Poula's Straw Bale Spiral Home
Poula took the inspiration for her straw bale home in Denmark from a conch shell she found on a beach in Malaysia.
Pam and Russ Martens explain how the media misleads Americans about the economy
The post Pam and Russ Martens explain how the media misleads Americans about the economy appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.
Clinton Foundation a cesspool of corporate poisoners, junk food companies, and pushers of vaccines and GMOs
By Dr. Mercola
You've probably heard that avoiding processed foods is one of the keys to staying healthy, but do you understand why, exactly?
Scottish author Joanna Blythman has written a behind-the-scenes exposé book, Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry's Darkest Secrets, that delves into the details of what makes processed food the antithesis of a healthy diet.
If you have any concerns about the food you're eating, this is a must-read book. It will radically increase your appreciation of just how processed your food really is and enlighten you to many of the deceptive tricks the industry uses to fool you.
It's quite challenging to avoid processed foods as nearly all of us eat at restaurants occasionally. The only question is how much? After you read this book, I guarantee your motivation to avoid processed food will skyrocket.
Joanna is an award-winning investigative journalist, and that background served her well as she literally went undercover to get the inside scoop on what's really going on in the processed food industry. She actually carefully worked her way in and became an insider able to attend many of the member-only conferences.
"I have been writing about food for over two decades," Joanna says. "I've written six other books. They've dealt with the production side of food: how and what goes on in fields, what goes on in farms, how to tell a good chicken from a bad chicken, that kind of thing.
But I just knew that we weren't getting the full story. It wasn't about the production end. It was at the processing end.
We know quite a lot about how chickens are reared for our tables, but we don't know very much, or anything really, about how chickens nuggets are produced in a factory. I knew that we had to get to this information about processed food."Going Undercover...
Getting such information is easier said than done, considering how the food industry has created a near-impenetrable wall of security around its manufacturing activities.
Companies hide behind the rationale that processing methods are trade secrets, and that they're merely protecting proprietary information from competitors.
"They've gotten away with that for years. What that means is that unless you're a food industry insider, you're just not going to know what's happening behind the scenes," Joanna says.
So, to get the inside scoop, Joanna assumed a fake identity and managed to convince a smaller food manufacturer to provide her with a professional cover. Using that cover, she got an inside look into the "core" of the food manufacturing industry. And what she learned was surprising to say the least.
For starters, what non-insiders do not know is that there are a multitude of chemicals used in food that do not have to be in any way disclosed, as they're considered "processing aids." So besides preservatives, emulsifiers, colors, and flavors, which are generally listed, there are any number of others that you'll never find out the details about.
"I realized that there's so much going on behind the scenes of food manufacturing. Most consumers, we haven't got a clue, and we are not allowed to know. You can't even trust things that would seem to be the healthy choice," she says.
This is disconcerting, as many health conscious consumers now take the time to carefully read food labels. But what Joanna's research reveals that there's an array of additives that will never make it onto the label.Surprising Truths the Processed Food Industry Hides from You
Do you eat processed meats like hamburgers, thinking you're eating mostly real beef? Chances are you're way off in your assumption. One type of meat process involves soaking butchered carcasses in hot water with added enzymes. This has the effect of releasing about another five percent of meat-like substance from the carcass.
This is then added into cheap burgers, sausages, and other processed meat products. Enzyme-treated blood products are also routinely added to lower-end processed meat products.
"What really got me were the things that seemed to be really natural... For example, I was amazed to find that there is a kind of coloring known as the cloudifier. It makes your juice look as though it's got more real fruit juice in it because it creates that hand-pressed, natural look," she says.
Enzymes are used in a number of different ways in food processing. For example, when eggs are pasteurized, they lose their color. An enzyme is therefore added that brings back the color of the egg.
There are at least 150 enzymes being used in food manufacturing, and they're rarely ever listed on the label. According to Joanna, there's typically at least one enzyme-modified ingredient in every processed food. Breads usually have five enzyme-modified ingredients.
Enzymes by themselves aren't intrinsically toxic. They're merely functional proteins composed of natural amino acids. But what they do is they mask and deceive you about the underlying process, fooling you into believing that you're buying something that you really aren't.
