Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anticipating the international spread of Zika virus from Brazil

In May, 2015, locally acquired cases of Zika virus—an arbovirus found in Africa and Asia-Pacific and transmitted via Aedes mosquitoes—were confirmed in Brazil. The presence of Aedes mosquitoes across Latin America, coupled with suitable climatic conditions, have triggered a Zika virus epidemic in Brazil, currently estimated at 440 000–1 300 000 cases.1 Viraemic travellers have now introduced Zika virus into at least 13 additional countries, where susceptible Aedes mosquitoes have become infected and perpetuated local transmission cycles. In Brazil, a precipitous surge in infants born with microcephaly and the detection of Zika virus RNA in the amniotic fluid of affected newborns has been reported.1 We sought to identify high-risk international pathways for the dispersion of Zika virus and global geographies conducive to autochthonous transmission.
We created a global Zika virus spread model by adapting a seasonal model for dengue that integrates global ecological niche data for Aedes aegypti and albopictus and worldwide temperature profiles.2, 3 In Brazil, we identified airports within 50 km of areas conducive to year-round Zika virus transmission. We mapped the final destinations of international travellers departing from these airports from September, 2014, to August, 2015, using worldwide flight itinerary data from the International Air Transport Association. We used LandScan, a gridded global population dataset, to estimate numbers of people living in geographies at risk for autochthonous Zika virus transmission.
9·9 million travellers departed from the aforementioned Brazilian airports for international destinations, with 65% to the Americas (figure), 27% to Europe, and 5% to Asia. Traveller volumes were greatest to the USA (2 767 337), Argentina (1 314 694), Chile (614 687), Italy (419 955), Portugal (411 407), and France (404 525). China and Angola received the highest volume of travellers in Asia (84 332) and Africa (82 838), respectively. Argentina, Italy, and the USA have more than 60% of their populations residing in areas conducive to seasonal Zika virus transmission, whereas Mexico, Colombia, and the USA have an estimated 30·5, 23·2, and 22·7 million people, respectively, living in areas conducive to year-round transmission.
Thumbnail image of Figure. Opens large image


Final destinations of travellers departing Brazil by potential for autochthonous Zika transmission
In parallel to the recent experience with chikungunya,4 Zika virus has the potential to rapidly spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. With no vaccine or antiviral therapy available, possible interventions include: personal protection (ie, repellent use) and daytime avoidance of mosquito bites (especially pregnant women until more is known about the association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly); daytime avoidance of mosquito bites among Zika virus-infected individuals to disrupt human to mosquito to human transmission cycles (80% of infected individuals are asymptomatic and the remainder have clinical syndromes overlapping with dengue and chikungunya);5 and community-level mosquito surveillance and control measures. The summer Olympic Games in Brazil in August, 2016, heighten the need for awareness of this emerging virus.
KK is the founder of BlueDot, a social benefit corporation that models global infectious disease threats. MIC, MG, and AW have received employment income from BlueDot. IIB has consulted to BlueDot. We acknowledge support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institute of Health, R01 LM010812 , the Wellcome Trust ( #095066 ), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( OPP1119467, OPP1106023, and OPP1093011 ), and the RAPIDD program of the Science & Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security, and the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health.


  1. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Rapid risk assessment: Zika virus epidemic in the Americas: potential association with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. 10 December 2015. ECDC, Stockholm; 2015
  2. Kraemer, MUG, Sinka, ME, Duda, KA et al. The global distribution of the arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus. eLife. 2015; 4: e08347
  3. Brady, OJ, Golding, N, Pigott, DM et al. Global temperature constraints on Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus persistence and competence for dengue virus transmission. Parasit Vectors. 2014; 7: 338
  4. Weaver, SC and Lecuit, M. Chikungunya virus and the global spread of a mosquito-borne disease. N Engl J Med. 2015; 372: 1231–1239
  5. Duffy, MR, Chen, T-H, Hancock, WT et al. Zika virus outbreak on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360: 2536–2543

Office Market in Houston Melts Down, Watch The Banks!

Wolf Richter,
Commercial real estate is highly leveraged. Debt is everything. The entire math is based on high rental rates and low vacancy rates. Without them, the debts cannot be serviced. But now in Houston, both are shooting in the wrong direction.
OK, Houston’s economy is diversified, they say. The oil bust hurts, and there have been waves of layoffs of highly paid engineers, but it won’t hit the city as bad as the last big oil bust did, they say.
And yet, the amount of office space vacated by companies that are trying to slash their operating expenses and that is now on the market as sublease space has spiked 69% by the end of 2015, to 7.6 million square feet (msf), according to real-estate services firm Savills Studley. And they “continue to sit on the market.”

It’s going to get worse:

New sublease blocks are expected to hit the market in 2016, particularly in the CBD [Central Business District]. Shell is projected to vacate 250,000 sf in One Shell Plaza and EP Energy, likewise, is anticipated to leave 100,000 sf in the Kinder Morgan Building. Shell would likely also shed space at BG Group Place should its pending $70-billion acquisition of BG Group clear governmental hurdles and finalize.
Many large tenants who paid at the very top of the market in the last few years warehoused space in anticipation of continued headcount growth. As a result, many firms had surplus space even prior to the implementation of layoffs in the last year. In 2016, the office market should see more shadow space listings….
Occupancy, after five years in a row of increases, fell by 1.4 msf (“negative absorption”), the biggest decrease in occupancy since 2009. Going forward, M&A and bankruptcies “will contribute to additional negative absorption” and will hit the vacancy rate. It already spiked to 23.2%.

And it’s going to get even worse:

After a tremendous building boom in 2013 and 2014, a total of 17 msf is expected to hit the market over the next few years, with 7.9 msf scheduled for completion in 2016. Only about two-thirds have been pre-leased. Some of these pre-leased properties will enter the shadow inventory as soon as they’re completed. But 5.5 msf has not been leased.
These new buildings will hit the market at the worst possible time, competing with 7.9 msf of sublease space and large amounts of shadow inventory, during a period of negative absorption.
Already the first “see-through buildings” in this cycle are appearing — that infamous phenomenon of vacant and transparent buildings dotting Houston’s business district during the oil bust of the 1980s.
Piedmont Office Realty Trust last year “opened a glassy 11-story building in the heart of the Energy Corridor district without any tenants,” the Wall Street Journal reported. The company’s CEO Don Miller lamented in November during the earnings call that “there’s no real genuine activity in the marketplace.”
And “several notable mistimed projects to be completed this will be under immense pressure,” Savills Studley reported, including:
609 Main. Of its 1,000,000 sf, only 62,000 sf have been leased so far. “Only time will tell whether that space continues to remain vacant after delivery or if the landlord successfully cannibalizes other CBD Class A buildings through new relocation deals.”
And Energy Center Five, scheduled to deliver in April, “remains completely unleased with 524,328 sf available.”
Leasing activity in 2015 plunged 42% to 8.4 msf, the weakest since Financial-Crisis year 2009. While there were some large deals in the fourth quarter, they were “bearish moves”:
Apache Corporation, for example, extended its 524,000-sf lease in Post Oak Central for just one year, pushing back its expiration from December 2018 to December 2019. It executed this extension instead of moving forward on a new development with 6.4 acres of land that it purchased in BLVD Place in 2012.
The quarter’s second largest lease, finalized by Bracewell & Giuliani at Pennzoil Place, was a renewal that saw the law firm downsize by an entire floor to 189,061 sf.
Now the market is in a holding pattern, without real demand, and lots of supply. Savills Studley’s report:
Landlords are feeling the marked reduction in tours, requests for proposals, and ultimately deal volume. Rents appear to be adjusting in spots, but the gap between tenant and landlord expectations has widened.
Many landlords still want to hit or come close to their pro forma financials. In contrast, some area businesses expect rents to adjust on a level that matches the sharp slide in energy pricing.
So overall asking rent edged down 1.6% to $28.99 per square foot, the second quarter in a row of declines. Class A asking rent fell 2.5% to $34.70. But the oncoming flood of sublet supply and new space, while demand is actually declining, will likely lead to “sharper rental rate erosion in future quarters.”
And this is where it gets tricky for banks. Commercial real estate is highly leveraged. Without high rental rates and low vacancy rates, the math won’t work and the debts cannot be serviced. Now both are shooting in the wrong direction.
Last time this happened, it turned into a gigantic mess that helped tear up over 400 Texas banks between 1980 and 1989, including nine of the state’s 10 largest.
So now everyone is hoping for a miraculous turnaround in the price of oil, in addition to healthy growth in the overall US economy, and everything else will follow. They’re hoping for another oil boom, and all that comes with it. But if their wishes come true even modestly, it would very quickly lead to a boom in production and thus an extension of the glut that would destroy the price of oil all over again before it ever gets back to a survivable level. And the shakeout in the real estate bust will simply get worse.
And how are banks that lent to the oil & gas sector dealing with? “All of it is in the gutter.” Read… Banks Much Deeper in the Hole on Oil & Gas Collateral than they Pretend

Feldstein says Fed should let the market fall and keep hiking rates

Central bank should not pause due to stock market declines, Harvard economist says


