Nov 132020
 


Pablo Picasso Les femmes d’Alger 1955

 

PA Court: Secretary Of State Lacked Authority To Change Voting Deadline (Fox)
Michigan State Senators Request Full Election Audit (ET)
Trump’s New Pentagon Sets Up Clash Over Afghanistan Pullout (Pol.)
Trump Could Be Banned From Twitter After He Leaves Office (Ind.)
Obama: ‘Americans Spooked By Black Man In White House’ (JTN)
This Is What Happens To Us When The Great Global Reset Comes (Kitco)
Three-Quarters Of England’s Care Workers Earn Below ‘Real’ Living Wage (G.)
Unemployment Fiasco in Europe Is Kept out of Official Rates (WS)
Introduction to The New Economics: A Manifesto (Steve Keen)
Watch This! (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

Prof Appel Dominion

 

 

 

 

Limited impact.

PA Court: Secretary Of State Lacked Authority To Change Voting Deadline (Fox)

A Pennsylvania judge ruled in favor of the Trump campaign Thursday, ordering that the state may not count ballots where the voters needed to provide proof of identification and failed to do so by Nov. 9. State law said that voters have until six days after the election — this year that was Nov. 9 — to cure problems regarding a lack of proof of identification. After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots could be accepted three days after Election Day, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar submitted guidance that said proof of identification could be provided up until Nov. 12, which is six days from the ballot acceptance deadline. That guidance was issued two days before Election Day.


“[T]he Court concludes that Respondent Kathy Boockvar, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Commonwealth, lacked statutory authority to issue the November 1, 2020, guidance to Respondents County Boards of Elections insofar as that guidance purported to change the deadline … for certain electors to verify proof of identification,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt said in a court order. This was in line with the Trump campaign’s argument, which was that there was no basis in the state’s law to extend the identification deadline, and that Boockvar did not have the power to unilaterally change it. The court had previously ordered that all ballots where voters provided proof of identification between Nov. 10 and 12 should be segregated until a ruling was issued determining what should be done with them.

Matt Gaetz: Dead people don’t always vote. But when they do, they prefer to vote by mail.

Read more …

“Every citizen deserves to have faith in the integrity of the election process and its outcome..”

Michigan State Senators Request Full Election Audit (ET)

At least two Michigan Republican state senators have requested a full election audit, asking the Michigan secretary of state’s office for a full recount before the election results are certified, according to a letter they sent to her office on Thursday. State senators Lana Theis and Tom Barrett wrote that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and canvassers that are reviewing allegations of irregularities and voter fraud made in lawsuits filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign. They are requesting a “full audit” of the election, saying it needs to be done before the state certifies the election results. “Every citizen deserves to have faith in the integrity of the election process and its outcome,” they said in letters.

“It is our responsibility, as elected public servants, to assure the people of Michigan of the process’s integrity through complete transparency and the faithful investigation of any allegations of wrongdoing, fraud, or abuse.” Their letters made reference to allegations made by Trump’s legal team, claims of witnesses about irregularities at polls, and a glitch that switched 6,000 votes from a Republican official to a Democratic official in Antrim County that was later corrected and acknowledged by the secretary of state’s office, although the Michigan GOP said the same software – Dominion Voting Systems – was used in dozens of other counties.

“The erroneous reporting of unofficial results from Antrim county was a result of accidental error on the part of the Antrim County Clerk. The equipment and software did not malfunction and all ballots were properly tabulated. However, the clerk accidentally did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results,” Benson said in a statement last week about Antrim County’s election results. Other allegations from the two lawmakers include ineligible ballots being counted, poll workers being told to backdate ballots, counting the same ballots several times, and other claims.

Read more …

The shameless backlash against bringing the troops home is stunning.

Trump’s New Pentagon Sets Up Clash Over Afghanistan Pullout (Pol.)

President Donald Trump’s decapitation strike on the Pentagon this week is raising fears that the U.S. will accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, putting newly installed leaders on a collision course with top generals and others who are urging a more deliberate drawdown. Current and former administration officials say Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper Monday in part over his opposition to accelerating troop drawdowns worldwide, and especially in Afghanistan. The upheaval accelerated on Tuesday with the resignation of three high-level civilians and the installation of loyalists who are expected to ram through Trump’s agenda, and continued on Wednesday when retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, an outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan, was brought on as senior adviser to new acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller.

Any move to accelerate withdrawals would set up a clash with the nation’s top generals and other civilians, who have argued publicly against leaving Afghanistan too quickly while the security situation remains volatile. It would also complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to leave a small number of troops in the country to guard against terror attacks.

“A precipitous and what appears to be near total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan — not on a conditions-based approach advocated by our military, political and intelligence leadership but rather on an old campaign promise by President Trump now carried out by hyperpartisan Trump loyalists installed in a last-minute purge of DoD — is both reckless and will not make America safer,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA senior operations officer. Concerns are also growing within the national security community that the personnel churn portends other major policy shifts, such as military actions abroad and in the U.S. Yet current and former administration officials believe the moves were more about rewarding allies and punishing those who resisted the president’s agenda than they were about major changes in direction.

Read more …

And the New York Times will stop writing about him?

Trump Could Be Banned From Twitter After He Leaves Office (Ind.)

Donald Trump will no longer be protected by Twitter’s public interest guidelines when he leaves office in January, meaning he will be suspended or banned if he continues to break the platform’s rules. Twitter’s policy regarding public figures, which was formalised last year, means only “current or potential member of a local, state, national, or supra-national governmental or legislative body” receive special treatment . The US President’s Twitter account was flagged more than a dozen times in the days following the election for posting misinformation and misleading claims about the election. Several prominent Democrats called for Twitter to suspend Mr Trump’s account until all states finish counting the votes, however the platform’s public interest guidelines prevent it from being suspended or removed.


After his lead in several key states began to dwindle to challenger Joe Biden, Mr Trump attempted to undermine the electoral process by calling for a halt to the counting of mail-in ballots. “They are trying to STEAL the Election,” he tweeted. Democratic Congressman David Cicilline described Mr Trump’s tweets as a “threat to democracy”, while fellow congressman Gerry Connolly tweeted, “This is pure disinformation.” Warnings placed on Mr Trump’s tweets meant they were not immediately visible on his timeline and engagement with the tweets was restricted. One warning explained: “Some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading about how to participate in an election or another civic process.” The rate of violations would typically lead to an account suspension, either temporarily or permanently. However, public figures are protected by a “public-interest exception” policy.

Read more …

Not by his politics?

Oh well, Barry has a new book out.

Obama: ‘Americans Spooked By Black Man In White House’ (JTN)

Just before President George W. Bush left the White House after two terms, he declared he wouldn’t be weighing in with thoughts on his successor, following the model of his father, George H.W. Bush. But Barack Obama made no such pledge. And now, just days after the 2020 election, the 44th president is hawking a new book so get ready to hear a lot more from him. Obama, the first biracial man to be elected president, makes an incendiary charge in his book, “A Promise Land,” which comes out Tuesday. President Trump, he claims, “promised an elixir for the racial anxiety” of “millions of Americans spooked by a black man in the White House.”

Those Americans – whom Obama implies appear racist – were prey to “the dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the modern Republican party – xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, an antipathy toward black and brown folks.” Obama continues: “It was as if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a sense that the natural order had been disrupted. Which is exactly what Donald Trump understood when he started peddling assertions that I had not been born in the United States and was thus an illegitimate president.” Obama writes that “he came to regard Trump’s media ubiquity and characteristic shamelessness as merely an exaggerated version of the Republican Party’s attempts to appeal to White Americans’ anxieties about the first Black president – a sentiment he said ‘had migrated from the fringe of GOP politics to the center – an emotional, almost visceral, reaction to my presidency, distinct from any differences in policy or ideology,'” CNN reported.

The 768-page memoir is reportedly just volume one of his latest memoirs. Obama also writes about his shortcomings, like his failure to pass immigration reform, which he called “a bitter pill to swallow.” But he said his agenda was always correct, though voters swept out a slew of Democrats in the 2010 midterm election, two years into his presidency. “As far as I was concerned, the election didn’t prove our agenda had been wrong,” Obama writes of 2010. “It just proved that … I’d failed to rally the nation, as FDR had once done, behind what I knew to be right. Which to me was just as damning.”

Read more …

“..we have created so much debt and this is a worldwide phenomenon, so we can’t have normal interest rates anymore”

This Is What Happens To Us When The Great Global Reset Comes (Kitco)

We’re in the end game of a dollar-based system, and a new monetary system will emerge with gold as the anchor, said Willem Middelkoop, founder of the the Commodity Discovery Fund. “We’re in a rough period. It doesn’t matter which president will be next, he can only avoid a deep depression by printing trillions and trillions. As an investor, we concentrate on that part of the story,” he said. Fixing the fundamental problems in our economy, including excessive debt, will require more than just a continuation of past policies. “I think we have created so much debt and this is a worldwide phenomenon, so we can’t have normal interest rates anymore. We have seen the IMF coming out with a statement last week saying that we need a new Bretton Woods moment,” he said.


“We had a cover on Time magazine calling for the Great Reset. We had the World Economic Forum calling for a Great Reset. I wrote a book on the topic, published in 2014, it was called The Big Reset.” A new global system will require an overhaul of many monetary pillars that we currently have, Middelkoop noted. “We need a debt restructuring. IMF and the United Nations have been quite clear about that; we need debt restructuring first for the poor countries but later for the rich countries, we all have too much debt on our books. We need to find a new anchor for the world monetary system,” he said. Until then, trillions more in stimulus will be issued by governments around the world to avoid a global depression like that of the 1930’s, Middelkoop said.

Read more …

Without COVID, this would have gotten zero attention.

Three-Quarters Of England’s Care Workers Earn Below ‘Real’ Living Wage (G.)

Almost three-quarters of frontline care workers in England are earning below the “real” living wage, which experts say is the bare minimum to allow families basics such as a secondhand car and a week’s annual UK self-catering holiday, research has revealed. The proportion of care workers below the threshold is even higher in northern areas, where care homes have been hit hardest by Covid-19. In the north-east, 82% of care staff earned less than the England-wide real living wage of £9.50 per hour, while the proportion was 78% in the north-west. One care worker in Lancashire earning £8.72 per hour who recently had her pay cut told the Guardian some colleagues have been using food banks.

The figures apply to more than 832,000 frontline care workers, more than 600,000 of whom are earning below the minimum thresholds. In Hillingdon, the borough that contains Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary constituency, more than 3,000 care workers earn so little that if they are the main breadwinner in a family of four with their partner on similar wages, they could not afford the £112 a week they require for food, according to analysis by Loughborough University that underpins real living wage calculation. When Johnson was London mayor he supported the London living wage campaign as “making economic sense”.

The figures were calculated by the Living Wage Foundation and come amid growing calls for reform of the social care sector to create parity with the NHS, where all nurses earn above the threshold. On Thursday, Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the Commons health and social care committee, called for a 10-year funding plan for social care akin to the national consensus that established the NHS in 1948. New polling revealed 82% of the public now back government investment in social care to fund a pay rise for care workers according to new polling by Survation for Citizens UK.

Read more …

But what are the true rates?

Unemployment Fiasco in Europe Is Kept out of Official Rates (WS)

In Europe, people who are furloughed are paid under government programs via their employers. Many of these programs have been created during the Pandemic. In theory, these people still have jobs. In practice, they’re not working, or are working heavily reduced hours. But they do not count as “unemployed” and are not reflected in the “unemployment” numbers. So throughout the Pandemic, the official unemployment rates barely ticked up, compared to the last crisis, and remain low for the EU era, despite tens of millions of people who’d stopped working due to the lockdowns (chart via Eurostat):

The UK adopted a sweeping job retention program at the beginning of its last lockdown. Each government pays companies, who in turn pay employees between 60% and 84% of their monthly wage. In some cases, the workers work fewer hours for less pay; in others, they don’t work at all. The workers take a hit to their income but their jobs remain intact, at least for the duration of the program. Under the UK program, businesses can claim 80% of a staff member’s regular monthly salary, up to a maximum of £2,500. The money must be passed on to the employee and can also be topped up by the employer.


But the unemployment rate has begun to rise as people come off furlough, and those whose jobs disappeared entered official unemployment. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.8% in the three months to September, from 4.5% in Q2 and from 3.9% a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In London, the unemployment rate surged by 1.2 percentage points from the previous quarter, to 6%. It was the largest quarterly increase in unemployment since the ONS started tracking the data in 1992.

Read more …

“I’m writing a book for Polity Press entitled The New Economics: A Manifesto. It has a long way to go, but this is the reasonably complete first chapter.”

Introduction to The New Economics: A Manifesto (Steve Keen)

Even before the Covid-19 crisis began, the global economy was not in good shape, and nor was economic theory. The biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression began late in first decade of the 21st century. Called the “Global Financial Crisis” (GFC) in most of the world and the “Great Recession” in the USA, it saw unemployment explode from 4.6% of the US workforce in early 2007 to 10% in late 2009. Inflation turn into deflation— inflation of 5.6% in mid-2008 fell to minus 2% per year in mid-2009—and the stock market collapsed, with the S&P500 Index falling from 1500 in mid-2007 to under 750 in early 2009. The economy recovered very slowly after then, under the influence of an unprecedented range of government interventions, from the “cash for clunkers” scheme that encouraged consumers to dump old cars and buy new ones, to “Quantitative Easing”, where the Federal Reserve purchased a trillion-dollars-worth of bonds from the financial sector every year, in an attempt to stimulate the economy by making the wealthy wealthier.

This crisis surprised both the policy economists who advise governments on economic policy, and the academic who develop the theories and write the textbooks that train the vast majority of new economists. They had expected a continuation of the boom conditions that had preceded the crisis, and they in fact believed that crises could not occur. In his Presidential Address to the American Economic Association in January 2003, Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas declared that crises like the Great Depression could never occur again because “Macroeconomics … has succeeded: Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades. (Lucas 2003 , p. 1 ; emphasis added). Just two months before the crisis began, the Chief Economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world’s premier economic policy body, declared that “the current economic situation is in many ways better than what we have experienced in years”, and predicted that “sustained growth in OECD economies would be underpinned by strong job creation and falling unemployment.” (Cotis 2007 , p. 7; emphases added)

How could they be so wrong? Economists could be excused for this failure to see the Great Recession coming if the crisis were something like Covid-19, when a new pathogen suddenly emerged out of China. That such a plague would occur was predicted as long ago as 1995 (Garrett 1995). But predicting when the pathogen would emerge, let alone what its characteristics would be, was clearly impossible. However, the epicentre of the Great Recession was the US financial system itself: the crisis came from inside the economy, rather than from outside. Surely there were warning signs? As Queen Elizabeth herself put it when she attended a briefing at the London School of Economics in 2008, “If these things were so large, how come everyone missed them?”

Read more …

Good to see Dmitry!

Watch This! (Dmitry Orlov)

I first realized that the USA was going to follow the general trajectory of the USSR back in 1995. I also immediately realized that the USSR was rather well prepared for collapse whereas the USA was about to be blindsided by it, and so, as a public service, I thought I should warn people. “And a fat lot of good that did!” some of you might immediately exclaim. [..] And so I had my “Eureka!” moment in 1995, and a decade later, in 2005, I went public with my observations. I got a surprisingly sympathetic response from some particularly enlightened people (even if they said so themselves). And now, a quarter of a century after my initial insight, as the US enters national bankruptcy and institutional collapse, the whole world is being treated to an end-of-empire spectacular election extravaganza starring none other than the consummate showman and impresario extraordinaire Donald Trump.

He used to run beauty pageants, while this one is more of an ugliness pageant, but then beauty is rare and always fades while ugliness is commonplace and usually just gets uglier, making it a much safer bet. And so let’s accept it as a parting present to the world from a vanishing nation that gave us horror flicks, reality television and three-ring circuses with sideshow freaks. Within the sweeping panoramic tableau of the 2020 election, Trump (our hero) appears bathed in a golden sunset glow of nostalgia for lost American greatness which he forever promises to rekindle. Rest assured, Trump or no Trump, America will never be great again. But Trump’s magic halo extends out from his resplendent orange cranial plumage and enfolds all those who pine for the lost Pax Americana and fear and loathe what America is fast becoming—which is, to put it bluntly, a holding tank for degenerates of every stripe presided over by a freak show.