"The classic one is a mature cheese flavor. If you matured cheese the proper way, then you have cheese. You keep it for three months or six months, even longer, to develop that nice, mature flavor. But you can do that in a few days with an enzyme. You can create a fake flavor."Most Processed Food Is an Imitation of the Real Thing
The goal of food technologists is to reduce the amount of real ingredients by finding cheap substitutes that mimic the authentic food. In doing so, chemicals and processes are used that turns the end product into something that looks, smells, and tastes like "good food," but really is anything but. Rarely is real butter used for example, because it's expensive. So they use additives that make the food taste like butter, but at a fraction of the cost.
"But they will still put in enough butter that they can put on the 'made with butter' label," Joanna notes. "Another thing I discovered is that most processed food wouldn't look at all attractive if it didn't have colorings added. It would be gray and beige...
Flavorings do two jobs in processed food. They cover up the unpleasant taste that comes as a result of processing. Flavor masking is one of the main reasons why food industries use flavorings. But they also use flavorings to try and give food flavor when it's been through a manufacturing process that has totally stripped it of flavor.
They have to try and add back something that sort of resembles the flavors that have gotten lost. Because food processing is high temperature and high pressure. Something has to be done to them to make them taste better again. That's the logic of flavoring and coloring."What You Need to Know About the Clean Label Concept
She also exposed the industry concept of "Clean Label." The food industry realizes that consumers don't like long chemical-sounding names on the ingredients list. These names are known as "label polluters."
To avoid having to list the chemical names of additives, they invented a Clean Label concept, which is aimed at removing all the old additives and long chemical names, and replacing them with ingredients that sound better. "Carrot concentrate" instead of "coloring" is one example of a Clean Label swap.
A related issue is the extraction methods used for these healthy-sounding extracts. While antioxidants are healthy, plant-derived antioxidants are typically extracted from the whole food using toxic organic solvents like hexane, which you cannot remove. Those solvents remain in the ingredient, and they're not required to disclose any of this.Perception Is Everything
The processed food industry is primarily driven by the perception of wholesomeness. The moment the food industry finds out that a labeled ingredient is perceived poorly, they will either rename it, or find an alternative that may be just as bad, or worse, that doesn't have that negative association.
"Perception is a really good word for understanding what the food manufacturing industry is up to," Joanna says. "They have this thing called perceived naturalness. Their whole job is to try give you ingredients that sound natural, but actually aren't the same as natural. Another one is fresh-like quality. The industry doesn't talk about fresh any longer. They talk about a fresh-like quality.
There are number of technologies that they can use behind the scenes and mainly on labels that will give products this fresh-like quality. Everything [related] to naturalness and freshness is being manipulated constantly.On my desk, at the moment, I have some chocolate chip muffins that I bought six weeks ago. I've got them on my desk and they have not changed in any way. They look identical. I'm keeping them as a sort of science project to see how they eventually, if they ever, change."
There's actually a whole section in the book dedicated to processed baked goods. Many grocery stores now have bakeries, where fresh bread is baked every day. But what many do not realize is that nothing is baked from scratch.
As Joanna says, these bakeries are little more than "tanning salons" for processed frozen products pre-cooked in factories thousands of miles away. Another factoid: When baked goods are sold loose this way, they do not require an ingredient label. So that's another way they can get away with not disclosing what the ingredients are.
"One of the reasons I started writing the book is because I knew that if I made a muffin at home, it didn't taste anything like a bought one. I wanted to find out why. It's really interesting to find out why because the ingredients are completely different and the processes are completely different. And these are great lies perpetuated by food manufacturers—that what goes on in the factory is just a scaled up fraction of home cooking. But that really is a lie. It's quite a different activity."The Foxes Are Watching the Hen House
If you're like most people, you probably think there's someone somewhere looking out for the consumer's best interest. If something is sold as food, it surely cannot be hazardous. Can it? In truth, it just might be... More often than not, government oversight committees are usually manned by members of the industry, who have a vested interest in commercializing these chemical ingredients; or they're academics who appear on first glance to be independent but actually, in their day job, are getting a lot of funding from food companies.
Most of the research used to establish safety is also done by the industry itself, which structures the research to show that its products are safe. What's worse, no one is really looking at the health effects of exposure to toxins from processed foods.
"What happens to people who eat large quantities of processed food, maybe people who really based their diets on that? No one is doing any research on that," Joanna says. "There are all these assumptions that chemicals are fine in small quantities, but that's not really looking at the cocktail effect for people, particularly children, who are obviously more prone to being affected by chemical overload. No one is looking at that at the moment."More Information
Avoiding processed foods is one of the most important changes you can make if you want to improve your health or prevent or address disease. If there's any question in your mind at all as to the reasons for reverting back to whole, minimally processed foods, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Joanna's book, Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry's Darkest Secrets as it will radically increase your understanding, and secondarily your motivation and desire to avoid these toxic foods.
