Sep 202019
 
 September 20, 2019  Posted by at 9:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Marc Chagall The Feast of the Tabernacles 1916

 

Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion/Day
OECD Slashes Global Growth Outlook, Warns Germany Already In Recession (ZH)
Lagarde Urges Policymakers To Resolve Manmade Economic Threats (AFP)
How the Houthis Overturned The Chessboard (Escobar)
The Crisis Over The Attack On Saudi Oil Infrastructure Is Over (MoA)
Gantz Refuses To Meet With Netanyahu, Wants Unity Govt Without Him (RT)
Ryanair Awards $111 Million Bonus To CEO, Lays Off Up To 700 Pilots (R.)
Biodiversity Touches Every Aspect Of Our Lives (G.)
US and Canada Lose 3 Billion Birds Since 1970 (BBC)
Operation Amazon Redux (Dias)
What If This is as Good as It Gets? (Tritschler)

 

 

Famous last words: “If managed properly, they shouldn’t pose undue risks to the financial system.”

Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion/Day

The volume of over-the-counter (OTC) interest rate derivatives traded globally soared by 141% in three years to $6.5 trillion per day in April 2019, according to the Bank for International Settlements’ new Triennial Survey of Global Derivatives Markets. In the prior survey period, April 2016, $2.7 trillion per day in trades were executed. Since 2001, the magnitude of trading volume has multiplied by a factor of 13, from $490 billion per day to $6.5 trillion per day, with a gigantic spike over the past three years: OTC derivatives are securities that are generally traded through a dealer network rather than on a centralized exchange such as the London Stock Exchange or the New York Stock Exchange.

Some derivatives can be explosive, such as the credit default swaps (CDS) that brought Lehman Brothers and AIG to their knees in the last crisis, and which still remain a threat today, especially with the U.S. government this week bowing to Wall Street pressure to dilute regulation that had been designed after the crisis to reduce the risks of these instruments. Interest rate derivatives, whose value rises and falls depending on the movement of interest rates, or sets of interest rates, tend to be more straightforward. They are often used as hedges by institutional and retail investors, banks and companies to protect themselves against changes in market interest rates. If managed properly, they shouldn’t pose undue risks to the financial system. The BIS attributed much of this 141% three-year surge in trading of these instruments to increased hedging and positioning “amid shifting prospects for growth and monetary policy.”

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The “growth is good” idea won’t die unless it’s murdered.

OECD Slashes Global Growth Outlook, Warns Germany Already In Recession (ZH)

In one of the most downbeat forecasts on the global economy that we’ve seen so far this year, the Paris-based organization of wealthy nations known as the OECD – the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – warned that the global economy is heading toward a recession, and that governments aren’t doing enough in terms of fiscal stimulus to try and boost the economy. “Escalating trade policy tensions are taking an increasing toll on confidence and investment, adding to policy uncertainty, weighing on risk sentiment in financial markets, and endangering future growth prospects,” the OECD said. The advocacy for fiscal stimulus follows reports that Germany is considering a “shadow budget” to bolster public investment as Europe’s economy slides.


“Our fear is that we are entering an era where growth is stuck at a very low level,” said OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone said. “Governments should absolutely take advantage of low rates to invest in the future now so that this sluggish growth doesn’t become the new normal.” After cutting all of its forecasts from four months ago, the OECD now sees global growth slipping below 3% to 2.9%.

Of course, this pattern of cutting GDP forecasts is nothing new. The OECD became the latest to warn about the global economy, after the Fed, the ECB and the PBOC have all eased policy to try and bolster growth in recent weeks. But the OECD is convinced that without government stimulus, the global economy is headed for a protracted downturn.

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“In perfect English and always engaging and crisply professional..”

Lagarde Urges Policymakers To Resolve Manmade Economic Threats (AFP)

Accustomed to being the first woman in influential leadership positions and speaking frankly to men in power, Christine Lagarde says manmade threats to the global economy can be “man-fixed.” Lagarde only last week left her post as head of the International Monetary Fund after eight years, the first woman to serve in that role, and she is expected to put another “first” on her resume by the end of the year: first woman to serve as president of the European Central Bank.She sees a world economy where growth is “fragile” and “under threat” from trade frictions and Brexit, and perhaps an over-reliance on the efforts of central banks like the ECB.


But while she tried to urge action during her time at the IMF — she took over in 2011 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis — she said a central bank should “stick to its mandate,” which perhaps is a clue to how she will run the ECB. Or perhaps not. She carefully avoided a commitment about how she would use her influence in the new post. In perfect English and always engaging and crisply professional, Lagarde sat down with AFP on Thursday to review her legacy at the Washington-based crisis lender, where she arrived after being the first woman finance minister of France. In bare numbers, her record is impressive: the IMF helped to avoid a global depression, 90 countries – nearly half of its members – benefitted from some form of lending or credit line during the crisis, and the lending capacity was doubled to $1 trillion.

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They showed how vulnerable the Kingdom is. That’s all it took.