They pine for a time when men were manly and women womanly, when secretaries were flattered when their bosses took time away from their busy schedules to rub up against them, and when everyone was either a WASP, or worked hard on trying to look and act like one, or kept to their assigned station in life and knew better than to get too uppity. Arrayed against our fearless orange-hued leader, who at 74 is no spring chicken himself, is a ghoulish gaggle of geriatric gerontocrats. There is Joe Biden, 77, whose brain ran away and joined a circus some years ago but who imagines himself to be president-elect, or senator, or vice-president, or something. Having spent eight years lurking in the shadows as Obama’s VP, Biden is as fit to lead as a pig is kosher after rubbing its side against a corner of a synagogue. To assist Biden in his dodderings there is his party-appointed nanny, Kamala Harris, a mere slip of a girl at 56.

Also haunting the balcony of the American mausoleum is Nancy Pelosi, 80, who still runs the House of Representatives even though proper employment for her at this point would be up on a pole keeping the birds off the corn. There is also Bernie Sanders, 79, a sad pagliaccio whose permanent role in the political Commedia dell’Arte that the Democratic Party stages every four years is to simulate democracy by cheerleading crowds of young imbeciles in Act I, to feign death after falling off his pogo stick in Act II, and to stagger to his feet, wave and smile for the curtain call. Last but not least, there is the horrid harpy Hillary Clinton, who is relatively young at 73 but whose putrid smell and cadaverous, ghastly visage are not longer fit for public display except in most delicately contrived circumstances. Hidden even further backstage is the suppurating cadaver of George Soros who, at 90, is still pulling the strings and wreaking havoc in the US and around the world.

Read more …

 

 

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What makes us fragile is that institutions cannot have the same virtues (honor, truthfulness, courage, loyalty, tenacity) as individuals.
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Bed of Procrustes

 

 

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Nov 122020
 
 November 12, 2020  Posted by at 7:28 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Dans l’atelier 1954

 

 

“There is nothing in Afghanistan worth the life of a single American soldier.”

– Douglas Macgregor

 

I’m having a bit of a problem finding the right format for this essay. I want to highlight a whole number of quotes, but I also would like you to read the original setting they came from. Please bear with me.

CNN: “A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Wednesday that retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor “will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr. MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities.”

Also CNN: “Macgregor once advocated for the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants [..] and has made a litany of racist comments.”

I must admit even my encyclopedic brain had never heard of Macgregor, and I’m sure most of you hadn’t either, but I’m taking a liking to the man. “The use of lethal force against unarmed migrants” sounds bogus off the bat, that’s “Putin eats babies” territory, and accusing someone of “a litany of racist comments” without naming even one, doesn’t do it for me either.

And even then. The man wants to bring US troops home. Oh wait, but that’s why you accuse him of all these unsubstantiated “facts”. Gotcha. What I do know is for instance this Nov 6 2019 interview Macgregor did with Tucker Carlson, in which he sounds like a reasonable yet worried man. And while opinions may differ on how big of a threat drug cartels may be to the US, his view appears to have its merit.

 

 

Macgregor Nov 6 2019 interview with Tucker Carlson

 

 

But then the press come in. We can’t have troop withdrawals (though a vast majority of Americans wants to bring the troops home). So let’s start by labeling Macgregor “divisive”. What does that mean? That he doesn’t agree with “official” military policy. What is that policy? Warmongering. Keeping troops in Afghanistan for 18 years. If Biden ever becomes president, will he bow to that policy and start sending US troops back in?

This here is from Axios. And all I can think is: what ever happened to journalism? My comments below.

Divisive Pentagon Hire May Rush Troop Withdrawals Before Trump’s Exit

President Trump’s newly installed acting Pentagon chief is bringing on a senior adviser in a sign the administration wants to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East before the end of his presidency in January, three people familiar with the move told Axios. A senior administration official says a wave of firings at the Pentagon and the hiring of Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is in part a settling of Trump’s personal scores — but senior White House officials also have made clear “they want them more publicly to talk about getting out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.” Trump, who ran in 2016 on a promise to bring U.S. troops home, is frustrated with the slow pace of withdrawing troops from the Middle East, another senior administration official said.

The president has told advisers on numerous occasions he wants troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas.In a 2019 interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Macgregor said he would advise the president to get out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” including removing the U.S. embassy from Kabul, and that talking to the Taliban was unnecessary. Macgregor also said the U.S. needs to pull its troops out of Syria immediately and America had no national interest there. He said, “We need to listen very carefully to the Iranians … find out what their interests are and look for areas where we can cooperate” and that the U.S. needs to “turn the operational control of the [Korean] Peninsula militarily over to President Moon and the Koreans.”

The Pentagon, in a statement to Axios, confirmed Macgregor has been hired as a senior adviser to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. It said Macgregor’s “decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities.” Since Joe Biden became president-elect, Trump has refused to concede the race — but he’s also moved rapidly this week to fire top officials in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership. That includes Mark Esper, as well as the former Defense secretary’s chief of staff and other high-level officials in charge of intelligence and policy. He is replacing them with those perceived as loyal to him.

Macgregor, a decorated combat veteran, is a Trump loyalist and regular Fox News commentator. He’s known for his questioning of conventional Army leadership and decision-making , including strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as his extreme rhetoric about Muslims and undocumented immigrants. He was passed over earlier this year for the Pentagon’s top policy job amid reports Esper had concerns about him.

 

 

Let’s see:

the hiring of Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is in part a settling of Trump’s personal scores

Personal scores as in how and what? As in not wanting to accept his own failed effort to bring the troops home, the effort that’s been frustrated for four years running now? And that he may be trying to correct as we speak?

Trump, who ran in 2016 on a promise to bring U.S. troops home, is frustrated with the slow pace of withdrawing troops from the Middle East

Of being frustrated by being frustrated with the pace at which his orders and wishes as commander in chief have been executed?

The president has told advisers on numerous occasions he wants troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas.

How, pray tell, is that not a good thing? Why on earth would you want to present it as such? Asking for 320 million friends.

Since Joe Biden became president-elect, Trump has refused to concede the race

Biden is not the president-elect. Not one single state has so far certified its election results. It is bogus and you know it. Cut the nonsense. You have no clothes on.

He’s known for his questioning of conventional Army leadership and decision-making

Isn’t that part of a healthy process, that you question “official” policies which put the lives of young Americans at risk, that you do that every single moment of every single day, because those lives are precious and valuable? In my book, this is a big plus for the man. As it should be for every single American.

He was passed over earlier this year for the Pentagon’s top policy job amid reports Esper had concerns about him.

And that’s why Esper is gone. He was one more wrong choice Trump was led into. And yeah, Trump shares the blame for that.

 

 

Moving on to CNN’s comment on the Macgregor nomination. Mostly the same as that from Axios, with some added BS. Again, my comments below:

Trump Administration Installs Advocate For Quick Afghanistan Withdrawal At Pentagon

An ardent opponent of the US military’s presence in Afghanistan who once called for the use of lethal force against illegal immigrants and has made a litany of racist comments has been made a senior adviser at the Pentagon. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Wednesday that retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor “will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr. MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities.” Macgregor’s appointment is the latest in a series of sweeping changes at the Pentagon that has put defense officials on edge and fueled a growing sense of alarm among military and civilian officials, who are concerned about what could come next.

Four senior Pentagon officials have been fired or have resigned since Monday, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper who was fired in a tweet by President Donald Trump, Esper’s chief of staff and the top officials overseeing policy and intelligence. The moves will likely only add to the sense of chaos within the Pentagon following Trump’s firing of Esper, which came two days after his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, was projected as the winner of the presidential election — a conclusion that Trump has refused to accept. Esper was replaced by Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Those who assumed new roles included controversial retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who moved into the Pentagon’s top policy role, taking over the duties of James Anderson, who resigned Tuesday, according to another US defense official. Macgregor has been a vocal opponent of the US military’s mission in Afghanistan and has called for a total withdrawal of US troops and the American Embassy despite the continued presence of terrorist groups there.

Knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that the White House-directed purge at the Defense Department may have been motivated by the fact Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan that would be carried out before the required conditions on the ground were met, and other pending security issues.

US military officials have long stressed that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is conditions based, with those conditions including the Taliban’s breaking its ties to al Qaeda and making progress in peace talks with the Afghan government, two conditions that have yet to be met. But despite the lack of progress, the Trump administration has already substantially reduced US troops in the country by more than 50%, bringing the number of US military personnel there down to about 4,500, the lowest levels since the earliest days of the post 9/11 campaign.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has advocated for a more accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan irrespective of conditions on the ground, something made more feasible by the installation of White House loyalists in senior defense posts. He has also called for an immediate end to the US military effort in Syria, where a small number of US troops back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against ISIS.

Macgregor once advocated for the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants to deter illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America. He was nominated by Trump this summer to be the ambassador to Germany but faced fierce opposition for his remarks uncovered by CNN’s KFILE. KFILE reviewed dozens of radio and television interviews with Macgregor and found he often demonized immigrants and refugees. He warned Mexican cartels were “driving millions of Mexicans with no education, no skills and the wrong culture into the United States, placing them essentially as wards of the American people.” He repeatedly advocated instituting martial law at the US-Mexico border and to “shoot people” if necessary.

He has also called for an immediate end to the US military effort in Syria, where a small number of US troops back the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against ISIS. He also said that Eastern Ukrainians are “Russians” on the Russian state-controlled TV network RT in 2014 after Russia tried to annex Crimea and began an ongoing war with Ukraine over the territory — positions not supported by the European Union and United States.


He lamented that the US government intervened against Serbian forces, who engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes, during the Kosovo War in the 1990s to “put, essentially, a Muslim drug mafia in charge of that country.”

Yeah, Bill Clinton’s intervention in former Yugoslavia was a highlight of US politics and intervention for the good of all mankind.

 

 

Again, let’s see:

An ardent opponent of the US military’s presence in Afghanistan who once called for the use of lethal force against illegal immigrants and has made a litany of racist comments

Pretty sure he was talking about the cartels, not unarmed people. But yeah, prove me wrong. And let’s see some of those racist comments.

Macgregor has been a vocal opponent of the US military’s mission in Afghanistan and has called for a total withdrawal of US troops and the American Embassy despite the continued presence of terrorist groups there.

Oh, get a life. It’s been 18 years and dick all has been accomplished. The country has always only ever been the CIA’s opium factory, providing the funds for its most secretive operations. You will find it in the thesaurus under “bottomless pit”.

the White House-directed purge at the Defense Department may have been motivated by the fact Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan

Again, yes, exactly. Why would a president leave someone in place whose policies contradict his own, who refuses to follow his orders?

US military officials have long stressed that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is conditions based

Yeah, sure, and who decides what those conditions are? They themselves do. But there is still only one commander in chief.

despite the lack of progress, the Trump administration has already substantially reduced US troops in the country by more than 50%

That is, the progress towards the military’s “conditions”, not the progress towards their commander-in-chief’s goal of bringing the troops home.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has advocated for a more accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan irrespective of conditions on the ground

Like him already.

Macgregor once advocated for the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants to deter illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America.

That’s quite a slanderous accusation if you have no examples. All I’ve seen is his comments on drug cartels who push people into the US.

He also said that Eastern Ukrainians are “Russians”

Oh, now we’re getting into Russiagate. How convenient. Why don’t we ask the Eastern Ukrainians themselves how they feel, or, you know, look at their history?

He lamented that the US government intervened against Serbian forces, who engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes, during the Kosovo War in the 1990s to “put, essentially, a Muslim drug mafia in charge of that country.”

And just like that, he’s right again. Coincidence, or you think maybe he understands more than you do, and has more knowledge of the whole shebang? You know, being a 30-year veteran an all that? Or would you rather put your faith into a “journalist” at Axios or CNN?

Me, personally, I think about the families of the US troops stationed in the Middle East, and who want nothing more than to have their young loved ones home for Christmas. Alive and in one piece. Douglas Macgregor and Donald Trump may yet make that happen. But you have bigger interests and vistas in mind, you want to say?

 

 

 

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Tucker Macgregor Afghanistan

Macgregor Tucker May 1 2018

 

 

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Aug 092020
 


Albert Kahn Paris, Autochrome Lumière color photo 1914

 

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)
What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)
Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)
SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)
Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)
Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)
No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)
Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)
Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)
US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)
Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)
Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)
George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)
West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)
Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

 

 

Weekend, so lower numbers. US new deaths were below 1,000 (976), so I lost that grpah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedge funds dollar

 

 

Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump?

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)

In a remarkable twist, the raging coronavirus pandemic has forced even countries like the US to adopt “socialist” welfare programs, acclaimed author and risk analyst Nassim Taleb has told RT. While people spend days worrying about global wars, our biggest threats have always been the pandemics, the author of ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Skin in the Game’ told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze on her show SophieCo. Visionaries. The advent of the novel coronavirus will tremendously change societies in many ways, making them better ready for future crises, he said. “So the world will be different, wiser. But, hopefully, it will be good for peace, because people will understand tomorrow that the enemy is not some person with weapons. The enemy is that thing you don’t see: a tiny little germ you can have on top of a pencil,” the writer added.

What I think is going to happen is a transformation of economic structures to accommodate potential pandemics. Even if they never happen again, people will be prepared for them. He cited the boom of teleworking, Zoom conference calls, and online shopping as examples of people adapting to the new reality. According to Taleb, globalization would become more “guarded,” rather than disappear entirely. “The physical movement of population… would be reduced, and business travel will not be as active as we saw in the past,” he said. One of the most remarkable changes the pandemic has brought, the writer noted, was how some governments have been “extremely helpful” to citizens trapped in quarantines and lockdowns.

This touched the US as well, where a $2 trillion stimulus package was adopted in May, the largest in the nation’s history. Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump? He gave people universal basic income for a few months, and they took possession of companies. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is. So, the individuals got a protective net that they didn’t have before. “Mark my words, if you want a headline done – ‘Who would have expected the Covid to run both domestic and foreign policy?’, ‘Covid to bring socialism to countries like the United States,’” Taleb said.

Read more …

Yeah. No. Everyone may get this wrong or confused, but from what I can see he signed just one executive order (on payroll tax), the other three are memoranda. Details on that:

The hierarchy is: Proclamations, executive orders, presidential memoranda, presidential notices, and presidential determinations. Notices and determinations are usually required by Congress on specific issues. Authority: Under an executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy, an executive order must cite the authority the president has to issue it. That could be the constitution, or a specific statute. Presidential memoranda have no such requirement.

What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)

After failing to reach a deal with the U.S. Congress for a fresh round of coronavirus pandemic relief, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at pumping up America’s pandemic-hit economy. The orders are likely to face some legal challenges. Trump’s order cuts enhanced federal unemployment benefits – a lifeline for the tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work during the pandemic – from $600 to $400 per week. Democrats had been lobbying to extend the original $600 a week enhanced benefits, which expired on July 31. Trump proposes taking most of the money from the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – $44 billion, according to the order – with 25% of the money coming from states.

It’s not clear how Trump will convince state governments, whose revenues have been hard hit by the crisis, to pony up their proposed share. Trump called the reduced payments “generous.” Trump’s first order waives the payroll tax that funds Social Security in a bid to inject extra money directly into salaried employees’ pockets. Trump has been pushing the idea for a while but it has found little support in Congress from Democrats or his fellow Republicans. The executive order says the cut comes into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump said it “most likely” would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and translate into “bigger paychecks for working families.”

Trump’s order protecting homeowners and renters from evictions is unlikely to face a challenge from Democrats; indeed, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week encouraged the move. But it isn’t clear how it will be executed. The order directs authorities to provide “temporary financial assistance” to renters and homeowners “struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.” Even Trump seemed a little hazy on the order’s ultimate effects, saying “we don’t want people being evicted and the act that I am signing will solve that problem – largely, hopefully, completely.” Trump said that interest on student loan payments – frozen since March – would be suspended until the end of the year.

Read more …

“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first..”

Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)

Moscow’s Gamelei Center could register the world’s first coronavirus vaccine on August 12, Russia’s deputy health minister has revealed. Oleg Gridnev says medical workers and the elderly will be given priority for immunization. The senior minister at the department, Mikhail Murashko, announced last week that a nationwide mass vaccination program is planned to begin in October. Murashko added that all expenses will be covered by the government. “The registration of the vaccine developed at the Gamelei Center will take place on August 12,” Gridnev told journalists in Ufa on Friday morning, as cited by RIA Novosti. “Now the last stage, the third, is underway. This is the testing part and is extremely important. We have to understand that the vaccine itself must be safe.”

The Health Ministry, in an official statement, clarified that “the documents required for registration of the vaccine developed by the Gamelei Center, including data from clinical trials, are under examination. The issue of its registration will be decided upon the results of the examination.” Clinical trials of the formula began at Moscow’s Sechenov University on June 18. In a study involving 38 volunteers, it passed safety protocols. It was observed that all those who took part developed immunity to the infection. The speed with which Russia has managed to research and approve a formula has raised some eyebrows in the West, but Vadim Tarasov, a top scientist at Sechenov, said the country had a head start as it has spent the last 20 years developing skills in this field and trying to understand how viruses transmit.

