Mar 052020
 


DPC Mott Street, Chinatown, New York c1900

 

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)
Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)
On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)
Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)
Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)
California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)
Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)
The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)
Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)
Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)
Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)
Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)
Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 95,880 (+ 4.563 from Tuesday’s 91,317)

Deaths 3,288 (+ 168 from Tuesday’s 3,120)

 

• Fittingly, No Time To Die was postponed

• Biggest news: Scientists find two different corona strains. So what is everyone exactly testing for, at least those that do testing?

• Italy to close all schools and universities, cinemas and theaters, all sports games behind closed doors.
– 587 new cases, 3,089 cases in total, 1,346 hospitalized, 107 deaths, 295 in intensive care

• South Korea 435 new cases, 4 more deaths, 60% linked to Shincheonji church; 136,000 tests

• CDC’s Dr. Fauci said 15-20% of infected people need hospitalization. Britain has 15 beds for worst cases. How many does US have?

• California declares state of emergency, follows WA, FL
– cruise ship stuck off coast

• France 28 new cases, total to 285. 8 deaths.

• UK cases up 34 to 85 – 66% surge.

• Netherlands 40 cases

• Greece 10 cases

• First airline collapses, Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline

290 million children worldwide locked out of school.
– 13 countries closed all schools, among them Italy, China, Japan, Iran. 9 others have reginal closures, US, Germany, France and more

• “On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company, which employs nearly 200,000 people, told workers to stop all international and U.S. domestic air travel..”

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

All is good.

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)

Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, reversing three straight days of declines, because of a spike in new infections in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409. Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that. The increase was driven by more cases in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have emerged in a market late last year.

Wuhan’s new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier. There was no immediate elaboration and health officials were due to hold a briefing later in the day. After what some critics said was an initially hesitant response to the new virus, China imposed sweeping restrictions to try to stop it, including transport suspensions, lockdowns of cities and extending a Lunar New Year holiday across the country. WHO officials have said other countries have much to learn from the way China has handled the outbreak and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said many countries had asked for help and China was responding.

The number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday. In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day. Hubei accounted for all of the new deaths. In Wuhan, 23 people died. With the downward trend in new cases, Chinese authorities have turned their attention to stopping the virus being brought in from new coronavirus hot spots abroad.

Read more …

A remarkably bland version of the story.

Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)

Researchers in China have found that two different types of the new coronavirus could be causing infections worldwide. In a preliminary study published Tuesday, scientists at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai found that a more aggressive type of the new coronavirus had accounted for roughly 70% of analyzed strains, while 30% had been linked to a less aggressive type. The more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus has since decreased from early January.


The researchers said their results indicate the development of new variations of the spike in COVID-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.” “These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they said. Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited,” emphasizing that follow-up studies of a larger set of data would be needed to gain a “better understanding” of the evolution and epidemiology of COVID-19.

Read more …

This is more like it. But again, what are we testing for, if we are testing at all? Are all tests exactly the same? And then: do they cover both strains?

On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic started in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since impacted a large portion of China and raised major global concern. Herein, we investigated the extent of molecular divergence between SARS-CoV-2 and other related coronaviruses. Although we found only 4% variability in genomic nucleotides between SARS-CoV-2 and a bat SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV; RaTG13), the difference at neutral sites was 17%, suggesting the divergence between the two viruses is much larger than previously estimated.


Our results suggest that the development of new variations in functional sites in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike seen in SARS-CoV-2 and viruses from pangolin SARSr-CoVs are likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination. Population genetic analyses of 103 SARS-CoV-2 genomes indicated that these viruses evolved into two major types (designated L and S), that are well defined by two different SNPs that show nearly complete linkage across the viral strains sequenced to date. Although the L type (<±70%) is more prevalent than the S type (<±30%), the S type was found to be the ancestral version.

Whereas the L type was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, the frequency of the L type decreased after early January 2020. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure on the L type, which might be more aggressive and spread more quickly. On the other hand, the S type, which is evolutionarily older and less aggressive, might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure. These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Read more …

Because no testing.

Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)

We know, irrefutably, one thing about the coronavirus in the United States: The number of cases reported in every chart and table is far too low. The data are untrustworthy because the processes we used to get them were flawed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing procedures missed the bulk of the cases. They focused exclusively on travelers, rather than testing more broadly, because that seemed like the best way to catch cases entering the country. Just days ago, it was not clear that the virus had spread solely from domestic contact at all. But then cases began popping up with no known international connection. What public-health experts call “community spread” had arrived in the United States. The virus would not be stopped by tight borders, because it was already propagating domestically.

Trevor Bedford’s lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which studies viral evolution, concluded there is “firm evidence” that, at least in Washington State, the coronavirus had been spreading undetected for weeks. Now different projections estimate that 20 to 1,500 people have already been infected in the greater Seattle area. In California, too, the disease appears to be spreading, although the limited testing means that no one is quite sure how far. In total, fewer than 500 people have been tested across the country (although the CDC has stopped reporting that number in its summary of the outbreak). As a result, the current “official” case count inside the United States stood at 43 as of [Tuesday] morning (excluding cruise-ship cases). This number is wrong, yet it’s still constantly printed and quoted. In other contexts, we’d call this what it is: a subtle form of misinformation.

This artificially low number means that for the past few weeks, we’ve seen massive state action abroad and only simmering unease domestically. While Chinese officials were enacting a world-historic containment effort—putting more than 700 million people under some kind of movement restriction, quarantining tens of millions of people, and placing others under new kinds of surveillance—and American public-health officials were staring at the writing on the wall that the disease was extremely likely to spread in the U.S., the public-health response was stuck in neutral. The case count in the U.S. was not increasing at all. Preparing for a sizable outbreak seemed absurd when there were fewer than 20 cases on American soil. Now we know that the disease was already spreading and that it was the U.S. response that was stalled.

Read more …

There’s more where that came from.

Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has collapsed into administration less than two months after the government announced a rescue deal. The impact of the coronavirus on flight bookings proved the last straw for the Exeter-based airline, which operates almost 40% of UK domestic flights, as the government stalled on a controversial £100m loan. The UK Civil Aviation Authority announced early on Thursday morning that the airline had entered administration. It said all flights were cancelled and urged passengers not to go to airports. Flybe’s bankruptcy has come just a week before a budget that it hoped would help bolster its precarious finances, after the previous chancellor said he would look again at levels of air passenger duty (APD) .


However, the airline’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital – have pulled the plug, a little over a year after buying it. The airline employed more than 2,000 people and was one of the leading carriers at airports including Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. Around 8 million people a year used its services. Unions have warned that other jobs would be put at risk by Flybe’s collapse, and transport links lost on dozens of domestic routes where it is the sole operator. Flybe has long struggled to balance the books, despite cost-cutting plans and redundancies, and was reporting losses of around £20m a year before the Connect takeover. [..] It is the second major British airline to go bankrupt in six months, following the collapse of Thomas Cook last September.

Read more …

Can we close the entire industry yet?

California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)

Another Princess Cruises ship has set off coronavirus alarms after a California passenger who traveled to Mexico died this week, more than 10 days after returning home without knowledge of his exposure. Two shiploads of passengers may have been exposed. State and federal officials are scurrying to contact 2,500-plus passengers who disembarked Feb. 21 from the San Francisco-Mexico cruise at the same time as the man who died, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. California is also keeping Grand Princess passengers on the current San Francisco-Hawaii trip in the Pacific Ocean indefinitely until state and federal officials can assess how many passengers and crew have coronavirus or have been exposed.


“We have a number of passengers and crew members who have developed symptoms on this ship,” Newsom told reporters at a briefing this afternoon to announce a state of emergency. He later specified that 11 passengers and 10 crew members had symptoms, though he described the situation as fluid. Sixty-two passengers remain on the ship from the preceding San Francisco-Mexico journey, and they have been quarantined in their rooms, according to Princess Cruises. The Grand Princess was due back tonight in San Francisco until California requested that it remain at sea as the state sends test kits, Newsom said.

Read more …

A US Senator who doesn’t like capitalism at its finest. Commie!

Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)

Amazon.com should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday. A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle. [..] “As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks,” Markey wrote in his letter.


Amazon called the price-gougers “bad actors.” “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.” Amazon said it was monitoring prices to ensure sellers complied with fair pricing policies and said that it could remove sellers who violate them. Amazon last week barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price gouge customers.

Read more …

Even Jonathan Turley doesn’t approve of this.

I like Biden claiming, in response to Bernie saying the establishment is circling the wagons for Biden, that literally everybody’s definition of the establishment is wrong: African Americans and single women in suburbia are the establishment. If you don’t boo that out of the room, who are you?

‘The establishment are all those hard-working, middle-class people, those African Americans, those single women in suburbia. They are the establishment,’ said Joe Biden.

Not as bad, though, as abusing his dead son Beau’s memory by saying Mayor Pete reminds him of Beau. Using your dead son for political games is real low.

But the real establishment are now stuck with Sleepy Joe, even though many will realize he’s roadkill.

The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)

The media and political establishment in Washington was openly celebrating what was portrayed as a near complete victory of Joe Biden over the hoards of Sanders supporters marching toward gates of the Beltway. The establishment united this week behind Biden with candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and others rallying forces to defeat Bernie Sanders at all costs. Not since the victory over Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains has the ancien regime experienced such a thrilling moment. However, the history is not good for those celebrating behind the walls of Rome.


I recently wrote how there remains a visceral distaste for the media and political establishment for many voters as they watched the concerted effort to defeat outsider candidates. That was also the case in 2016 with the effort to elect Hillary Clinton. The utter joy expressed this morning will only fuel that feeling of disenfranchisement. What we can expect is the continued strategic endorsements of establishment figures in the coming weeks and exhaustive coverage on the weakening Sanders and the surging Biden. MSNBC was particularly aggressive in framing the election night and attacking the very premise of the Sanders’ movement. MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace bizarrely claimed that there was no effort by the establishment to prop up Biden.

Wallace declared “Bernie Sanders… he has turned this idea of the establishment – he’s weaponized it against Biden,” she said. “The Democratic establishment did nothing for Joe Biden.” Really? Various establishment figures lined up behind Biden in the last week while CNN and MSNBC continued a relentless series of attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Nevertheless, host Rachel Maddow agreed that sought to downplay the concerted effort in DC to push Biden: “every headline in all political coverage all around the country is like, ‘The establishment is coalescing the establishment.” She then suggested that this is all a lie that was used against that other seemingly wrongly candidate, Hillary Clinton: “It’s what he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 as well.”


Maddow simply dismisses the admissions of how the DNC rigged elements of the 2016 primary for Clinton or how Clinton took over the debt of the DNC to exercise such control. She also dismisses how polls showed that Clinton was widely viewed as unauthentic and the ultimate establishment figure when the public clearly wanted a change in Washington. Instead, Maddow and Wallace portray the entire movement by Sanders to be a lie. Not to be subtle, Wallace not only calls this all a lie but portrays Biden’s victory (with a long line of establishment endorsement) as a victory over the establishment: “But it’s a lie, I mean, it’s a lie. Listen, and I say this as a dispassionate former Republican who watched my party sort of implode around fake truths and false grievances, the establishment had nothing to do with Joe Biden’s victory. He’s flat broke, he has not a single ad on the air. He’s not advertising in any Super Tuesday states!”

Read more …

Not a great piece, but few people understand what’s going on.

Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)

The Syrian Arab Army, a force for good, must not stop short of decisive victory in Idlib, the governorate in northwest Syria sheltering the last jihadist militias operating on Syrian soil. Russia, which is correctly (and legally) supporting the S.A.A.’s campaign, should try to avoid a direct conflict with a NATO member but should engage Turkish forces if there is no alternative. NATO, breaking its own Article 5 covenant, will not come to the aid of a member nation engaged in so despicable an assault on another sovereign nation. I am not alone in holding this opinion. Don’t forget: Most NATO members are squeamish, mealy-mouthed Europeans who have given up the ghost in Syria. It will do the entire world much good if the egregious Erdogan sustains the bloodiest nose of his six years as Turkey’s dictatorial president in consequence of this drive into Syria.

Let us say precisely the same of what remains of the U.S. presence in Syria. Excellent it will be if Washington must at last acknowledge that it has lost every chip it has put down in Syria since it began arming, training and financing a variety of vicious Islamist factions, including the Islamic State, in early 2012 at the very latest. At this point it claims to be protecting Syrian oilfields from… Syria. This is not Turkey’s first foray into Syrian territory, let us remember. It launched a similar campaign in 2016; it began another incursion last autumn. Turkey has from the start of the Syrian conflict been a conduit for arms supplies to the Islamic State and other jihadists, while transshipping Syrian oil from ISIS–controlled refineries into international markets.

[..] Erdogan has betrayed the Russians so often it is a wonder Moscow has any patience left for him. A Turkish F–16 shot down a Russian jet two months after Russian aircraft deployed in Syria five years ago. Ankara and Moscow agreed two years ago to establish a ceasefire zone in northwest Syria, with Turkey also committing to remove jihadists led by Hayat Tahrir al–Sham, formerly al–Nusra, which was formerly al–Qaeda in Syria in the name-changing shell game these cutthroats play. That accord went the way of the West (so to say) long ago.

Read more …

How to make normal procedures sound scary. Yes, Russia may have send a few ships through the Bosporus, in case Erdogan would have closed it.

Wonder what will be made public about the talks today. Erdogan will declare victory no doubt. How far will Lavrov go to deny that?

Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)

Russia is racing to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Moscow on Thursday, flight data and shipping movements show. The two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to meet after a surge in tensions between their countries over fighting in Syria’s Idlib province between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and rebels allied to Turkey. The fighting has raised the prospect of a direct clash between their armies, which operate in close proximity on opposing sides, and Erdogan hopes the talks will yield a ceasefire in Idlib.


A Reuters analysis of flight data and correspondents’ monitoring of shipping in the Bosphorus Strait in northwestern Turkey show Russia began to step up naval and airborne deliveries to Syria on Feb. 28, the day after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in Syria. That incident prompted concern in Moscow that Turkey might close the Bosphorus to Russian warships and bar Russian military transport planes from using Turkish air space. The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Turkish official, who asked not to be identified, said there was no plan to close the strait, which would force Russia to take longer routes to Syria. But Russia appears to be reinforcing Syria at its fastest rate since October, when U.S. forces withdrew from some parts of Syria and Moscow scrambled to fill the vacuum.

Read more …

Stalemate.

Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)

A total of 32,423 individuals were prevented from entering Greece as of Saturday morning and 231 have been arrested, Greek authorities said on Wednesday on the latest count of irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece at the Evros border region with Turkey. According to the data, from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to 6 p.m. the same day, 11 individuals were arrested in Evros, most of which have been identified as Afghani nationals. A total of 4,600 people were prevented from entering illegally in Greece during the same 12-hour period. On Wednesday, Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades to thwart a crowd of migrants making a push to cross the border from Turkey, as tensions increased after Turkey declared it was allowing migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

Read more …

Hedge funds buying family homes for cheap. That is Europe.

Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)

Costas runs a small bookshop in my central Athens neighbourhood. Although jovial by constitution, he finds it difficult to hide the worry lines multiplying on his face. Fifteen years ago he put his flat up as collateral for a business loan to spruce up the bookshop. When the Greek debt crisis wreaked its havoc, it was impossible to service that loan. Today, Costas is one of hundreds of thousands facing foreclosures by funds that have purchased debt like his from the banks at bargain basement prices. The bailiff and the auctioneer are circling above distressed homeowners and small business people such as Costas.

Paradox is a Greek word for good reason: today’s Greece proves that it is perfectly possible for the state and for the majority of citizens to be sinking deeper into insolvency while the oligarchy makes a mint from trading in their assets. But why would investors lend to the Greek government cheaply if it remains bankrupt?

The reason is that the troika of Greece’s creditors – the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF – have taken 85% of government debt out of the money markets and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Europe’s taxpayers. They also deferred all repayments until after 2032 and extended another €30bn of official loans to the Greek government to cover its repayments to privateers. So why not lend to the Greek government at a small, yet positive, interest rate when the alternative is to lend to the German or the Dutch governments at the current negative interest rates? As long as the Greek government remains the troika’s model prisoner, lending to Greece’s insolvent state at minuscule rates is lucrative. Paradox solved!

Turning to Greece’s private sector, how can investors profit from it if it too is bankrupt? With great ease is the answer, as Costas’s case illustrates. His loan of €100,000 was sold on by his bank to a hedge fund for €8,000. If the fund auctions off his flat for €20,000, its profit rate will hit an astonishing 250%. The fact that Costas will lose both his home and his bookshop, with detrimental effects on the state’s taxes and outlays (as he begins to draw unemployment benefit), does not even appear on the radar of the hedge fund or the international media.

Read more …

Maybe down a few percentage points from 2015, but not much. Entire families living on $400-$800 a month. And no, Greece is not cheap.

Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

Pensions remain the main source of income for half of Greece’s households, a survey by the Small Enterprises Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (IME GSEVEE) has shown. The phenomenon is linked to the particularly large number of pensioners – 2.55 million, according to official figures – and the fact that unemployment remains at high levels while salaries remain low. The survey shows that although the country has successfully concluded its third bailout, the decade-long financial crisis is still having a strong impact on Greek society. This is even more obvious in lower income brackets that continue to be at risk of serious social and economic uncertainties.


The survey was held from late December to early January, that is before the coronavirus outbreak and whatever economic impact it has had so far. The IME GSEVEE survey, conducted in association with Marc researchers, showed that 49.4 percent of households declared pensions as their main source of income, up from 49.1 percent a year earlier.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 252020
 


Venice carnival or Black Death? Mary Poppins?

 

 

Many of the things we see happening now with the coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, take your pick, I “predicted” a while ago. But I’m not in the predicting business, and anyone who would have said even just a week ago that Italy would have 11 deaths today and/or Iran would have 50, or the US 53+ cases of infection, would have been labeled a raving lunatic.

Wuhan apparently relaxed some of their lockdown measures yesterday (and walked that back hours later), as did other places in China when they hadn’t had any new cases for 24 hours or so, and we know why they do it -it’s the economy, stupid!- but that is really the worst possible thing to do. China’s even trying to telegraph that they are in control again, as per Zero Hedge:

“As the WHO team wrapped up its Monday press conference with what was essentially tantamount to a global confidence-building exercise in China’s response, a senior official from China’s National Health Commission said the coronavirus risk from Wuhan had gone ‘way down.’ Of course, if that’s true, then why did officials cancel a planned easing of the lockdown? The official added that China has “..managed to stop the ‘rapid rise’ of infections in Wuhan, though they haven’t stopped the epidemic yet..”

Of course it’s lovely that at the very moment China – falsely- claims to be regaining control, markets worldwide sink into a deep well and gold climbs the Kilimanjaro. Surprising it is not. It simply shows that “investors” are mostly completely clueless about the virus, and the media they follow mostly don’t know dick all either or prefer not to rock the cradle.

The so-called investors follow the same behavioral pattern that civil servants, politicians, “management” at companies, and journalists do. They check first and last what others are doing, so they won’t look out of tune and they can’t be accused of crying wolf. They tend to only act when the rest do, and by then it will inevitably be too late. Man as a social animal, covering their asses by hiding behind others.

For those so-called investors, who cares what they do or why? But for politicians and civil servants, this mindset means they will NOT be ordering test-kits, medicine and the like, when they should. And not warning the public about various upcoming threats and shortages.

For journalists it means their readers and viewers are only clued in when the wolf’s right on their doorstep. I’ve used the Chinese politburo as an example in The Party and the Virus (Feb 2), but I don’t think western countries are much, if any, faster or wiser or more aware. These are all jobs replete with born followers who have only ever learned how to hide behind mom’s skirts and aprons.

