Tag Archives: Federal Reserve

SUICIDES UP IN US, DOWN GLOBALLY

“The suicide rate in America is up by 18% since 2000.  This is not merely a tragedy; it matters politically, too.   The rise is largely among white, middle-aged, poorly educated men in areas that were left behind by booms and crushed by busts.   Their deaths are a symptom of troubles to which some see President Trump as the answer. Those troubles should not be ignored.”   (“Staying alive,” The Economist,11/24)

Suicide is declining pretty much all over the world, thanks to greater freedom and some helpful policies.” (“Defeating despair,” The Economist, 11/24).

“Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994.”

LIFE EXPECTANCY DOWN IN US

“Suicide and drug overdose rates continued to rise in 2017, helping drive the number of U.S. deaths to the highest level in more than 100 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a series of reports on mortality released Thursday.

“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.  “These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

“Life expectancy in 2017 fell to an average of 78.6 years for the total population, down from 78.7 years in 2016.

“Overall, more than 2.8 million Americans died in 2017, about 70,000 more than in 2016.”

(“Suicides, overdoses rise in US,” John Bacon, USA Today, 11/30)

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CONTINUING BREXIT CRISIS

“The only rule of British politics for the coming weeks is that nobody knows anything.   The prime minister doesn’t know who will resign next.   The factions don’t know their relative strengths.   Nobody knows what is bluff and what is in deadly earnest.

“But one thing that is increasingly clear in the fog of Brexit is that this is the most serious domestic crisis Britain has faced in the modern democratic era.   In the statement that accompanied his resignation as transport minister earlier this month, Jo Johnson accused his own government of “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”   Others have compared the current debacle to the IMF’s bail-out of Britain in 1976 or the gold-standard crisis of 1931.   In fact it is worse than anything else Britain has endured in peacetime. The political system is all but paralysed, the country is divided into warring ideological tribes, the civil service in overwhelmed and, in the event of no deal, Britain would be staring into the abyss.” (“Crisis? What crisis?”  Bagehot, The Economist, 11/24).

The Economist has a new layout, that prompted an anti-Brexit  reader to suggest they move the British news section to the end of the magazine, after the Obituary column!   

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IS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TAKING A DOWNTURN?

The stock market has been rather jumpy lately.   At the same time, gas has been going down (except in France, where an increase in fuel taxes has resulted in three consecutive weekends of riots); of course, a fall in gas prices may not be such a good thing, as it’s often the harbinger of a slowing economy.

Here’s some other indicators the economy may be headed south:

  • The Federal Reserve has been ratcheting up interest rates.
  • Corporations have loaded up on debt.
  • Unemployment is so low that employers are finally raising wages.
  • The housing market shows signs of softening.

. . . But there are plenty of upbeat signs today, too.

Auto sales are still running strong, if not quite at the peak levels of a couple of years ago.   Then, too, the labor markets still have some slack . . .”    (“Warning signs of recession abound,” John Gallagher, Lansing State Journal, 11/26).

“NEW YORK 30% OFF”

“Some homeowners are selling at bargain-basement prices from what they paid, as the city faces an end to a decade-long boom. Oversupply, rising interest rates and tax-code changes are only partly to blame.” (WSJ, Mansion, 11/30).

“Real estate, oil and employment figures are sending similar messages, and that is that economic activity is starting to slow significantly, just like in 2007 before the Great Recession wiped out trillions of dollars from the markets.

And, according to a blog on The Economic Collapse, those in charge don’t want to admit the reality of what is happening, just like in 2008.” (“Money and markets,” JT Crowe, 11/30)

GM ANNOUNCES 15,000 JOB CUTS   (Monday)

‘In the wake of massive layoffs announced by U.S. carmaker General Motors, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at President Donald Trump’s recent steel and aluminum tariffs.

At Friday’s ceremony to sign a new version of NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, Trudeau urged Trump to reassess levies imposed on Canadian imports in June.

“Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries,” Trudeau said Friday, The Hill reported.   According to a tweet from Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale, the prime minister was referring to the GM cuts, which Trudeau called a “heavy blow.”

(Justin Trudeau blasts Donald Trump’s trade tariffs to his face after General Motors announced huge lay-offs,” Katherine Hignett, Newsweek, 11/30)

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AN ARMY OF THE EUROPEANS

Military Union in the Making

“At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans.”  According to von der Leyen, “the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy” of the EU with its own armed forces. “The European defense union is in the making. “[1] Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing “independent command capabilities,” alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed.   Brussels could establish a “committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defense,” which could rapidly prepare decisions – in questions of war and peace.   In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. “European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible.”   This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against  their interests.

