Albrecht Dürer Praying hands 1508
It’s too contradictory to say such things after handing Bolton and Pompeo a job.
President Donald Trump took aim at the military industrial complex in an interview with Fox News, saying that while he wants to bring troops home, “they never want to leave, they always want to fight.” The president was discussing Iran and how he prefers to solve tensions economically, but is up against people that would send “thousands of soldiers” into Syria if it was up to them. Hilton had asked the president if he could “reassure people you’re not looking for some kind of conflict in Iran?” His response was far different than his tough tweet about Iran on Sunday. “Well, I’m the one that talks about these wars that are 19 years (long), and people are just there. And don’t kid yourself, you do have a military industrial complex. They do like war,” Trump said in his interview with Fox News’s Steve Hilton.
“You know, In Syria with the caliphate, so I wipe out 100% of the caliphate that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have these crazy people going around, blowing up stores and blowing up things, these are seriously ill people…But I wiped out 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump continued. “I said, I want to bring our troops back home — the place went crazy. They want to keep– you have people here in Washington, they never want to leave. I said, you know what I’ll do, I’ll leave a couple hundred soldiers behind, but if it was up to them they’d bring thousands of soldiers in.” Trump added, “someday people will explain it, but you do have a group, and they call it the military-industrial complex.” “They never want to leave, they always want to fight. No. I don’t want to fight, but you do have situations like Iran. You can’t let them have nuclear weapons. You just can’t let that happen,” Trump said.
The problems with rare earth metals have been known for a long time. So preparations have been made. Weaponized?
Back in April of 2018, when the trade war with China was still in its early stages, we explained that among the five “nuclear” options Beijing has to retaliate against the US, one was the block of rare-earth exports to the US, potentially crippling countless US supply chains that rely on these rare commodities, and forcing painful and costly delays in US production as alternative supply pathways had to be implemented. As a result, for many months China watchers expected Beijing to respond to Trump’s tariff hikes by blocking the exports of one or more rare-earths, although fast forwarding one year later this still hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and overnight President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths facility fueled speculation that the strategic materials will soon be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat war [with] the US.
As Bloomberg reported overnight, shares in JL MAG Rare-Earth surged by the daily limit on Monday after Xinhua said the Chinese president had stopped by the company in Jiangxi, a scripted move designed to telegraph what China could do next. The reason for the dramatic market response is that the presidential visit flags policy priorities, and “rare earths have featured in the escalating trade spat between the U.S. and China.” Specifically, as Bloomberg notes, China raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on American imports, while the U.S. excluded rare earths from its own list of prospective tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted in the next wave of measures. And just in case the White House missed the message, Xi was accompanied on the trip to JL MAG by Liu He, the vice premier who has led the Chinese side in the trade negotiations.
Lawyers laughing all the way to the bank. For years.
A US federal judge on Monday denied President Donald Trump’s efforts to quash a subpoena from Democratic lawmakers to release years of financial documents dating from before his time in the White House. The decision marked the first time that US courts have waded into the conflict pitting the president against the Democrats who, riding on their newfound majority in the House of Representatives, have opened a raft of probes into Trump. Trump, who says he is the victim of “harassment,” has refused to cooperate in the investigations focused on his tax returns, his finances or matters related to Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election in his favor. US District Judge Amit Mehta refused to block the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for accounting firm Mazars USA pending litigation.
The lawmakers’ April 15 request for records dating back to 2011 followed testimony by Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen that his boss would often change the estimated value of his assets and liabilities on financial statements as he felt was needed for various purposes. On April 22, Trump and affiliated organizations and entities filed suit, requesting that the court declare the subpoena “invalid and unenforceable” as it questioned the legislative validity of the Democrats’ demands.] “So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,’ Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution,” which guarantees the body its legislative powers, Mehta said. “Applying those principles here compels the conclusion that President Trump cannot block the subpoena to Mazars.”
Unless his power is taken away, he will lead the US into oblivion.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday dismissed comparisons between the rise of business debt to record levels in recent years and the conditions in U.S. mortgage markets that preceded the 2007-to-2009 economic crisis, but even so said caution was warranted. Comparisons to the years before the financial crisis are “not fully convincing” Powell said at an Atlanta Federal Reserve bank conference on financial markets, since the growth of debt seems in line with economic growth, debt service costs remain low, and the financial system is better positioned to absorb losses.
