North Korea’s Fuel Prices Soar After China Suspends Exports

Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via,

Diesel and gasoline prices in North Korea have jumped since China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) halted sales of fuel to Pyongyang, Reuters reported on Monday, citing data on prices collected by North Korean defectors. 

At the end of last month, reports emerged that CNPC, the main supplier of diesel and gasoline to North Korea, has suspended fuel sales to North Korea because it is worried that it may not receive payments.

North Korea imports all the oil and oil products it consumes – mostly from China – and a prolonged suspension by CNPC would choke out supplies at a time when the international community is increasing pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile ambitions, and is intensifying checks over Chinese business relations with Pyongyang.

According to a Reuters analysis of data by the Daily NK website – which is run by North Korean defectors who collect price data via phone calls with fuel traders in North Korea – private dealers in the north were selling gasoline at US$2.18 per kilogram, or US$2.92 per liter, as of July 5, a 50-percent surge compared to US$1.46 per kg on June 21. Gasoline prices fell slightly to US$2.05 per kg by July 12, but still, they were more than double compared to prices at the beginning of the year, Reuters’ analysis of the data shows. 

Diesel prices jumped by 20 percent in the three weeks to July 12. After the initial price surges in early July, prices of both diesel and gasoline have stabilized, probably because North Korea has encouraged fuel smuggling across the Chinese border, according to defector Kang Mi-jin who is in communication with traders in North Korea.

“After North Korea’s frequent missile tests including its very first ICBM test, the international community has vowed to tighten sanctions and China simply cannot exclude itself from the recent movement, although it probably does not want to indefinitely cut off fuel sales to the North,” Kang told Reuters.

China said in February that it was suspending until the end of this year all imports of coal from North Korea as part of its effort to implement United Nations Security Council sanctions aimed at stopping the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile program.

In April, gas prices in North Korea jumped on reports that China may be mulling an oil embargo.

As Farmers Go Broke, John Deere Ramps Up It’s Captive Financing Operation To Keep The Ag Party Going

So what do you do when your John Deere and your entire business revolves around selling really expensive equipment to farmers who have been absolutely decimated financially by low crop prices and can no longer convince commercial banks that they’re worthy of additional debt needed to buy fancy new tractors?  Well, you take some plays from the automotive industry, that’s what.  Here’s how it works:

Step 1:  Setup a captive financing arm to underwrite all of the credit risk that no reasonable commercial ag bank would touch with a 10 foot pole.


Step 2:  Boost your tractor sales volumes by financing every farmer who walks through your door with a soybean dream and pulse.


Step 3:  When you run out of farmers willing to buy your brand new shiny green tractors then just start selling all your production volume to yourself and then lease it to customers at an attractive price.  This way you can still show sales growth and never have to cut production volume.


Step 4:  Finally, when it all goes horribly wrong because used tractor prices crash due to the flood of off-lease volume and brings down the new market with it then you take a one-time charge to write-off the losses, wall streets forgives was just a 1x charge, right…and then you promptly rinse and repeat.

From the looks of the charts below, we’d say John Deere is currently on the tail end of ‘Step 3’ as loan and lease balances are soaring and write-offs are just starting to spike.


As the Wall Street Journal points out today, John Deere has literally become the 5th largest agricultural lender in the country behind commercial banks Wells Fargo , Rabobank, Bank of the West and Bank of America, according to the American Bankers Association. But it’s not just equipment financing risk the John Deere is underwriting these days as they’ve also started financing short-term working capital loans to help farmers buy everything from seed to chemicals and fertilizers and equipment spares. 

Since 2013, the total value of equipment leases held by Deere is up 87%. Loans for farm equipment purchases, meanwhile, have fallen 10% since peaking in 2014, reflecting sliding machinery sales.


Short-term credit accounts for farmers—used for items such as crop supplies and equipment parts—are up 38% since the end of 2015. As of early 2017, the bank operation of Deere Financial had handed out about $2.2 billion. It is close on the heels of the No. 4 agricultural lender, Bank of America, which has about $2.6 billion out.


“Deere Financial is a massive force,” said Robert Wertheimer, a Barclays analyst. Deere, which accounts for about two-thirds of all the big tractors sold in the U.S., “is able to influence this market. They have more market power than most companies.”

Of course, the best possible thing for an industry plagued by oversupply and below market commodity prices is for someone to step in and subsidize even more production…it’s just basic economics really.

In shoring up the ailing sector, Deere’s loans may be helping draw out the pain for farmers, allowing them to continue to rack up debt despite a glut of grain world-wide that is keeping a lid on crop prices. The increase in equipment leasing, meanwhile, is weakening Deere’s own market for sales.


If crop prices remain subdued, “you’re just prolonging the agony and potentially building up [farm] losses instead of cutting the pain, cauterizing the wound and stanching the flow of financial blood now,” said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois.

Meanwhile, John Deere shareholders have been handsomely rewarded for the company’s strict adherence to the 4-step plan we outlined above which would seemingly serve to prove that selling extremely expensive equipment into and extremely cyclical end market is, in fact, recession proof and immune from the ag cycle…who knew?

