‘Wait, what?’ Bernie Sanders’ negative spin on great economic news reeks of desperation

One-percenter Bernie Sanders is campaigning in Iowa today with fellow one-percenters Ben & Jerry, and they’re managing to explain how the middle class is getting screwed over by the upper one percent without getting laughed at:

Joe Biden’s attempts to tear down positive economic news have already been met with four Pinocchios, and now it’s Bernie Sanders’ turn to try and explain to his audiences why an improving economy is actually bad for them:

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By Sanders’ measure, life must just be grand for the regular people in Venezuela.

Bernie’s gonna Bernie.

It’s all the Dems have at this point — that and “stop Barr!”

If Dem candidates are going to run on the hopes that the economy starts to go south in order to get even with the one percent (who will be fine anyway) the Dems might be in for a major disappointment on 2020 Election Day.

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How the US-Iran oil standoff could hurt the economy

New York (CNN Business)The American economy is already absorbing a body blow from the deepening US-China trade war. A real war could be more than the decade-long economic expansion can handle.

A clash in the Middle East, while unlikely, would send oil prices surging. That would deal a major blow to consumer spending, the engine of the American economy.
History shows that oil price spikes — not financial panics — are the leading cause of recessions in modern America.
    “Oil shocks have killed more US economic expansions over the last 40 years than any other single cause,” Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, wrote in a note to clients.
    Besides long lines at gas stations, the Saudi oil embargo of 1973-1974 helped set off a jump in oil prices that crippled the economy. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 also led to a recession in the United States.
    Similarly, the US economy slipped into a downturn after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and again following the US overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
    “Historically, we’ve seen a spike in oil prices precede or coincide with a recession,” said Mike Reynolds, investment strategy officer at Glenmede.
    Colas noted that the last three examples occurred “late in a protracted US economic cycle” — much like today’s environment. America’s economic expansion, now nine years old, is on track to become the longest in history in July.

    $140 oil in 2008

    The Great Recession was caused by an epic housing bubble and overleverage on Wall Street. But the fact that US oil prices skyrocketed above $140 a barrel in summer 2008 contributed to the depth of the downturn. Shell-shocked American drivers struggled to pay $4-a-gallon gas prices.
    “That was the straw that really broke the camel’s back for consumer spending,” said Troy Gayeski, co-chief investment officer at SkyBridge Capital.
    Oil shocks are scary because they simultaneously deal a blow to household spending and consumer confidence.
    And higher oil prices can spread to other parts of the economy, driving up costs on everything from airfare to trucking. That can put pressure on profit margins as well as the Federal Reserve, which is charged with ensuring inflation doesn’t get out of hand.
    The 2008 oil shock led the European Central Bank to raise interest rates that July — just months before what would morph into the scariest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
    “They hiked rates at the worst possible time. That was a bad call,” said Gayeski. “It would be highly doubtful that the Fed would overreact.”

    Risks are rising in the Middle East

    The recovery from the Great Recession has proven resilient, overcoming countless scares such as Brexit, the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the European debt crisis. Now, the economy is under pressure from the US-China trade war.
    At the same time, tensions have soared in the Middle East, punctuated by allegations from Saudi Arabia that oil tankers were sabotaged, and oil facilities were attacked by armed drones.
    “The risks of a Middle East military confrontation are rising sharply,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “There is growing concern that the region’s long simmering cold war may be poised to become a hot one.”

    Shale to the rescue?

    US oil prices have surged nearly 50% since collapsing to $42.53 a barrel late last year. However, most of those gains occurred before the standoff over Iran. Prices have held steady in recent days as concerns about the Middle East were offset by the trade war.
    A conflict in the Middle East may not have as dramatic impact on prices as in the past. That’s because today the United States is the world’s leading oil producer, thanks to skyrocketing shale output in West Texas.
    “The US is much more energy independent than in the past,” said Glenmede’s Reynolds.
    Still, it’s a global market and shale alone can’t make up for production losses in Venezuela and Iran, let alone a potential military conflict in the Middle East.
    SkyBridge’s Gayeski said he believes the US economy could withstand Brent oil prices climbing above $100 to $110 a barrel.
      “That’s not the end of the world. We don’t see that as recession-causing,” he said.
      Above that level, though, would be much more problematic.

      Read more: www.cnn.com

      UN urged to declare full-scale crisis in Venezuela as health system ‘collapses’

      Researchers warn of rise in infectious diseases amid spike in levels of malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality

      The UN must officially declare a full-scale humanitarian emergency in Venezuela after the “utter collapse” of the health system, experts have said.