The haste is fairly easy to grasp when you consider the effect Covid-19 has had on the world’s largest country. With more than 870,000 cases, it is among the four countries worst affected by the epidemic, along with the US, Brazil, and India. Russia’s 14,725 fatalities is the 11th highest in the world, although when measured per capita, the death rate ranks 47th, below Germany, but above Austria. The technology behind the Russian vaccine is based on adenovirus, the common cold. Created artificially, the vaccine proteins replicate those of Covid-19, triggering “an immune response similar to that caused by the coronavirus itself,” Tarasov said. In other words, immunization is similar to having survived the virus, but without its life-threatening risks.

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has bankrolled the research, last week compared the vaccine discovery process to the Space Race. “Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he told US TV.

Read more …

Much deadlier in men. Much deadlier than the seasonal flu.

SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)

The magnitude of the infection fatality risk (IFR) of SARS-CoV-2 remains under debate. Because the IFR is the number of deaths divided by the number of infected, serological studies are needed to identify asymptomatic and mild cases. Also, because ascertainment of deaths attributable to COVID-19 is often incomplete, the calculation of the IFR needs to be complemented with data on excess mortality. We used data from a nation-wide seroepidemiological study and two sources of mortality information -deaths among laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and excess deaths- to estimate the range of IFR, both overall and by age and sex, in Spain.


The overall IFR ranged between 1.1% and 1.4% in men and 0.58% to 0.77% in women. The IFR increased sharply after age 50, ranging between 11.6% and 16.4% in men ≥80 years and between 4.6% and 6.5% in women ≥80 years. Our IFR estimates for SARS-CoV-2 are substantially greater than IFR estimators for seasonal influenza, justifying the implementation of special public health measures.

Read more …

Not the first time that the Dems cry murder over something Trump says, only to make it look like they invented it mere weeks later.

Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)

Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a compromise on a Covid-19 economic relief bill, but one comment from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) about schools needing to reopen has some seeing hypocrisy on the left. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Schumer addressed the press after failed negotiations with Republicans on a potential relief bill. While many of their complaints about Republicans refusing to continue robust unemployment and other government programs was to be expected, one comment from Schumer went viral as it didn’t seem to match the outrage shown to President Donald Trump when he mentioned the same thing. “If you don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly,” Schumer said, “because lots of people can’t go to work.”

The president has floated the idea of fully reopening most schools in the fall despite the coronavirus pandemic, but he has found pushback with liberal critics each and every time. Schumer’s admission that not reopening schools will hurt the economy, which the president has argued, was seen as a surprising “moment of clarity” by critics on social media who latched onto the comment. The disagreement on reopening schools comes down to federal funding. Schumer and Pelosi have argued the only way to safely let kids back into the in-person education system is through major federal funding. Trump has argued that schools in hotspots for the coronavirus should be taking precautions when reopening, but the failure to add federal funding into a Covid-19 economic package has the left and right at a standstill on the issue.

Already a heated debate, it is only bound to get more heated as the country draws nearer to the dates schools would normally open their doors again. Experts have argued since schooling is a childcare issue, keeping them closed affects not only children and employees of the education system, but also parents who cannot return to work. “Because children and parents are dying from that trauma, too. They’re dying because they can’t do what they’re doing. Mothers can’t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child, and fathers,” the president told CBS News last month when asked why he considered not reopening schools a “terrible decision.”

Pelosi has argued the president is “messing” with childrens’ health and risking another outbreak of the virus with his support for reopening schools. “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus,” she told CNN. “If there are CDC guidelines, they should be requirements.”

Read more …

Oh, we’re going to have so much fun over the nest three months. And then there may be another three months needed to count the votes. Solid entertainment into Spring 2021. And Pelosi as President.

Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)

Just because Trump’s claims of rampant mail-in voting fraud aren’t supported by evidence doesn’t mean election experts aren’t concerned about problems holding a presidential election during a pandemic. It’s unknown whether the United States Postal Service can handle a surge of mail-in ballots in a timely fashion, and other officials have cautioned about long lines and a shortage of workers at in-person polling stations, which have been limited during the coronavirus outbreak. Some have predicted the crush of remote voting could mean a final winner in the presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t be known for days or even weeks.

Democrats are pushing for $25 billion for USPS in the next coronavirus recovery bill to help address those concerns, but it remains a source of disagreement with Republicans. There have already been some some notable delays in down-ballot elections during the pandemic, including one New York race this summer. Six weeks after a Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, all of the ballots have yet to be counted. “This is a rare case where the president is not overstating the case,” argued Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that has sued in North Carolina and Pennsylvania over the accuracy of voting rolls. “Frankly he’s understating the problem that I think we are going to face on Election Day. The system is going to break.”

The Trump campaign is holding events touting its legal actions on voting rules. And privately, the White House is debating possible further action, according to two people familiar with the situation. The White House declined to comment on whether Trump would be signing an executive order on the issue. “All Americans deserve an election system that is secure and President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for universal mail-in voting would lead to fraud,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. “While Democrats continue to call for a radical overhaul of our nation’s voting system, President Trump will continue to work to ensure the security and integrity of our elections.”

Read more …

It’s just like a biblical jubilee.

No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)

The New York Fed released a doozie of a household credit report. It summarized what individual lenders have been reporting about their own practices: If you can’t make the payments on your mortgage, auto loan, credit card debt, or student loan, just ask for a deferral or forbearance, and you won’t have to make the payments, and the loan won’t count as delinquent if it wasn’t delinquent before. And even if it was delinquent before, you can “cure” a delinquency by getting the loan deferred and modified. No payment, no problem. Student loan borrowers were automatically rolled into forbearance under the CARES Act, and even though many students had stopped making payments, delinquency rates plunged because the Department of Education had decided to report as “current” all those loans that are in forbearance, even if they were delinquent. Yup, according to New York Fed data, the delinquency rate of student loan borrowers, though many had stopped making payments, plunged from 10.75% in Q1, to 6.97% in Q2, the lowest since 2007:

Student loan forbearance is available until September 30, and interest is waived until then, instead of being added to the loan. In a blog post, the New York Fed said that 88% of the student-loan borrowers, including private-loan borrowers and Federal Family Education Loan borrowers, had a “scheduled payment of $0,” meaning that at least 88% of the student loans were in some form of forbearance. Until September 30. And then what? And because delinquencies in student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and mortgages are being “cured” by putting the loans in deferral programs and modifying the delinquent loans, they become “current” loans even though no catch-up payments have been made.


Still, about 32 million people are claiming unemployment insurance. A much smaller employment shock during the Financial Crisis caused the percentage of delinquent loan balances to soar, and the percentage of “current” loan balances to plunge, to bottom out at 88% in Q4 2009. Not this time. As the percentage of delinquent loan balances fell, the percentage of “current” loan balances jumped to 96.4%, a record high in the New York Fed’s data going back to 2003. Yup, crazy world. Ally Financial reported in its 10-Q filing with the SEC for the second quarter that about 21% of its auto-loan customers were enrolled in its deferral program where they don’t have to make payments for 120 days. “The vast majority of our loan deferrals for customers in the program are scheduled to expire by the end of August 2020,” it said. And then what?

Lenders like these types of programs because they can kick the can of delinquencies down the road, and instead they have “performing loans” for which they can accrue interest which makes their investors happy, even though the customers don’t make any interest or principal payments. Bank regulators normally get nervous about deferral programs. But it appears that bank regulators have been told the shelter at home until further notice. Across all lenders, about 5.9% of the $1.34 trillion in auto loans – so close to $80 billion – are in forbearance, according to the New York Fed. And as a result, borrowers who cannot make the payment, don’t have to make it, and their loans are still deemed “current,” and the percentage of auto loans that are newly delinquent dropped to 6.29%, a record low in the data – while during the last crisis, the delinquent balances were above 10% for nearly two years:

Read more …

Yes, they’re censoring TV networks now. Scary. So is this: when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules.

Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)

Social media companies continued to assert their power over the political sphere this week, with Twitter temporarily suspending the Trump campaign’s ability to post until it removed a clip of a Fox News interview with the president regarding COVID-19. When the Democratic National Committee reposted the video to debunk it, Twitter similarly banned the DNC from tweeting until it too deleted the footage. With Twitter seemingly unbothered by the implications of suspending a presidential campaign’s account just 12 weeks before the election, what might the future hold as control of our public squares is increasingly centralized?

Twitch became the first social media platform to formally suspend a presidential candidate’s account this past June when it deleted two of President Trump’s campaign rally videos for violations of its “hateful conduct” rules. In doing so, it emphasized the divide between physical and virtual campaigning. At an in-person rally a candidate can present the policy proposals he or she believes supporters want. Virtual rallies, however, are policed by an army of moderators enforcing ever-changing acceptable speech policies, forcing politicians to self-censor or risk deletion from the online world that increasingly shapes elections.

In the case of this week’s ban, the story is all the more remarkable because the video in question was actually a cable TV interview with the nation’s leader, meaning that social platforms were in effect banning a major news organization’s reporting. As news is increasingly consumed through social media, the upshot is that the online platform’s acceptable speech rules are being applied to traditional news outlets. Additionally, rather than link the video to an outside fact check, Facebook simply deleted it as “a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation” while Twitter forced the campaign to delete the post as a “violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation.” Both companies cited as the offending statement Trump’s claim that children have “much stronger immune systems” than adults and thus “they don’t have a problem” when infected.

While oversimplifying, Trump’s claims are not that far removed from those of CDC Director Robert Redfield and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have cited the pathogen’s significantly reduced severity in children in their calls to safely reopen schools this fall. While more measured than the “immunity” claimed by Trump, the gist of his statement — that COVID-19’s impact on children appears to be less severe than its effect on older Americans — aligns with the public statements of his medical advisers. Moreover, when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules. To this date, Musk’s tweet carries no warnings or fact-checking statements from Twitter refuting it or adding additional context to his claims.

In many ways, social media platforms have become modern-day incarnations of the Hays Code that governed Hollywood from the 1930s to 1960s, establishing “morality” standards and enforcing them with an army of censors. By shaping popular culture through its control of movies, the Hays Code ensured that generations of Americans were presented an idealized world of benevolent public institutions, including police and politicians whose good works were spotlighted and any wrongdoing was punished. Moreover, as an extrajudicial speech regulation, studios could modify the rules and exempt content at will, much as social platforms do today.

Read more …

And the censoring power will only get more centralized, unless politics calls a halt to it. But then there’s always the strong links to intelligence services.

Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)

The ideological battle over the fate of TikTok is provoking fist fights in the Oval Office, and a scramble among the country’s biggest tech firms to see if they might be able to come up with a workable pitch that would allow them to win approval to buy the US operations (along with New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and possibly more) of the popular Chinese-owned social media platform – the only real obstacle to a deal at a time when corporate credit is essentially free. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the app, which the Trump Administration is threatening to shut down in the US over fears of a “national security threat” (Chinese law forces all Chinese companies to cooperate with state security forces, provoking fears that ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, might be compelled to set up a pipeline of Americans’ private information straight to Beijing), has become perhaps the biggest political football at a time of intense strain in the bilateral relationship.

But amid the chaos and the geopolitical posturing of the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, America’s tech giants apparently see an opportunity, however unlikely, to circumvent opposition to further tech-industry mergers and seal what very well might be the last major merger in the industry for quite some time. And with the world headed into a period of protracted slowdown, companies might as well take advantage of the free money, and lock in that future EPS growth while they can. Since anti-trust scrutiny is such a hot issue in the world of big tech right now, it seems every company that has reportedly engaged in “talks” about the prospects for a deal has a reason for why it might assuage regulators and lawmakers and convince both Congress and the White House to agree to the deal.

Being the smallest of the three major companies rumored to be potential suitors, Twitter obviously has the best case from a purely anti-trust standpoint (although it seems reporters keep coming up with excuses for why Microsoft or Facebook could still make it work). Plus, Twitter’s comparatively tiny $29 billion market cap means it would likely need help from outside investors – a great opportunity for Sequoia and the other big VC firms who backed ByteDance who reportedly were in talks about a deal to bring TikTok into the US under their purview. The deal would have valued TikTok at $50 billion, according to unconfirmed reports.

Read more …

How awful! Let’s do something!

US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)

The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, adding detail to drawdown plans U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week. The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan. Trump said in an interview released Monday by Axios that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.

Read more …

Hey! You’re not driving enough! Want to collapse the economy or something?

Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)

The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand. The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30% worldwide, and still remains below pre-pandemic levels. Several executives said they took massive writedowns because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 people.


Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing re-evaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20% or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves. By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to re-center its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas. Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs. “It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

Read more …

Isn’t he also interfering by NOT investigating Burisma, Hunter and the clip where Joe Biden brags about blackmailing Poroshenko into firing a prosecutor?

Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that it was a matter of Ukraine’s national security to stay out of U.S. internal politics, particularly its election. “#Ukraine did not and will not allow itself to interfere in the elections and thus harm our trusting and sincere partnership with the #USA,” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday. Zelenskiy, 42, was a comic actor when he won a landslide election last year. But the first year of his presidency was overshadowed by Ukraine’s unwitting involvement in events that led to the impeachment of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had unsuccessfully pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.


“Never, under any circumstances, it’s acceptable to meddle in another country’s sovereign elections,” Zelenskiy wrote. Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainian politicians to avoid any actions that could be linked to U.S. elections, nor allow themselves to try to solve any of their personal, political or business problems that way. “Ukraine’s reputation is worth much more than the reputation of any of our politicians,” the president said.

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“It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us..”

Hard to read that with a straight face, let alone for him to say it.

George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)

George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has announced he is releasing a new book called “Out of Many, One” which will celebrate America’s diversity and immigrant populations. “Our immigrant heritage has enriched America’s history. It continues to shape our society. Each generation of Americans — of immigrants — brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. Newcomers have a special way of appreciating the opportunities of America, and when they seize those opportunities, our whole nation benefits,” the former president said. The book, scheduled for release in March 2021 will feature 43 images of immigrants, painted by Bush himself [..]

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” he said in a press release. “My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.” With immigration becoming an increasingly hot partisan issue, the move celebrating the practice is the latest in a series of actions that Bush has taken to distance himself from the current Republican president. Both Bush and his father claimed they did not vote for Trump in 2016, leading to delight from many Democrats. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example, yearned for a by-gone age, admitting to wishing Bush were still president, even though at the time she described him as a “total failure” in every aspect of governing.

[..] Bush bragged about greatly increasing the U.S.’ detention capacity for immigrants, using drones to patrol the area, and building 700 hundred miles of fencing and wall, which served as a stepping stone to Trump’s border plans. The increasingly militarized border mirrored the increasingly hostile rhetoric towards immigrants that dominated the Republican Party today. Bush is no stranger to covering controversial topics in his art. In 2017, he released a similar bestselling book called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.” In it, he painted dozens of fallen American servicemen, all of whom died fighting in wars he started under false pretenses and has expressed no remorse for doing so. Neither Bush nor the great number of outlets who praised the book appeared at all interested in Middle Eastern victims of his policy.

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A Trojan horse in the 2020’s.

West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)

An American man with ties to Amnesty International and key Hong Kong separatist figures has been posing online as a Hong Kong native named Kong Tsung-gan. Routinely cited as a grassroots activist and writer by major media organizations and published in English-language media, the fictitious character Kong appears to have been concocted to disseminate anti-China propaganda behind the cover of yellowface. Through Kong Tsung-gan’s prolific digital presence and uninterrogated reputation in mainstream Western media, he disseminates a constant stream of content hyping up the Hong Kong “freedom struggle” while clamoring for the US to turn up the heat on China.


Whispers about Kong’s true identity have been circulating on social media among Hong Kong residents, and was even mentioned in a brief account last December by The Standard. The Grayzone spoke to several locals outraged by a deceptive stunt they considered not only unethical, but racist. They said they have kept their views to themselves due to the atmosphere of intimidation looming over the city, where self-styled “freedom fighters” harass and target seemingly anyone who speaks out publicly against them.

The Twitter user Kong Tsung-gan (@KongTsungGan) first appeared in March 2015. Kong Tsung-gan’s earliest tweets featured commentary about Tibet and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. At some point, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to a black-and-white headshot of an unknown Asian person. A search of the Wayback Machine internet archive shows that this photo remained up until sometime in late 2019. Later, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to an image depicting Liu Xia, the wife of the late Nobel Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo was a right-wing ideologue who celebrated the US wars on Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and was rewarded with the 2014 Democracy Award by the National Endowment for Democracy – the favorite meddling machine of the US government.