As an undercover insider, Joanna reveals details about the food processing industry that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Read it, and pass it around. Create awareness that will eventually, hopefully, inspire more people to make the switch to a more wholesome, health-preserving diet. If we don't buy these foods, food manufacturers will have to stop producing it, and healthier whole foods will again become the norm.
As Joanna says, "we've got to catch up with the industry because they really bypass our comprehension of what they're doing to our food. The take home message for me is that, in Europe, we have this idea that processed food is getting better. Everything is going a little bit not more natural, and actually, that's wrong.
And we really can't trust our regulators to get it right. We have to adopt our own, what I call PPP: Personal Precautionary Principle. You are the only person who's going to really bother to think about these issues to deal with your food. You can't rely on anyone else doing it for you."
In the future, Joanna is considering writing another book on food processing, delving into newer processing technologies and synthetic biology, called SynBio. The use of completely artificial biology is also disconcerting, and an area that is as unregulated as the old Wild West.
Synthetic biology is basically like an extreme form of genetic engineering, which obviously carries a number of unknown risks. And, like genetically engineered foods, most people have no idea synthetic biology is even used, or that they may be eating it on a regular basis. To learn more about Joanna's work, see her website, JoannaBlythmanWriting.com. It contains all of her journalism, covering all of her seven books.
By Dr. Mercola
For those who are not familiar with minestrone, it’s a thick Italian soup cooked with young vegetables.1 One healthy way of cooking minestrone is by adding spinach, which is a very good source of vitamins and minerals that can boost your health. It is enriched with flavonoids that prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and protect your body from free radicals.
Garnishing minestrone with basil leaves is also a good way to perk up your meal. Its sweet and earthy aroma will surely boost your appetite. Basil is loaded with an impressive array of nutrients that can help keep you from catching any ailments.
If you are a big fan of these two health gems, this delicious minestrone soup recipe will suit you well.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery with leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
- 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 cups organic free-range chicken broth
- ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10 ounces spinach, stems removed and coarsely chopped, or chard
- ½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (or parsley)
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add the oil then add onions, celery, garlic, zucchini, and the bay leaf into the pot Sauté for 2 minutes, Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 3-5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
- Next add the white beans, garbanzo beans, and chicken broth to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Add green beans and cook for 8 minutes, (until just tender). Stir in spinach to wilt, about 1 minute. Stir in cheese if desired and serve in soup bowls. Top each serving with basil (or parsley).
(Adapted from Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)Spinach-Basil Green Minestrone Cooking Tips
You’re lucky if you grow your own fresh spinach or basil in your backyard or garden, because healthy living is just within your reach. When harvesting spinach, pick the green, fresh-smelling outer leaves. The remaining leaves will keep the plant growing, and maintain a season of harvest. Avoid using spinach leaves that are water-soaked, wilted, or have yellow patches.2
Wash spinach carefully, pat it dry, and store it in the refrigerator. Aside from mixing it in soups, I recommend serving spinach fresh or steaming it lightly.3
Smaller basil leaves contain the most flavors, so you have to be particular in picking the ones you use. Harvested basil leaves can be preserved by placing it in a water-filled glass, but do not refrigerate it.4
You can also dry basil leaves. Simply heat your oven to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare the basil leaves on baking sheet. Turn off the oven and place it in the pan for 20 minutes. Let the leaves cool, and store it quickly in a tight lipped bottle or Ziplock bags. Store it away from sunlight.Spinach-Basil Green Minestrone Nutrition Facts Calories 443 Total Fat 17 g Carbohydrates – 48 g Protein 31 g Why Is Spinach-Basil Green Minestrone Good for You?
Meals packed with essential nutrients that can give your family immunity and energy are the best foods to serve every day. But it’s even better if you will grow your vegetables and herbs within your home – fresh and organic.
Spinach consists of numerous immunity boosters such as niacin, zinc, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. It is also high in protein and fiber, and is rich in folate that helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
The magnesium in spinach is responsible for keeping high blood pressure at bay. Studies have proven that this green leafy vegetable greatly helps sustain good brain function, memory, and mental lucidity.
Spinach also has flavonoids and carotenoids. Flavonoids have proven to be essential in lowering the risk of developing cancer, and studies have shown that flavonoids slow down the cell division of the cancer cells in the stomach.
