Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Today's Links

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed, but despite all the cooperation agreements, all the promises of a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, all the feel good riffs and lyrics by the Scorpions and Billy Joel, NATO is still there. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Several generations with no memory of the war apart from what their grandparents or the History Channel have told them have grown up, but US bases, across Germany, Italy and Japan, remain. Russia, first out of weakness and then out of politeness and trust toward its partners, has stood idly by while NATO expanded, first into Eastern Europe and then into the states of the former Soviet Union. Now NATO is giving equipment and training support for the Ukrainian military of post-coup Kiev, in the very heart of Kievan Rus'. And still, Russia is the security threat? Sorry comrades, but Russia's not the one maintaining a relic of a security organization formed three generations ago and charged with defending against Russian hordes waiting to break into the West German plains.  Sputnik





1--Retail Sales Miss For 4th Month In A Row: First Time Since Lehman, zero hedge


2--San Francisco tech bubble spills into mega housing bubble: San Francisco median price nears $1 million while homeownership rate falters., DR Housing Bubble


3--Why Your Wages Could Be Depressed for a Lot Longer Than You Think, Bloomberg


4--Chicago Fed, Existing home sales, Mosler


The economy has indeed gotten off to a slow start this year, confirmed by the national activity index which came in at minus 0.11 in February vs minus 0.10 in January. The 3-month average is now in negative ground, at minus 0.08 in February vs plus 0.26 in January.

The weakest component in February is for personal consumption & housing, at minus 0.17. The component for production-related indicators, at minus 0.07, is the second weakest. These readings offer tangible confirmation that both housing and manufacturing are pulling down economic growth....



Existing homes on the market are still on the scarce side, at 4.6 months of supply and unchanged from January. A year ago, the rate was 4.9 months. Prices firmed in the latest report, up 2.5 percent to a median $202,600 and a respectable 7.5 percent ahead of a year ago...

Oil Price Drop Hurts Spending on Business Investments

By Nick Timiraos

March 22 (WSJ) — Business capital spending rose 6% last year due to gains from a broad base of U.S. industries. The drag from energy this year could cut that growth rate in half in 2015, according to Goldman Sachs. Moreover, equity analysts at the bank estimate capital spending globally by energy companies in the S&P 500 will fall 25%. Already, energy companies in the S&P 500 have announced about $8.3 billion in spending cuts. Excluding energy, capital spending will grow 4% for S&P 500 companies this year, says Citi.




5--QE, the dollar, and the euro, jobless claims, US trade deficit, Philadelphia Fed survey, Mosler


like everywhere else it’s been tried, QE will not reverse their deflationary forces or add to aggregate demand, and the euro shorts and underweight portfolios will be scrambling to get their euro back, while at the same time the current account surplus that resulted from the weak euro works to make those needed euro that much harder to get.


6--Saudi Output, Mosler


Saudis set price and let their clients buy all they want at the price settings, so their output continually adjusts to equal global demand net of all others producers.
What’s clear is that said net global demand has fluctuated very little, obviating the notion that the price collapse was somehow a function of a collapse of demand


7---Amphetamines is your diet supplements? FDA says, "You bet", NC


Acacia rigidula   In  2013, FDA scientists found that multiple dietary supplements contained BMPEA, a compound closely related to amphetamines, and hence potentially dangerous and addictive, although it had never been tested on or previously used by humans.  Although the FDA had authority to do something about this apparent adulteration of these products, it so far had done nothing.  Thus it appears that the currently legal revolving door that allows government regulation to be run by people who come directly from the industries that government is supposed to regulate could be responsible for exposing people to dangerous, addictive drugs

8--French officials debunk NATO warnings of Russian invasion of Ukraine, wsws
By St├ęphane Hugues
14 April 2015
US and European claims that Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine are false, based on stove-piped intelligence fed to NATO largely by Washington and contradicted by detailed information available to French intelligence agencies.
This was revealed last month in public testimony at the French National Assembly by Director of Military Intelligence General Christophe Gomart, available on the National Assembly’s web site. For several weeks, Gomart’s testimony was studiously covered up by the French, European and US media. However, the story broke when it was recently covered by Russian state media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik News .