Strategic Autonomy

The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the “army of the Europeans.” To actually achieve “strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security – perhaps even completely,” according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States  .[2] This would mean that, not only conventional, but “nuclear deterrence,” as well, must be “independently organized in Europe.”   [3] This, in turn, must be accompanied “by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity.”   Furthermore, with the “shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence,” the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe … is not among the world leaders,” concluded Techau.   In the future, “the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now.”   The “scope of the task” also demands that in the future “strategy be taught at German universities . . . and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards.” And ultimately, “a federal security council” should “be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions” so that “the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice.” “German foreign policy, 11/29

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‘THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR IS OVER!”

Those were the words of President George H.W. Bush, who has now died, aged 94.   They were spoken at a time of great optimism, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the US intervention against President Noriega of Panama.   Almost thirty years later, democracy isn’t doing so good.  A report last week showed that, in Africa, nations are becoming more dictatorial as leaders refuse to hold elections, amending their constitutions to enable them to stay in power indefinitely.

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TWO CHUMMY MURDERERS

Without any sense of shame or embarrassment, President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, greeted each other warmly at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Both men think nothing of ordering the murders of people who disagree with them.   Unfortunately, western nations still have to do business with them!

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HERALDING THE SOCIALIST PARADISE

“Senator Bernie Sanders knows what he wants.  In a Washington Post op-ed last week, the democratic socialist from Vermont laid out a legislative agenda for the 116th Congress’s first 100 days.  Among the dizzying array of proposals Mr. Sanders pushed were his “Medicare for All” bill, tuition-free college, student-debt relief, tax increases requiring “wealthy people and large corporations to begin paying their fair share” and a $15 minimum wage indexed to “median wage growth,” not inflation.

“Others in the Democratic Party’s increasingly influential democratic-socialist wing are pressing for their own major legislation to pass the House, even if it will get nowhere in the Republican Senate.   Rep.-elect Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, for example, wants a “Green New Deal.”   Sounding too much like a Maoist functionary, she describes it as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to make America carbon neutral.”   (“Stopping the Socialist Resurgence,” Karl Rove, WSJ, November 29th)

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“Then Moses went up into the mountain and a cloud covered
 the mountain. — and the cloud covered it six days.
And on the seventh day He (the LORD) called to Moses out of
the midst of the cloud.”  (Ex 24: 15-16)

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BABY HAYDEN UPDATE and WORLD NEWS

Saggital craniosynostenosis, first column normal.
Saggital craniosynostenosis, column a normal.

It’s been a tough week.

Our 8-month-old grandson Hayden had major cranial surgery on Wednesday of last week. The technical name for the condition was saggital craniosynostenosis (see diagram above – Hayden wasn’t quite as pronounced as that).   He was in the operating theater for seven hours and remained in the hospital for seven days.   The surgery was to reshape his head.   Without it, seizures could likely start as his brain could not grow sideways, only forwards and backwards, resulting in a football shaped head.   We were informed that one in every 2,000 babies needs the surgery.   I’d never heard of it until a few weeks after he was born.   The surgery was performed at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital, the best in our state.   It’s about 75 miles from our home.

As is often the case with surgery, things did not go entirely as planned.   He lost so much blood he needed a blood transfusion.   In the days following surgery, he could not keep food down.   Additionally, although the surgeon said that he would not feel much pain as there are no nerve sensors in the skull bones, the pediatrician said on the third day that he was clearly in pain.   His face remains swollen and he spends most of the day and night crying.   My wife gave our daughter a break last night and held him in her recliner while he slept.   He cannot lie down in a cot yet.

It’s good to have him home, but it’s going to take a while for him to fully recover.  The swelling must go down.   So must the pain.

We’re very thankful that the surgery is available.   A generation or two ago he may not have survived very long.  It’s marvelous what medical science can do nowadays.

I would like to also thank you all for your prayers and concern during this difficult time.

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Hopefully, medical science will soon find a way to stop “old” people falling.  I fell on the ice this morning while taking Hayden’s two older brothers to school.   As they are both aged four, they naturally wanted to look at the “owie” on my knee.   I refuse to give them the morbid satisfaction of seeing me fall again!

