Saturday, 30 September 2017

Weekend Update 30/09/17 High Noon In Spain.

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!

Benjamin Franklin

We have reached showdown time in Catalonia. Will tomorrow’s independence referendum take place or not? If thwarted, how will the Catalan’s react. Catalonia accounts for about 20% of Spain’s GDP and taxes, a double edged sword for Spain’s already wobbly economy and budget. With the main winter tourism season just about to get underway, will a winter of unrest cause Spanish tourism to slump? How did Spain get to so mismanage this domestic entirely man made crisis. How will the EUSSR Brussels bureaucrats react?  More on Monday, I think. Euros anyone?

Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Winston Churchill.

Catalonia Pledges to Hold Referendum in Defiance of Rajoy

By Esteban Duarte and Maria Tadeo
Catalonia heads into a watershed moment in its modern history this weekend, and no one really knows how it’s going to play out.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday that there’s no way the regional administration will pull off its plans to hold an illegal referendum on independence Sunday. Jordi Turull, the Catalan executive’s spokesman, said Friday in Barcelona that almost 7,000 volunteers are ready to open 2,315 polling stations across the region of 7.5 million people.

“Today we’ve defeated an authoritarian state,” Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puidemont, said at the closing rally of the secession campaign Friday. “Each difficulty has made us stronger.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is deploying thousands of police to Catalonia to uphold public order ahead of a vote declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court. The region’s bid to break away is the biggest challenge to the political settlement instituted following the death of dictator Francisco Franco that sought to tie restive regions into Spain’s new democracy.

Earlier Friday, scores of farmers backing secession drove tractors from the provinces into Barcelona to blockade Spanish government offices. Both sides projected their resolve.

“All polling stations will be in place -- even if someone tries to stop it, citizens will still be able to vote,” Oriol Junqueras, Catalan economy vice president, said.

After Rajoy met with his cabinet in Madrid, his government repeated its pledge that the referendum wouldn’t happen.

“The government, exercising its constitutional functions, will enforce the law,” Mendez said at a news conference. “No one is above the law, and anyone who breaks it should face the consequences.”

Spain’s data protection agency warned that polling station workers face fines of as much as 300,000 euros ($355,000) for accessing and managing data for the electoral registry. The aviation authority said it would restrict airspace over Barcelona during the referendum weekend.

A magistrate at Catalonia’s High Court ordered Google Inc. to remove "On Votar 1-Oct" app from Google Play service, according to an email statement from Catalan supreme court. In a separate ruling, the magistrate ordered the Catalan technology agency to shut a chain of applications that potentially could be used for the vote.

Stalemate over Catalan vote keeps Spain in suspense

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Scores of Catalan farmers on tractors rumbled into downtown Barcelona on Friday, driving down the city's broad boulevards in a show of support for a potentially explosive vote on whether the prosperous region should break away from the rest of Spain and become Europe's newest country.

The Spanish government and secession-minded authorities in the northeastern Catalonia region were on a collision course, with the independence referendum still slated for Sunday despite efforts by the courts and police to stop it.

The tractors carried the Catalan pro-independence flag, called the "estelada," to the office of the national government's representative in Barcelona. Similar tractor protests were being held across Catalonia. The region's biggest farmers' union said the demonstrations were part of their fight for "democracy and liberty."

With weeks of antagonism and tension coming to a head, neither side was showing signs of backing down from a confrontation that has pitched Spain into a political and constitutional crisis.

The Madrid-based Spanish government has maintained the ballot cannot and will not happen because it contravenes the constitution, which refers to "the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation." Any vote on Catalan secession would have to be held across all of Spain, the government says.

"This secessionist process has been illegal from the start," government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday. "Since the referendum ... won't have any political consequence, pursuing it won't do anything but extend the damage, the harm and the disintegration that it is already doing."

