No no no, I want to do something else, but they won’t let me. There are just too many assumptions, opinions, interpretations and hearsay that linger on in what I see, and I can’t let that just go now that we’ve come so far. Nancy Pelosi just now:
The California congresswoman told Thursday morning’s news conference: “The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own political benefit at the expense of our national security , by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement for an investigation into his political rival.”
No, “the facts are NOT uncontested”. The one Constitutional judge the Dems allowed yesterday that they did not pick, Jonathan Turley, made that abundantly clear. Why “allow” him to speak at all if you’re going to drown him out anyway? Turley also made it very clear that he voted for Obama and Clinton, not the GOP that invited him. He simply doesn’t approve of the process that’s taking place. But he did “contest” the “facts”.
The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said that Trump was the first president to engage in conduct that met all three criteria for impeachment contemplated by the framers of the constitution: abuse of power, betrayal of national security, and interference in the conduct of elections. “Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all the acts that most concerned the framers,” Nadler said. Nadler was echoed by witnesses including Gerhardt. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” Gerhardt said.
Okidoki, let’s take a look. “Abuse of Power”. That’s a very broad stroke, it could mean anything really. What they mean is Trump asked Zelensky to look into – Hillary-linked- Crowdstrike and Joe Biden. And their interpretation of that is that this constitutes asking a foreign government to look into not a past, but a future election. Thing is, where’s the proof? I’ve seen the tape, read the relevant part of the transcript, and it’s not there. One may think or feel it is, but that’s not the same thing.
“Betrayal of National Security”. What they mean here is Trump delaying military aid to Ukraine. But there is no evidence he did that to get Zelensky to start probing Biden. That’s just a story. Moreover, Obama withheld “lethal aid” to Ukraine for a very long time. Where were the Dems shrieking about national security back then? Trump was the one to reverse that policy. It’s upside down world.
“Interference in the conduct of elections”. Really? After Crowdstrike and Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, you sure you want to make this point?
Prof Feldman testified that the “evidence clearly constitutes” an impeachable offence because Mr Trump’s interactions with Ukraine show him “corruptly using the powers of the presidency for personal political gain”.
Eh, no, they don’t. That’s opinion, not fact. Trump, again, asked Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike and Burisma, because the White House had a hard time figuring out what went on with both. Impeachable? Personal political gain? Both are very much up in the air. Nothing that “clearly constitutes” anything.
Mr Trump has attacked the “safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country”, Prof Gerhardt stated. “The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favour from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” he said in his opening remarks. “If what we’re talking about here is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable,” he added.
Gerhardt introduces, and I betcha he didn’t think of this himself, if only because Pelosi used the same meme today, the idea that Trump wants to be a monarch. They do this because the Framers in 1776 had such worries vis a vis the British crown. In 2019, though, it’s a ridiculous notion. But they use it because Trump may one day want to crown himself. No kidding.
Prof Turley, who was chosen as a witness by Republicans, said he disagreed with Mr Trump’s conduct but “this is not how an American president should be impeached”. He also warned that Democrats are setting a dangerous precedent. “I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad….” he said. “We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?”
[..] Jonathan Turley, picked by the Republicans, acknowledged that the president’s actions were far from “perfect,” but lamented the anger in American politics and warned that action in this case would dangerously lower the bar for impeachable conduct for future presidents.
There’s your contest to what Pelosi said is “uncontested”. The sole voice of reason, outnumbered 3 to 1, by design. Designed so that Pelosi can claim something is “uncontested”. And there’s still more Pelosi, and lo and behold, it involved Putin:
Asked by a reporter whether there was an “aha” moment when she decided to back impeachment, Nancy Pelosi said the decision has been slowly building for more than two years — since the start of the Russia investigation. This is a noteworthy comment because some Republicans have argued the inquiry is moving far too quickly, an opinion echoed yesterday by a legal witness called by the House minority yesterday. “This isn’t about Ukraine; this is about Russia, who benefitted from the withholding of that military assistance,” Pelosi said. She then added her oft-repeated line about the investigation, “All roads lead to Putin.”
I was going to get into the insane RussiaRussia rant by Democrat donor “law expert” Pamela Karlan, but let it go, it’s plenty obvious by now who these people are.
Thanks to Pamela Karlan for so aptly capturing Democratic elites’ delusional, Reaganite, jingoistic Cold Warrior mindset in your claim that we need to arm Ukraine “so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here” & we remain “that shining city on the hill.” pic.twitter.com/C78aNThnUk
Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”
Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”
Just one last thing, the final nail in Joe Biden’s coffin, who I never thought Trump was worried about in the least, but that’s the Ukraine story don’t you know, is John Kerry now endorses him. Please John, don’t, you’re going to kill me! There’s not enough people who like ketchup that much! Let alone Hillary!
“I’m not endorsing Joe because I’ve known him a long time. I’m endorsing him because I know him so well,” Kerry told the Washington Post. “The world is broken. Our politics are broken. The country faces extraordinary challenges. “And I believe very deeply that Joe Biden’s character, his ability to persevere, his decency and the experiences that he brings to the table are critical to the moment. The world has to be put back together, the world that Donald Trump has smashed apart.”
Kerry specifically cited Trump’s performance this week at the Nato summit in London as a reason why the country needed Biden. “The petulance and smallness and ridicule that he invited is very dangerous for all of us,” Kerry said. “And that just underscores the urgency of people recognizing the assets that Joe Biden brings to the table.”
There’s so much more I could write here about the “experts” paraded in front of a TV audience yesterday -and last week-, and about all the things they said that were not legal facts but their personal opinions, but I’m not trying to write a book here, just an essay, and I should be able to trust people’s intelligence on this, right? And I can be skeptical of anything and everything without being painted into a corner, right? Turley is not alone?!
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The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.
The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”
Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.
The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”
This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.
It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…
… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…
… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.
The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.
“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.
Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.
Jonathan Turley: "The problem is not that abuse of power can never be an impeachable offense, you just have to prove it, and you haven’t." pic.twitter.com/EXxkHfAXmN
Thanks to Pamela Karlan for so aptly capturing Democratic elites’ delusional, Reaganite, jingoistic Cold Warrior mindset in your claim that we need to arm Ukraine “so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here” & we remain “that shining city on the hill.” pic.twitter.com/C78aNThnUk
Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”
Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”
Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”
The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”
Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”
"America is not just 'the last best hope,' as Mr. Jefferies said, but it's also the shining city on a hill. We can't be the shining city on a hill and promote democracy around the world if we're not promoting it here at home."
Professor Turley, who voted against Trump in 2016, confirmed under oath today from a legal perspective that there was no bribery, no extortion, no obstruction of justice and no abuse of power. What false charge can Democrats possibly pursue next? pic.twitter.com/pxSazjKFyA
By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.
With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.
Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.
And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.
News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.
Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.
Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.
While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”
After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.
Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.
The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.
Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.
The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’
The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.
An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”
German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.
Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV
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There are things you just cannot do. Partisanship, even the semblance of it, when discussing the US Constitution, is certainly one of them. But there we go: in Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee hearings starting today, the Democrats get to pick 3 Constitutional experts, vs just one for the Republicans. There is no bigger no-no.
This is not about whether Trump has tried to bribe Ukraine president Zelensky, something the latter has denied quite vehemently multiple times, this is about the Constitution, the document that holds the entire country together, the paper that everyone will cite whenever it appears to favor their views. But which should also be a beacon when those views get blurred.
You cannot make the Constitution play second fiddle to party politics. But that’s what just happened. Trump already sounds almost lackadaisical about it, after all he’s been through for 3 years: “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one..” “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law..”
I don’t think he should be that accepting. He should protect the Constitution instead. That’s in the job description of a US president.
The judiciary committee has the power to formally draft articles of impeachment and submit them for a full vote in the House of Representatives. The committee is hearing on Wednesday from four law professors – three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans. Chosen by the Democrats are Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan, Harvard University’s Professor Noah Feldman and from the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley was picked by Republicans.
The lawyers will interpret the impeachment clause of the constitution, which allows for presidents to be removed from office due to “high crimes and misdemeanours”. The White House was invited to participate in the hearing, but on Sunday declared that they would not send any administration officials to attend. Mr Trump was scheduled to return from London to Washington later on Wednesday, after the first judiciary hearing has concluded. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump announced that he would depart early, skipping a final news conference “because we did so many over the past two days”.
His hasty departure came soon after a video emerged of other world leaders at the Nato conference appearing to mock him. “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law,” he said.
Kamala Harris just ended her presidential bid. She was a forerunner not long ago. Can we hand kudos to Tulsi Gabbard for this? This bit of news came in as I was watching Hillary refusing to rule out another run in 2020 on a BBC TV show. They still don’t get it, do they, why they lost, but that’s probably because they have no candidates. Other than Tulsi.
Joe Biden will not survive Burisma, there’s no way. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are at this moment both too far left for flyover country, and you would have to worry about their charisma to begin with. Hillary has some charisma alright, but she’s not a popular person across the nation; she’s downright despised among large groups of people, the same way Trump is among other groups. A bit of a Mexican stand-off?!
Jerry Nadler, who Devin Nunes said recently had been “in a witness protection program because of the failed Mueller probe”, will kick off another round of “impeachment” (or is it censure by now?) inquiries, to which he invited Trump knowing full well the latter would be in London for a NATO summit that day.
Lisa Page lied to her direct boss, FBI deputy head Andrew McCabe, about her relationship with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, while she was working there -as a lawyer- as well. Strzok was thrown off the Mueller investigation, which was all FBI, because his partisanship even in those partisan settings had become all too obvious. He was later fired outright by the FBI. Page “left on her own accord”.
And now Lisa Page decides to speak out under the really strange headline ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’ because Trump appears mean to her. “Trump Target” was part of so many headlines the past few days you’d think all the “reporters” and editors who used it were communicating about it. But maybe not, maybe by now they no longer need instructions or meetings, maybe it all seems natural at this point.
Thing is, way before Page could even remotely could have been a Trump target, if there is such a thing, because he had no idea she existed in 2016, Trump had become a Lisa Page -and Peter Strzok- target. We know this from thousands of emails the lovebirds sent each other. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he said “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
But Lisa decided to go on record at the Daily Beast as a victim, a Trump Target. One must truly wonder what made her do that, at this particular point in time. We can speculate about the upcoming Horowitz report, or the Durham investigation, all we want, but we just don’t know. That she won’t be named in either would seem far-fetched though. And maybe she knows that too. The DOJ IG said:
“We found that the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI,” the inspector general wrote in 2018 of Page and pals.
“Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence. We were deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”
“Page insists that Trump wasn’t the target of the 2016 investigation into his campaign, and that the FBI learned of “the possibility that there’s someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign.” “We were very deliberate and conservative about who we first opened on because we recognized how sensitive a situation it was,” Page says. “So the prospect that we were spying on the campaign or even investigating candidate Trump himself is just false. That’s not what we were doing.”
Again, there are 1000’s of emails between Strzok and Page that confirm they were targeting Trump, and not some unknown Russian. Her claims about this make zero sense. The best way to approach this is perhaps this Jordan Schachtel tweet:
Lisa Page is a “survivor” now.
Pay no attention to the IG report that said her corruption caused irreparable harm that “goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact finding and political independence.” https://t.co/32cF4Fg2XX
Is the FBI more interested in harming Trump than it is in the harm done to its own organization? It seems obvious it was in 2016. How is that now? Am I a conspiracy theorist for even thinking about it? As always, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there turns out to be more from where that came from.
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First, the way, the seeming certainty, with which the Dems issued their report yesterday, does not rhyme with the move from impeachment to censure. If the “evidence” were as strong as they claim it is, we would not be where we are today. The Dems would not ponder ‘only’ censure, and the GOP would not be united.
CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga said Tuesday that she’s hearing “rumblings” within the Democratic caucus that perhaps the party “should just go with censure” instead of trying to impeach President Trump. “You’re now hearing rumblings within, Democrats saying, ‘Maybe we should just go with censure,’ or not really knowing how to move forward on this given where the president is and given where Republicans are,” said Golodryga, who joined CNN after stints with ABC, CBS and Yahoo News. She pointed out that two weeks of public testimony on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine “did not move at all” the positions of Republicans ranging from moderates such as Rep. Will Hurd (Texas) to more vocal Trump defenders such as Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).
“They said that they do not believe anything the president did was impeachable and, in fact, they seem to be protecting the president more than they were prior to these two weeks,” she said. Polls in 2020 battleground states indicate that voters aren’t fully sold on House Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Surveys taken in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin show an average of 51 percent opposing impeachment and 44 percent supporting it, according to a Tuesday Washington Post story.