How the Houthis Overturned The Chessboard (Escobar)

[..] it’s always important to consider that Arab Shiites in the Eastern province – working in Saudi oil installations – have got to be natural allies of the Houthis fighting against Riyadh. Houthi striking capability – from drone swarms to ballistic missile attacks – has been improving remarkably for the past year or so. It’s not by accident that the UAE saw which way the geopolitical and geoeconomic winds were blowing: Abu Dhabi withdrew from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s vicious war against Yemen and now is engaged in what it describes as a “peace-first” strategy. Even before Abqaiq, the Houthis had already engineered quite a few attacks against Saudi oil installations as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.

In early July, Yemen’s Operations Command Center staged an exhibition in full regalia in Sana’a featuring their whole range of ballistic and winged missiles and drones. The situation has now reached a point where there’s plenty of chatter across the Persian Gulf about a spectacular scenario: the Houthis investing in a mad dash across the Arabian desert to capture Mecca and Medina in conjunction with a mass Shiite uprising in the Eastern oil belt. That’s not far-fetched anymore. Stranger things have happened in the Middle East. After all, the Saudis can’t even win a bar brawl – that’s why they rely on mercenaries.

The US intel refrain that the Houthis are incapable of such a sophisticated attack betrays the worst strands of orientalism and white man’s burden/superiority complex. The only missile parts shown by the Saudis so far come from a Yemeni Quds 1 cruise missile. According to Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Sana’a-based Yemeni Armed Forces, “the Quds system proved its great ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems.”

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We Now Wait For the Next One.

The Crisis Over The Attack On Saudi Oil Infrastructure Is Over (MoA)

The crisis about the Yemeni drone and cruise missile attack on two Saudi oil installations is for now over. The Saudis and the U.S. accuse Iran of being behind the “act of war” as Secretary of State Pompeo called it. The Saudis have bombed Yemen with U.S. made bombs since 2015. One wonders how Pompeo is calling that. The Yemeni forces aligned with the Houthi Ansarallah do not deny that their drones and cruise missiles are copies of Iranian designs. But they insist that they are built in Yemen and fired from there. President Trump will not launch a military attack against Iran. Neither will the Saudis or anyone else. Iran has deterred them by explaining that any attack on Iran will be responded to by waging all out war against the U.S. and its ‘allies’ around the Persian Gulf.

Trump sent Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to hold hands with the Saudi gangster family who call themselves royals. Pompeo of course tried to sell them more weapons. On his flight back he had an uncharacteristically dovish Q & A with reporters. Pompeo said: “I was here in an act of diplomacy. While the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war and to fight to the last American, we’re here to build out a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution to this. That’s my mission set, what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve, and I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way. There’s no evidence of that from his statement, but I hope that that’s the case.”

The crisis is over and we are back to waiting for the next round. A few days or weeks from now we will see another round of attacks on oil assets on the western side of the Persian Gulf. Iran, with the help of its friends, can play this game again and again and it will do so until the U.S. gives up and lifts the sanctions against that country. The Houthi will continue to attack the Saudis until they end their war on Yemen and pay reparations.

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That was his election pledge.

Gantz Refuses To Meet With Netanyahu, Wants Unity Govt Without Him (RT)

Benny Gantz, whose centrist bloc narrowly defeated Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in a snap election, says he is forming a government that will exclude the current prime minister – signaling the end of Bibi’s era may be near. The ex-IDF chief said on Thursday that he would not accept Netanyahu’s offer to discuss a unity government, keeping good on his campaign pledge to create a ruling coalition that does not include Bibi. “I am interested and intend to form a broad and liberal unity government led by me,” he wrote in a tweet.


Speaking with reports, Gantz stressed that his Blue and White alliance “will listen to everyone, but we will not accept mandates imposed on us” – an apparent swipe at Netanyahu’s insistence that the pair should meet. Blue and White won 33 seats in the Knesset in Tuesday’s snap election, while Likud only secured 31. Gantz said that the results pave the way for him to become prime minister, assuming that a coalition, minus Bibi, can be formed. If Gantz fails to secure 61 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s political deadlock could continue, forcing the third election this year.

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Blind. Completely blind.

Ryanair Awards $111 Million Bonus To CEO, Lays Off Up To 700 Pilots (R.)

Ryanair’s Chief Executive Michael O’Leary narrowly secured approval from shareholders on Thursday for a bonus scheme that could earn him 100 million euros over five years as he revealed up to 700 pilots could lose their jobs. The Irish low-cost carrier, Europe’s largest, has been battered by industrial disputes and the grounding of Boeing’s flagship 737 MAX. Having suffered from a shortage of pilots just a couple of years ago, O’Leary told investors there are now too many. He forecast the company would cut between 500 and 700 pilots as a sharp decrease in demand has seen the natural attrition rate collapse. To earn his 100 million euro bonus, O’Leary would need to reverse a near-50% fall in the company’s share price since 2017.