[..] At around the time he created his Twitter account, Kong Tsung-gan published his first Medium post. He has since filled his Medium feed with protest timelines, lists of recommended human rights books and journalism (including a link to the questionable China “expert” Adrian Zenz), and “first-hand accounts” of his protest experiences on the ground. In one account, Kong Tsung-gan claimed he attended a Band 1 government school, implying he was a native Hong Kong resident. Kong’s work has been amplified by Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong protest poster-boy who has enjoyed photo-ops with neoconservative Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton.

Read more …

Rich eat poor everywhere.

Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

A recent study has confirmed that half of Germany’s population owns just 1.5% of the country’s wealth, while the top 0.1% own 20%. And inequality is getting worse. During the last two decades, the real disposable income of the poorest 50% has been falling while that of the top 1% has been rising fast, along with house and share prices. It is against this background of high and rising inequality that the mood of the German public must be understood, in particular popular resistance to the idea of a eurozone fiscal union. German workers, who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, understandably refuse to endorse the idea of huge amounts of money being constantly channeled to citizens of other countries. The fact that Germany is getting richer overall is irrelevant to them.

From experience, they know that any money sent to Italy or Greece will probably come from them, not the top 0.1% – not to mention that it will probably end up in the pockets of vile Greek oligarchs, or of private German companies that have purchased Greek assets for next to nothing. As a result, the European Union’s recently agreed €750 billion ($880 billion) pandemic recovery fund, dubbed Next Generation EU, threatens to deepen divisions across Europe, rather than being the unifying balm of many commentators’ dreams. Setting aside the scheme’s macroeconomic insignificance, it is important to take a fresh look at it from the perspective of a typical German worker languishing among the bottom 50% of the country’s wealth distribution.

Her government, a typical German worker is told, will be liable for €100 billion of new debt that the EU will use to help foreigners recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. “Italians will receive €80 billion from Europe’s Recovery Fund,” she hears. “Spaniards will collect €78 billion, and even the Greeks will pocket €23 billion.” And what will she get? Less than nothing. Because her government is already in fiscal consolidation mode, trying to return its budget to a small surplus by 2021, she can expect only stagnant wages and more austerity for her local hospitals, schools, roads, and other infrastructure.1 While she may well feel compassion to the Italians and Spaniards, who lost so many people to COVID-19, she will never accept repeating this exercise in debt mutualization on behalf of southern or East Europeans. The solidarity of German workers, toward whom no one shows any solidarity, has its limits – as it should.

Read more …

 

 

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Arthur Rothstein Accident on US 40 between Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland 1936

 

 

 

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)
Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)
Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)
Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)
China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)
Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)
US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)
‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)
Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)
Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)
Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

• China 79,824 cases, 593 new, total deaths 2,870, 41,625 recovered, 2 more doctors die
– new Hubei cases rise, 565 in the provincial capital Wuhan

• South Korea 3,736, 1023 new cases, but :
– estimates of 4,200 infections among Shincheonji church members
– that’s 80% of those tested, there are 210,000 church members, some of whom visited Wuhan

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

• Iran 593, 43 deaths
– Twitter: “The country is imploding – law and order to disappear in the next days.”

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

Singapore 102 cases
France 100
Hong Kong 95, 2 deaths
US 71, 1 death
Thailand 42 cases, 1 death
Bahrain 38
UK 23
Switzerland 18
Norway 15
Iraq 13
Lebanon 7
Holland 7
Pakistan 4
Mexico 4

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

I added a third counter, from COVID2019.app, a project where 70 people -and counting- work together

 

 

 

 

Leung is behind some of the most dire predictions. But not for his homebase HK.

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)

The Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor Gabriel Leung, on Sunday warned that the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong had not yet reached its peak, saying it was too early to tell when it would be over and people should not let their guard down against the respiratory disease. As of Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 95 confirmed cases of the virus, known as Covid-19, and two deaths. But speaking after a radio programme, Professor Leung said the overall decline in new cases on the mainland did show that the first wave of the outbreak there was largely under control, except in Hubei province, where the disease appears to have originated.

On Sunday, the mainland reported 573 new Covid-19 infections, up from the 427 on Saturday and the highest for a week, although much lower than earlier in the month. The mainland’s National Health Commission also reported 35 deaths, fewer than the 47 on Saturday, which took the death toll to 2,870. All but one of Sunday’s deaths – and all but three of its new cases – were in Hubei. The total number of cases on the mainland is now approaching 80,000. Professor Leung said the rest of the world was now only seeing the beginning of the outbreak and this would make containing the spread of the virus in Hong Kong more difficult. However, he said Hong Kong had actually been doing well at virus control.

“The rest of the world actually views Hong Kong, along with Singapore, as the gold standard in epidemic control,” he said. “If you look at these two places, we have very similar absolute numbers of confirmed cases, yet we have a population that is one third bigger then Singapore, so – on a per capita basis – we’re not doing too badly.”


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

Read more …

Over 260 million people, 141 tests. It’s almost like the US.

Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)

Indonesia has the resources to cope with a coronavirus outbreak, the director of its leading infectious diseases hospital said, defending detection procedures in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million, where no cases have been reported. The world’s fourth most populous nation has tested 141 suspected cases, a small figure for its population, sparking concern among some medical professionals of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases. Neighboring Malaysia has reportedly run about 1,000 tests, and Britain more than 10,000. “We can’t doubt our skills and the facts we gather,” said Muhammad Syahril, director of the Sulianti Saroso hospital in Jakarta, the capital, when asked why Indonesia had detected no cases.

“If we don’t have cases, we don’t have cases,” he said in an interview at the hospital on Friday. “Why would we cover it up?” [..] The hospital was ready to tackle any outbreak, armed with experience gained in handling disease such as the 2003-2004 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), he said. A health ministry official previously told Reuters that some hospitals, particularly in eastern Indonesia, had smaller capacity to handle virus cases. But even in Jakarta not all best practices appear to be followed and a recent visit to another hospital revealed some nurses without masks, despite attending to a patient with fever.

Fuelling concern about Indonesia’s vulnerability, four infections were confirmed in travelers who had spent time there, including a Japanese national living in Malaysia and one returning to New Zealand from Iran via the resort island of Bali. Indonesian physician Shela Putri Sundawa worries that screening could miss potential carriers without symptoms. “When people have travel or contact history, but they only have issues with coughing or minor fever, they’ll just be monitored,” she said, calling for tighter surveillance. Tests were run when doctors determined that symptoms pointed “to that direction”, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto saidlast week. “Imagine if everybody who had a cough or flu was checked, then millions would be checked,” he said, adding that it was “a blessing from the Almighty” that no cases had been found.

Read more …

Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

Patient comes in from another hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19 – this is one week ago – already intubated and on a ventilator, and the doctors at UC Davis – who have treated other COVID-19 cases – IMMEDIATELY suspect COVID-19. But the CDC refuses to test for COVID-19. Why? Because it didn’t fit their “criteria” for testing. They didn’t know for sure that the patient was in mainland China within the past 14 days, and they didn’t know for sure that the patient was in close contact with another confirmed case, so BY DEFINITION this patient can’t possibly have COVID-19. No test for you! This is “Don’t Test, Don’t Tell” and it is the single most incompetent, corrupt public health policy of my lifetime. And it’s happening all over the country.

[..] the update: 83 people are in self-quarantine at home, where they are supposed to “check their temperature” daily. Don’t have a thermometer? Not to worry! The Nassau County Health Commission will provide one for you! Who are the 83 in self-quarantine? Why, they’re everyone that Homeland Security says should be in self-quarantine, based on “current guidelines” of someone who was in mainland China within the past 14 days. Has it been 15 days since your mainland China visit? Have you been to Northern Italy in past 14 days? Have you been to Iran in past 14 days? Have you been to South Korea in past 14 days? Well, no self-quarantine for you! You’re fine!

And here’s the kicker. Not only is there ZERO tracking or monitoring of anyone who has been swimming in the coronavirus stew of South Korea, Northern Italy and Iran, but let’s say that you have in fact been to one of those areas recently and now you’re feeling sick. You go to the doctor and you tell her the whole story. Both of you suspect it might be COVID-19. You’re trying to do the right thing here. You call the county health authority. You call the state health authority. You call the CDC. And then you learn the awful truth of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell. It’s not that testing is not available…It’s that testing is not ALLOWED. [..] here’s the other quote from the UC Davis email that I’d like you to pay close attention to:

“When the patient arrived [Wednesday], the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator, and given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition. … On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions.” Translation: for four days, every healthcare professional treating this patient at UC Davis was exposed to airborne transmission of COVID-19. And so was every healthcare professional at the hospital before UC Davis. Because the CDC refused to test this patient for COVID-19 in a timely manner, the doctors and nurses and technicians caring for this patient were put at risk.

Read more …

But!: “The most horrible week for the Dow since the GFC in 2008 is hardly visible on the long-term chart.”

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)

It is likely the fresh data, which measures the economic impact of Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on the virus, will further spook investors who sent global markets tumbling 11% last week in the worst seven-day period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash. With factories forced to remain closed after the traditional lunar new year holiday shutdown, China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a widely watched measure of economic activity, fell further in February than at any time in the last 12 years, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said. The bureau found a significant collapse in domestic and export orders and a contraction of the country’s burgeoning service sector.

Similar surveys expected next month covering Japan and South Korea, both seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak, could prolong the rout on global stock markets, analysts said. The outbreak has already disrupted supplies to factories in Europe, where companies have struggled to access vital components sourced from east Asia. Investors expect to find out in the next few days whether the outbreak is accelerating in the US, the world’s biggest economy, and how far central banks and governments are prepared to go to deal with an epidemic. “Right now the market is saying that this is unbounded. We don’t know what the limits are and we don’t know where it’s going to peak,” said Graham Tanaka, the chief investment officer at New York-based Tanaka Capital. Stock markets globally lost about $5tn of value last week, as measured by the MSCI all-country index.

Last weekend China’s president, Xi Jinping, told local officials that low-risk areas should “resume full production and normal life”. The government reported that larger factories reached 85.6% of their capacity by the middle of last week. Analysts at ING said: “This isn’t as positive as it sounds. Even if China‘s factory production can recover in March, it will still face the risk of a low level of export orders. This is because the supply chain will continue to be broken, this time in South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US, where Covid-19 has begun to spread.” Unofficial reports show that factories outside Hubei province, where the virus started, could be working at no more than 75% of their capacity and many nearer 25% to 50% while millions of workers remain trapped in their home province, unable to travel back to their place of work.

Read more …

Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is “at least partly” due to an economic slowdown prompted by the coronavirus, US space agency Nasa says. Nasa maps show falling levels of nitrogen dioxide this year. It comes amid record declines in China’s factory activity as manufacturers stop work in a bid to contain coronavirus. [..] Nasa scientists said the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide – a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles and industrial facilities – was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan city but then spread across the country.

Nasa compared the first two months of 2019 with the same period this year. The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. She added that she had observed a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession in 2008, but said that decrease was more gradual. Nasa noted that China’s Lunar New Year celebrations in late January and early February have been linked to decreases in pollution levels in the past. But it said they normally increase once the celebrations are over.

Read more …

Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)

Bernie Sanders doesn’t do things by half measures. As he vies to become the 46th president of the United States he is looking to shatter no fewer than three historic records. President Sanders would be the first Jewish incumbent of the most powerful office on Earth. Aged 79 on inauguration day, he would become the oldest president in US history having unseated the current record-holder, Donald Trump, 73. Most striking of all, he would be the first American commander-in-chief describing himself as a “democratic socialist”. Judging by recent attacks from his detractors – Democratic ones, not Trump supporters – that is the political equivalent of carrying the coronavirus.

“I’ll tell you what it adds up to,” said Pete Buttigieg, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, at this week’s TV debate ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina. Buttigieg referenced Sanders’ “radical” policies of universal tax-funded healthcare, debt-free college tuition and a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis, then said: “It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump.” On Tuesday Sanders has the chance to take his political insurgency and wipe it across the nation. In the 2020 cycle, Super Tuesday is even more super-charged than usual, providing him with an opportunity to take his already impressive lead over Buttigieg and six other Democratic rivals and virtually blast them out of the water.

In Iowa he finished a splinter-thin second to Buttigieg. In New Hampshire he won. In Nevada he sealed his frontrunner status with a slam-dunk victory. Now Super Tuesday promises to project him to all-but invincible heights. Fourteen states go to the polls on 3 March, between them commanding two-thirds of the 1991 delegates he needs to win outright.

Read more …

At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population. This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

Washington and the Taliban movement have signed a deal that lays out conditions for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The agreement was signed by US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban’s senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday. The deal will see Washington and its allies withdrawing their troops from five bases in Afghanistan within the next 135 days. The remaining American soldiers will leave the country in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments. The document lays the groundwork for future negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country.


The US has agreed to facilitate the talks and lift sanctions from Taliban members by August, provided the negotiations commence as planned. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called on all of his fighters to honor and abide by the agreement. The US and Afghan governments said earlier that the peace agreement will include guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used by terrorist groups to target the US and its allies. Also, Washington and Kabul agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban by March 10, vowing to release up to 5,000 and 1,000 people respectively. Calling the deal “a decisive step toward real peace in Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the victories against Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks. “Al-Qaeda today is a shadow of its former self. We have decimated its leadership, and now we have the Taliban agreeing that Al-Qaeda must never again find safe haven in Afghanistan,” he said.

Read more …

Seeing 33 of his troops killed didn’t bring home Putin’s message to Erdogan. Whose claims are for domestic purposes only, until someone dares him.

‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)

As tensions in Idlib province reach the boiling point, Turkey has asked Russia to let it fight the Syrian government face-to-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed. Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Turkish leader told his AK Party on Saturday. Erdogan was explaining to lawmakers his government’s handling of the escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian troops have engaged in several clashes over the past weeks. The hostilities have all but ruined Turkey’s 2018 agreement with Russia on de-escalating the violence in the area, which remains the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria.

Describing his phone conversation with Putin, Erdogan said if Russia’s interest in Syria was to keep a military presence there, Turkey, a NATO member, does not object to it. I asked Mr Putin: What’s your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime. Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to help Damascus fight against jihadist groups. Moscow said helping the Syrian government prevented future attacks launched by this would-be entity against other nations, including Russia. Erdogan said Ankara now considers Syrian government troops a legitimate target for its attacks, claiming Damascus lost over 2,100 soldiers in Idlib.

It was not immediately clear if the casualty number only represents Syrian troops killed directly by the Turkish military or includes those killed by Turkish-backed armed groups. Erdogan added that “seven warehouses with chemicals” were also destroyed in Syria, but did not offer any details or evidence regarding whether Syria still had chemical weapons in its possession. The Turkish leader said fighting against the Syrian government is necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which would cause a new influx of refugees into Turkey across the border. Part of the Turkish response to the situation was opening the border with Europe to asylum-seekers. Erdogan said the EU failed to support Turkey, which already hosts over 3,6 million refugees from Syria and faces as many as 4 million new arrivals now.

Read more …

Does NATO Article 5 apply to members invading the sovereign soil of other nations?

Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)

Turkey is calling for NATO’s protection after 33 of its soldiers were killed in an apparent Syrian airstrike in Idlib, allegedly while fighting in terrorist ranks. In the regional chaos that ensues, only one player stands to gain.
Speculation over what’s to come next has seen #article 5 trending on Twitter in the hours following the attacks, after Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AKP party, indicated to reporters in Ankara that he was looking at requesting formal NATO protection against Damascus and, by proxy, the Russian air force. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” Celik told Turkish media.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty says an attack on one member is an attack on them all. The US State Department also condemned the attack, stating that it stands by its “NATO ally Turkey.” It further stated that it continues to “call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces.” Never one to let us down, the US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson also told journalists that “everything is on the table.” However, it is unclear if NATO has the stamina to back Turkey in any meaningful way in a war against a Syrian government which is backed by Russian air power. It is also unclear if Article 5 extends to NATO allies when they have effectively invaded a foreign entity. In fact, even if no corporate media entity would willingly admit it, the nation defending itself in this specific set of facts is Syria – not Turkey.

That being said, Ankara has found a way to ensure that European nations do not flat-out ignore the situation. Just recently, Turkey reportedly opened up the Idlib border to allow an influx of Syrian refugees to flee to Europe, which will surely magnify regional tensions to a significant extent. Moscow has responded to the situation by highlighting Ankara’s relationship with the various jihadist entities in Syria. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the airstrike was carried out when the Syrian Army was repelling an offensive by Syria’s official al-Qaeda offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, inside the Idlib “de-escalation zone.” Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the war in Syria can appreciate that Ankara’s material and financial support for terrorist groups in Syria, including and especially Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has long been documented.

