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Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious…. “

After last night’s Boris announcement on not reopening the economy, it clearly doesn’t need any further explanation.. (US Readers – complex sarcasm alert.)

Over the course of the lockdown, I’ve been brushing up on Quantum Entanglement Theory and almost accidently I’ve created a time machine. I’m not quite sure how it works – so I reckon that qualifies me a job in Whitehall – but I was able to download The Morning Porridge from May 2021….. 

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Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 2021

“Sell in May – oh don’t bother – you are already away…” 

It’s just over a year since 20mm Americans lost their jobs in a single month and United Airline’s failed $2 bln bond issue in the first week of May 2020 became the unstable pebble that triggered the most devasting landslide in financial market history. 

All around the globe, bond investors woke up to their doubts on just how much government QE programmes, miniscule yields, and the value of their collateral of unproductive obsolete economic assets could be. Equity holders caught the whiff of panic – figuring out rising P/E’s in a crashing global economy meant nothing – even if central banks were promising to intervene. Sovereign debt buyers went on immediate strike, citing concerns on debasement, inflation, and the implausible promises being made. 

The result was the most precipitious tumble in history – everyone tried to exit the markets and discovered the truth: “there are many ways to buy, but only one exit marked sell.” 

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

Covid-19 and the Collapse of Cash

Covid-19 and the Collapse of Cash

In my last article I referred to how since fears of Covid-19 in the UK took root in March, cash usage has fallen dramatically. Whilst the drop off has been substantial, the trend of cash payments being in decline is long established. Based on early evidence, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this decline.

For context, in March 2019 an Access to Cash Review was published which detailed the precarious state of Britain’s cash network. The review, funded by Link (the UK’s biggest cash machine network) showed that over the past decade cash payments had fallen from 63% of all payments to 34%. To quote the report directly, ‘a straight-line trajectory of current trends would see an end of cash use by 2026‘.

Twelve months on, the predicament with cash is now far more serious. Before getting into that, here is a summary of where we find ourselves in regards to cash in the midst of Covid-19.

In January the severity of the coronavirus spread in China became more apparent by the day. The first case of the virus was reported in the UK at the end of the month, weeks before cash usage began its descent. To give an idea of how the cash network infrastructure looked at the time, we can use Link’s monthly ATM Footprint Report as a guide. The most recent report shows that between January 2018 and February 2020, the number of free-to-use ATM’s had reduced from 54,500 to 45,000 – a 17% drop in just two years that equates to 9,500 ATM’s.

“Worst. Recession. Ever.”

“Worst. Recession. Ever.”

When Harry Met Comic-Book-Guy

Worst global downturn since the Great Depression” says the IMF. Actually, it’s potentially worse than that.We are seeing credible (initial) claims in the UK and US that millions/tens of millions are going to be unemployed – again taking us back to black & white memories of long queues of the jobless holding signs saying “Will Work For Food.”

We are also seeing calls for GDP to collapse by up to a third in the presumed Q2 trough in the UK and the US, as just two examples, which in the space of months would already take us to the kind of depths plunged back in the 1930s (and actually this will be the worst recession since the 18th century according to one UK report.) Moreover, in a world far more economically-integrated today than it was in the 1930s, what happens in the (smaller) West will rapidly hit the (larger) rest.

As will the virus itself, of course. What is to stop it rampaging through Africa and South Asia, as just two examples? “Heat!” we have been told. Yet besides the fact that Covid-19 is transmitting in Indonesia and Singapore we see a report today that French scientists have found some strains of the virus can survive long exposures to temperatures of up to 60c, and it takes almost boiling point to kill it. Another (non-peer reviewed) study from Australian and Taiwanese researchers based on samples from India has shown Covid-19 is already mutating, shifting its mechanism used to bind to human cells – the paper concludes “This means current vaccine development…is at great risk of becoming futile.” Moreover, a Chinese scientist is warning of a serious risk of a second global wave of Covid in November – exactly the pattern seen in the 1918-19 Spanish Flu.

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

UK Police Force Threatens to Search Shopping Baskets to Catch ‘Lockdown’ Violators

Forced to backtrack after public backlash.