Acting on court orders, police have confiscated about 10 million ballot papers and some 1.3 million posters advertising the referendum, and have blocked the distribution of ballot boxes. On Friday, the Catalan police were ordered to clear out all 2,315 polling stations, most of them in schools, by 6 a.m. Sunday to prevent the referendum from taking place.

Elsewhere in the wealth and jobs destroying, dying EUSSR, problems mount up for Germany, with or without a soft or hard Brexit. In a deeply age split Germany, the next government faces a pensions dilemma, trash their supporters or trash the young.

Meanwhile Volkswagen’s dirty killer diesel problems just keep mounting up.  Oh what an tangled web VW wove, when they decided to deceive the world with dirty cheating diesels.

Deutsche Bank goes back on the rocks. When the next economic downturn hits, is DB about to be the next Lehman?

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

Oscar Wilde

A Graying Germany Complicates Merkel's Task

Older voters have supported the establishment, which rewards them generously. But that is creating a dangerous rift.
by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry  29 September 2017, 15:21 GMT+1
As she builds her new coalition government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be mindful of the need to counter nationalism at home and the imperative of finding a consensus on integration in the euro zone. But the election also exposed a demographic rift that could present an even bigger challenge to Germany's leaders: between a graying population that backed the establishment, and a young one that sought alternatives or stayed home.

Former German President Roman Herzog warned in 2008 that Germany risked turning into a “pensioner democracy” where “older generations plunder the younger ones.” As the number of older people steadily rose, he noted, the political parties were paying disproportionate attention to them. Last week's election, where the biggest age cohort was voters over the age of 70, showed that Herzog may have been onto something. While the West is graying overall, Germany getting older faster, with the highest median age in Europe, and one of the lowest birth rates. And Germany’s future will inevitably shape the future of Europe.

The age rift played out as an establishment versus anti-establishment divide. The establishment parties (Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU; the Social Democratic Party; and the Free Democratic Party) drew their support from older voters, with CDU/CSU getting 41 percent of the over-60 vote, versus 32.9 percent nationally. Meanwhile, younger people disproportionately support either less establishmentarian parties or don’t vote, showing alienation from the political establishment that has steered Germany since the end of World War II.

Martin Schulz, the SPD candidate, campaigned on higher pensions, while Angela Merkel’s CDU rejected further pensions reform, which would bring a reduction in benefits. Despite Germany’s reputation for fiscal rectitude, the country’s pensions are headed for a cliff. Close to 80 percent of pensions remain pay-as-you-go and therefore unsustainable given Germany’s graying. Company-sponsored private pensions are supposed to fill the gap, but they are reported to be 30 percent to 50 percent underfunded, and they are overwhelmingly defined-benefit schemes. Recent reforms to raise the retirement age slightly and introduce defined-contribution pensions schemes didn’t come close to putting the country’s liabilities on a sustainable path.

VW's Diesel Damages Approach $30 Billion After Surprise U.S. Hit

By Chris Reiter and Elisabeth Behrmann
Volkswagen AG took a surprise charge of about 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) in the third quarter as plans to buy back or retrofit tainted diesel cars in North America proves more complex than expected, highlighting how the scandal continues to grip the automaker.

The additional provisions will hit operating results in the third quarter, which will be reported on Oct. 27, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company said Friday in a statement. The latest charge brings total damages from the diesel-cheating scandal, which erupted more the two years ago, to over 25 billion euros. Volkswagen’s third-quarter operating profit was forecast at 4.45 billion euros, according to three analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“The size of the provision is surprisingly large, considering the numbers of cars involved isn’t very large,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler. “It shows VW remains some distance from coming through the scandal.”

Volkswagen shares, which haven’t rebounded from the crisis, fell as much as 4 percent to 132.85 euros and were down 2.9 percent at 10:07 a.m. in Frankfurt. The company didn’t specify why the issues in the U.S. were more costly than anticipated.

