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Daily Archives: February 21, 2022

In Pictures: Food of Elkano in Getaria, Spain

Traditional and Avant-garde Spanish Seafood Cuisine

No.16 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021

Inflation in 2021 Far Different from What We Had in 1979

Bruce Wilds wrote . . . . . . . . .

The inflation of today is a starkly different creature than what we faced in 1979. The world is massively different and presenting us with a strain of inflation that will most likely be stronger and more difficult to combat without major disruptions to our economy. This article is an attempt to highlight the differences and why today the position we find ourselves in is much more precarious.
New data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed price inflation in November rose to the highest in forty years. Allianz Chief Economic Advisor Mohamed El-Erian warned the Federal Reserve is losing credibility by not tapering its balance sheet to rein in inflation. Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he stated the most significant miscalculation in decades is the Fed’s inability to characterize inflation correctly. It was only on November 30th that Fed Chair Jerome Powell finally retired the term “transitory” and opted to label inflation as persistent.

President Biden responded to rising inflation has been to call upon Congress to pass his Build Back Better plan. Biden claims this will lower how much families pay for health care, prescription drugs, child care, and more.” In reality, of course, the passage of BBB would increase inflationary pressure throughout the economy and only transfer these soaring costs from the individual to the government.

The idea the economy of 2021 is strong enough to allow a rapid and huge surge in interest rates such as those imposed upon America in 1981 is false. During America’s prior bout with inflation 40 years ago the economy was able to withstand the shock. Yes, we did have a recession, but it was short-lived because the foundation of our economy was much stronger. America was not bleeding from huge trade deficits and people had real jobs.

Today, after years of trade deficits, America’s economic foundation has grown much weaker. We have created the illusion of economic growth by blowing the lid off government spending. This has created a false economy and should not be confused with real growth. The chart above has been circulated in many forms. It reveals the GDP lagging the growth in the money supply and debt. We are living in a completely different era and facing a far more serious problem.

The cause of inflation during the 1970s is blamed on several events specific to that time in our history. Part of it was due to rising oil prices (oil prices tripled in the 1970s). There was also inflation due to rising wages. Unions were relatively powerful and their bargaining for higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living created a wage-inflationary spiral. Yous should also throw in spending on the Vietnam War and Nixon cutting the tie of the dollar to gold. The result was an inflationary mindset that exploded as investors and waves of people started investing in ways that would protect them from being ravished by a falling dollar.

Fast forward to the end of 2021. Today, many people are busy blaming the recent inflation on supply chain disruptions resulting from the global pandemic. In truth, much more focus should be turned to the surge in money supply, government spending, and Fed policies. The result from the combination of these toxic paths forward has created a slew of new problems. Surging inequality, more reliance on government.

Lock-downs initiated by governments to halt the spread of what turned out to be a “not so deadly” virus also have added to our woes. This is evident as small and mid-size businesses struggle to stay afloat in a world where huge companies have access to cash and many options not afforded to their smaller competitors. Today the “Amazon effect” is continuing to ravage America while its full impact has yet to be felt in most communities. It seems that only after Amazon has wrecked communities leaving many Americans jobless and retail stores sitting as giant empty shells might short-sighted consumers finally realize Amazon is bad for America and its distribution system an affront to the environment.

The idea anyone can predict how creating trillions, upon trillions, upon trillions of dollars worth of demand and debt over just a few years will tilt inflation is a reach. Now that inflation has taken hold how to stop it will be the real test. This calls for a bunch of clumsy idiots to thread an economic needle. A great deal of the problem we currently face is rooted in the lack of faith many people have come to hold in those that direct the policies that affect us.

This extends to how Central Banks and politicians want to bend and manipulate the economy to rapidly address what they call climate change and a rash of other issues. We are even being told while the planet is about to undergo food and energy shortages the answer is to have more children because we need more workers. Ironically, this is being touted as an answer at the same time we are giving people less incentive to work and rapidly moving to erase millions of jobs through automation.

As for the Fed, it has become “the great enabler” by allowing this to go on for so long. Many economic watchers have come to the conclusion the Fed has totally lost control of the situation. The big question is whether it will taper and risk a major recession or keep pumping out money. Continuing down its current path is viewed as a recipe that will allow inflation to run rampant.