The share price hit a peak of 19.39 euros in August 2017 but was down 1.8 percent at 9.76 euros at 1330 GMT on Thursday. O’Leary secured the backing of 50.5% of shareholders for the scheme which will grant him 10 million share options if he doubles Ryanair’s profitability to 2 billion euros per annum and/or increase the share price to 21 euros per share. The size of the award “raises a red flag in terms of quantum and for our members,” said Jocelyn Brown of the UK Railway pension scheme, which voted against the deal. O’Leary said he was disappointed by the level of support and said he would take on investor concerns.

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Got to say I’m skeptical about the Climate Strikes today. What have all these people given up? What have they pledged to no longer do?

Biodiversity Touches Every Aspect Of Our Lives (G.)

In addition to playing a critical role in providing food, fibre, water, energy, medicines and other genetic materials, biodiversity is equally important in regulating climate, water quality, pollution, pollination, flooding and storm surges. It has vital social value, providing wellbeing when walking through forests or by rivers, or green spaces in cities. Since 1970, human activities have destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other ecosystems and significantly altered 75% of the ice-free land surface. Most oceans are polluted with plastics, and over 85% of wetland area has been lost. This destruction of ecosystems has led to a million species (500,000 animals and plants and 500,000 insects) being threatened with extinction, although many are preventable if we improve our management of biodiversity.

The largest driver of biodiversity loss on land in recent decades has been land use change, primarily the conversion of pristine native habitats into agricultural systems to feed the world, while oceans are over-fished . This has been driven in large part by a doubling of the world’s population, a fourfold increase in the global economy, and a tenfold increase in trade. The challenge is to transform our agricultural and fishing practices, many of which are unsustainable today, into ones that produce the food we need while conserving biodiversity. For agriculture, this means using sustainable agroecological practices; less chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides; and protecting soils and pollinators.

The climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity are issues that affect each other. Global heating adversely affects genetic variability, species richness and ecosystems. Loss of biodiversity can adversely affect climate – deforestation increases the atmospheric abundance of carbon dioxide for example, a greenhouse gas. So it is essential that the issues of biodiversity loss and the climate crisis are addressed together.

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The biggest threat to birds in Java is people who love them. In the west it’s Monsanto.

US and Canada Lose 3 Billion Birds Since 1970 (BBC)

Bird populations in Asia and the US are “in crisis”, according to two major studies. The first concludes there are three billion fewer birds in the US and Canada today compared to 1970 – a loss of 29% of North America’s birds. The second outlines a tipping point in “the Asian songbird crisis”: on the island of Java, Indonesia, more birds may now live in cages than in the wild. Scientists hope the findings will serve as a wake-up call. The two studies are published in the journals Science and Biological Conservation. The North America study revealed how many birds were being lost across every type of habitat – from grasslands to coasts to deserts.

While it did not directly assess what was driving this, the scientists concluded that, among multiple causes, the major factor was habitat loss driven by human activity. This study, explained lead researcher Dr Ken Rosenberg from the Cornell lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy, was the first to “run the numbers” on bird populations. “We knew some species were declining,” he told BBC News, “but we thought that, while rare birds were disappearing, the more generalist birds – and those better adapted to human landscapes – would be filling in the gaps.” [..] the situation in Asia, as the other study has shown, is a particularly striking case of a human-driven extinction crisis.

The buying and selling of songbirds – many of which are caught from the wild – is huge business in parts of Asia, particularly on the island of Java in Indonesia. Around 75 million birds are kept as pets on Java. Many are sought after for bird singing competitions – often referred to as “Kicau-mania”. At these events, caged birds’ songs are judged on melody, duration and volume. Top prizes for the best singers can earn owners as much as £40,000 in the biggest contests. This culture, however, drives the capture of birds from the wild to satisfy demand. And that, researchers say, threatens the survival of numerous species. “The trade is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars to the Indonesian economy, so it is no surprise that it is a key regional source of both supply and demand for songbirds..

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Murder she wrote.

Operation Amazon Redux (Dias)

BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT JAIR Bolsonaro is planning to push industrialization and development in the interior of the country’s Amazon basin. It is far from a new project. For more than a century, a series of Brazilian governments have sought to move into the country’s interior, developing — or, to be more precise, colonizing — the Amazon. From the populist president-turned-dictator who made one of the early industrial pushes into the forest in the 1930s to the military dictatorship that ruled the country for two decades from 1964 until 1985, the justifications have largely been the same — economic gain and geopolitical paranoia — as were the often poor results.

Take the dictatorship’s push. Known as Operation Amazon, the colonization plan hatched during the military government envisioned integrating the territory into Brazil through building roads and developing agricultural and corporate enterprises — all accomplished by settling people from the south, southeast, and northeast of the country and the coasts in the forest. As for the aim, the dictatorship’s motto for the project spoke volumes: “Occupy to avoid surrender.” The military government argued that a thinly populated Amazon might create avenues for foreign powers to invade Brazilian territory. “One aspect of the doctrine said that Brazil could not leave any empty space, because it could threaten national security,” said João Roberto Martins Filho, a professor at the Federal University of São Carlos who has spent decades researching the dictatorship.