A police force in the UK threatened to start searching people’s shopping baskets in order to catch coronavirus lockdown violators, but later had to backtrack following a public backlash.

Northamptonshire Police chief constable Nick Adderley prompted outrage after he appeared in a video to warn people who were buying unessential items at grocery stores that their purchases may be scrutinized by the authorities.

“We will not at this stage be starting to marshal supermarkets and checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it’s a legitimate, necessary item but again be under no illusion, if people do not heed the warnings and the pleas that I’m making today, we will start to do that,” said Adderley.


Northamptonshire Police is among the worst performers in the country for bringing charges after cases of burglary. But its chief constable will damn well rummage through your shopping basket and find that incriminating can of air freshener if he wishes.

Embedded video

Adderley also said police checkpoints would be set up if people didn’t properly adhere to quarantine rules, warning that a “three-week grace period” in his county was over.

“If things don’t improve, and we don’t get the compliance we would expect, then the next stage will be road blocks and it will be stopping people to ask why they are going, where they’re going,” he said.

The police force later had to backtrack from Adderley’s comments, tweeting, “To clarify some suggestions made in the media, we absolutely will NOT be searching people’s shopping trolleys in Northamptonshire.”

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

Rabobank: “There Is Really Only One Headline Today – That PM Boris Johnson Is In Intensive Care”

Rabobank: “There Is Really Only One Headline Today – That PM Boris Johnson Is In Intensive Care”

ICU

There is really only one headline today – that UK PM Boris Johnson is in intensive care. Indeed, as several medical experts have attested, given the critical shortage of ICU beds he is likely to be on a ventilator very soon.

Of course, he isn’t the first world leader to get the disease, and we have already seen Prince Charles and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock fully recovery, for example. Nonetheless, the sudden deterioration in his condition comes as a major shock: last week he was clapping on the door step to praise the NHS and was still leading cabinet meetings online; yesterday afternoon we were told he was only staying at home because of an annoyingly persistent temperature; then it was a cough too – but that he was still actively Prime Minister; then he was going to hospital (by car) for some tests; and then he was in an ICU and, apparently, struggling to breathe.

For the UK, this obviously hits confidence and raises questions over leadership given Boris is going to be out of it for some time, even in the best case. (And naturally everyone wishes him a full and speedy recovery.) Yet there are also key global implications here.

Equity markets rallied again yesterday, partly on a short squeeze, but partly on hopes that we are indeed flattening our virus curves and we can all go back to normal soon. Crucially, however, this bullishness presupposes that we have a strategy for once the curve has been flattened – do we, post-Boris?

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

Rabobank: “There Will Be Attempts To Go Back To Normal After This Crisis, But It Will Be Impossible”

Rabobank: “There Will Be Attempts To Go Back To Normal After This Crisis, But It Will Be Impossible”

The Grand National-ists

The weekend’s world-famous UK horse race, the Grand National, was won by Potters Corner, trained in Wales and ridden by Jack Tudor, at 18-1. That’s a little unusual – but not as much as the fact that this was all a virtual race run on a computer because the actual Grand National was cancelled for the first time since WW2 due to COVID-19.

I mention this because there is a lot of Grand National-ism about at the moment due to this virus. After all, Germany accused (then apparently retracted, to far less attention) claims of ”piracy” as 200,000 face masks in Bangkok destined for it ended up in the US instead: this is normally called “gazumping” in the UK, and in healthier times is seen as perfectly natural – which says something about how we used to operate. The US is also refusing to send medical gear to Canada. Germany itself had of course previously refused to send ventilators and masks to Italy when asked, and France requisitioned private-sector stocks weeks ago. Meanwhile, China has placed strict controls on the export of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, and virus test kits – which is a problem given it is still the world’s bulk producer – though the Czechs, Dutch, Spanish, and Turkish have all reportedly returned such gear for being faulty, and one news report alleges Pakistan received a shipment of masks clearly made of women’s underwear.

In terms of medicine, there is also a struggle to access virus testing chemical reagents – Israel has had to scale back its testing as Germany has nationalised one of the chemical producers and South Korea has been forced to close one of its plants due to the virus itself.