Despite that, he pointed to the lack of transparency about the funding sources and ultimate holders of corporate debt, and to risks that any economic downturn could worsen if indebted borrowers begin to fail as reasons for caution. “Business debt has clearly reached a level that should give businesses and investors reason to pause and reflect,” Powell said, with corporate borrowing at a record level of around 35 percent of corporate assets. Though growth in corporate debt has slowed lately, “another sharp increase…could increase vulnerabilities appreciably,” Powell said. That concern is another reason the Fed may be reluctant to cut interest rates, since lower borrowing costs could prompt firms to take on more debt.
What you get when you don’t allow zombies to die.
The amazing thing with Deutsche Bank shares is this: Since 2007, so for 12 years, bottom fishers have been routinely taken out the back and shot, every time, with relentless regularity – as have big institutional investors, from Chinese conglomerates to state-owned wealth funds, that thought they were picking the bottom. A similar concept applies to European banks in general. May 2007 was the high point. And it has been brutal ever since – 12 years of misery. Deutsche Bank shares dropped another 2.9% on Monday in Frankfurt, and closed at a new historic low of €6.64 after hitting €6.61 intraday. This time, the blame was put on UBS analysts that finally stamped “sell” on the stock, replacing their “neutral” rating. Deutsche Bank’s market cap is now down to just €13.8 billion. Shares have plunged 39% over the past 12 months and 60% since January 2018 (data via Investing.com):
The bank has been subject to years of revelations of shenanigans that span the palette. Once a conservative bank that primarily served its German business clientele in Germany and overseas, it decided to turn itself into a Wall Street high-flyer that caused its shares to skyrocket until May 2007, when it got tangled up in the Financial Crisis that then led to a slew of apparently never-ending hair-raising revelations, settlements with regulators, and huge fines. Since their death-spiral began in May 2007, Deutsche Bank shares have lost over 94% of their value. The UBS downgrade to sell came just in the nick of time:
[..] the stocks of European banks, as depicted by the Stoxx 600 Banks index – which tracks 44 representative banks – dropped 1.6% on Monday to the lowest level since January 9, 2019, and has plunged 30% since the end of January 2018. But going back 12 years, the plunge takes on different dimensions and parallels that of Deutsche Bank, with the index down 74% since May 2007, just bumping along the bottom, from hopeless to hope and back to hopeless:
“The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor.”
In Sweden, prosecutors have applied to the Swedish courts to issue a warrant for Julian’s arrest. There is a tremendous back story to that simple statement. The European Arrest Warrant must be issued from one country to another by a judicial authority. The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor. This was particularly strange, as the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm had initially closed the case after deciding there was no case to answer, and then another, highly politically motivated, prosecutor had reopened the case and issued a European Arrest Warrant, without going to any judge for confirmation. [..] immediately after Assange lost his case against the warrant in the Supreme Court, the British government changed the law to specify that future warrants must be from a judge and not a prosecutor.
[..] The judgement against Assange in the UK Supreme Court on the point of whether the Swedish Prosecutor constituted a “judicial authority” hinged on a completely unprecedented and frankly incredible piece of reasoning. Lord Phillips concluded that in the English text of the EWA treaty “judicial authority” could not include the Swedish prosecutor, but that in the French version “autorite judiciaire” could include the Swedish prosecutor. The two texts having equal validity, Lord Phillips decided to prefer the French language text over the English language text, an absolutely stunning decision as the UK negotiators could be presumed to have been working from the English text, as could UK ministers and parliament when they ratified the decision.
[..] Sweden has not filed a request for arrest. Sweden is going through its judicial processes – which it skipped the first time – in order to decide whether or not to file a request for arrest. This gives Assange the opportunity to start the process of fighting the allegations, which he strenuously denies, in the Swedish courts. However at present his Swedish lawyer cannot access him in Belmarsh high security jail, which is typical of the abuses of process to which he is subject.
[..] Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the Panama Papers which, contrary to promises, only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.
“If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”
On Monday, judicial authorities from Ecuador carried out an inventory of all the belongings and digital devices left behind at the London embassy following his expulsion last month from the diplomatic compound that had been his home the past seven years. It came as Sweden announced it was seeking Assange’s arrest on suspicion of rape, setting up a possible future tug-of-war with the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.
It’s not known what devices authorities removed from the embassy or what information they contained. But authorities said they were acting on a request by the U.S. prosecutors, leading Assange’s defenders to claim that Ecuador has undermined the most basic principles of asylum while denying the secret-spiller’s right to prepare his defense. “It’s disgraceful,” WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Ecuador granted him asylum because of the threat of extradition to the U.S. and now the same country, under new leadership, is actively collaborating with a criminal investigation against him.”