U.S. President Donald Trump solicited foreign interference to boost his re-election chances, undermined national security and ordered an “unprecedented” campaign to obstruct Congress, Democrats said on Tuesday in a report that lawmakers will use as the basis of any formal impeachment charges. In the 300-page report, Democrats leading the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee leveled allegations of sweeping abuse of power by Trump, saying he used U.S. military aid and the prospect of a White House visit to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to undertake investigations that would benefit Trump politically. Republican Trump, who will stand for re-election in November 2020, denies any wrongdoing and calls the inquiry a hoax.
The heart of the impeachment probe is whether Trump misused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election. The public release of the report is a milestone in a weeks-long investigation into whether Trump should be removed from office over his dealings on Ukraine. It summarizes hours of private testimony and televised hearings in which former government officials described a months-long effort to pressure Ukraine to carry out the investigations sought by Trump in July.
The report’s completions hands the process over to the House Judiciary Committee, which will now be responsible for drafting actual articles of impeachment should lawmakers decide to move forward. That panel will begin proceedings on Wednesday. In the report, Democrats detail accusations that Trump obstructed their investigation, including refusing to provide documents and testimony from his top advisers, unsuccessful attempts to block career government officials from testifying and intimidation of witnesses. The Democrats argue that “damage … will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.”
Making their case to move forward with impeachment, the report said that “any future President will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.” In a news conference, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff described Trump as a “president who believes that he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability and indeed above the law.”
President Trump tore into Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in harsh terms on Tuesday, taking a moment from his overseas tour in London to call the House Intelligence Committee chairman a “maniac” and a “deranged human being” over his handling of the impeachment inquiry. Trump was speaking to reporters alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of a NATO summit, when he was asked what he would hope to learn from having Schiff testify in a possible Senate impeachment trial – a scenario some Republicans would like to see. “I learn nothing from Adam Schiff, I think he’s a maniac,” Trump said. “I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man, and he lies.”
The comments demonstrated how the impeachment fight has followed Trump even as he meets with world leaders in London on issues ranging from defense spending to ISIS. Trump focused Tuesday on a controversial move by Schiff in September, where he read out a hyperbolic account of Trump’s controversial July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I have a favor I want from you,” Schiff said in a hearing while appearing to read from a piece of paper. “And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.” Schiff later chalked up his fictional summary of the phone call to a joke as he came under fire from conservatives for making up quotes.
“My summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least, part, in parody,” Schiff said. “The fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times.’ My point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.” Trump has repeatedly criticized Schiff for the move. “This guy is sick,” he said on Tuesday. “If he didn’t do that in the halls of Congress, he’d be thrown in jail.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has filed a $435 million defamation suit against CNN over a story that alleged Nunes met with a fired Ukrainian prosecutor in an effort to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The story — “Giuliani associate willing to tell Congress Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official to get dirt on Biden” — was published Nov. 22. It was based on the words of Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas, who worked closely with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in pursuing allegations of Ukrainian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election as well as allegations of corruption in Ukraine involving Biden’s son Hunter. Parnas is currently under indictment on campaign finance charges.
CNN reported that Bondy said Parnas was “willing to tell Congress” that in December 2018, Nunes traveled to Vienna to meet with Viktor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor who was famously fired in 2016 under pressure from the United States, represented by Biden, who said Shokin did not do enough to prosecute corruption in Ukraine. CNN cited congressional travel records showing Nunes and a few aides traveled to Europe between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, 2018. Quoting Bondy, the CNN report said, “Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December.” Shortly after the report was published, Nunes said it was “demonstrably false” but declined to elaborate. In the lawsuit, Nunes has provided the details.
Nunes did travel between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3. The lawsuit says that on those dates, Nunes was in Libya and Malta. Nunes traveled to Libya to “discuss security issues with General Khalifa Haftar,” the suit says. In Malta, Nunes “met with U.S. and Maltese officials, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and participated in a repatriation ceremony for the remains of an American World War II soldier missing in action,” according to the suit. The lawsuit provides photos of Nunes with Haftar, with Muscat, and at the repatriation ceremony. “[Nunes] was not in Vienna in December 2018,” the suit says. “Further, he has never met Shokin; never spoken to Shokin; and never communicated with Shokin.”
Chris Farrell is a former counterintelligence case officer.
“The alternative to a purely domestic intelligence operation targeting a major political party’s candidate for the presidency (and later, president) was to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence (FCI) “threat” that could then be “imported” back into the United States.”
The seditious coup plotters working against Trump knew the legal prohibitions on what they planned to do. How to target Trump & Co. in a “legal” manner? Was it possible, or more importantly, desirable, to have a legal finding from Attorney General Loretta Lynch justifying their plan to frame-up Trump & Co.? That would authorize their operation — but would Lynch support it? Could Lynch be counted on? Did they want a piece of paper like that floating around Washington D.C.? No, there had to be a better way to pull off the coup. The alternative to a purely domestic intelligence operation targeting a major political party’s candidate for the presidency (and later, president) was to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence (FCI) “threat” that could then be “imported” back into the United States.
Plausible deniability, the Holy Grail of covert activities, was in reach for the plotters if they could develop an FCI operation outside the continental United States (OCONUS) involving FBI confidential human sources (Halper, Mifsud, others?) that would act as “lures” (intelligence jargon associated with double agent operations) to ensnare Trump associates. We have evidence of these machinations from December 2015 when FBI lawyer Lisa Page texts to her boyfriend, the now infamous FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, “You get all our oconus lures approved? ;).” To inoculate themselves from further charges of misconduct and criminality, the FBI’s mutually agreed upon lie is that their investigation of Trump/Russia began on July 31, 2016 with the improbable name “Crossfire Hurricane.”
That coincides nicely with their manufactured FCI “event,” allowing the full-bore sabotage of all things and persons “Trump.” The coup plotters used a July 2016 event at the University of Cambridge as the opportunity for Carter Page to meet and develop a friendship with Stefan Halper. This is roughly the same time period that Australian diplomat Alexander Downer reported the supposedly drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos concerning the Russians having Hillary’s emails to the FBI. Papadopoulos had already serendipitously met the mysterious Joseph Mifsud in Rome during the second week of March 2016. Learning that Papadopoulos would be joining the Trump campaign, Mifsud let Papadopoulos know that he had many important connections with Russian government officials.
A recent report by the New York Times said former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith altered documents associated with the FISA application on Carter Page. The paper described Clinesmith as a low-level lawyer with the bureau and suggested that Horowitz won’t be hard the bureau’s handling of the case. The description of Clinesmith as a low-level lawyer is also in dispute, as Clinesmith was part of former Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into Trump and he was an attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch. He also worked under FBI General Counsel James Baker, who left the FBI and is now under investigation for leaking national security related information. Clinesmith, who sent numerous anti-Trump texts, also worked for Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson.
On Sunday, former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page, whose name became national after reports revealed she was having an affair with FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, spoke to the Daily Beast after years of silence. She said she had to speak out because Trump made her a target of his Tweets and speeches. The FBI fired Strzok last year and Page has since left the bureau. Strzok and Page sent thousands of text messages to one another during their affair. Many of the text messages discovered by Horowitz and Congress were vehemently anti-Trump. The discovery of the texts led to their removal from Mueller’s investigation.
Here’s some texts: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Page only told Molly Jong-Fast, also anti-Trump and a columnist from the Daily Beast, that people misunderstood their text messages but she never clarified what she and Strzok actually meant.
The three smartest words that Donald Trump uttered during his presidential campaign are “NATO is obsolete.” His adversary, Hillary Clinton, retorted that NATO was “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world.” Now that Trump has been in power, the White House parrots the same worn line that NATO is “the most successful Alliance in history, guaranteeing the security, prosperity, and freedom of its members.” But Trump was right the first time around: Rather than being a strong alliance with a clear purpose, this 70-year-old organization that is meeting in London on December 4 is a stale military holdover from the Cold War days that should have gracefully retired many years ago.
[..] While claiming to “preserve peace,” NATO has a history of bombing civilians and committing war crimes. In 1999, NATO engaged in military operations without UN approval in Yugoslavia. Its illegal airstrikes during the Kosovo War left hundreds of civilians dead. And far from the “North Atlantic,” NATO joined the United States in invading Afghanistan in 2001, where it is still bogged down two decades later. In 2011, NATO forces illegally invaded Libya, creating a failed state that caused masses of people to flee. Rather than take responsibility for these refugees, NATO countries have turned back desperate migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, letting thousands die.
[..] In an age where people around the world want to avoid war and to focus instead on the climate chaos that threatens future life on earth, NATO is an anachronism. It now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing around the globe. Instead of preventing war, it promotes militarism, exacerbates global tensions and makes war more likely. This Cold War relic shouldn’t be reconfigured to maintain U.S. domination in Europe, or to mobilize against Russia or China, or to launch new wars in space. It should not be expanded, but disbanded. Seventy years of militarism is more than enough.
Hillary Clinton is still refusing to rule out running for president despite already missing the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary. During an appearance on Britain’s Graham Norton Show, Clinton was again asked about her presidential aspirations. Clinton was quizzed as to why she included a story about a U.S. women’s soccer star who retired on the tagline “forget me.” Hillary said the intention of the words were to “make way for new people” and “get off the stage.” However, when asked by Norton, “Are you saying ‘Forget me’ now?” – Hillary responded, “Not yet.” She then said she was aware of the presidential rumor mill and had been “deluged” with questions about running again.
“Right now, I’m not, at all, uh, you know, planning that, I’d have to make up my mind really quickly,” she said, “because it’s moving very fast.” Back in October, long time Clinton advisor Dick Morris insisted that Hillary will become the Democratic nominee because she believes “she was put on Earth to be President.” “Make no mistake. She wants it,” said Morris. “She’s planning on it. She’ll do everything she can to achieve it.” Earlier that month, Clinton teased another presidential run, despite having already failed twice, telling PBS Newshour, “Obviously I can beat him again.” She also fanned the flames of speculation when she tweeted at Trump, “Don’t tempt me.”
HNA Group, the highly-leverage Chinese conglomerate with an opaque ownership structure that had gone on an immense debt-fueled global acquisition binge, including in the US, and owned about 18 airlines in China and Hong Kong, has been unraveling ever since Bank of American pulled the ripcord in mid-2017. But to prevent this unraveling from becoming too messy and to prevent the airlines from collapsing on top of the markets they serve, and to prevent investors and lenders from getting whacked by massive and well-deserved losses – well-deserved because they had been backing a nutty global acquisition binge – the Chinese government has been stepping in and pulling all kinds of levers, with huge sums involved, to bail out the airlines and assorted investors, moral hazard be damned.
The latest is HNA-controlled Hong Kong Airlines, the city’s third largest airline. The bailout is unfolding right now, amid uncertainties if it will actually unfold, and how much of the bailout money HNA Holdings, the parent company of multiple to-be-bailed-out airlines, will even channel to Hong Kong Airlines. The debt-fueled binge by HNA Group bagged 30 acquisitions in the two-year span between mid-2015 and May 2017, including large real estate deals, such as the $2.2 billion trophy office tower in Manhattan, a 25% stake in Hilton Hotels, a deviously obtained 9.9% stake in Deutsche Bank, the $6 billion acquisition of Ingram Micro in California, and forays into global aircraft leasing and global airport services. In addition, HNA Group owned outright or controlled 18 airlines mostly in China and Hong Kong before it all began to unravel.
Financial pressures began in 2017. In 2018, as the company began to run out of money, it started dumping some of its acquisitions to raise cash, including big batches of its stake in Deutsche Bank, office properties in Manhattan and in London, but that wasn’t enough. It’s never enough once a conglomerate starts unraveling because there is too much debt. Rather than allowing this monster to collapse and then sort through the debris, the Chinese government has stepped with series of bailout via its state-owned banking system, and has been restructuring the debts, and has been transferring ownership of bailed-out airlines to participating local governments, including Urumqi Air, Capital Airlines, and Guangxi Beibu Gulf Airlines.
Zero emission oil companies. Reminds me of that trick where the lady is sawed in half.
According to EIA, so far in 2019:
– About 94% of the energy used in the transportation sector was petroleum (including natural gas)
– About 0.094% was electricity (despite the sharp increase in sales of #ElectricVehicles)
Investors cheered Spanish group Repsol’s pledge to slash net carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, saying they hope it will pile pressure on rival oil and gas companies to follow suit in the fight against climate change. The world’s top oil and gas companies are under heavy pressure, not only from environmental groups but also from institutional investors, to fall in line with targets set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming. Repsol on Monday became the first leading energy firm to commit to a net-zero emission target, outdoing Royal Dutch Shell that had set out an ambition to halve emissions by 2050.