Behind the backs of the world’s population, NATO is bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war, based on lies. The NATO governments collectively have adopted the type of criminal tactics the Bush administration adopted as it launched its war in Iraq, based on false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While the resulting invasion and civil war cost over a million lives, that appalling toll would be dwarfed by the casualties that would result from all-out war between NATO and Russia.....

The major European imperialist powers knew that the underlying propaganda was fraudulent, but they backed it and sought to use it for their own purposes.

Gomart bluntly stated that NATO warnings about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine were lies contradicted by the DRM’s information. He said, “NATO had announced that Russia would invade Ukraine, whereas according to our information, nothing supported this hypothesis—indeed, we observed that the Russians had not deployed command centers or a supply chain, notably military hospitals, that would allow for a military invasion, and reserve units had not moved at all.”


He added, “Subsequent events proved us right, because if some Russian soldiers were indeed seen in Ukraine, it was more a maneuver aiming to exert pressure on Ukrainian President Poroshenko than an attempted invasion.”...


Yet it appears that false information largely provided to NATO by Washington was used to press for NATO preparation for an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine—that is, a major military build-up placing NATO military forces across Europe on high alert aimed at Russia. The risks posed to the world’s population by such a criminally reckless policy, which heightens the danger of the eruption of all-out war between NATO and nuclear-armed Russia, are incalculable.
Gomart’s assertions were supported by Philippe Migault, an Eastern Europe expert at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) think-tank. “France will not be fooled. France has its own sources of information, and we are aware what the explanation for the crisis in Ukraine is,” Migault told Sputnik News.


The remarks of Gomart and Migault underscore the fraudulent character of the NATO war drive against Russia. Since the pro-Western, fascist-led coup in Kiev let to the outbreak of civil war in Ukraine, the Obama administration, the Pentagon, and the European ruling elite have whipped up hysterical propaganda denouncing Russia as an imminent threat to the world order....


The fact that a story about public testimony at the French National Assembly broke in the Russian media underscores the duplicity of the French media and political establishment and its participation in the war drive against Russia. Gomart’s comments were buried in the proceedings of the National Assembly. Neither the government nor any major French news media reported them or, for that matter, Russian media coverage of Gomart’s testimony.


9--Scott Ritter, The Iran Deal, HP


Armed with the knowledge that the case against Iraq's WMD was, at best illusory and, at worst, a complete fabrication, Americans should be hesitant about accepting at face value claims of Iranian nuclear malfeasance that are unsustained by fact and are at odds with history. History does matter, both in terms of how we got to where we are, and in predicting where we are going. When it comes to Iran and its nuclear program, the world would do well to take a different path than that chosen for Iraq, and let inspections, not bombs, do the work of disarmament.


10--What We Get Wrong About Yemen, common dreams
Foreign intervention in a local fight would be the worst course anyone could take.

The roots of Yemen’s current conflict date back more than a decade, to a little-covered series of six brutal wars fought by the government of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the aim of defeating an insurgent group—widely referred to as the Houthis—based in the country’s far north. The Houthis’ founder, firebrand cleric Hussein al-Houthi, hailed from a prominent Zaidi Shi’a family and was a leader of the revival of Zaidism, a heterodox Shi’a sect found nearly exclusively in Yemen’s mountainous north. Notably the group’s foundation was, itself, rooted in a reaction to foreign intervention: a key aspect of the Houthis ideology was shoring up Zaidism against the perceived threat of the influence of Saudi-influenced ideologies and a general condemnation of the Yemeni government’s alliance with the United States, which, along with complaints regarding . the government’s corruption and the marginalization of much of the Houthis’ home areas in Saada constituted the group’s key grievances.

The Houthis managed to capitalize on Yemen’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, using the power vacuum to expand their influence south towards Sanaa. But it wasn’t simply a matter of benefitting from the state’s collapse. Sidelined in the internationally-backed, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-brokered agreement that lead to Saleh’s exit in power, the Houthis shrewdly positioned themselves as an opposition faction, standing out for their sharp criticisms of Yemen’s transitional government, which failed to reverse Yemen’s deteriorating security and economic situation and was riddled with corruption, to say nothing of the western and Gulf leaders appeared to take a blind eye to such factors. The group managed to pick up swaths of new supporters outside their traditional demographics—while laying the groundwork for an alliance of convenience against the Islah party with former president Saleh’s backers—earning a mainstream of sorts with the group’s participation in Yemen’s “Conference of National Dialogue,” an extended UN-backed summit that aimed to sketch the shape of a new constitution for the country.