[..] Hrafnsson, who has visited the Australian activist in jail, said Assange saw his eviction coming for weeks as relations with President Lenin Moreno’s government deteriorated, so he took great care to scrub computers and hard drives of any compromising material, including future planned leaks or internal communications with WikiLeaks collaborators. Still, Hrafnsson said he fully expects Moreno or the Americans to claim revelations that don’t exist. He called Monday’s proceedings a “horse show” because no legal authority can guarantee Assange’s devices haven’t been tampered with, or the chain of custody unbroken, in the six weeks since his arrest. “If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”
[..] According to the request for a detention order obtained by The Associated Press, Assange is wanted for “intentionally having carried out an intercourse” with an unnamed woman “by unduly exploiting that she was in a helpless state because of sleep.”
Biden is damaged goods.
I call Mr. Trump the Golden Golem of Greatness for a reason (several really) but mainly for his seemingly implacable demeanor. He’s exactly like that folkloric figure from the mists beyond the Pale of Settlement, an animate hunk of impassive clay communing with spirits of the dead, blundering blindly about the land, scaring little children and turning the peasants’ blood to ice-water. You might even say he was conjured up by the very deacons of Wokesterism who now tremble at his every thundering footstep.
Uncle Joe Biden is surely the antidote to all that. He served four years under the Wokester Deacon-in-Chief, Mr. Obama, and cheerfully endured his ritual castration, rendering him harmless to all who must-be-believed, and other sub-categories of the aggrieved and oppressed. At 76, he is way older than anyone (anyone serious, that is) who ever ran for President before, perhaps bordering even on feeble, and that’s another plus: he couldn’t hurt a fly. At least not here in the States. He has no plans, apparently, to try to make America great again — but he still has a hearty appetite for international adventuring that might redound to the benefit of the US War industry and its handmaidens on K Street and Capitol Hill.
And, of course, Uncle Joe goes through these palliative motions of bringing tranquility to the Democratic scramble, his smile fixed, teeth gleaming, hair perfect, hand a’pumping, as ever more information emerges about the spectacular effrontery of his international money-grubbing while vice-president. He did what in Ukraine in 2014. And Uncle Joe’s son, Hunter, walked away with how many millions of dollars after being appointed to the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings? Uncle Joe even bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations about how he browbeat Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko into firing their equivalent of Attorney General, who was about to look into this fishy Burisma deal. And then there was the even bigger windful after Uncle Joe paid a call on China and Hunter’s shadowy company, Rosemont Seneca, landed a billion dollar private equity deal (whatever that means) from an equally shadowy company fronting for the Chinese government.
If Casaleggio hadn’t suddenly died, M5S would have been much stronger.
One day in January 2015, Nigel Farage gave his senior adviser, Raheem Kassam, an unusual bit of news. “On Monday, we’re going to Milano,” he said. (Farage always pronounced it “Mil-ar-no”, much to Kassam’s amusement.) “I was like: ‘What? Why?’” Kassam said. Farage, who was then the leader of the anti-European Union party Ukip, explained that they were going to sit down with Gianroberto Casaleggio. Kassam whipped out his phone and quickly Googled “Casaleggio” – he had never heard of him. Farage described Casaleggio to Kassam as the “genius behind Five Star”, the Italian political party that won a 25% vote share in 2013, the first national elections it had ever contested.
Nothing like this had happened before in modern Italian politics. Casaleggio and the comedian Beppe Grillo, who was famous in Italy for his rabble-rousing live shows, had founded the movement just four years earlier. They had largely built the Five Star Movement online, with remarkably little money or mainstream media attention. Five Star was only one step toward Casaleggio’s long-term ambition: to supplant parliament with an online democracy where citizens, highly informed through the internet, could fashion policy directly. Farage had “always been interested” in direct democracy, Kassam said, and in “turning everything over to the internet”. But Farage was more impressed by the fact that, after just a few years, Casaleggio’s largely online movement was on the verge of becoming Italy’s biggest political party.
He wanted to know how Casaleggio had done it – and then to replicate its success. In Milan, Farage was struck by how Casaleggio was using social media and the internet to create a new model for political communications. Five Star members were discussing and voting on policy and nominating and electing each other to run for office while being steeped in party propaganda, all on a single online platform. This made supporters feel as if the movement’s identity was emerging organically from their online interactions, while Casaleggio and Grillo could guide those interactions with messaging from above. What’s more, the “movement” was dominated by a private company owned by Casaleggio.
Five Star was in many ways less like a political party than a publicly traded company in which members were voting shareholders, but Casaleggio had the controlling stake. Farage left Milan “very excited” about bringing Five Star’s style of digital democracy to the UK, Kassam said. So did Farage’s ally Liz Bilney, who was also present at the Milan meeting and went on to found the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU. “If I was starting Ukip today,” Farage told the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo around that time, “would I spend 20 years speaking to people in village halls or would I base it on the Grillo model? I know exactly what I would do.”