“Our core mission is to support sales of equipment,” said Jayma Sandquist, vice president of marketing for the U.S. and Canada for John Deere Financial, the company’s financing unit. “It’s a cyclical industry. We’ve built a business that we can manage effectively across all cycles, and our performance would indicate we can do that.”


The financing arm has shielded the Moline, Ill., company from the worst of the farm slump, keeping factories and dealers intact and investors satisfied with profits. Despite a 37% drop in sales of its farm equipment since a record high in 2013, Deere’s stock price is up 72% from its recent low in early 2016 and up 22% since the start of 2017.



Of course, we’ve seen how this movie ends before.  As it turns out, there’s a step-by-step guide to that process as well:

Step 1:  A flood of off-lease volume crushes pricing for used ag equipment


Step 2:  New sales and lease volumes tank due to more attractive deals for used equipment


Step 3:  John Deere buries its head in the sand and refuses to cut production volumes because that would be an admission to shareholders that recent volume declines were something more than ‘transitory.’  So production is maintained and new dealer inventories around the country surge.


4.  Now, it’s only a matter of time before new equipment prices crash as well….


5.  …and that’s when the write-downs start…

Then again, maybe we’re wrong and ‘everything actually is awesome’. 

Zombies R Us: “We, The People” Are The Walking Dead Of The American Police State

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

RIP George Romero (1940-2017).

Romero – a filmmaker hailed as the architect of the zombie genre – is dead at the age of 77, but the zombified police state culture he railed against lives on.

Just take a look around you.

“We the people” have become the walking dead of the American police state.

We’re still plagued by the socio-political evils of cultural apathy, materialism, domestic militarism and racism that Romero depicted in his Night of the Living Dead trilogy.

Romero’s zombies have taken on a life of their own in pop culture.

Zombies also embody the government’s paranoia about the citizenry as potential threats that need to be monitored, tracked, surveilled, sequestered, deterred, vanquished and rendered impotent.

Case in point: in AMC’s hit television series The Walking Dead and the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, it’s not just flesh-eating ghouls and cannibalistic humans that survivors have to worry about but the police state “tasked with protecting the vulnerable” that poses some of the gravest threats to the citizenry.

Why the fascination with zombies?

Perhaps it’s because zombie fiction provides us with a way to “envision how we and our own would thrive if everything went to hell and we lost all our societal supports.” As Time magazine reporter James Poniewozik phrases it, the “apocalyptic drama lets us face the end of the world once a week and live.”

In other words, zombies are the personification of our darkest fears.

Fear and paranoia have become hallmarks of the modern American experience, impacting how we as a nation view the world around us, how we as citizens view each other, and most of all how our government views us.

The propaganda of fear has been used quite effectively by those who want to gain control, and it is working on the American populace.

Despite the fact that we are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power.

We have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.

Most everyone keeps their heads down these days while staring zombie-like into an electronic screen, even when they’re crossing the street. Indeed, a Nielsen study reports that American screen viewing is at an all-time high.

Psychologically, such screen consumption is similar to drug addiction, transforming viewers into a more passive, nonresistant state. Historically, television has been used by those in authority to quiet discontent and pacify disruptive people. Prisons officials actually use TV to keep inmates quiet.

We are being controlled by forces beyond our control.

This is how the police state takes charge.

As the Atlantic notes, “The villains of [Fear the Walking Dead] aren’t the zombies, who rarely appear, but the U.S. military, who sweep into an L.A. suburb to quarantine the survivors. Zombies are, after all, a recognizable threat—but Fear plumbs drama and horror from the betrayal by institutions designed to keep people safe.”

What we are experiencing is a betrayal of the very core values—a love of freedom, an adherence to the rule of law, a spirit of democracy, a commitment to accountability and transparency, and a recognition that civilian rule must always trump military methods—that have guided this nation from its inception.

The challenge is not whether we can hold onto our freedoms in times of peace and prosperity, but whether we can do so when all hell breaks loose.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that it will not take much for the government—i.e., the military—to lock down the nation in the event of a national disaster.

The government is not out to keep us safe by monitoring our communications, tracking our movements, criminalizing our every action, treating us like suspects, and stripping us of our means of defense while equipping its own personnel with an amazing arsenal of weapons.

No, this is not security. It is an ambush. And it is being carried out in plain sight.

For example, for years now, the government has been carrying out military training drills with zombies as the enemy. In 2011, the DOD created a 31-page instruction manual for how to protect America from a terrorist attack carried out by zombie forces. In 2012, the CDC released a guide for surviving a zombie plague. That was followed by training drills for members of the military, police officers and first responders.

The zombie exercises appeared to be kitschy and fun—government agents running around trying to put down a zombie rebellion—but what if the zombies in the exercises are us, the citizenry, viewed by those in power as mindless, voracious, zombie hordes?

“We the people” or, more appropriately, “we the zombies” are the enemy in the eyes of the government.