Martin Feldstein thinks talk of a recession is overblown.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Martin Feldstein, a prominent Harvard economist once on many people’s short-list to lead the Federal Reserve, has a simple message for the U.S. central bank: ignore the stock market.
In an interview with MarketWatch, Feldstein said stocks are overvalued. Any signal from the U.S. central bank that it may pause from its plans to continue raising interest rates would only create the impression that there is a “Fed put” on the market. A put is an option that protects an investor from losses.
In the interview, Feldstein, now 76 and the president emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, sees a risk of higher inflation going forward. He said growing talk of a recession in the U.S. is misguided.
MarketWatch: In a column in the Wall Street Journal in August, you said this about Fed policy: “It is time to escape the unprecedented monetary policy that for a while stimulated demand – but then distorted prices and brought about the current corrections.” Can you unpack that? What is going on?
Feldstein: They introduced unconventional monetary policy, quantitative easing. It was successful in the way that the Fed and [former chairman] Ben Bernanke predicted, in that it raised household wealth by driving investors into equities and increased the value of homes. And in response to that increase in wealth, consumers went out and spent more and that got the economy going. I think it was as simple as that, and it was effective. But, at the same time, these super-low, sustained low interest rates have led to a variety of risk-taking that could cause significant problems going forward. So the stock market got pushed up to a point where the price-to-earnings ratio is about 30% higher than it’s been historically and we’re seeing what that’s doing in terms of falling equity prices and similar things are happening on high-risk debt, and I could go on.
MarketWatch: You want them to tighten more?
Feldstein: I want them to do what the FOMC forecast in December, which is that they would take the rate up by 100 basis points in 2016 and continue to do more in 2017. And even that will still be very easy, accommodative, monetary conditions.
MarketWatch: Won’t financial conditions tighten and the stock market decline?
Feldstein: That’s right, the stock market might decline. But if the stock market is very overvalued we shouldn’t be surprised that, at some point, it has to revert to a more normal level.
MarketWatch: Won’t that damage the economy?
Feldstein: I’d rather it happen slowly, then build up the kind of problems we had in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
MarketWatch: So this is just an adjustment the economy has to make?
Feldstein: The danger, in my mind anyway, is if the Fed keeps interest rates extremely low, if they say, in reaction to the recent decline in equity prices, if they say: “Well maybe we shouldn’t raise interest rates,” that will just be a signal to buy more equities and to push up the price of equities even further and to get things further out of line so when the correction comes, it will be even bigger.
MarketWatch: So asset prices are now overvalued and that has to reverse?
Feldstein: Yes, and making it worse would not be a good thing.
MarketWatch: You’ve been worried about inflation for some time –even pressing Fed Chairwoman [Janet] Yellen when she first took office about it. Haven’t you been wrong so far?
Feldstein: I think I have said it was important for the Fed to make it clear that they cared about inflation. I think I wrote that and I said that in the Economic Club of New York discussion with Janet Yellen [in April 2014]. I’ve also explained, in a Project Syndicate piece, that contrary to what a lot of people say, there hasn’t been a big increase in the money supply, and therefore inflation is unlikely. People have said to me, ‘since we’ve had this explosion of money, why didn’t that create inflation?’ And what I wrote that we haven’t had that explosion of money, what happened was the commercial banks took the opportunity to just leave funds at the Federal Reserve. They didn’t use those funds to expand their lending and to expand the money supply. But I think there is the danger going forward, that, starting where you are today, with an unemployment rate of 5%, if the Fed continues to have negative real short-term rates, that we could see the unemployment rate drifting down below 5% and, at some point, that would start to raise inflation.
MarketWatch: Larry Summers, and others, have argued that the neutral interest rate – the level of interest rates consistent with full employment – is lower now than it used to be. It sounds like you are not buying that.
Feldstein: Yes, I am not a big fan of those arguments. I think it is hard to know. What we know is that actual rates are very low, but we know the Fed has made that happen. So the neutral real rate is not a number you can see in the market, it is a number that economists can try to calculate but I am not persuaded that that number is a negative number or dramatically lower.
MarketWatch: You want the Fed to hike rates steadily, step-by-step toward something like a 3.5% terminal rate?
Feldstein: Assuming that inflation does increase, as the Fed itself predicts, remember that core CPI is at 2.1% relative to 12 months ago, so if someday the price of oil stops falling, we will see actual inflation catch up with the core, so when the inflation rate gets into the 1.5%-2% range, then I think normalization of interest rates means getting interest rates back to, as you say, 3.5% to 4%.
MarketWatch: Do you want them to go steadily, go in March?
Feldstein: I hate to use their expression but it’s data dependent. So it depends on what is happening in the economy. But I wouldn’t take the fall in the equity market as a reason not to stick to their interest rate expansion path because I think that would send a very bad signal to investors that there is a kind of Fed put there and that they don’t have to worry because the stock market only goes up, because that will get it further out of line with reality.
MarketWatch: There has been growing talk about a recession. You don’t sound so worried.
Feldstein: I’m not. We’ve had a weak [fourth] quarter, basically we had a very weak October. We don’t have December numbers yet. If you look at the various forecasts that you and I probably both look at, for the first quarter, there are numbers in the 2.5% range for real GDP, so I don’t see any serious problem. And even the fourth-quarter numbers, which are just estimates at this point, are primarily driven by reductions in inventories and weaker exports. So it is not domestic demand that is doing this.
MarketWatch: If the Fed keep raising rates, won’t the dollar continue to strengthen and hurt manufacturing?
Feldstein: If we look at the impact of the exchange rate on the cost of imports and competitiveness on exports, there is very little in it from the exchange rate. The main thing that has driven the cost of imports has been the energy price, and the government breaks out those two components of what drives the import price index. The competition that supposedly comes from abroad because of the exchange rate is very small relative to the part of the import price index that is driven by energy.
MarketWatch: So commercial real estate is another example of a bubble?
Feldstein: Overvalued. The number I hear is cap rates of around 3%, that is not sustainable.
MarketWatch: Part of your concern is the Fed doesn’t have good tools to combat asset bubbles.
Feldstein: They perhaps could have them if they wanted them, but they certainly don’t use them. They have said that we should have macroprudential policies other than interest rates as a way of dealing with these kinds of risks. But when you look around, it is hard to see what those are, other than building up the capital requirements for commercial banks, which, in itself is a macroprudential policy, does reduce the risk of the banks getting into the kind of trouble that they did before. On the other hand, we have to remember that the banks are just one-third of total capital raising in the United States.
MarketWatch: It seems you were never a big fan of quantitative easing. You don’t want it in the tool kit for the next downturn?
Feldstein: I suppose it comes down to what’s the alternative. If you had said to me before the economic downturn: “What do you think about fiscal policy as a tool for fighting downturns,” I would say that is not a very good tool, we have learned from experience that trying to use discretionary fiscal policy is likely to get us in trouble because we can’t move fast enough. But when this downturn happened, I felt that this is different from previous ones. It was deeper and more importantly, longer, and therefore there was room to do fiscal policy, but the fiscal policy that the administration did in 2009 was just very badly designed and really didn’t do much to stimulate demand.
MarketWatch: And that forced the Fed.
Feldstein: And the Fed came along and said: “Well, if conventional monetary policy won’t do it, and fiscal policy they tried and failed, so it’s up to us now.” And I don’t disagree with that.
MarketWatch: What about other tools to combat downturns — negative rates and raising the 2% inflation target to 4% — you are not a fan?
Feldstein: I am not a fan.
MarketWatch: Let’s take those one at a time — negative rates
Feldstein: Negative rates just provide even more incentive for excessive risk taking. People saying: “Well I can’t get a decent return on a relatively safe asset, so I will take duration risk, I will take credit risk, I will invest in real assets like commercial real estate with exceptionally high prices.” So I think that is not a good thing. And of course in Europe, it is not doing much for them.
MarketWatch: And moving the inflation rate higher?
Feldstein: I am old enough to remember the pain of the inflation in the late 1970s and the early 1980s before Paul Volcker came around and fixed that problem. We paid a high price for getting back to a world where people believe inflation is going to stay low, and if we now come along and say: “Well instead of 2% , let’s go for 4% or 5% because that has certain technical advantages,” then people are going to say: “Oops, what are they going to do next.”
MarketWatch: I hear what you’re saying but maybe I’m not as sanguine as you are. With growth around 2%, couldn’t we end up in a ditch if the Fed does too much?
Feldstein: That’s why, when you asked would I commit to that or would I see how it plays out, I said I must see how it plays out. That’s data-dependent movement.

China’s central bank makes massive cash infusion

590-billion yuan injection is most in 3 years, intended to improve liquidity

The headquarters of the People's Bank of China in Beijing.

SHANGHAI — China’s central bank is putting the largest amount of cash into the financial system in nearly three years, using a weekly market operation to pre-empt a holiday-induced funding squeeze and offset rapid capital outflows.
The People’s Bank of China offered 340 billion yuan ($51.89 billion) of short-term loans, known as reverse repurchase agreements, to commercial banks in a routine money market operation Thursday.
The central bank provided 440 billion yuan via similar tools Tuesday, the first leg of its twice-a-week liquidity-management exercises.
Given the maturity of 190 billion yuan of previously issued loans, the PBOC’s net cash injection this week totals 590 billion yuan, the biggest of its kind since early February 2013, when it reached 662 billion yuan.
The move follows an aggressive pump-priming exercise by the PBOC last week, when the central bank offered more than 1.5 trillion yuan in gross short- and medium-term lending to banks.
The eye-popping liquidity injection is partly intended to satisfy typically surging demand for cash ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday that starts Feb. 7.
It also constitutes an effort to stem accelerating capital flight as investors become more nervous about the health of China’s economy, and as the country’s main stock market has lost nearly 23% since the start of this year.

Zika-affected Areas

Where has Zika virus been found?

  • Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
  • In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil.
  • Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries.
  • Zika virus will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time.
Zika in the United States and its territories:
  • No locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.
  • Locally transmitted Zika virus has been reported in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase.
  • These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States.

Countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission

 World map showing countries and territories with reported active transmission of Zika virus (as of January 22, 2016). Countries are listed in the table below.