And for the rare few who don’t think in herd terms, they will be ridiculed by the sheep in that herd, who will again seek strength in numbers and behind aprons when they are found wanting. Which is fine for investors, they are only playing with money. The others, though, are playing with human lives.

 

A comment on my article last week, Go Forth and Multiply (Feb 20), suggested that I merely collected the most alarmist articles and turned them into an article. Nope.

The article deals with the failures of all the groups of people mentioned above, in various countries, which have led to where we are today. There are plenty other reports which are far more “alarmist”. I am not personally talking about worst-case scenarios, but in other instances I have quoted a few scientists who would fit that description. Take for instance Gabriel Leung at Hong Kong University, whom I’ve quoted more than once. Leung and his team contend:

• Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.
• Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive.
• “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well..”

There’s Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who predicts that “within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected..” And Lancaster University epidemiologist/biostatistician Jonathan Read isn’t all that much cheerier.

Compared to those guys, I am not an alarmist, nor do I go out to look for articles in that vein. I did see quite a while ago that this virus had “potential”, though. And I did see The Big Lockdown (Feb 5) coming before it did. Actually, I see a lot more of that. My intent is to go back to Athens in April, but I seriously have no idea if that will be on offer 5-6 weeks from now, as Italy already today has 11 deaths, 322 cases, and over 100,000 people under lockdown, and deployed the military. Italy had nothing a week ago. And Italy is not that far from Greece.

Come to think of it, nor is it from Holland, where I am right now. That is a situation that people should have woken up to a long time ago. Holland has a number of its citizens locked up in a hotel on Tenerife, Canary Islands, a Spanish province off the northwest coast of Africa. There are 1000 guests in the hotel, all confined to their rooms, because one guest was an Italian who tested positive for COVID19.

There’s also a hotel in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria on lockdown. It has an Italian receptionist who is infected. Check the quarantine time for theose people. If it’s less than two weeks, you know nobody’s learned a thing.

This is the shape of things to come. As is Italy admitting a hospital actually spread the virus. And Japan saying it will now attempt to limit virus deaths, instead of preventing them. That may sound like mere semantics, but it’s not. It sounds like Japan giving up on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics without pronouncing it.

Also in Holland, yesterday a high end webshop, which sells electronics, including iPhones, etc., said they want to sell less!! and will raise prices because they foresee they can’t get sufficient supplies from China anymore soon. The obvious media reaction is they must be crazy, because competitors haven’t done the same. But that’s too easy. Maybe they just broke free of the mold of waiting for others to act.

What I find interesting in that light is that Holland’s dependence on the global China trade is much less than for other rich nations, and for south east Asia as a whole. Whither Amazon, Walmart, whither the Silk Road? Quo Vadis?

 

 

On February 6, the day after I published The Big Lockdown , a friend at the Global Change Research Institute, reacting to my question “Will [the Chinese] have an economy left by then?” (I don’t remember the exact time I referred to), said “Isn’t that TOO pessimistic?”

My reply was: “There’ll always be something left. There was an economy 100 years ago, and 500, and 1,000. It started when Eve made a deal with a snake. My point was more: what KIND of economy will there be? Nobody seriously considers a collapse such as this, and I think they should.”

He retorted: “I am not really convinced this will be a trigger of (chinese) economic collapse, but well, I am open-minded about such possibility… For now, I am corona-triggered-collapse-skeptic. ;-)”

I wonder how he feels about it today.

Me, I don’t think the biggest issue with the virus is the number of deaths and cases, at least not in the short term. The biggest issue is that there is a virus on the loose than has proven it CAN be lethal, and for which there is no vaccine.

The biggest issue is that we are stumbling woefully unprepared into the future, and therefore our only defense is to lock each other, and ourselves, up in our homes, (and our communities and cities if we’re lucky) until we can’t, social animals that we are.

The biggest issue will not be the cases or even deaths, it will be that ever more of the things we have come to rely on far away lands for, will slowly cease to arrive on our shores. Some of it will be trinkets we never needed, but some of it will also be things without which our lives and communities can no longer function the way we’re used to.

It will be a slow process. Or will it, nothing really moves slow with this virus; it appears to move in virus time, not human time.

You should probably get some immune system boosters while they are available, like Vit.D(3) and echinacea. Facial masks perhaps, while there are any. There are professionals who are regular commenters on the Automatic Earth and who can answer questions on that.

We should also likely prepare for a large-scale reduction in large-scale activities, events that require crowds. Olympics, sports games, concerts, arenas, but also supermarkets and department stores. And then after that come public transport and factories. Alarmist again? Just wait till the first case or death comes to a town near you. Observe how people react. You can see it today in Wuhan, Beijing, Milan, Qom.

By the way, how do you know there are no cases near you? Is anyone testing? Do they have test kits? They will test soon, and they will have kits if they can find any. Note: Japan said today their supply of test kits will be used only for the most serious cases. Everyone else is on their own.

New reports of infections are coming in today from Canada, Bahrain, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Barcelona and more. Ask yourself: what are the odds this will stop tomorrow morning? Or that the US won’t get worse? Face masks, Vit. C, Vit.D(3), echinacea and other things won’t bankrupt most of you, and they’re good for you anyway, so maybe get them while you can.

Oh, and prepare for an enormous amount of misinformation emanating from the politicians and media who are always way behind the curve, and who right now are all actively pondering how to protect the economy. They can’t conceive of a world where a virus can trump the economy. Pun intended. Neither can those who call themselves “investors”. It’s the virus, stupid. HedgeEye got that one particulary well:

 

 

Me, I’m sitting here wondering what the link is between the masks for the -now cancelled- Venice carnival, and the Black Death. But that sounds at least a little alarmist, too, doesn’t it?

Please remind me to pick up a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron(e), in which ten people tell ten stories each while in quarantine outside of Florence during the Plague, around 1350 AD. Should be popular soon.

 

 

If you read us, please support us. It’s the only way the Automatic Earth can survive. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Oct 242019
 
 October 24, 2019  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with Saskia 1636

 

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)
Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)
Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)
Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)
Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)
Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)
Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)
Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)
Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)
Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)
Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

 

 

“It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.”

The lawless are trying to run out the clock on the Spanish probe, because it’s bound to find the CIA’s involvement, and because if Julian, his lawyers and doctors were spied upon, the entire extradition thing may be null and void.

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)

The British justice system is blocking a Spanish judge’s request to question Julian Assange in London as a witness in a case exploring allegations that the Spanish security firm Undercover Global S.L. spied on the WikiLeaks founder while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The British position, unprecedented in these types of requests for judicial collaboration, is being viewed by Spanish judicial bodies as a show of resistance against the consequences that the case could have on the process to extradite the Australian cyberactivist to the United States.

On September 25, Judge José de la Mata sent British authorities an European Investigation Order (EIO) requesting permission to question Assange by videoconference as a witness in the case opened by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, against the owner of UC Global S. L., David Morales, for alleged offenses involving violations of privacy and client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery, money laundering and criminal possession of weapons. Morales was arrested in September and released on bail. Documents and video footage revealed by EL PAÍS show that UC Global S. L. spied on Assange’s meetings with his lawyers, where his legal defense strategy was discussed. Morales allegedly offered recordings of these and other conversations to US intelligence services.

The EIO is a new tool that speeds up cooperation between judges in the EU and circumvents laborious rogatory letters based on instruments of international law. The mechanism came into effect in Spain in 2018. With an EIO, a legal authority from an EU member state can ask a legal authority from another EU country for assistance in obtaining evidence or means of evidence (witness statements, telephone taps, DNA tests and so on). It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.

[..] On October 14, De la Mata sent the British agency a written reply that EL PAÍS has had access to. In the document, the judge expressed his surprise and referred to the “previous cases” in which the UKCA accepted requests for interviews via videoconference. De la Mata also quoted international cooperation treaties that say that the only obstacle in these cases would be if the person being questioned was the accused. “In this case, Julian Assange is a witness, not an accused party,” wrote De la Mata.

In the document, De la Mata also denied that his initial request was unclear: “We have provided a clear context for our case, describing all the events and crimes under investigation.” On the issue of jurisdiction, he replied: “The Spanish judicial system has jurisdiction and is able to hear cases of crimes committed by Spanish citizens outside of the country as long as the event is a crime in the place where it was committed, the victim or the public prosecutor present a criminal complaint, and the suspect has not been sentenced or acquitted in another country.” De la Mata added that the suspect (David Morales) is Spanish, the victim (Assange) has filed a complaint, and the crimes (unlawful disclosure of secrets and bribery) are crimes in the UK.

Read more …

“Nancy Pelosi Democrats Produce More Subpoenas Than Laws…”

Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)

Thanks to a flurry of Ukraine activity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority have approved more subpoenas to investigate President Trump than they have written laws. The subpoena issued Tuesday morning to former Ambassador William Taylor marked the 56th that has been publicly acknowledged and aimed at Mr. Trump and his team. That is 10 more than the 46 House bills that have become law this year. It’s far from a subpoena record, but it is complicating Mrs. Pelosi’s attempt to portray her troops as focused on their agenda. Perhaps more worrying to Mrs. Pelosi’s cause is the conclusion of a former senior oversight attorney for the House, who said the spate of subpoenas issued this month as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is illegal.

Samuel Dewey, a lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery who used to lead investigations for the House Financial Services Committee, said the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, is not authorized under the rules to lead an impeachment probe. “Unless there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not public, which would in itself be extraordinary, there is no way he has jurisdiction to conduct an impeachment inquiry. I think his proceeding is illegal,” Mr. Dewey said. Mr. Schiff’s impeachment inquiry subpoenas have all centered around Mr. Trump’s attempts to rope Ukraine into investigating a potential political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. The Washington Times counts 15 publicly acknowledged subpoenas issued on the Ukraine matter so far, including the one Tuesday to Mr. Taylor.

The House also has approved 22 subpoenas related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and Trump campaign behavior in 2016, seven subpoenas dealing with the president’s finances, three concerning White House matters such as security clearances or the activities of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, five subpoenas over immigration policy, three over Mr. Trump’s now-abandoned attempt to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, and one subpoena to the State Department over U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

[..] Mr. Dewey said Democrats could face a legal challenge over any impeachment-related subpoenas because the House has yet to vote to authorize an inquiry. Mrs. Pelosi created an inquiry by proclamation, turning the reins over to Mr. Schiff. Mr. Nadler, meanwhile, has argued to the courts that he has been in the midst of an inquiry for months. Mr. Dewey said those arguments aren’t frivolous, but “I think they’re wrong.” “I do not think as a matter of law that the Judiciary Committee can exercise the impeachment power without a vote of the full House,” he said. “And I think independently of that, I do not think any other committee can exercise the impeachment power.”

Read more …

Two big problems:

1) Pelosi needs to solve the legitimacy issue.
2) Democrats are selectively leaking to the press they like, creating a picture that may not be realistic at all

Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)

Democratic lawmakers hope to complete their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by year’s end and are coalescing around two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction, lawmakers and aides told Reuters. But some Democrats fear that a costly distraction may be the looming battle between the Republican Trump and Congress over funding the government when money runs out for many federal operations on Nov. 21, Democratic aides said. Some Democratic lawmakers said they believed they already had gathered enough evidence from the testimony of current and former U.S. officials to impeach Trump for asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.


Other Democrats were more cautious and said more information was needed to solidify the case for impeachment and make it an easier sell to a deeply polarized American public. Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by the House of Representatives, and both were later acquitted by the Senate. Val Demings, a Democratic lawmaker who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said congressional investigators should be able to wrap up their inquiry by December. “We need to be thorough, we need to be methodical, but we need to be timely,” she told Reuters. Three Democratic congressional sources said there had been talk among some Democrats about trying to wrap up hearings and hold an impeachment vote by the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday, but this appeared highly unlikely as of Wednesday.

Read more …

Why turn the House into a circus?

Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)

House Republicans stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday to protest Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process, breaking up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “They crashed the party,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe. Dozens of Republicans, including some members of leadership like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), barged into the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to provide private testimony.

The deposition got underway after a five-hour delay. Several lawmakers said that, in response to the Republican protest on Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) left the room with Cooper and postponed her interview. “The fact that Adam Schiff won’t even let the press in — you can’t even go in and see what’s going on in that room,” Scalise told reporters outside the hearing room. “Voting members of Congress are being denied access from being able to see what’s happening behind these closed doors, where they’re trying to impeach the president of the United States with a one-sided set of rules, they call the witnesses.”

[..] Some Democrats were outraged by GOP lawmakers bringing cellphones and cameras into a secure room. “In short, they have compromised the security of the room. And they not only brought in their unauthorized devices, they may have brought in the Russian and Chinese with electronics in a secure space,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told reporters. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee and a key Trump supporter, suggested the concerns over the cellphones were overblown. “There’s no cameras or phones in the SCIF, so I think that those phones actually went in, just because everybody went in,” Meadows told reporters. “I can tell you I actually collected phones and brought them back out. You certainly want a secure environment but at the same time I think everybody wants to hear exactly what’s going on.”

Read more …

“one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)

Judicial Watch made public on Oct. 21 a 2012 email chain showing multiple senior U.S. State Department executives used then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private email to discuss the most sensitive details of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the assault, which within hours was attributed by the Obama White House to an internet video that critically portrayed Islam and its founder, Mohammed. While Judicial Watch first sought the emails released on Oct. 21 in a 2014 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, they weren’t released to the nonprofit government watchdog until earlier in October by a federal court and only after the group threatened to expand its litigation in the case against the State Department.


It was this FOIA litigation that led to the public disclosure of Clinton’s use of the private email system, according to Judicial Watch. Hundreds of other State Department and White House documents sought in the 2014 suit were previously released, but only after years of litigation and discovery, which continues and may soon include deposing Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has heard much of the Judicial Watch litigation seeking the documents, has called Clinton’s private email system “one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

Read more …

Another ghost story.

Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)

When Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally testified this summer, one of the few substantive revelations he made about something not specifically addressed in his final report involved a long-pedaled allegation that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had a secret communications network through a computer server at Russia’s Alfa Bank. “I believe it’s not true,” Mueller testified when questioned by Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, confirming in public what FBI officials had privately told me and other reporters going back to late 2016.


We now have strong evidence that one of the events that gave life to that conspiracy theory was an Oct. 11, 2016 visit by the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to the State Department, where the author of the now infamous anti-Trump dossier met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. Just a few days after the visit, Kavalec forwarded a document to FBI official Stephen Laycock on Oct. 13, 2016 as a followup to her contact with Steele that offered significant detail about the Alfa Bank theory based on unexplained pings between a server at the bank and one used by the Trump organization on the East Coast.

Read more …

Would she settle for Hillary? Why doesn’t Oprah herself run?

Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)

The Democratic field isn’t sitting well with Oprah. Despite being enthralled with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg early in the 2020 race, Oprah Winfrey is now reportedly dissatisfied with who’s running. And she’s not the only one — Hillary Clinton is still thinking about jumping into the race, The Washington Post reports. Oprah has made her presidential ambitions for Disney CEO Bob Iger well known, and has reportedly “repeatedly begged” him to run. She said in September she hoped to be “knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an ‘Iger 2020’ T-shirt.”


“Bob Iger’s guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now,” she continued. Clinton similarly “has not ruled out jumping in herself,” suggesting she’s also seeing “dissatisfaction” with the race’s current frontrunners, two people tell the Post. Party leaders have said they’re worried about former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in President Trump’s impeachment, and that the other top-tier candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are “too liberal” to beat Trump.

Read more …

They might as well heat their villas with the money.

Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)

A coalition of top Democratic strategists and donors are intensifying conversations about setting up an outside group to bolster Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, aiming to create a super PAC designed to fight back against a barrage of well-funded attacks from President Donald Trump’s campaign. The idea of building an outside organization has been the subject of discussion for weeks by Biden allies, but the conversations intensified in the wake of a cash crunch for the former vice president’s campaign. He reported last week having less than $9 million in the bank, significantly less than his leading rivals.

Although he sits atop or near the top of recent polls, Biden’s lackluster financial performance has set off rounds of public hand-wringing among Democratic establishment figures about his ability to competitively fund his campaign through the battery of state primaries early next year. While Biden has previously spoken out against the creation of a super PAC, which would operate entirely separately from his campaign, several longtime allies say it’s clear that his presidential bid needs help. No final decision has been made about launching the outside group, but allies have started contacting potential vendors and lining up possible donors to fuel a super PAC, sources familiar with the efforts tell CNN. “They know they can use all the help they can get,” one Biden ally told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the group. “Trump is crushing him with spending.”

[..] Biden’s fundraising haul last quarter totaled nearly $15.7 million, but the candidate spent more than he raised, ending the quarter with $8.98 million cash on hand. Biden is outmatched in cash reserves by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has amassed a stockpile of $33.7 million. Biden’s allies are most concerned about combating the attacks coming from Trump. His reelection campaign, joint fundraising committees and the Republican National Committee ended the quarter with a combined $158 million cash on hand.

Read more …

Keyword: IMF.

Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)

Neoliberalism is – literally – burning. And from Ecuador to Chile, South America, once again, is showing the way. Against the vicious, one-size-fits-all IMF austerity prescription, which deploys weapons of mass economic destruction to smash national sovereignty and foster social inequality, South America finally seems poised to reclaim the power to forge its own history. Three presidential elections are in play. Bolivia’s seem to have been settled this past Sunday – even as the usual suspects are yelling “Fraud!” Argentina and Uruguay are on next Sunday. Blowback against what David Harvey has splendidly conceptualized as accumulation by dispossession is, and will continue to be, a bitch. It will eventually reach Brazil – which as it stands continues to be torn to pieces by Pinochetist ghosts.

Brazil, eventually, after immense pain, will rise up again. After all, the excluded and humiliated all across South America are finally discovering they carry a Joker inside themselves. The question posed by the Chilean street is stark: “What’s worse, to evade taxes or to invade the subway?” It’s all a matter of doing the class struggle math. Chile’s GDP grew 1,1% last year while the profits of the largest corporations grew ten times more. It’s not hard to find from where the huge gap was extracted. The Chilean street stresses how water, electricity, gas, health, medicine, transportation, education, the salar (salt flats) in Atacama, even the glaciers were privatized. That’s classic accumulation by dispossession, as the cost of living has become unbearable for the overwhelming majority of 19 million Chileans, whose average monthly income does not exceed $500.

[..] Evo Morales represents a project of sustainable, inclusive development, and crucially, autonomous from international finance. No wonder the whole Washington Consensus apparatus hates his guts. Economy Minister Luis Arce Catacora cut to the chase: “When Evo Morales won his first election in 2005, 65% of the population was low income, now 62% of the population has access to a medium income.” The opposition, without any project except wild privatizations, and no concern whatsoever for social policies, is left to yell “Fraud!”, but this could take a very nasty turn in the next few days. In the tony suburbs of southern La Paz, class hate against Evo Morales is the favorite sport: the President is referred to as “indio”, a “tyrant” and “ignorant”. Cholos of the Altiplano are routinely defined by white landowning elites in the plains as an “evil race”.

Read more …

Russia in control.

Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army. The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies followed a deal agreed on Tuesday between Russia and Turkey that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey.


Peskov, who was reported to be reacting to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army. “The United States has been the Kurds’ closest ally in recent years. (But) in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them,” Peskov was cited as saying. “Now they (the Americans) prefer to leave the Kurds at the border (with Turkey) and almost force them to fight the Turks.” If the Kurds did not withdraw as per the deal between Moscow and Ankara, Peskov said that Syrian borders guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to be dealt with by the Turkish army.