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

We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

This is a speech I gave yesterday at a demonstration for Assange with the Socialist Equality Party Australia.

Tomorrow in the UK a judge will start the process of answering a very important question. It’s a question that many of us knew was the heart of this debate back in 2010, ten years ago, when this all started. It’s a question that they have been obfuscating, bloviating, huffily denying, smearing, gaslighting, and distracting from–basically doing anything they can to hide it from view.

It’s a question that they don’t want the public to know that we are answering. A question that goes to the heart of democracy, and to the heart of the role of the fourth estate, journalism. And that question is this:

Should journalists and publishers be punished for exposing US war crimes?

And, ancillary to that question: should we allow them to be punished by the very people who committed those war crimes?

Is that something that we want for our world, ongoing? Because our answer to this question is going to shape our society, our civilization, for generations to come.

There is no coming back from this for a very long time should the answer be, “Yes! Yes, it’s fine, war criminals should go ahead and punish journalists for publishing true facts about their war crimes.”

If we allow the answer to be yes, then we’re stuck with the endless stupid wars that everyone wants done with, from Melbourne to Kabul, from Sydney to Syria–right across the world people are done with these stupid wars for profit.

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

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

coal

A suggestion by the UK Committee on Climate Change to burn more wood and plant replacement trees as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels has drawn criticism from think tank Chatham House, which says this is hardly the best approach to reducing emissions.

“Expanding forest cover is undoubtedly a good thing, if you’re leaving them standing,” energy expert Duncan Brack told the Daily Telegraph. However, Brack, who served as special adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, suggested that burning wood for heating was not the most sustainable way forward. Calling wood burning a carbon neutral process is “highly dubious,” Brack added.

These claims, according to the Telegraph’s environment editor, Emma Gatten, rest on the assumption that the carbon footprint of chopping down trees and burning them is offset by planting new trees to replace them. This assumption excludes the fact that older trees absorb more carbon and that it takes time to replace a forest.

“You can leave trees standing and they will continue to absorb carbon for decades,” Brack says. “But the biomass industry implicitly assumes that forests at some point stop reach a saturation point for carbon intake and can be harvested and simply replaced.” 

The benefit of planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change has been put to the test on a wider scale as well. A study released last year found that reforestation could work, but it had to be done at a massive scale.

We need to plant 25 percent more trees than there are on Earth right now, or more than half a trillion in total, the study found. This would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by a quarter, erasing 20 years of emissions. Yet it would not solve the climate problem on its own, without a sustained effort to cut emissions, commentators on the study said.

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

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

When it comes to estimating the human capital and potential fallout from a highly contagious epidemic, arguably the most important variable is the R0 (“R-naught”) value of the disease, which represents the average number of secondary cases arising from an average primary case in a entirely susceptible population. That’s the technical definition, a simpler one is that the R0, or basic reproductive number, of a contagious disease is the number of cases that a case of the disease generates over the course of its infectious period in a susceptible population. The higher this number, the more dangerous the disease, the more lethal the outcome.

Some indicative R0s are 0.9 – 2.1 for the common flu while the 1918-1919 pandemic-causing Spanish flu was estimated to have ranged from 1.4 – 2.8, with a mean of 2. Some other notable R0s are shown below, and note that SARS was between 2 and 5:

So what about the R0 of 2019-nCoV, also known as the coronavirus that has claimed over three dozen lives in China and infected (at least) 1,000 people? Naturally, since the disease is most active in China which is notoriously opaque especially when it comes to matters that can cause a mass panic, the best one can do is guess, and that’s what the World Health Organization did yesterday when it issued a statement on the coronavirus epidemic with the following projection:

Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.

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

Media’s Deafening Silence On Latest WikiLeaks Drops Is Its Own Scandal

Media’s Deafening Silence On Latest WikiLeaks Drops Is Its Own Scandal

This is getting really, really, really weird.

WikiLeaks has published yet another set of leaked internal documents from within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) adding even more material to the mountain of evidence that we’ve been lied to about an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria last year which resulted in airstrikes upon that nation from the US, UK and France.