  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin
  • Suriname
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela


  • Samoa


  • Cape Verde


Zika Virus Infection

Zika fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by Zika virus (ZIKV), consisting of mild fever, rash (mostly maculo-papular), headaches, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia, and non-purulent conjunctivitis, occurring about two to seven days after the mosquito vector bite. One out of four people may develop symptoms, but in those who are affected the disease is usually mild with symptoms that can last between two and seven days. Its clinical manifestation is often similar to dengue, also a mosquito-borne illness.
Frequently Asked Questions about Zika virus/fever
Question and Answers: Zika and pregnancy
Provisional remarks on the Zika virus infection in pregnant women: document for health care professionals - 25 January 2016
Preliminary guidelines for the surveillance of microcephalia in newborns in settings with risk of circulation of the Zika virus - 21 January 2016
WHO factsheet on Zika virus
PAHO Statement on Zika Virus Transmission and Prevention
Information on microcephaly

Countries and territories with Zika autochthonous transmission reported in the Americas Region. Epidemiological Week  (EW) 17 of 2015 to EW 3 of 2016:

Countries and territories with Zika autochthonous transmission reported in the Americas Region. Epidemiological Week  (EW) 17 of 2015 to EW 3 of 2016.Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, US Virgin Islands, Venezuela.

Brazil's president declares war on mosquitos to slow spread of Zika virus

220,000 troops to be deployed to scour for mosquito breeding grounds after nearly 4,000 babies since September were born with condition linked to virus
Brazil mosquitos Zika virus infection
Brazilian army soldiers inspect for mosquito breeding sites at a home on 27 January 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
President Dilma Rousseff has said that Brazil must wage war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus, focusing on eliminating the insect’s breeding grounds.
Since September, Brazil has registered nearly 4,000 cases of babies with microcephaly, a condition linked to Zika infection in which children are born with an abnormally small head and a brain that has not developed properly.
The jump in cases has prompted a global health scare, with several countries cautioning pregnant women against traveling to the 22 nations in the Americas where the virus has been reported.
Without a Zika vaccine and with little known about the causes of microcephaly, Brazil has few options available for fighting the spread of the virus and the birth defect.
The mosquito thrives in dense tropical cities, and Rousseff called for the elimination of stagnant water spots where it lives and reproduces.
“We must wage war against the Aedes aegypti, the vector of dengue, of chikungunya and of Zika,” Rousseff said through her Twitter account, referring to two other viral diseases transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
“While we do not have a vaccine against the Zika virus, the war must be concentrated on the elimination of breeding grounds for the mosquito,” Rousseff added. “Getting rid of Zika is the responsibility of all of us.”
The move comes as Brazil desperately looks to raise awareness of the virus and encourage people to combat the mosquito.
Brazilian health minister Marcelo Castro on Monday promised 220,000 troops would be deployed next month to distribute educational pamphlets and help scour cities for mosquito breeding grounds.
Similar moves have been successful in the past. A huge eradication effort in the 1940s and 1950s, motivated by the spread of yellow fever also carried by Aedes aegypti, led Brazil to be declared free of the mosquito in 1958. But as the program was relaxed, the insect returned.
With Carnival celebrations just over a week away and the Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro in August, Brazil is poised to receive hundreds of thousands of visitors in the coming months, adding to concerns over the spread of the virus.


On January 1st of this year the European Union passed into law an official “bank bail-in” clause.  The bail-in legislation put into law, across Europe, what was done in Cyprus in 2013 where bank account holders had their funds seized to “save” the bank.  To us, and anyone who is paying half-attention, this was a clarion call to get your funds out of European banks.
Not only was it clear that the European Union knew what was coming but it was also clear, again to anyone paying attention, that what happened in Cyprus would happen throughout the European Union.
In fact, I have said this numerous times, including last July in this interview in which I explained clearly what was going to occur, and probably sooner rather than later.
Jeff Berwick On The Financial Repression Authority – The Shemitah And Keynesian Insanity … Government debt in most countries has become so high that minor increases in the interest rate would lead to immediate default …  
“What is happening in Greece right now is just the beginning. It will eventually happen in other eurozone countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and in countries all around the world,including the US.”
As predicted, the Italian government recently moved toward bail-ins with the rescue of Banca Etruria.  A pensioner near Rome wrote a note criticizing the transaction and then hung himself.  The pensioner killed himself after losing €100,000.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi sent his condolences, which I am sure was well-received by the pensioners family , but defended the rescue, saying the US$7 billion program had to take place to save jobs. But about 130,000 customers lost money. It wasn’t exactly a bail-in but that’s probably next on the agenda.
In addition to Banca Etruria, others were left with little or nothing at Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, Banca delle Marche and CariChieti.
How is it that so many people are so asleep that they never see these things coming until its too late?  Clearly they are not Dollar Vigilante readers or subscribers who understand full-fledged bail-ins are on the agenda throughout Europe.
Last week, headlines broadcast the news about renewed Italian bank runs. The share price of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA has fallen some 50%.  And the Italian stock market has now fallen 25% since the Shemitah collapse that happened worldwide in late August.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. No doubt Italy’s instability will spread.  Monday, bank stocks resumed their slide, but Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had soothing words in the face of the crisis saying that the banking sector was “much more robust” than thought.
When has a politician ever been wrong in their assessment of things like this ?
Italy’s endless recession has generated non-performing loans  in the area of US$546 billion, which amounts to 20 percent of all Italian loans.
As a result, Italian banks won’t make loans to businesses – the ones that have survived the recession. The latest idea to  emerge is to set up a “bad bank,” that would take bad bank loans while leaving behind the good.
That’s just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, however.  An accounting trick to make things look good while the whole thing rots from the inside.
We know what they are planning: No less than a total overhaul of the world’s financial system using the disintegration of the current bank system as a justification for radical change.
We’ve been telling subscribers what was (and now is) going to happen for years and many of them are already safely outside of the financial system, shorting the stock market (for fantastical gains) and many hold their assets in precious metals (which rose again today), bitcoin and other hard assets.
In this interview, just released, I spoke with Gus Demos about their precious metals backed debit/ATM card.  We told subscribers about it, and others like it, months ago.

It is an excellent way to keep your funds outside of the banking system but still have access to the funds like you would with a regular bank account.  You can get one here, for example.
Gus Demos will be just one of many speakers at our upcoming TDV Internationalization and Investment Summit to be held on February 18th in Acapulco, Mexico… a day before the world’s largest anarcho-capitalist conference, Anarchapulco.  Attending our summit and getting information and advice from people who know what is happening and how to protect yourself, could be the best thing you do this year, or any year.
Bank bail-ins are coming to a country and bank near you.  Are you going to wait until your bank is closed and the funds seized, like most people, before taking action?  Don’t wait until it is too late, like nearly everyone else.