“It is clear that this is a very significant commitment from Repsol that raises the bar across the oil and gas sector,” said Adam Matthews, Director for Ethics and Engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, who co-led discussion between a major group of investors with Shell on a climate resolution last year. Several companies set short-term targets to reduce emissions by limiting gas leaks and burning of excess gas, but none have set out long-term reduction targets before Repsol. “We have been pressing fossil fuel companies to commit to align with a net zero emissions pathway by 2050 for some time. It is good to see Repsol showing this leadership, including clear milestones along the way,” said Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship, Sarasin & Partners. “In the end, shareholders need to know their companies are looking forward, not back, when it comes to the energy transition.”
[..] Repsol’s targets encompass 95% of all its emissions, including from fuels sold to clients. It also wrote down 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in the value of its oil and gas assets to reflect its lower oil and gas price outlook. Net-zero targets are generally expected to be achieved by offsetting emissions through investments in carbon storage technology or in natural sinks such as forests. Companies are also increasing production of natural gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, as well as renewable power such as solar and wind, whose consumption is expected to jump in coming decades as demand for electricity grows.
So we could and would keep killing everything in the oceans if not for the climate? I don’t like the reasoning nor the priorities. We should stop the killing for the oceans’ sake, not our own narrow ones. We should learn to like beauty.
Halting overfishing and the plastic pollution of the oceans could help tackle the climate emergency by improving the degraded state of the world’s biggest carbon sink, a report has found. The oceans absorb both the excess heat generated by our greenhouse gas emissions, and absorb carbon dioxide itself, helping to reduce the impacts of climate chaos. But we are rapidly reaching the limits of the oceans’ absorptive capacity as our pillage of marine life is disrupting vital ecosystems and the natural carbon cycle. Creating ocean sanctuaries and forging a new treaty to protect the oceans, with a target of safeguarding at least 30% of the oceans by 2030, could restore many areas to health and combat global heating, according to the report entitled Hot Water: the climate crisis and the urgent need for ocean protection, published by Greenpeace International on Wednesday.
Phytoplankton such as algae, for instance, transform dissolved carbon dioxide into organic carbon, which then forms part of the food chain. Gradually some of this sinks to the sea bottom where it is buried in sediment. Without the biological carbon pump that this entails concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere today would be about 50% higher, according to estimates cited in the report. Krill – a species of small fish – also form a vital part of the carbon cycle in the seas as they move through levels of the ocean, and play a big role in the diet of larger species. But krill populations have been in long-term decline since the 1970s due to pollution, overfishing and climate change.
Marine life at the other end of the scale also plays an important role. Large baleen whales are estimated to store 910m tonnes less carbon than they did before commercial whaling began, Greenpeace noted, while working to rebuild key whale populations would remove 160,000 tonnes of carbon every year. “The ocean’s biology is one of our best allies in the fight against climate change,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “But over-exploitation and our addiction to fossil fuels have pushed our ocean to the brink of collapse. Ocean protection is climate action – if we can save our ocean, it can save us.”
Then there is the “Whistleblower,” this would-be pimpernel of perfidy hiding behind Adam Schiff’s apron under the false assertion that he is entitled to everlasting anonymity. What an idea under our system of jurisprudence! In fact, contrary to Mr. Schiff’s public pronouncements, there is no law that states what he claims — one of several things Mr. Schiff can be called to account for. And that is even if you accept the dishonest proposition that the fugitive who started this fiasco even was a whistleblower, rather than a rogue CIA officer acting on explicitly illegal political motives to interfere in the 2020 election. The CIA, you must know, is forbidden by charter and statute from operating against American citizens in-country, including the president of the United States. Under the circumstances, the so-called “Whistleblower” might fairly be accused of treason.
Has anyone failed to notice that one of the “Whistleblower’s” attorneys, Mark Zaid, tweeted notoriously on January 30, 2017 that “Coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers.” Mr. Zaid later explained, “I was referring to a completely lawful process.” Yeah, sure. I think he meant a completely Lawfare process. Of course, the engineered “Whistleblower” escapade was only the latest (perhaps the last) chapter in the annals of nefarious events and actions carried out far-and-wide by several government agencies for three years, and by many officials working within them, and not a few freelance rogues in their service. There is no more accurate way to describe all that except as a coup. The authorities looking into all that have not been heard from yet. The portentous silence is making a lot of people in Washington edgy.
Donald Trump’s actions towards Ukraine were “entirely prudent” and involved “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power”, according to a draft Republican report on last month’s impeachment inquiry hearings. Designed as a pre-emptive strike on an imminent report from the Democratic majority, the GOP document underlines how evidence presented at the hearings failed to shatter Republicans’ united front. It also provides a blueprint for House Republicans to defend the US president at Wednesday’s judiciary committee hearing and for their Senate counterparts to acquit him in a trial.
Democrats accuse Trump of attempting to bribe the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, by making a White House meeting and nearly $400m in military aid conditional on Ukraine announcing two investigations that would boost Trump politically. The 123-page Republican report was prepared for Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Michael McCaul, the ranking members on the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees, respectively. It directly contradicts the testimony of career diplomats and makes little attempt to get to grips with the devastating evidence of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who spoke about the existence of a quid pro quo, or Fiona Hill, former top Russia expert at the White House, who warned against falling for Moscow’s propaganda about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.
Instead it spins the affair as a Democratic plot. Its executive summary begins with the premise that nearly 63 million Americans from around the country elected Trump in 2016 but now 231 House Democrats in Washington are “trying to undo the will of the American people”. It accuses the party of seeking to impeach the president from day one. “They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” it says.
Attorney General William Barr will dispute a fundamental finding in the upcoming Inspector General report – namely that the FBI was justified in launching an operation Crossfire Hurricane, the agency’s official covert counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, according to the Washington Post. While IG Michael Horowitz is said to have concluded that the agency had enough information to launch the probe on July 31, 2016 after Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos repeated a rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, Barr has reportedly told associates that Horowitz does not know about – or did not include – potentially exculpatory evidence held by other US agencies such as the CIA, which could alter his report’s conclusion.
In July, Fox News reported that exculpatory evidence existed which the FBI failed to include in surveillance warrant applications in which Papadopoulos denies having any contact with the Russians, when he was in fact told about the ‘Clinton dirt’ byJoseph Mifsud, a mysterious Maltese professor (and self-professed member of the Clinton foundation) who has ties to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Many believe Papadopoulos was the victim of an entrapment scheme, by which Mifsud would seed him with information that Australian diplomat would later extract from him in a London bar, which made its way to the FBI – officially leading to the launch of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. And the exculpatory evidence? Downer – a Clinton ally – likely recorded Papadopoulos saying he had no Russian contacts.
Barr’s information also comes from a concurrent, ongoing investigation into the Obama DOJ conducted by Connecticut US Attorney John Durham. Part of Barr’s reluctance to accept that finding is related to another investigation, one being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, into how intelligence agencies pursued allegations of Russian election tampering in 2016. Barr has traveled abroad to personally ask foreign officials to assist Durham in that work. Even as the inspector general’s review is ending, Durham’s investigation continues. -Washington Post
Barr, through Durham, has been investigating Mifsud – who told Italian media “I never got any money from the Russians: my conscience is clear,” adding “I am not a secret agent.” The Maltese professor is currently MIA. As the Post’s Devlin Barrett (who spoke with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page) notes, Barr’s disagreement with Horowitz not only sets the stage for a showdown within the DOJ, it will spark partisan outrage among Democrats who have already accused the AG of being Trump’s personal lawyer.
Leaked documents said by Labour to prove that the NHS was “on the table” in trade talks with the US were initially disseminated online by anonymous posters operating in a way similar to a Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion, according to a social media research firm. A 19-page report published on Monday by the consultancy Graphika said that while it could not conclusively prove a Russian origin to the leak, the early distribution of the cache of files via Reddit, three German-language websites and an anonymous Twitter account reflected a method of operation seen repeatedly over recent years.
There is no suggestion either that the NHS documents, produced by Jeremy Corbyn at a dramatic press conference last week, were fake, but the Graphika investigation highlights an intriguing series of efforts to get the leak picked up more widely at the end of October and beginning of November. Ben Nimmo, the head of investigations at Graphika, said: “What we are saying is that the initial efforts to amplify the NHS leak closely resembles techniques used by Secondary Infektion in the past, a known Russian operation. But we do not have all the data that allows us to make a final determination in this case.”
U.S. President Donald Trump leaves on Monday for a NATO summit in London, where he is under pressure from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resist the temptation to wade into the looming British election. As a presidential candidate in 2016 and then as president since early 2017, Trump has shown no restraint in pushing for Britain’s exit from the European Union and critiquing the politicians involved in the country’s long-running Brexit debate. But with Johnson leading polls as he faces Dec. 12 elections, the prime minister who is hosting the London NATO summit wants Trump to mind the guard-rails, putting Trump in the unusual position of being asked to avoid his normal impulse to comment on whatever he wishes.
Trump waded into the election in October by saying opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad” for Britain and that Johnson should agree on a pact with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Johnson’s pressure prompted the White House to stress, as a senior administration official said, that Trump “is absolutely cognizant of not, again, wading into other country’s elections.” That strategy could be put to the test as Trump faces reporters a number of times on the trip, including at a news conference on Wednesday.
Japan is preparing an economic stimulus package worth $120 billion to support fragile economic growth, two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday, complicating government efforts to fix public finances. The spending would be earmarked in a supplementary budget for this fiscal year to next March and an annual budget for the coming fiscal year from April. Both budgets will be compiled later this month, the sources told Reuters, declining to be identified because the package has not been finalised. While the package would come to around 13 trillion yen ($120 billion), that would rise to 25 trillion yen ($230 billion) when private-sector and other spending are included.
However, the spending could strain the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden, which tops more than twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy. And despite the headline size of the stimulus, actual spending would be smaller in the current fiscal year, and economists are not expecting much of a boost. “We expect this fiscal year’s extra budget to total around 3-4 trillion yen. We should not expect it to substantially push up the GDP growth rate,” said Takuya Hoshino, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The 13 trillion yen includes more than 3 trillion yen from fiscal investment and loan programmes, as the heavily indebted government seeks to take advantage of low borrowing costs under the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy.
Tunghsu Optoelectronic Technology has failed to make good on a bond – its third in less than a month – as the struggles point to poor corporate governance among Chinese companies. The maker of electronic display panels, which reported ample cash holdings of more than 18 billion yuan as of September, missed an interest payment on its 1.7 billion yuan (US$241 million) onshore bond due on Monday, according to an exchange filing. The latest default has cast doubt on whether Tunghsu could meet its obligations on a US$44 million bond maturing in June 2020, after it defaulted two notes totalling 3 billion yuan on November 18.
Tunghsu is the latest in a growing list of Chinese defaulters this year, as banks have tightened their funding to private companies amid China’s slowest economic growth rate in nearly three decades. As of November 12, 45 Chinese corporate issuers had defaulted on interest or principal payments on bonds totalling 85.16 billion yuan, compared with 39 defaults on bonds worth 102.48 billion yuan for all of 2018, according to Reuters. Falling export orders as a result of the US-China trade war has strained the cash flow of manufacturers, while Beijing’s crackdown on shadow banking has also cut off alternative sources of capital for many small companies.
A beleaguered Prince Andrew faced fresh embarrassment after his accuser Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked as a teenager to have sex with him, appeared on television to implore the British public to “not accept this as being OK”. In her first UK broadcast interview, Giuffre repeated allegations she had sex with the prince when she was aged 17 on the instructions of Ghislaine Maxwell, a socialite and close friend of the US financier and sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in August. The prince, 59, whose relationship with Epstein has led to him standing down from public duties, has consistently and categorically denied the allegations, which Buckingham Palace said were “false and without foundation”.
BBC Panorama said it had uncovered a 2015 email from Andrew to Maxwell asking for help dealing with the allegations by Giuffre, previously Virginia Roberts. He wrote: “Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,” to which Maxwell replied: “Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.” In the interview that was broadcast on Monday, Giuffre said: “I implore the people in the UK to stand up beside me, to help me fight this fight, to not accept this as being OK. “This is not some sordid sex story. This is a story of being trafficked. This is a story of abuse and this is a story of your guy’s royalty.”
European Union leaders meeting in Brussels next week will push to agree to put the bloc on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, their draft joint statement showed on Monday, heralding a bitter fight looming at their gathering. The Dec. 12-13 summit of the bloc’s national leaders will aim to endorse “the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050”, according to the document seen by Reuters. Previous attempts, however, were blocked by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, who rely on highly polluting coal. They have previously said they oppose climate neutrality by 2050 for fear cutting greenhouse emissions will stifle their economies.