The company has struggled to draw a line under the crisis. Munich prosecutors this week arrested a former Volkswagen engineer, the second person detained in the probe into cheating at the automaker’s Audi division. In addition to criminal probes in Germany, the company still faces hundreds of investor lawsuits as well as consumer complaints.

The continuing fallout from the diesel cheating crisis compounds the pressures facing the automaker as it grapples with the spending demands to develop next-generation vehicles. The world’s largest automaker plans to invest about 20 billion euros by 2030 to develop a fleet of electric cars and another 50 billion to buy the batteries needed to power the vehicles.

The move comes as the scandal set off a backlash that has led consumers to turn away from diesel technology amid concerns about pollution and driving bans. That creates problems for Volkswagen as it relies on diesel cars to boost profit and lower carbon-dioxide emissions to reach tightening European environmental targets.

Deutsche Bank Rating Cut by Fitch as Cryan Turnaround Stalls

By Michael J Moore
John Cryan is facing increasing skepticism he can revive growth at Deutsche Bank AG as the lender struggles to win back clients and market share after last year’s slump.

Deutsche Bank had its long-term credit grade cut one level by Fitch Ratings late Thursday, which said the lender will take longer to revive growth under a turnaround plan unveiled in March. That came a week after Autonomous Research LLP said the lender may be “beyond repair” unless there’s a “miracle” boom at its once-mighty bond-trading business.

Cryan is struggling to boost earnings as the Frankfurt-based lender undertakes its third revamp in as many years. The CEO brought the bank back from the brink in late 2016 by settling misconduct lawsuits and raising 8 billion euros. His plan to restore “modest growth” by pivoting Europe’s largest investment bank to corporate clients and emphasizing its German roots was thwarted when the lender suffered its weakest revenue in 3 1/2 years in the second quarter.

“We no longer expect revenue to demonstrate any clear signs of franchise recovery this year, and we expect necessary further restructuring costs to continue to erode net income,” the Fitch analysts wrote in a statement Thursday.

The company’s stock fell 0.3 percent to 14.33 euros and has declined 7 percent this year, the second-worst performer in the 46-member Stoxx 600 Banks Price Index. The company’s 6 percent perpetual bonds were little changed.

Fitch said low volatility and persistently low interest rates, especially in Europe, continue to weigh on the bank’s top line, and it will take longer to reverse a loss in market share the bank experienced at the end of last year, when some clients stopped doing business with Deutsche Bank amid speculation about its capital strength.

Finally, in closing, yet more fake news from America. While in Europe it’s always blame it on Brexit, at least until after Catalonia votes or doesn’t, in America it’s always blame it on Russia.

Below, blame it on Russia falls apart yet again.

21st century adage: Is that true, or did you hear it on the BBC?

Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet?

Glenn Greenwald September 28 2017,

Last Friday, most major media outlets touted a major story about Russian attempts to hack into U.S. voting systems, based exclusively on claims made by the Department of Homeland Security. “Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states in the run-up to last year’s presidential election, officials said Friday,” began the USA Today story, similar to how most other outlets presented this extraordinary claim.

This official story was explosive for obvious reasons, and predictably triggered instant decrees – that of course went viral – declaring that the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now in doubt.

Virginia’s Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, referring to the 21 targeted states, announced that this shows “Russia tried to hack their election”:

---- MSNBC’s Paul Revere for all matters relating to the Kremlin take-over, Rachel Maddow, was indignant that this wasn’t told to us earlier and that we still aren’t getting all the details. “What we have now figured out,” Maddow gravely intoned as she showed the multi-colored maps she made, is that “Homeland Security knew at least by June that 21 states had been targeted by Russian hackers during the election. . .targeting their election infrastructure.”

They were one small step away from demanding that the election results be nullified, indulging the sentiment expressed by #Resistance icon Carl Reiner the other day: “Is there anything more exciting that [sic] the possibility of Trump’s election being invalidated & Hillary rightfully installed as our President?”