Estimated 400,000 jobs lost as China cuts steel production by 150 million tons

(CHINA)  China’s plan to slash crude steel production capacity could eliminate 400,000 jobs and may fuel social instability, according to the state-run metals industry consultancy.
Steel production capacity will be cut by 100 million to 150 million tons, China’s State Council announced Sunday without specifying a time frame. That will translate into as many as 400,000 lost jobs, said Li Xinchuang, head of the China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency Monday. China will raise funds to help dismissed workers, Xinhua said.
China’s leaders have vowed to reduce excess industrial capacity and labor in state enterprises even as they battle the slowest growth in a quarter of a century. They are grappling with a delicate balancing act as they strive to restructure the economy away from investment-led growth without tipping it into a deeper slump.
“This is a positive sign for China’s adjustment to a slower, more efficient, economy, but we should wait to see how many of these job cuts are real,” said Andrew Collier, an independent China analyst and former president of the Bank of China International USA. “The high levels of debt in China would be better used to support real and growing businesses.”

Social Stability

Even more workers will be affected across related industries, Li said, according to Xinhua, and could potentially become a destabilizing force. “Large-scale redundancies in the steel sector could threaten social stability,” Li was quoted as saying by the state-run agency.
Li confirmed the 400,000 job loss estimate in an interview Tuesday. He said the association estimates that there are 1.8 million workers employed by its members, which exclude private steelmakers. He declined to give an industrywide estimate.
China’s steel producers have faced slumping steel prices and the industry lost an estimated $12 billion in 2015, according to Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Singapore. The industry faces a long period of restructuring and consolidation with excess capacity of about 300 million tons, he said.
Coal production capacity also is to be cut on “a relatively large scale,” according to the statement Sunday form the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Timely Assistance

The State Council meeting, led by Premier Li Keqiang, emphasized the need to redeploy or support employees cut by plant closures. Those measures should include proper payment of wages and social security, help starting new businesses or transferring to other industries, and ensuring that assistance is timely, the State Council said.
Global steel production fell the most in six years in 2015 with China making up the biggest decline, the World Steel Association said Monday. Steel output in the world’s largest producer and consumer of the metal shrank by 2.3 percent in 2015, the biggest drop in 25 years, to 803.8 million metric tons, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
The easiest steel industry shutdowns are already done, HSBC Holdings Plc said in a note last month, warning large-scale layoffs may spark social unrest. Three million employees face layoffs if the steel, coal, cement, aluminum and glass industries cut production by 30 percent over two to three years, China International Capital Corp. said in a note this month.

Overcapacity, Deflation

Bert Hofman, the World Bank’s country director for China, Mongolia and Korea, said restructuring is difficult for affected workers, and the government’s priority is to protect people, “not inefficient enterprises that are contributing to overcapacity and deflation, which endangers otherwise healthy enterprises.”
The projected steel industry job cuts amount to about 3 percent of total new jobs created last year, and less than 0.05 percent of the labor force, according to Hofman, who’s based in Beijing. China created 13 million new jobs in 2015.

Support, Retraining

“With the right support and retraining, many of the retrenched workers would therefore be able to find new employment,” Hofman said. “And restructuring will free up capital that can be used for growing enterprises in new, promising industries.”
The iron and steel sectors employ more than 6 million people, or about 4 percent of total industrial employment, said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS Group AG in Hong Kong. Closing excess capacity may eliminate more than 400,000 jobs, she said.
Chinese coal producer Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Group will cut 100,000 jobs, the official China Daily reported in September, quoting Chairman Wang Zhikui.
Worker protests and demonstrations doubled last year, to 2,774, with December’s total of more than 400 such incidents setting a monthly record, according to a report by the Hong Kong-based workers’ advocacy organization China Labour Bulletin.
Meantime, plans to cut the fat from state firms may be complicated by the need to arrange jobs for retired soldiers as the army plans to cut 300,000 troops in the next two years.
“If the Chinese government is serious about tackling overcapacity though, they ultimately need to shut down all money-losing firms, which would lead to millions in additional unemployment,” said Victor Shih, a professor at the University of California at San Diego who studies China’s politics and finance. “I see the shutdown in the steel sector as a positive but modest first step.”
A previous version of this story corrected the year of an employment estimate by the Iron and Steel Association.

Downbeat outlook for 2016 sends Boeing stock into swoon

Boeing’s fourth-quarter performance beat analysts’ estimates, but the company’s 2016 outlook came in well below Wall Street’s expectations. Boeing announced another production-rate cut, this time for the 777 program, as well as a rate increase for the 737 in 2019.

Boeing spooked investors Wednesday by forecasting fewer plane deliveries and lower revenues and profits than expected this year and announcing it will trim production of its cash-cow 777 jet next year.
The surprise sent its shares plunging 8.9 percent Wednesday to a two-year low, in the stock’s biggest one-day drop since 2001.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said Boeing will build about 20 fewer airplanes this year than it did in 2015.
And he confirmed a Seattle Times report Tuesday night of a 777 production cut ahead: The rate will drop 16 percent in 2017 from 100 jets per year to 84 per year, or 7 jets per month.

Furthermore, Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith indicated that in 2018, as Boeing begins to build the first 777X test airplanes, 777 deliveries will likely sink below that monthly rate of seven jets.
Boeing routinely beats Wall Street estimates quarter after quarter, and Muilenburg assured investors this year’s downward blip in production growth will be temporary.
“Stepping back from this year of transition and looking out to 2017, 2018, you’ll see revenue growth, earnings growth and cash growth,” he promised on a conference call with analysts and media.
On the positive side, Boeing in 2019 plans to further accelerate production of the single-aisle 737, he said. That means the Renton assembly plant has a better employment outlook than the widebody jet plant in Everett, where Boeing builds the 777 and the 747-8. Last week Boeing said the 747 would be reduced to a pace of one every two months.
Production of the 737 is now at 42 planes per month, and Boeing had earlier announced increases to 47 jets per month in 2017 and to 52 jets per month in 2018. Muilenburg said demand supports a further increase, so production will go to 57 jets per month in 2019.
On the conference call, Muilenburg’s tone toward labor contrasted with that of his predecessor Jim McNerney, now Boeing’s chairman, who famously quipped that employees would “still be cowering” while he was CEO.
Muilenburg welcomed the tentative contract agreement announced two weeks ago with Boeing’s white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), saying it would provide “labor stability and competitiveness for the company for the long term.”
“We place a very high value on our employees and their talent,” Muilenburg said. “It’s important to have a mutually respectful relationship.”