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CNN’S DETERIORATION

After dropping them at school I came home to write this column.   Yesterday, after taking them to school (which I do most days), I went to McDonald’s to wait for Leeson, who is only in school for three hours.  I ordered a hot tea (I’ve got them trained!) and sat down with my laptop to read and write.  CNN was showing on the television, thankfully muted.   Whenever I looked up at the screen, they were “bashing Trump.”

Today, at home, I thought I would try CNN International, which is broadcast from London.  It’s always been a better channel than CNN.  They have an “International Report” at 10am,   that was also devoted to “Trump bashing,” though they did include a brief “Breaking News” item about a serious bomb blast in Baghdad, which killed at least 48 people.

CNN’s audience has been shrinking, with viewers lost to Fox and Fox Business Network.

Critical analysis is needed of this (and every) president, but non-stop, one-sided, often personal attacks on President Trump take away from the network’s credibility, which has been seriously eroded in recent months.   No wonder people are switching to Fox.   No wonder, also, that millions of households have “cut the cord” and no longer have cable, saving an average of $100 a month.

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CHANGING DYNAMICS   (NEWS YOU WILL HAVE MISSED IF YOU WATCH CNN)

From Der Spiegel:

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government.   That’s difficult enough already for two reasons:   Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure.   The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

So far, Germany has viewed its leadership role — at least the leadership understanding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — as one that is by all means in opposition to the interests of other European countries.   Whether Schäuble’s austerity policies or Merkel’s migration policies, it all happened without much co-coordination and with considerable force.   It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America’s withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as “Pax Americana.”   At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won’t take shape.   It is, however, absolutely necessary.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar.  The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this).  He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power.   He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of “betrayal.”   This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome.   It is the way tyrants think.

(Klaus Brinkbaumer)

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New German President anti-Trump

German parliamentary assembly has elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier to become the country’s next president by an overwhelming majority.   Mr. Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, strongly criticised Donald Trump during the US election campaign.
 
(The President of Germany is a figurehead with similar powers to the British monarch.  He is elected by parliament.  His role is largely ceremonial but he has a great deal of influence.)
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German army to be anchor for small Nato partners

By EUOBSERVER

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen meets Friday in Washington for the first time with her new American counterpart James Mattis ahead of Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels next week.   The longer-term strategy would turn the Bundeswehr into the leading Nato army in Europe, with small countries integrating their military forces into the German command structures, reports German daily FAZ

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CHANGES AHEAD IN EUROPE

  • A growing number of Europeans are rebelling against decades of government-imposed multiculturalism, politically correct speech codes and mass migration from the Muslim world.
  • Europe’s establishment parties, far from addressing the concerns of ordinary voters, have tried to silence dissent by branding naysayers as xenophobes, Islamophobes and neo-Nazis.
  • “This disruption is fruitful.   The taboos of the last few years are now fully on the agenda: illegal immigration, Islam, the nonsense of open borders, the dysfunctional EU, the free movement of people, jobs, law and order.   Trump’s predecessors did not want to talk about it, but the majority of voters did.   This is democracy.” — Roger Köppel, editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche, Switzerland.

(Gatestone Institute 1/22)

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US DIVISIONS

As with the EU, the cracks in the USA seem far beyond hairline fractures.   Many sense the country could come apart.   It did once before.   And could Southerners and Northerners have detested each other much more than Americans do today?   (“Is the Left playing with fire again?”  Pat Buchanan 2/14)

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BORROWING FOR US GOVT TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT

In the age of Trump, America’s biggest foreign creditors are suddenly having second thoughts about financing the U.S. government.

In Japan, the largest holder of Treasuries, investors culled their stakes in December by the most in almost four years, the Ministry of Finance’s most recent figures show.   What’s striking is the selling has persisted at a time when going abroad has rarely been so attractive.   And it’s not just the Japanese.   Across the world, foreigners are pulling back from U.S. debt like never before.

From Tokyo to Beijing and London, the consensus is clear:  few overseas investors want to step into the $13.9 trillion U.S. Treasury market right now.  Whether it’s the prospect of bigger deficits and more inflation under President Donald Trump or higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve, the world’s safest debt market seems less of a sure thing — particularly after the upswing in yields since November.   And then there is Trump’s penchant for saber rattling, which has made staying home that much easier.