Spinach has also shown its potential to lower the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Studies have also shown that intake of vitamin A-enriched vegetables like spinach can decrease your risk of breast cancer.5
Spinach has antioxidant properties that help decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that benefit your eyes’ retina and macula. Studies have proven that the intake of spinach can also increase the blood levels of lutein.
Spinach is loaded with vitamin K1, which is an essential nutrient to keep our bones healthy. It prevents the further generation of osteoclasts, which breaks the bone down. Instead, it stimulates ostecalcin that maintains the calcium molecules inside the bone.6
Together with its sweet and earthy aroma and long list of nutrients, basil is a staple ingredient to various meals. This healthy herb contains iron, calcium, manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. It has vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.
The vitamin A in basil consists of beta-carotenes that act as protection of the cell lining and blood vessels against free radical damage. This essential vitamin also prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood to avoid atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
Basil is packed with volatile oils such as estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene, which is important in fighting off different kinds of bacteria like listeria, staphylococcus, E. coli, yersinia enterocolitica, and pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Studies show that high amount of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP) can be an important factor in curing arthritis and inflammatory bowel ailments.7 When preparing your meals, do not forget to include these two leafy ingredients, which can improve your overall health without sacrificing the flavor of your food.
THE REGISTER--According to local media reports Thursday, German intelligence agency BND (the Bundesnachrichtendienst) has helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) spy on the European Commission and French authorities since 2008.
“When it comes to our role in the world, in a way, it’s good that people are interested in us,” said the ever-sardonic Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
If there is one thing more likely to incite wide-spread social unrest in the Philippines than watching Manny Pacquiao lose to Floyd Mayweather tonight, it is Filipinos not being able to watch it all... and that is why, as The South China Morning Post reports, residents of the western Philippines are being asked to turn off their refrigerators so there will be enough electricity to watch tonight's fight. However, Rante Ramos, secretary of the electrical cooperative on the island of Palawan, warned, even with help, there is likely to remain a power shortfall and "some circuits may inevitably be switched off."
Residents of the western Philippines are being asked to turn off their refrigerators so there will be enough electricity to watch this weekend’s fight between local boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Rante Ramos, secretary of the electrical cooperative on the island of Palawan, posted the appeal on Facebook on Wednesday, saying that the area faced a power shortfall that might result in an outage on Sunday when the long-awaited fight airs in the Philippines.
“Truth is, come May 3... Palawan grid would still be 2-megawatt short of power supply. Some circuits may inevitably be switched off,” he warned.
“Collectively we can do something. On May 3, let’s all voluntarily switch off or disconnect as many appliances as we could,” he said, asking that about 15,000 homes switch off their refrigerators for a few hours.
He also urged people not to use their washing machines, air-conditioners and irons until the fight is over.
Palawan’s capital of Puerto Princesa has been suffering daily power outages lasting two to three hours due to a supply shortfall.
However the entire nation is eagerly anticipating the “fight of the century” between Pacquiao, regarded as a national figure, and unbeaten American Mayweather to finally answer who is the better pound-for-pound boxer of their generation.
The fight is going to be shown live in public on widescreen TVs in the city, sponsored by two candidates who are running for mayor in Puerto Princesa elections on May 8.
It will also be shown on a pay-per-view basis in many bars and hotels of the popular resort city.
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While for now the odds favor Mayweather, here are some champs explaining just how Pacquiao can pull this off...
Just as Karl Marx claimed that History had chosen the proletariat, neoconservatives claim that History has chosen America. Just as the Nazis proclaimed “Deutschland uber alles,” neoconservatives proclaim “America uber alles.” In September 2013 President Obama actually stood before the United Nations and declared, “I believe America is exceptional.”
Germany’s political leaders and those in Great Britain, France, and throughout Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan also believe that America is exceptional, which means better than they are. That’s why these countries are Washington’s vassals. They accept their inferiority to the Exceptional Country — the USA — and follow its leadership.
It is unlikely that the Chinese think that a handful of White People are exceptional in anything except their diminutive numbers. The populations of Asia, Africa, and South America dwarf those that comprise Washington’s Empire.
Neither do the Russians believe that the US is exceptional. Putin’s response to Obama’s claim of American superiority was: “God created us equal.” Putin added: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
If all countries are exceptional, the word loses its meaning. If America is exceptional, it means others are inferior for lacking this designation. Inferiors have less rights and can be bullied into submission or bombed into oblivion.