Read more …

Erdogan buys Russian anti-rocket systems, then asks NATO for support with air defense.

Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)

Greece blocked the issuance of a joint communique from NATO on Friday night, intended to support Turkey in its war inside Syrian territory. According to Greece’s Kathimerini daily, which quotes Greek Foreign Ministry officials, Athens decided to block the joint NATO declaration because several of its members denied Greece’s demand to add a paragraph, which would have mentioned the issue of refugee and migrant influx from Turkey to Greece. According to this report, the USA, the UK, France, and Germany disagreed with Greece’s demand.


Meanwhile, Turkey asked NATO for additional support, particularly in its air defense in Syria. Most of the members of the North Atlantic alliance see this situation as an opportunity to bring Turkey closer to its allies in the West, pausing Ankara’s flirt with Russia. This was the reason why most of NATO’s ”big” players did not want to anger Turkey, by adding a clause that would mention immigration, particularly at a time when Ankara declares its inability to deal with approximately 4 million refugees and migrants currently in its territory.

Read more …

Greece has sent in the army to hold of some 13,000 migrants at the border. Either the EU acts now, or people are going to be killed.

Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claims, in a Twitter post, that 76,358 migrants had passed through the border city of Edirne by Sunday morning on their way to the border crossing with Greece. “As of 09.55 hours, the number of immigrants leaving our country via Edirne is 76 thousand 358,” said Soylu, according to the Demiroren News Agency. Turkey has opened its borders for migrants to cross into the EU and has aided them by providing buses to Edirne.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 192019
 
 December 19, 2019  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Jack Delano Residents of Miss Disher’s rooming house for rail workers, Clinton, Iowa 1943

 

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)
Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)
Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)
US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)
US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)
Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)
The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

The Democrats have unleashed powers yesterday (and the previous 3-4 years) that they cannot control.

Not long ago Pelosi said “We must hurry and impeach Donald Trump because he is a risk to National Security.” Not a priority anymore?

Paul Sperry: “The longer Democrats drag out the impeachment process, the longer Durham has to bring indictments, declassify documents, expose new evidence Trump was justified asking Ukraine to help investigate how Obama/Biden/Clinton sabotaged his 2016 campaign..”

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis. Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate. By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.

McConnell has boasted that he has closely coordinated the planning of the trial with the White House and has repeatedly predicted Trump would be acquitted. He’s also suggested Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to call new witnesses as they attempt to present their case. The White House lashed out at the move. “House Democrats have run a fatally flawed process with fake facts, and now they want to deny the President his day in court with another procedural maneuver that proves anew they have no case,” said Eric Ueland, Trump’s top congressional liaison to Congress.

Read more …

Can we say the same about impeachment?

Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)

[..] In other words, it looked like the CIA did this, and that it was a matter of the CIA making it look like the Russians were doing the hack. So, when you look at that and also look at the DNC emails that were published by Wikileaks that have this FAT-file format in them, all 35,813 of these emails have rounded off times to the nearest even second. That’s a FAT-file format property; that argues that those files were, in fact, downloaded to a thumb drive or CD-rom and physically transported before Wikileaks posted them. Which again argues that it wasn’t a hack. So, all of the evidence we’re finding is clearly evidence that the Russians were not in fact hacking; it was probably our own people.

It’s very hard for us to get this kind of information out. The mainstream media won’t cover it; none of them will. It’s very hard. We get some bloggers to do that and some radio shows. Also, I put all of this into a sworn affidavit in the Roger Stone case. I did that because all of the attack on him was predicated on him being connected with this Russian hack which was false to being with. All the evidence we’re accumulating clearly says and implies, the US government — namely the FBI, CIA, the DOJ, and of course State Department — all these people involved in this hack, bought a dossier and all of the information going forward to the FISA court. All of them knew that this was a fake from the very beginning, because this Guccifer 2.0 character was fabricating it.

They were using him plus the Internet Research Agency [IRA] as “supposed trolls of the Russian government”. Well, when they sent their lawyers over to challenge that in a court of law, the government failed to prove they had any connection with the Russian government. They basically were chastised by the judge for fabricating a charge against this company. So, if you take the IRA and the trolls away from that argument, and Guccifer 2.0, then the entire Mueller report is a provable fabrication; because it’s based on Guccifer 2.0 and the IRA. Then the entire Rosenstein indictment is also a fabrication and a fake and a fraud for the same reasons. The judges seem to be involved in trying to keep this information out of the public domain.

Read more …

Double jeopardy.

Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)

Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday won the dismissal of New York state fraud charges, in a defeat for the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to hold him accountable even if pardoned by Trump. Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan said at a hearing that letting the district attorney, Cyrus Vance, prosecute Manafort would violate Manafort’s protection against double jeopardy, or being prosecuted twice for the same conduct. “We will appeal today’s decision and will continue working to ensure that Mr. Manafort is held accountable for the criminal conduct against the People of New York that is alleged in the indictment,” Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost said in a statement.


Vance, a Democrat, announced the indictment of Manafort on 16 felony counts including residential mortgage fraud on March 13, less than an hour after Manafort was ordered to spend 7-1/2 years in prison on various federal charges. Those charges stemmed from former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and resulted in Manafort’s August 2018 conviction on tax evasion and bank fraud. Manafort, 70, has been serving his sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, but was hospitalized last week for what his lawyer called a cardiac incident. He did not attend Wednesday’s hearing but his lawyer, Todd Blanche, said “obviously, we are very happy” with the dismissal. Manafort had pleaded not guilty. “This indictment should never have been brought, and today’s decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically motivated actions,” Blanche said..

Read more …

Leave it to the Guardian to say: “Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance”, and then not mention Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)

The final Democratic presidential debate of the year is bringing seven 2020 candidates to the stage in California one day after the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction. Facing off in Los Angeles on Thursday are the former vice president Joe Biden and senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; the South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg; Senator Amy Klobuchar, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang and the billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance. The Democratic National Committee said candidates had to hit at least 4% in four national polls or at least 6% in two early-state polls in the weeks leading up to the event in order to qualify.


The candidates also had to attract at least 200,000 donors. That leaves no black or Latino candidates among the nearly all-white lineup of Democratic frontrunners. Senator Cory Booker and the former housing secretary Julián Castro both failed to qualify for the debate, and Senator Kamala Harris recently ended her campaign amid polling showing her far behind in California, her home state. Also absent from the event will be Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire who made a late entrance into the race last month and has poured an estimated $13.5m into TV ads in California. Steyer, the other billionaire in the race, has spent roughly $1.6m on ads in the state.

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A Merkel win.

US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)

A new Bloomberg headline reads “U.S. Concedes Defeat on Gas Pipeline It Sees as Russian Threat” just following new sanctions included in the House and Senate passed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. But two administration officials tell Bloomberg it’s too little too late, despite Trump’s heightened rhetoric of calling Germany “a captive to Russia” and charging Berlin with essentially giving “billions” of dollars to Russia: Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s take on the project, said sanctions that passed Congress on Tuesday as part of a defense bill are too late to have any effect. The U.S. instead will try to impose costs on other Russian energy projects, one of the officials added.

The Bloomberg report sees this as a rare admission of defeat: “The admission is a rare concession on what had been a top foreign-policy priority for the Trump administration and highlights how European allies such as Germany have been impervious to American pressure to abandon the pipeline. It also shows how the U.S. has struggled to deter Russia from flexing its muscles on issues ranging from energy to Ukraine to election interference.” The resolution contained in the defense spending bill, expected to be immediately signed into law by Trump, are measures which specifically target companies assembling the pipeline — a last ditch US effort to block the controversial 760-mile, $10.2BN project that would allow Russia to export natural gas directly to Germany, depriving Ukraine of badly needed gas transit fees along the current route for Russian supplies.

Washington’s position has long been that it weakens European energy security, while Merkel’s Germany has rejected Trump’s “meddling” in European energy affairs, which the Europeans have lately sought to diversify. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a February visit to Poland said Nord Stream 2 ultimately “funnels money to Russians in ways that undermine European national security.”

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‘Their obsession with weapons is crazy’

US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)

Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev has urged President Donald Trump’s administration to re-engage with Russia on landmark arms control treaties, warning that the collapse of Cold War-era nuclear weapon limits threatens global catastrophe. Speaking with Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, Gorbachev lamented America’s withdrawal from two key arms control treaties signed during the Cold War—the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) during President Geroge W. Bush’s tenure, and the more recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russia has also since suspended participation in the INF Treaty, prompting concerns of a new arms race. The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the estimated global nuclear weapons arsenals as of December 2017. Gorbachev is a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament. He told the Asahi he is “still praying for” the destruction of all nuclear weapons, noting that the number of warheads in Russia and the U.S. has reduced by more than 80 percent since the peak years of the Cold War. But he warned that this “peace dividend” is now at risk with the collapse of the ABMT and INF Treaty. It is also unclear whether New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)—the successor to START I that Gorbachev helped craft—will be renewed when it expires in 2021.

The Trump administration said last year that it would ditch the 1987 INF Treaty, which banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles 3,417 miles. The White House accused Russia of violating the deal by developing the SSC-8 missile. But Gorbachev blamed Washington for the development. “The decision by the United States to withdraw from the INF threatens to unleash a sequence of events that would move to undo” the post-Cold War peace dividend, he said. “Out of the three principal pillars of global strategic stability—the ABMT, INF and START—only one is left,” he added, noting that the future of New START is far from certain.

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“.. the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.”

Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing.” So said Gen. Douglas Lute, who oversaw the US war on Afghanistan under Presidents Bush and Obama. Eighteen years into the longest war in US history, we are finally finding out, thanks to thousands of pages of classified interviews on the war published by the Washington Post last week, that General Lute’s cluelessness was shared by virtually everyone involved in the war. What we learned in what is rightly being called the “Pentagon Papers” of our time, is that hundreds of US Administration officials – including three US Presidents – knowingly lied to the American people about the Afghanistan war for years. This wasn’t just a matter of omitting some unflattering facts. This was about bald-faced lying about a war they knew was a disaster from almost day one.

Remember President Bush’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Remember how supremely confident he was at those press conferences, acting like the master of the universe? Here’s what he told the Pentagon’s special inspector general who compiled these thousands of interviews on Afghanistan: “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.” It is not only members of the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations who are guilty of this massive fraud. Falsely selling the Afghanistan war as a great success was a bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill. In the dozens of hearings I attended in the House International Relations Committee, I do not recall a single “expert” witness called who told us the truth. Instead, both Republican and Democrat-controlled Congresses called a steady stream of neocon war cheerleaders to lie to us about how wonderfully the war was going.

Victory was just around the corner, they all promised. Just a few more massive appropriations and we’d be celebrating the end of the war. Congress and especially Congressional leadership of both parties are all as guilty as the three lying Administrations. They were part of the big lie, falsely presenting to the American people as “expert” witnesses only those bought-and-paid-for Beltway neocon think tankers. What is even more shocking than the release of this “smoking gun” evidence that the US government wasted two trillion dollars and killed more than three thousand Americans and more than 150,000 Afghans while lying through its teeth about the war is that you could hear a pin drop in the mainstream media about it. Aside from the initial publication in the Washington Post, which has itself been a major cheerleader for the war in Afghanistan, the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.

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The dollar?!

The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

Another net benefit for Trump is the never-ending impeachment saga. It has kept him in the media limelight and has allowed him to pretend that he is prevailing heroically against great odds while making his opposition look ridiculous in the eyes of his supporters. After the “Russian meddling” fable unraveled, an even more preposterous rationale for impeachment has taken its place. An attempt to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation is in the process of failing, since anyone with more intelligence than a bucket of California penis fish should know that it is up to the courts, not up to the legislature, to resolve disputes between the legislature and the executive.

All that remains now is an alleged abuse of power by Trump. Apparently, it is a no-no for a US president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a US presidential candidate for a variety of crimes such as corruption, bribery and money-laundering. This may all seem quite ridiculous, but it serves a purpose: it allows Trump to clean up on free publicity and to continue fiddling (tweeting, in his case) as Rome burns. But what has set fire under Rome is not the decrepitating state of US society, or the permanent and permanently worsening trade imbalance with China, or the never-ending impeachment farce. It is the incipient failure of the US dollar.

For those who have been paying careful attention, the surreal nature of the procedings, and the fact that results no longer matter—only appearances do—have become perfectly obvious, but they are a tiny minority. What has allowed the politicians and the media to exploit the general public’s innate normalcy bias and to keep the media replay loop going without too many people catching on to what’s really happening was (note the past tense!) the ability of the US government (with the assistance of the Federal Reserve, which is a government-linked but essentially private entity) to paper over the gaping chasm in the nation’s finances by issuing debt, in the form of US Treasury paper.

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Dec 172019
 


Dorothea Lange “Men on ‘Skid Row’, Modesto, California” 1937

 

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)
Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)
What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)
Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)
College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)
Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)
Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)
Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)
Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)
Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

 

 

Almost no Russia/Ukrainegate today! Just a little Michael Flynn.

We’ll havt to do with Boeing, which suspended its production of … what exactly. Below is a Reuters article which I picked up late yesterday. Ita talks about 737 production being suspended, not just 737 MAX. At that same URL, a different headline and article today, which says:

Boeing’s 737 Crisis Deepens As Production Stops For First Time In Two Decades
Boeing Co said on Monday it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January, its biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years, as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020.

Not sure what this means. Did they cut only MAX, or all models? Or was MAX the only model they were still producing? There is one other model: “Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.”

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)

Boeing Co is temporarily halting 737 production in January for the first time in more than 20 years as the grounding of the planemaker’s best-selling MAX after two fatal crashes looks set to last well into 2020. Boeing, which builds the 737 south of Seattle, said it will not lay off any employees during the production freeze, though the move could have repercussions across its global supply chain and the U.S. economy. The decision, made by Boeing’s board after a two-day meeting in Chicago, follows news last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not approve the plane’s return to service before 2020.


[..] Until now Boeing has continued to produce 737 MAX jets at a rate of 42 per month and purchase parts from suppliers at a rate of up to 52 units per month, even though deliveries are frozen until regulators approve the aircraft to fly commercially again. Halting production will ease a severe squeeze on cash tied up in roughly 375 undelivered planes, but only at the risk of causing industrial problems when Boeing tries to return to normal, industry sources said. Supply chains are already under strain due to record demand and abrupt changes in factory speed can cause snags. In 1997, Boeing announced a hit of $2.6 billion including hundreds of millions to deal with factory inefficiencies after it was forced to suspend output of its 737 and 747 lines due to supply chain problems. Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.

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A judge refusing access to evidence for the lawyer of an accused is always suspicious. And will be overruled by a next court. Flynn said he didn’t discuss -or didn’t recall it because he talked with so many people at the time- Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016, with Kislyak. He did tell him Russia should lay low until Trump became president. It was his job at the time to talk to people. The judge says the FBI had “sufficient and appropriate basis” to interview Flynn because the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. But that is the same basis that Horowitz has called into serious question.

Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)

A federal judge has denied requests by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to prompt the government to give him information he deems exculpatory and to dismiss the case against him. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan sided with the government in arguing that Flynn was already given all the information to which he was entitled. The judge also dismissed Flynn’s allegations of government misconduct, noting that Flynn already pleaded guilty to his crime and failed to raise his objections earlier when some of the issues he now complains about were brought to his attention. “The sworn statements of Mr. Flynn and his former counsel belie his new claims of innocence and his new assertions that he was pressured into pleading guilty,” Sullivan said in his Dec. 16 opinion.

Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of lying to the FBI. He’s been expected to receive a light sentence, including no prison time, after extensively cooperating with the government on multiple investigations. In June, he fired his lawyers and hired former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who has since accused the government of misconduct, particularly of withholding exculpatory information or providing it late. Powell has argued that Flynn’s previous lawyers had a conflict of interest because they testified in a related case against Flynn’s former business partner. Flynn had previously told the court he would keep the lawyers despite the conflict, but Powell said prosecutors should have asked the judge to dismiss the lawyers anyway.

Sullivan disagreed, saying Flynn failed to show a precedent that the prosecutors had that obligation. Powell also said the government had no proper reason to investigate Flynn in the first place and that it had set up an “ambush interview” with the intention of making Flynn say something it could allege was false. Sullivan disagreed again and said that previously, with the advice of his former lawyers, Flynn never “challenged the conditions of his FBI interview.”

The prosecutors argued that the FBI had a “sufficient and appropriate basis” for the interview because Flynn days earlier told members of the Trump campaign, including soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, that he didn’t discuss with the Russian ambassador the expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016 by then-President Barack Obama. Flynn later admitted in his statement of offense that he asked, via Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, for Russia to only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner and not escalate the situation. The FBI was at the time investigating whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russian 2016 election meddling.