This new WikiLeaks drop includes an email from the OPCW Chief of Cabinet Sebastien Braha (who is reportedly so detested by organisation inspectors that they code named him “Voldemort”) throwing a fit over the Ian Henderson Engineering Assessment which found that the Douma incident was likely a staged event. Braha is seen ordering OPCW staff to “remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever” from the organisation’s secure registry.


Minutes from an OPCW meeting with toxicologists specialized in chemical weapons: “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was
no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure”.https://wikileaks.org/opcw-douma/#OPCW-DOUMA%20-%20Release%20Part%204 …

View image on Twitter

The drop also includes the minutes from an OPCW toxicology meeting with “three Toxicologists/Clinical pharmacologists, one bioanalytical and toxicological chemist”, all four of whom are specialists in chemical weapons analysis.

“With respect to the consistency of the observed and reported symptoms of the alleged victims with possible exposure to chlorine gas or similar, the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure,” the document reads.

According to the leaked minutes from the toxicology meeting, the chief expert offered “the possibility of the event being a propaganda exercise” as one potential explanation for the Douma incident. The other OPCW experts agreed that the key “take-away message” from the meeting was “that the symptoms observed were inconsistent with exposure to chlorine and no other obvious candidate chemical causing the symptoms could be identified”.

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

Zero carbon Britain: Rising to the climate emergency

Zero carbon Britain: Rising to the climate emergency 

A new report out today from Rapid Transition Alliance founding member the Centre for Alternative technology (CAT) looks at how the UK can cut energy demand by 60% and reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions using current technologies, without relying on unproven carbon capture.

By modelling the changes needed to energy, buildings, transport, industry, diets and land-use, ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency’ clearly demonstrates that we already have the tools and technology needed to play our part in leaving a safe and habitable climate for our children and future generations.

Addressing climate breakdown

People all over the world are feeling the effects of climate breakdown, from unprecedented heatwaves, droughts and massive wildfires to some of the most damaging floods and storms ever seen. The warnings from the scientific community are now becoming real life experiences.

The current UK greenhouse gas emissions target of net zero by 2050, though ambitious in comparison to some other countries, does not offer rapid enough reductions to provide a good chance of avoiding extremely dangerous climate breakdown. Neither does it adhere to what might be termed the UK’s ‘fair share’ of the remaining global carbon budget.

Zero Carbon Britain and… A series of independent thought papers on rising to the climate emergency PDF document, 4 MB Download  

By making changes to our buildings, transport systems, land use and behaviour, and by investing in a variety of renewable energy technologies, we can achieve a zero carbon transition while building in a wide range of additional benefits.

CAT’s new report provides a blueprint to open new conversations around the scale and speed of change we need to deliver if we are to rise to the climate emergency. It can be used as a template to help citizens and local and national policymakers develop and deliver zero carbon action plans.

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

Will Julian Assange Die in Prison?

Will Julian Assange Die in Prison?

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on April 11, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is suffering significant “psychological torture” and abuse in the London prison where he is being held, and his life is now “at risk,” according to an independent UN rights expert. A senior member of his legal team believes Assange may not live until the end of the extradition process.

Assange mumbled, stuttered, and struggled to say his own name and date of birth when he appeared in court on October 21. The Wikileaks founder is being subjected to long drawn-out “psychological torture” as he battles to prevent his extradition to the United States where he faces a slew of espionage charges, warns Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

“Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life,” Melzer said in a statement on Friday.

“His physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration,” writes former British ambassador Craig Murray, who was present at the October hearing. “When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both… his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought… Until yesterday I had always been quietly skeptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture… and skeptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments.

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

Immediate moratorium on fracking in England because of tremor risk

Immediate moratorium on fracking in England because of tremor risk

pnr 190805 Ros Wills 2

Gooseneck at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 5 August 2019. Photo: Ros Wills

After seven years of promoting fracking, Conservative ministers have withdrawn their support and blocked the prospects of a shale gas industry.

The UK government has issued an immediate moratorium in England because of the risk of earth tremors. Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already issued measures that amount to moratoriums on fracking.