So what was wrong with this story? Just one small thing: it was false. The story began to fall apart yesterday when Associated Press reported that Wisconsin – one of the states included in the original report that, for obvious reasons, caused the most excitement – did not, in fact, have its election systems targeted by Russian hackers:

---- The spokesman for Homeland Security then tried to walk back that reversal, insisting that there was still evidence that some computer networks had been targeted, but could not say that they had anything to do with elections or voting. And, as AP noted: “Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator, Michael Haas, had repeatedly said that Homeland Security assured the state it had not been targeted.”

Then the story collapsed completely last night. The Secretary of State for another one of the named states, California, issued a scathing statement repudiating the claimed report:

---- Sometimes stories end up debunked. There’s nothing particularly shocking about that. If this were an isolated incident, one could chalk it up to basic human error that has no broader meaning.

But this is no isolated incident. Quite the contrary: this has happened over and over and over again. Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

The examples of such debacles when it comes to claims about Russia are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. I wrote about this phenomenon many times and listed many of the examples, the last time in June when 3 CNN journalists “resigned” over a completely false story linking Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci to investigations into a Russian investment fund which the network was forced to retract:

---- Remember that time the Washington Post claimed that Russia had hacked the U.S. electricity grid, causing politicians to denounce Putin for trying to deny heat to Americans in winter, only to have to issue multiple retractions because none of that ever happened? Or the time that the Post had to publish a massive editor’s note after its reporters made claims about Russian infiltration of the internet and spreading of “Fake News” based on an anonymous group’s McCarthyite blacklist that counted sites like the Drudge Report and various left-wing outlets as Kremlin agents?

Or that time when Slate claimed that Trump had created a secret server with a Russian bank, all based on evidence that every other media outlet which looked at it were too embarrassed to get near? Or the time the Guardian was forced to retract its report by Ben Jacobs – which went viral – that casually asserted that WikiLeaks has a long relationship with the Kremlin? Or the time that Fortune retracted suggestions that RT had hacked into and taken over C-SPAN’s network? And then there’s the huge market that was created – led by leading Democrats – that blindly ingested every conspiratorial, unhinged claim about Russia churned out by an army of crazed conspiracists such as Louise Mensch and Claude “TrueFactsStated” Taylor?

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.


Friday, 29 September 2017

A Sea Change Underway.

Baltic Dry Index. 1391 -38    Brent Crude 58.50

But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.
Ben Bernanke. 2002.

The big stories of the next few days will be what happens next in Spain and Catalonia, how much of continuing disaster Puerto Rico will turn out to be, and of course, what happens next in North Korea. 

But while we await developments over the weekend, a sea change seems to be under way in the west’s democracies. Voters from the UK to Japan seem to have woken up to the wonders of the fiat money “money-tree.”  On the Great Nixonian Error of fiat money, communist money, voters are being seduced by populist political parties that you can have your cake and eat it too. All paid for by the modern day goose that lays golden eggs, the incredible free money wonders, of the central banksters’ money-trees.

Below, Japan’s politicians get on Comrade Corbyn’s, New Communist Labour Party, “money-tree” band waggon. If crooked gambling banksters can be bailed out, why not me? If it’s good enough for Japan, why not Britain, France, Spain and Italy?  Since there’s no free lunch on planet Earth, we all know how this illusion ends, just not when. For now though This old dinosaur market follower thinks an unstoppable sea change is underway. Time to stock up on under priced tangible assets with real intrinsic value. A 21st century repeat of the profligate 1970s is about to get underway.

"In politics stupidity is not a handicap."
Napoleon Bonaparte, Dictator.