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Where is the outrage? h/t Tyler

What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)

If you need more proof that lawmakers in the U.S. couldn’t care less about America’s woeful commitment to human rights abroad—or even care about the public who vote them into office—look no further than the recent Afghanistan papers and the reaction to the publications from Congress. According to the Washington Post, the outlet had obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 generals, diplomats, and other officials directly involved in the war. The documents showed that U.S. officials were lying about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of Afghanistan, were hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable, and wasted close to $1 trillion in the process.

Barely a few hours following the Post’s publication, Congress rewarded the Pentagon for its stellar efforts with a $22 billion budget increase. How can we as a society justify this? One stand-out statistic—among the many concerning ones—is the fact that before the U.S. invasion the Taliban had almost completely put to bed Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade. Since the U.S. invasion, combined with $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs, the Taliban is not only stronger than it ever was but sits cemented in a country that now supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium. I can’t help but think this was done on purpose.

Still, it would be worth re-thinking our outrage over the Afghanistan papers and determining what exactly it is we are outraged about. Are we simply angry because top U.S. officials lied to us about the fact they weren’t winning the war, making it a less worthwhile venture? If the U.S. were winning the war, spending $1 trillion in the process, killing record numbers of civilians, ramping up night raids to terrorize local populations, committing war crimes left right and center, would that suddenly make it all okay? As long as the war is being won, right? The truth is, like most wars the U.S. finds itself prosecuting; this was yet another war based entirely on lies and misconceptions—right from the outset.

As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild famously said: “The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law. Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men—15 from Saudi Arabia—did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.” If that was the case in 2001, how this war has continued for close to another two decades begins to beggar belief.

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Below $7,000.

Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)

If you’re hoping to make money shorting bitcoin this holiday season, you might be in luck: Analysts say the price of a bitcoin is set to fall even further as the perpetrators of a massive Chinese crypto scheme dump their ill-gotten gains. Several of the participants in the $2 billion PlusToken scheme are dumping crypto from anonymous accounts. The sales are believed to be the reason fro bitcoin’s 50% drop since its peak in late June, which was around the time that some of the perpetrators of PlusToken were arrested in China. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities didn’t manage to nab them all, and a team of analysts at the blockchain consultancy Chainalysis are warning that the fallout isn’t over yet, according to Bloomberg.

“The largest cryptocurrency is likely to remain under pressure as perpetrators of the estimated more than $2 billion PlusToken scandal dump coins to cash out, the New York-based firm said Monday in the wake of a five-month investigation that continues to track the tokens as they filter through various blockchain ledgers. Bitcoin has tumbled almost 50% from its 2019 peak in late June, when Chinese authorities arrested multiple suspects in the pyramid scheme that promised returns as high as 600% and guaranteed that investors would be rewarded for inviting new members. Since that time, market observers have often pointed to possible sales tied to PlusToken suspects not in custody as one of many reasons for price declines.”

According to Chainalysis, PlusToken conspirators have already sold 25,000 bitcoins, and it’s believed another 20,000 (worth nearly $142 million at current prices). The coins are spread across some 8,700 anonymous bitcoin wallets.

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Fewer students, more debt. Number of male students plummets much faster than female. Does this look healthy to you?

College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)

With college costs blowing through the roof, with “luxury student housing” and not so luxury “student housing” having become asset classes – including, of course, CMBS, now in rough waters – for global investors, with textbook publishers gouging students to the nth degree, and with the monetary value of higher education questioned in more and more corners, the inevitable happened once again: College enrollment dropped for the eighth year in a row. The post-secondary student headcount – undergraduate and graduate students combined – in the fall semester of 2019 fell 1.3% from the fall semester last year, or by over 231,000 students to 17.97 million students, according to the Student Clearing House today. In the fall of 2011, the peak year, 20.14 million students had been enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped by 10.8%, or by 2.17 million students:

This is based on enrollment data submitted to the Student Clearing House by the schools. It does not include international students, which account for just under 5% of total student enrollment in the US. Duplicate headcounts – one student enrolled in two institutions – are removed from the data to eliminate double-counting. The 10.8% decline in enrollment since 2011 comes even as student loan balances have surged 74% over the same period, from $940 billion to $1.64 trillion:

[..] Women by far outnumbered men in total enrollment in the fall semester of 2019 with 10.63 million women enrolled and just 7.61 million men, meaning that overall there are now 40% more women in college than men: • At public four-year schools, there were 30% more women (4.51 million) than men (3.48 million) • At private non-profit four-year schools, there were 50% more women (2.32 million) than men (1.54 million) • At private for-profit four-year schools, there were more than twice as many woman (508,000) than men (241,000). • At public two-year schools, there were 38% more women (3.11 million) than men (2.26 million). Over the past three years, enrollment has declined for both men and women, but faster for men (-5.2%) than for women (-1.4%). Since 2011, enrollment has declined by 13% for men and by 9.4% for women.

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Estimates vary, but it appears that Europe’s total population in 1500 was some 60 million. North America’s was 50 million.

Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans at the hand of European settlers in a tit-for-tat attack on Washington’s decision to rebuke Ankara for the Armenian genocide. The US Senate voted in favour of recognising the genocide last week, a move initially stalled by Republicans at the urging of Donald Trump – who had been due to meet with the Turkish leader at the time. However, with the bill now passed, Mr Erdogan has threatened to respond by recognising US killings of Native Americans – saying the deaths of millions of indigenous people at the hands of European settlers should also be viewed as a genocide.

Speaking on the pro-government A Haber news channel, he said: “We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do. “Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history” Around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by modern-day Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, in the early 20th century. But Turkey denies the killings amounted to genocide, instead marking up the deaths of Armenians and Turks as the consequences of the ongoing war. It claims a lower death toll of hundreds of thousands. While the ramifications of the US legislation are largely symbolic, its timing and the targeting of a sore spot for the Turkish state have been seen by many as a direct challenge to the Middle Eastern country’s foreign policy.

A University College London team estimates that 55 million indigenous people died following the conquest of the Americas that began at the end of the 15th century. The majority of these deaths are believed to have been caused by disease – with indigenous people unable to build immunities to diseases that had never previously crossed over the Atlantic to the Americas. War, slavery and displacement also contributed to the decline of indigenous populations.

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Yes, Larry. Of course, Larry.

Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)

The so-called Phase One trade deal between Washington and Beijing has been “absolutely completed,” a top White House adviser said on Monday, adding that U.S. exports to China will double under the agreement. “They’re … going to double our exports to China,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox News Channel. Under the trade agreement announced last week, Washington will reduce some tariffs on Chinese imports in exchange for Chinese purchases of agricultural, manufactured and energy products increasing by about $200 billion over the next two years.


While U.S. officials have touted the deal, Chinese officials have been more cautious, emphasizing that the trade dispute has not been completely settled. “Make no mistake about it: the deal is done, the deal is completed,” Kudlow later told reporters at the White House. “The deal is absolutely completed.” Asked if officials still planned to sign the deal the first week of January, Kudlow said: “That’s the hope.” Translations were still being worked out but he did not expect any changes to the final Phase One agreement, he added.

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“The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains..”

“The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed.”

Put them in jail pending trial.

Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)

The wealthy owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma started taking far more money out of the company after it was fined for misleading marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller. A court filing made by the company Monday evening shows Purdue made payments totaling $10.7 billion from 2008 through 2017 for the benefit of members of the Sackler family who own the company. That includes taxes and other payments. Family members received $4.1 billion in cash over that period. By contrast, distributions for the benefit of family members from 1995 through 2007 totaled $1.3 billion. The total amount family members received from the company was made public in an October filing, but the new report offers new details on when the money was distributed.

“Today’s report confirms what we revealed in our lawsuit: The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains,” Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, the first attorney general to sue Sackler family members, said in a statement. The Sacklers’ wealth has received intense scrutiny from Healey and 23 other states’ attorneys general, who are objecting to a plan to settle about 2,700 lawsuits against Purdue over the toll of opioids, including those filed by nearly every state.

The objecting attorneys general say that the settlement does not do enough to hold the family accountable for an opioid crisis linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The settlement calls for the family to contribute at least $3 billion in cash over time and give up control of the company. In all, the plan could be worth up to $12 billion over time. But the offer comes with a major catch: The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed. They are all on hold for now as the company’s settlement efforts play out in bankruptcy court.

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The Guardian reporting on Assange. Forever tainted.

Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the US could last years, and his argument could hinge on reports he has been illegally spied upon and his sensitive information given to the CIA. Meanwhile, more than 100 doctors from across the world have written to the Australian government, urging it to act and “protect the life of its citizen”, in a letter to be delivered to the foreign affairs minister on Tuesday, amid warnings Assange’s health continues to deteriorate. A judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional in Spain, the country’s national court, is acting on allegations that while Assange held asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the Wikileaks founder was spied on, listened to and had his computer data scraped and that this information was sold to US intelligence agencies.

Speaking to the International Law Association in Sydney, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of law at the University of New South Wales who has provided advice on asylum issues to the Assange legal team, said Assange’s fight against extradition would be a long contest and that allegations he was being spied on would likely form part of legal arguments he could not receive a fair trial in the US. Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh prison, ahead of an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

[..] medical doctors have banded together to urge authorities to halt any extradition plans, as well as urgently release him for medical care outside of the prison. “That we, as doctors, feel ethically compelled to hold governments to account on medical grounds speaks volumes about the gravity of the medical, ethical and human rights travesties that are taking place,” their letter, seen by the Guardian, states. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health. It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice.”

A group of Australian MPs from across party lines have gathered to discuss what can be done for Assange, with hopes of meeting with him in Belmarsh ahead of his extradition hearing.

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You’ve had many years to do this. Where were you?

Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

A group of doctors has asked Foreign Minister Marise Payne to evacuate Julian Assange to an Australian hospital amid claims the WikiLeaks founder’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he “might die” in a London prison. Detailing allegations of “psychological torture” inflicted on Assange during efforts to extradite the 48-year-old to the United States, 100 medical doctors have urged Senator Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health,” the doctors say in a letter.

“It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death.” While the Australian government is highly unlikely to ask the UK government for permission to bring Assange home, there are concerns within some members of the Coalition about the asserted deterioration of his health in the months since he has been imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. Doctors have said Assange is suffering from depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

[..] “The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress,” they said. “Psychological torture involves extreme mental, emotional and physical harm, which over time causes severe damage and disintegration of a number of critical psychological functions, involving emotions, cognitions, identity and interpersonal functioning.” They warned the physical effects of psychological torture caused susceptibility to a range of illnesses and diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. “The potentially fatal medical consequences of prolonged psychological torture are inherently unpredictable, and could strike at any time. Accordingly, no doctor, no matter how senior, can offer any legitimate assurances regarding Julian Assange’s survival or medical stability while he continues to be held in Belmarsh Prison.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 212018
 
 December 21, 2018  Posted by at 10:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pieter Bruegel the Elder Hunters in the snow 1565

 

Dow Drops 470 Points To 14-Month Low In Day 2 Of Big Losses After Fed Hike (CNBC)
As Fear Rises On Wall Street, Strategists Warn The Worst Is Yet To Come (CNBC)
US Defense Chief Mattis Quits As Trump Pulls From Syria, Afghanistan (AFP)
House Passes Spending Bill With Border Wall Money, Senate Showdown Next (CNBC)
China Denies ‘Slanderous’ Economic Espionage Charges From US Allies (R.)
Russian Media Regulator Starts Checking Legality Of BBC’s Operations (R.)
Gatwick Runway Reopens After Days Of Drone Disruption (G.)
There’s A National Emergency All Right – But It Isn’t Brexit (G.)
Germany’s Hidden Crisis – Social Decline In The Heart Of Europe (G.)
Malaysia Seeks $7.5 Billion In Reparations From Goldman Sachs Over 1MDB (R.)
Singapore Said To Expand 1MDB Criminal Probe To Include Goldman Sachs (BBG)
Carlos Ghosn Re-Arrested On New Charges In Japan (BBC)
New Tree Species Became Extinct Before It Was Named (Ind.)

 

 

Jay Powell pricks the bubbles. Painful and inevitable. But if he ever decides to lower rates again next year, look for the bubbles to return. That’s his dilemma.

Dow Drops 470 Points To 14-Month Low In Day 2 Of Big Losses After Fed Hike (CNBC)

U.S. stocks swooned for a second day Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised benchmark interest rates and said that it would continue to let its massive balance sheet shrink at the current pace. Fears of a government shutdown also sent stocks tumbling to new lows Thursday afternoon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 464.06 points to 22,859.6, bringing its two-day declines to more than 800 points and its 5-day losses to more than 1,700 points. The S&P 500 fell 1.5 percent to finish at 2,467.41 as technology stocks underperformed. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.6 percent and closed at 6,528.41, briefly dipping into bear market territory amid big losses in Amazon and Apple.

The Nasdaq is 19.7 percent below its recent high. Companies in the S&P 500 have lost a total of $2.39 trillion in market cap this month. The Cboe Volatility Index — one of the market’s best gauges of marketplace fear — rose above 30. The Dow and Nasdaq posted their lowest closes since October 2017, while the S&P 500 finished at its lowest level since September 2017. The Dow and S&P 500, which are both in corrections, are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931, down more than 10 percent each this month. The S&P 500 is now in the red for 2018 by 7.7 percent.

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Yeah, all these experts. Who cares? There’s not nearly enough fear yet.

As Fear Rises On Wall Street, Strategists Warn The Worst Is Yet To Come (CNBC)

“The market’s in no man’s land,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment strategist at Bleakley Advisory Group. Stocks have broken through the lows of the year, and technicians are scurrying to find the next support levels. On the S&P 500, he said 2,400 is a potential psychological area of support. The market plunged Thursday against the backdrop of a congressional feud with the White House over a continuing budget resolution, but the markets were more focused on the worries that have been festering over global growth and the potential for recession. “You can guarantee if the government shuts down it’s going to very soon reopen,” said Boockvar.

“This could be a carry through from yesterday, that’s legitimate. The problem now is this is the first time in years in this bull market that people are doing tax-loss selling. That’s helping to exaggerate the move. You’re also having redemptions.” Since the Fed announced its rate hike Wednesday, the Dow was down 815 points. The sharp drop in stocks since early October was unexpected and even more crushing recently, since December is typically a positive time for stocks. The 10 percent decline so far in the S&P 500 is its worst December performance since 1931. If it remains this way, it would the first time ever that December is the worst month of the year for the index.

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Have all those people who now say Mattis is the wisest and most balanced in the White House, forgotten why he’s called Mad Dog?

US Defense Chief Mattis Quits As Trump Pulls From Syria, Afghanistan (AFP)

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday, leading a chorus of protests at home and abroad after President Donald Trump ordered a complete troop pullout from Syria and a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump steadfastly defended his sudden push for retrenchment, vowing that the United States would no longer be the “policeman of the Middle East” and saying the 2,000-strong US force in Syria was no longer needed as the Islamic State group had been defeated. Mattis, a battle-hardened retired four-star general seen as a moderating force on the often impulsive president, made little attempt to hide his disagreements with Trump.

“Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours,” Mattis said in a letter to Trump, “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” Mattis hailed the coalition to defeat Islamic State as well as NATO, the nearly 70-year-old alliance between North America and Europe whose cost-effectiveness has been questioned by the businessman turned president. “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote. One day after the surprise announcement on Syria, a US official told AFP that Trump had also decided on a “significant withdrawal” in a much larger US operation – Afghanistan.

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No government into Christmas?

House Passes Spending Bill With Border Wall Money, Senate Showdown Next (CNBC)

The House passed a temporary spending bill Thursday with money for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, further muddying the scramble to dodge a partial government shutdown by Friday. The chamber approved the measure to keep the government running into February by a 217-185 vote. But the path forward now is murky. The bill likely will not clear the Senate because it includes more than $5 billion for the border barrier, increasing the chances that funding for seven agencies lapses after the midnight Friday deadline. Senators were told Thursday to prepare for potential votes Friday. The chamber convenes at noon. The Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday night to keep the government running through Feb. 8 — without border wall money.

Trump insisted Thursday that he would not sign it. It forced House Republicans to include the wall money in the new bill. Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have flatly said congressional Democrats will not approve wall money. As Republicans need Democratic votes to pass spending legislation in the Senate, a partial shutdown is all but assured if the GOP insists on funding for the barrier. It is unclear if Republicans will abandon that goal in an effort to keep the government running past Friday. During a televised Oval Office fracas last week, Pelosi challenged Trump by saying he did not have the votes for wall money in the House. It turns out he did.

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We can do it, but they can’t.