      Warning of the return of infectious diseases and rising levels of malnutrition and infant and maternal death, a report published this week by Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health calls on the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to declare a “complex humanitarian emergency”.

      The researchers behind the study, who claim the Maduro administration’s response has been inadequate, say an official declaration will fully unlock and mobilise food, medicine and healthcare for millions in need.

      “No matter how hard they try, Venezuelan authorities cannot hide the reality on the ground,” said Shannon Doocy, associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins University, who conducted research at Venezuela’s border.

      “Venezuela’s health system is in utter collapse, which, combined with widespread food shortages, is piling suffering upon suffering and putting even more Venezuelans at risk. We need UN leadership to help end this severe crisis and save lives.”

      Last month, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies announced it would scale up operations in Venezuela to provide aid to 650,000 people. But a UN report leaked to the media at the same time estimated the number of people in need was closer to 7 million.

      Using data from international health agencies such as the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, combined with government statistics, the report claims that:

      • Maternal mortality rose 65%, and infant mortality rose 30% in 2016

      • More than 9,300 cases of measles have been reported, with more than 6,200 confirmed, since 2017 – a dramatic rise compared with the period between 2008-15, when only one case was reported

      • Since July 2016, more than 2,500 cases of diphtheria have been reported since July 2016, with more than 1,500 confirmed. None were recorded between 2006-15

      • Confirmed malaria cases have increased more than tenfold, from fewer than 36,000 in 2009 to 414,000 in 2017

      • Tuberculosis cases have increased from 6,000 in 2014 to 13,000 in 2017

      • In 2018, nearly nine out of 10 Venezuelans living with HIV and registered by the government were not receiving antiretroviral treatment

      Guterres must also urge Venezuelan authorities to grant UN staff full access to national disease, epidemiological, food security and nutrition data to carry out an independent and comprehensive needs assessment, the researchers said.

      “The United Nations’ leadership needs to ring the alarm bell and oversee a full-scale assistance plan for Venezuela that is neutral, independent and impartial,” said Paul Spiegel, director of the Johns Hopkins centre for humanitarian health.

      “From a technical perspective, Venezuela is facing a complex humanitarian emergency; if the UN secretary general does not officially recognise it, the full-scale UN involvement that is needed to address it will most likely not occur.”

      The report, which interviewed more than 150 people, found chronic food shortages meant many Venezuelans eat just one meal a day due, which for some entailed nothing but yuca (cassava) or tinned sardines. A survey by three universities in Venezuela found that 80% of the country’s households do not have a reliable source of food, and that nearly two-thirds of people surveyed had lost an average of 11kg (1.7 stone) in 2017.

      “Venezuelan authorities publicly minimise and suppress information about the crisis, and harass and retaliate against those who collect data or speak out about it, while also doing far too little to alleviate it,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

      “These authorities are accountable for the needless loss of life that its denial and obstruction have inflicted on the Venezuelan people.”

      Read more: www.theguardian.com

      Nuns Race Against Nature and Time to Save Romanian Palace

      ” Are you done ?” Sister Parascheva inquires with a metal-crown-accented smile that doesn’t reaching her eyes.” I thought you joined us to listen in .”

      Guilt welled within me, a Pavlovian response after a childhood spent in schools run by nuns, until I realise she was addressing a man who had joined our tour and was busy snapping photos instead of attentively listening. And while I inwardly smirked at the man’s misfortune, I couldn’t blame him, for we were inside one of Romania’s most picturesque secrets–Miclauseni Palace.

      The palace is an idyllic place, a Gothic Revival manse where nature, design, and fate have enhanced the romantic aspirations of the architectural genre. A verdant oasis for members of the region’s most illustrious families, it was ravaged by Russian soldiers and decades of Communist rule. While the exquisitely detailed exterior is in good condition, the interior is a stunning gallery of wrecking porn, and the nuns who now run it are in a race to preserve and restore it.

      The palace is also a prime example of one of “the worlds biggest” astounds about Romania. Our image in the 21 st century is that of an impoverished country on the periphery of Europe, yet its cities and townships are full of magnificent homes, apartments, palaces, and churches reflecting the region’s once-wealthy past.

      Miclauseni Palace is approximately 45 minutes by vehicle from Iasi, Romania’s second-largest city and the long-time capital of the Principality of Moldavia( one of the major kingdoms that make up present-day Romania ).

