehran, but was this just a distraction from the ‘treason’ in Helsinki as US Mid-Term elections loom? Or did he just want to destabilize the Eurasian giants and their New Silk Roads?

Iranians burn an image of US President Donald Trump during an anti-US demonstration outside the former US embassy headquarters in the capital Tehran on May 9, 2018. Photo: AFP/Atta Kenare

Iranians burn an image of US President Donald Trump during an anti-US demonstration outside the former US embassy headquarters in the capital Tehran on May 9, 2018. Photo: AFP/Atta Kenare

Eagle-meets-Bear and the Syria tug-of-war

Eagle-meets-Bear and the Syria tug-of-war

Trump and Putin are likely to discuss the tricky situation in southern Syria when they meet; while the US president says he wants US forces back home, the CIA, Pentagon and Israel may be happier to see them stay so the war-torn state remains unstable

Syrian government tanks and soldiers take positions in the town of Western Ghariyah, about 15km east of the southern embattled city of Daraa. Photo: AFP/ SANA handout released on June 30, 2018.

Syrian government tanks and soldiers take positions in the town of Western Ghariyah, about 15km east of the southern embattled city of Daraa. Photo: AFP/ SANA handout released on June 30, 2018.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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