September 29, 2017 / 5:41 AM / Updated 24 minutes ago

Looming election may be nail in coffin for Japan's fiscal reform

TOKYO (Reuters) - Even as a new party under a populist female leader scrambles the outlook for Japan’s general election next month, one thing is clear: the winner will loosen a grip on the government’s runaway debt as lawmakers forego higher taxes or boost spending. 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to use the revenue from a planned sales-tax hike not to pay down debt but to spend more on education and other popular programmers. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, whose “Party of Hope” is challenging Abe’s ruling coalition by effectively absorbing Japan’s largest opposition party, wants to put off the tax hike altogether. 

“Japan has yet to emerge from deflation as consumption, which makes up a large portion of the economy, remains weak,” she told a briefing on Thursday, criticising Abe for doing little to prop up household income.
The debate is shifting to how much more to spend and in what areas, rather than on what is acceptable within the limits set by Japan’s public debt, which at well over twice the size of its economy is the biggest among industrialised nations. 

“Regardless of who wins, there will be increased spending because that’s how you win votes,” said Koichi Haji, chief economist at NLI Research Institute. 

“Very few lawmakers call for fiscal reform,” Haji added. “That may be fine now, but there’s no telling when loss of market trust in Japan’s finances could trigger a spike in bond yields.” 

Japan’s ballooning public debt has not bothered the bond market much so far, as investors trust the country can repay public debt with its huge current account surplus and abundant domestic savings. 

But the long-term risk is that snowballing social security spending for a fast-ageing population will strain government finances, making it more vulnerable to a sudden spike in borrowing costs that would hurt the economy. 

Japanese government bond (JGB) prices tumbled on Thursday, with the benchmark futures posting their biggest fall in three months, as investors braced for bigger spending.

Below, eventually how it all ends, in higher interest rates, though not in the baby step interest rate increases anticipated now. With the voters universally tired of austerity and debt, I sense we are on the threshold of another chapter in the Madness of Crowds. Led by Japan, we are all about to electronically print up people’s QE to “prosperity.”

Europe's Biggest Fund Manager Expects Higher Interest Rates to Spread

By Cecile Gutscher
Regardless of central bankers’ assurances, higher interest rates are set to spread in Europe, according to its biggest fund manager.

Sergei Strigo, the London-based head of emerging-market debt at Amundi Asset Management, is betting that central-bank rates in east Europe’s biggest economies are more likely to follow the Czech National Bank than the European Central Bank on the path toward tighter policy.

Strigo, whose firm oversees 1.3 trillion euros ($1.5 trillion), has been paring positions in the region’s government debt since 2016 based on his view that central bankers will move to raise rates before the European Central Bank eventually does. He’s betting rate setters in Poland and Hungary will have to abandon pledges to keep borrowing costs at record-low levels until as late as 2019 as their economies heat up.

“Going into next year we see these central banks thinking about interest rate hikes as inflationary pressures build up and growth surprises on the upside,” said Strigo. His Global Emerging Local Currency fund has outperformed 92 percent of peers this year with gains of 15 percent.

With growth gathering pace and consumption on the rise, a growing chorus of investors are seeing a surge in wages feeding through to inflation in the region battered by a labor shortage. Strigo says he’s keeping bond duration lower than the benchmark and using interest-rate swaps to hedge against the possible increases.
The Czech National Bank, which delivered Europe’s first rate hike in August, is debating the timing for its next move to tighten as faster-than-expected economic growth and a shortage of workers drive up salaries and prices. Policy makers voted four to three to keep the benchmark rate at 0.25 percent on Wednesday

"Someone must stand up to those who say, "Here's the key, there's the Treasury, just take as many of those hard-earned tax dollars as you want.”

Ronald Reagan. So old fashioned, last century, in our new age of money-trees.

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Puerto Rico, an island in deep distress. Misled by Hollywood disaster movies and modern superficial media, things take longer than most people’s unrealistic expectations. I was in Florida when hurricane Andrew hit, and saw just how long it took to revive a relatively small, if wrecked, part of south Florida. And the rest of Florida was still connected by working Interstates and turnpikes. Puerto Rico was an island already in financial and other distress before the hurricanes hit, sorting out Puerto Rico will not be quick or easy, and hurricane season still has two more months to run.
Below, how the modern media shamelessly uses tragedy for political purposes. Reminds me of the Grenfell Tower tragedy recently in London.
“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.

