Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Brexit – A Juncker-Barnier Great EU Recession. - London Fire update

Baltic Dry Index. 903 +19     Brent Crude 46.54

'You just never know. That unpredictability is the great thing about life. You change. The world changes. You live in a country where we are still blessed with enormous opportunity. Leave yourself open to the world of possibility. You have the ambition, you have the smarts and you have the toughness. So, turn the page on your biography - you have just started a new chapter in your lives.'

Lloyd Blankfein, “Mr. Goldman Sacks,” CEO of Goldman Sachs unintentionally backs Brexit in a US speech to graduates, mid 2016.

We open with last week’s under reported Brexit news. But first this. For more on how Greenpeace contributed to the Grenfell Tower disaster, scroll down to Crooks Corner.  

And now this. It’s global hack time again. Thank you America’s incredibly lax NSA. The NSA and its hackers have a whole lot to answer for.

Wed Jun 28, 2017 | 5:58am BST

Cyber attack sweeps globe, researchers see 'WannaCry' link

A major global cyber attack on Tuesday disrupted computers at Russia's biggest oil company, Ukrainian banks and multinational firms with a virus similar to the ransomware that last month infected more than 300,000 computers.

The rapidly spreading cyber extortion campaign underscored growing concerns that businesses have failed to secure their networks from increasingly aggressive hackers, who have shown they are capable of shutting down critical infrastructure and crippling corporate and government networks.

It included code known as "Eternal Blue," which cyber security experts widely believe was stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and was also used in last month's ransomware attack, named "WannaCry."

"Cyber attacks can simply destroy us," said Kevin Johnson, chief executive of cyber security firm Secure Ideas. "Companies are just not doing what they are supposed to do to fix the problem."

The ransomware virus crippled computers running Microsoft Corp's Windows by encrypting hard drives and overwriting files, then demanded $300 in bitcoin payments to restore access. More than 30 victims paid into the bitcoin account associated with the attack, according to a public ledger of transactions listed on

Microsoft said the virus could spread through a flaw that was patched in a security update in March.

New Cyberattack Goes Global, Hits WPP, Rosneft, Maersk

By Giles Turner, Volodymyr Verbyany, and Stepan Kravchenko
27 June 2017, 15:13 GMT+1
A new cyberattack similar to WannaCry is spreading from Europe to the U.S. and South America, hitting port operators in New York, Rotterdam and Argentina, disrupting government systems in Kiev, and disabling operations at companies including Rosneft PJSC, advertiser WPP Plc. and the Chernobyl nuclear facility.

More than 80 companies in Russia and Ukraine were initially affected by the Petya virus that disabled computers Tuesday and told users to pay $300 in cryptocurrency to unlock them, Moscow-based cybersecurity company Group-IB said. About 2,000 users have been attacked so far, according to Kaspersky Lab analysts, with organizations in Russia and the Ukraine the most affected.

Rob Wainwright, executive director at Europol, said the agency is "urgently responding" to reports of the new cyber attack. In a separate statement, Europol said it’s in talks with "member states and key industry partners to establish the full nature of this attack at this time."

Kremlin-controlled Rosneft, Russia’s largest crude producer, said in a statement that it avoided “serious consequences” from the “hacker attack” by switching to “a backup system for managing production processes.”

U.K. media company WPP’s website is down, and employees have been told to turn off their computers and not use WiFi, according to a person familiar with the matter. Sea Containers, the London building that houses WPP and agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, has been shut down, another person said. “IT systems in several WPP companies have been affected,” the company said in emailed statement.

“With there being no global kill switch for this one, we’ll continue to see the numbers rise in different parts of the world as more vulnerable systems become more exposed,” said Beau Woods, deputy director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council in Washington. Most vulnerable are places “where the operators are a lot of the times at the mercy of manufacturers and providers of those technologies and there’s a long time between existence of a fix and implementation of a fix.”

The hack quickly spread from Russia and the Ukraine, through Europe and into the U.S. A.P. Moller-Maersk, operator of the world’s largest container line, said its customers can’t use online booking tools and its internal systems are down. The attack is affecting multiple sites and units, which include a major port operator and an oil and gas producer, spokeswoman Concepcion Boo Arias said by phone.

APM Terminals, owned by Maersk, is experiencing system issues at multiple terminals, including the Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest port on the U.S. East Coast, and Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Europe’s largest harbor. APM Terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey will be closed for the rest of the day “due to the extent of the system impact,” the Port said.