China Denies ‘Slanderous’ Economic Espionage Charges From US Allies (R.)

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it resolutely opposed “slanderous” accusations from the United States and other allies criticizing China for economic espionage, urging Washington to withdraw its accusations. The United States should also withdraw charges against two Chinese citizens, the ministry said, adding that China had never participated in or supported any stealing of commercial secrets and had lodged “stern representations” with Washington. “We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its erroneous actions and cease its slanderous smears relating to internet security,” it said, adding that it would take necessary measures to safeguard its own cybersecurity and interests.

It has long been an “open secret” that U.S. government agencies have hacked into and listening in on foreign governments, companies and individuals, the ministry added. “The U.S. side making unwarranted criticisms of China in the name of so-called ‘cyber stealing’ is blaming others while oneself is to be blamed, and is self-deception. China absolutely cannot accept this.” U.S. prosecutors indicted two Chinese nationals linked to China’s Ministry of State Security intelligence agency on charges of stealing confidential data from American government agencies and businesses around the world. Prosecutors charged Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong in hacking attacks against the U.S. Navy, the space agency NASA and the Energy Department and dozens of companies. The operation targeted intellectual property and corporate secrets to give Chinese companies an unfair competitive advantage, they said.

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More of the same: We can do it, but they can’t. The west wants to blame RT for all sorts of stuff beacuse that fits the Russophobe narrative.

Russian Media Regulator Starts Checking Legality Of BBC’s Operations (R.)

Russia’s media regulator said on Friday it would carry out checks to determine if the BBC World News channel and BBC internet sites complied with Russian law, a move it described as a response to British pressure on a Russian TV channel. Roskomnadzor, the regulator, said in a statement its checks were Russia’s response to a decision by British media regulator Ofcom, which on Thursday said that Russian broadcaster RT had broken impartiality rules in some of its news and current affairs programs. “The results of our check will be announced separately,” the Russian regulator said. Ofcom said on Thursday it was considering imposing some kind of sanction on RT, which is financed by the Russian state.

It took issue in particular with its coverage of the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Britain has accused agents working for Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, of committing the crime, an allegation Moscow denies. British Media Secretary Jeremy Wright also weighed in on Thursday, saying what he called RT’s mask as an impartial news provider was slipping. RT rejected Ofcom’s findings, saying Ofcom had ignored its explanations and not paid “due regard” to its rights. Commenting on the launch of the Russian investigation on Friday, Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said on Twitter that Ofcom had hinted that it planned to strip her channel of its broadcasting license in Britain. “(Welcome to the) brave new world,” she wrote.

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Days of panic due to one or two drones, at an airport that has just one runway to begin with?!

Gatwick Runway Reopens After Days Of Drone Disruption (G.)

The first flights have resumed at Gatwick airport after a series of drone sightings caused days of disruption, affecting more than 100,000 passengers. Airlines warned customers to continue to check their flight’s status on Friday morning as the airport worked to “introduce a limited number of flights over the coming hours”. The runway had remained closed throughout Thursday night, forcing passengers to search for accommodation or shelter at the airport, and bringing demands for new aviation regulations to tackle the threat. The airport’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, said 120,000 passengers’ flights had been disrupted by the incident.

On Thursday night police said there had been more than 50 sightings of the drone in 24 hours from when the runway was first closed. Night-flight restrictions had been lifted at other airports, so “more planes could get into and out of the country”, the transport secretary, Chris Grayling said. “This is clearly a very serious ongoing incident in which substantial drones have been used to bring about the temporary closure of a major international airport,” he said. “The people who were involved should face the maximum possible custodial sentence for the damage they have done. The government is doing everything it can to support Sussex police.”

Shooting down the drone was being considered as a “tactical option” after other strategies to stop it had failed. Amid disbelief that the drone incident could be enough to bring one of the UK’s key airports to a standstill, the perpetrator or perpetrators eluded a search conducted by 20 units from two police forces in the surrounding area.

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Britain just stumbles from crisis to crisis, hidden from view by discussions about someone saying Stupid Woman.

There’s A National Emergency All Right – But It Isn’t Brexit (G.)

[..] there is a world beyond Brexit. True, it lacks the frenzied drama of cabinet walkouts, prime ministerial straw-clutching or humiliation served cold in Brussels. But things still happen – it’s just that they haven’t won much attention. It has been a good month to bury bad news. So allow me to disinter some of the headlines deep inside the newspapers. Since we’re counting small things, let’s start with children. Last week it was reported that a primary school in Great Yarmouth had opened its own food bank. It was launched by the headteacher, Debbie Whiting, after she saw pupils under 11 so hungry they were stealing from others’ lunchboxes.

This week, more than half of teachers surveyed by the National Education Union expressed fears that some of their kids won’t have enough to eat this Christmas. They reported a boy turning up wearing his trousers back to front, in order to hide the holes in the knees, and a class where one in three children sleep in their uniforms because they have no pyjamas. If anything qualifies as a national emergency, it should be this. A new generation growing up without adequate food and clothing ought to be leading TV bulletins and shaming government ministers into action. What dominates instead is blue-on-blue match commentary, because Jacob Rees-Mogg is box office while poor people can be slipped in just before the “And finally”.

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“..of all German women in work only one in three earns the minimum wage…”

Germany’s Hidden Crisis – Social Decline In The Heart Of Europe (G.)

The cover of Oliver Nachtwey’s book depicts a VW Beetle, emblem of Teutonic manufacturing prowess since Hitler’s day, driving off a cliff. Is the country that got used to imposing its values on feebler client nations – bailing out southern Europeans with their oversized public sectors, rampant tax avoidance and long lunches – in trouble? The Germany described by this Frankfurt School professor is a basket case – post-growth, post-democratic, with the first fascists in the Bundestag since the Third Reich. Despite being Europe’s richest country, it has higher numbers of working poor than any other EU state; almost one in four of its workers is paid less than the €9.30 (£8.40) minimum wage, many requiring state support.

Sociologist Ulrich Beck in the giddy 1980s called Germany an elevator society, in which millions of skilled workers upgraded from VWs to Audis and expected their children to rise still further in social status and wealth. The elevator may have seized up for a while after reunification, but only five years ago Germany seemed unstoppable. Every German, Beck thought, was in the same lift. No longer. Not only has downward mobility become more evident but the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, the older get tenure, the younger join the precariat. Sure, greater equality of opportunity means more women work than ever before, but of all German women in work only one in three earns the minimum wage.

“So while German women are more equal in terms of rights, inequality between women has never been greater than it is today,” Nachtwey argues. This is symptomatic of what he calls regressive modernisation and of the following paradox: “The more a society is based on equality of opportunity, the more unequal it becomes, and the more legitimate its inequalities”. Legitimate? The losers are perceived to be those who deserve to lose, the winners those who deserve to win. And the losers are the usual suspects – women, immigrants, those who have no qualifications. A Germany that once prided itself on social mobility, and whose sociologists once crazily imagined class distinctions were over, has become, in terms of class, as sclerotic as Britain.

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There’s a class action case looming as well.

Malaysia Seeks $7.5 Billion In Reparations From Goldman Sachs Over 1MDB (R.)

Malaysia is seeking US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs over its dealings with scandal-linked state fund 1MDB, the Financial Times reported on Friday (Dec 21), citing the country’s finance minister. Malaysian prosecutors this week filed charges against Goldman Sachs in connection with its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond sales that raised US$6.5 billion for 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the first criminal action against the US bank over the scandal. Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to the bank about the proceeds of the bond sales.

In addition to the bonds’ total value, Goldman Sachs should also return US$1 billion to cover US$600 million in fees paid to the bank and bond coupons that were “higher than the market rate”, the FT quoted Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng as saying. The three 10-year bonds carried coupons ranging from 4.4 per cent to 5.99 per cent. Lim also told the FT that reparations should at least be more than US$1.8 billion, the sum Goldman Sachs has told investors it had set aside to cover potential losses related to 1MDB legal proceedings. “Their figure is US$1.8 billion. Ours is US$7.5 billion,” Lim said. Goldman Sachs told the FT: “The 1MDB bond offerings were meant to raise money to benefit Malaysia; instead, a huge portion of those funds were stolen for the benefit of members of the Malaysian government and their associates.”

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The squid screwed up royally. But no-one at Goldman will be arrested.

Singapore Said To Expand 1MDB Criminal Probe To Include Goldman Sachs (BBG)

Singapore has expanded a criminal probe into fund flows linked to scandal-plagued 1MDB to include Goldman Sachs, which helped raise money for the entity, people with knowledge of the matter said. Police in the city-state had been examining Goldman’s relationship with the Malaysian state investment company since at least late 2017, but until recently, the firm’s local unit itself wasn’t a focus of any investigation, said the people, asking not to be named discussing sensitive information.

Authorities are trying to determine whether some of the roughly $600 million in fees from the three bond deals Goldman arranged for 1MDB from 2012 to 2013 flowed to the Singapore subsidiary, they said. Singapore’s widened probe opens a potential new battle front for Goldman, less than a week after Malaysia filed the first criminal charges against the firm over a relationship that spawned one of the biggest scandals in its history. Singapore is coordinating closely with the U.S. Justice Department, which is also investigating Goldman and has filed criminal charges against two former senior bankers at the firm, the people said.

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He’s been at it for a while: “..prosecutors now accuse Mr Ghosn of shifting a private investment loss of over $16m onto Nissan in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.”

Carlos Ghosn Re-Arrested On New Charges In Japan (BBC)

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has been re-arrested on fresh charges, Japanese media report, dashing any hopes he could be released on bail. Mr Ghosn has spent the last month in prison, accused of misusing funds and hiding $80m of income. But on Thursday a court rejected a request by the prosecution to extend his detention, which meant he could apply to be released on bail. Friday’s arrest is on a new charge of aggravated breach of trust. According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, prosecutors now accuse Mr Ghosn of shifting a private investment loss of over $16m onto Nissan in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

A towering and revered figure in the auto industry, Mr Ghosn has not yet responded to the latest allegation – but he has consistently denied all prior accusations made against him. He was first arrested in Tokyo in November as allegations of financial misconduct surfaced. The BBC’s Mariko Oi says that ever since Carlos Ghosn stepped off his private jet only to be taken into police custody, the case has gripped Japan with speculation rife over what could be behind such a stunning fall from grace. The case has been highly unusual – not least for a high profile chief executive to be spending time in jail – but also because of its legal twists such as yesterday’s when the court rejected an application to extend his detention..

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Animal species are much easier to worry over. Maybe that’s not all that smart.

“..at least six other studies failed to turn up any sign that the tree still exists. Tens of thousands of plant species globally face similar risks.”

New Tree Species Became Extinct Before It Was Named (Ind.)

Scientists have identified a new species of tree that is thought to have become extinct before it was even named. The tree, which has now been called Vepris bali, is believed to have been unique to a forest reserve in west Africa, but forest clearing and agricultural development have wiped it out. Scientists are studying the vepris species for the antimicrobial and antimalarial properties of their essential oils. Researchers hope several other vepris trees will be identified and named in Cameroon before they also disappear. A specimen was collected by a forester, Edwin Ujor, in the Bali Ngemba Forest Reserve in Cameroon in 1951.

The specimen was thought to belong to the genus vepris, which has 80 species, mostly found across Africa. But the tree has not been seen anywhere since. Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the country’s University of Yaoundé I examined the original specimens and used molecular phylogenetic studies to identify the new species. They say the tree is now either critically endangered or already extinct.

Repeated efforts to find the species between 2000 and 2004 and at least six other studies failed to turn up any sign that the tree still exists. Tens of thousands of plant species globally face similar risks. According to the International Plant Names Index, only about 5 per cent of all known species have ever been formally assessed for their extinction risk. The authors wrote: “This makes it a priority to discover, document and protect such species before they become globally extinct.” The Bali Ngemba Forest Reserve, an officially protected forest, is part of the Bamenda highlands, an area so denuded of its natural forest vegetation that it is now known in Cameroon as “the grasslands”.

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Feb 122018
 
 February 12, 2018  Posted by at 10:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Camille Corot The Burning of Sodom (formerly “The Destruction of Sodom”) 1843 and 1857

 

Rising Debt + Rising Rates (Northman)
Last Week’s ‘Volocaust’ “Just An Appetizer” – Cole (ZH)
Why People Who Make Money Are Usually Wrong – Taleb (ZH)
‘Big Shakeout Coming’: Bridgewater Sounds Warning (G.)
History Suggests The Correction Isn’t Nearly Over (MW)
Interest Rate Rise Would Hit Millions In UK Who Depend On Cheap Credit (G.)
May Starts Drive to End the Conservative Civil War Over Brexit (BBG)
China Enters The Graveyard Of Empires (Escobar)
China Pledges ‘Employment First’ Policies To Create Millions Of Jobs (R.)
Party On, Dudes (Jim Kunstler)
Oxfam Faces Losing Funding As Crisis Grows Over Abuse Claims (G.)
Oxfam Reels From Prostitution Scandal (G.)
The UK’s Hidden Role In Assange’s Detention (Cook)

 

 

Ultra low rates but ultra high payments.

Rising Debt + Rising Rates (Northman)

“Interest On The Debt Will Be The Fastest Growing Part Of The Federal Budget…By Far. Forget Medicare, Social Security and the Pentagon: $1 trillion-plus deficits means massive increases in the national debt and that debt will have to be borrowed at higher interest rates. Add the need for the Treasury to roll-over existing debt at higher and higher rates and you get an immediate increase in the amount the U.S. will need to spend on interest each year.” Watch this space:

Some people may argue that tax cuts will bring in so much economic growth it will all pay for itself. There is precisely zero evidence for such an assertion:

If you know your tax cut history you know where in the chart above major tax cuts were passed. The debt continued to rise and will continue to rise as spending continues to be expanded. But here’s the kicker: Never in modern times have we seen tax cuts being implemented and spending increased with debt to GDP north of 100%:

Many corporations are drowning in debt, as are consumers, and so are their interest payments:

People invariably argue and say: Yea well, but as a percent of disposable income it’s not so bad. Yes, it’s called artificial low rates, they can mask a lot, but what is currently the situation is not the point, it’s sustainability of debt loads in the very immediate future. As you saw in the above data we are already seeing a vast increase in interest payments despite rates having barely moved off of the historic zero bound line. “As for total debt, the CBO last predicted borrowings of $25.5 trillion by 2027. According to Riedl, the tax cuts, new discretionary outlays and additional interest on the extra spending could add $5 trillion to that number, bringing the total of $30 trillion. That’s 107% of the national income estimate projected by the CBO.

The scariest unknown is what happens to interest expense. At $25.5 trillion, the CBO forecasts outlays for interest of $818 billion in 2027. Going to $30 trillion will raise the load to over $1 trillion. One dollar in seven in spending would be going to interest, versus one in 15 today. And that scenario assumes that the yield on the 10-year Treasury increases to just 3.5% over the next decade, far below its historic average. “If rates go to their average in the 1990s,” warns Riedl, “the deficit will go not to $2 trillion, but to between $2.5 and $3 trillion.”

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“..the VIX ETPs are only 5 billion dollars. You have 1.5 trillion of implicit short-volatility strategies..”

Last Week’s ‘Volocaust’ “Just An Appetizer” – Cole (ZH)

While Cole is happy to accept the back-patting and congratulations for having foretold in near-perfect detail the dynamics that would drive this week’s volatility explosion, those who read our piece summarizing Cole’s (uncannily well-timed) interview two weeks ago will remember that short-vol ETPs like XIV represent only a fraction of the collective $2 trillion short-gamma position that touches nearly every corner of the market. Other components of what calls the ‘implicit’ gamma short – which we’ve touched on this week – include $600 billion invested in risk-parity strategies, $400 billion in volatility-control funds. And $250 billion of risk premium strategies… Rather than buy the dip, Cole ominously warned that it’s more likely this is the beginning of a much larger selloff. Or, as Kevin Spacey’s character put it in the movie “Margin Call”, because of vulnerabilities related to the market’s massively short gamma positioning, “there will be turmoil in the markets for the foreseeable future.”

Everyone talks – congratulations about calling this. Well, I don’t think what I’ve really talked about has come to pass yet. The VIX ETPs are the smallest portion of the global short-vol trade. Talk about this idea of about 1.5 to 2 trillion dollars’ worth of short-vol exposure, both explicit and implicit. Explicit short volatility are VIX exchange-rated products and vol overwriting funds. You know, the VIX ETPs are only 5 billion dollars. You have 1.5 trillion of implicit short-volatility strategies, strategies that may not be directly shorting options, but use financial engineering to mimic the components of a short-option portfolio. About 1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of these, of exposure, this is what we’re seeing come online now.