To convince the reluctant camp, the draft summit conclusions refer to “just and socially balanced transition”, the European Investment Bank’s announcement to unlock 1 trillion euros worth of green investment until 2030, the need to ensure energy security and competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign powers not pursuing such climate goals. The draft, prepared in advance of the leaders’ discussions, may still change. But it will eventually need unanimous backing of all EU national leaders for there to be agreement at the summit. The bloc’s new executive European Commission also aims to push for climate neutrality by mid-century and wants to make the EU’s 2030 climate targets more ambitious.
In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.
Farm debt, at $416 billion, is at an all-time high. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since since 2013, and lost more than $1,644 this year. Farm loan delinquencies are rising. Suicides in farm communities are happening with alarming frequency. Farmers aren’t the only workers in the American economy being displaced by technology, but when they lose their jobs, they also ejected from their homes and the land that’s been in their family for generations. “It hits you so hard when you feel like you’re the one who is losing the legacy that your great-grandparents started,” said Randy Roecker, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who has struggled with depression and whose neighbor Leon Statz committed suicide last year after financial struggles forced him to sell his 50 dairy cows. Roecker estimates he’s losing $30,000 a month.
At least 135,000 children will be homeless and living in temporary accommodation across Britain on Christmas day – the highest number for 12 years – according to the housing charity Shelter. It estimates that a child loses their home every eight minutes – 183 children per day. At this rate, 1,647 children will become homeless between now and the general election on 12 December, and more than 4,000 by 25 December. London has the highest concentration of homeless youngsters, up 33% since 2014. About 88,000 children were homeless and in temporary accommodation in the capital at the beginning of 2019 – equivalent to one in every 24 children.
The capital has 26 of the 30 British local authorities with the highest rates of homeless children. Four councils – Haringey, Newham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea – had homeless rates of one in every 12 children. Outside London, the places worst affected were: Luton (one in 22 children); Brighton & Hove (one in 30); Manchester (one in 47); and Slough (one in 53). In Wales, one in 412 children are homeless, up 28% since 2015, while in Scotland one in 160 children were homeless, up 64% since 2014.
The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump and his lawyers would not participate in a congressional impeachment hearing this week, citing a lack of “fundamental fairness.” Trump’s aides responded defiantly to the first of two crucial deadlines he faces in Congress this week as Democrats prepare to shift the focus of their impeachment inquiry from fact-finding to the consideration of possible charges of misconduct over his dealings with Ukraine. The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, had given Trump until 6 p.m. on Sunday to say whether he would dispatch a lawyer to take part in the judiciary panel’s proceedings on Wednesday.
“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, according to a copy of a letter seen by Reuters. Cipollone – while citing a “complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the president” in the impeachment process – did not rule out participation in further proceedings. But he signaled that Democrats would first have to make major procedural concessions.
[..] “We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone wrote, laying out a list of demands, including allowing Trump’s Republicans to call additional witnesses. Cipollone also complained that Democrats had scheduled Wednesday’s hearing – “no doubt purposely” – to overlap with Trump’s absence from the United States to attend a NATO summit in London.
In an ultra-PC society where even the suggestion of racial, ethnic or gender bias can get a person fired or ostracized, another type of discrimination – a political affiliation-based one – is thriving, according to a new study. Discrimination may have become taboo in US society, but it hasn’t gone away. A new study shows discriminatory behavior thrives in the one area where it remains socially acceptable to judge people based on shared attributes: political affiliation. Politics remains one of the few personal characteristics not protected by equal opportunity hiring laws, and if this study is any indication, lawmakers will want to get on top of that quickly.
Shared political ideology outweighs seemingly more important factors like professional qualifications in hiring decisions, researchers from Clemson University and the University of Kansas confirmed in a study published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Unchecked, this kind of discrimination is liable to produce powerful echo chambers, in which groupthink eventually becomes a prerequisite for employment. Study participants readily picked a job candidate with whom they shared a political affiliation over a more qualified candidate without that affiliation when presented with Facebook profiles containing clear indicators of the prospective hire’s political alignment. These might include statements about leading a campus Democrat or Republican group, or party symbols like the Democratic donkey or GOP elephant.
The closer the participant, acting as a recruiter, identified with a party, the higher ratings they gave to candidates who touted their membership in that party – qualifications were nigh on irrelevant. The effect held true even when candidate profiles didn’t include explicit statements of political loyalty. Recruiter participants still picked candidates who agreed with them based on profiles sporting either a pro-choice or pro-life statement; pro-Second Amendment or pro-gun control material; or support of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, a second experiment revealed.
You’ve probably heard of the Truth Commissions held in disastrously corrupt and oppressive regimes after the sociopath/kleptocrat Oligarchs are deposed. The goal is not revenge, as well-deserved as that might be; the goal is national reconciliation via the only possible path to healing: name names and tell the plain, unadorned truth, stripped of self-serving artifice, spin, propaganda and PR. Is such a stripped-of-spin truthful account of names and events even possible in the U.S.? Sadly, there is precious little evidence that a Truth Commission in the U.S. would be anything more than a travesty of a mockery of a sham, a parade of half-truths, misdirections, falsehoods and fabrications, all aimed at one goal: protecting the powerful from the consequences of their decisions and actions.
Sadly, we’ve lost the capacity to simply tell the truth: everything, and I mean everything, is crafted to protect the guilty, polish the putrid decay of legalized looting, defraud the unwary, ease the most venal, power-mad sociopaths into positions of unparalleled power, sell low-quality goods and services nobody needs or would even want if the marketing weren’t so Orwellian, persuade debt-serfs to borrow more and bamboozle voters into further enriching the few at the expense of the many. The truth is no match for greed is good and don’t be evil, unless it’s incredibly profitable, in which case, go for it but cover your tracks (here’s looking at you, Big Tech). Outrage is reserved for whistleblowers who name names and reveal the sordid truths that the status quo has expended the nation’s treasure to protect from the light of day.
This is the pathetic state of America: our outrage is reserved for those telling the truth, not for the legions who lie, cheat, steal and prevaricate to conceal the truth at all costs.
On November 11th, the very disturbing but clearly true “Lessons To Learn From The Coup In Bolivia” was posted to the Web. That anonymous author (a German intelligence analyst) documented the evilness of the overthrow of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the threat now clearly posed to the world by the US regime — a spreading cancer of expansionist fascism, led from Washington. But, even more than this, he indicated that unless the individuals who are responsible for the advancing fascism are executed, there won’t be any real hope for democracy anywhere in the world.
Either this impunity will stop, or else the spread of the US international dictatorship — not only by CIA coups such as this, but by illegal international invasions such as of Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2012-, and Yemen 2015-, — will continue and will engulf in misery ultimately the entire world. He makes clear the complicity of US ‘news’-media in the lies that ‘justify’ this coup (and ‘justified’ those invasions). It’s, by now, clearly the way the US regime functions. Of course, none of those media will publish any such truth; they all cover-up constantly for the regime, because they actually are an essential part of it. (All of these invasions and coups are based on nothing but lies, and the media are a necessary part of that.) Censorship in America is thus actually extreme, and constant.
For example: how many US-and-allied media have even reported that fascists took over in Bolivia? Instead, we’ve got newspaper editorials such as the New York Times blaming the extraordinarily successful and popular democratically elected President of Bolivia for the coup which overthrew him and replaced him by fascists (and never using the word “coup,” except once derisively, by saying that “British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, cried ‘coup’” — as if it weren’t a coup — and making no mention whatsoever that it had been done by committed fascists).
The U.S. Department of Justice has in recent weeks stepped up its investigation into Deutsche Bank’s role in the 200 billion euro ($220 billion) Danske Bank money laundering scandal, four people familiar with the inquiry told Reuters. One source said the DoJ’s new line of inquiry is whether Deutsche helped move tainted money from Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, into the United States. If proven, that could lead to steep financial penalties. Officials from the DoJ, who have been working closely with Estonian prosecutors for around a year, have also begun cooperating with Frankfurt state prosecutors, the sources said. The Frankfurt prosecutors have been exploring Deutsche’s role in processing payments for the Danish bank.
The DoJ’s focus on Germany’s largest bank and its work with Frankfurt prosecutors have not previously been reported. A Danske spokesman said it continued to cooperate with the authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France and the United States. [..] Although the Justice Department requested information from Deutsche last year relating to Danske transactions, at the time its executives believed that the investigation was focused onDanske and that the German bank itself was not a target. However, Deutsche officials were made aware in recent months that the scope of the DoJ probe had broadened to the bank’s role in facilitating the Danske trades and its possible failure to report suspicious transactions quickly enough, one of the people said.
There is another reason why Edwards dismisses any incipient signs of inflation in the US: his latest piece is titled “Japanification of the US beckons”, in which he writes that despite the Fed’s recent announcement of a halt to further rate cuts, “GDP growth looks fragile and there is good evidence to suggest that core CPI inflation is set to collapse towards zero. In fact, a resumption of Fed easing on the back of recessionary data and sliding inflation is likely to accelerate the convergence of US yields towards negative eurozone and Japanese yields.” Hence, the Japanification of the US, and as he further notes, if the US economy slides into recession, it is clear that “inflation will likely fall ever closer toward Japanese-style deflation.
But a rapid decline in key inflation measures, like core CPI, may be beginning to unfold already, irrespective of whether a recession is about to start or not.” To make his point, Edwards points out the October CPI data which “shocked” him, but not for the surprisingly high 0.4% headline rise M/M, but because of a specific data set that he will now be watching very closely to determine if US inflation is indeed converging with that of Japan: shelter CPI. it was this key component of the CPI basket that last month collapsed to almost zero. And since shelter has a very heavy 33% weighting in the overall CPI and an overwhelmingly dominant 42% weighting in the closely watched core CPI (ie ex food and energy), it’s only a matter of time before the decline in shelter hits the broader inflation basket.
Prince Andrew has kept in constant contact with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, it has been claimed today. The Duke of York, 59, invited Maxwell, 57, to Buckingham Palace in June, just a month before Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. But a source has now claimed the pair have been in touch by phone and email throughout the scandal over the prince’s links to the convicted sex offender. They claim there is an ‘unswerving loyalty’ between the pair, who both deny any wrongdoing despite their close relationships with Epstein. The source told the Sun: ‘They have remained constantly in touch by phone and email. The Duke has an unswerving loyalty to Ghislaine and she is also very loyal to him.
‘Ghislaine will do anything to protect the Duke and the feeling is mutual. They both share the same view they have done nothing wrong.’ There is no indication of how the source knows about Andrew and Maxwell’s communications. In his car crash Newsnight interview Andrew claimed he had not spoken about Epstein when he was last in contact with Maxwell because he ‘wasn’t in the news’. [..] Ms Guiffre Roberts will give a tell-all interview to BBC Panorama tomorrow night in a programme that will also probe Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s criminal activity.
Just a few short days after Poland’s government touted its economic might after completing the repatriation of 100 tons of the barbarous relic; and with Hungary’s anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban also ramping up holdings of the safe-haven asset to boost the security of his reserves, more Eastern European nationalist leaders are demanding their country’s gold back on home soil. As Bloomberg reports, former Slovak Premier Robert Fico, whose odds of returning to power are rising quickly, urged parliament to compel the central bank into repatriating the nation’s gold stocks, which are currently stored in the U.K.. Perhaps most vocally reflecting what many other nations also believe – sometimes your international partners can betray you.
Citing a 1938 pact by France, Britain, Italy and Germany allowing Adolf Hitler to annex a chunk what was then Czechoslovakia, Fico told reporters: “You can hardly trust even the closest allies after the Munich Agreement. I guarantee that if something happens, we won’t see a single gram of this gold. Let’s do it as quickly as possible.” Additionally, Serbia’s strongman leader Aleksandar Vucic took note, ordering the central bank to boost reserves and prompting the purchase of nine tons in October. Vucic said last week that more should be bought because “we see in which direction the crisis in the world is moving.”
The various leaders have a recent example to prove their fears right as the Bank of England refused to return Venezuela’s gold stock over political differences. “Gold is a symbol,” said Vuk Vukovic, a political economist in Zagreb. “When states purchase it, people everywhere see it as a sign of economic sovereignty.” The gold rush mirrors steps by Russia and China to diversify reserves exceeding $3 trillion away from the dollar amid flaring geopolitical tensions with the U.S.
Men have always been allowed to act out of self-interest – as in economics, so in sex. For women, this freedom has been taboo. If not flat-out forbidden. Woman has been assigned the task of caring for others, not of maximizing her own gain. Society has told her that she cannot be rational because childbirth and menstruation tie her to the body, and the body has been identified as the opposite of reason. In women, lust and greed has always been criticized more harshly than it has in men. It has been viewed as something threatening, destructive, dangerous and unnatural. ‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute,’ wrote Rebecca West. Women have never been allowed to be as selfish as men.