Employment shifts

With the 737, 767 and 787 production rates all set to increase in the next few years while the 747 and 777 rates go down, the net impact on local employment is not expected to be dramatic.
On the 737 increase, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said that “generally speaking, increased rates require some level of increased employment.”
“The planned rates and market demand mean that we see consistent levels of work for Boeing employees building the 737 in Renton for the foreseeable future,” he added.
On the other hand, Alder said Boeing expects some negative impact on employment from the 777 rate cut, adding that the company “will do our best to mitigate that by placing employees in other jobs across Boeing.”
“We are still studying how many roles may be impacted,” Alder said.
The 777 rate cut is necessary because Boeing currently doesn’t have enough sales to fill all delivery slots for the current 777 models between now and when production of the new 777X kicks into high gear after the turn of the decade.
Scott Hamilton, an Issaquah-based aviation analyst with, published an analysis Tuesday estimating that “Boeing needs to sell more than 200 777 Classics, all with delivery dates through 2021, to bridge the gap to full production of the 777X.”
Last year, Boeing sold just 38 of the present model 777s.
Most financial analysts believe the size of that 777 sales gap means the production rate will have to come down lower than seven per month.
Boeing did not book an accounting charge for Wednesday’s 777 rate cut, though last week it booked an $885 million pretax write-off when it announced that the 747 rate would be cut to six airplanes a year.
Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said last week’s write-off was necessary because the low-profit-margin 747 — which seems to be approaching the end of its life — was at risk of an overall loss on the remainder of the program, whereas the highly profitable 777 program is not, even at the reduced production level.

Reduced jet deliveries in 2016

Boeing said it expects to deliver between 740 and 745 jets this year, compared to 762 delivered in 2015, with expected revenue and cash flow for the year dropping accordingly.
Muilenburg said about a dozen airplanes in that shortfall are due to the transition to building the 737 MAX in Renton.
Boeing will build several MAXs this year that will go into flight test and not be delivered to customers. Other production MAXs built this year cannot be delivered to customers until after the jet is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) next year.
In addition, deliveries of the 747 will be down with the announced rate cut, as will deliveries of the 767 commercial jet because of a ramp-up of Air Force tanker production on the same line.
And although 787 production is due to increase from 10 jets per month to 12 per month midyear, Smith said, Dreamliner deliveries for the year will be roughly flat due to customer timing requests that pulled some deliveries forward into 2015 and will push others out into 2017.
Yet Muilenburg insisted that this decline in jet production and the consequent fall in revenue are temporary dips.
“If you look at the seven (planned) rate ramp-ups ahead over the next several years, you’ll see that revenue will grow and deliveries will grow,” he said.

Dreamliner costs declining

The news on the 787 Dreamliner was reasonably steady. Boeing deferred another $201 million in 787 production costs last quarter — a slowdown in the rate at which those costs are accumulating.
The total of 787 costs deferred into the future now stands at $28.5 billion.
Muilenburg said the 787 is set to begin eking out a profit around midyear, after which that running tally of outstanding sunk costs is supposed to fall each quarter.
Many analysts still question whether future 787 profits will ever completely cover that enormous total, but Boeing is not conceding that.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Boeing earned $1.03 billion, or $1.51 per share. That compares to $1.47 billion, or $2.02 per share, the previous year.
Taking into account the $885 million pretax charge for the 747 rate cut, the adjusted profit was $1.60 per share.
Revenue declined to $23.57 billion from $24.47 billion.
It was the outlook for the year ahead that most disappointed Wall Street. Boeing said it anticipates 2016 adjusted profit in a range of $8.15 to $8.35 per share on revenue between $93 billion and $95 billion.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet had estimated a profit of $9.41 per share on revenue of $97.26 billion, The Associated Press reported.
Investor sentiment on Boeing has been heavily influenced recently by the expectation that increased production will generate lots of cash in the years ahead.
Doug Harned of Bernstein Research issued a note to clients calling Boeing’s reported free cash flow — the net cash from operations minus capital spending — “a major disappointment.”
Boeing reported free cash flow for 2015 of $6.9 billion and forecast $7.2 billion for this year. Harned had projected $7.4 billion for 2015 and $9.1 billion for this year.
“The 2016 guidance is much weaker than our expectations,” Harned wrote. “Given that we see Boeing stock trading heavily on free cash flow, this outcome is clearly negative.”
Ken Herbert, an analyst with investment bank Canaccord Genuity, said Boeing’s fourth-quarter financial results were fine after allowing for the 84 cents per share hit from the 747 production rate cut.
The negative market reaction, he said, was “all about the weaker than expected guidance.”
He said the downbeat 2016 forecast increased a widespread investor fear that the aerospace cycle might have peaked in 2015 and that it’s going down from here.
When the market closed, Boeing shares were down $11.43 to $116.58.
Adding to the woes of Boeing’s Wednesday morning, it had to cut short the earnings teleconference callbecause of technical difficulties with the live webcast.
When the call restarted a couple of hours later, Muilenburg and Smith repeated their prepared remarks from the beginning, prompting some gallows humor from analyst Howard Rubel of Jefferies.
“I was hoping maybe we’d get a different outcome the second time we heard the call,” said Rubel.

Video: David Warnock: If You Want a Tax Break, Build a Rec Center

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Apple’s Revenue “Falls Off A Cliff”, One By One The Pillars Of The Recovery Are Toppling.

by John Rubino
One by one the pillars of the recovery are toppling. Last year the Chinese infrastructure party ended and the shale oil boom went bust. More recently the FANG stocks went from pulling the market up to pushing it down. And today Apple — whose sales would always go up because everyone on Earth wants an iPhone and there were still some people in Africa and the Amazon Basin who don’t yet have one — reported that not only is its revenue no longer growing, but it might shrink in the year ahead.