11--Behind closed doors, however, AFRICOM’s officers speak quite a different language. They have repeatedly asserted that the continent is an American “battlefield” and that -- make no bones about it -- they are already embroiled in an actual “war.”  Nick Turse, SC

In 2014, the U.S. carried out 674 military activities across Africa, nearly two missions per day, an almost 300% jump in the number of annual operations, exercises, and military-to-military training activities since U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008.

Despite this massive increase in missions and a similar swelling of bases, personnel, and funding, the picture painted last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee by AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez was startlingly bleak. For all the American efforts across Africa, Rodriguez offered a vision of a continent in crisis, imperiled from East to West by militant groups that have developed, grown in strength, or increased their deadly reach in the face of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

“Transregional terrorists and criminal networks continue to adapt and expand aggressively,” Rodriguez told committee members. “Al-Shabab has broadened its operations to conduct, or attempt to conduct, asymmetric attacks against Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and especially Kenya. Libya-based threats are growing rapidly, including an expanding ISIL presence... Boko Haram threatens the ability of the Nigerian government to provide security and basic services in large portions of the northeast.” Despite the grim outcomes since the American military began “pivoting” to Africa after 9/11, the U.S. recently signed an agreement designed to keep its troops based on the continent until almost midcentury.


Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian dictatorship: There are no national elections, no parties, and no rights

Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups

Saudi Arabia’s infamous religious police are employees of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Their job includes ensuring that men and women do not mix socially, that people do not dress immodestly and that businesses close during prayer time,” wrote Adam Taylor of the Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia was rated as “not free” and was given the lowest possible score in a January 2015 report by Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization that tracks human rights.
Also in January, Human Rights Watch published a report stating that, “Saudi Arabia imprisoned … activists on broad, catch-all charges designed to criminalize peaceful dissent, such as breaking allegiance with the ruler and setting up an unlicensed organization.”
......
Here’s a look at five things about Saudi Arabia that US officials and the establishment media are neglecting to talk about as Saudi bombs continue to drop on the people of Yemen with the support of the United States: 
  1. Sharia Law runs the country.
  2. Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian dictatorship: There are no national elections, no parties, and no rights.
  3. People are publicly beheaded in the Kingdom.
  4. Human rights for Saudi women are among the worst in the world.
  5. The monarchy is a cash machine for terrorists


13--War Happy prez continues global onslaught, guardian


If Obama is an anti-war president, he’s the worst anti-war president in history. In the last six years, the Obama administration has bombed seven countries in the Middle East alone and armed countless more with tens of billions in dollars in weapons. But that’s apparently not enough for Republicans. As the Isis war continues to expand and Yemen descends into civil war, everyone is still demanding more: If only we bombed the region a little bit harder, then they’ll submit....


US is already escalating – not pulling back – its involvement across the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the president has quietly delayed pulling US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year so they can continue special forces raids and drone strikes, despite loudly celebrating the supposed “end” of combat operations during the State of the Union in January. In Iraq, US forces escalated its airstrikes in the so-called battle to re-take Tikrit, which the New York Times editorial board decried as a folly, but received scant scrutiny elsewhere. The Pentagon also confirmed last week that they expect the Isis war to last “3+ years.”....


Photographer Gregg Carlstrom succinctly summed it up last week as Saudi Arabia started to drop bombs on Yemen: “US praises US ally for bombing US-equipped militia aligned with US foe who is partnering with US to fight another US-equipped militia.”