Read more …

WHen you read the article, it appears perhaps not the best way to report this.

Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

Soaring deforestation coupled with the destructive policies of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, could push the Amazon rainforest dangerously to an irreversible “tipping point” within two years, a prominent economist has said. After this point the rainforest would stop producing enough rain to sustain itself and start slowly degrading into a drier savannah, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global heating and disrupt weather across South America. The warning came in a policy brief published this week by Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC.

The report sparked controversy among climate scientists. Some believe the tipping point is still 15 to 20 years away, while others say the warning accurately reflects the danger that Bolsonaro and global heating pose to the Amazon’s survival. “It’s a stock, so like any stock you run it down, run it down – then suddenly you don’t have any more of it,” said de Bolle, whose brief also recommended solutions to the current crisis. Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon, and his government plans to allow mining on protected indigenous reserves. Amazon farmers support his attacks on environmental protection agencies. His business-friendly environment minister, Ricardo Salles, has met loggers and wildcat miners, while deforestation and Amazon fires have soared since he assumed office in January.

The policy brief noted that Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018. Maintaining the current rate of increase INPE reported between January and August this year would bring the Amazon “dangerously close to the estimated tipping point as soon as 2021 … beyond which the rainforest can no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself”, de Bolle wrote.

Read more …

 

 

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”


William Shakespeare

 

 

 

 

Jul 252019
 
 July 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Trafalgar Square 1939-43

 

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)
Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)
Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)
Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)
Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)
Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)
Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)
With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)
Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)
California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

 

 

There are still people calling for impeachment after Mueller’s horror show yesterday. Saw both AOC and Rob Reiner do just that. The somewhat more awake amongst us merely feel sorry for the old man, but that goes too far. He put himself in that position. He’s never delivered any proof of Russian meddling, but that doesn’t appear to bother many. He refused to talk to Assange just so that meddling narrative could be kept alive.

But the biggest takeaway from the hearing must be that Mueller didn’t write his own report, something that became glaringly obvious when he didn’t know what Fusion GPS was. Mueller has just been the face of an investigation that was conducted by others. He is the supposed hero who’s ideal as the front for such a thing. But the thing is hollow and empty.

There were far too many things Mueller said were not in his purview (he said that 16 times) of which at least some certainly were. Moreover, as several members of Congress pointed out, Mueller got far too close to ignoring the presumption of innocence. Trump does not have to prove he’s innocent, Mueller had to prove he’s guilty – and failed.

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)

In a rare meeting of minds Wednesday between two opposing American political voices, Michael Moore earned plaudits from President Donald Trump when the liberal filmmaker blasted former special counsel Robert Mueller’s “stumbling” congressional testimony. Moore, a frequent Trump critic who has also warned of the Democratic Party’s failure to resonate with working-class America, let loose on Mueller as he testified in often halting fashion before Congress about Russian election interference and possible connections to Trump and his 2016 campaign. “A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions,” Moore said in a scathing tweet after Mueller appeared uncertain and asked for several questions to be repeated during some of the most closely watched congressional hearings of the year.

“I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today — All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller — just STFU from now on,” he added, using a crass acronym that includes an expletive. Trump seized on the famed documentarian and Academy Award winner’s fury, retweeting the post and adding his observation that “Even Michael Moore agrees that the Dems and Mueller blew it!” Mueller, 74, appeared reluctant to take the gloves off as he sat for hours in hearings before two House panels, often sounding dispassionate and unsteady.

At times lawyerly and assured, he was also dull and sluggish, declining to stray beyond the confines of his report or to push back aggressively on his Republican questioners and light the fireworks that several Democrats no doubt had been looking for. “Trump must be gloating in ecstasy,” tweeted Moore, director of films like “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me.” “Not because of the failure that is Robert Mueller — his Report is still a damning document of crimes by Trump — but because Trump understands the power of the visual, and he understands that the Dems aren’t street fighters and that’s why he’ll win.”

Read more …

If the Dems wouldn’t waste so much time and credility with Russiagate, they could protest this. And sure, Pelosi tries, but they are not a believable anti-war party.

Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Iran and tension has mounted between the UAE and Tehran over several issues, including the UAE’s coordination with US efforts to curb what it calls Iran’s malign activities in the region. But Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way that would have bypassed congressional review infuriated lawmakers. In a pushback to Trump’s foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans banded together to pass resolutions to block the weapons sale.


The White House had argued that stopping the sale would send a signal that the US did not stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them were increasing. The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support. Anger has been mounting in Congress over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fuelled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen – a military campaign the US is assisting – and the killing of the US-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons further inflamed the tensions. “The president’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement.

Read more …

Let’s start a casino and call it a market.

Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)

You see, Tesla is different. It just reported another doozie, a loss of $408 million in the second quarter, after its $702 million loss in the first quarter, for a total loss in the first half of $1.1 billion. In its 14-year history, it has never generated an annual profit. It has real and popular products and surging sales, but it subsidizes each of those sales with investor money. And here’s where it’s different this time: investors don’t care. They dig how the company has been consistently overpromising and underdelivering. They dig the chaos at the top. They dig everything that should scare them off.

Yeah, its shares plunged 11% afterhours today, but that takes those shares only down to where they’d been on May 1. Big deal. Shares are down 32% from the peak. But their peak should have been a small fraction of that. Even today, the company is still valued at over $40 billion. Tesla lacks a viable business model in the classic sense. Its business model is a new business model of just burning investor cash that it raises via debt and equity offerings on a near-annual basis because investors encourage it to do that, and love it for it, and eagerly hand it more money to burn, and they’re rewarding each other by keeping the share price high. It’s just a game, you see. And nothing else matters.

Then there is Boeing. It just reported the largest quarterly loss in its history of $2.9 billion due to a nearly $5-billion charge related to its newest bestselling all-important 737 Max, two of which crashed, killing 346 people, due to the way the plane is designed. The flight-control software that is supposed to mitigate this design issue is not working properly. And a software fix that is acceptable to regulators remains elusive. The plane has been grounded globally since March. No one, especially not the regulators, can afford a third crash. So today, Boeing announced that it may further cut production of the plane or suspend it altogether if the delays continue to drag out. This is big enough to start impacting US GDP.

[..] But here we go: From 2013 through Q1 2019, Boeing has blown a mind-boggling $43 billion on share buybacks (buyback data via YCharts): Blowing these $43 billion on share buybacks has caused Boeing to have a “total equity” of a negative $5 billion. In other words, it has $5 billion more in liabilities than in assets. This company is out of wriggle room. If it can’t borrow enough money to make payroll, it’s over.

Read more …

Shouldn’t he wait for the DOJ investigation?

Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that online giant Amazon.com Inc “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.” Mnuchin said he looked forward to hearing the results of a Justice Department probe, announced on Tuesday, into whether big U.S. technology firms engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign yet that the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech. “If you look at Amazon, although they’re certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I don’t have an opinion other than I think it’s absolutely right the attorney general is looking into these issues and I look forward to listening to his recommendations to the president.”


Amazon defended itself, saying that 90% of all sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores. “Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018,” a spokesman for Amazon said. A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Tuesday which companies it would scrutinize under the antitrust probe, but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” – an apparent reference to Google, Amazon, Facebook, and potentially Apple.

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No more parking spaces left.

Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)

Boeing said it could halt production of the 737 Max jet on Wednesday as it reported the company’s largest ever quarterly loss following two fatal accidents involving the plane. The company lost $2.9bn in the three months to the end of June, compared to a profit of $2.2bn for the same period last year. Sales fell 35% to $15.8bn. Chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said production of the plane could be slowed or halted if regulators do not move to lift the ban on the plane. The 737 Max was Boeing’s best selling aircraft until the fleet was grounded worldwide in March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. In January Boeing’s executives said the Max was the fastest selling plane in its history and the company expected to deliver between 895 and 905 airplanes this year.


Now it has become the most costly plane in Boeing’s history. Boeing has predicted that the Max will be flying again by the end of the year, but this month the Wall Street Journal reported that government and industry officials believe a return date of January 2020 is more likely. On a call with analysts Muilenburg said the company may have to consider slowing or halting production if there are further delays in getting the plane back into the skies. Boeing is still producing 42 of its 737 jets a month and plans to boost that rate to 57 next year. But if there are further setbacks, Muilenberg said: “We might need to consider possible further rate reductions or other options including a temporary shutdown of the Max production.”

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It got him out of jail…

Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls, was found unconscious in a Manhattan jail cell with injuries to his neck, media reported late on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources. Epstein was found by guards sprawled on the floor of cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Wednesday, media reported. Some media reported that his face appeared blue. The billionaire financier was taken to hospital, the New York Post reported, but it was unclear where he was taken or what his condition was. It was not clear how he suffered his injuries. Epstein was recently denied bail, a move his lawyers plan to appeal according to a court notice made public on Tuesday.


Epstein was expected to ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the judge’s July 18 rejection of his request to remain under house arrest in his $77 million mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the appeal for bail was expected. His lawyer Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment. The charges, concerning alleged misconduct from at least 2002 to 2005, were announced more than a decade after Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida. In denying him bail, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said the government had shown by clear and convincing evidence that Epstein would pose a danger to the community if released pending trial.

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Impressive.

Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)

Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Rossello announced his resignation late Wednesday following two weeks of massive protests triggered by the release of a chat exchange in which he and others mocked gays, women and hurricane victims. “I announce that I will be resigning from the governor’s post effective Friday, August 2 at 5 pm,” Rossello said, in a video statement posted on the government’s Facebook page. As soon as the video ended, a joyous commotion and cries of “ole ole ole” were heard from protesters who had rallied since the afternoon at the gates of the governor’s mansion.


“I trust that Puerto Rico will continue united and move forward as it always has,” Rossello said. “And I hope that this decision will serve as a call for citizen reconciliation.” Rossello said that Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez would temporarily succeed him. Puerto Ricans had waited expectantly for the announcement throughout the day, as rumors of the governor’s forthcoming resignation swirled.

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Christine Lagarde is stuck even before she takes the job. There is no way out of ultra-low rates.

With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)

The European Central Bank is all but certain to ease policy further on Thursday, with the biggest question whether it staggers its moves over several months or opts for a big bang. With inflation stuck well below its target and the U.S. Federal Reserve already in easing mode, the ECB has flagged more stimulus, hoping to prop up confidence amid a steady flow of bad news that threatens to unravel years of unprecedented support. It could cut interest rates, perhaps while also helping banks offset the costs to them, restart a recently shuttered bond-buying program or raise the bar for any future tightening of monetary policy.


But with economic data relatively stable there is little urgency to deliver a comprehensive package this week, suggesting the ECB could take its time to prepare the measures and wait for the Fed to set its own course. This will be crucial for determining the euro’s exchange rate against the dollar, presently the single most-watched variable for ECB policymakers. Having stoked easing expectations already, ECB President Mario Draghi will have to deliver at least something on Thursday. If nothing else, he is likely to unveil revamped interest rate guidance that makes it clear a rate cut is coming and that rates will stay at record lows for much longer than the ECB had previously expected.

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As I said: all they can do is to prolong the agony.

Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)

Deutsche Bank has issued its results for the second quarter of 2019. They make grim reading. The bank reported a headline loss of €3.1bn ($3.44bn), which it said was due to “charges relating to strategic transformation” of €3.4bn ($3.78bn). But both net income of £231m ($256.67m) and underlying profits of €441m ($490m) were significantly down on the same quarter in 2018. The restructuring announced earlier this month has yet to impact fully. The “capital release unit” into which the bank plans to put €74bn ($82.22bn) of poorly-performing and non-strategic assets and business lines, including its entire equities trading division, is not yet up and running, and although headcount is about 4,500 lower than it was a year ago, the latest round of sackings doesn’t yet show up in the redundancy costs.


Restructuring costs themselves therefore only contribute €50m ($55.56m) to the headline loss. A further €350m ($388.89m) comes from junking software and service contracts that will no longer be needed because of the restructuring. But by far the largest part of the headline loss arises from impairment of goodwill to the tune of €1bn ($1.11bn) and a €2bn ($2.22bn) reduction in the value of the bank’s deferred tax asset. This may sound like accounting gobbledegook, but it sends a very important message. Deutsche Bank’s management has admitted the bank will never return to the profitability of the past. When the restructuring is complete, it will be a much smaller, poorer bank.

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Let’s end with something positive.

California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

The California condor, North America’s largest bird, once ruled the American Southwest and California’s coastal mountains. The vulture-like bird was revered by Native Americans and was believed to contain spiritual powers. Hundreds of years later, its future seemed all but certain. Defying odds, conservation efforts brought the species back and prevented it from joining the dodo in extinction. Now, condor reintroduction celebrates a milestone: Chick No. 1,000 has hatched. In the 1980s, fewer than two dozen condors were left in the world. Conservationists rounded up the remaining condors and began breeding them in captivity.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the condor became critically endangered in the 20th century — one classification behind extinct in the wild. The decline came from poaching, habitat destruction and lead poisoning as condors scavenged for carrion containing lead shots. Today, more than 300 California condors exist in the wild. Including captivity breeding programs, there are more than 500 in the world, says Tim Hauck, the condor program manager at the Peregrine Fund.

The 1,000th successful birth signifies an optimistic future for the condor recovery mission. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR’s Scott Simon. “And that’s just a step towards success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” The hatchling is currently in Zion National Park — it emerged from its shell in May, but its survival was just confirmed in July. The chick, whose sex cannot be identified without a blood test, will be ready to fledge — or take flight — for the first time in November. If the chick successfully leaves the nest, it can expect to grow up to have a 10-foot wingspan. The bird’s average lifespan is 60 years, one of the world’s longest-living bird species.


Photo by National Park Service – AP

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Feb 162019
 


Marcel Duchamp The king and queen surrounded by swift nudes 1912

 

Over 60% Of All New Debt Created Globally In Past Decade Was In China (NYFed)
Worms Turning (Jim Kunstler)
FBI Created, Covered Up “Chart” Of Potential Hillary Clinton Crimes (ZH)
Mueller Discloses Evidence Roger Stone Communicated With Wikileaks (G.)
Are Russian Trolls Saving Measles From Extinction? (RFE)
Democrats’ Coveted 2020 Prize? An Endorsement From Ocasio-Cortez (G.)
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State (CP)
Corbyn To Hold Brexit Talks With EU’s Barnier And Verhofstadt (G.)
When The Swabian Hausfrau Saves (Steve Keen)
9/11 Fund Running Out Of Money For Those With Illnesses (AP)
Subsidies to Amazon Are Uneconomical, Un-American, and Unconstitutional (PM)

 

 

As Trump flunks his emergency, Xi flunks his economy. I’ll wait for the shouting match over the first to settle over the weekend.

This is from the New York Fed’s Liberty Street Economics. The second graph is not from their piece, but very much to the point. After all that new debt, China’s transition to a consumer economy is faltering. So people are clamoring for rate cuts and more stimulus. But do they realize how much stimulus China has already neede to get where it is today?

Over 60% Of All New Debt Created Globally In Past Decade Was In China (NYFed)

Although there has been a notable deceleration in the pace of credit growth recently, the run-up in debt in China has been eye-popping, accounting for more than 60 percent of all new credit created globally over the past ten years. Rising nonfinancial sector debt was driven initially by an increase in corporate borrowing, which surged in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. The most recent leg of China’s credit boom has been due to an important shift toward household lending. To better understand the rise in household debt in China and its implications for financial stability and China’s economic performance, it is important to examine the expansion in household credit, how the rise in debt compares to international experience, and the associated risks.

The growth of China’s household debt reflects a natural evolution in financial sector deepening and has grown in two waves. The first occurred during the late-1990s following major financial reforms and the privatization of China’s housing stock. The second wave began in the wake of the global financial crisis and has witnessed much more rapid growth, with debt increasing by nearly $5.7 trillion, or nearly 30 percent of China’s GDP. In fact, household lending overtook corporate borrowing in early 2018 to become the largest driver of aggregate loan growth in China. New household lending now accounts for roughly half of new loans.

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Glad someone’s keeping count.

Worms Turning (Jim Kunstler)

[..] late this week, William Barr was confirmed as a new Attorney General, meaning the extreme case of bureaucratic constipation in that department may be resolving in a shitstorm of counter-revelations and prosecutions in what amounted to an attempted coup d’etat. A lot of the evidence for that is already public and overwhelming. It includes:

• Using FBI counter-intelligence assets improperly and illegally.
• Using fabricated “opposition research” provided by Mrs. Clinton to obtain warrants to spy on her election opponent, and failing to verify it as evidence (according to strict “Woods” procedures) submitted to FISA court judges.
• Recruiting Britain’s MI6 to spy on US citizens as a work-around from US laws prohibiting US Intel from spying on Americans.
• Setting up the notorious Trump Tower meeting to entrap Donald Trump Jr., using a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in the employ of Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clintons oppo research contractor.
• Orchestrating leaks of secret FBI proceedings to the news media to feed a Russia collusion hysteria.
• Malicious prosecutions by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and egregious political conflicts-of-interest among Mr. Mueller’s team of prosecutors.
• Coverup of the Uranium One scheme facilitated by Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
• A scheme to surreptitiously and illegally record conversations with Mr. Trump once he became president.
• Conspiring to bury multiple inquires into illegal conduct of Mrs. Clinton, her employees and associates by failing to obtain evidence and allowing it to be destroyed.
• Misconduct in office by former CIA chief John Brennan, former National Security Director James Clapper, former AG Loretta Lynch, and members of President Obama’s White House inner circle.

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Tie in this one with Jim Kunstler’s list above.

FBI Created, Covered Up “Chart” Of Potential Hillary Clinton Crimes (ZH)

The top brass of the Obama FBI went to great lengths to justify their decision not to recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information, according to Judicial Watch, which obtained evidence that the agency created a ‘chart’ of Clinton’s offenses. The newly obtained emails came in response to a court ordered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the DOJ had previously ignored. Via Judicial Watch: “Three days after then-FBI Director James Comey’s press conference announcing that he would not recommend a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, a July 8, 2016 email chain shows that, the Special Counsel to the FBI’s executive assistant director in charge of the National Security Branch, whose name is redacted, wrote to Strzok and others that he was producing a “chart of the statutory violations considered during the investigation [of Clinton’s server], and the reasons for the recommendation not to prosecute…”

[..] On May 15, 2016, James Rybicki, former chief of staff to Comey, sends FBI General Counsel James Baker; Bill Priestap, former assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division; McCabe; Page; and others an email with the subject line “Request from the Director.” Rybicki writes: By NLT [no later than] next Monday, the Director would like to see a list of all cases charged in the last 20 years where the gravamen of the charge was mishandling classified information. It should be in chart form with: (1) case name, (2) a short summary for content (3) charges brought, and (4) charge of conviction. If need be, we can get it from NSD [National Security Division] and let them know that the Director asked for this personally. Please let me know who can take the lead on this. Thanks! Jim

Page forwards to Strzok: FYSA [For your situational awareness] Strzok replies to Page: I’ll take the lead, of course – sounds like an espionage section question… Or do you think OGC [Office of the General Counsel] should? And the more reason for us to get feedback to Rybicki, as we all identified this as an issue/question over a week ago. Page replies: I was going to reply to Jim [Rybicki] and tell him I can talked [sic] to you about this already. Do you want me to?

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Mueller gets nuttier, and the Guardian gladly collaborates. On nothing new. We already knew WikiLeaks told Stone to take a hike. Most importantly, Mueller continues his cowardice vs Assange, because without his empty accusations of Assange, he really has nothing left on collusion. And if Assange could talk, he’d have even less left. And people tell me he’s not a coward.