Years ago we saw more of a balancing act with Central Banks concerned that bond vigilantes would descend upon them if they stepped out of line. Before the days of Modern Monetary Theory, investors voted on government budget deficits and debt management each day by buying or selling bonds. This is no longer seems the case due to massive Central Bank intervention. With each “crisis” has come excuse after excuse which has allowed the Central Banks to rewrite the rule governing the global financial system.

Going forward other calamities and crises await society, these will also affect inflation. Whether they come in the form of energy shortages, food shortages, or devastation caused by war, each will leave its mark. While creating the illusion this time is different has allowed those in charge to postpone facing serious questions only time will tell. It is clear the currency is being debased, the big questions now are where it will be most prevalent and how we as individuals can protect ourselves from its fury.

Source : Advancing Time

50 Years after Nixon Visit, US-China Ties as Fraught as Ever

Ken Moritsugu wrote . . . . . . . . .

At the height of the Cold War, U.S. President Richard Nixon flew into communist China’s center of power for a visit that, over time, would transform U.S.-China relations and China’s position in the world in ways that were unimaginable at the time.

The relationship between China and the United States was always going to be a challenge, and after half a century of ups and downs, is more fraught than ever. The Cold War is long over, but on both sides there are fears a new one could be beginning. Despite repeated Chinese disavowals, America worries that the democratic-led world that triumphed over the Soviet Union could be challenged by the authoritarian model of a powerful and still-rising China.

“The U.S.-China relationship has always been contentious but one of necessity,” said Oriana Skylar Mastro, a China expert at Stanford University. “Perhaps 50 years ago the reasons were mainly economic. Now they are mainly in the security realm. But the relationship has never — and will never — be easy.”

Nixon landed in Beijing on a gray winter morning 50 years ago on Monday. Billboards carried slogans such as “Down with American Imperialism,” part of the upheaval under the Cultural Revolution that banished intellectuals and others to the countryside and subjected many to public humiliation and brutal and even deadly attacks in the name of class struggle.

Nixon’s 1972 trip, which included meetings with Chairman Mao Zedong and a visit to the Great Wall, led to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979 and the parallel severing of formal ties with Taiwan, which the U.S. had recognized as the government of China after the communists took power in Beijing in 1949.

Premier Zhou Enlai’s translator wrote in a memoir that, to the best of his recollection, Nixon said, “This hand stretches out across the Pacific Ocean in friendship” as he shook hands with Zhou at the airport.

For both sides, it was a friendship born of circumstances, rather than natural allegiances.

China and the Soviet Union, formerly communist allies, had split and even clashed along their border in 1969, and Mao saw the United States as a potential counterbalance to any threat of a Soviet invasion.

Nixon was seeking to isolate the Soviet Union and exit a prolonged and bloody Vietnam War that had divided American society. He hoped that China, an ally of communist North Vietnam in its battle with the U.S.-backed South, could play a role in resolving the conflict.

The U.S. president put himself “in the position of supplicant to Beijing,” said June Teufel Dreyer, a Chinese politics specialist at the University of Miami. Chinese state media promoted the idea that a “prosperous China would be a peaceful China” and that the country was a huge market for American exports, she said.

It would be decades before that happened. First, the U.S. became a huge market for China, propelling the latter’s meteoric rise from an impoverished nation to the world’s second largest economy.

Nixon’s visit was a “pivotal event that ushered in China’s turn outward and subsequent rise globally,” said the University of Chicago’s Dali Yang, the author of numerous books on Chinese politics and economics.

Two years after Mao’s death in 1976, new leader Deng Xiaoping ushered in an era of partial economic liberalization, creating a mix of state-led capitalism and single-party rule that has endured to this day.

China’s wealth has enabled a major expansion of its military, which the U.S. and its allies see as a threat. The Communist Party says it seeks only to defend its territory. That includes, however, trying to control islands also claimed by Japan in the East China Sea and by Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, home to crucial shipping lanes and natural resources.

The military has sent a growing number of warplanes on training missions toward Taiwan, a source of friction with the United States. China claims the self-governing island off its east coast as its territory. The U.S. supplies Taiwan with military equipment and warns China against any attempt to take it by force.

Still, Nixon’s trip to China was touted afterward as the signature foreign policy achievement of an administration that ended in ignominy with Watergate.

Embarking on the process of bringing China back into the international fold was the right move, but the past half-century has yet to put relations on a stable track, said Rana Mitter, professor of Chinese history and modern politics at Oxford University.

“The U.S. and China have still failed to work out exactly how they will both fit into a world where they both have a role, but find it increasingly hard to accommodate each other,” he said.