Now back to under reported Brexit news. Juncker and Barnier are playing with fire sitting in a tub of petrol. Deloitte thinks a no deal Brexit might cost up to 18,000 German auto manufacturing jobs. Add in other lost auto metal bashing jobs in France, Spain and Italy, and a no Deal Brexit exit, generating lots of lost jobs in continental wines, beers  and foods, and Juncker and Barnier might just tip the rump-EUSSR into recession, and all because of Juncker and Barnier’s hubris.

Below that, Bloomberg now think’s the City will survive after Brexit. What a surprise. So much for Dodgy Dave Cameron, Osborne, and politicised BOE Governor Carney’s Project Fear predictions. It will always be down to what happens in the rest of the world for how GB prospers. The UK economy is not detached, or semi-detached from the global economy. Right now the EUSSR seems determined to trigger the Juncker-Barnier Great Recession.

There was a silly old man called Juncker, who lived in a Brussels bunker
Sipping scotch all day, He hated Mrs May, And simply got drunk and drunker.


Merkel's nightmare: Hard Brexit will cost German car makers £6 BILLION and 18,000 jobs

ANGELA Merkel is facing growing pressure to ensure that the European Union secures a good trade deal with Britain after a landmark report revealed the devastating effect a hard Brexit will have on the country’s flagship car industry.

PUBLISHED: 11:28, Thu, Jun 22, 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16, Thu, Jun 22, 2017

The German leader has thus far been bullish over the UK’s decision to leave the Brussels club, saying there can be no compromises on issues like free movement and that the EU27 must come first in the negotiations. 

But shock figures compiled by the respected consultancy firm Deloitte may cause her to rethink her strategy in light of the dire consequences a no-deal scenario would bring for German heavy industry. 

According to their report, published this week, Germany’s car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW would lose £6 billion a year in sales in the UK in the event of Britain and the EU reverting to a WTO tariff system. 

That would mean they would be forced to close factories across the country, shedding a massive 18,000 skilled manufacturing jobs due to a sharp plunge in demand from British consumers. 

Britain is currently one of the biggest markets in the world for expensive German-made cars, with about one in seven of all the cars the country makes being sold to the domestic UK market. 

The car industry in Germany employs around 750,000 people and is one of the country’s most important in both financial and symbolic terms, with Berlin placing such heavy engineering at the heart of its economic vision. 

But with the threat of a Brexit no-deal, plus comments by US president Donald Trump suggesting he will slap tariffs on German car makers to protect the American industry, Berlin’s flagship industry is facing an uncertain future. 

----“A hard Brexit (WTO tariffs and 10% devaluation of the pound) would amount to a cumulative increase in costs of 1.9billion euros (+15%) for the car market in the United Kingdom.

“If car manufacturers completely pass this increase on to their customers the price of a car in the UK would on average increase by £3,260 and of a car manufactured in Germany by £5,000.

“When taking into account British consumer behaviour this price increase will lead to a decline in sales of about 550,000 cars (-19%) in the UK in the year of the EU exit. German car exports would decrease by 255,000 (-32%).” 

It continues: “The combined turnover of cars in the UK will decline by about £11 billion (-18%), profits by £800 million. Whilst manufacturers in the UK and outside of the EU will profit, the revenue of the EU27 will decline by £7.3 billion and German manufacturers of £5.9 billion.

Can the City Survive?

Despite Brexit, London's place as a leading global financial center looks safe.

by Satyajit Das  27 June 2017, 08:00 GMT+1
Ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union, analysts have debated the City's fate. In 2016, the British financial services sector employed over one million people (3.1 percent of all U.K. jobs) and contributed around 7.2 percent of the U.K.’s total gross value added, just over half of it from London. Any threat to the sector -- and to London's place as arguably the leading global financial center -- would be a major blow.

Fortunately for the U.K., Brexit itself won't erode the significant advantages London currently enjoys. Perhaps more importantly, neither will it help European rivals build up similar advantages.

It's easy to see why cities such as Paris and Frankfurt (or Amsterdam, often mentioned as a compromise candidate) imagine they can steal business away from London. For one thing, all overlap with Asian and U.S. markets during the trading day.

London largely depends on transaction flow from European markets, British and European multinationals, international fund managers, insurers and global currency and derivatives trading. It also benefits from transactions completed elsewhere which flow through key exchanges or markets. LCH Clearnet Group Ltd., owned by the London Stock Exchange, clears over 50 percent of interest-rate swaps across all currencies. London clears 97 percent of dollar interest-rate swaps and 75 percent of those in euros. There's no inherent reason that business couldn't shift elsewhere.