“The idea was that it was necessary to channel activity into regions with smaller population density, and this became a state policy.” Like all the other so-called development pushes into the Amazon, the results were catastrophic — for the forest itself, but especially for the communities who already lived amid it. One highway, for instance, was designed to travel from the city of Manaus, on the Amazon River, to nearly the northern edge of the basin. “The highway is irreversible, for the integration of the Amazon into the country,” the army’s Col. João Tarcísio Cartaxo Arruda, who led the construction battalion, said in 1975, according to a document made available by the National Truth Commission.

“This road is important and must be constructed, whatever the cost. We will not change its layout, and the only burden for our battalions will be to pacify the Indians.” That pacification came through so-called demonstrations of force — using machine guns, grenades, and dynamite — against the Waimiri-Atroari tribe. In these moves and others like it, thousands of Indigenous people were massacred. In 1972, the Waimiri-Atroari had a population of 3,000; by 1983, their number was reduced to 350. The National Truth Commission estimates that at least 8,350 Indigenous people were killed by the military government.

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The beauty of aging and death. Perhaps that only exists for those who leave behind a better world then they were born in.

Paraphrased: a society is doing well when old men plant trees whose shadow they know they will never sit in.

What If This is as Good as It Gets? (Tritschler)

Whilst humans developed a limited life span and an acute awareness of that fact, the Turritopsis dohrnii, though it is in no way self-aware, developed the ability to reverse its ontogeny, to turn back its life cycle in times of threat – be it environmental or simply the threat of old age. Many might begrudge the fact this ability had been bestowed on a bobbing blob of mindless jelly. Indeed, a variety of life forms are envied for their selective advantages – speed, strength, flight, longevity, regeneration, and perhaps also that living-in-the-moment quality associated with blissful ignorance: lacking awareness of their mortality, animal kingdom dwellers are unperturbed by advancing years, and live their lives to the last breath in simple pursuit of food, play and romance.

Consciousness of selfhood, of our place in the universe, and of our relationship with all living things, comes at a cost: the certainty of our demise and, what is often worse, the demise of others. This uniquely human grasp of the inevitability of death, and of the fact it can occur without warning, embodies the potential for immense psychological distress – we share with all animals, after all, the drive for self-preservation – but it also carries the potential for a richly meaningful and purposeful life, and research appears to support this.

A growing body of experimental evidence derived from Terror Management Theory, an approach that emerged from within existential social psychology, suggests increased awareness of mortality leads, correspondingly, to increased investment in those resources that provide meaning – social and cultural structures such as family, community and social identities – and that this in turn reduces the fear of death. But if pondering death can bring a sense of purpose, of meaning, and perhaps a degree of happiness to one’s life, might pondering the issues of age do the same?

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Sep 172019
 


Odilon Redon The boat 1900

 

Iran Supreme Leader Rules Out Negotiations With US (AFP)
UK Supreme Court To Rule On Parliament Recall (BBC)
DOJ Labels JPMorgan’s Precious Metals Trading Desk A Criminal Enterprise (ZH)
New York Times’ Botched Kavanaugh Story Latest In Series Of Blunders (CNN)
New York Prosecutors Subpoena Eight Years Of Trump Tax Returns (G.)
Epstein Accusers Cannot Recoup Damages Over Lenient Plea Deal – US Judge (R.)
The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded (Murray)
Apple Takes Fight Against €13 Billion EU Tax Order To Court (R.)
A View from the Brink (Kunstler)
Edward Snowden Implores Macron To Grant French Asylum (ZH)
Aid Workers Warn Of Catastrophe In Greek Refugee Camps (G.)
Amazon Deforestation Is Driven By Criminal Networks (G.)
Attenborough Documentaries Mislead Us Into Thinking Wildlife Doing Fine (Ind.)

 

 

They’ll talk.

Iran Supreme Leader Rules Out Negotiations With US (AFP)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with the US, as tensions mount between the arch-foes after Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil installations. “The policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against the Iranian nation is worthless and all Islamic Republic of Iran officials unanimously believe there will be no negotiations with the US at any level,” he said, quoted on his official website. The White House said on Sunday that US President Donald Trump could meet Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

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What happens if the Supreme Court, too, says it’s a matter for Parliament to decide, not the courts?

UK Supreme Court To Rule On Parliament Recall (BBC)

Boris Johnson has said he will “wait and see what the judges say” before deciding whether to recall Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear two appeals that will determine whether the prime minister acted lawfully in suspending Parliament for five weeks. Edinburgh’s Court of Session said the shutdown was unlawful and London’s High Court said it was not a court matter. On Monday the PM visited Luxembourg for Brexit talks, but the EU said it was yet to see concrete proposals.


Mr Johnson pulled out of a joint press conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, blaming noisy protesters, but Mr Bettel went on to criticise Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit. The suspension of Parliament, a process known as proroguing, began a week ago. MPs are not scheduled to return until 14 October, when there will be a Queen’s Speech outlining Mr Johnson’s legislative plans. The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October. Opposition parties have called for Parliament to be recalled.

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Will they go to jail? And if so, how many of them? What about Blythe Masters?