Under US law, people have the right to defend themselves. Under Robert Mueller’s law, Julian Assange does not. Is that stating it clear enough?

As for Stone, Aaron Maté tweeted about this article: “LOL. The “communications of Roger Stone with Wikileaks” were revealed a year ago. They show WL urging Stone to stop making “false claims of association” between them.”

Mueller Discloses Evidence Roger Stone Communicated With Wikileaks (G.)

The US Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, disclosed for the first time on Friday that his office has evidence of communications between Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails. In a court filing on Friday, Mueller’s office said it had gathered that evidence in a separate probe into Russian intelligence officers who were charged by Mueller with hacking the emails during the 2016 US presidential campaign and staging their release. In an email criticising media coverage of Mueller’s filing on Friday, Stone said the evidence was “innocuous Twitter direct messages” that have already been disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee and “prove absolutely nothing”.

Also on Friday, a federal judge placed some limits on what Stone and his lawyers can say publicly about his criminal case brought by the special counsel in the Russia investigation. But the US district judge, Amy Berman Jackson, stopped short of imposing a broad ban on public comments by the outspoken political operative, issuing a limited gag order she said was necessary to ensure Stone’s right to a fair trial and “to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings”. Stone was indicted last month for lying to Congress about his communications with others about the hacked emails. Mueller did not say at the time that he had evidence of communications with WikiLeaks. Stone, an ally of Trump for 40 years, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Stone has previously acknowledged brief exchanges with both WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 but maintains he never had advance knowledge about the release of hacked emails. But Friday marked the first time Mueller indicated he had obtained related evidence, although it remained unclear if the evidence is more substantial than what is publicly known. “The government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release,” Mueller’s team wrote in a filing to the US district court in Washington DC. “Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.”

[..] WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 each published emails and other documents from the Democratic party in 2016 in an operation that Mueller alleges was part of a Kremlin-backed effort to tip the election in favour of then Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

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Radio Free Europe presents Russiaphobia on steroids.

Let’s ask Mueller what he thinks.

Are Russian Trolls Saving Measles From Extinction? (RFE)

Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis. They say the trolls may have contributed to the 2018 outbreak of measles in Europe that killed 72 people and infected more than 82,000 — mostly in Eastern and Southeastern European countries known to have been targeted by Russia-based disinformation campaigns. Experts in the United States and Europe are now working on ways to gauge the impact that Russian troll and bot campaigns have had on the spread of the disease by distributing medical misinformation and raising public doubts about vaccinations.

Studies have already documented how cybercampaigns by the Internet Research Agency – a St. Petersburg “troll farm” that has been accused of meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election – artificially bolstered debate on social media about vaccines since 2014 in a way that eroded public trust in vaccinations. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that “vaccination hesitancy” has become one of the top threats to global health. It notes a 30 percent rise in measles globally and a resurgence of measles in countries that had once been close to eradicating the disease.

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You heard it here first in The Great Discontent.

A communications director says: “She’s built a profile with a savvy way beyond her years..”, but it’s the other way around. Anyone older can not build a profile the way she has because she’s 29 and grew up with social media; it’s not an acquired taste for her.

Democrats’ Coveted 2020 Prize? An Endorsement From Ocasio-Cortez (G.)

Welcome to the AOC primary. At 29 years old, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – already known as “AOC” for short – is too young to be eligible to run for US president. But her phenomenal impact on American politics means that she could play an outsized role in deciding who does. As her fellow Democrats jostle for position ahead of the 2020 primary elections, an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be a widely coveted prize, a guaranteed shot of adrenaline sure to energise her army of millennial voters. But it could also come with perils in the later presidential contest, especially for so-called “centrist” candidates hoping to draw independents and moderate Republicans away from Donald Trump.

In little more than a month, Ocasio-Cortez, whose New York district includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, has taken Washington by storm, overshadowing career politicians who have spent years labouring in the 435-member House of Representatives. Her proposals – among them a Green New Deal to combat climate change and a 70% tax rate on earnings over $10m to tackle economic inequality – have reset terms of debate in the early stages of the Democratic contest. “This is a race to the left,” said Dave Handy, a New York-based political consultant and organiser. “Even if people don’t like her or her policies, they will be racing to get her endorsement because it’s a progressive check mark. She embodies the general direction the party is going in.”

[..] Ocasio-Cortez is also a social media sensation. She has in excess of 3 million followers on Twitter with more engagement than Donald Trump, Barack Obama or Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Last week a video clip in which she quizzed ethics experts about government corruption became the most watched political video ever posted on Twitter with 37.5m views. It was another demonstration of astonishing clout. Neil Sroka, communications director of the progressive group Democracy for America, said: “She’s built a profile with a savvy way beyond her years, but she also has an agenda that feels right for the moment. AOC does not exist without the bold, inclusive, populist agenda she’s pushing. The vitriol she has inspired speaks to how afraid everyone is; Republicans see her as representing a country they don’t even know how to speak to.”

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“The American plan is to burn the oil. All of it.”

The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State (CP)

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the nation’s forests were clear-cut from coast to coast in the mid-late nineteenth century. Photographs from the era show denuded landscapes— no trees, no animals, and streams still poisoned from the runoff in the present, for as far as the eye can see. The scars from nineteenth and twentieth century strip mining in Pennsylvania draw direct geographical and historical lines to the mountaintop removal that is taking place in West Virginia today. These natural resources produced the bounty of American capitalism every bit as much as the manufacturing prowess of the Second Industrial Revolution. In turn, this combination of low-cost resources, manufacturing prowess and natural borders (the oceans) produced the military might that defines America in the present.

The logic of weapons and weaponry pervades American capitalism. Death and destruction, domination and control, are what America does. The thought that these resources were ever ‘free’ illustrates the power of ideology. With a body count of at least one-hundred million human beings— including genocide against the indigenous population, murdered slaves, coal miners in Appalachia who died from black lung disease, mill workers in Massachusetts and North and South Carolina who died from inhaling cotton fibers, and those killed in American wars for resources, the human toll of American capitalism is staggering.

[..] In the present, the introduction of a Green New Deal as a nonbinding resolution, rather than the creation of a select congressional committee, clarifies the political form of official resistance to environmental resolution. The public pronouncement itself is a call to arms, implying both that the need for environmental resolution is urgent and that it won’t be led from above. Its authors were right to take their case to the people, from whom something akin to a revolutionary movement is required. Complaints over its limited scope miss that until there is such a movement, little progress toward environmental resolution will be made. Current bipartisan American machinations toward Venezuela illustrate the conundrum. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. The U.S. is using state power to ‘liberate’ this oil for the benefit of nominally private multinational oil corporations. The American plan is to burn the oil. All of it.

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And why not? It must get messier still.

Corbyn To Hold Brexit Talks With EU’s Barnier And Verhofstadt (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn will hold talks in Brussels next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, as he seeks to break the Brexit impasse and persuade Theresa May to sign up to a customs union. The visit is likely to be highly unwelcome in Downing Street, and risks accusations that Labour is pursuing its own shadow negotiations, undermining the prime minister’s hopes of fresh EU concessions. May will be in Brussels in the same week to meet the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. The UK attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, is expected to travel with her. During a whistle-stop tour of the central figures in the Brexit talks on Thursday, Corbyn is also due to meet the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt.

He will also hold talks with senior figures in the socialist group in the European parliament, including Labour MEPs. EU sources said Corbyn was expected to provide further details on his recent conditional offer of support for the prime minister’s deal along with an update on the cross-party talks. Earlier this month, the Labour leader said his party would back the withdrawal agreement, containing the Irish backstop, if May renegotiated the accompanying political declaration on the future relationship. Labour is seeking a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, a close alignment with the single market and protection for standards and workers’ rights.

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Steve wants to abolish the word ‘savings’ with regards to a government. It makes no sense at all.

When The Swabian Hausfrau Saves (Steve Keen)

Savings is promoted as a private virtue that should be practiced at a national and international level as well. What happens to the economy when it is implemented? Keen explains one of the great economic fallacies: that a government needs to manage its finances like a household, and if the government consistently spends more than it receives in income, the nation’s debt will ultimately become unsustainable, and the nation will go broke. Furthermore he will address why the predominant Neoclassical economic model of banking is dangerously misleading as a guide to how a capitalist economy actually works and was thus incapable of predicting the Great Financial Crisis of 2007.

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Hoe much more American does it get?

9/11 Fund Running Out Of Money For Those With Illnesses (AP)

The compensation fund for victims of 9/11 is running out of money and will cut future payments by 50 to 70 percent, officials announced Friday. September 11th Victim Compensation Fund special master Rupa Bhattacharyya said she was “painfully aware of the inequity of the situation” but stressed that awarding some funds for every valid claim would be preferable to sending some legitimate claimants away empty-handed. “I could not abide a plan that would at the end of the day leave some claimants uncompensated,” Bhattacharyya said.

Nearly 40,000 people have applied to the federal fund for people with illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the 2001 terror attacks there, and about 19,000 of those claims are pending. Nearly $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.3 billion fund. Bhattacharyya said fund officials estimate it would take another $5 billion to pay pending claims and the claims that officials anticipate will be submitted before the fund’s December 2020 deadline. Absent that funding, officials determined that pending claims submitted by Feb. 1 would be paid at 50 percent of their prior value. Valid claims received after that date will be paid at just 30 percent.

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Idea is good, argumentation less so. You can’t expect to be taken too seriously when you write lines like this one: A recent paper shows that companies are more likely to receive subsidies when they make financial contributions to political candidates in the state.

Subsidies to Amazon Are Uneconomical, Un-American, and Unconstitutional (PM)

Corporate subsidies are a negative-sum game. They foster crony capitalism, hurt productivity growth and inflict great harm on product market competition.

As soon as Amazon announced the location of its new headquarters, an intense media battle started on the rationality of the fiscal subsidies offered by the two chosen states to attract the new headquarters. Was it a good idea for New York and Virginia to offer $1.5 billion and $573 million respectively to stir Amazon’s decision? In each of the two chosen locations Amazon was to invest billions in infrastructure, employ as many as 25,000 people directly (and many more indirectly), and bring billions in new tax revenues. Even the generous fiscal benefits offered by the two locations seem small vis-à-vis the additional fiscal revenues the winning states will enjoy. After all, had Amazon chosen New Jersey over New York, the Empire State would have lost up to $14 billion in new tax revenues over the next 25 years.

Why shouldn’t a state pay a fraction of these enormous benefits to secure Amazon’s headquarters? While appealing, this argument is flawed and—as it turns out—self-defeating. When companies compete for customers, they have to offer better products or lower prices. They are forced to innovate and improve efficiency in production. In economist lingo, product market competition is not a zero-sum game (my gains are equal to your losses), but a positive-sum game (my gains exceed your losses). By contrast, corporate competition for state subsidies is a zero-sum game. Amazon is not going to be more productive in New York than in New Jersey –it will only pay fewer taxes. If companies are successful in pitting one state against another, they will end up paying no state taxes.

As a result, the economy will not be one iota more efficient, and the rest of us will end up paying more taxes to make up for the revenue shortfall. Competition for subsidies also fosters crony capitalism and hurts productivity growth. It fosters crony capitalism because it favors companies that are well-connected, rather than companies that are more efficient.

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Feb 152019
 


Pablo Picasso Three women at the edge of the beach 1924

 

NBC Issues Latest Reminder That Mueller Report Might Disappoint (ZH)
Trump Will Sign Spending Bill, Declare Emergency Over Border – McConnell (MW)
Russians Told To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ As US Proposes New Sanctions (Ind.)
Theresa May Suffers Embarrassing Defeat As Tories Rebel Over No-Deal (Ind.)
Dutch PM On Brexit: UK Is A Waning Country Too Small To Stand Alone (G.)
German Economy Narrowly Avoids Recession As Weaker Exports Take Toll (G.)
BBC Producer’s Syria Bombshell: Douma “Gas Attack” Footage “Was Staged” (ZH)
As Amazon Drops New York City Project, Progressives Claim A Major Coup (R.)
White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Venezuela Coup (Palast)
How The US Has Hidden Its Empire (Immerwahr)
School Climate Strikes: ‘The Beginning Of Great Change’ (G.)
100s Of Endangered Animals At Risk Of Extinction Due To Wildlife Trade (Ind.)

 

 

They’re inventing a narrative as we speak that Mueller may have proof of collusion, but not enough for a criminal case, and therefore that proof may remain hidden. Which would give NBC plenty material for more empty allegations right up until the 2020 elections. In the media, it’s no longer about what you can prove, it’s about what wiggle room you have to smear and accuse. They’ll never give up: the Senate committee comes up nothing, and they prepare their audience for the Mueller probe doing the same, but somehow that means nothing. No matter what happens, the verdict is already there.

NBC Issues Latest Reminder That Mueller Report Might Disappoint (ZH)

“Millions of Americans may be sorely disappointed” by the Mueller report – or lack thereof, according to NBC News. Yes, after nearly three years of DOJ investigation, FBI spying, and what appears to have been a setup involving a mysterious Maltese professor who bragged about his ties to the Clinton Foundation – it looks like that “the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found.” The NBC report comes days after a bipartisan Senate investigation found no collusion between Trumpworld and Russia, and the same day as former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe admitted that he rushed to open the Russia probe out of fear of being fired.

Unless Mueller files a detailed indictment charging members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia, the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found — including potentially scandalous behavior that doesn’t amount to a provable crime . The reason: The special counsel operates under rules that severely constrain how much information can be made public. -NBC News And while the Attorney General will be required to notify Congress of Mueller’s findings, those reports must amount to “brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.” “Expectations that we will see a comprehensive report from the special counsel are high. But the written regulations that govern the special counsel’s reporting requirements should arguably dampen those expectations,” said former federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg.

[..] When asked about making the Mueller report public, newly minted Attorney General, William Barr, has said “My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” adding “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and I will not let personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in January that her vote on Barr’s nomination is contingent upon whether he will release the report publicly. “My vote really depends on whether I believe that that report will come out as written,” said Feinstein. “I served for a long time on the Intelligence Committee, and I know redaction can be excessive.”

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TEXT

Trump Will Sign Spending Bill, Declare Emergency Over Border – McConnell (MW)

President Donald Trump will sign a spending bill to keep the government open and at the same time declare a national emergency at the border, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. McConnell spoke from the Senate floor after Trump said on Twitter he was reviewing the bill with his team at the White House. Trump has discussed using an emergency declaration to build a proposed wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a move that’s certain to provoke a brawl with Congress and perhaps in the courts.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump would sign the bill and “take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.” “The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” Sanders said. The measure passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon by an 83-16 vote, and the House approved it Thursday night with a 300-128 tally. Republicans including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida voted against it.

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As RT states: “Even the most cursory observer will notice the bill treats alleged Russian meddling abroad and “illicit and corrupt activities” of the Russian president as established, proven facts (they are not).”

Russians Told To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ As US Proposes New Sanctions (Ind.)

Moscow has reacted to a proposed new package of United States sanctions with of mix of anger and resignation. As an influential former minister urged Russians to prepare for the worst, the Kremlin accused the US of “racketeering”. “We see clear symptoms of emotional Russophobia,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists. “But behind the emotions … is an entirely pragmatic, assertive trade calculation, and … nothing less than an attempt to engage in dishonest competition.” The new round of sanctions, proposed in the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act on Wednesday evening, would target Russia’s security service, sovereign debt, and its financial and energy sectors.

The sanctions package is awaiting congressional approval. m According to the bill’s authors, the measures have been proposed in response to two developments: Russian “interference in democratic processes abroad” and its “aggression against Ukraine”, including the seizing of Ukrainian warships in the Kerch strait in November. On Thursday, the proposed sanctions were met with a predictably angry response by Russian state television and more media-hungry parliamentarians. Perhaps the most memorable response was filed by Frants Klintsevich, the prominent, if excitable, member of the Defence and Security Committee of Russia’s upper house. He described the new sanctions as a “dangerous habit” akin to “smoking a pipe before breakfast, poisoning all those around”.

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In the future, this headline will sow much confusion about the date it applies to. May suffers embarrassing defeats almost every day.

Theresa May Suffers Embarrassing Defeat As Tories Rebel Over No-Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May’s Brexit plans have been dealt a body blow following a “fiasco” in the House of Commons, which saw dozens of Tories inflict an embarrassing defeat on their leader. Eurosceptic Conservatives refused to back a motion reiterating support for the prime minister’s negotiating strategy, deeply suspicious that she might try and use it to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The loss brutally exposes how trust between Ms May and her backbenchers has hit rock bottom, with many still furious over comments made by her chief negotiator in a Brussels bar this week which also appeared to exclude a no-deal scenario. But the defeat has also laid bare the extreme fragility of parliamentary support for her approach, with her ministers having claimed only last week that she had secured a “strong mandate” from the Commons.

On another dramatic night in parliament, Ms May was nowhere to be seen as the result was read out to cheers from the Labour benches. The government motion was defeated by 258 votes to 303. One leading Tory described the night as a “fiasco”, Jeremy Corbyn said the country was heading for a “catastrophe”, and a senior source in Brussels said: “There goes the strong mandate.” The Brexit fault line also cut through Mr Corbyn’s party on Thursday, with a significant number of Labour MPs apparently defying their leader’s will in a separate vote amid suspicions that some are close to breaking away. But the spotlight was firmly on the prime minister’s ailing administration as it contorted in an attempt to avoid defeat on what did not have to be a difficult night for Ms May.

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Rutte is an all-out neo-liberal globalist. The kind that control Brussels today. But will that still be the case after the May EU elections?

Dutch PM On Brexit: UK Is A Waning Country Too Small To Stand Alone (G.)

Britain is a “waning country” and too small to stand alone on the world stage, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has claimed in a withering assessment of the UK’s exit from the EU. Rutte, who has emerged as a key player in the talks over the past two years, also warned in an interview that the UK looked to be sliding off the “precipice” towards a “devastating” no-deal Brexit. “Who will be left weakened by Brexit is the United Kingdom,” he said. “It is already weakening, it is a waning country compared to two or three years ago. It is going to become an economy of middling size in the Atlantic Ocean. It is neither the US nor the EU. It is too small to appear on the world stage on its own.”

Rutte, who also claimed the Dutch would replace the UK in the bloc as the pre-eminent voice for free trade, has been regularly consulted by Theresa May on progress in the Brexit negotiations. The Netherlands is one of the EU member states that will be most affected by the barriers to trade that will emerge after the UK leaves the bloc, although it has been the beneficiary of some relocations by big businesses. Figures released last week by the Dutch investment agency revealed 42 companies had relocated to the Netherlands in 2018, citing Brexit as a reason, resulting in the movement of 1,923 jobs. Asked whether a Brexit deal was likely, Rutte said in an interview with European media outlets, including the Spanish newspaper El País: “My impression is that the ball is heading towards the precipice and everyone screams to stop, but nobody does anything to stop it, at least, from the British side.”

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When is Berlin going to start pumping money in?

German Economy Narrowly Avoids Recession As Weaker Exports Take Toll (G.)

Germany narrowly avoided falling into recession in the second half of last year as weaker exports dragged Europe’s largest economy to stalling point during the final three months of 2018. The German economy recorded zero growth in the fourth quarter, managing to just avoid a technical recession after reporting a contraction of 0.2% in the third quarter amid a slump in industrial output. Several economists had previously warned that Germany was on the brink of recession because of consecutive monthly declines in factory output, with the country suffering from weaker levels of global demand and disruption at factories.