So many storms: After Harvey and Irma, can a thinly stretched FEMA come through for Puerto Rico?

September 27, 2017
Nibbling on dwindling food stocks, lacking crucial medications, sweltering in half-wrecked homes with only tainted water for washing and barely any for drinking: For many in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria’s aftermath has been even more harrowing than the mighty storm itself.

Amid growing warnings of a potential humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean island territory that is home to 3.4 million U.S. citizens, federal relief efforts were ramping up Wednesday, even as criticism mounted. Among the most urgent priorities were food and water deliveries for isolated, storm-pounded rural communities and distribution of diesel for generators to power vital services such as hospital equipment and sanitation systems.
About 97% of the island's residents still lacked power Wednesday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, and about half remain without running water.

On his Facebook page, Rossello posted a photo of a street intersection in the southeast coastal town of Humacao where someone had painted a huge SOS sign with the words, “Necesitamos agua/comida!” — “We need water and food.”

Increasingly desperate local officials have demanded more help from the federal government, and faster delivery of what aid is coming.

“They’re going very slowly, the aid isn’t getting to people fast enough. We seem to be losing a lot of time in jurisdictional trifles,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said in an interview Wednesday.
“People are dying,” she said. “We don’t have time for that.”

The White House has fought back hard against complaints that the federal government’s response in Puerto Rico has been less robust than in hurricane-hammered Texas and Florida.

“We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida,” Trump told reporters this week. “And we will also on Puerto Rico.”

Federal officials have cited logistical and geographical challenges in rushing aid to an island territory 1,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. And they have not discounted the difficulty of trying to mount simultaneous disaster operations across two states and two U.S. territories.

----Hurricane Maria, with winds just a whisper short of Category 5 status, tore through the island Sept. 20, less than two weeks after Puerto Rico was sideswiped by monster Hurricane Irma. The already faltering power grid collapsed.

Since then, relief supplies have begun to arrive at the port, but getting them where they’re needed is difficult. Unloading cranes, operating on generators, move at only half-speed. Shipping containers stuffed with disaster relief items have sat at the port because of a lack of truck drivers. The Puerto Rico Fire Department took to social media requesting licensed truck and bus drivers to come forward on Wednesday.
In the meantime, daily life has become an unceasing struggle. Banks across the island remain closed, so people are cash-strapped. A dusk-to-dawn curfew is supposed to help restore order, but people are sometimes forced to break the law as they wait in long gas lines.

Mayor Cruz said two people died because their life support was shut off when the generator at a San Juan hospital ran out of fuel.

“People in the street are doing what they can to survive,” said U.S. service member Orlando Sanchez-Matos, part of a San Juan-based military contingent getting ready to help build a shelter in the capital’s Hato Rey neighborhood.

About 1.5 million people remained without drinking water, the Pentagon said. Fifty-nine of the island’s 69 hospitals were operational, it said, but communications problems have hampered status reporting.
Hospitals, like other institutions, were using couriers to send and receive information.

San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport and nine other airports were storm-damaged but operating, and three seaports were open as well, with five more ports in limited use, according to the Pentagon. The military said it was moving from a sea-based rescue effort to a land-based one, concentrating on route clearance and aid distribution.
September 28, 2017 / 1:49 PM / Updated 2 hours ago

U.S. appoints general to oversee military response to Puerto Rico disaster

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - The Pentagon named a senior general to command military relief operations in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Thursday and the Trump administration sent a Cabinet emissary to the island as U.S. lawmakers called for a more robust response to the crisis. 

The U.S. territory of 3.4 million people struggled through a ninth day with virtually no electricity, patchy communications and shortages of fuel, clean water and other essentials in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years. 