      The place is wonderfully sited, seeming at the last second out of the dense thicket of trees surrounding the long driveway( a position slightly marred by newer administrative houses ). Its Gothic exterior is playful and exuberant–a beneficiary of its owners’ similar characteristics and the Romanian predilection for exterior frill. Yet its fantastical elements–towers, crenellated parapets, decorative crowns above pointed archway windows–don’t verge on silly the route some Gothic Revival works can, such as two of the region’s best known examples, Iasi’s iconic Palace of Culture and its central develop station. Perhaps it’s because the palace is entirely immersed in a woodland, or thanks to its country of disintegrate, or even its tragic history–for whatever reason, it just feels right.

      George and Maria Sturdza constructed the palace from 1880 to 1904. Members of two of Romania’s most influential political and intellectual households, they lived a life of immense privilege. The Sturdzas could count princes of Moldavia, pashas in the Ottoman Empire, and prominent statesmen as members of their line. Maria was a member of the Ghica family, a Phanariote family( while complicated, essentially one of the ancient Greek households that ruled Danubian provinces under the Ottomans ). She was born in Constantinople and her father was the governor of Samos Island, an Ottoman territory.

      They built their home on a 30 hectare park along with a private church on the site of a former household home. While originally intended as a country retreat, it eventually became their year-round residence. The two of them formed a curious couple for the time. George was uninterested in the family business of politics–he loved volumes and Latin. And so he amassed one of the largest private collections of volumes in Romania( 60,000 volumes) and wrote all his letters in Latin. He even seemed eccentric, most closely resembling Belle’s father in Beauty& the Beast. Blown-up photographs dotting the various room show him in the knee-high leather ride boots he wore every day.

      A severe-looking woman in photos, Maria was an artist who hand-drew and painted illuminated manuscripts, and the elaborate adornments encompassing the walls of the chamber of representatives were her designs.

      And though faded, cracked, painted over in parts, or clinging on despite water injury, what fabulous designs they are. Mixing floral, geometric, and family crests( lion, cross with snake, fleur-de-lis ), the once colorful walls reminded me of those photos of the interiors of Detroit’s once glorious houses. Every room had a stove from Vienna, each unique and adapted to the aesthetic of the chamber. All of the doorways, windows, and furniture in the piano nobile are in the Gothic style, but they are more on the fairy tale side of the style’s spectrum, rather than scary and somber, perhaps because the house is drenched in natural sun. That sunlight is not the only thing that dedicated the house a more modern feel. It also had running water, and nifty design components such as bathroom ceilings shaped in a way to minimize steam.

      To this day, the centerpiece of the house remains the second floor hallway, with its vibrant ceiling that resembles a giant illuminated manuscript–all that remains from a room that once housed the famous library in floor to ceiling bookshelves. Sadly, those books, which attracted the likes of Alexandre Dumas fils to the house, could not survive Russian soldiers who needed something to burn to stay warm in World War II. Gone too are all the valuables, works of art, and the intricately patterned timber floors.

      George died in 1909 and Maria in 1936. They has there one child, Catherine( Ecaterina ), who in turn married the states members of another distinguished family–Sherban Cantacuzino. The Cantacuzinos were descended from a Byzantine emperor, and one branch had been sent to rule one of the principalities that now make up Romania. The couple had no children of their own, and so they adopted a nephew, Matte( Matthew) Gikha.

      The house became a temporary hospital during World War I, but remained with their own families until 1944, when Russian soldiers occupied it. During World War II, Matte became an aviation hero, and after escaping the communists, Sister Parascheva says, he worked for CIA until he died in Venezuela.

      In 1947, just before she died, Catherine became a nun and left her property to the church as a nunnery. However, shortly after that, the new communist government vacated her decision and seized the palace as public property. Over the next five or so decades, it served as an orphanage for children with disabilities, usually around 150 at a time. This was the time period when most of the damage happened, as walls were painted over and floors torn out because of children without control over their motions. In 1980, a fire broke out on the roof and the water used to put it out damaged all of the magnificent ceiling paintings, the wrecking still visible today.

      With the fall of Communism in particularly stunning fashion( Romania’s long-time dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed by firing squad ), the property was returned to the church for the nunnery in 1990. Over the past three decades, the nuns have tried to maintain and partly restore it as best they can.

      A sentimental part of me wishes it could be preserved in its state of disintegration, as so much of its allure is due to its vitiated country. But imagining that hallway library with its dramatic Gothic doorways, its floor-to-ceiling volumes of rare volumes, and its illuminated-manuscript canopy, I’m convinced that a complete restoration would also render the palace unforgettable again in a different manner.

      It’s utterly fitting that perched above the entrance and underneath an oversized family crest, carved into a rippling stone banner the family motto reads,” beauty glistens everywhere .”

      Read more: www.thedailybeast.com