Apple off 2.2% after hours on no-growth worry

(USA Today) – Apple investors had plenty of warning the high-flying stock was about to slow. They just got proof.Apple’s revenue missed expectations in the just-reported fourth quarter, and the gadget maker is warning it could post the first drop in revenue since the 2009 recession in the current, first calendar quarter.
There are already signs of a slowdown. Apple reported quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion, which missed expectations, inching up just 1.7% from the same period a year ago. That was Apple’s lowest revenue growth since the June quarter of 2013, says S&P Capital IQ, when revenue rose 0.9%. Analysts were looking for revenue of $76.5 billion.
But here’s where it gets concerning for investors, who may need to readjust their expectations on what used to be the hottest stock going. Apple said revenue would be $50 billion to $53 billion in the current quarter. That falls short of the $55.3 billion that had been expected.
If Apple’s revenue is just $50 billion in the first quarter, it would be a 14% drop from the $58 billion in revenue reported in the same quarter a year ago. That would be Apple’s first quarterly drop in revenue since a 5.4% decrease in the September quarter of 2009, says S&P Capital IQ.
Apple revenues Jan 16
Seeing growth hit the skids is very unusual for this company that not long ago looked like it had a license to print money. It’s another sign of the growing saturation of the market for $650 smartphones. The stock market has been signaling for months that Apple’s overall growth, especially in the smartphone market, was about to slow dramatically. Analysts have been slashing estimates for the fourth quarter.
Shares of Apple closed Tuesday up 55 cents, or 0.6%, to $99.99 in regular trading, but still are down a crushing 25% from their high last year. Apple shares fell 2.2% afterhours following the earnings news.
All good things must come to an end, and cutting-edge smartphones are no exception. They are, in fact, a victim of their own technological success. Now that even low-end phones do things that were considered amazing three years ago, the rationale for paying up is becoming less compelling.
Personal anecdote: Each of our young-adult sons broke their high-end phones in the past year. One pulled out an old flip phone and is now using it quite happily, since it texts and that’s his main mode of communication. The other went to the local AT&T store and bought a $50 Windows phone that, he says, works just fine. Following in their tech footsteps (as I tend to do), when I dropped and broke my Samsung phablet, I dug out its predecessor, a three-year-old iPhone 4, and will use it until it dies. Then I’ll get the best available sub-$100 smartphone.
But tech cycles aren’t the point. What matters here is the growing realization that as the world leverages itself ever-more-precariously it takes ever-larger amounts of new leverage to generate growth. And the past year’s credit growth has been inadequate. The global economy is slowing and, in an inflate-or-die world, recession is now an existential threat.


Russia’s Central Bank, BRICS discuss creation of global bonds

If the bonds are issued under these rules and listed on one of the exchanges, the remaining counties automatically get access to trade in these bonds, the bank’s first deputy chairman explains

YEKATERINBURG, January 27. /TASS/. Russia’s Central Bank is discussing with the BRICS countries creation of so-called global bonds, the bank’s first deputy chairman Sergey Shvetsov said on Wednesday. "We are looking for the point where we have mutual interests, the Development Bank has been established, we have created mechanisms to support foreign exchange reserves of each other. Now we are talking about the creation of so-called global bonds which would have same rules for all five countries. If we issues bonds under these rules and list them on one of the exchanges, the remaining counties automatically get access to trade in these bonds," he said. Also, he said, there are good projects with BRICS countries regarding corporate governance

Russia and OPEC to discuss possible reduction of oil production — Transneft

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. Saudi Arabia came forward with the initiative to discuss a possible reduction of oil production, planned in the framework of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the near future, Transneft President Nikolai Tokarev said Wednesday.

"Saudi Arabia came forward with the initiative to have a discussion that would include the members of OPEC," he said after the meeting of oil companies executives and the Ministry of Energy. Tokarev said the meeting was very constructive. "In particular, we talked about oil prices, the measures everyone should take, what is going to change the situation for the better, including the negotiations in the framework of OPEC in general and bilateral options as well. The initiative came from Saudi Arabia, they are the main negotiators," he said.

Brent crude trades at over $33 per barrel

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. The euro fell below 84 rubles and amounted to 83.9 rubles amid rising oil prices. Thus, the price of Brent crude oil futures contract for March delivery on London’s ICE is close to $33.4 per barrel. At the same time, the dollar fell by 1.4% to 77.2 rubles on the Moscow Exchange. It was reported earlier that commercial crude oil reserves in the U.S. rose in a week by 8.36 mln barrels to 494.9 mln barrels.

Amnesty International: Apple and Microsoft Using Batteries Made With Cobalt Mined By 7-Year-Old Children In The DRC

Amnesty International: Apple and Microsoft Using Batteries Made With Cobalt Mined By 7-Year-Old Children In The DRC

A new report by Amnesty International has accused Apple and Microsoft of using batteries made with cobalt mined by underage children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The Atomic Number of cobalt is 27 and the Element Symbol is Co. The Swedish chemist and mineralogist, Georg Brandt discovered it in the year 1735. Cobalt is widely used in batteries and in electroplating. It is estimated that more than 50% of the world’s cobalt is mined from the DRC.
In the past, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund estimated that more than 40,000 children were working in cobalt mines in the DRC.
In this latest report, Amnesty International said it has documented evidence of children as young as seven-years-old working in cobalt mines. The children are reportedly mining the cobalt that is being used in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. Apple and Microsoft are said to be purchasing these batteries without doing any proper background checks.
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The report said local traders buy cobalt from areas with underage child labor and sell it to Huayou Cobalt, a Chinese mining company operating in the DRC. Huayou Cobalt then processes the raw material and sells the refined cobalt to three battery component manufacturers — Toda Hunan Shanshan New Material, Tianjin Bamo Technology and L&F Material. These companies sell what they have processed to battery makers, who in turn supply the batteries to technology companies of Apple and Microsoft.
Amnesty claimed that mining companies often employ children for as little as 2 dollars a day. The companies do not protect employees from the obvious hazards created by working in the mines. When speaking to some of the underage children working in the mines, Amnesty discovered that the children sometimes work in the mines for up to 24 hours.
Amnesty said it interviewed 87 current and former cobalt miners, 17 of which are said to be underage children working in the mines.
 “I would spend 24 hours down in the tunnels. I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning… I had to relieve myself down in the tunnels… My foster mother planned to send me to school, but my foster father was against it, he exploited me by making me work in the mine,” Amnesty quoted one child as saying in the report.
The report also accused Samsung and Sony, as well as car manufacturers Daimler and Volkswagen, of also using such batteries. However, it is said that Apple and Microsoft are more widespread than these companies.
s 3
According to statistics, since September 2014, around 80 people have died in cobalt mines in the DRC. In fact, as companies do not register every victim—and have even been known to cover up some incidents—Amnesty said the death toll could be even higher. Currently, it is said 16.9 percent of the children aged between 5 and 14, are working in the Congolese mining industry. The International Labor Organization has said mining is one of the worst forms of child labor, due to the numerous health risks associated with it.
The DRC is a country located in Central Africa. It has an abundance of mineral resources. The country is widely considered to be the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources. Since colonial days, the country has been badly exploited by French and Belgian colonial administrators.
s 2
The untapped deposits of DRC’s raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US $24 trillion. It has 70% of the world’s coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper. And due to the high demand of these resources, rebels and the country’s armed forces engage in heinous practices—such as employing underage children to work by force–in order to get the minerals to sell and buy arms.
The American technology companies purchasing these exploited minerals are responsible for fueling the conflict in the DRC, according to a 2001 report by the United Nations.
The country’s economy has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. Its citizens are among the poorest people on earth. The Congolese people are consistently assigned the lowest, or near lowest, nominal GDP (gross domestic product) per capita in the world.