This is the real risk. So stocks and bonds sell off together. You have disorderly unwind withdrawal of liquidity. And then, all of a sudden, increasing volatility results in a quick deleveraging of these implicit short-volatility strategies. And this will drive the next leg of the crisis. So, people say congratulations, you called the short-vol trade. No, nothing has happened yet. This is an appetizer. This is just the appetizer for the unwind that is about to come. I think this is what people should be really afraid of, and I think this is the next leg of this that we will see. Whether this happens in two weeks or whether this happens over two years, I don’t know. But I strongly believe this will come to pass. And it will be quite disorderly and ugly.

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Practice and theory.

Why People Who Make Money Are Usually Wrong – Taleb (ZH)

Echoing Mark Spitznagel’s insights into how ‘naiveté’ led to the epic losses experienced by many ‘nickel-picker-uppers’ this week in the short-vol game, Nassim Taleb takes to YouTube to provide some more color on the fallacy of forecasting and what destroyed XIV traders. Taleb begins by noting that “many people attempted to profit by forecasting volatility [would drop] and from the fact that the contract [in this case XIV] was poorly constructed… they were right, until they were destroyed.” Academics cannot get the idea that you don’t have to be right about the world to make money.

“Antifragile explains why understanding x is different from f(x) the payoff or exposure from x. Most of the harm/gains come from f(x) being convex or concave, not from understanding x. Forecasting is off an average, and average is for academics and other morons.” As Valuewalk’s Jacob Wolinsky writes, this video illustrates the point with XIV that went bust while being correct about volatility –and why people who make money are usually wrong.

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Has Pandora’s box been opened?

‘Big Shakeout Coming’: Bridgewater Sounds Warning (G.)

Financial markets are braced for more volatility this week amid predictions from the world’s biggest hedge fund that a “big shakeout” is coming. The Australian stock market was the first to test the water on Monday morning and one point was down 0.7%. But it rallied slightly in afternoon trade to close down 0.3%. Bourses elsewhere in Asia Pacific also found calmer waters. South Korea’s Kospi was up 0.9% while Hong Kong put on 0.8%. The Nikkei in Japan was closed for a holiday. The FTSE100 is London is due to open up 1.25% according to futures trading, while the Dow Jones average on Wall Street is set to rise 0.7%. Last week saw $4tn wiped off the value of shares around the world and the US market entered into an official correction after falling more than 10% from its record level in January.

Wall Street staged a late rally on Friday as the Dow Jones finished 330 points higher and the closely watched Vix index, or “fear index”, has dropped four points to 29 on Monday from 33 on Friday. But Bob Prince, co-chief investment officer at the $160bn US hedge fund Bridgewater, told the Financial Times on Monday (paywall): “There had been a lot of complacency built up in markets over a long time, so we don’t think this shakeout will be over in a matter of days. “We’ll probably have a much bigger shakeout coming.” David Bassanese, the chief economist at BetaShares Capital in Sydney, said in a note on Sunday that despite the big falls last week, the selling could continue. “History suggests the depth of corrections – assuming the underlying bull market persists – don’t usually get beyond 15%, so there’s certainly some scope for market weakness before a bottom is reached,” he said.

Investors would be jittery about US inflation figures on Wednesday, he said. The market was forecasting a “fairly benign” 1.7% annual prices growth, but anything above that was likely to result in more stock losses. Chris Weston at online trader IG said on Monday: “A massive buildup in market leverage has been partially unwound in the blink of an eye and what started as systematic funds selling out of equity and futures positions, as implied volatility headed higher, has morphed into something far more broad-based incorporating many other market participants.”

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“..the median decline for the S&P in a correction is 16.4%, and the median length of a pullback is 64 days..”

History Suggests The Correction Isn’t Nearly Over (MW)

Perhaps the biggest question on Wall Street right now is whether the recent pain in the U.S. stock market is over. If history is any indication, the answer is no. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 entered correction territory on Thursday, defined as a 10% drop from a recent peak—in this case, record highs that were hit in late January. According to Bespoke Investment Group, which analyzed the 95 corrections the S&P has seen since 1928, investors might want to brace themselves for more pain.

Per Bespoke’s data, the median decline for the S&P in a correction is 16.4%, and the median length of a pullback is 64 days. Were the S&P to hit that median in the current selloff, it would bottom around 2,400, or roughly 7.8% below current levels. “Keep in mind, though, that these are median levels. There have been a number of corrections (13) that saw declines of less than 11%, while several saw deeper declines of more than 20%,” the research group wrote in a blog post. A decline of 20% would put the index into bear-market territory, where nearly one-fifth of S&P components currently trade. “In terms of length, prior corrections have also been all over the map. Some have lasted as little as three days, while others have stretched on for well over a year.”

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It will hit millions everywhere.

Interest Rate Rise Would Hit Millions In UK Who Depend On Cheap Credit (G.)

The Bank of England’s warning that it plans to raise interest rates from as early as May will hit millions of low-income families who have only survived financially for a decade by using cheap credit. The Resolution Foundation said almost half of low-income families were in debt distress before Threadneedle Street said last week that it needed to increase the base rate at an accelerated pace over the next two years. The Bank governor, Mark Carney, said the strength of the economy warranted higher borrowing costs. He cited rising average wages and resilient GDP growth as reasons to begin pushing interest rates from the historically low level of 0.5%.

But a study by the foundation showed the proportion of households in some form of debt distress rose to 45% among the poorest fifth of working age households, with more than a third experiencing difficulty in paying for accommodation and one in six in arrears on either their mortgage or consumer debts. Households headed by someone aged 25-34 spent nearly £1 in every £5 of their pre-tax income on debt repayments in 2017, compared with 20p for households aged 65 and over. Levels of consumer credit have soared in recent years to more than £200bn, prompting debt charities to warn that lenders are repeating the mistakes made in the early part of the century, when households on low incomes were sold loans they could not repay.

Matt Whittaker, the chief economist at the Resolution Foundation, said most of the increase in consumer debt since 2014 was among middle and higher income groups and they could afford to absorb an increase in interest rates. The cost of servicing Britain’s household debt is low by historical standards, he said, with repayments accounting for 7.7% of disposable income, well below the 12.3% recorded just before the financial crisis, and in line with the level seen during the mid-1990s and early 2000s. “However, while the recent growth in debt is less of a concern, it is very worrying that almost half of low-income families are already showing signs of debt distress,” Whittaker said. “While rates have been at historic lows for a decade now, many families have experienced a tight income squeeze over this period and have not been able to get back on the front foot when it comes to servicing their debts.”

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Yawn.

May Starts Drive to End the Conservative Civil War Over Brexit (BBG)

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May embarks this week on a determined push to bring her divided Cabinet together and come up with a Brexit plan. As European negotiators show increasing signs of impatience, senior U.K. ministers are preparing to deliver a series of speeches in the coming weeks setting out a vision of life outside the European Union. They’ll culminate with an address by May. Dubbed a “Road Map to Brexit,” the schedule begins on Wednesday when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issues an appeal to both sides of the Brexit debate. May is expected to offer a new security relationship three days later when she addresses a conference in Munich. Also scheduled to make speeches are Brexit Secretary David Davis, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington.

Absent, however, is Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who enraged Brexit supporters in January by suggesting Britain would see only “very modest” changes to its relationship with the EU once it leaves the bloc. May has ordered key ministers to attend an “away day” at Chequers, the prime ministerial country retreat outside London, after two meetings to find a joint position on Brexit ended without agreement last week. With just 13 months to go before Britain exits the EU, the ruling Conservatives are mired in a civil war between those who want to retain close ties to the bloc and hard-liners demanding a clean break, including total withdrawal from the EU single market and the customs union. On Friday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, expressed his exasperation by warning that the post-Brexit bridging period that once seemed a certainty “is not a given,” prompting investors to sell the pound.

Businesses have said they’ll start to activate contingency plans to move jobs and operations out of the U.K. unless a transition deal is nailed down by the end of March. In her speech to cap off the “Road to Brexit” push — the date of which hasn’t been announced — May will set out the government’s “ambitions for Britain’s partnership with the EU after we have left.” It will be her third major address, following her Lancaster House speech in January last year and her Florence speech in September. “Brexit is a defining moment in the history of our nation,” May’s office said in a statement. “We will be forging an ambitious new partnership with Europe and charting our own way in the world to become a truly global, free-trading nation.”

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Afghanistan is like a Bermuda triangle.

China Enters The Graveyard Of Empires (Escobar)

The latest plot twist in the endless historical saga of Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires has thrown up an intriguing new chapter. For the past two months, Beijing and Kabul have been discussing the possibility of setting up a military base alongside Afghanistan’s border with China. “We are going to build it [the base] and the Chinese government has committed to help financially, provide equipment and train Afghan soldiers,” Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, admitted to the AFP. On the record, the Chinese Foreign Ministry only admitted that Beijing was involved in “capacity-building” in Afghanistan, while NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, led by the United States, basically issued a “no comment.”

The military base will eventually be built in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. It is one of the most spectacular, barren and remote stretches of Central Asia and according to local Kyrgyz nomads, joint Afghan-Chinese patrols are already active there. True to Sydney Wignall’s fabled Spy on the Roof of the World ethos, a great deal of shadow play is in effect. Apparently, this is basically about China’s own war on terror. Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent Uyghur fighters of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), who have been exiled in Afghanistan, crossing the Wakhan Corridor to carry out operations across Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China.

There is also the fear that ISIS or Daesh jihadis from Syria and Iraq may also use Afghanistan as a springboard to reach the country. Even though the jihad galaxy may be split, Beijing is concerned about ETIM. As early as September 2013, the capo of historic al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, supported jihad against China in Xinjiang. Later, in July 2014, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh said: “Muslim rights [should be] forcibly seized in China, India and Palestine.” Then, on March 1, 2017, Daesh released a video announcing its presence in Afghanistan, with the terror group’s Uyghur jihadis vowing, on the record, to “shed blood like rivers” in Xinjiang. At the heart of the matter is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the New Silk Road, which will connect China with Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

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Empty politics.

China Pledges ‘Employment First’ Policies To Create Millions Of Jobs (R.)

China will boost its job creation effort and promote entrepreneurship this year, a spokeswoman for the top state planner said on Sunday, under pressure to find work for millions of unemployed people and new college graduates. Meng Wei of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said China needs to create jobs for 9.7 million people registered as unemployed and 8.2 million new college graduates, as well as workers affected by industrial capacity cuts. China’s urban-registered unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent last year and has remained generally stable despite slowing economic growth and the government forging ahead with plans to cut back industrial capacity.

Many analysts say, however, that the official data is an unreliable indicator of employment conditions because it only measures employment in urban areas and does not take into account the millions of migrant workers who form the bedrock of China’s labour force. “We will implement an employment-first strategy and more proactive employment policies…and vigorously promote employment and entrepreneurship,” Meng told a news conference on Sunday, adding that protecting jobs was fundamental to China’s stable growth policy. Authorities are counting on “new growth engines” such as technology and services to support job creation. Meng said China will create a policy environment that supports the digital economy and will promote the big data, artificial intelligence and industrial internet sectors.

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QE bankrolls the house.

Party On, Dudes (Jim Kunstler)

In June of 2008, US crude hit $144-a-barrel, a figure so harsh that it crippled economic activity — since just about everything we do depends on oil for making, enabling, and transporting stuff. The price and supply of oil became so problematic after the year 2000 that the US had to desperately engineer a work-around to keep this hyper-complex society operating. The “solution” was debt. If you can’t afford to run your society, then try borrowing from the future to keep your mojo working. The shale oil industry was a prime beneficiary of this new hyper-debt regime. The orgy of borrowing was primed by Federal Reserve “creation” of trillions of dollars of “capital” out of thin air (QE), along with supernaturally low interest rates on the borrowed money (ZIRP). The oil companies were desperate in 2008. They were, after all, in the business of producing… oil! (Duh….) — even if a giant company like BP pretended for a while that its initials stood for “Beyond Petroleum.”

The discovery of new oil had been heading down remorselessly for decades, to the point that the world was fatally short of replacing the oil it used every year with new supply. The last significant big fields — Alaska, the North Sea, and Siberia — had been discovered in the 1960s and we knew for sure that the first two were well past their peaks in the early 2000s. By 2005, most of the theoretically producible new oil was in places that were difficult and ultra-expensive to drill in: deep water, for instance, where you need a giant platform costing hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention armies of highly skilled (highly paid) technicians, plus helicopters to service the rigs. The financial risk (for instance, of drilling a “dry hole”) was matched by the environmental risk of a blowout, which is exactly what happened to BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, with clean-up costs estimated at $61 billion.

[..] The shale oil companies could get plenty of cash-flow going, but it all went to servicing their bonds or other “innovative” financing schemes, and for many of the companies the cash flow wasn’t even covering those costs. It cost at least six million dollars for each shale well, and it was in the nature of shale oil that the wells depleted so quickly that after Year Three they were pretty much done. But it was something to do, at least, if you were an oil company — an alternative to 1) doing no business at all, or 2) getting into some other line-of-work, like making yoga pants or gluten-free cupcakes.

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“..87 allegations of sexual abuse by staff in 2016-17..” “..more than 120 workers across a range of leading charities had been accused of sexual abuse in the past year alone..”

Oxfam Faces Losing Funding As Crisis Grows Over Abuse Claims (G.)

Oxfam was scrambling on Sunday night to contain a growing crisis over claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers before a crunch meeting on Monday that could see the charity stripped of its government funding. Amid anger from the government and the wider aid sector at revelations that Oxfam staff in Haiti paid prostitutes – possibly underage – for sex in 2011, the charity’s chair of trustees, Caroline Thomson, pledged to widen a review of its practices to include the Haiti allegations and admitted “anger and shame that behaviour like that … happened in our organisation”. She set out the steps Oxfam would take to avoid a similar scandal in future after the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, issued a damning rebuke to the charity. Mordaunt warned that it would receive no more public money unless it demonstrated “moral leadership” and handed over all information on aid workers’ alleged use of prostitutes on the island.

[..] Oxfam’s fight to secure its financial footing came after days of escalating stories about the conduct of its workers after revelations that staff in Haiti had been dismissed for using prostitutes for sex parties. Any hopes the charity’s leadership had that the scandal might quickly subside were dashed when it was reported in the Observer that Oxfam staff in Chad had also used prostitutes and when Oxfam’s own annual report resurfaced, showing it dealt with 87 allegations of sexual abuse by staff in 2016-17. Oxfam’s crisis threatened to spill across the charity sector on Sunday with reports that more than 120 workers across a range of leading charities had been accused of sexual abuse in the past year alone.

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Everyone in Haiti knew about this. And it’s not just Oxfam either.

Oxfam Reels From Prostitution Scandal (G.)

deep disgust at what they were hearing was tinged with a sense of inevitability for some. “We’ve all worked with people who’ve worked in Ethiopia, DRC, Haiti, Malawi, Thailand etc who’ve seen similar things across the entire sector,” said one Oxfam worker in the Middle East. Goldring, admired by staff as “deeply thoughtful”, set out the story – first a chronology of what happened in Haiti in 2011, and then a commentary on the issues it raised, including pointing out the dilemmas that the Oxfam staff handling the case faced. For example, he said, the charity didn’t report it to the Haitian police because it was concerned that could rebound adversely on the women involved.

He struck one attendee as “desperately keen to put across the point that we don’t think there was a cover-up because we didn’t hide that there was a problem in Haiti”. Only Oxfam hadn’t been open about what that problem was. Some staff also felt there was a “single-mindedness about the attack on Oxfam” that was not commensurate with the weight of what had happened in 2011. It was shocking and wrong, but some felt that the problems revealed were probably not unique to Oxfam. “I’m really frustrated at the Oxfam-only lens in this – granted what happened was horrific,” said one Oxfam worker abroad. “I’ve worked for [several other NGOs] and there just isn’t any type of policy or procedure in place for any of this stuff.”

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The people responsible for these decisions should be taken to court. Even -make that especially- politicians must be held to their own laws.

The UK’s Hidden Role In Assange’s Detention (Cook)

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade. Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case. In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents we support in other parts of the world. According to a new release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him at the embassy in London, as had happened in 44 other cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS: “We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order … and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.” Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.” In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

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 July 31, 2016  Posted by at 10:13 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Branches Of An Almond Tree In Blossom in Red 1890

Think about it for a second: If America -and UK, France- were to announce today that they would immediately cease bombing Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, would the US be any less safe? Would Europe?

How about if we’d promise to spend all the billions saved by not throwing bombs on them, to help rebuild these countries? Would that make us less safe, from terrorists, from anyone at all? Do you think ‘they’ would ‘hate’ us for that?

It becomes a pretty stupid non-discussion pretty fast, doesn’t it?