DOJ Labels JPMorgan’s Precious Metals Trading Desk A Criminal Enterprise (ZH)

Who would have thought that JPMorgan’s precious metals trading desk is the functional equivalent of the mafia, and that its one-time leader, Blythe Masters, was the mafia’s don? Well, almost everyone who didn’t mind being designated a conspiracy theorist for years. And now comes vindication, because this has just been confirmed by the DOJ, which accused the PM trading desks at JPMorgan of being deeply involved in what prosecutors described as a “massive, multiyear scheme to manipulate the market for precious metals futures contracts and defraud market participants.” In an indictment unsealed on Monday morning, the DoJ charged Michael Nowak, a JPMorgan veteran and former head of its precious metals trading desk and Gregg Smith, another trader on JPM’s metals desk, in the probe. (Blythe Masters was somehow omitted).

“Based on the fact that it was conduct that was widespread on the desk, it was engaged in in thousands of episodes over an eight-year period — that it is precisely the kind of conduct that the RICO statute is meant to punish,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski told reporters. Here’s where it gets extra interesting: according to Bloomberg, the unusually aggressive language language embraced by prosecutors reminds legal experts of indictments utilizing the RICO Act – a law allowing prosecutors to take down ‘criminal enterprises’ like the mafia by charging all members of the organization for any crimes committed by an individual on behalf of the organization.


Prosecutors charged the head of JP Morgan’s global metals trading operation and two other traders with “conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise involved in interstate or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity” – language that is typically used to describe a RICO charge. This hints at the possibility of a deeper prosecution for JP Morgan. Already, 12 people have been charged in the precious metals market-rigging conspiracy. “We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead, whether it’s across desks here or at any other bank or upwards into the financial institution,” Benczkowski said.

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Blunder? It got everyone talking about impeachment again. Maybe that was the whole idea.

New York Times’ Botched Kavanaugh Story Latest In Series Of Blunders (CNN)

The New York Times was reeling on Monday after its Opinion section fumbled a high-profile story about an allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, drawing widespread criticism and condemnation of the newspaper. It was the latest in a series of high-profile blunders that has caused embarrassment to James Bennet since he was appointed in 2016 as the editor overseeing The Times’ Opinion section. Bennet’s tenure has been marked with several mishaps that have generated controversy, drawn criticism, and spurred at least one lawsuit.

[..] The Times’ Sunday Review, which falls under Opinion, published an essay based on a forthcoming book written by two Times reporters, detailing a previously unreported allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which he denied. The allegation in the book hinged on the recollection of a Yale classmate who The Times reported contacted the FBI and lawmakers during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. The Yale classmate, who is now a prominent lawyer, has declined to comment publicly, according to The Times But the book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” included a key detail that the essay published by the Times was lacking: The woman at the center of it, who’d been a student at the time of the incident, declined to be interviewed.


Moreover, her friends said she did not recall the incident. In addition to that omission of vital information, The Times’ Opinion desk also came under fire over a tweet it had published promoting the story. The tweet said that “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” By Sunday night, The Times had not only apologized for the “offensive” tweet, but also appended to the essay an editor’s note addressing the glaring omission in its original story. “The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident,” the editor’s note read, in part. “That information has been added to the article.”

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Did they find the trick?

New York Prosecutors Subpoena Eight Years Of Trump Tax Returns (G.)

Donald Trump faces a new battle over the release of his tax returns after New York prosecutors issued a subpoena for them. Trump is the first US president in nearly 40 years not to release his tax information, despite having promised to do so during his 2016 election campaign. He has resisted pressure from Democrats and watchdogs demanding greater transparency. But on Monday, the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, investigating hush money payments to the pornographic actor Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election, subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, according to media reports. Mazars USA, which prepares Trump’s tax returns, said in a statement that it would “fully comply with its legal obligations”.


Democrats welcomed the move. The Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a candidate for president, tweeted in response: “One way or another, we will get Donald Trump’s tax returns.” Another 2020 candidate, Julián Castro, the former housing secretary under Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter: “The president is not above the law. The American people deserve to know if he deceived them in hopes of winning an election. He must comply with this subpoena.” A federal investigation into the hush money payments led to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, pleading guilty to campaign finance violations which, along with tax fraud and making false statements to Congress, resulted in three-year prison sentence.

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“..rejected the women’s bid to void the non-prosecution agreement..” Does this mean Ghislaine Maxwell is fully off the hook?

Epstein Accusers Cannot Recoup Damages Over Lenient Plea Deal – US Judge (R.)

A group of women who said Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them are not entitled to money damages from the United States even though federal prosecutors kept them in the dark about the financier’s lenient non-prosecution agreement more than a decade ago, a Florida judge ruled on Monday. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach also rejected the women’s bid to void the non-prosecution agreement, which had barred prosecutions of Epstein and some alleged accomplices, saying Epstein’s death last month made the issue moot. Marra also denied a request for attorneys’ fees. Brad Edwards, a lawyer for the accusers, said they may appeal.


Marra ruled seven months after finding that prosecutors had violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not telling Epstein’s accusers they had agreed not to pursue serious charges against the financier, in exchange for Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea to Florida state prostitution charges. Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in jail, but allowed to leave regularly to go to his office. The non-prosecution agreement was negotiated by the office of then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, who resigned in July as U.S. labor secretary as Epstein’s agreement drew fresh scrutiny.