Tensions between the US and China have acted as a handbrake on global goods trade, while growth is slowing in the Chinese economy after years of rapid expansion. Sales of cars in China dropped last year for the first time in almost 30 years, affecting manufacturers across Europe. New vehicle emissions tests introduced after the VW emissions scandal have also caused disruption to factories across Europe, including in Britain. Manufacturing accounts for about a fifth of the Germany economy, about double the size of Britain’s industrial base. Overall growth for 2018 in Germany was 1.5%, marginally above the 1.4% expansion recorded in Britain.

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How things we’ve all know for years can still be bombshells.

BBC Producer’s Syria Bombshell: Douma “Gas Attack” Footage “Was Staged” (ZH)

Now approaching nearly a year after the April 7, 2018 alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria — which the White House used as a pretext to bomb Syrian government facilities and bases throughout Damascus — a BBC reporter who investigated the incident on the ground has issued public statements saying the “Assad sarin attack” on Douma was indeed “staged”. Riam Dalati is a well-known BBC Syria producer who has long reported from the region. He shocked his nearly 20,000 twitter followers on Wednesday, which includes other mainstream journalists from major outlets, by stating that after a “six month investigation” he has concluded, “I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.”

The “hospital scene” is a reference to part of the horrid footage played over and over again on international networks showing children in a Douma hospital being hosed off and treated by doctors and White Helmets personnel as victims of the alleged chemical attack. The BBC’s Dalati stated on Wednesday: “After almost 6 months of investigations, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital.” He noted he had interviewed a number of White Helmets and opposition activists while reaching that conclusion.

He continued in a follow-up tweet: “Russia and at least one NATO country knew about what happened in the hospital. Documents were sent. However, no one knew what really happened at the flats apart from activists manipulating the scene there. This is why Russia focused solely on discrediting the hospital scene.” Dalati’s mention of activists at the flats “manipulating the scene there” is a reference to White Helmets and rebel activist produced footage purporting to show the deadly aftermath of a chemical attack inside a second scene — a bombed out apartment showing dozens of dead bodies.

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Yes, Amazon is the company that paid $0 in income taxes. And then people say progressives stand in the way of progress. Some progress.

As Amazon Drops New York City Project, Progressives Claim A Major Coup (R.)

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time on Thursday in calling Amazon’s decision to scrap plans to build a major New York outpost with nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives a big victory for progressive politicians. The democratic socialist congresswoman has become the face of the Democratic Party’s ascendant left wing, thanks in part to her upset victory last year in a district near the proposed Amazon.com Inc development. “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

Amazon blamed local opposition for its abrupt reversal, which some saw as the latest evidence of the progressive movement’s surging influence ahead of the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination next year. “They have shown sufficient power to back off the largest corporation in the world,” Douglas Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College in New York and an expert on city politics and public opinion. “They killed Amazon, the biggest beast around.”

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“Guaidó’s supporters, like Carmona’s, know they can’t win an election given the overwhelming fact of the newly empowered Mestizo majority. So Guaidó has skipped the idea of an election altogether..”

White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Venezuela Coup (Palast)

Four centuries of white supremacy in Venezuela by those who identify their ancestors as European came to an end with the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, who won with the overwhelming support of the Mestizo majority. This turn away from white supremacy continues under Maduro, Chavez’s chosen successor. In my interviews with Chavez for BBC beginning in 2002, he talked with humor about the fury of a white ruling class finding itself displaced by a man who embraced his own Indigenous and African heritage. In Venezuela, as in the USA, poverty and race are locked together. Why did so many Mestizo, poor Venezuelans love Chavez? As even the CIA’s surprisingly honest Fact Book states:

“Social investment in Venezuela during the Chavez administration reduced poverty from nearly 50% in 1999 to about 27% in 2011, increased school enrollment, substantially decreased infant and child mortality, and improved access to potable water and sanitation through social investment.” But, just as Maduro took office, the price of oil began its collapse, and the vast social programs that oil had paid for were now supported by borrowing money and printing it, causing wild inflation. The economic slide is now made impossibly worse by what the UN rapporteur for Venezuela compared to “medieval sieges.” The Trump administration cut off Venezuela from the oil sale proceeds from its biggest customer, the US.

Everyone has been hurt economically, but the privileged class’s bank accounts have become nearly worthless. So, knowing that the Mestizo majority would not elect their Great White Hope Guaidó, they simply took to the streets — often armed. (And yes, both sides are armed.) I’ve seen this movie before. When I look at today’s news reports of massive demonstrations against the so-called “dictatorship” of Venezuela’s left government, it looks awfully like 2002, when I was first in Caracas reporting for BBC Television. [..] In 2002, George W. Bush’s State Department cheer-led the coup. The plotters kidnapped Chavez and held him hostage. The coup was led by an oil industry leader and head of the Chamber of Commerce, Pedro Carmona, who had seized the nation’s White House, and, like Guaidó today, declared himself president.

Carmona told me proudly about the fancy inaugural ball held by the nation’s elite and attended by Bush’s ambassador. But the Bush/Carmona coup collapsed when a million mostly Mestizo, Indigenous and Black Venezuelans flooded the capital and forced the plotters to return their hero, the supposedly unpopular Chavez, to Miraflores, the presidential palace. “Presidente” Carmona fled. Today, Guaidó’s supporters, like Carmona’s, know they can’t win an election given the overwhelming fact of the newly empowered Mestizo majority. So Guaidó has skipped the idea of an election altogether, simply replacing running for office with the “recognition” from Trump and allies which Guaidó can’t get from Venezuelans.

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Wonderful summary of upcoming book.

How The US Has Hidden Its Empire (Immerwahr)

There aren’t many historical episodes more firmly lodged in the United States’s national memory than the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is one of only a few events that many people in the country can put a date to: 7 December 1941, the “date which will live in infamy,” as Franklin D Roosevelt put it. Hundreds of books have been written about it – the Library of Congress holds more than 350. And Hollywood has made movies. But what those films don’t show is what happened next. Nine hours after Japan attacked the territory of Hawaii, another set of Japanese planes came into view over another US territory, the Philippines. As at Pearl Harbor, they dropped their bombs, hitting several air bases, to devastating effect.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was just that – an attack. Japan’s bombers struck, retreated and never returned. Not so in the Philippines. There, the initial air raids were followed by more raids, then by invasion and conquest. Sixteen million Filipinos – US nationals who saluted the stars and stripes and looked to FDR as their commander in chief – fell under a foreign power. Contrary to popular memory, the event familiarly known as “Pearl Harbor” was in fact an all-out lightning strike on US and British holdings throughout the Pacific. On a single day, the Japanese attacked the US territories of Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island and Wake Island. They also attacked the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and they invaded Thailand.

At first, “Pearl Harbor” was not the way most people referred to the bombings. “Japs bomb Manila, Hawaii” was the headline in one New Mexico paper; “Japanese Planes Bomb Honolulu, Island of Guam” in another in South Carolina. Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, described the event as “an attack upon Hawaii and upon the Philippines”. Eleanor Roosevelt used a similar formulation in her radio address on the night of 7 December, when she spoke of Japan “bombing our citizens in Hawaii and the Philippines”. That was how the first draft of FDR’s speech went, too: it presented the event as a “bombing in Hawaii and the Philippines”. Yet Roosevelt toyed with that draft all day, adding things in pencil, crossing other bits out.

At some point he deleted the prominent references to the Philippines. Why did Roosevelt demote the Philippines? We don’t know, but it’s not hard to guess. Roosevelt was trying to tell a clear story: Japan had attacked the US. But he faced a problem. Were Japan’s targets considered “the United States”? Legally, they were indisputably US territory. But would the public see them that way? What if Roosevelt’s audience didn’t care that Japan had attacked the Philippines or Guam? Polls taken slightly before the attack show that few in the continental US supported a military defense of those remote territories.


The Greater United States as it was in 1941

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Get them when they’re young. They dragged this girl over to Davos, letting her think that means something. Well, it did, it meant she became a puppet. Davos, Brussels; kids, you’re being used. You’re now part of a propaganda campaign that says ‘leaders’ actually give a damn. But they just want your future vote.

School Climate Strikes: ‘The Beginning Of Great Change’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg is hopeful the student climate strike on Friday can bring about positive change, as young people in more and more countries join the protest movement she started last summer as a lone campaigner outside the Swedish parliament. The 16-year-old welcomed the huge mobilisation planned in the UK, which follows demonstrations by tens of thousands of school and university students in Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other countries. “I think it’s great that England is joining the school strike in a major way this week. There has been a number of real heroes on school strike, for instance in Scotland and Ireland, for some time now. Such as Holly Gillibrand and the ones in Cork with the epic sign saying ‘the emperor is naked’,” she told the Guardian.

With an even bigger global mobilisation planned for 15 March, she feels the momentum is now building. “I think enough people have realised just how absurd the situation is. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it. I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful,” she wrote. Thunberg has risen rapidly in prominence and influence. In December, she spoke at the United Nations climate conference, berating world leaders for behaving like irresponsible children. Last month, she had similarly harsh words for the global business elite at Davos. She said: “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

The movement she started has morphed and grown around the world , and, at times, linked up with older groups, including Extinction Rebellion, 350.org and Greenpeace. Next week she will take the train – having decided not to fly due to the high carbon emissions of aviation – to speak at an event alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, in Brussels, and then on to Paris to join the school strikes now expanding in France. Veteran climate campaigners are astonished by what has been achieved in such a short time. “The movement that Greta launched is one of the most hopeful things in my 30 years of working on the climate question. It throws the generational challenge of global warming into its sharpest relief, and challenges adults to prove they are, actually, adults. So many thanks to all the young people who are stepping up,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org.

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Eh, school strikers?

100s Of Endangered Animals At Risk Of Extinction Due To Wildlife Trade (Ind.)

Hundreds of animal species are at risk of extinction because wildlife trade restrictions are taking too long to come into effect, a major new study warns. Over a quarter of animals on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list – the world’s most critically endangered – are not protected by Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Cites is regarded as the primary international framework for preventing species extinction due to international wildlife trade. It came into force in 1975 in order to coordinate and regulate trade in wildlife products, and can put into effect bans on sales of certain species or their body parts.

The research also revealed the long wait species have to gain recognition by Cites. Even among IUCN’s red-list species, 62 per cent of those protected by Cites had waited as long as 19 years for recognition or are still waiting to be listed up to 24 years after being first considered. “It’s absolutely critical that policymakers allow science to inform a speedy protection process,” said Eyal Frank, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. He said: “New trends in wildlife trade can develop quickly, with some species going from common to near extinction in just a few years.

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Feb 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Guitar 1925

 

Australia’s $7 Trillion Question: How Low Will House Prices Go (SMH)
US Mortgage Applications Drop Despite Lower Rates: Industry is Baffled (WS)
Surge In Delinquencies Threatens US Auto Loan Bubble (Colombo)
$1 Trillion Amazon Pays $0 In Income Taxes, Gets $129 Million Rebate (RT)
EU Officials: UK Only ‘Pretending To Negotiate’ Over Brexit (G.)
UK Has Rolled Over Just £16bn Out Of £117bn Trade Deals (G.)
Labour MPs Warn Corbyn: Back A Second Referendum Or We Quit (G.)
Hardline Brexiters Threaten To Vote Down Theresa May’s Motion (G.)
Maduro Claims Foes ‘Totally Failed’ To Topple Him As Efforts Falter (G.)
Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams Loses His Cool In Congress (ZH)
Germany Pulls Rank on Macron and Washington over Nordstream 2 (SCF)
Bikes Put Spanner In Works Of Dutch Driverless Car Schemes (G.)
Exposure To Glyphosate Increases Risk Of Cancer By 41% – Study (G.)

 

 

As I said yesterday, after 27 years without a recession, the no. 1 instrument to battle complacency, excesses and zombies, Australia is a fire hazard. At the same time, of course, after 27 years so many people have never seen a recession that nobody expects one anymore.

Australia’s $7 Trillion Question: How Low Will House Prices Go (SMH)

Industry experts say property prices in Sydney and Melbourne, which have led a slump in Australia’s $7 trillion residential property market, are likely headed lower before they hit rock bottom. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures this week showing new lending to owner occupiers fell 6.4% during December last year, outpacing the fall in lending to property investors, which dropped by 4.6%. The total value of new lending to households has now dropped 19.8% in the past year — the biggest annual fall in home loans since the height of the global financial crisis. “The lending numbers are atrocious; it tells us that property markets in Sydney and Melbourne are in a tailspin,” says Louis Christopher, managing director of property researcher SQM Research.

The issue is mostly access to credit and, for at least for past six months, banks have been scrutinising the spending of borrowers more closely when assessing their loans, Christopher says. Doron Peleg, chief executive of RiskWise Property Research, says the weak lending figures also show how those who would normally be entering the property market are now shying away in anticipation of lower prices. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index out this week showed consumers in Sydney and Melbourne have poor property price expectations. “Buyer sentiment has been hit as residential property, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, is seen as a depreciating asset,” Peleg says.

[..] Many property experts are expecting a peak-to-trough drop in property prices of between 15% and 20%. “Without an interest-rate cut or regulatory changes there will be tough times ahead for the property market,” RiskWise’s Peleg says. [..] Tim Lawless, the head of research at property researcher CoreLogic, is expecting a peak-to-trough fall of up to 20% for both Sydney and Melbourne before prices start to level out in 2020. However, Lawless says the price declines should be kept in perspective. Sydney house and apartment prices have risen by more than 70% in the past decade, while Melbourne prices have gained even more, he says. This is despite recent price falls of more than 12% from their peak in Sydney in mid-2017 and 8% in Melbourne from a top in late 2017, he says.

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The Omen.

US Mortgage Applications Drop Despite Lower Rates: Industry is Baffled (WS)

A month ago, mortgages reappeared in the housing-hype circus, when it was widely reported that mortgage applications “soared” and “jumped.” Both types of mortgage applications did so: those used to purchase a home (purchase mortgages) and those used to refinance an existing mortgage (refinance mortgages). The jump in mortgage applications was ascribed to “plunging” mortgage interest rates. It was seen as a big sign that the weakening housing market was about to turn around. But that hope has gotten unwound.

Today, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that its purchase mortgage index – which tracks applications (not approvals) for conventional and government mortgages to purchase a single-family house – fell 6% from the prior week and was down 5% from the same week last year – despite falling mortgage rates, which should have cranked up home buying and mortgage activity. It was the fourth week in a row of drops:

The Purchase Mortgage Index is considered a reliable indicator of impending home sales, and so this decline, given the lower mortgage rates, mystifies the industry.“Application activity fell last week – even with rates decreasing – as renewed uncertainty about the domestic and global economy likely held potential homebuyers off the market,” said MBA Associate VP of Industry Surveys and Forecasts, Joel Kan, in the report. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to its lowest level since last March, and was 52 basis points lower than its recent high last November,” he said.

You can practically hear between the lines, so to speak, the bafflement in his voice about this decline in purchase mortgage applications in light of the decline in mortgage rates. The MBA also reported today that the average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances inched down to 4.65%, back where it had been last April (chart via Investing.com):

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AKA the Thelma and Louise economy.

Surge In Delinquencies Threatens US Auto Loan Bubble (Colombo)

My concerns about the U.S. automobile bubble are being confirmed. As Bloomberg reports: “More Americans than ever are at least three months behind on their auto loans, a sign that the U.S. economy may have little growth left in the tank. The number of loans at least 90 days late exceeded 7 million at the end of last year, the highest total in the two decades the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has kept track. Expressed as a percentage of total debt, the delinquency rate is the highest since 2012, as overall borrowing has also increased.

The data show not all Americans are benefiting from the strong labor market, New York Fed economists say. Consumers with the weakest credit have driven deteriorating performance of auto debt: The share of subprime borrowers who fell well behind on car payments the last three months of the year was the highest since the second quarter of 2010.

As I’ve been warning for the past couple years, the U.S. automobile sales boom is a byproduct of a bubble in auto loans:

The auto sales and auto loan bubble is a byproduct of ultra-cheap credit conditions in the past decade since the Great Recession. Interest rates are now rising, which threatens the auto bubble: It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. auto sales and loan bubble experiences a serious bust. Rising delinquencies are just the start, I’m afraid. Booms fueled by cheap credit always end the same way – in a terrible bust. Ignore the voices that say “this time will be different!”

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And the people who lost their retail jobs don’t pay income taxes either anymore.

$1 Trillion Amazon Pays $0 In Income Taxes, Gets $129 Million Rebate (RT)

Trillion-dollar-company Amazon skated through 2018’s tax filings without paying a cent for the second year in a row. The e-commerce behemoth, which made $11 billion last year, will pay no taxes at all, thanks to 2017’s tax reform. Rather than pay the standard 21% corporate income tax rate, Amazon is actually claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which works out to a logic-defying rate of -1%. Aside from the nebulous “tax credits,” which the company does not have to spell out in its public filings, Amazon is also claiming a tax break for executive stock options, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy – a longstanding loophole that permits profitable corporations to dodge federal and state income taxes on almost half their profits.

While President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform legislation lowered corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, it was sold as an incentive for companies to keep their money in the US, instead of stashing it overseas where the IRS couldn’t touch it. Now that Amazon and Netflix have both made headlines for using the new regulations to avoid paying anything at all, it remains to be seen whether the legislation’s failure to close corporate loopholes will leave the US holding the bag for fiscal year 2018 as the country’s national debt inches past $22 trillion – a record high.

Amazon’s tax windfall doesn’t even take into account the billions in tax breaks the state governments of Virginia and New York offered the company to open a second (and third) headquarters in their states, though there are rumors that New York is getting cold feet about the unprecedented corporate giveaway. Amazon didn’t pay any taxes in 2017 either, though it raked in a comparatively paltry $5.6 billion in profits and extracted a slightly larger $137 million refund.

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“Verhofstadt asked Lidington four times what the British proposal was and “four times didn’t get an answer”, according to the EU official, who described the encounter as “very surreal”.”

EU Officials: UK Only ‘Pretending To Negotiate’ Over Brexit (G.)

The British government is “pretending to negotiate” with the European Union and has not presented any new proposals to break the Brexit deadlock, according to EU officials. Theresa May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington, and the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, met senior EU officials and MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg this week, but the talks yielded no obvious results. The British side thinks a crucial process has begun and hopes progress will have been made by 27 February when MPs are expected to have another crunch Brexit vote. However, on Wednesday night European council president Donald Tusk said the EU27 was still waiting for proposals. “No news is not always good news,” he tweeted, after meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break Brexit impasse,” Tusk said. Barnier, has said current talks with the UK do not even qualify as negotiations. In a call on Tuesday morning with Guy Verhofstadt, chief Brexit representative for the European parliament, Barnier said there were “no negotiations” with the British. “These are courtesy calls at best and we have nothing new to say,” Barnier was reported to have said, by a source familiar with the conversation. Verhofstadt had asked the EU negotiator for an update, following Barnier’s meeting with Barclay over dinner at the British ambassador’s residence in Brussels, where they dined on North Sea sole, roast duck and British cheese, washed down with sancerre and saint-émilion wines.

“They are pretending to negotiate while they still don’t know what they want and how they want it,” the source said, who described this week’s meetings as “kicking up dust” and a series of “photo opportunities and pictures”. “We are willing to negotiate, but there is nothing on the table from the British side.” Verhofstadt asked Lidington four times what the British proposal was and “four times didn’t get an answer”, according to the EU official, who described the encounter as “very surreal”.

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Don’t be so negative: they got a hard-fought deal with the Seychelles!

UK Has Rolled Over Just £16bn Out Of £117bn Trade Deals (G.)