14--Saudi campaign is targeting Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, press tv


Analysts say the Saudi campaign is targeting Yemen’s civilian infrastructure in the name of fighting the Houthis.
A significant number of schools, shops, gas stations, markets, stadiums and mosques have been destroyed in the attacks.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating. Many international aid organizations have sought clearances to dispatch medical and other humanitarian supplies by air and sea to civilians in need


15--Naryshkin blasts US, press tv


Sergey Naryshkin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament:
"The new conflicts in various regions of the planet that often emerge due to external provocations show that the instincts of colonizers have not disappeared. They are presented with renewed vigor and by some carpetbaggers from the European continent, and they have become the essence of geopolitical strategy for the US,"


The State Duma speaker also accused European countries of obeying the US in its policy in military and political affairs and warned that Washington is now seeking to control Europe’s trade and finance sectors.
"The obedience of almost the whole Europe in military affairs has already been reached, and many things are under control in political affairs. Now it’s time for trade and finances," said Naryshkin.
The top lawmaker also spoke of US sanctions against Russian individuals and entities over the crisis in Ukraine, saying Washington’s goal is the signing of a tough and all-encompassing financial deal with the European Union, in which the bloc will have the role of a younger partner.
"America needs the lengthy sanctions saga that comes in violation of the international law and the atmosphere of information hysteria to continue the unpunished economic banditry," Naryshkin added


16--NATOs Russian myths busted, sputnik


incidentally, a statement by Jack Matlock, the last US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, who notes that the West did give the Soviet leadership a "clear commitment" not to expand east.


Gorbachev wrote in his massive 750 page tome Memoirs that "during the negotiations on the unification of Germany, they gave assurances that NATO would not extend its zone of operation to the east."
And the ex-president would repeat the assertion in 2009, this time with a commentary, telling German newspaper Bild that "[German Chancellor] Helmut Kohl, US Secretary of State James Baker and others assured me that NATO would not move an inch to the east. The Americans did not fulfill their promise, and the Germans showed indifference. Maybe they even rubbed their hands in satisfaction over how they had managed to put one over on the Russians. But what has this given us? Only that the Russians no longer believe in the assurances of the West."...

With regard to Russia's Myth #3, which is that "NATO has advanced its infrastructure toward Russia's borders," the NATO document basically just admits that it's not really a myth at all. And how could they? Their own PR officials have been playing up the organization's growing involvement in states bordering Russia, while their armies brazenly carry out parades 300 meters from the Russian border...

incidentally, a statement by Jack Matlock, the last US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, who notes that the West did give the Soviet leadership a "clear commitment" not to expand east....

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed, but despite all the cooperation agreements, all the promises of a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, all the feel good riffs and lyrics by the Scorpions and Billy Joel, NATO is still there. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Several generations with no memory of the war apart from what their grandparents or the History Channel have told them have grown up, but US bases, across Germany, Italy and Japan, remain. Russia, first out of weakness and then out of politeness and trust toward its partners, has stood idly by while NATO expanded, first into Eastern Europe and then into the states of the former Soviet Union. Now NATO is giving equipment and training support for the Ukrainian military of post-coup Kiev, in the very heart of Kievan Rus'. And still, Russia is the security threat? Sorry comrades, but Russia's not the one maintaining a relic of a security organization formed three generations ago and charged with defending against Russian hordes waiting to break into the West German plains.



18--War of Failure, Yemen, crosstalk


19--Japan on Brink of Another GDP Contraction, WSJ


With a booming stock market, falling oil prices and promised pay raises at big companies, Japan’s economy must be doing well, right?
Actually, no. Monthly gross domestic product contracted a sharp 2.1% in February from the previous month, the biggest drop since April last year, raising the specter of another quarter of economic contraction in January-March, according to data released Wednesday by the Japan Center for Economic Research, an independent public policy institute.
According to JCER’s calculations, the economy now needs to have grown 1.5% in March just to equal the fourth quarter’s output. But that seems a difficult task. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has forecast that industrial output is expected to have declined in March, before recovering in April.


If gross domestic product indeed shrinks in the first quarter, it would be the third contraction in the past four quarters–quite a lackluster performance given Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vow to revive strong growth and decisively defeat deflation.
What’s to blame? Weak private consumption, said Tetsuaki Takano, an economist with the institute. Household spending fell from the previous month in December, January and February, surprising economists given a relatively benign external environment. Private consumption accounts for 60% of Japan’s economy.
The economy may rebound with the start of a new fiscal year in April, Mr. Takano said, but any recovery will lack strength until Japanese consumers regain their health.






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