And if economics is the science of self-interest, how does woman fit in? The answer is that man has been allowed to stand for self- interest and woman has stood for the fragile love that must be conserved. By being excluded. Even though the word ‘economy’ comes from the Greek oikos, which means home, economists have long been uninterested in what exactly happens at home. Woman’s self-sacrificing nature was said to tie her to the private sphere, and thus she was not economically relevant. Activities like raising children, cleaning, washing or ironing for her family – these don’t create tangible goods that can be bought, traded or sold. So they also didn’t contribute to prosperity, thought economists in the 1800s.
Prosperity was everything that could be transported, that had a limited supply, and that either directly or indirectly gave pleasure or prevented pain. This definition meant that everything that women were expected to dedicate themselves to went unseen. The fruits of male labour could be stacked in piles and measured in money. The results of women’s work were intangible. Dust that is swept away collects again. Mouths that have been fed grow hungry. Children who sleep, wake. And after lunch it’s time to do the dishes. After the dishes comes dinner. And more dirty dishes.
In December 2015, when COP21 was held in Paris, I wrote in CON 21:
“COP21 is not a major event, that’s only what politicians and media make of it. In reality, it’s a mere showcase in which the protesters have been co-opted. They’re not in the director’s chair, they’re not even actors, they’re just extras.”
4 years later, nothing has changed. It’s still just theater.
[..] There are far bigger issues hanging over COP, but they will not be decided this year, just hinted at. The biggest alarm is that the aspiration set in Paris to constrain temperature rises will require unprecedented efforts to achieve. But individual country commitments to steer the world towards that best-case scenario were not part of the binding Paris deal, but contained in a non-binding addition. So emissions are increasing again, temperatures are higher than ever, countries are not mandated by law to act – and time is running out: the IPCC concluded that on current rates we have little over a decade to halt emissions growth and bring down carbon rapidly to keep warming within the 1.5C threshold.
Current commitments made by national governments under the Paris agreement fall far short of what is required – taken together, they would still condemn the world to an estimated temperature rise of more than 3C by the end of the century. According to the UN’s latest “emissions gap” report, published a few days before the start of this year’s talks, countries must reduce their greenhouse gases by about 7.6% a year for the next 10 years, to stay within the 1.5C limit. Closing that gap will be COP26’s biggest task.
It’s the fastest-growing debt category in the country, but if you are thinking student loans or credit cards, you’re wrong. Personal loan balances now exceed $300 billion, as of the second quarter of this year, according to Experian, a whopping 11% yearly increase. For good reason, too, as personal loans can help to consolidate credit card debt, or make funds available for major projects, such as a home remodeling effort. For many of us, the allure is hard to ignore, but personal loans do differ in some key ways from other types of credit you might use, such as credit cards. It’s important to understand the key differences before signing on the dotted line.
As compared to credit cards, personal loan interest rates can vary much more dramatically, according to research by ValuePenguin. In fact, some borrowers with excellent credit may qualify for loans with interest rates as low as 5% or 6% with some lenders. On the other hand, borrowers with poor credit may encounter rates higher than the average credit card, sometimes exceeding 30%. This wide range of interest rates make personal loans more affordable for those with better credit, and may make the most sense for borrowers with excellent credit who can pay off the loan in a timely manner. On the other hand, borrowers with poor or fair credit may face interest rates higher than what they’d otherwise qualify for with a credit card.
Early last month, we outlined how automobile sales deteriorated in late summer and prophesized how “this would set the stage for increased incentive spending by carmakers, who will be desperate to clear inventory heading into the end of the year.” It seems that we were right. Automakers are now offering the most discounts on record to entice deadbeat consumers in November, according to a new report from JD Power. The average incentive spending per vehicle is $4,538, an increase of 12% YoY. The previous high for the industry was $4,378 in 4Q17. Inventories for older model-year vehicles have soared in 2H19, forcing automakers to boost incentive spending to clear excess inventory. With the average APR to finance a vehicle around 5.3% for the month, the average transaction price remained above $34,000, down from $179 from last month but up $622 over the year.
As a result of low rates and record-high incentives, consumers spent $40.3 billion on new vehicles in November. This figure is up $2.7 billion from 2018. Thomas King, Senior Vice President of the Data and Analytics Division at JD Power, said, manufacturers will offer even greater incentives through December, and the trend could continue into early 2020. “Incentive spending typically rises by 3-4% in December, which would continue to drive overall spending to unprecedented territory,” King said. King warned: “This [incentive trend] is concerning for the health of the industry when combined with rising sub-prime sales, which are growing at the highest rate since August 2018.”
The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless. The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent. New highs continue to be reached practically every day. Over this stretch, many investors have been conditioned to believe the stock market only goes up. That blindly pumping money into an S&P 500 ETF is the key to investment riches. In good time, this conditioning will be recalibrated with a rude awakening. You can count on it. In the interim, the bull market may continue a bit longer…or it may not. But, to be clear, after a 370 percent run-up, buying the S&P 500 represents a speculation on price. A gamble that the launch angle furthers its steep trajectory. Here’s why…
Over the past decade, the U.S. economy, as measured by nominal GDP, has increased about 50%. This plots a GDP launch angle that is underwhelming when compared to the S&P 500. Corporate earnings have fallen far short of share prices. Hence, the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy. Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness. And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day. Central planners at the Fed – like other major central banks – have taken monetary policy to a state of madness. Zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, repo market intervention, not-QE, mass-asset purchases, and more.
These schemes have fostered massive growth in public and private debt with nothing but lackluster economic growth to show. What’s more, these schemes have produced massive asset bubbles that have skyrocketed wealth inequality and inflamed countless variants of new populism. Yet the clever fellows at the Fed are blind to the fact that they’re most responsible for fabricating this monster. And now they want to rectify the ghastly deformities of their creation… Earlier this week, for example, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari remarked that: “Monetary policy can play the kind of redistributing role once thought to be the preserve of elected officials.”
How exactly Mickey Mousing with credit markets could attain this objective is unclear. But, like yield curve control (YCC), Kashkari wants to give it a go. These sorts of amorphous meddling operations is how he answers his higher calling. You see, Kashkari’s a man with crazy eyes. But he’s also a man with even crazier ideas. He’s an extreme economic interventionist – and a crackpot. Though he wears his burdens on his sleeve. If you recall, as federal bailout chief, Kashkari functioned as the highly visible hand of the market. When the sky was falling in early-2009, he awoke each morning, put on his pants one leg at a time, drank his coffee, and rapidly funneled Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s $700 billion of TARP funds to the government’s preferred financial institutions.
When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world’s scientists, they don’t get much larger than this. Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters – roughly six Big Ben clock towers – of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? This is the “wicked problem” facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Professor Miranda Schreurs, part of the team searching for a storage site. Experts are now hunting for somewhere to bury almost 2,000 containers of high-level radioactive waste. The site must be beyond rock-solid, with no groundwater or earthquakes that could cause a leakage. The technological challenges – of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans – are huge.
Germany decided to phase out all its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, amid increasing safety concerns. The seven power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022. With their closure comes a new challenge — finding a permanent nuclear graveyard by the government’s 2031 deadline. Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy says it aims to find a final repository for highly radioactive waste “which offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years.” The country was a “blank map” of potential sites, it added.
The British justice system has finally agreed to let a Spanish judge question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a witness in a case involving allegations that a Spanish security firm spied on him while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, will interview the cyber-activist via video link on December 20, said judicial sources. Assange will be transferred from Belmarsh prison in southeast London to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions from De la Mata, who is investigating alleged violations of client-attorney privilege between the cyber-activist and his lawyers, and allegations that these conversations were passed on to the CIA.
British civil servants visited Assange in prison last week, asked him whether he agreed to be questioned by De la Mata, and delivered a document listing the events under investigation by the judge, who had issued a European Investigation Order (EIO) in September requesting assistance from British authorities. It has not been easy to secure the UK’s permission to question the Australian cyber-activist. The Spanish judge sent London the EIO on September 25, requesting authorization to interview Assange as part of an investigation into Morales and his company for breach of privacy, violation of client-attorney privilege and illegal arms possession.
A private security firm that allegedly spied on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London bragged about its nefarious activities and ties to US intelligence, according to German public broadcaster NDR. The troubling revelations are part of a criminal complaint filed by NDR against Undercover Global, a Spanish security company contracted by the Ecuadorian government to film and review guests at their embassy in London. The firm is accused of using the commission to carry out a vast spying operation targeting the WikiLeaks co-founder, who sought political asylum in the embassy for seven years before his hosts handed him over to British authorities. The German broadcaster claims to have a huge cache of documents detailing the illegal surveillance operation – which also targeted NDR journalists who visited Assange.
Former employees of Undercover Global said that the company’s CEO, David Morales, didn’t try to hide his ties to the US government. Upon returning from a trip to the United States, Morales allegedly told one of his employees: “From now on, we play in the first league… We are now working for the dark side.” He is said to have traveled up to twice a month to the States to deliver materials taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy. When asked by colleagues who his “American friends” were, Morales reportedly replied: “the US Secret Service.” Incredibly, a lawyer from Undercover Global acknowledged to NDR that the company works with US intelligence agencies – but denied any wrongdoing at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
The Democratic establishment is increasingly irritated. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, long-shot candidate for president, is attacking her own party for promoting the “deeply destructive” policy of “regime change wars.” Gabbard has even called Hillary Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.” [..] Gabbard recognizes that George W. Bush is not the only simpleton warmonger who’s plunged the nation into conflict, causing enormous harm. In the last Democratic presidential debate, she explained that the issue was “personal to me” since she’d “served in a medical unit where every single day, I saw the terribly high, human costs of war.”
Compare her perspective to that of the ivory tower warriors of Right and Left, ever ready to send others off to fight not so grand crusades. The best estimate of the costs of the post-9/11 wars comes from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The Institute says that $6.4 trillion will be spent through 2020. They estimate that our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly. More than 335,000 civilians have died—and that’s an extremely conservative guess. Some 21 million people have been forced from their homes. Yet the terrorism risk has only grown, with the U.S. military involved in counter-terrorism in 80 nations. Obviously, without American involvement there would still be conflicts.
Some counter-terrorism activities would be necessary even if the U.S. was not constantly swatting geopolitical wasps’ nests. Nevertheless, it was Washington that started or joined these unnecessary wars (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) and expanded necessary wars well beyond their legitimate purposes (Afghanistan). As a result, American policymakers bear responsibility for much of the carnage. The Department of Defense is responsible for close to half of the estimated expenditures. About $1.4 trillion goes to care for veterans. Homeland security and interest on security expenditures take roughly $1 trillion each. And $131 million goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have overspent on projects that have delivered little.
More than 7,000 American military personnel and nearly 8,000 American contractors have died. About 1,500 Western allied troops and 11,000 Syrians fighting ISIS have been killed. The Watson Institute figures that as many as 336,000 civilians have died, but that uses the very conservative numbers provided by the Iraq Body Count. The IBC counts 207,000 documented civilian deaths but admits that doubling the estimate would probably yield a more accurate figure. Two other respected surveys put the number of deaths in Iraq alone at nearly 700,000 and more than a million, though those figures have been contested. More than a thousand aid workers and journalists have died, as well as up to 260,000 opposition fighters. Iraq is the costliest conflict overall, with as many as 308,000 dead (or 515,000 from doubling the IBC count). Syria cost 180,000 lives, Afghanistan 157,000, Yemen 90,000, and Pakistan 66,000.
The OPCW had send blood samples from the Skripals to the Spiez laboratory in Switzerland which found BZ, a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. The OPCW hid this fact in its reports. An attack with BZ on the Skripals would be consistent with the observed symptoms that bystanders had described. The Skripals were indeed hallucinating and behaved very strangly with Sergei Skipal lifting his arms up to the sky while sitting on a bench. Exposure to BZ would also explain the Skripals’ survival. The OPCW explained the BZ find by claiming that it had mixed BZ into the probe to test the laboratory. Something which it said it regularly does. At that time I still believed in the OPCW and found that explanation reasonable:
“The OPCW responded to Russian question about the BZ and high rate of A-234 in the Spiez Laboratory probe and report. OPCW said today that it was a control probe to test the laboratory. Such probes are regularly slipped under the real probes to make sure that the laboratories the OPCW uses are able to do their job and do not manipulate their results. That explanation is reasonable. I guess we can close the BZ theories and go back to food poisoning as the most likely cause of the Skripals’ illness.” In light of the OPCW management manipulation or suppression of the reports of its own specialists for the purpose of attributing the Douma incident to the Syrian government I have to change my opinion. I hereby retract my earlier acceptance of the OPCW’s explanation in the Skripal case.