The government’s push to roll over EU trade deals from which the UK currently benefits has yielded agreements covering only £16bn of the near-£117bn of British trade with the countries involved. Despite frenetic efforts by ministers to ensure the continuity of international trade after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, has so far only managed to secure deals with seven of the 69 countries that the UK currently trades with under preferential EU free trade agreements, which will end after Brexit.

Fox’s department has yet to sign agreements with several major UK trading partners – including Canada, Japan, South Korea and Turkey – while sources have said that sufficient progress is unlikely to be made before the Brexit deadline in less than 50 days’ time. Canada, Japan, South Korea and Turkey alone accounted for goods exports worth £25bn in 2017 and imports of merchandise worth £28.6bn, with the UK currently able to access these markets on preferential terms as part of membership of the EU. Fox sought to downplay the significance of the deals in parliament on Wednesday, saying all of the countries involved only accounted for about 11% of total UK trade in 2018, with the smallest 20 nations worth less than 0.8%.

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I’ve been wondering why any politician in Britain is still in their jobs.

Labour MPs Warn Corbyn: Back A Second Referendum Or We Quit (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn faces up to 10 resignations from the Labour frontbench if he fails to throw his party’s weight behind a fresh attempt to force Theresa May to submit her Brexit deal to a referendum in a fortnight’s time, frustrated MPs are warning. With tension mounting among anti-Brexit Labour MPs and grassroots members, several junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are prepared to resign their posts if Corbyn doesn’t whip his MPs to vote for a pro-referendum amendment at the end of the month. Corbyn has been struggling to balance the conflicting forces in his party over Brexit, as the clock ticks down towards exit day on 29 March..

Many party members and MPs would like him to take a lead in seeking to block Brexit before time runs out – but some frontbenchers are equally adamant they could never support a referendum. Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite union and a close ally of Corbyn, risked stoking the conflict in the party on Wednesday when he argued that stopping Brexit was “not the best option for our nation”. “My view is that, having had a 2016 referendum where the people have voted to come out of the EU, to try and deflect away from that threatens the whole democratic fabric on which we operate,” he told Peston on ITV. “I’m saying that in reality it is not the best option for our nation.”

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43 days. Both extremities, hard brexit and 2nd referendum, think they have a chance of winning it all.

Hardline Brexiters Threaten To Vote Down Theresa May’s Motion (G.)

Hardline Brexit supporters are threatening to inflict yet another Commons defeat on Theresa May because they fear the government is effectively ruling out leaving the EU with no deal. Members of the Tory European Research Group are unhappy with the wording of a No 10 motion because it endorses parliament’s vote against any Brexit without a withdrawal agreement. The motion for debate on Thursday simply affirms “the approach to leaving the EU” backed by the Commons on 29 January, when an amendment was passed in favour of an attempt to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

The motion was thought to be fairly uncontroversial until pro-Brexit supporters realised it also encompassed a second amendment passed on that day, which ruled out a no-deal Brexit. The amendment, tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman, “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship”. The ERG group, led by arch-Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg, is planning either to vote against or abstain on Thursday’s government motion, potentially causing another embarrassing parliamentary loss for the prime minister. However, talks with government whips will continue on Thursday in an attempt to find a compromise.

An ERG MP said many of its members were “not minded to support such a clumsily worded motion” that effectively ruled out a no-deal Brexit. Another said the group would not trust verbal assurances from No 10 that no deal was still on the table as such promises from the dispatch box had not been honoured many times in the past.

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How far away is a false flag?

Maduro Claims Foes ‘Totally Failed’ To Topple Him As Efforts Falter (G.)

Venezuela’s embattled leader, Nicolás Maduro, has claimed he has seen off a dramatic opposition challenge to his rule, as those efforts appeared to falter and the United States conceded it was “impossible to predict” how long he might remain in power. In an interview with Euronews, Maduro boasted that his political foes had “failed totally” in their quest to topple him. Opponents “could march every single day of their lives” and achieve nothing, Maduro said. Venezuela’s newly emboldened opposition continues to insist Maduro’s days are numbered, with about 50 governments now recognizing its leader, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate president.

Tens of thousands of supporters poured back on to the streets of Caracas and other major cities on Tuesday to demand the resignation of a politician they accuse of leading their oil-rich country into economic ruin. But three weeks after Guaidó electrified the previously rudderless opposition movement by declaring himself interim leader, there are signs his campaign risks losing steam. An anticipated mass defection of military chiefs – which opposition leaders admit is a prerequisite to Maduro’s departure – has not materialized, and Maduro’s inner-circle has begun claiming it has weathered the political storm. “In the end, nothing will come of [this challenge]. We will prevail,” Maduro’s second-in-command, Diosdado Cabello, tweeted on Wednesday.

[..] Opposition leaders have spent recent days trying to dampen expectations that Maduro’s exit is imminent. Juan Andrés Mejía, an opposition leader and Guaidó ally, admitted that goal “could take some time”. “We want it to end very soon because we know that every day that passes by people are suffering. But Maduro still has control of the military and basically that is the reason we haven’t been able to move things forward,” he told the Guardian.

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Shaking up US politics since 2016. And c’mon, Abrams is a war criminal, he should be facing a court, not Congress.

Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams Loses His Cool In Congress (ZH)

Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with newly minted Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams during a Wednesday hearing in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee discussing the role of the US military in Central America. “Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by president George H.W. Bush,” began Omar. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.” “If I could respond to that…” interjected Abrams. “It was not a question,” shot back Omar.

After a brief exchange in which Abrams protested “It was not right!” Omar cut Abrams off, saying “Thank you for your participation.” Omar: “On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate foreign relations committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda, a report about the massacre of El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians – including children as young as two-years old – were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a “fabulous achievement.” “Yes or no – do you still think so?” asked Omar.

Abrams replied: “From, the day that Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a fabulous achievement.” Omar shot back: “Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?” Abrams protested: “That is a ridiculous question- to which Omar shot back, “Yes or no,” cutting him off. “Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving US interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?” “I am not going to respond to that question, I’m sorry. I don’t think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply.” said Abrams.

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US accuses Russia of energy blackmail, tries to blackmail Germany. Germans will never accept not being independent when it comes to energy. Moreover, their economy is teetering.

Germany Pulls Rank on Macron and Washington over Nordstream 2 (SCF)

It was billed politely as a Franco-German “compromise” when the EU balked at adopting a Gas Directive which would have undermined the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia. Nevertheless, diplomatic rhetoric aside, Berlin’s blocking last week of a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron to impose tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 gas project was without doubt a firm rebuff to Paris. Macron wanted to give the EU administration in Brussels greater control over the new pipeline running from Russia to Germany. But in the end the so-called “compromise” was a rejection of Macron’s proposal, reaffirming Germany in the lead role of implementing the Nord Stream 2 route, along with Russia. The $11-billion, 1,200 kilometer pipeline is due to become operational at the end of this year.

Stretching from Russian mainland under the Baltic Sea, it will double the natural gas supply from Russia to Germany. The Berlin government and German industry view the project as a vital boost to the country’s ever-robust economy. Gas supplies will also be distributed from Germany to other European states. Consumers stand to gain from lower prices for heating homes and businesses. Thus Macron’s belated bizarre meddling was rebuffed by Berlin. A rebuff was given too to the stepped-up pressure from Washington for the Nord Stream 2 project to be cancelled. Last week, US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and two other American envoys wrote an op-ed for Deutsche Welle in which they accused Russia of trying to use “energy blackmail” over Europe’s geopolitics.

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Why on earth is that government pushing driverless cars?

Bikes Put Spanner In Works Of Dutch Driverless Car Schemes (G.)

The Dutch government is working with Germany and Belgium on establishing “truck platooning” – where one human-driven vehicle leads a convoy of autonomous ones — on major roads. Under the plans, about 100 driverless trucks would drive the “Tulip corridors” at night – from Amsterdam to Antwerp, and from Rotterdam to the Ruhr valley – fully maximising the routes through which the Netherlands distributes its goods using 5G technology and 1,200 smart traffic lights. The Dutch infrastructure minister, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, has announced a “driving licence” for self-driving cars, through which it would certify new autonomous models, and a framework of legislation – known as the Experimenteerwet zelfrijdende auto’s – is being prepared.

But a report by the professional service company KPMG highlights a major problem for Dutch ministers in introducing the technology to urban centres, where the bicycle is increasingly king. Driverless cars detect other road users using a variety of cameras or laser-sensing systems to ensure that they stop if an object is detected in their path. But the varying sizes and agility of cyclists, with their sudden changes in speed and loose adherence to the rules of the road, present a major challenge to the existing technology. That challenge is particularly stark in the Netherlands, where 17 million people own 22.5m bicycles. More than a quarter of all trips made by Dutch residents are by bike. Of all trips of a distance of up to five miles, a third are made by bicycle, with the rate only dropping to 15% for trips up to 10 miles in length.

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Is it that hard to understand that pesticides and herbicides are the worst idea ever? Poison kills, cut it out.

Exposure To Glyphosate Increases Risk Of Cancer By 41% – Study (G.)

A broad new scientific analysis of the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate herbicides, the most widely used weed killing products in the world, has found that people with high exposures to the popular pesticides have a 41% increased risk of developing a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence “supports a compelling link” between exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides and increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the authors concluded, though they said the specific numerical risk estimates should be interpreted with caution. The findings by five US scientists contradict the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) assurances of safety over the weed killer and come as regulators in several countries consider limiting the use of glyphosate-based products in farming.

Monsanto and its German owner Bayer face more than 9,000 lawsuits in the US brought by people suffering from NHL who blame Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides for their diseases. The first plaintiff to go to trial won a unanimous jury verdict against Monsanto in August, a verdict the company is appealing. The next trial, involving a separate plaintiff, is set to begin on 25 February , and several more trials are set for this year and into 2020. Monsanto maintains there is no legitimate scientific research showing a definitive association between glyphosate and NHL or any type of cancer. Company officials say the EPA’s finding that glyphosate is “not likely” to cause cancer is backed by hundreds of studies finding no such connection.

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Feb 092019
 
 February 9, 2019  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Le pigeon aux petits pois (Pigeon with Peas) – stolen May 20 2010 1911

 

German Industrial Production Falls Most Since 2009. New Orders Plummet (WS)
Fed’s QE Unwind Reaches $434 Billion, Remains on “Autopilot” (WS)
UK Forcing Poor Nations Into Risky Post-Brexit Trade Deals (Ind.)
Acting AG Whitaker Says He Has Not Meddled In Russia Inquiry (AP)
US Faces A Catastrophic Food Supply Crisis, As Farmers Struggle (SHTF)
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q4 2018 (WS)
Bezos, Amazon And Privacy (Greenwald)
Leaked Wikileaks Doc Reveals US Military Use of IMF, World Bank (MPN)
Venezuela: The US’s 68th Regime Change Disaster (AntiWar)
US In Direct Contact With Venezuelan Military, Urging Defections (R.)
Venezuela’s Maduro Spurns US Aid, Rival Warns Military Not To Block It (R.)
Dreams Die Hard (Kunstler)
Wiped Out Before Our Eyes’ Hawaii Proposes Ban On Shark Killings (G.)

 

 

Almost off the news radar, Germany’s problems get serious, and drag Europe down with it.

German Industrial Production Falls Most Since 2009. New Orders Plummet (WS)

“Unexpectedly,” German industrial production fell 3.9% in December 2018 compared to December 2017, after having fallen by a revised 4.0% in November, according to German statistics agency Destatis Thursday morning. These two drops were steepest year-over-year drops since 2009. Even during the European Debt Crisis in 2011 and 2012 – it hit Germany’s industry hard as many European countries weaved in and out of a recession, with some countries sinking into a depression — German industrial production never fell as fast on a year-over-year basis as in November and December:

The declines on a year-over-year basis were broad: Without construction, industrial production fell 3.9% year-over-year in December, after having fallen 4.5% in November. And just manufacturing production, which includes mining and quarrying, fell 4.0% year-over-year in December, after having fallen 4.6% in November. On a longer-term scale, the industrial production index peaked in May 2018 and has since fallen 4.6%. It is now back where it had first been in February 2017:

And industrial production is not getting a whole lot better any time soon as new orders for the manufacturing sector have plunged – according to data released by Destatis on Wednesday. New orders dropped 7.0% year-over-year in December (adjusted for calendar differences), after having fallen 3.4% in November and 3.0% in October. In fact, orders have fallen seven months in a row on a year-over year basis in ever larger drops. The chart below shows the decline in each month compared to the same month a year earlier — with a sharp deterioration at the end of the year:

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As I’ve said before, tweaking rates is sort of an instant measure, but re-purchasing $434 billion in assets takes much longer. If only because the Fed will cause a panic if they try.

Fed’s QE Unwind Reaches $434 Billion, Remains on “Autopilot” (WS)

The Fed shed $32 billion in assets in January, according to the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ended February 6, released this afternoon. This reduced the assets on its balance sheet to $4,026 billion, the lowest since January 2014. Since the beginning of this “balance sheet normalization,” the Fed has now shed $434 billion.

[..] the questions going forward are these: One, will the Fed continue to trim its balance sheet on “autopilot,” or will it deviate from plan and slow or stop the balance sheet reductions; Or two, will the Fed reverse course and restart QE all over again at any moment now, as the biggest Wall Street hype-mongers have prophesied; Or three, will the Fed tweak the roll-off – as a slew of Fed governors have suggested – to where it would get rid of its MBS more quickly by outright selling them; and by replacing some of them with short-term Treasury bills to lower the balance sheet’s average maturity, which currently is over eight years.

Over the next few months, the Fed will likely announce some tantalizing tidbits about how it might tweak the balance-sheet reduction. One of those tidbits will likely relate to how it will shed MBS faster and replace those additional reductions of MBS with short-term Treasury bills. The effects of this may not be what the markets had hoped for in their wildest dreams. And the Fed will likely dole out more clues about how much further it wants to cut its balance sheet. But all this will take months, and until those tweaks are nailed down and announced, the balance sheet normalization will proceed on autopilot at its by now customary glacial pace.

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Dreams of empire. France does the exact same thing.

UK Forcing Poor Nations Into Risky Post-Brexit Trade Deals (Ind.)

Some of the world’s poorest countries are being forced to agree potentially damaging trade deals with the UK by government “threats” in the rush to Brexit, campaigners say. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is accused of piling pressure on developing nations to “sign up blind” – without knowing the value of the deals – with a warning they will otherwise be lost. Just three of the 40 agreements the UK enjoys through EU membership, covering 71 countries, have been successfully “rolled over” – as the government promised – with Brexit day just seven weeks away. Now the Department for International Trade is under fire for telling the countries concerned they risk punishing tariffs on crucial exports to the UK, unless they re-sign the deals in time.

Among them are Ghana, which relies on banana sales, Mauritius (tuna), Kenya (flowers), Cote d’Ivoire (cocoa), Namibia (grapes and beef), Swaziland (sugar), and scores of other developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. And, says the fair trade charity Traidcraft Exchange, they risk a legal challenge at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under an extraordinary plan to treat EU parts as originating from the UK. “The continuity agreements are being rushed because of the threat of no deal. Countries are being asked to sign up blind,” said Liz May, the charity’s head of policy.

“Without the full picture of how the EU and UK will trade in the future, it is impossible for countries to judge what these deals are really worth, how they will work in practice or even how some elements will be enforced. “Instead of acknowledging this difficulty, the government is relying on developing countries being compelled to sign up at the last minute, rather than risk high tariffs being slapped on their key exports. “This type of bad-faith negotiating – using implicit threats to get countries ‘over the line’ – is not a great way to start the UK’s independent trade policy.”

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“I’m thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that’s what this is becoming. It’s becoming a show..”

The Senate will vote on Barr next week anyway, so why the showboating carnival?

Acting AG Whitaker Says He Has Not Meddled In Russia Inquiry (AP)

The acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, said on Friday that he has “not interfered in any way” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation as he faced a contentious congressional hearing in his waning days on the job. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was the first, and likely only, chance for newly empowered Democrats in the majority to grill an attorney general they perceive as a Donald Trump loyalist, and whose appointment they suspect was aimed at suppressing investigations of the Republican president. Democrats confronted Whitaker on his past criticism of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s work and his refusal to recuse himself from overseeing it, attacked him over his prior business dealings, and sneeringly challenged his credentials as the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

“We’re all trying to figure out: who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice,” said congressman Hakeem Jeffries. When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted: “Mr Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question. I assume you know the difference.” Yet Democrats yielded no new information about the status of the Mueller invesetigation as Whitaker repeatedly refused to discuss conversations with the president or answer questions that he thought might reveal details. Though clearly exasperated – he drew gasps and chuckles when he told the committee chairman that his five-minute time limit for questions was up – Whitaker nonetheless sought to assuage Democratic concerns by insisting he had never discussed the Mueller probe with Trump or other White House officials, and that there’d been no change in its “overall management”.

“We have followed the special counsel’s regulations to a T,” Whitaker said. “There has been no event, no decision, that has required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation.” Republicans made clear they viewed the hearing as pointless political grandstanding, especially since Whitaker may have less than a week left in the job, and some respected his wishes by asking questions about topics other than Mueller’s inquiry into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on confirming William Barr, Trump’s pick for attorney general. “I’m thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that’s what this is becoming. It’s becoming a show,” said the Republican congressman Doug Collins ,of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of “character assassination”.

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The US food crisis is exclusively caused by Big Ag and Monsanto. Farmers depending on China is not in their interest.

US Faces A Catastrophic Food Supply Crisis, As Farmers Struggle (SHTF)

American farmers are battling several issues when it comes to producing our food. Regulated low prices, tariffs, and the inability to export have all cut into the salaries of farmers. They are officially in crisis mode, just like the United States’ food supply. “The farm economy’s in pretty tough shape,” said John Newton, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “When you look out on the horizon of things to come, you start to see some cracks.” Average farm income has fallen to near 15-year lows under president Donald Trump’s policies, and in some areas of the country, farm bankruptcies are soaring. And with slightly higher interest rates, many don’t see borrowing more money as an option.

“A lot of farmers are going to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and have to date. But the longer the trade war goes on, the more that dynamic changes,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, according to Politico. With no end to the disastrous trade war in sight, many farmers have traveled to Washington to share their plights with the president himself hoping that he’ll end the trade war that’s exacerbating an already precarious food crisis. Farmers make up a fairly large chunk of president Trump’s base, and an unwillingness to put food production in the United States first could be detrimental for Trump reelection chances in 2020. It could also be the beginning of a catastrophic food shortage.

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“It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it: Propping up the massive US economy.”

The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q4 2018 (WS)

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it: Propping up the massive US economy. And consumers are doing it, but in a somewhat lackadaisical manner when it comes to spending money they don’t have. Consumer debt – more enticingly, “consumer credit” similar to “extra credit” – rose 4.7% in the fourth quarter 2018 compared to the fourth quarter last year. In the year 2018, Americans added $179 billion to their balances on their credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. Every dime was spent and added to GDP. It amounted to nearly 1% of GDP. If GDP grew 3.1% in 2018, just under one third of the growth was generated by that additional consumer debt.

Without this additional consumer borrowing, if consumers had just maintained their debt levels, GDP growth might only have been 2.2% in 2018, instead of 3.1%. So, a huge round of applause is due our debt slaves that now owe over $4 trillion for the first time ever, according to the Federal Reserve Thursday afternoon. Consumer debt includes auto loans, student loans, credit-card debt, and personal loans, but it excludes housing related debt, such as mortgages and HELOCs. The $4.01 trillion in consumer debt is up 52% from the peak early in the Financial Crisis in Q3 2008. This is not adjusted for inflation. Over the same period, the Consumer Price Index rose 16% and nominal GDP rose 39%. Thus, Americans are sticking to their time-honored plan of out-borrowing both inflation (by a big margin) and economic growth.