The storm struck on Sept. 20 with lethal, roof-ripping force and torrential rains that caused widespread flooding and heavily damaged homes, roads and other infrastructure. 

The storm killed more than 30 people across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico. Governor Ricardo Rossello has called the island’s devastation unprecedented. 

The U.S. military, which has poured thousands of troops into the relief effort, named Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan on Thursday to oversee its response on the island. 

Buchanan, Army chief for the military’s U.S. Northern Command, was expected to arrive in Puerto Rico later on Thursday. He will be the Pentagon’s main liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. government’s lead agency on the island, and focus on aid distribution, the Pentagon said in a statement. 

FEMA has already placed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of rebuilding the island’s crippled power grid, which has posed one of the island’s biggest challenges after the storm. 

In yet another move raising the administration’s profile in the crisis, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, whose department includes FEMA, will visit Puerto Rico on Friday with other senior government officials to meet the governor, Puerto Rican authorities and federal relief workers, her office announced. 

President Donald Trump again praised the government’s performance, saying on Twitter FEMA and other first responders were “doing a GREAT job,” but he complained about media coverage, adding: “Wish press would treat fairly!”
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?

Graphene forged into three-dimensional shapes

Date: September 26, 2017

Source: Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

Summary: Researchers have discovered how graphene, a single-atom-thin layer of carbon, can be forged into three-dimensional objects by using laser light. A striking illustration was provided when the researchers fabricated a pyramid with a height of 60 nm, which is about 200 times larger than the thickness of a graphene sheet. The pyramid was so small that it would easily fit on a single strand of hair. 

Researchers from Finland and Taiwan have discovered how graphene, a single-atom-thin layer of carbon, can be forged into three-dimensional objects by using laser light. A striking illustration was provided when the researchers fabricated a pyramid with a height of 60 nm, which is about 200 times larger than the thickness of a graphene sheet. The pyramid was so small that it would easily fit on a single strand of hair. The research was supported by the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of China.

Graphene is a close relative to graphite, which consists of millions of layers of graphene and can be found in common pencil tips. After graphene was first isolated in 2004, researchers have learned to routinely produce and handle it. Graphene can be used to make electronic and optoelectronic devices, such as transistors, photodetectors and sensors. In future, we will probably see an increasing number of products containing graphene.

"We call this technique optical forging, since the process resembles forging metals into 3D shapes with a hammer. In our case, a laser beam is the hammer that forges graphene into 3D shapes," explains Professor Mika Pettersson, who led the experimental team at the Nanoscience Center of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. "The beauty of the technique is that it's fast and easy to use; it doesn't require any additional chemicals or processing. Despite the simplicity of the technique, we were very surprised initially when we observed that the laser beam induced such substantial changes on graphene. It took a while to understand what was happening."

"At first, we were flabbergasted. The experimental data simply made no sense," says Dr Pekka Koskinen, who was responsible for the theory. "But gradually, by close interplay between experiments and computer simulations, the actuality of 3D shapes and their formation mechanism started to become clear."

"When we first examined the irradiated graphene, we were expecting to find traces of chemical species incorporated into the graphene, but we couldn't find any. After some more careful inspections, we concluded that it must be purely structural defects, rather than chemical doping, that are responsible for such dramatic changes on graphene," explains Associate Professor Wei Yen Woon from Taiwan, who led the experimental group that carried out X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy at the synchrotron facility.

The novel 3D graphene is stable and it has electronic and optical properties that differ from normal 2D graphene. Optically forged graphene can help in fabricating 3D architectures for graphene-based devices.

Another weekend and a dramatic one in Spain and Puerto Rico. We will not have to wait very long for news of the drama. Have a great weekend everyone.

"In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension."

John Kenneth Galbraith

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished August

DJIA: 21,948 +215 Up. NASDAQ:  6,429 +266 Up. SP500: 2,472 +174 Up.