In a statement released just after midnight, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said new scientific advice concluded that it was not possible with current technology to predict accurately whether fracking would cause tremors and how big they would be.

Opponents of fracking described the announcement as a victory for communities and the climate but called for a full, permanent ban. IGas, the only industry representative to respond to our invitation to comment, said it was confident it could operate safely and environmentally responsibly. The industry organisation, UKOOG, later said fracking was a long-standing technology and the UK had a world-class shale resource.  Full reaction

Ministers said they had based their decision on a report by the industry regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). It had been investigating earth tremors caused by fracking at the UK’s only shale gas site, at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, operated by Cuadrilla.

The report looked at the impacts of fracking the PNR1z well in autumn 2018, which caused more than 50 tremors. The OGA is also examining 134 seismic events caused by fracking the second well, PNR2, in August 2019. They included the UK’s largest fracking-induced tremor, measuring 2.9ML. The British Geological Survey said this tremor was felt by several thousand people, while several hundred reported damage to homes. The OGA suspended fracking within hours.

pnr 190826 uwtoc-2
Campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, 26 August 2019. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

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

UK Gov’t Halts Fracking In England Ahead Of General Election

UK Gov’t Halts Fracking In England Ahead Of General Election

The U.K. fracking industry has grounded to halt as the British government ended its support for the controversial practice of extracting oil out of the ground, reported Bloomberg.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announced Saturday that all new hydraulic fracturing wells would be banned. The country’s only active site in northwestern England would be immediately shut down.

The move to ban fracking across the country, which involves injecting water and sand into oil wells at high pressure, was followed by the Oil and Gas Authority publishing a new study that concluded there are severe hazards for people living around fracking sites. Some of the pollution risks were toxic water and earthquake-related damage.

Johnson’s administration banned fracking just weeks ahead of a general election. His party is attempting to win over voters in rural areas in northern England, where much of the fracking sites reside.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, cheered on Twitter about the fracking prohibition, though he said it was only a “temporary pause” and “an election stunt to try and win a few votes.”


The Conservatives’ 𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗿𝘆 pause of fracking is an election stunt to try and win a few votes.

Boris Johnson described fracking as ‘glorious news for humanity’. We cannot trust him.

Labour would ban fracking. That’s real change.


Britain’s business and energy secretary, Andrea Leadsom, said after reviewing the Oil and Gas Authority’s report into fracking-related risks, “we can not rule out future unacceptable impacts” that fracking has on communities.

Seismic activity around a fracking site near Blackpool, a seaside town on the Irish Sea coast of England, operated by shale gas group Cuadrilla Resources, was suspended in August after earthquakes spooked residents.

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

Finding our common ground and common purpose

Finding our common ground and common purpose


We are living in extraordinary, stormy times. In the political sphere, a sixteen-year-old girl speaks truth to powerful global leaders in New York; in the UK, the Supreme Court finds our Government has acted unlawfully in the proroguing of Parliament. In spite of all the promises and declarations, the planet is still set for 3 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels, sending us more rapidly towards the tipping point for our climate and all life on earth. We are travelling through unchartered territories. Tribal and polarised politics shape the public discourse. It can feel profoundly unsettling. Where on earth is the solid ground from which we can find common purpose and make the urgent progress we need on the really critical issues facing us?

In July 2019, The RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) published a series of important reports. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, this two-year independent inquiry helped to shape a new vision for safe, secure and sustainable food and farming systems and a flourishing countryside. Initially focussed on matters raised by the Brexit vote, the inquiry quickly turned its attention to the urgent issues that transcend Brexit: the crises in climate and nature, health and wellbeing and rural communities. For eighteen months, we worked with business leaders and academics across different sectors, and with citizens in their communities around the UK, to arrive at the recommendations in our report, Our Future in the LandThe report garnered widespread – and cross-party – backing, both for our recommendations and for the process by which we arrived at them. We were determined that the many and diverse perspectives we’d heard through our inquiry were respected, and that everyone who’d given their time, experience and expertise to us so generously would see their voices in our reports. And make no mistake: this is contested territory.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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