Chinese officials and scholars see the Nixon visit as a time when the two countries sought communication and mutual understanding despite their differences. Zhu Feng, the dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University, said the same approach is key to overcoming the current impasse.

“The commemoration of Nixon’s visit tells us whether we can draw a kind of power from history,” he said.

Though his trip to China gave the U.S. leverage in its Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, America now faces a new geopolitical landscape — with echoes of the past.

The Soviet Union is gone, but the Russian and Chinese leaders, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, are finding common cause as they push back against U.S. pressure over their authoritarian ways. The Vietnam War is over, but America once again finds its society divided, this time over the pandemic response and the last presidential election.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he wants a more predictable relationship with China but major differences over trade and human rights make mutual understanding elusive. The prospect of long-term stability in ties raised by Nixon’s visit seems to be ever farther out of reach.

“China-U.S. relations are terrible,” said Xiong Zhiyong, a professor of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University. “There are indeed people hoping to improve relations, but it is utterly difficult to achieve.”

Source : AP

Never Too Late: Starting Exercise in 70s Can Help the Heart

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Here are some numbers that could add up strongly in your favor.

If you’re in your 70s and get 20 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise, you may ward off heart disease in your 80s, new Italian research suggests.

In the study of close to 3,000 Italians over 65, regular exercise was linked with a 52% lower risk of heart disease among men. Women also benefited.

The greatest benefit seemed to occur at age 70. Risk was only slightly lower at 75 and no lower in the early 80s, the study found.

“Engaging in physical exercises daily is of great importance even in late life, but at the same time, the sooner one starts, the better,” said lead researcher Dr. Claudio Barbiellini Amidei, of the University of Padua in Padova, Italy.

“These results reinforce the importance of promoting physical activity at all ages,” he added.

Researchers stressed that this study doesn’t prove that exercise alone prevents heart disease, only that there appears to be a connection.

Dr. Gianfranco Sinagra of the University of Trieste in Italy, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the findings, agreed.

“Even a small amount of physical activity confers beneficial effects in older people, however this benefit is mostly evident when an active lifestyle is present early in late life,” he said.

He said the beneficial effect of physical activity may be due to its ability to slow down atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which cholesterol plaque builds up in arteries, obstructing blood flow.

“Movement is medicine also in late life,” Sinagra said, calling on health care providers to urge younger patients who are inactive to get moving and maintain adequate activity to obtain significant benefits to heart health and life expectancy.

“The routine assessment and promotion of physical activity should become a standard in health care,” he said.

For the study, Amidei’s team collected data on close to 3,100 Italian seniors who took part in a mid-1990s study. It began in 1995 and 1997, and follow-up was done four and seven years later. Participants answered questions about their physical activity levels at each assessment.

Moderate physical activity included walking, bowling and fishing. Vigorous physical activity included gardening, gym work outs, cycling, dancing and swimming. Those who exercised 20 or more minutes a day were defined as active and those who did less were considered inactive.

The researchers also gathered information on income, education, smoking and drinking. They tracked the health of all participants via hospital records and death certificates through the end of 2018.

In all, complete data were available for more than 2,700 participants, of whom 60% were women. Throughout the study, more than 1,000 participants were diagnosed with heart disease, heart failure or stroke.

Increasing levels of exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle were tied with lower risks of heart disease and death in both men and women, researchers found.

The biggest reduction was seen for coronary heart disease and heart failure in late old age. No significant link between physical activity and stroke was seen.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-University of California, Los Angeles, Cardiomyopathy Center, reviewed the findings.

“Regular physical activity has been associated with improved cardiovascular health, including lower risk of [heart attack], heart failure, stroke and premature cardiovascular death,” he said. “Studies have shown these associated benefits are seen across the lifespan in both men and women.”

There are many ways physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve function, he said.

“These findings suggest that at every age, it is not too late to derive health benefits from physical activity,” Fonarow said.

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity — or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity, such as resistance or weights, at least two days per week.
  • Sitting less. Light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.
  • Being active at least 300 minutes a week, for greater benefits.
  • Increasing the amount and intensity of exercise gradually over time.

The findings were published online in the journal Heart.

Source: HealthDay

Leading Israeli Physicians and Researchers in an Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau: “Deep Concerns Regarding Recent Rhetoric Portraying Protesters as Nazi Sympathizers”

Source : Twitter