(Newsmax  2/13/17)

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YEMEN – NEXT US WAR

Yemen shapes up for US-Iran military clash

Eight armies are fighting for dominance in Yemen, a country of 25 million inhabitants:  The Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents, together with a breakaway force, are battling the army loyal to President Abdulrabbuh Mansur Hadi, which is supported by Saudi, Egyptian and UAE military forces and their hired legion of Colombian mercenaries.   Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) elements, most acting as advisers to the Houthi rebels, intervene actively from time to time.   Last October, they conducted missile attacks on US vessels on the Red Sea from shore batteries.   In response, the US Navy on October 9 and 12 knocked out those batteries and the radar stations that were manned by IRGC teams.   Tehran countered by deploying to Yemen long-range Shahed 129 drones carrying Sadid-1 rockets and sowing sea mines around the international Bab Al-Mandeb Straits.   US President Donald Trump’s sharp warning on Friday, Feb. 3, after just two weeks in office, that Iran was “playing with fire” and the fresh round of sanctions he clamped down were galvanized by Iranian aggression in Yemen and the Red Sea as much as by its ballistic missile test.   And indeed, the deployment of the USS Cole destroyer to the strategic Red Sea Straits of Bab Al-Mandeb on the same day turned the compass needle toward the potential arena, should the escalating tension between the US and Yemen explode into a military encounter, such as a US special operations force going into Yemen to strike IRGC targets. (Debka file)

SPREADING PROBLEMS

stock-market-down

So much is happening across the globe right now, it’s difficult to know where to start.

It’s Monday morning and the world news is dominated by further falls on stock markets across Asia and Europe.   China’s economy is heading south fast and is dragging other countries down with it.   As the country is the second biggest single economy in the world, it’s not surprising.

It’s not that long ago that China was a third world backwater.   Then, the communist dictatorship allowed free market reforms that led to an incredibly fast growth rate.   Too fast.   And suspiciously fast – could the numbers be trusted?   Now, we know the truth – the reality is not what we thought it was.   Millions of Chinese people are losing their life savings and are naturally angry about it.   If this continues, the Chinese people may conclude the ruling Communist party has “lost the mandate of heaven,” a precursor to significant change.

But change could also come elsewhere as a result of what’s going on.

The average American lost 6% of his retirement fund towards the end of last week.   6% isn’t too bad.   But if this fall continues, people will get more angry and frustrated.   It can only help Donald Trump’s presidential hopes.

Note the following from today’s The Daily Skimm:

“Last week, after some bad economic data from China, global stock markets completely freaked out.   US markets ended up with their worst losses in four years.    And today isn’t looking any better. China’s markets opened even weaker than yesterday, which has triggered a global domino effect.   Think:   Asian and European markets taking tumbles and oil prices way down.

“Right now, the ups and downs of global markets are hinging on two of the least transparent things ever:   the Chinese government and the Federal Reserve.”

It’s time to worry!

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It’s 8.20 AM Eastern time. I just received a news alert from the Wall Street Journal. The headline is: GLOBAL MARKET ROUT CONTINUES.   Stock markets continue to fall around the world.

It’s a good reminder that we should not put our faith in this world and particularly in this world’s money, which is, frankly, worthless paper.

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus Christ said the following:

19:  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 

Our retirement funds are certainly set to take a big hit, though how big remains to be seen.   Christians should take encouragement from Christ’s words and not worry as we go through this market “correction.”

It’s now 9.45, the New York Stock Exchange opened a few minutes ago, and we seem to be witnessing a big crash.   The stock exchange is down over 1,000 points, heading rapidly toward a “correction,” usually defined as a drop of 10% or more.   The dollar is also falling against other currencies.   Commentators are saying that this crash started with China, but blame should also go to the high taxes and anti-business policies of the current US Administration.   One lady said:  “They’ve killed the economy!”   Meanwhile, China is using the state pension fund to buy stocks in a hope of keeping up prices, an unwise move that could wipe out pensions for decades.

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It’s really inspiring to hear that three young Americans on vacation in Europe helped save a train full of passengers from an imminent terrorist attack.   Today’s news shows them receiving the “Legion d’Honneur” from France’s President Hollande.

But, you will notice there’s another guy standing with them, an older man who was also part of the rescue.   The much-praised trio was actually a quartet.  The other man was from England.   It would be nice if just one American network would acknowledge his role along with the three Americans.   All four were very courageous and may have saved dozens of lives!

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In this age of mass murders, it’s interesting to note that America, with less than 5% of the world’s people, accounts for almost one third of all mass murders, defined as incidents where four or more people are killed.