As we now know that the OPCW management manipulates reports at will we can no longer accept the ‘control probe’ excuse without further explanations or evidence. Here is what seems to have happened. The OPCW did not send a control sample to Spiez to test the laboratory. It sent the original samples from the Skripals. Spiez found BZ and reported that back to the OPCW. The OPCW suppressed the Spiez results in its own reports. Somehow Russia got wind of the Spiez results and exposed the manipulation. Acceptance that the Skripals had been ‘buzzed’, not ‘novi-shocked’ is central to the Skripal case. It makes the whole Skripal case as a British operation to prevent the repatriation of Sergei Skripal to Russia much more plausible.
Prince Andrew is not charged with wrongdoing but with the BBC airing an interview with Giuffre on 2 December the controversy is only likely to ramp up. [..] If Prince Andrew were lawfully served with a subpoena – be it for a grand jury, or a trial or deposition – generally speaking, he will need to comply. However, it is far more difficult to serve him outside the US. “Due to the heightened measures of security that surround the royal family, it certainly is far more difficult to walk up to a member of the royal family and serve them a subpoena as you would a private citizen,” Weinstein said. While there are rules about how to serve subpoenas on a foreign national on US soil, such as surprising them at points of entry, diplomatic immunity and his being a high-profile royal could further complicate the issue.
Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, said there could be legal risks in Prince Andrew cooperating depending on his potential involvement with Epstein’s activities. “If he was peripherally involved in that, if he has information about others, I would say absolutely any attorney would take him in to cooperate,” Roiphe said. “The problem is, if he faces serious exposure and he’s a target of that information, most attorneys would not have him explain everything he knows – it really depends.” Mary Ellen O’Toole, who was formerly an FBI profiler deeply involved in finding the Unabomber killer, said that if Prince Andrew could provide information that would further the investigation and clear him at the same time, it “probably would be very helpful to him” to come forward.
O’Toole said the utility in cooperating with authorities largely depends on how he would handle the situation and that the pitfalls of such an interview were real as being untruthful with authorities can flout laws against making false statements, leading to further legal problems stemming from the interviews themselves. “I think it would be considered an adversarial situation – I don’t know how prepared he would be,” said O’Toole, who now directs the forensic science department at George Mason University in Virginia. “Sometimes people come in and say things that get them jammed up. “It is a catch-22 situation for him,” O’Toole said.
Every person named in court documents or press reports as allegedly or possibly having sex with an underaged girl or young woman at Epstein’s bequest has denied the allegations. Which begs the question: Who’s telling the truth and who’s lying? To form an opinion on this central question, authorities would presumably need to interview anyone with possible knowledge of alleged sexual or criminal acts. Investigators could then seek information that either corroborates or impeaches each person’s account. However, evidence is growing that the protocol in a typical “he-said, she-said” investigation is not being followed in the Epstein case. Instead, authorities may have simply accepted as truth the statements of denial issued by powerful public figures.
True or not, many Americans believe the Department of “Justice” will not prosecute (perhaps even question) scores of individuals who may have broken U.S. laws and who may have been victims of a disturbing blackmail operation. Perhaps authorities have concluded it’s better to not know. Perhaps they realize if they interview one suspected “John,” they’ll have to interview every potential “John.” if this number ends up being massive, and includes a Who’s Who of our society, important illusions about society’s leaders and our system of justice could be shattered. At its core, the Epstein case will reveal whether government prosecutors and investigators possess the courage and integrity to expose sordid truths about some of the wealthiest, most-connected, powerful people in the world, and perhaps reveal embarrassing truths about our government.
Americans might soon learn what objective is more important to Justice Department officials: Protecting the rich and powerful from the consequences of their behavior, or confirming that a system of justice grounded in trust can still be trusted. Sadly, many Americans are convinced authorities will not do the right thing. However, in proving skeptics wrong, authorities would accomplish at least four objectives, all noble. They would punish the guilty. They would provide justice to victims too long ignored. They would deter future Epsteins and future “Johns,” especially those unaccustomed to being held accountable for their actions. And, perhaps most importantly, they would allow a ray of sunshine to pierce the shadow of cynicism that’s spread across our country.
After expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Dilbert creator Scott Adams estimates that he lost about 30 percent of his income and 75 percent of his friends. He says that that level of political polarization has created a climate of genuine fear. “People will come up, and they’ll usually whisper—or they’ll lower their voice, because they don’t want to be heard—and they’ll say, ‘I really like what you’re doing on your Periscope, and the stuff you’re saying about Trump,’” Adams says in Episode 389 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually afraid to say it out loud. They literally whisper it to me in public places.” Adams blames the current climate on social media and a clickbait business model that rewards sensationalism over fact-based reporting.
Since the technology is here to stay, he says we’re going to need new societal norms to help foster a calmer, more constructive political discourse. “When society changes, every now and then you need a new rule of manners,” he says. “So for example, when cell phones were invented, you needed a new set of rules about where can you use them and can you do it in a restaurant, etc. And social media has gotten so hot, I thought maybe we need a few new rules.” He lays out two such rules in his new book, Loserthink. His first proposal, which he calls the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made, no questions asked. “We live in a better world if we accept people’s clarifications and we accept their apologies, no matter whether we think—internally—it’s insincere,” he says.
His other idea is the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes. It used to be the case that people’s thoughtless remarks and embarrassing gaffes would naturally fade into obscurity, but social media has created a situation where it’s easy to endlessly dredge up a person’s worst moments. “We’re not the same people that we were 20 years ago,” Adams says. “We’ve learned a bunch, our context has changed. If you’re doing all the right stuff, you’re getting smarter and kinder and wiser as you’re getting older. So being blamed for something you did 20 years ago is effectively being blamed for something a stranger did, because you’re just not that person anymore.”
The economic problems created by the aggressive monetary policy easing undertaken by Western central banks in response to the global financial crisis a decade ago are a clear warning to China not to go down the same path to combat its current economic slowdown, according to an official from the central bank. China, instead, should use the institutional advantages unique to China to address the country’s economic problems, Zhang Xuechun, deputy director of the People’s Bank of China’s research bureau, said on Friday. The central bank is under continuous domestic pressure to cut its interest rates further and faster to help stabilise economic growth, which is expected to drop below 6 per cent in the fourth quarter this year and fall further next year.
Coming only days ahead of the Central Economic Work Conference, which will set the government’s economic policy priorities for 2020, the comments send the strong signal that the PBOC believes an expansion of fiscal policy and continued economic restructuring, rather than monetary loosening, should play the leading roles in combating the economic slowdown next year. “We must learn the lesson from developed countries that relied heavily on quantitative easing,” said Zhang, citing asset bubbles, the widening of the wealth gap and rising international currency and trade competitions as the negative consequences of those policies. “When we face downward [economic] pressures from shifting to high-quality growth and external uncertainties, monetary policy should not leap forward alone,” Zhang said.
Banks in the European Union could close branches, merge or leave the market to reverse a “bleak” outlook for profitability, the bloc’s banking watchdog said on Friday. The European Banking Authority’s (EBA) sixth annual dive under the bonnet of top banks found that the average capital ratios for lenders – a key measure of financial health – was 14.4% in June, little changed from the previous year. The percentage of poorly performing loans on bank books has fallen to an average of 3%, down from 3.6% a year earlier, but the return on equity worsened to 7% from 7.2%, still below the average cost of equity, the EBA said. “There are hardly any clear catalysts for an improvement in bank profitability that appear on the horizon,” the EBA said in its report.
“Low profitability limits banks’ capacity to generate capital organically and to fund loan growth as well as to pay dividends.” Only 28% of listed EU banks trade with a price-to-book ratio of more than 1 or where market value exceeds net assets, the EBA said. The equivalent for U.S. banks is 81%. Banks need to streamline operating expenses to lift profitability, such as by merging with a rival or leaving the market if they can’t generate sustainable profits, it said. Deutsche Bank is among European lenders seeking to boost their financial health and this week sold $50 billion in unwanted assets to Goldman Sachs as part of a lengthy restructuring.
US exports of crude oil and petroleum products – this includes gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, naphtha, and many others – exceeded imports in September by 89,000 barrels a day, the EIA reported today, and so the US became a “net exporter” of crude oil and petroleum products for the first time on a monthly basis in the EIA’s data going back to 1973:
The US has exported petroleum products – gasoline, diesel, heating oil, naphtha, propane, etc. – for a long time. This is the business some refineries are in. They buy crude oil from wherever they can get it, including other countries, and sell refined product to customers in the US and other countries. For example, California produces some crude oil and gets some crude oil by tanker from Alaska and some by oil train across the Rockies. But there is no oil pipeline across the Rockies. So refineries in California, including in the San Francisco Bay Area, also import some of their crude oil from other countries, refine it, and then sell gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products to other countries largely in Latin America.
Texas, the largest oil-producing state in the US, faces a still more complex landscape, with its enormous crude-oil production, its large refinery operations, pipelines connecting oil producers in the state to refineries in other states, and its import and export terminals, via which it both imports and exports various grades of crude oil and all kinds of petroleum products, depending on market conditions and other factors. In other words, some of the crude oil that the US imports is then re-exported as value-added finished petroleum products, such as motor gasoline and diesel. And so imports of crude oil exceed exports of crude oil, given that the US imports some of the crude oil for the purpose of re-exporting it as refined products. But this difference between imports and exports of crude oil has been plunging as well, to 3.4 million barrels per day in September:
[..] US production of crude oil and petroleum products has spiked from 6.8 million barrels per day in 2008 to 17.5 million barrels per day in September, largely due to the ramp-up in shale oil production. Shale wells can also produce large quantities of gases that are counted separately as gas. These production figures here are just crude oil and petroleum products:
In 2019 so far, at least 33 oil and gas drillers in the US have filed for bankruptcy. Since January 2015, over 200 have filed for bankruptcy. Others are now jostling for position at the bankruptcy filing counter.
Black Friday is undergoing a transformative period where consumers are ditching brick-and-mortar stores for online shopping. Reuters noted Friday, that traffic volumes at stores across the country on Thanksgiving eve were soft — and it’s likely the trend will continue through the weekend. Another report via KeyBanc Capital Markets found traffic “somewhat muted at malls” during Thanksgiving and Black Friday. KeyBanc’s analyst Edward Yruma attributed the decline to more online sales. KeyBanc’s note said Gap, Banana Republic, Express and Zara offered 50% discounts, but that still wasn’t enough to attract shoppers. Though traffic was steady at Walmart, Target, and Lululemon.
As of noon, Salesforce.com observed online sales of $7.4 billion on Black Friday, 16% higher than a year ago. “It speaks to the fact that we’re amidst this digital transformation that’s happening for both the consumers and the retailers,” Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce, told Bloomberg. Some other possible reasons behind the weak turn out could be due retailers already offered an entire month of aggressive sales leading up to Black Friday. There are often limitations of how much a consumer can purchase as credit card rates soar to 25-year highs. The National Retail Federation (NRF) polled consumers earlier this month who said most of their shopping has already been done, many of whom took advantage of the deals leading up to Black Friday.
[..] There’s also evidence that the US economy is rapidly slowing and the US consumer is pulling back on spending as a recession could be nearing. The chart below shows the industrial recession has likely transmitted weakness into the consumer, which could produce a rather weak holiday spending period.
The evidence is mounting daily that President Donald Trump may have committed an impeachable offense in withholding aid to Ukraine as he sought an investigation that would aid his reelection campaign. But with our polarized political system and split party control of Congress — many think impeachment is inevitable in the House, but conviction unattainable in the Senate — we need an alternative to impeachment. And luckily we have one. After amassing the testimony and preparing for the articles of impeachment, the House could change course and introduce a resolution for censure of the President. In it, they would recite all the behavior that would go into articles of impeachment.
But instead of Trump’s removal from office as a remedy, it would essentially place the impeachment process in abeyance until the House can determine whether it will be able to hear from additional key witnesses. This is a viable option for many reasons. As the Democrats make their point that the President’s behavior is unacceptable, the Republicans and the President continue to say that this impeachment inquiry is just another desperate attempt by Democrats to get Trump out of the White House after Robert Mueller’s investigation. So far, several key witnesses have refused to come forward to testify, and some, like John Bolton, have gone to federal court to determine if they must comply with congressional subpoenas over and above a White House order not to testify. A federal judge ruled this week that there is no blanket immunity for officials from a congressional subpoena, but the administration is appealing the ruling.
This will take time that the House does not seem willing to wait for. Even more concerning, though, is that after this process runs its course, it will be extremely difficult as a practical matter for the House to go through an impeachment process for anything the President does in the future, at least in the current term. It is unlikely the populace would stand for another round of divisive impeachment proceedings, as an ongoing matter, unless there is an extremely serious and obvious charge. [..] A censure would issue a formal warning: This is unacceptable behavior for a president, but we will not remove you from office this time. However, pending further testimony or should there be any instance of further wrongdoing, the appropriate remedy is removal from office. Ideally, the Senate would also adopt a resolution of censure, though support for Trump and the politics of the upcoming election would suggest that that is highly unlikely.