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Chinese Stocks TUMBLE Over CAPITAL OUTFLOW! Shanghai Down 43% since June!

Chinese Stocks TUMBLE Over CAPITAL OUTFLOW Concerns! Shanghai Down 43% since June!
2) Thumbnail image – Shanghai stock exchange by by Qa003qa003 .
Wikimedia commons images, public domain.…
3) Music – Youtube Audio Library
“Ambient Ambulance”…

Global supplies of food and medicine now in a state of collapse... learn to grow your own food or STARVE

(NaturalNews) On January 13, which seemed nothing more than a usual Wednesday, something truly historic happened. Our planet's trading ships, those awe-inspiring behemoth trading platforms that carry essential grains, cement, coal, iron and other raw product around the world simply stopped. With the help of GoodGopher and GPS tracking technology, we're able to verify this statement and further investigate the halt that didn't just happen in the blink of an eye. In fact, for the past several years, global trading has consistently gone down. All of the signs were there, but our attention has been skillfully diverted.

Global food supply

From bad to worse

One week later, on January 20, things got even heavier. How do we know that? The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an economic indicator that calculates the price of shipping raw materials over sea. As the index goes down, fewer goods are produced around the world and it becomes more expensive to operate and maintain those magnate sea-faring transports. Every minute of low BDI is translated into incredible financial losses for the companies that own the freighters.

On January 13, the index was 402 points. One week later, it was 369. Both of these were never-before-seen figures. To put things into perspective, the BDI in May 2008 was 11,793 points, which meant trading was so profitable that you could literally save money if you bought slippers from half-way around the world. In the winter of the same year, the BDI dropped an incredible 94%, to 663 points – the lowest figure it had ever reached since it was introduced.

Like the calm before the storm

Many financial experts made consistent arguments that the BDI and other market indicators have the ability to predict an upcoming collapse. Business Insider provides an accurate history of how market crashes have actually been preceded by big swings in the BDI. These examples include the last financial crisis of 2008, the two-year American recession that started in 2001 and, of course, the dot-com bubble burst of 1999. What's increasingly worrisome for the world economy is that, right now, the European and Asian markets are also significantly slowing down.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

As of January 23, the BDI has reached 354 points and it seems there are no more chances to save it. This led to put forward quite an intriguing article last week. What's interesting is that Tim Worstall brings back into discussion the theory behind this economic marker: Things might have gone wrong around the world, "[b]ut does this have any impact on the rest of us? Well, no, not really," he says. He then moves on to argue the sound point that the current level of trade around the world is, in fact, slowing down and that things will balance out in the end.

Thank you, Forbes, but we already knew that BDI's volatility is intrinsic to its nature. However, it doesn't take rocket science to see that, even if we consider the fluctuations, we've consistently gone down from over 10,000 points in 2008 to officially under 1,000 as of July last year. The question is: Have our needs also gone down accordingly?

The BDI is at a rock bottom, which means that goods won't be produced and the supply of basic materials won't be met in the future. Now would be a good time to start meeting our own demands. Stock up on lasting supplies and learn to make and grow your own food. It's not only healthier, but it will ensure that if bread along with other basic food groups and raw materials become a luxury, you can deal with it.

Sources include:


8 Reasons To Avoid Doing Business With Monsanto

It's a formula that seems to be working to chip away at the coal industry: What you can't beat, financially isolate.
But for Jeffrey M. Smith, executive director at the anti-GMO nonprofit Institute for Responsible Technology, the target isn't an ailing, polluting industry. It's Monsanto, the pesticide and bioengineering firm once dubbed the world's "most evil corporation."
In an open letter to investors, obtained by The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Smith said weak sales of biotech-corn seeds and other financial headwinds have left Monsanto vulnerable. He cited as proof the company's announcement earlier this month that it planned to cut a total of 3,600 jobs.
Now, it's worth noting that Smith has made a career for himself standing against Monsanto. Since founding his nonprofit in 2003, the author has railed against genetically modified organisms -- specifically fruits and vegetables engineered to grow bigger or avoid pesticides. Advocates like Smith say GMO foods are unhealthful and badly regulated. But the jury is still out on the health effects of eating genetically engineered food.
Still, the business world is beginning to prioritize companies' missions over their profits. Monsanto may see itself as an agricultural giant helping to feed the world's growing population; but in doing so, the company has become notorious for being litigious, secretive and combative with critics who question its products or seemingly unscrupulous practices.
Reached for comment, a Monsanto spokeswoman said: "The rumors and misinformation in Mr. Smith’s letter are intended to generate confusion and concern for consumers.

Federal pain panel rife with links to pharma companies

(AP) — A federal panel that has recently criticized efforts to cut back on painkiller prescriptions is studded with members who have financial ties to drug companies.
Nearly a third of members on the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee have financial connections to makers of opioid drugs like OxyContin.
The government advisory panel consists of federal scientists, outside academics and patient representatives. Of the 18 committee members at a recent meeting to discuss the government's handling of pain issues, at least five had drug-industry connections.
One, a pain specialist from Duke University, has received thousands of dollars in payments from drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, which sells generic painkillers. Another, a patient advocate, holds a nonprofit position created by a $1.5 million donation by Purdue.
The revelation comes after the committee last month bashed a federal plan to recommend doctors scale back on prescribing painkillers for chronic pain. The guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are intended to curb deadly overdoses tied to powerful but highly-addictive opioid drugs, including Percocet and Vicodin.
At the time, various committee members called the proposal "ridiculous," ''horrible," and "shortsighted." A week later, the CDC said it would seek more public input on its guidelines — which were largely written behind closed doors.
The apparent conflicts of interest on the panel underscore the pervasive reach of pharmaceutical-industry dollars, even among federal advisers who are supposed to be carefully vetted for such connections before serving.