So when presented with the Defense Department’s battle plan for defeating an army of the walking dead, you might find yourself tempted to giggle over the fact that a taxpayer-funded government bureaucrat actually took the time to research and write about vegetarian zombies, evil magic zombies, chicken zombies, space zombies, bio-engineered weaponized zombies, radiation zombies, symbiant-induced zombies, and pathogenic zombies.

However, in an age of extreme government paranoia, this is no laughing matter.

The DOD’s strategy for dealing with a zombie uprising using surveillance, military drills, awareness training, militarized police forces and martial law is for all intents and purposes a training manual for the government in how to put down a citizen uprising or at least an uprising of individuals “infected” with dangerous ideas about freedom.

If there is any lesson to be learned, it is simply this: as I point out in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, whether the threat to national security comes in the form of actual terrorists, imaginary zombies or disgruntled American citizens infected with dangerous ideas about freedom, the government’s response to such threats remains the same: detect, deter and annihilate.

It’s time to wake up, America, before you end up with a bullet to the head (the only proven means of killing a zombie).

A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy | George Monbiot

James McGill Buchanan’s vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it’s being exported

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch.

Related: How corporate dark money is taking power on both sides of the Atlantic | George Monbiot

Related: Koch network ‘piggy banks’ closed until Republicans pass health and tax reform

Related: The Grenfell inquiry will be a stitch-up. Here’s why | George Monbiot

Continue reading…

IBM expands its cloud footprint with new data centers in London, Sydney and San Jose

 IBM reported its quarterly earnings this week and while the company’s overall results were once again disappointing, cloud revenue was up 15 percent year-over-year and accounted for $3.9 billion in revenue. It’s no surprise then that IBM is doubling down on its cloud strategy and to keep its momentum going, the company today announced the launch of four new data centers for its… Read More

3 California Counties File Multi-Billion Dollar Lawsuits Against “Big Oil” Over Rising Sea Levels

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the snowflake capital of the world finds new, creative and amazing ways to shock your system.  In it’s latest attempt to do just that, three California counties, two in the Bay Area and one in Southern California, have filed a lawsuit against 37 of the world’s biggest oil and coal companies alleging they’re ultimately responsible for the public’s usage of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas emissions they create which will ultimately contribute to rising sea levels and lay waste to their cities…at least that seems to be the ‘logic’ as far as we can tell.

According to The Chronicle, Marin County, San Mateo County and Imperial Beach (located in San Diego County) filed separate but nearly identical lawsuits in their respective Superior Court offices that seek to tie fossil fuel development to climate-related problems in coastal areas. Attorneys for the three counties worked together on their lawsuits and noted that their residents have already experienced more frequent flooding and beach erosion as well as the possibility that water will eventually inundate roads, airports, sewage treatment plants and other real estate.

Of course, we would love to know just how many polar bear-killing private flights these taxpayer-funded legal teams took back and forth between San Francisco and San Diego while drafting their highly practical lawsuit.

Moreover, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to sue the owners of the 27 million, give or take, vehicles registered in California, more than any other state by a very wide margin by the way, who are shamelessly destroying the planet by commuting back and forth to work each day?  Afterall, if there were no demand for fossil fuels then none of these companies would exist.



Of course, the lawyers contend that the oil companies knew about the damage their actions were causing, denied it and sought to discredit scientific findings that greenhouse gas emissions were heating the Earth’s atmosphere.

The suits are just the latest in a small but growing effort to hold Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and other major energy companies accountable for the effects of climate change. Legal experts say the challenge is more comprehensive than previous endeavors, and is based on ‘better climate science’ and more evidence to support a claim of conspiracy among oil company executives.

“This is a long-anticipated move in climate litigation,” said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “You’ll find pieces of it in other cases, but bringing it together like this is different than what’s been done before. You can expect there will be a great deal of interest in how this litigation proceeds.”


“There’s tremendous concern for us as a county on how do we address these issues,” said Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears. “This case is about fairness and accountability and standing up for our residents and businesses.”


“We think we meet the elements of the public nuisance,” Beiers said, “but obviously we recognize this as the first lawsuit of its kind.”

Climate change


So how much are these snowflake havens seeking in damages?  Well the exact cost of the total death and destruction that will ultimately befall America’s left coast has apparently not yet been calculated with any level of specificity but it’s at least $55 billion according to San Mateo and Marin counties. 

The two Bay Area counties and Imperial Beach are seeking reimbursement for current and future losses caused by climate change, as well as punitive damages. The suits don’t specify the value of losses so far, but estimate that the total will be in the billions of dollars over coming decades.


San Mateo County says the Bayshore Freeway, BART lines, San Francisco International Airport and $39 billion worth of assessed property are threatened by projected sea-level rise. Marin County counts $15.5 billion worth of North Bay real estate in harm’s way, along with ferry terminals, SMART rail tracks and Highway 101 and Interstate 580.

Of course, if you discount that $55 billion at 7%, the same rate the CalPERS uses to discount their pension obligations, for a period of 250 years to adjust for when the damages are actually expected to occur then the present value of the asserted damages is roughly $2,500Perhaps Exxon and Chevron should just split the cost and move on…