I wonder if some great fatigue of the mind has set in among the class of people who follow the news and especially the tortured antics of Rep. Adam Schiff’s goat rodeo in the House intel Committee the past month. I wonder what the rest of congress is detecting among its constituents back home during this holiday hiatus. I suspect it is that same eerie absence of chatter I noticed, and what it may portend about the nation’s disposition toward reality. The dead white man Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) famously observed that “all truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
America has been stuck in stage two lo these thirty-six months since Mr. Trump shocked the system with his electoral victory over She-Whose-Turn-Was-Undoubted, inciting a paroxysm of rage, disbelief, and retribution that has made the Left side of the political transect ridiculous, and repeatedly, ignominiously so, as their fantasies about Russian “collusion” and sequential chimeras dissolve in official proceedings. The astounding failure of Mr. Mueller’s report did nothing to dampen the violent derangement. There was no rethinking whatsoever about the terms-of-engagement in the Left’s war against the populist hobgoblin. The solidarity of delusion remained locked in place, leading to Mr. Schiff’s recent antics over his false “whistleblower” and the enfilade of diplomatic flak-catchers tasked to ward off any truthful inquiry into events in Ukraine.
But then, with the Thanksgiving shut-down, something began to turn. It was signaled especially in the Left’s chief disinformation organ, The New York Times, with a week-long salvo of lame stories aimed at defusing the Horowitz report, forthcoming on December 9. The Times stories were surely based on leaks from individuals cited in the IG’s report, who were given the opportunity to “review” the briefs against them prior to the coming release. The stories gave off an odor of panic and desperation that signaled a crumbling loss of conviction in the three-year narrative assault on the truth — namely, that the US Intel Community organized a coup to overthrow the improbable President Trump.
An array of public figures, among them a retired British ambassador and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, again threw their weight behind Julian Assange, predicting the launch of a massive campaign in his support next year. Pundits, public figures and Julian Assange’s supporters flocked to an event called ‘Free the Truth’ in London. The Ruptly video agency filmed the exhibition of posters decrying Assange’s imprisonment, as well as artworks inspired by him. “So many activists are coming together at a time when I feel there’s been a real change in public sentiment,” Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who now campaigns for the renowned publisher, commented.
Despite the lack of coverage or biased coverage in mainstream media, there is now an understanding that Julian is being extradited to the United States for nothing except for publishing the truth. He’s confident that next year “we will see one of the largest campaigns [in support of Assange] of our time.” It’s extremely important to draw attention to the founder of the WikiLeaks website, because “we are about to set a precedent,” warned Nils Melzer, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. If Assange gets extradited to the United States and if he gets punished for exposing the truth, then essentially what’s happening is that telling the truth becomes a crime.
The legal fallout from Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest for sex trafficking and subsequent suicide in jail is likely to go on for years, ensuring that those caught up in the saga – like Prince Andrew – will face scrutiny and negative headlines for years to come. Federal authorities in the US have repeatedly said that the investigation into the sex trafficking case is ongoing, raising the prospect of a lengthy multi-pronged and international inquiry into the wealthy financier’s jet-set lifestyle. There is already one criminal prosecution in relation to Epstein’s death: two Manhattan correctional center guards were indicted for allegedly trying to hide their failure to check on him in his cell the night he killed himself.
About one dozen accusers have also filed lawsuits against the convicted sex offender’s estate, and more litigation is likely, ensuring a multitude of legal cases wending their way through the courts. Finally the whereabouts of Epstein’s alleged procurer, Andrew’s friend and British media heiress Ghislaine Maxwell, remain unknown, sparking a global guessing game about one of the key figures in Epstein’s life. None of this is good news for the Duke of York, whose bumbling BBC Newsnight interview – in which he denied sexual activity with Epstein’s then 17-year-old accuser, Virginia Giuffre – has resulted in chaos for the royal family.
While the disgraced prince has now been removed from public duties, the Epstein affair seems virtually endless for him, both in time and scope, and is likely to make any return to prominence difficult, when at any moment a new wrinkle in the case might spur more bad headlines and tricky legal questions. Those wanting answers are unlikely to get them immediately. The wheels of justice can be grindingly slow, experts told the Guardian. “It’s complicated in knowing when the Epstein cases will come to a close, because we do not yet know all of the cases – both criminal and civil – that could find their way into the courts,” said attorney Robert Gottlieb, who has practiced criminal defense for more than four decades.
The BBC broke accuracy and impartiality rules in a News at Six report about Jeremy Corbyn’s view on shoot-to-kill, the BBC’s governing body has said. The item, by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, was shown three days after the Paris attacks in November 2015. A viewer complained that the report misrepresented the Labour leader’s position on the use of lethal force in the event of such an attack in the UK. BBC News director James Harding said he disagreed with the BBC Trust’s ruling. In the News at Six report, Kuenssberg said she had asked Mr Corbyn “if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”.
He was seen to reply: “I am not happy with a shoot to kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.” The actual question Kuenssberg had asked during the interview was: “If you were prime minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?” The previous question in the interview, in a section that was not used on the News At Six, he had been asked specifically about his response to a Paris-style attack if he was prime minister and whether he would “order security services onto the street to stop people being killed”. In answer to that question, Mr Corbyn had replied: “Of course you’d bring people onto the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society.”
The BBC Trust said the BBC “was wrong in this case to present an answer Mr Corbyn had given to a question about ‘shoot to kill’ as though it were his answer to a question he had not in fact been asked”.
To be completely honest, I wrote -most of- the second part of this a while ago, and then I was thinking this first part should be part of the second, if you can still follow me. But it doesn’t really, it’s fine. I wanted to write something to address how little people know and acknowledge about how disastrous central bank policies have been for our societies and economies.
Because they don’t, and they have no clue, largely and simply because of the way central banks are presented both by themselves and by the financial press that covers them. Make that “covers”. Still, going forward, we will have no way to ignore the damage done. All the QE and ZIRP and NIRP will turn out to be so destructive for us all they will rival climate change or actual warfare. That’s what I wanted to talk about.
You see, free markets are a great idea in theory. Or you can call it “capitalism”, or combine the two and say “free market capitalism”. There’s very little wrong with it in theory. You have an enormous multitude of participants in an utterly complex web of transitions, too complex for the human mind to comprehend, and in the end that web figures out what values all sorts of things, and actions etc., have.
I don’t think capitalism in itself is a bad thing; what people don’t like is when it veers into neo-liberalism, when everything is for sale, when communities or their governments no longer own anything, when roads and hospitals and public services and everything that holds people together in a given setting is being sold off to the highest bidder. There are many things that have values other than monetary ones, and neo-liberalism denies that. Capitalism in itself, not so much.
It’s like nature, really, like evolution, but it’s Darwin AND empathy, individuals AND groups. The problem is, and this is where it diverges from nature, you have to make sure the markets remain free, that certain participants -or groups thereof- don’t bend the rules in their own favor. In that sense it’s very similar to what the human race has been doing to nature for a long time, and increasingly so.
Now, if you limit the discussion to finance and economics, there would appear to be one institution that’s in an ideal place to make sure that this “rule-bending” doesn’t take place, that markets are fair and free, or as free as can be. That institution is a central bank. But whaddaya know, central banks do the exact opposite: they are the ones making sure markets are not free.
In the ideal picture, free markets are -or would be- self-correcting, and have an inbuilt self-regulating mechanism. If and when prices go up too much, the system will make sure they go lower, and vice versa. It’s what we know from physics and biology as a negative -self correcting- feedback loop. The self-correcting mechanism only activates if the system has veered too much in one direction, but we fail to see that as good thing when applied to both directions, too high and too low (yes, Goldilocks, exactly).
It’s only when people start tweaking and interfering with the system, that it fails. Negative feedback vs positive feedback are misunderstood terms simply because of their connotation. After all, who wants anything negative? But this is important in the free markets topic, because as soon as a central bank starts interfering in, name an example, housing prices in a country, the system automatically switches from negative feedback to positive -runaway- feedback, there is no middle ground and there is no way out anymore, other than a major crash or even collapse.
Well, we’re well on our way to one of those. Because the Fed refused to let the free market system work. They, and the banks they represent, wanted the way up but then refused the way down. And now we’re stuck in a mindless positive feedback loop (new highs in stocks on a daily basis), and there’s nothing Jay Powell and his minions can do anymore to correct it.
The system has its own correction mechanism, but Greenspan, Bernanke, Yellen and now Powell thought they could do better. Or maybe they didn’t and they just wanted their banker friends to haul in all the loot, it doesn’t even matter anymore. They’ve guaranteed that there are no free markets, because they murdered self-correction.
Same goes, again, for ECB and BOJ; they’re just Fed followers (only often even crazier). In fact since they have no petrodollar, they don’t just follow, they have to do the Fed one better. Which is why they have negative interest rates -and the US does not -yet-: it’s the only way to compete with the reserve currency. Of course today even the Fed, and “even even” the PBOC, are discussing moving to negative rates, and by now we’re truly talking lemmings on top of a cliff.
“Let’s throw $10 trillion at the wall just so home prices or stock prices don’t go down!” Yeah, but if they’ve been rising a lot, maybe that’s the only direction they can and should go. It may not be nice for banks and so-called “investors”, but it’s the only way to keep the system healthy. If you don’t allow for the negative feedback self-correction, you can only create much bigger problems than you already have. And then you will get negative feedback squared and cubed.
Unless, of course, you have stellar economic growth, and you find unparalleled amounts of oil, and you have a growing population with way more kids born than people dying. But in case you don’t, you’re merely making an initially relatively minor problem much much worse with QE and ZIRP.
What central banks have been doing is they’ve utterly destroyed savings and pensions, i.e. the only thing “ordinary” people had to stave off their own personal collapse and that of their communities. ZIRP and NIRP move all those savings and pensions towards the bankers. And yes, pension funds may have moved into equities from bonds, and they may look good momentarily, but the current parade of new highs in stock markets only exists because of central banks’ QE and ZIRP.
There are tons of zombie enterprises in the world, many of whom have been kept alive by central bank policies, but wait till it becomes evident that the pension funds and systems themselves have turned into zombies. That’ll wake you up. Because who’s going take care of grandma, or her daughter, in a few years’ time? One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Jay Powell.
This has gotten so long already I’ll leave the part 2 I mentioned above to be its own, separate, part 2. Soon.
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Shortly after the Eurogroup meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on June 27, 2015, I bumped into a worried-looking Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank. “What on earth is Jeroen doing?” he asked me, referring to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Eurogroup’s then-president. “Damaging Europe, Mario. Damaging Europe,” I replied. He nodded, looking concerned. We took the elevator to the ground floor and parted silently. Journalists find it natural to assume that Draghi and I had a hostile relationship during the 2015 standoff between Greece, which I represented, and the ECB. But the impasse at which we had become stuck was not caused by a clash of characters, and it involved no mutual recrimination. Rather, it reflected an institutional failure for which I never held Draghi personally responsible. Hostility between us, being unnecessary, was absent.
My fleeting exchange with him came to mind as he recently vacated the electric chair amid much speculation about the ECB’s future direction under his successor, Christine Lagarde. It reminded me of the unacknowledged powerlessness of the ECB president, who leads a mighty institution that is far less independent in practice than it is in theory. Lagarde will now have to reckon with that powerlessness as she steers the ECB in a sea of deflationary hazards. During 2015, Draghi sometimes made decisions detrimental both to the Greek people and to Europe’s common interest. One came on February 4. On that morning, following a meeting I had in London the previous day with financiers to whom I presented my plans for a moderate debt restructuring, the Athens stock exchange index shot up by 13%, led by a gain of more than 20% for Greek bank shares.
With that wind in my sails, I flew to Frankfurt to meet Draghi for the first time. One might think that a freshly appointed eurozone finance minister who had just managed to boost his country’s financial assets significantly would be helped by his central banker. Instead, the ECB’s governing board decided the same day to sever Greek banks’ access to euro liquidity. Unsurprisingly, Greek corporate and banking shares crashed, wiping out the previous day’s gains. In any other country, the position of the central banker would be untenable. The remit of a central bank is to aid the government’s efforts to stabilize finance and support the economy. In the eurozone, however, political constraints force the central bank to inflict the kind of damage Draghi’s ECB visited upon our stock exchange that February afternoon.
Just how badly are millennials being screwed out of wealth? Let’s take a look at the data. The Federal Reserve regularly publishes data on the generational gaps in wealth. The boomers have plenty of it, and millennials don’t. That’s no surprise — the boomers are older. But what recent data also clearly shows is that when the boomers were millennials’ age, they had significantly more than millennials do today. Back in 1989, when boomers were between 25 and 43, they already owned 20.9% of the country’s wealth, according to data from the Federal Reserve updated earlier this month. In 2019, millennials are between 23 and 38, and they currently own a whopping 3.2% of wealth. That means boomers had more than six times as much wealth in 1989 as millennials do now.