The Exceptional Country is above all the others and, therefore, doesn’t have to be concerned about how it treats them. Obviously, Americans and their vassals think America is exceptional as the millions of people murdered, maimed, and dislocated by Washington’s wars in eight countries in the 21st century has not resulted in condemnation of Washington. Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the puppets in Canada, Australia, and Japan still suck up, holding tight to Washington.
Instead, Russia and Iran, countries that, unlike the US, are not militarily aggressive, are portrayed in the White People’s Media as threats and are condemned.
The White Media claims, and has claimed since February 2014, that there are Russian tanks and troops in Ukraine. Putin has pointed out that if this indeed was the case, Kiev and Western Ukraine would have fallen to the Russian invasion early last year. Kiev has been unable to defeat the small breakaway republics in eastern and southern Ukraine and would stand no chance against the Russian military.
Recently a brave news organization made fun of the White Media’s claim that Russian tanks have been pouring into Ukraine for 14 months. The parody pictured Ukraine at a standstill. All traffic on all roads and residential streets is blocked by Russian tanks. All parking places, including sidewalks and people’s front and rear gardens have tanks piled upon tanks. The entire country is immobilized in gridlock.
Although a few have fun making fun of the gullible people who believe the White Media, the situation is nevertheless serious as it concerns life on planet Earth.
There is little sign that Washington and its vassals care about life on Earth. Recently, the largest political group in the European Parliament–the European People’s Party–expressed a cavalier opinion about life on Earth. We know this, because, if we can trust Euractive, an online EU news source, the majority EU party believes that declaring the EU’s readiness for nuclear war is one of the best steps to deter Russia from further aggression. The aggression to be stopped by Europe’s declaration of its readiness for armageddon is the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the “further aggression” is Putin’s alleged intention of reestablishing the Soviet Empire.
It must be disappointing to the Russian government to see that leaders of the European Union prefer to endorse nuclear war than to challenge Washington’s propaganda.
When I read that the governing party in the European Parliament thought non-existent aggression had to be stopped by a declaration of readiness for nuclear war, I realized that money could buy any and every thing, even the life of the planet. The European People’s Party was speaking on behalf of Washington’s propaganda, not on behalf of Europe. Europe’s nuclear war with Russia would end instantly with the destruction of every European capital.
The crazed vice-president of the European People’s Party, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski revealed who the real aggressor is when he declared: “Time of talk and persuasion with Russia is over. Now it’s time for a tough policy.”
Clearly, the European Parliament is a great danger to life on the planet. Is it realistic to think that Russia will allow herself to become a concubine of Washington?
Michael Moore took to Twitter this week to outline his list of demands following the riots in Baltimore: Disarm the police and open prisons.
As The Washington Times reports, Moore unleashed his own brand of trolling...
“Imprison u, shoot u, sever your spine, crush your larynx, send u to war, keep u poor, call u a thug, not let u vote. But u can sing for us,” the liberal film director tweeted to his 1.83 million followers.
His comments comes amid violent unrest in Baltimore since the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody. More than 200 people were arrested in clashes with police Monday and Tuesday and more than a dozen officers injured.
“Here’s my demand: I want every African-American currently incarcerated for drug ‘crimes’ or nonviolent offenses released from prison today,” Mr. Moorecontinued. “And the rest who r imprisoned- I don’t believe 50% of them did what they’re accused of. Lies. Greed. A modern day slave system. Poor whites 2.”
“Next demand: Disarm the police,” he wrote. “We have a 1/4 billion 2nd amendment guns in our homes 4 protection. We’ll survive til the right cops r hired.”
“Local cops now militarized. Founding Fathers said NO army policing on our soil. Why do cops have tanks? Oh, right - the Enemy: The Black Man,” Mr. Moore concluded.
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While most responses on Twitter appeared of the "you f##king idiot"-type, one law enforcemenmt official had a more profound idea...
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) April 30, 2015
If the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores? The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating. As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable. So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes? For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way. And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now. If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?
The list below comes from information compiled by About.com, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores. Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years. As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…
180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)
75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)
150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)
223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)
265 Body Central / Body Shop
66 Bottom Dollar Food
25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)
32 C. Wonder
120 Chico’s (through 2017)
200 Children’s Place (through 2017)
17 Christopher & Banks
70 Coach (fiscal 2015)
70 Coco’s /Carrows
300 Deb Shops
340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar
39 Einstein Bros. Bagels
50 Express (through 2015)
31 Frederick’s of Hollywood
50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores
65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)
54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)
50 Guess (through 2015)
127 Jones New York Outlet
10 Just Baked
28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade
400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)
63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)
100 Pier One (by 2017)
20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)
1,784 Radio Shack
13 Ruby Tuesday
10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores
55 Staples (2015)
133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)
31 Tiger Direct
200 Walgreens (by 2017)
10 West Marine
338 Wet Seal
80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)
So why is this happening?
Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.
But as Thad Beversdorf has pointed out, we have also seen a stunning decline in true discretionary consumer spending over the past six months…
What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.
The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out. Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month. For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.
In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent…
More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.
A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.
And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.
The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.
For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around. But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing. Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.
As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet. But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere. This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods. Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.
And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet. Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.
Last week, we witnessed a rather dramatic sell-off in German Bunds. The rout was attributable to a confluence of factors including, but not limited to, data which appeared to show that euro loans to the private sector rose for the first time in three years, position squaring, the frontrunning of expected positive EGB supply in May, and the suggestion from yet another financial market heavyweight that Bunds represent a compelling short opportunity especially when you can leverage your position and achieve a positive carry along the way.
Despite the sell-off and despite the fact that net supply in Germany is expected to be (barely) positive in May, it will turn sharply negative to the tune of €12 billion and €15 billion in June and July, respectively, suggesting rising Bund yields may be a transient phenomenon especially considering the fact that when supply is deeply negative, private market holders should theoretically be able to charge the Bundesbank as much as they want all the way to the depo rate floor, a dynamic which should put pressure on yields (at least for maturities of 5 years and up) going forward.
Against this backdrop, Goldman is out summarizing the dynamics of the supply/demand equation for Bunds. Here’s more:
Unlike other large economies, however, the German government sector was running a surplus of 0.7% of GDP in 2014. On current fiscal policies, as the economy expands this will likely expand, implying an even lower issuance of bonds and larger scarcity effects. We calculate that the Bundesbank will remove 80% of the central government’s gross issuance of government bonds over the next year, compared with 40% in Italy, Spain and France (where redemptions and the new deficit are larger). If the amount the Bundesbank removes from the bond market is couched in budget surplus equivalent terms (i.e., a reduction in net issuance of securities), it would be in the order of around 6% of German GDP. Going by historical relationships, a surplus of this size would lower 10-year Bund yields by 60-70bp, controlling for short rates and macro conditions. Even so, Bund yields should not trade lower than 50-75bp – which suggests there are also other factors depressing yields.
PSPP then, will soak up more than three quarters of gross supply in Germany, which is twice as much in percentage terms as what NCBs will take down in Italy, Spain, and France. Meanwhile, some 40% of purchase-eligible German bonds are in foreign hands...
The breakdown of ownership is also playing in favour of lower yields. Two-thirds of German government debt – the risk-free asset par excellence – is held by non-German residents. No official statistics are available for how the share in the hands of foreigners is divided between other residents of the Euro area and investors outside the currency union. Combining data on foreign balance sheets with anecdotal information, we believe that as much as 40% of the stock of German securities may now be held by investors residing outside EMU. A broader diversification across the Euro area sovereign markets has been held back by the large credit rating gap that still exists between the core countries and the periphery, and ongoing tensions surrounding Greece.
Finally, Goldman reminds us that the structure of PSPP has a tendency to create sell-fulfilling prophecies…
Last but not least, the ECB has stated that bonds yielding less than negative 20bp (i.e., the deposit rate) would not be eligible for purchase. Alongside this, it has set constraints on how much of each specific security it wishes to own. As the decline in yields that has followed the liquidity injections has made its way to intermediate maturities, the market has extrapolated that the Bundesbank would have to purchase a larger share of longermaturity bonds to fill its quota. This is a self-reinforcing expectations loop, where lower yields beget lower yields. Given its nature, the loop can also switch direction. As yields rise, more bonds become eligible for central bank purchases, and the price action goes into reverse. What we have seen in recent days has offered a taster of these dynamics, especially at the very long end of the German yield curve.
We would note that this type of feedback loop could be rather dangerous in a market that is becoming structurally very thin — that is, combining collapsing market depth with a “self-reinforcing expectations loop” that can quickly push long-end yields higher at the drop of a dime seems to be a decidedly risky proposition. Combine this with the fact that supply is set to go negative again in June and July which could push yields quickly lower, and the stage is set for a volatile summer in the Bund market.