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Summary: Trump accused of using the same FBI that spies on him, to spy on Bezos, who’s in bed with the FBI.

I may have temporarily lost the thread, and the logic.

Bezos, Amazon And Privacy (Greenwald)

On Thursday, Bezos published emails in which the Enquirer’s parent company explicitly threatened to publish intimate photographs of Bezos and his mistress, which were apparently exchanged between the two through their iPhones, unless Bezos agreed to a series of demands involving silence about the company’s conduct. [..] Despite a lack of evidence, MSNBC is already doing what it exists to do – implying with no evidence that Trump is to blame (in this case, by abusing the powers of the NSA or FBI to spy on Bezos). But, under the circumstances, those are legitimate questions to be probing (though responsible news agencies would wait for evidence before airing innuendo of that sort).

If Bezos were the political victim of surveillance state abuses, it would be scandalous and dangerous. It would also be deeply ironic. That’s because Amazon, the company that has made Bezos the planet’s richest human being, is a critical partner for the U.S. Government in building an ever-more invasive, militarized and sprawling surveillance state. Indeed, one of the largest components of Amazon’s business, and thus one of the most important sources of Bezos’ vast wealth and power, is working with the Pentagon and the NSA to empower the U.S. Government with more potent and more sophisticated weapons, including surveillance weapons.

In December, 2017, Amazon boasted that it had perfected new face-recognition software for crowds, which it called Rekognition. It explained that the product is intended, in large part, for use by governments and police forces around the world. The ACLU quickly warned that the product is “dangerous” and that Amazon “is actively helping governments deploy it.” “Powered by artificial intelligence,” wrote the ACLU, “Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces.” “Amazon’s Rekognition raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns.”

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The core of the Venezuela crisis: “Hugo Chávez, broke ties with the IMF and World Bank, which he noted were “dominated by US imperialism.” Instead Venezuela and other left-wing governments in Latin America worked together to co-found the Bank of the South..”

Leaked Wikileaks Doc Reveals US Military Use of IMF, World Bank (MPN)

In a leaked military manual on “unconventional warfare” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, IMF, and the OECD — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.” The document, officially titled “Field Manual (FM) 3-05.130, Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare” and originally written in September 2008, was recently highlighted by WikiLeaks on Twitter in light of recent events in Venezuela as well as the years-long, U.S.-led economic siege of that country through sanctions and other means of economic warfare. Though the document has generated new interest in recent days, it had originally been released by WikiLeaks in December 2008 and has been described as the military’s “regime change handbook.”

WikiLeaks’ recent tweets on the subject drew attention to a single section of the 248-page-long document, titled “Financial Instrument of U.S. National Power and Unconventional Warfare.” This section in particular notes that the U.S. government applies “unilateral and indirect financial power through persuasive influence to international and domestic financial institutions regarding availability and terms of loans, grants, or other financial assistance to foreign state and nonstate actors,” and specifically names the World Bank, IMF and the OECD, as well as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), as “U.S. diplomatic-financial venues to accomplish” such goals.

[..] Given the close relationship between the U.S. government and these international financial institutions, it should come as little surprise that – in Venezuela – the U.S.-backed “interim president” Juan Guaidó – has already requested IMF funds, and thus IMF-controlled debt, to fund his parallel government. This is highly significant because it shows that top among Guaidó’s objectives, in addition to privatizing Venezuela’s massive oil reserves, is to again shackle the country to the U.S.-controlled debt machine. As the Grayzone Project recently noted: Venezuela’s previous elected socialist president, Hugo Chávez, broke ties with the IMF and World Bank, which he noted were “dominated by US imperialism.” Instead Venezuela and other left-wing governments in Latin America worked together to co-found the Bank of the South, as a counterbalance to the IMF and World Bank.”

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So many millions of victims nobody tries to count anymore.

Venezuela: The US’s 68th Regime Change Disaster (AntiWar)

In his masterpiece, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, William Blum, who died in December 2018, wrote chapter-length accounts of 55 US regime change operations against countries around the world, from China (1945-1960s) to Haiti (1986-1994). Noam Chomsky’s blurb on the back of the latest edition says simply, “Far and away the best book on the topic.” We agree. If you have not read it, please do. It will give you a clearer context for what is happening in Venezuela today, and a better understanding of the world you are living in. Since Killing Hope was published in 1995, the US has conducted at least 13 more regime change operations, several of which are still active: Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; Iraq; the 3rd US invasion of Haiti since WWII; Somalia; Honduras; Libya; Syria; Ukraine; Yemen; Iran; Nicaragua; and now Venezuela.

William Blum noted that the US generally prefers what its planners call “low intensity conflict” over full-scale wars. Only in periods of supreme overconfidence has it launched its most devastating and disastrous wars, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. After its war of mass destruction in Iraq, the US reverted to “low intensity conflict” under Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war. Obama conducted even heavier bombing than Bush II, and deployed US special operations forces to 150 countries all over the world, but he made sure that nearly all the bleeding and dying was done by Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis, Libyans, Ukrainians, Yemenis and others, not by Americans. What US planners mean by “low intensity conflict” is that it is less intense for Americans.

[..] While Venezuelans face poverty, preventable diseases, malnutrition and open threats of war by US officials, those same US officials and their corporate sponsors are looking at an almost irresistible gold mine if they can bring Venezuela to its knees: a fire sale of its oil industry to foreign oil companies and the privatization of many other sectors of its economy, from hydroelectric power plants to iron, aluminum and, yes, actual gold mines. This is not speculation. It is what the US’s new puppet, Juan Guaido, has reportedly promised his American backers if they can overthrow Venezuela’s elected government and install him in the presidential palace.

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“..a source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has laid enough groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks..”

US In Direct Contact With Venezuelan Military, Urging Defections (R.)

The US is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said. The Trump administration expects further military defections from Maduro’s side, the official told Reuters, despite only a few senior officers having done so since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, earning the recognition of the United States and dozens of other countries. “We believe these to be those first couple pebbles before we start really seeing bigger rocks rolling down the hill,” the official said this week, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’re still having conversations with members of the former Maduro regime, with military members, although those conversations are very, very limited.”

With the Venezuelan military still apparently loyal to Maduro, a source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has laid enough groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks where many officers are suspected of benefiting from corruption and drug trafficking. Members of the South American country’s security forces fear they or their families could be targeted by Maduro if they defect, so the U.S. would need to offer them something that could outweigh those concerns, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank in Washington. “It depends on what they’re offering,” Farnsworth said. “Are there incentives built into these contacts that will at least cause people to question their loyalty to the regime?”

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A horse felled Troy.

Venezuela’s Maduro Spurns US Aid, Rival Warns Military Not To Block It (R.)

Venezuela’s government on Friday said the United States should distribute humanitarian aid in Colombia where it is being stockpiled, while the opposition warned that blocking much-needed food and medicine could constitute crimes against humanity. A day after the aid convoy arrived in the border city of Cucuta, President Nicolas Maduro ridiculed the United States for offering small amounts of assistance while maintaining sanctions that block some $10 billion of offshore assets and revenue. Rival Juan Guaido, who is recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, warned military officers against blocking the arrival of aid amid spiraling disease and malnutrition brought on by a hyperinflationary collapse.

“Take all that humanitarian aid and give it to the people of Cucuta, where there is a lot of need,” Maduro said in a news conference. “This is a macabre game, you see? They squeeze us by the neck and then make us beg for crumbs.” “They offer us toilet paper, like (U.S. President) Donald Trump threw at the people of Puerto Rico,” he said at the conference, which experienced technical difficulties including a blackout and a microphone failure. He was referring to Trump’s improvised 2018 aid distribution in the U.S. territory following a hurricane, during which he threw rolls of paper towels.

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“Societies and economies are fundamentally emergent, non-linear, and self-organizing as they respond to the mandates of reality — which are not necessarily consistent with human wishes.”

Dreams Die Hard (Kunstler)

America has been blowing green smoke up its own ass for years, promoting oxymorons such as “green skyscrapers” and “clean energy,” but the truth is we’re not going to run WalMart, Suburbia, DisneyWorld, and the interstate highway system on any combination of wind, solar, geothermal, recycled Fry-Max, and dark matter. We’re just running too much stuff at too great a scale for too many people. We’ve blown through the capital already and replaced it with IOUs that will never be honored, and we’re caught in an entropy trap of diminishing returns from all the work-arounds we’re desperately trying. For all that, there are actually some sound proposals in the mostly delusional matrix of the Green New Deal promoted by foxy front-person AOC.

• Revoke corporate personhood by amending our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech. Right on, I say, though they have not quite articulated the argument which is that corporations, unlike persons, have no vested allegiance to the public interest, but rather a legal obligation solely to shareholders and their boards-of-directors.
• Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions. A no-brainer.
• Replace big money control of election campaigns with full public financing and free and equal access to the airwaves. Quite cheap and worth every penny.
• Break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail.” And while you’re at it, resume enforcement of the anti-trust laws.
• Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks. Duh….

There are two kinds of deadly narcissism at work in American culture these days: techno-narcissism — the belief that magical rescue remedies can save the status quo of comforts and conveniences — and organizational narcissism — the belief that any number of committees can lead a march of humanity into a future of rainbows and unicorns. Both of these ideas are artifacts of a fossil fuel turbo-charged economy that is coming to an end. Societies and economies are fundamentally emergent, non-linear, and self-organizing as they respond to the mandates of reality — which are not necessarily consistent with human wishes. Circumstances in the world change and sometimes, when the changes are profound enough, they provoke episodes of flux and disorder. A better index for our journey into the unknown frontier beyond modernity will not be what is “green” and “smart” but perhaps what is “sane” and “insane.”

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100 million sharks are killed globally each year.

We need to protect, and love, life in all its glory and beauty, because we are life. But we don’t see what connects us to all that we kill, we think we’re some separate entity.

There is no more flagrant failure in our education systems than this: they don’t teach us who we are.

Wiped Out Before Our Eyes’ Hawaii Proposes Ban On Shark Killings (G.)

Sharks could soon become more numerous in Hawaii waters – and advocates say that’s a good thing. Lawmakers in Honolulu advanced a proposed ban on killing sharks in state waters on Wednesday, after receiving hundreds of calls and letters of support from around the country. The law, which would provide sweeping protection for any shark, rather than select species, could be the first of its kind in the United States. “These amazing animals are getting wiped out before our eyes, and people don’t even realize what they’re missing out on,” said Ocean Ramsey, a Hawaii-based shark conservationist, researcher and tour operator who has been instrumental in lobbying for the bill. Last month, a photo of Ramsey swimming with a 6-metre (20ft) great white shark off the coast of Oahu went viral.


Photograph: OneOceanDiving

Along with killing the animals, capturing or harming them would also incur fines and count as a misdemeanor offense. Sharks, Ramsey said, are deeply misunderstood. Their presence in the ocean is unlike any other animal’s, she noted. “Everything else in the ocean swims away from you, but you can have these incredible interactions with sharks because they’re apex predators and they’re not afraid of you.” The threats to Hawaii’s sharks are numerous, proponents of the bill argue. [..] shark fins can sometimes sell for as much as $500 a pound. Shark fin soup, a delicacy once favored by Chinese emperors, has become widely popular as a status symbol in modern China. As a result, nearly 100 million sharks are killed globally each year, and species are disappearing.

[..] Sharks are crucial to Hawaii’s marine ecosystem, and oceans worldwide. “They’re the ocean’s immune system,” Ramsey said. Multiple studies have linked shark populations to overall ocean health. They serve a critical purpose by picking off sick and injured marine animals and keeping smaller fish populations under control. When the shark population declines, large predatory fish can overproduce and decimate the populations of small plant-eating fish, which are crucial to keeping algae down and supporting reef systems.


Photograph: OneOceanDiving

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Jan 042019
 


Yasuhiro Ishimoto Untitled, Chicago 1950

 

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)
Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)
Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)
Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)
Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)
Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)
UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)
Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)
Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)
US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)
New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

 

 

Losing half a trillion in 3 months should be no surprise now central banks have killed the negative feedback from a functioning market. It’ll be runaway wild swings till it is restored.

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)

Apple set a record that will take a long time to beat. The first $ trillion company lost nearly half that in 3 months. On, August 2, Apple became the World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company at $207.05 per share. Hooray! On October 3, Apple had a peak market cap of about $1.138 trillion. Today, Apple’s market cap is about $675 billion. That’s a record market cap loss of $463 billion in three short months. Expect more stories similar to this, but this may be hard to top. Amazon has a chance but it needs a big disaster soon.

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• more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon.

Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)

In only three months, Apple has lost $452 billion in market capitalization, including tens of billions on Thursday as the tech giant’s stock sank further. Apple shares have fallen by 39.1 percent since Oct. 3, when the stock hit a 52-week high of $233.47 a share. With its market cap down to about $674 billion, those losses are larger than individual value of 496 members of the S&P 500 — including Facebook and J.P. Morgan. Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Berkshire Hathaway are the only S&P 500 members with larger market caps than Apple’s loss since its recent high.

To put the Apple market value plunge in context, $446 billion is: • more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon. Apple gave a sudden warning to investors on Wednesday afternoon, lowering its fiscal first-quarter revenue guidance. Wall Street reacted, with one analyst saying this will represent Apple’s “biggest miss in years” and another saying the company’s announcement “raises more questions than answers.” Apple CEO Tim Cook’s letter to investors blamed a variety of factors for the guidance cut, including declining iPhone revenue and China’s weakening economy.

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Only 6 years? That makes it sound cookie cutter.

Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)

Apple stock cratered almost 10 percent Thursday, a day after slashing revenue guidance in a rare acknowledgement of waning sales. The stock ended trading at $142.19, its lowest price level since July 2017. The plunge makes for Apple’s worst day of trading since January 2013, and it extends a painful year-end trend for Apple into 2019. The stock, which once traded above $230 per share, shed 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Thursday’s losses push Apple’s market valuation below $700 billion and behind the market cap of Alphabet to become the fourth most valuable publicly traded U.S. company — down from the top spot just two months ago. The company has lost $450 billion in market value since its peak of about $1.1 trillion last year.

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Hard not to think that people working in finance still can’t believe the industry doesn’t function. They keep trying to explain what happens, from inside their faulty models.

Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)

We have seen the last three bull markets catalyzed largely by loosening liquidity conditions during the bear markets that preceded them by central banks — in more and more of a globally coordinated fashion. This has led me to believe that the expansion of liquidity is the primary driver for consistent risk asset upward price revisions (aka bull markets). More than economic developments, earnings or political discourse. As a result it is crucial to realize that the ‘punch bowl’ of quantitative easing, the veritable liquidity spigot that juiced markets higher over the last 9.5 years, is not only running dry, but going in reverse (taking liquidity from markets). The impact of this reversal cannot overstated. It will be the primary catalyst that drives this bear market in equities lower. Only a reversal of tightening liquidity conditions will drive risk assets higher again.

Macro: • $1 of US GDP growth now costs $4 of debt, and is only growing as we push on the string of debt to borrow forward demand to today. • US now has $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities over the next 10 year period. • Debt monetization isn’t just important, it will become a necessity. Otherwise rates normalize and the party ends in a very bad way (insolvency and/or extreme austerity measures).

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Everybody is getting ready for a fight. Just not one that would benefit their voters.

Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)

Democrats are flexing their muscles as the incoming majority in the US House of Representatives, introducing articles of impeachment and even quixotic constitutional amendments even though they have no hope of passing. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced articles of impeachment on the first day of the 2019 Congress, starting with a resolution demanding President Donald Trump be impeached for “threatening, and then terminating” then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Reserving the option to introduce more articles later, Sherman told CNN he wanted to be able to “force the conversation on impeachment” when (if?) the Mueller report is released, “challenging” his Democratic colleagues who haven’t yet chosen to support Trump’s impeachment.

Sherman filed the exact same impeachment resolution in 2017 but could only muster one supporter, Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who later filed his own articles of impeachment. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) didn’t even wait until she was seated as a congresswoman to go after the president’s job, publishing an op-ed on Thursday entitled “Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.” “We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses,” she wrote, accusing Trump of “abuse of power and abuse of the public trust” along with a laundry list of crimes. In person, she was even more direct, reportedly telling a MoveOn.org reception, “We’re gonna impeach that mother**ker.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been noticeably reticent on impeachment, telling NBC on Thursday that Democrats should wait for the Mueller report before making any moves. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason,” she said. Many rank-and-file Democrats ran on pro-impeachment platforms, but with polls indicating only a third of Americans support the idea and a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate required to remove the president, they are unlikely to make any sudden moves.

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“..there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States..”

Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)

Canada has said 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December in Vancouver at the request of the US. “At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid. Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed. Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have escalated since Meng’s arrest on 1 December. The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a C$10m ($7.4m) bail on 11 December and is living in one of her two Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the US. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am. The 13 Canadians detained included Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official said on Thursday. McIver, a teacher, has been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody. Canadian consular officials saw them once each in mid-December. Overall there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face on-going legal proceedings. “This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said. In comparison there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States, the official said.

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Who’s going to save Deutsche? It’s far too big not to be saved. But it would drag down any other bank with it. Let the German government do it.

UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)

Swiss bank UBS is not looking to merge with any other bank, Chairman Axel Weber told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, dismissing speculation that UBS could join forces with Deutsche Bank. “There is a lot of talk in Europe and the United States about mergers but nothing happens. These are all simulation games,” he said in an interview published on Thursday. Asked specifically about whether UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, was running simulations about Germany’s biggest lender, Weber said: “Every company has to think things over, but it makes little sense to consider mergers at group level now. These paralyze companies for years.

“UBS is much stronger today than before the financial crisis, but combining with another bank — no matter which — would be premature at this moment. We want to grow primarily organically and we surely have to be able to walk before we want to run.” Weber, a former Bundesbank chief who joined UBS in 2012, said he could imagine remaining in his post until 2022. Asked how long Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti might stay, he said UBS wanted an orderly leadership transition and was under no pressure to act while it ensured the right talent was in place.

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The Dutch finance minister published a list of tax havens a few days ago. Holland wasn’t on it. These people don’t give a sh*t about their credibility.

Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)

Google moved 19.9 billion euros ($22.7 billion) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017, as part of an arrangement that allows it to reduce its foreign tax bill, according to documents filed at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. The amount channeled through Google Netherlands Holdings BV was around 4 billion euros more than in 2016, the documents, filed on Dec. 21, showed. “We pay all of the taxes due and comply with the tax laws in every country we operate in around the world,” Google said in a statement. “Google, like other multinational companies, pays the vast majority of its corporate income tax in its home country, and we have paid a global effective tax rate of 26 percent over the last ten years.”

For more than a decade the arrangement has allowed Google owner Alphabet to enjoy an effective tax rate in the single digits on its non-U.S. profits, around a quarter the average tax rate in its overseas markets. The subsidiary in the Netherlands is used to shift revenue from royalties earned outside the United States to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax. The tax strategy, known as the “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich”, is legal and allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the funds, which represent the bulk of its overseas profits.

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“76% of Tory members said that warnings about no deal Brexit — like those on food & medicine — are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.”

Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)

Conservative party members overwhelmingly want MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with more than half saying they have even considered ripping up their membership over it, according to a new poll. A survey of 1,215 Tory party members published on Friday found that 59% of Conservative party members oppose the Withdrawal Agreement May has negotiated with the European Union, while just 38% support it. Among all Conservative party members, more than half (56%) said they had considered quitting the party over May’s deal, according to YouGov polling for leading academics at the ESRC-funded Party Members Project.