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Magnitsky is a fairy tale promoted by Bill Browder. He fooled a lot of people.

The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded (Murray)

The conscientious judges of the European Court of Human Rights published a judgement a fortnight ago which utterly exploded the version of events promulgated by Western governments and media in the case of the late Mr Magnitskiy. Yet I can find no truthful report of the judgement in the mainstream media at all. The myth is that Magnitskiy was an honest rights campaigner and accountant who discovered corruption by Russian officials and threatened to expose it, and was consequently imprisoned on false charges and then tortured and killed. A campaign over his death was led by his former business partner, hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who wanted massive compensation for Russian assets allegedly swindled from their venture.


The campaign led to the passing of the Magnitskiy Act in the United States, providing powers for sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses, and also led to matching sanctions being developed by the EU. However the European Court of Human Rights has found, in judging a case brought against Russia by the Magnitskiy family, that the very essence of this story is untrue. They find that there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed engaged in tax fraud, in conspiracy with Browder, and he was rightfully charged. The ECHR also found there was credible evidence that Magnitskiy was indeed a flight risk so he was rightfully detained. And most crucially of all, they find that there was credible evidence of tax fraud by Magnitskiy and action by the authorities “years” before he started to make counter-accusations of corruption against officials investigating his case.

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“..Margrethe Vestager pointed to a 0.005% tax rate paid by Apple’s main Irish unit in 2014..”

Apple Takes Fight Against €13 Billion EU Tax Order To Court (R.)

Apple will launch a legal challenge on Tuesday to a European Commission order to pay 13 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in Irish back taxes in a landmark case in the EU’s crackdown on tax avoidance by multinational companies. The iPhone maker is expected to send a six-man delegation headed by Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri to the two-day court hearing at the Luxembourg-based General Court, the EU’s second highest court. In August 2016, the Commission said tax rulings by Ireland in 1991 and in 2007 had artificially reduced Apple’s tax burden for over two decades, effectively making it illegal state aid.


European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager pointed to a 0.005% tax rate paid by Apple’s main Irish unit in 2014 as an example of the unusually low payments by the company. Apple is expected to argue that it did nothing wrong as it had followed Irish and U.S. tax laws. It made similar arguments in a blog following an EU tax ruling a couple of years ago. It will tell the court that the bulk of its taxes are owed to the United States because the majority of the value in its products including design, engineering and development, is created there. Ireland, which has accused the Commission of exceeding its powers and interfering with the EU member’s national sovereignty over tax affairs, is also challenging the EU ruling.

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“..this makes necessary a high volume of oil swapping around the world…”

A View from the Brink (Kunstler)

President Trump is trumpeting America’s “energy independence,” meaning whatever happens over there won’t affect us. Well, none of that is true. We still import millions of barrels of oil a day, though much less from Saudi Arabia than before 2008. The shale oil “miracle” is hitting the skids these days. Shale oil production has gone flat, the rig-count is down, companies are going bankrupt, and financing for the debt-dependent operations is dwindling since the producers have demonstrated that they can’t make a profit at it. They’re trapped in the quandary of diminishing returns, frontloading production, while failing to overcome steep decline curves in wells that only produce for a couple of years.


It’s also the case that shale oil is ultra-light crude, containing little heavier distillates such as diesel and aviation fuel (basically kerosene). Alas, American refineries were all built before shale oil came along. They were designed to crack heavier oil and can’t handle the lighter shale. The “majors” don’t want to invest their remaining capital in new refineries, and the many smaller companies don’t have the ability. So, this makes necessary a high volume of oil swapping around the world. Without diesel and aviation fuel, US trucking and commercial aviation has a big problem, meaning the US economy has a big problem.

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“They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong.”

Edward Snowden Implores Macron To Grant French Asylum (ZH)

US whistleblower Edward Snowden has called on French President and former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron to grant him political asylum from the United States. Speaking with France’s Inter radio on Monday as part of a press junket to promote his new memoir, the former NSA contractor said “Protecting whistleblowers is not a hostile act,” adding “Welcoming someone like me is not an attack on the United States.” “I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide access to what’s called a public interest defense,” Snowden told CBS This Morning.


“Again, I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass. What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require. We don’t want people thrown in prison without the jury being able to decide that what they did was right or wrong. The government wants to have a different kind of trial. They want to use special procedures they want to be able to close the courtroom, they want the public not to be able to go, know what’s going on. And, essentially, the most important fact to the government and this is the thing we have a point of contention on, is that they do not want the jury to be able to consider the motivations. Why I did what I did. Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us or did it cause harm? They don’t want the jury to consider that at all. They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong. And I’m sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial,” Snowden told CBS.

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Never. Ending.

Aid Workers Warn Of Catastrophe In Greek Refugee Camps (G.)