“I definitely think millennials have a bunch to be uniquely annoyed about,” said Josh Bivens, research director at the Economic Policy Institute. “Lots of them graduated into a horrible labor market, and they’ve probably been very stunted in their ability to get on the treadmill of earning enough to actually save anything.” Looking at wealth over time, any given generation would start out with nothing. (Children don’t own stuff.) As time passes, they’d accumulate wealth, and, eventually, people die and tend to pass their wealth on as inheritance.
OK, we’ve got a situation in subprime consumer loans. The delinquency rate on credit-card loan balances at the nearly 5,000 smaller commercial banks in the United States – this means all banks except the largest 100 – is blowing out, according to Federal Reserve data. In the third quarter, the delinquency rate at these banks rose to 6.25%. That’s higher even than during the peak of the Financial Crisis. Back in 2016, the credit-card delinquency rate at these banks was in the 3% range. It has more than doubled in two years. Credit card balances are considered delinquent when they’re 30 days or more past due. This delinquency rate means that out of the banks total credit card balances, 6.25% are 30 days or more past due. This is a disturbingly large rate.
But delinquencies are a flow. Balances are removed from the delinquency basket either when the customer cures the delinquency, such as catching up with past-due payments, or when the bank “charges off” the delinquent balance against its loan loss reserves. But as these delinquent balances were taken out of the delinquency basket, even more new delinquencies fell into the basket, and the delinquency rate rose. Subprime auto loans have also been blowing out. In the third quarter, the serious delinquency rate of the $1.3 trillion in auto loans has risen to 4.71%, the highest since the worst months of the Financial Crisis, when the auto industry collapsed, and when the US was facing the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. In the third quarter, about 21% of all subprime auto loans were seriously delinquent – meaning 90 days past due.
In late September, RealClearInvestigations’ Paul Sperry suggested that Inspector General Michael Horowitz – tasked with investigating and exposing wrongdoing at the highest levels – was feared to be pulling punches in order to protect establishment darlings in his upcoming report on the Russia investigation. Now we learn that Horowitz, who volunteered on several Democratic political campaigns while in college and is married to a former liberal political activist, Obama donor and CNN employee, is expected to conclude that the FBI didn’t spy on the Trump campaign. Instead, when longtime FBI / CIA asset Stephan Halper and his undercover FBI ‘assistant’ named “Azra Turk” befriended George Papadopoulos, it was nothing more than “typical law enforcement activities,” according the New York Times.
“Mr. Horowitz found no evidence that Mr. Halper tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign itself, the people familiar with the draft report said, such as by seeking inside campaign information or a role in the organization. The F.B.I. also never directed him to do so, former officials said. Instead, Mr. Halper focused on eliciting information from Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos about their ties to Russia. [..] Mr. Trump and his allies have pointed to some of the investigative steps the F.B.I. took as evidence of spying, though they were typical law enforcement activities. -NYT. Recall that the Obama administration had paid Halper over $1 million over a several years, with nearly half of it surrounding the 2016 election.
The report is also expected to conclude that Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud – who fed Papadopoulos the rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton – is not an FBI informant. Mifsud, a self-described member of the Clinton Foundation, has been painted by Western media as a Russian asset. Except, nobody claimed Mifsud was an FBI informant. As The Conservative Treehouse notes, “The concern has always been Mifsud was a western intelligence asset, perhaps CIA.” Moreover, Horowitz will conclude that while the FBI was ‘careless and unprofessional’ in pursuing a wiretap on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and that a ‘front-line lawyer’ Kevin Clinesmith, 37, fabricated evidence to support a FISA spy warrant renewal against Page, that the underlying justification to go after Page remained intact.
Papua New Guinea’s annual debt repayments to China are forecast to increase 25% by 2023, new budget figures show, at the same time as the Pacific nation falls to its largest ever deficit. The resource-rich archipelago, which is at the center of a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, has blamed extravagant spending by the previous administration for its souring finances, which will require the government to borrow even more to pay the bills. Balancing its books has been made more difficult by recalculations to the country’s outstanding debt. It has soared 10 percentage points since the last annual budget to 42% of GDP, above the legal limit of 35%.
“You have some of those loans clicking in; the repayments are going to be a problem,” said Paul Barker, executive director of Port Moresby-based think tank the Institute of National Affairs. Formerly administered by U.S. ally Australia, PNG has in recent years turned increasingly to China for financing as Beijing becomes a bigger player in the region. The U.S. has repeatedly warned that China was using “predatory economics” to destabilize the Indo-Pacific; a charge strongly denied by Beijing.
Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has not only misrepresented the known facts about Labour and its supposed antisemitism crisis. He has not only interfered in an overtly, politically partisan manner in the December 12 election campaign by suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn – against all evidence – is an antisemite. By speaking out as the voice of British Jews – a false claim he has allowed the UK media to promote – his unprecedented meddling in the election of Britain’s next leader has actually made the wider Jewish community in the UK much less safe. Mirvis is contributing to the very antisemitism he says he wants to eradicate. Mirvis’ intervention in the election campaign makes sense only if he believes in one of two highly improbable scenarios.
The first requires several demonstrably untrue things to be true. It needs for Corbyn to be a proven antisemite – and not just of the variety that occasionally or accidentally lets slip an antisemitic trope or is susceptible to the unthinking prejudice most of us occasionally display, including (as we shall see) Rabbi Mirvis. No, for Mirvis to have interfered in the election campaign he would need to believe that Corbyn intends actively as prime minister to inflame a wider antisemitism in British society or implement policies designed to harm the Jewish community. And in addition, the chief rabbi would have to believe that Corbyn presides over a Labour party that will willingly indulge race-hate speeches or stand by impassively as Corbyn carries out racist policies.
If Mirvis really believes any of that, I have a bridge to sell him. Corbyn has spent his entire political career as an anti-racism campaigner, and his anti-racism activism as a backbencher was especially prominent inside a party that itself has traditionally taken the political lead in tackling racism. The second possibility is that Mirvis doesn’t really believe that Corbyn is a Goebbels in the making. But if that is so, then his decision to intercede in the election campaign to influence British voters must be based on an equally fanciful notion: that there is no significant threat posed by antisemitism from the right or the rapidly emerging far right. Because if antisemitism is not an issue on the right – the same nationalistic right that has persecuted Jews throughout modern history, culminating in the Nazi atrocities – then Mirvis may feel he can risk playing politics in the name of the Jewish community without serious consequence.
British broadcaster Channel 4 represented Prime Minister Boris Johnson with a block of melting ice in a prime-time election debate on the environment on Thursday, prompting his Conservative Party to complain this broke impartiality rules. The commercially funded public-service broadcaster invited leaders of all Britain’s main political parties to take part in the debate before Dec. 12’s election, but both Johnson and the leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, declined to attend. The Conservative Party offered former environment minister Michael Gove as a substitute, but the broadcaster said the debate was only intended for party leaders, and that the other political parties would not agree to change the terms.
“This effectively seeks to deprive the Conservative Party of any representation and attendance,” the Conservatives wrote in a letter of complaint to broadcast regulator Ofcom. British television broadcasters are required to be politically impartial, and face extra balance requirements during election periods. Ofcom can fine broadcasters that do not comply, and as a last resort can cancel a broadcaster’s license. The Conservatives said Thursday’s disagreement was “part of a wider pattern of bias by Channel 4 in recent months”. The broadcaster’s head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, described Johnson as “a known liar” in a major industry speech in August.
Six out of 10 Greeks have delayed paying at least one utility bill over the last 12 months, and in seven out of 10 of those cases it’s not just a one-off incident but a regular occurrence. Some of those who eventually do pay their bills do so with borrowed money, mainly from friends, according to the findings of the European Consumer Payment Report 2019. The survey of 24,000 consumers in 24 European countries by Swedish company Intrum has brought to light a number of worrying trends on the European level, such as a return to excessive consumer borrowing, something that is spurred considerably by easy access to credit cards and loans obtained via the internet or the telephone, for example.
The report showed that 61 percent of Greeks had failed to pay at least one bill in the previous 12 months, which is the highest rate among the 24 countries surveyed and almost twice the European average of 33 percent. Worse, 68 percent of those who failed to pay on time said they did so regularly, also the highest rate in Europe, against an average rate of 47 percent. Furthermore, Greeks also had the highest rate (40 percent) of people who had borrowed money or maxed out their credit cards. The European average stands at just 24 percent, based on data from the 24 countries surveyed by Intrum.
The woman who claims she was forced into sex with Prince Andrew as a teenager said in her first UK interview: “He knows what happened, I know what happened and there’s only one of us telling the truth.” Virginia Giuffre, previously known as Virginia Roberts, said being caught up with the Duke of York and Jeffrey Epstein was “a really scary time in my life”. The BBC‘s Panorama programme released a trailer on Twitter of its upcoming episode, which features an interview with Ms Giuffre, who claims she was made to sleep with Andrew when she was 17. The hour-long episode, titled The Prince and the Epstein Scandal, will be screened on BBC One on Monday.
Ms Giuffre alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions. He denies the allegations and has insisted he has “no recollection of ever meeting this lady”. Ms Giuffre has also criticised the Metropolitan Police for failing to investigate her allegations. In a statement on Thursday, the Met said it stood by its decision not to investigate claims by the duke’s accuser, and added that officers had spoken to other law enforcement agencies but have “not received a formal request asking for assistance”. The Met said it reviewed its previous decision that it was “not the appropriate authority to conduct inquiries in these circumstances” following Epstein’s death in August, and that its position remained unchanged.
Epstein took his own life in a New York prison while he was being held on sex trafficking charges. William Barr, the US attorney general, has slapped down conspiracy theories claiming the trafficker was murdered, saying that he died in a “perfect storm of screw-ups”.
Prince Andrew’s socialite ex is considering penning an explosive tell-all book — including details of a dinner party with Jeffrey Epstein attended by both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, it was claimed Thursday. Lady Victoria Hervey, 43, has already been doing interviews discussing her brief fling with the Duke of York and how it threw her into the heart of Epstein’s depraved world. She says she was introduced to the pedophile by his accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell — who she likened to a James Bond character — and feels she only escaped Epstein’s clutches because she was “too old.” But Hervey kept back many of the juiciest details, which she now could put in an explosive book that could further embarrass the disgraced duke, according to The Sun.
“There is a lot that she has never revealed about the Royal family, members of high society and big-named stars,” a source close to her told the paper. “She’s done many interviews but has always kept many things under her belt. “She feels like now is the right time to get some things off her chest — including about Prince Andrew, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. “She’d been a part of that social scene for many years.” Hervey’s “really explosive life” also includes “debauched drug-fueled parties, threesomes with celebrities — all sorts,” the source told The Sun of her book plans. “She has had a lucrative offer to write a book and she’s definitely considering it,” the source said.
Before the advent of The Crown – the Netflix show, not the institution – Princess Margaret was widely regarded as a snobbish, spiteful creature. That image has been refurbished: to fans of the show, she is firmly established as poor Margaret, the dazzling, tragic second fiddle to the Queen, who only wanted a meaningful role. After two seasons, I had been thinking of Margaret this way myself, while gussying up uncharacteristically warm feelings for the royals. The Queen does a good job, I thought. So what if she’s a little dull, isn’t that the bedrock of service – dependability? It’s not often one has one’s delusions dismantled in real time, but so it has been, this past fortnight, witnessing Prince Andrew’s flagrant awfulness in tandem with The Crown’s terrible third season. The experience has been like a sudden, dramatic return to reason.
There was never a subversive element to The Crown, and nor was there need for one. As we know from the small amount of documentary footage that exists of the Queen in her off-hours, the most outlandish drama one can eke from the royals lies in the depiction of them doing “ordinary” things: watching TV, smiling. This drama only works if one is willing to be charmed, a feat that the early seasons achieved. They also adhered to the narrative put forward by the House of Windsor itself: however misguided its application, the animating principle of all royals – with the exception of Edward VIII – was duty, honour, loyalty. If the royals have a fault, the show suggests, it is that they take these principles too seriously, particularly when they come into conflict with more human considerations.
In Prince Andrew’s catastrophic TV interview, the precise, delusional nature of his language – his now infamous line, “my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable” – mirrored so exactly the ethos of the show, it could have served as its tag line. One can only imagine how the script, in its current form, would treat Andrew’s predicament: as the story of a prince crushed by the weight of his own nobility; the tragedy of a man whose saucy impulses had nowhere to go.