But London also has some unique advantages over its competitors. English is the lingua franca of international finance. English law governs the bulk of international transactions and English courts are particularly well-regarded.

Institutions like the Bank of England command great confidence. Low taxes, reliable corporate laws and regulations that have historically been responsive to evolving industry needs all add to London’s financial power.

London benefits from network effects, where similar businesses and supporting services such as lawyers, accountants and consultants are located within close proximity to one another. Good infrastructure, technology and telecommunications as well as convenient transport links are key advantages. Even more important is access to a skilled labor force with the relevant expertise. London has historically treated foreign workers generously, especially in the financial services industry, although Brexit could make hiring European bankers more difficult.

It's difficult to see Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam accommodating an English-speaking, English-law financial culture. Developing the infrastructure and networks needed to sustain a global financial center will take time, regardless of French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation for foreigners to move to Paris. Neither Paris nor Frankfurt have a global trading culture, which in the cases of London and Amsterdam evolved over centuries of trading in goods and services.

An aggrieved European Union is obviously keen to use Brexit to diminish London’s much-resented financial dominance. The current debate about euro clearing is one example. Given that the U.K. was never part of the euro zone, there's no reason it can't continue to act as a clearing house. Nothing stops the relevant firms from agreeing to abide by EU laws and directives, supported by U.K. legislation. London-based financial firms can access European customers by complying with common-market rules under equivalent regulation provisions, or by establishing or using existing European entities.

Indeed, at a deeper level, the whole debate around London's future as a financial center is perverse. Markets are global. Advances in technology and communications make location largely irrelevant. Most transactions are concluded electronically. People routinely work remotely and transactions are completed between firms and individuals who may never meet other than electronically.

In American news, the witch-hunt against President Trump just fell apart like the Clinton campaign. There’ll probably be no stopping “the Donald,” now. Fun and games across the summer, it seems.

CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat

June 27 2017, 2:03 p.m.
Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under Congressional investigation. That article – like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media – was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims.

In announcing the resignation of the three journalists -Thomas Frank, who wrote the story; Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Eric Lichtblau, recently hired away from the New York Times; and Lex Haris, head of a new investigative unit – CNN said “standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.” The resignations follow CNN’s Friday night retraction of the story, in which they apologized to Scaramucci:

Several factors compound CNN’s embarrassment here. To begin with, CNN’s story was first debunked by an article in Sputnik News, which explained that the investment fund documented several “factual inaccuracies” in the report (including that the fund is not even part of the Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, that is under investigation), and by Breitbart, which cited numerous other factual inaccuracies.

And this episode follows an embarrassing correction CNN was forced to issue earlier this month when several of its highest-profile on-air personalities asserted – based on anonymous sources – that James Comey, in his Congressional testimony, was going to deny Trump’s claim that the FBI Director assured him he was not the target of any investigation.

When Comey confirmed Trump’s story, CNN was forced to correct its story. “An earlier version of this story said that Comey would dispute Trump’s interpretation of their conversations. But based on his prepared remarks, Comey outlines three conversations with the President in which he told Trump he was not personally under investigation,” said the network.

But CNN is hardly alone when it comes to embarrassing retractions regarding Russia. Over and over, U.S. major media outlets have published claims about The Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false – always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle. In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources which these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.

Several of the most humiliating of these episodes have come from the Washington Post. On December 30, the paper published a blockbuster, frightening scoop that immediately and predictably went viral and generated massive traffic. Russian hackers, the paper claimed based on anonymous sources, had hacked into the “U.S. electricity grid” through a Vermont utility.

That, in turn, led MSNBC journalists, and various Democratic officials, to instantly sound the alarm that Putin was trying to deny Americans heat during the winter:

Literally every facet of that story turned out to be false. First, the utility company – which the Post had not bothered to contact – issued a denial, pointing out that malware was found in one laptop that was not connected either to the Vermont grid or the broader U.S. electricity grid. That forced the Post to change the story to hype the still-alarmist claim that this malware “showed the risk” posed by Russia to the U.S. electric grid, along with a correction at the top repudiating the story’s central claim

But then it turned out that even this limited malware was not connected to Russian hackers at all and, indeed, may not have been malicious code of any kind. Those revelations forced the Post to publish a new article days later entirely repudiating the original story.

“I sometimes get the impression that many U.S. media outlets work according to a principle which was common in the Soviet Union. Back then, people used to joke that the newspaper Pravda [Truth] had no truth in it, and the Izvestia [News] paper has no news in it. I get the impression that many U.S. media operate in the same way.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. May 2017.