Children being bitten by scorpions, rats and snakes; hundreds being forced to use a single shower; the stench of human excrement never far away; and food shortages becoming the norm. One by one, Sophie McCann lists the degradations of life for refugees detained on Lesbos, the Greek island on the frontline of a new surge of asylum seekers desperate to reach Europe. McCann, a British advocacy manager with Médecins Sans Frontières, like other aid workers, is now raising the alarm: at least 24,000 men, women and children trapped in vastly overcrowded Aegean island camps are being subjected to conditions so harrowing they bear all the hallmarks of humanitarian catastrophe. Four years after the greatest migration crisis in modern times, there are fears history is repeating itself.


“The level of human suffering is just indescribable,” says McCann, adding that incidents of self-harm, even among toddlers, have risen sharply. “I struggle to find the right words because none can convey the sheer misery and inhumanity of a situation that in Europe is frankly unbelievable.” The drama unfolding on Europe’s south-eastern periphery follows the abrupt rise in numbers making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey. With a brazenness unseen since the EU struck a controversial accord with Ankara to stem flows in 2016, smugglers are again landing boatloads of would-be asylum seekers on the beaches of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios. In July and August more than 13,000 people landed on Greek shores, more than half of all sea arrivals to the country in 2019.

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Who else did you think was doinng it?

Amazon Deforestation Is Driven By Criminal Networks (G.)

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a lucrative business largely driven by criminal networks that threaten and attack government officials, forest defenders and indigenous people who try to stop them, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. Rainforest Mafias concludes that Brazil’s failure to police these gangs threatens its abilities to meet its commitments under the Paris climate deal – such as eliminating illegal deforestation by 2030. It was published a week before the UN Climate Action Summit. Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister in the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, has argued that poverty drives degradation, and that development of the Amazon will help stop deforestation.


But the report’s author, Cesar Muñoz Acebes, argues that Amazon needs to be better policed. “As long as you have this level of violence, lawlessness and impunity for the crimes committed by these criminal groups it will be impossible for Brazil to rein in deforestation,” he said. “These criminal networks will attack anyone who stands in their way.” The report documents 28 killings in which it found evidence that “those responsible were engaged in illegal deforestation and saw their victims as obstacles”.

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Nothing is pristine anymore.

Attenborough Documentaries Mislead Us Into Thinking Wildlife Doing Fine (Ind.)

Nature documentaries could be “actively misleading audiences” by showing nature as something pristine that is not being damaged by humans, researchers warn. Scientists looked at the scripts from the four most recent David Attenborough-narrated BBC and Netflix nature series and said they did not show the extent to which nature is being threatened by human activity. “Nature is still mostly shown as pristine, and the presence or impacts of people on the natural world very seldom appear,” researchers wrote in the paper published in People and Nature. Scientists from the universities of Oxford, Newcastle, Kent and Bangor found the Netflix series Our Planet dedicated 15 per cent of the script to environmental threats and conservation. This far exceeded the BBC series Planet Earth II and Dynasties.


However, they said it still failed to visually show how threatened the natural world is. “One could argue that by using camera angles to avoid showing any sign of people, nature filmmakers are being disingenuous, and even actively misleading audiences,” said lead researcher Professor Julia Jones from Bangor University. “The viewer may be led to believe that things cannot be that bad for biodiversity as what they are seeing on the screen shows nature, for the most part, doing fine. “The inextricable link between threats to the natural world and the high consumption of western lifestyles would be more difficult to ignore if the presence, or even dominance, of commercial agriculture, mining and transport infrastructure were more visible in the landscapes, reducing the space for the awe-inspiring wild spectacles shown.”

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In 1935, Congressman Thomas O’Malley introduced a bill mandating that in case of war the Army draft the wealthiest men in the country and put them near the greatest posts of danger by order of income.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 302019
 


Marc Chagall The soldier drinks 1912

 

We Have A Russian Asset Sitting In The Oval Office (BI)
China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters (R.)
Hong Kong Police Ban Upcoming Rally Citing Public Order Concerns (HKFP)
Saturday Protest Canceled In Hong Kong After Sudden Arrest Of Key Activists (ZH)
Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Arrested In Crackdown On Protests (R.)
No Need Yet For Hong Kong To Use Emergency Powers: Senior Official (R.)
Hong Kong Emergency Powers ‘Would Be Used In A Measured Way’ – Adviser (SCMP)
I’m Going To Court To Stop Proroguing Parliament (Gina Miller)
BNP Paribas Plans Bid For Deutsche Bank’s Equity Derivatives (R.)
In Search of a Russiagate Scalp: The Entrapment of Maria Butina (Kiriakou)
Australia’s High Household Debt Could Complicate Rate Decisions – RBA (R.)
Australia Downgrades Outlook For Great Barrier Reef To ‘Very Poor’ (AFP)
The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs (Atl.)

 

 

The echo chamber continues unabated. It answers only to itself. James Comey even demands apologies after leaking internal FBI info to get Mueller started.