Governments try to make blood money. Workers do not.
Italian unions have refused to load cargo onto a Saudi ship carrying weapons, in protest against Riyadh’s war on Yemen. The dock workers have gone on strike, refusing to work until the ship leaves port in Genoa. While the Saudi Arabian ship, the Bahri-Yanbu, was expected to leave for Jeddah by the end end of the day, it seems the delivery might end up being rather late. After unsuccessful attempts to have the ship barred from docking in Italy altogether, it was greeted by banners and a protests as it arrived in port Monday. Workers were joined by human rights campaigners who oppose stocking the ship over fears the supplies will be used against the civilian population in Yemen.
The demonstrators held signs opposing the war and arms trafficking. “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen,” union leaders said in a statement. Port officials have acknowledged that the generators that protesters fear may be used for military purposes have been blocked from being brought on board, but say some non-critical goods will still be loaded. Union leaders are scheduled to meet with the port’s prefects to discuss the impasse. The ship was loaded with weapons in Belgium, but successfully blocked from picking up additional arms at a French port as a result of a similar protest.
Sounds hopeful for sure.
There’s fresh hope that unrest in Donbass raging since 2014 could find resolution as Ukraine’s new president, comedian and presidential impersonator turned overnight real political leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was just sworn in on Monday, and immediately he is dissolving parliament and urging peaceful settlement in the country’s east. The 41-year old Zelenskiy said in translated comments via The Moscow Times: “Our first task is to end the conflict in the Donbass.” With a clear mandate from Ukrainian voters who overwhelmingly want to see an easing of tensions with Russia, and the exit of oligarchs from power to halt mass political corruption, he announced during the inauguration ceremony from Kiev he wants to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, even if it means losing his post.
In his much anticipated inauguration speech, Zelenskiy switched from Ukrainian to Russian to say: “I believe that the first step to begin this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners [held by Russia].” He further emphasized he would pursue peace at a cost to his reputation — “and, if need be, even this job” — according to The Moscow Times. Zelenkiy’s upset victory over Petro Poroshenko by a double-digit margin has led some to dub him the “Donald Trump of Ukrainian politics” given his outside the system status and willingness to break from the establishment on the question of dialogue with Russia. He promised Ukrainians that he would seek to do this “without losing our territory, never.”
The five-year long conflict in the east involving Russian-backed separatists who’ve severed ties from Kiev in a move for de facto independence has killed an estimated 13,000 people and has at times threatened to escalate to the level of western intervention. The billionaire chocolate magnate Poroshenko, who came to power as a result of the West-backed so-called Euromaidan revolution gave one parting shot during his concession speech: in the Kremlin, he said, “they believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” according to a translation by the LA Times.
Nerds ‘R’ Us.
Finally, 130 years after it was established, the kilogram as we know it is about to be retired. But it’s not the end: tomorrow, 20 May 2019, a new definition will be put in place – one that’s far more accurate than anything we’ve had until now. After the shift was unanimously voted in at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles at the end of last year, the change is now finally about to become official. Le kilogramme est mort, vive le kilogramme. Most people don’t think about metrology – the science of measurement – as we go about our day. But it’s vastly important. It’s not just the system by which we measure the world; it’s also the system by which scientists conduct their observations. It needs to be precise, and it needs to be constant, preferably based on the laws of our Universe as we know it.
But of the seven base units of the International System of Units (SI), four are not currently based on the constants of physics: the ampere (current), kelvin (temperature), mole (amount of substance) and kilogram (mass). “The idea,” explained Emeritus Director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) Terry Quinn to ScienceAlert, “is that by having all the units based on the constants of physics, they are by definition stable and unaltering in the future, and universally accessible everywhere.” For example, a metre is determined by the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second. A second is determined by the time it takes for a caesium atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times.
A kilogram is defined by… a kilogram. No, literally. It’s a kilogram weight called the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK), made in 1889 from 90 percent platinum and 10 percent iridium, and kept in a special vault in the BIPM headquarters. [..] For the last few years, metrologists have been talking about the need for a new standard. Now, they’re finally ready to redefine the kilogram based on the Planck constant, the ratio of energy to frequency of a photon, measured to its most precise value yet only last year. “It is only now that we can define the kilogram in terms of a constant of physics – the Planck constant, the speed of light and the resonant frequency of the caesium atom,” Quinn explained.
One of the IPK copies in its double bell jars. (NIST)