The findings will spook figures in Downing Street who had hoped that Conservative MPs would return from their constituencies over Christmas having been urged by party members to get behind May and her deal. The prime minister was forced to postpone a parliamentary vote on her deal after more than 100 of her MPs announced that they planned to oppose it. [..] The Tory party membership is particularly supportive of leaving the EU without a deal, despite the myriad warnings from ministers about the disruption it would cause across multiple aspects of life in the UK, including food and medicine. A whopping 76% of Tory members said that warnings about a no deal Brexit are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.” Just 18% said the warnings were realistic.

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The -legal- power of Monsanto should never be underestimated.

US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)

A federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer’s glyphosate-based weed killer causes cancer has issued a ruling that could severely restrict evidence that the plaintiffs consider crucial to their cases. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco in an order on Thursday granted Bayer unit Monsanto’s request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. The order initially bars lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Thursday’s order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 25, and two other so-called bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria. But Hardeman’s lawyers contended that such evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, showed the company’s misconduct and were critical to California state court jury’s August 2018 decision to award $289 million in a similar case. The verdict sent Bayer shares tumbling though the award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Under Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate was found to have caused Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeded to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

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Time to cut all ties with Brazil.

New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again. “There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, the executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib).

“Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday. Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor. The decision was included in an executive order which also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary potentially far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.

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Nov 252018
 


Floris van Schooten Still-Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake 1st half 17th century

 

Assange Lawyers Barred From Visiting Client Ahead Of US Court Hearing (ZH)
‘He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly’: Mueller Nears Trump Endgame (G.)
One Of The Most Spectacularly Misleading Uses Of Statistics Ever (Porter)
Russia A Greater Threat Than ISIS or Al-Queda – New British Army Chief (PA)
European Security Held Hostage By Washington’s Geopolitical Games – Lavrov (RT)
Why Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The UK (Coppola)
UK Food Banks Fear Winter Crisis (G.)
UK Parliament Seizes Cache Of Facebook Internal Papers (O.)
Trump Says Asylum Seekers To Wait In Mexico, Incoming Government Denies (R.)
Amazon To Contribute Over Half Of Q4 Earnings Growth For S&P 500 Retail (MW)
JPMorgan Spots The Next Big Problem: A Plunge In Global Bond Demand (ZH)
Bear Necessities: The Charts That Predict Market Downturns (MW)
EU Unhappy With China Penetrating Greek Energy Market (K.)
Climate Change Will Wreck Economic Growth – US Government Report (MW)

 

 

These are dark days.

Assange Lawyers Barred From Visiting Client Ahead Of US Court Hearing (ZH)

After being cooped up for six years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the Department of Justice is finally closing in on Julian Assange, and the government of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is doing everything in its power to evict its most infamous tenant. To wit, lawyers for Assange have been refused entry to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks announced in a tweet, which has only helped to spur fears that Assange will soon be evicted. And what’s worse, he’s being denied access to legal counsel at a time of desperate need. WikiLeaks said the Ecuadorian government refused to allow Assange’s lawyers, Aitor Martinez and Jen Robinson, to meet with their client this week, which is a huge problem for the whistleblower, because Assange is facing a US court hearing Tuesday, and needs to meet with his legal team to prepare.

The hearing is being called to remove the secrecy order on the charges against Assange (which were only publicly revealed because of a copy and paste error). “The hearing is on Tuesday in the national security court complex at Alexandria, Virginia,” WikiLeaks tweeted, adding it is to “remove the secrecy order on the US charges against him.” Visitors to Assange were only recently readmitted after being cut off by the Ecuadorian government. The government also restored Assange’s communications in October. But this was accompanied by restrictions on Assange’s communications. In another sign that Moreno is preparing to oust Assange, the Ecuadorian government recently terminated the credentials of Ecuador’s London ambassador Abad Ortiz without explanation. As Wikileaks explained: “Now all diplomats known to Assange have now been transferred away from the embassy.”

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The Guardian has a guy named David Taylor in new York doing a series, in which yesterday he called Robert Mueller: ‘America’s straightest arrow’. Yeah, that’s the same Mueller who lied through his teeth about WMD in Iraq as FBI chief. Taylor lists ‘four distinct parts’ of Mueller investigation, and is fully oblivious to the fact that all four have been thoroughly dismantled long ago. Taylor and the Guardian count on you not reading anything but them.

In a few words:
1• Manafort is not linked to Trump-Russia collusion, not even Mueller suggests that
2• See article below
3• There was no hacking that we know of, and certainly not in connection with WikiLeaks and/or Democratic party
4• Papadopoulos was set up, and only a bit player

‘He Has Moved Incredibly Quickly’: Mueller Nears Trump Endgame (G.)

The investigation, which cost more than $16.6m in its first 11 months, can be broken down into four distinct parts which have all led to indictments:

1• Manafort and his business connections to Russia following years of work in support of the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

2• Russian use of fake social media accounts to influence the 2016 election.

3• Russian hacking of the Democratic party and the Clinton aide John Podesta – and the subsequent leak of thousands of emails by WikiLeaks.

4• Trump campaign connections to Russia – including the Trump Tower meeting and the adviser George Papadopoulos’s involvement with a professor who told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton including “thousands of emails”.

Anne Milgram, a law professor at New York University and a former prosecutor and attorney general of New Jersey, said Mueller and his 17 lawyers had done “a terrific job”. “Months have gone by – people think it’s a long time – it is not in criminal justice,” she said. “He has moved incredibly quickly, got a lot of co-operation agreements, charges, done an extraordinary job of running down Russian hacking of the election.”

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As per the second point in the article above, here’s Gareth Porter ripping that to shreds.

One Of The Most Spectacularly Misleading Uses Of Statistics Ever (Porter)

What Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 31, 2017 is a far cry from what the Times claims. “Our best estimate is that approximately 126,000 million people may have been served one of these [private Russian company, Internet Research Agency, ‘IRA’-generated] stories at some time during the two year period,” Stretch said. Stretch was expressing a theoretical possibility rather than an established fact. He said an estimated 126 million Facebook members might have gotten at least one story from the IRA –- not over the ten week election period, but over 194 weeks during the two years 2015 through 2017—including a full year after the election.

That means only an estimated 29 million FB users may have gotten at least one story in their feed in two years. The 126 million figure is based only on an assumption that they shared it with others, according to Stretch. Facebook didn’t even claim most of those 80,000 IRA posts were election–related. It offered no data on what proportion of the feeds to those 29 million people were. In addition, Facebook’s Vice President for News Feed, Adam Moseri, acknowledged in 2016 that FB subscribers actually read only about 10 percent of the stories Facebook puts in their News Feed every day. The means that very few of the IRA stories that actually make it into a subscriber’s news feed on any given day are actually read.

And now, according to the further research, the odds that Americans saw any of these IRA ads—let alone were influenced by them—are even more astronomical. In his Oct. 2017 testimony, Stretch said that from 2015 to 2017, “Americans using Facebook were exposed to, or ‘served,’ a total of over 33 trillion stories in their News Feeds.” To put the 33 trillion figure over two years in perspective, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just .0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time.

Shane and Mazzetti did not report the 33 trillion number even though The New York Times’ own coverage of that 2017 Stretch testimony explicitly stated, “Facebook cautioned that the Russia-linked posts represented a minuscule amount of content compared with the billions of posts that flow through users’ News Feeds everyday.” The Times‘ touting of the bogus 126 million out 137 million voters, while not reporting the 33 trillion figure, should vie in the annals of journalism as one of the most spectacularly misleading uses of statistics of all time.

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The new army chief himself is the greatest threat.

Russia A Greater Threat Than ISIS or Al-Queda – New British Army Chief (PA)

Russia “indisputably” poses a far greater threat to national security than Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Isis, the new head of the British army has warned. General Mark Carleton-Smith said the UK cannot be complacent about the threat Russia poses “or leave it uncontested”. The former SAS commander said Russia had made plain its preparedness to use force to expand its interests, while it had also been “systematic” in its efforts to exploit cyber space and undersea military arenas. “The Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“Russia today indisputably represents a far greater threat to our national security than Islamic extremist threats such as al-Qaida and Isil,” he said, using another name for Isis. Carleton-Smith, who graduated from Sandhurst in the final years of the Cold War, took over as chief of the general staff in June. He led the hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terror attacks and later spearheaded Britain’s role in the campaign to defeat Isis. Now, with the threat from Islamist groups in the Middle East reduced by years of concerted international military action, the focus needs to shift to Russia, he said. “We cannot be complacent about the threat Russia poses or leave it uncontested,” Carleton-Smith warned.

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The European arms industry holds the entire continent hostage.

European Security Held Hostage By Washington’s Geopolitical Games – Lavrov (RT)

The blindness of the EU bureaucrats allows the US to instigate dangerous military activity near Russian borders, jeopardizing the security of the whole European continent, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said. The Ukrainian crisis, which was used as a justification for sanctions against Moscow, is “a result of geopolitical games, played by the US and their allies in several countries, as well as the blindness of the bureaucrats in Brussels,” Lavrov, who was visiting Portugal on Saturday, said in an interview with local Publico paper. The EU leadership “not only sacrificed its principles and values by turning a blind eye to the armed coup in Kiev, in which a democratically elected president was deposed, but followed Washington’s lead and joined the anti-Russian sanctions,” he added.

In February 2014, Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, was removed from power as a result of a violent uprising, in which a key role was played by the radical nationalist groups. A few months later, the new government in Kiev launched the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in the south-east of the country after the local population refused to recognize the results of the coup. The conflict in Donbas, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives, is still ongoing as the Ukrainian authorities don’t seem willing to commit to the truce earlier reached with the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

“And what have we now?” Lavrov wondered. “The architecture of dialogue between Russia and the EU is seriously damaged; the European producers suffer multi-billion losses [due to sanctions and countermeasures by Moscow]; there’s a new conflict in Europe.” Meanwhile, the Americans, who are directly responsible for the “unhealthy situation” in Europe, “suffer no losses,” he said.

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Good explanation by Frances Coppola of why the Irish border is such a hot iron in the Brexit talks.

Why Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The UK (Coppola)

After Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become an international border, rather than an intra-EU border as at present. In the absence of a trade agreement, both the EU and the U.K. would be obliged to apply the WTO’s “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) rules on that border. This would mean tariffs and regulatory checks on a border which is politically highly sensitive, because of its long history of conflict, and economically extremely important to the economies of Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour. Neither the U.K. nor the EU wants there to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit. But preventing one is proving difficult.

The U.K. Government proposed technological solutions that it said would eliminate the need for actual checks at the border, but the EU doesn’t believe that the technology exists. The EU proposed a temporary arrangement which would keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market until a free trade agreement could be negotiated, but the U.K. objected on the grounds that customs checks on goods in transit between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. would undermine the U.K.’s own internal market.

The Withdrawal Agreement breaks this deadlock by providing for the U.K. to remain in the EU’s Customs Union, and Northern Ireland in the Single Market, not merely until the end of the transitional period scheduled to end in December 2020, but until a replacement trade agreement can be negotiated, or (potentially) indefinitely if none can be agreed. This is by any measure unsatisfactory. Everyone hates “frozen Brexit.” But the backstop is not the only problem with this deal. Buried in the accompanying Political Declaration, which establishes the framework for future trade negotiations, is this conundrum:

“The future relationship will be based on a balance of rights and obligations, taking into account the principles of each Party. This balance must ensure the autonomy of the Union’s decision making and be consistent with the Union’s principles, in particular with respect to the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union and the indivisibility of the four freedoms. It must also ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the protection of its internal market, while respecting the result of the 2016 referendum including with regard to the development of its independent trade policy and the ending of free movement of people between the Union and the United Kingdom.” When combined with the backstop, this conundrum makes Mrs. May’s deal terrible for the U.K.

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Hostile environment. Signed, Theresa May.

UK Food Banks Fear Winter Crisis (G.)

Food banks in some of the poorest areas are preparing for a big rise in demand when universal credit is rolled out by calling for more donations and volunteers, and stockpiling essential supplies. Volunteers have told the Observer they are concerned about how their communities will cope this winter. In areas where the new benefit has been in place for months, the pressure on food banks has increased. Under the new system, people are made to wait for over a month to receive the benefit. When universal credit is paid out, it is often given as a lump sum, which many find difficult to budget. The Trussell Trust, which operates 428 food banks, reported in April that its facilities were four times busier in areas where the new credit had been in place for 12 months or more compared with those where it had been introduced more recently.

Blackpool, the Isle of Anglesey, Milton Keynes and parts of Liverpool and Glasgow will become some of the last places to introduce universal credit in the coming weeks. Roy Fyles, who supervises the Anglesey food bank, said he was not looking forward to its arrival on 5 December. “Even if there are only a few new claimants between now and Christmas, they will not get any money, unless they request an advance, until the new year,” he said. “We’re talking five weeks.” In nearby Flintshire, the credit piled a lot of pressure on food banks when it was brought in 20 months ago. “We are hoping that, because we’re only a small island, we’ll have fewer problems,” Fyles said. Already, the number of packages his food bank delivers has gone up by a third in the past few months. “We’re preparing by trying to get more volunteers and collecting food for Christmas hampers.”

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Nice twist.

UK Parliament Seizes Cache Of Facebook Internal Papers (O.)

Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions. The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg. Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London.

In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents. “We are in uncharted territory,” said Collins, who also chairs an inquiry into fake news. “This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.” [..] MPs leading the inquiry into fake news have repeatedly tried to summon Zuckerberg to explain the company’s actions. He has repeatedly refused.

Collins said this reluctance to testify, plus misleading testimony from an executive at a hearing in February, had forced MPs to explore other options for gathering information about Facebook operations. [..] The documents seized were obtained during a legal discovery process by Six4Three. It took action against the social media giant after investing $250,000 in an app. Six4Three alleges the cache shows Facebook was not only aware of the implications of its privacy policy, but actively exploited them, intentionally creating andeffectively flagging up the loophole that Cambridge Analytica used to collect data. That raised the interest of Collins and his committee.

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Negotiating.

Trump Says Asylum Seekers To Wait In Mexico, Incoming Government Denies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border would stay in Mexico until their asylum claims were individually approved in U.S. courts, but Mexico’s incoming government denied they had struck any deal. Mexico’s incoming interior minister said there was “no agreement of any type between the future government of Mexico and the United States.” Olga Sanchez Cordero, also the top domestic policy official for president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who takes office on Dec. 1, told Reuters that the incoming government was in talks with the United States but emphasized that they could not make any agreement since they were not yet in government.

Sanchez ruled out that Mexico would be declared a “safe third country” for asylum claimants, following a Washington Post report of a deal with the Trump administration known as “Remain in Mexico,” which quoted her calling it a “short-term solution.” The plan, according to the newspaper, foresees migrants staying in Mexico while their asylum claims in the United States are being processed, potentially ending a system Trump decries as “catch and release” that has until now often allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil.

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At what point will we call it a monopoly? Apparently not at 50%. How about 75%?

Amazon To Contribute Over Half Of Q4 Earnings Growth For S&P 500 Retail (MW)

Amazon.com’s fourth quarter earnings are expected to account for more than half of earnings growth among S&P 500 retailers, according to a report from FactSet. FactSet expects Amazon to report earnings per share of $5.51, more than double the $2.16 the e-commerce giant reported last year. Amazon beat FactSet earnings expectations the last five quarters. “Amazon.com is expected to report the highest earnings growth and is expected to be the largest contributor to earnings growth for the Retailing Industry Group and Food & Staples Retailing Industry Group combined,” wrote John Butters at FactSet. “If Amazon were excluded, the estimated earnings growth for Q4 for these two retail industry groups would fall to 6.8% from 15%.”

Ten of the 13 retail sub-industries, including internet and direct marketing retail (projected for 69.4% growth), automotive retail (expected to be up 22.4%) and home improvement retail (forecast for 20.1% growth) are expected to report higher fourth-quarter earnings. Other categories projected for double-digit growth include general merchandise stores (up 12.3%) and food distributors (up 11.1%). Drug retail, department stores and specialty stores are forecast to grow 6.9%, 6.8% and 6.4% respectively. “Amazon alone accounts for more than half of the projected earnings growth for all S&P 500 retailers for the fourth quarter,” Butters wrote.

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As supply skyrockets, central banks stop buying. A recipe for fun, we’re sure.

JPMorgan Spots The Next Big Problem: A Plunge In Global Bond Demand (ZH)

[..] with traders – across all asset classes, including equity, credit and rates, all focusing on what happens to US Treasury yields next, the JPMorgan strategist revisits his previous analysis on global bond demand and supply, incorporating updated supply forecasts both for the balance of 2018 as well as for 2019. “Given this year has seen the largest increase in excess supply of bonds since 2010, which as we noted last week has together with continued Fed hikes contributed to a tightening in financial conditions that has been reverberating across markets, there has been considerable interest in how next year is shaping up.”

Attention on 2019 is especially acute as the Fed’s balance sheet normalization process is set to accelerate given that it is only in 4Q18 that the monthly cap for the quantity of maturing bonds that are allowed to roll off has reached its steady state of $50Bn/month, which unlike 2018 when QT was just starting, will induce a further increase in net supply that needs to be absorbed by the market of more than $100bn. It’s not just the Fed: with the ECB set to end its QE purchases in December this year and we see the BoJ continuing its gradual slowdown in bond purchases to ¥30tr in 2019 compared to around ¥40tr this year, JPMorgan notes that this collective shrinkage of the G-4 balance sheet means that the market needs to absorb a further decrease in price-insensitive QE demand of more than $400bn next year.

Here’s the bad news: adding together both the supply and demand side impact, the G4 central bank flow looks set to decline a further $550bn next year. Which begs the question: will there be an incremental increase in demand to offset this dramatic net increase in supply in the coming year? JPMorgan’s answer is hardly what bond bulls are looking for…

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Entertainment.

Bear Necessities: The Charts That Predict Market Downturns (MW)

Is a bear market on the horizon? WSJ markets reporter Riva Gold analyzes the trends that came before the dot-com bubble burst and the financial crisis hit.

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Yes, that’s right, lignite. But that’s not what bothers the EU.

EU Unhappy With China Penetrating Greek Energy Market (K.)

Brussels is raising obstacles to Chinese plans to enter Greece’s energy market, reversing the situation in the tender for the privatization of Public Private Corporation’s lignite-fired plants where CHN Energy had appeared to be the favorite. Days before bid submissions for the four plants at Meliti and Megalopoli, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy sent a letter to Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy, seen by Kathimerini, raising the issue of European law violation and asking for the review of ADMIE’s certification after China State Grid purchased 24 percent of the grid operator.

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People may feel vindicated in some way because of this, especially because of Trump. But really, expressing environmental damage in dollars is a road to nowhere at all. If economic growth is your main worry, you’re not too smart.

Climate Change Will Wreck Economic Growth – US Government Report (MW)

Climate change is a threat to Americans’ health and the country’s economic well-being, a major report issued Friday by 13 federal agencies said. “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century,” wrote the authors of the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II. The report, authored by more than 300 experts, spells out a litany of impacts linked to climate change, including problems with human health, water quality, agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure.

Flooding will decrease crop yields, warming oceans will slow the shellfish industry, and heat stress will cause a drop in dairy production, the authors wrote, describing just a few of the economic effects. If people don’t take action to lessen its effects, climate change is expected to affect import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains, the report notes. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current GDP of many U.S. states,” the authors wrote.

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