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.

Today, an update on that fatal, preventable London fire.There's more than enough blame to go round. From poor building regulations, to Greenpeace turning our fridges into potential bombs, to the London Fire Brigade's fatally flawed advice to the victims to stay in place and await rescue.

26 June 2017 Updated 27/6/2017

Grenfell Tower blaze looks to have been completely avoidable

By Plastics News Europe
Almost two weeks after the disastrous fire that killed at least 79 and virtually destroyed Grenfell Tower, a high-rise block of public housing flats in North Kensington, west London, facts are emerging that suggest that this was an accident that was “preventable” following “years of neglect”, in the words of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

On 23 June 2017, Metropolitan Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack announced that the police had expert evidence showing the fire was not deliberate and that it had started in a faulty Whirlpool Hotpoint fridge-freezer.

However, the fact that the fire was able to spread so quickly from a single flat to the entire building, instead of being contained, is almost certainly due to the external cladding and insulation that had been installed on the building as part of a refurbishment project in 2015-2016.

As part of the project, the concrete structure was fitted with new windows and new aluminium composite rainscreen cladding.  Two types were used: Reynobond, which consists of two aluminium sheets with a polyethylene core sandwiched in between, and is produced by Arconic; and Reynolux prepainted aluminium sheet, also from Arconic. Polyethylene, it should be noted, is a thermoplastic material, which melts and drips as it burns, spreading the fire downwards as well as upwards.

Beneath these sheets, and fixed to the outside of the walls of the flat was Celotex RS5000 PIR thermal insulation, from Celotex, a Saint-Gobain company. While the material has a “class 0” fire rating, it is ultimately combustible according to the Building Research Establishment during which deadly hydrogen cyanide fumes can be produced.

In its report, Fire performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multi-storey buildings (2013), the Building Research Establishment describes how such a cladding system can cause fire to spread: “The mechanisms by which fire can spread externally include combustible materials and cavities – either as part of a system, or those created by delamination of the system or material loss during the fire.  Once flames enter a cavity they have the potential to travel significant distances, giving rise to the risk of unseen fire spread within the cladding systems.”

It adds: “flames become confined or restricted by entering cavities within the external cladding system, they will become elongated as they seek oxygen and fuel to support the combustion process.  This process can lead to flame extension of five to ten times that of the original flame lengths, regardless of the materials used to line the cavities.”

----Meanwhile, Celotex has announced on its website that it will stop the supply of RS5000 for use in rainscreen cladding systems in buildings over 18m tall. The company writes that it is “shocked by the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire.”

“In view of the focus on rainscreen cladding systems and the insulation forming part of them, Celotex believes that the right thing to do is to stop the supply of Celotex RS5000 for rainscreen cladding systems in buildings over 18m tall with immediate effect (including in respect of ongoing projects), pending further clarity.”

Arconic apparently is taking similar steps. On June 26, multiple news outlets reported that the company will stop selling the PE core composite panels for use in high rises.

"Arconic is discontinuing global sales of Reynobond PE for use in high-rise applications," the statement says. "We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes around the world and the issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings' overall designs. We will continue to fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy."

Arconic tries to distance itself from Grenfell Tower fire

Published: June 26, 2017 6:02 p.m. ET
Arconic Inc. ARNC, -5.99% late Monday tried to distance itself from the devasting Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 79 people by stressing that it supplies cladding panels to clients with the assumption that its products are used in compliance with various building codes. "Arconic supplied one of our products, Reynobond PE, to our customer, a fabricator, which used the product as one component of the overall cladding system on Grenfell Tower," said the company in a statement. However, it said it did not participate in refurbishing the building or in the original design. " Our product is one component in the overall cladding system; we don't control the overall system or its compliance," said the company. It also expressed its condolences and reiterated its decision that it will no longer supply cladding panel in other high-rise buildng projects, regardless of codes and regulations.

Products at Center of London Fire Faced Tougher Rules in U.S.

LONDON — Two products that played a major role in the deadly inferno in London had been assailed for their fire risks and faced tighter restrictions in the United States.

Such regulatory gaps expose how multinational corporations can take advantage of the vulnerabilities in government oversight.

The two American manufacturers involved, Arconic and Whirlpool, are widely expected to be central players in litigation over the fire, which killed at least 79 people this month. The Metropolitan Police have also said they will consider manslaughter among other charges; in Britain, corporations can be charged with manslaughter.

