Showing posts from March 10, 2016

ECB cuts rates to new low and expands QE

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["Insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." In today's clearly insane financial policy world this is apprised as being a "bolder than expected move" by the ECB. *RON*]

Claire Jones, Financial Times, 10 March 2016
The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rates to a new low and expanded its quantitative easing package, in a bolder-than-expected package aimed at boosting the eurozone’s flagging economy.

However, Mario Draghi, ECB president, played down the prospects of further rate cuts, swiftly reversing a sharp slide in the euro against the dollar.

The ECB raised the amount of bonds the eurozone’s central bankers buy each month under QE from €60bn to €80bn — a greater amount than many analysts had expected. It also expanded the range of assets it will buy to include corporate bonds.

At the moment, the ECB buys mostly government debt alongside covered bonds and sma…

How Turkey held the EU for ransom

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["Okay, we have a deal... Wait, now we have more demands." Accepting the heavy-handed Turkish terms on migration raises fears of a dangerous precedent. Davutoglu and Erdoğan clearly believe they have the EU over a barrel, and they may be right. See also: UN says EU-Turkey refugee deal would violate law (the plan would be tantamount to a blanket return of foreigners to a third country, which is not consistent with UNHCR law). *RON*]
By Matthew Karnitschig, Politico, 8 March 2016
Shopping in a Turkish bazaar is never wise for the novice.

The EU learned that lesson the hard way when it discovered the carefully crafted refugee deal it believed it had sold to Turkish leaders in the run-up to Monday’s summit turned out to be little more than the beginning of the negotiation.

Turkey made Europe a counter offer early Monday that six months ago would have prompted EU negotiators to get up and walk out. To European eyes, the proposal Ankara put on…

End Times for the Caliphate?

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[In fact, most of this article is about Kurdish-controlled Syria and Iraq and their woes with Turkey, but it is an interesting read in general about our WW III in everything but name. *RON*]

Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 5 · 3 March 2016, pages 29-30

The war in Syria and Iraq has produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power. The two new states, though unrecognised internationally, are stronger militarily and politically than most members of the UN. One is the Islamic State, which established its caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 after capturing Mosul and defeating the Iraqi army. The second is Rojava, as the Syrian Kurds call the area they gained control of when the Syrian army largely withdrew in 2012, and which now, thanks to a series of victories over IS, stretches across northern Syria between the Tigri…

Snowden: FBI's claim it can't unlock the San Bernardino iPhone is 'bullshit'

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[NSA whistleblower demolishes the claim that only Apple can unlock killer’s iPhone 5C, indicating FBI has the means itself. Click the link under the photo if you would like to watch the video. *RON*]

Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian, 9 March 2016

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose NSA revelations sparked a debate on mass surveillance, has waded into the arguments over the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The FBI says that only Apple can deactivate certain passcode protections on theiPhone, which will allow law enforcement to guess the passcode by using brute-force.

Talking via video link from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, Snowden said: “The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’ to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that’s bullshit.”

Snowden then went on to tweet his support for an American Civil Liberties Union report saying that the F…

Not just for hitmen: Gun industry wants looser rules on silencers

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[Being sold as a "hearing-protection device." ""What legitimate reason does a person have to be wandering around the streets of a big city with a silencer?" *RON*]
By Andy Sullivan, Reuters, 8 March 2016
The U.S. gun industry is trying to shake off the Hollywood hitman image of the gun silencer and rebrand it as a hearing-protection device in a campaign to roll back regulations that date to the 1930s.

Industry lobbying has led to more than a dozen states legalizing silencers for hunting since 2011. Now gun advocates are pressing Congress to repeal a Depression-era law that requires a months-long screening process for silencer buyers - far more scrutiny than gun buyers face.

Sales of silencers - or "suppressors," as the industry prefers to call them - are booming. The number of silencers registered with the U.S. government more than doubled to 792,282 in February 2015 from 360,534 in March 2012, according to the U.…

More than one in 10 Vancouver condos sit empty

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[The vacancy rate for condominiums is over 12%. "A whopping 90 per cent of the 10,800 Vancouver housing units deemed... to be non-occupied are condos... Home buyers and prospective renters have fretted for years that investors were snapping up homes and leaving them empty, cutting supply and boosting prices in the process." "If you (fill those homes), property prices and rents would roughly fall 10 per cent over the next few years," said UBC economist Tom Davidoff. See also: Airbnb wreaks havoc on Vancouver rental scene. *RON*]

By Matthew Robinson, Rob Shaw, Joanne Lee-Young, Vancouver Sun, 8 March 2016

A new Vancouver report reveals about five per cent of homes in the city are not occupied. There appears to be no correlation between skyrocketing home prices and the city’s non-occupancy rate, which has been mostly flat since 2012, said Bruce Townson, the chief executive officer of Ecotagious Inc., a software company hired by …

How Big Business Created the Politics of Anger

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[A pleasantly surprising piece on politics and corporate social responsibility from the Harvard Business Review. *RON*]

Mark R. Kramer, Harvard Business Review, 8 March 2016

Companies are not squarely to blame for the anger and frustration that have so warped this presidential primary season. Nor are they entirely innocent. The growing economic inequality that polarizes U.S. politics is not merely the inevitable result of our free-market system; it is also a consequence of the choices our business leaders make. And those choices have contributed to the anti-business attitude that both parties have embraced.

Blatant examples of illegal and immoral behavior, such as Volkswagen’s emissions test cheating and Takata’s fatal airbags, are one part of the problem. These are not U.S. companies, but their wrongdoing affected millions of U.S. consumers and certainly fueled some of the frustration that drives the current political climate in America.

A far grea…