---- Whirlpool now owns the company that made the refrigerator that started the fire, which was sold under the Hotpoint brand. The back of the model in the London fire is made out of plastic, whereas refrigerators sold in the United States typically use metal.

The London Fire Brigade has long campaigned to ban such products, even posting videos of burning refrigerators on its website. The group posted a statement there in February that said it had been lobbying for five years for new appliances to have fully fire-resistant backing — to little avail.

“The inquiry itself will be massive, because there are all sorts of interested parties involved,” said Jill Paterson, a partner at Leigh Day, a law firm that has been involved in litigation in notable cases, including the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

“In terms of the first port of call, as far as I’m concerned, it’s what started the fire, and if it was something that was faulty, that’s where you would start,” she said. “But the cladding and all of the other issues are obviously major matters as well that need to be investigated and looked into.”

Happy birthday, Greenfreeze!

Blogpost by Paula Tejon Carbajal - 25 March, 2013 at 13:33
Do you have a fridge at home? Then, unless you live in North America, you probably have a Greenfreeze. And what is that? A fridge that uses a revolutionary technology that Greenpeace created two decades ago. And to celebrate its 20th birthday this month, Greenpeace will toast to this technology that transformed the global refrigeration market forever and saved tons of greenhouse gas emissions to our tormented atmosphere!
---- Within one year this initiative resulted in the highly successful commercialization of “Greenfreeze” hydrocarbon refrigeration in Germany. The technology rapidly spread to other European countries, and soon Greenfreeze revolutionised the refrigerator industry world-wide. Today we have over 700 million refrigerators using this ´Made in Greenpeace´ technology all over the world which represents 40% of global production each year. All major manufacturers produce Greenfreeze refrigerators and almost one billion tons of GHGs have been kept out the atmosphere thanks to Wolo and his tenacity.
But unlike HFC refrigerant,  “Greenfreeze,” isobutane and propane, burns. Thank you Greenpeace for making fridge fires so much worse.

Refrigerant use

As a refrigerant, isobutane has an explosion risk in addition to the hazards associated with non-flammable CFC refrigerants. Reports surfaced in late 2009 suggesting the use of isobutane as a refrigerant in domestic refrigerators was potentially dangerous. One refrigerator explosion reported in the United Kingdom was suspected to have been caused as a result of isobutane leaking into the refrigerator cabinet and being ignited by sparks in the electrical system.[11] Although unclear how serious this could be, at the time this report came out it was estimated 300 million refrigerators worldwide use isobutane as a refrigerant.
Technology Update.
With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards? DC? A quantum computer next?

Moisture-responsive 'robots' crawl with no external power source

Created using only a camera flash and graphene oxide, smart materials move in response to changes in humidity

Date: June 26, 2017

Source: The Optical Society

Summary: Using an off-the-shelf camera flash, researchers turned an ordinary sheet of graphene oxide into a material that bends when exposed to moisture. They then used this material to make a spider-like crawler and claw robot that move in response to changing humidity without the need for any external power.

Using an off-the-shelf camera flash, researchers turned an ordinary sheet of graphene oxide into a material that bends when exposed to moisture. They then used this material to make a spider-like crawler and claw robot that move in response to changing humidity without the need for any external power.

"The development of smart materials such as moisture-responsive graphene oxide is of great importance to automation and robotics," said Yong-Lai Zhang of Jilin University, China, and leader of the research team. "Our very simple method for making typical graphene oxides smart is also extremely efficient. A sheet can be prepared within one second."

In the journal Optical Materials Express, from The Optical Society (OSA), the researchers reported that graphene oxide sheets treated with brief exposure to bright light in the form of a camera flash exhibited reversible bending at angles from zero to 85 degrees in response to switching the relative humidity between 33 and 86 percent. They also demonstrated that their method is repeatable and the simple robots they created have good stability.

Although other materials can change shape in response to moisture, the researchers experimented with graphene-based materials because they are incredibly thin and have unique properties such as flexibility, conductivity, mechanical strength and biocompatibility. These properties make graphene ideal for broad applications in various fields. For example, the material's excellent biocompatibility could allow moisture-responsive graphene oxide to be used in organ-on-a-chip systems that simulate the mechanics and physiological response of entire organs and are used for drug discovery and other biomedical research.

Jean-Claude Juncker. Failed Luxembourg Prime Minister and ex-president of the Euro Group of Finance Ministers. Confessed liar. European Commission President. Scotch connoisseur.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished May

DJIA: 21,009 +157 Up. NASDAQ:  6,199 +219 Up. SP500: 2,412 +161 Up.

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