We Have A Russian Asset Sitting In The Oval Office (BI)

“It’s hard to see the bar anymore since it’s been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump’s behavior over the weekend was a new low.” That was the assessment an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence gave Insider of President Donald Trump’s performance at this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France. The agent requested anonymity because they feared that speaking publicly on the matter would jeopardize their job. Trump’s attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia’s military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table. Since being booted from the G8 after annexing Crimea, Russia’s done little to make up for its actions. In fact, by many accounts, it’s stepped up its aggression. In addition to continuing to encroach on Ukraine, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US election and was behind the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the UK. US officials also warn that as the 2020 election looms, the Russians are stepping up their cyberactivities against the US and have repeatedly tried to attack US power grids.

“What in God’s name made Trump think it would be a good idea to ask to bring Russia back to the table?” the FBI agent told Insider. “How does this serve US national-security interests?” Trump’s advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian “asset” who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals. A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn’t mince words when reacting to Trump’s performance at the G7 summit: “We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.”

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Lots of Hong Kong today. Let’s start here.

China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters (R.)

Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory. The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

Beijing’s rebuff of Lam’s proposal for how to resolve the crisis, detailed for the first time by Reuters, represents concrete evidence of the extent to which China is controlling the Hong Kong government’s response to the unrest. The Chinese central government has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned other nations against interfering in Hong Kong, reiterating that the situation there is an “internal affair.” Lam’s report on the tumult, made before an Aug. 7 meeting in Shenzhen about Hong Kong led by senior Chinese officials that examined the feasibility of the five demands of the protesters, analyzing how conceding to some of these might quiet things down, the individuals with direct knowledge said.

In addition to the withdrawal of the extradition bill, the other demands analyzed in the report were: an independent inquiry into the protests; fully democratic elections; dropping of the term “riot” in describing protests; and dropping charges against those arrested so far. The withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry were seen to be the most feasible politically, according to a senior government official in the Hong Kong administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the move was envisioned as helping pacify some of the more moderate protesters who have been angered by Lam’s silence.

[..] The extradition bill is one of the key issues that has helped drive the protests, which have drawn millions of people into the streets of Hong Kong. Lam has said the bill is “dead,” but has refused to say explicitly that it has been “withdrawn.” Beijing told Lam not to withdraw the bill, or to launch an inquiry into the tumult, including allegations of excessive police force, according to the senior government official. Another of the three individuals, who has close ties with senior officials in Hong Kong and also declined to be identified, confirmed the Hong Kong government had submitted the report. “They said no” to all five demands, said the source. “The situation is far more complicated than most people realize.”

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Question is: how many people will come out? Some rallies saw 1.5 million of the city’s 7.5 million on the streets.

Hong Kong Police Ban Upcoming Rally Citing Public Order Concerns (HKFP)

Hong Kong police have banned both a rally and a march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front planned for Saturday, according to the group’s convener Jimmy Sham. It marked the first time that an entire event organised by the pro-democracy coalition has been prohibited owing to concerns over public order. Sham said police had cited previous confrontations between protesters and police as the reason for the ban. The event was themed around reiterating the five core demands of anti-extradition law protesters on the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s decision to impose restrictive measures on Hong Kong elections. The original plan was to rally at Chater Garden at 2:30pm then march to the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan at 3pm.


Sham said the Front will appeal the decision after speaking with lawyers: “We did not see a very clear reason [to ban the protest] in the objection letter,” he said. “We will discuss ways for residents to exercise their right to protest in a safe and legal way,” he added. “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam has not allowed Hong Kong to return to calm, but she has used different means to make Hong Kong people even angrier.” The police previously banned the Front’s march on August 18, citing public security concerns, but approved a static rally at Victoria Park. However, protesters marched peacefully to Central nonetheless, without facing any police interference.

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China understands only fear, it would seem.

Saturday Protest Canceled In Hong Kong After Sudden Arrest Of Key Activists (ZH)

Summary: Saturday’s planned protest in Hong Kong has been canceled after the arrest of three of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest leaders on Friday; Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon notes that the arrests are being described on Chinese media as a crackdown on “the activists who create chaos in Hong Kong.”

Update (0105ET): Saturday’s planned protest marking the fifth anniversary of the 2014 event which sparked the Umbrella Movement has been canceled, according to The Guardian. Bonnie Leung from the Civil Human Rights Front said: “The appeal board has just rejected our appeal. Our first principle is always to protect all the participants and make sure that no one could bear legal consequences because of participating in the protest that we organised. However, because of the appeal board’s decision, we can see no way that we can keep this principle and also continue our march and protest. Therefore the civil human rights front has no option but to cancel the march tomorrow.”

The Civil Human Rights Front would like to sincerely apologise to the public and hope you can understand what we explained and the difficulty we are facing. At the same time, we understand that the right to march and the right to protest is a human right and is very important to Hong Kong people. The CHRF will continue to apply for marches and apply for rallies. “I think the police are using all kinds of excuses to arrest all kinds of people including us. They arrested Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow this morning so there is a real danger we could face the same consequences as well. We will try our best to preserve CHRF as a legal organiser. If we do otherwise, the police may use that as an excuse to give us even more trouble in the future,” she added.

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He’s like the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmen.

Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Arrested In Crackdown On Protests (R.)

Wong, the icon of pro-democracy demonstrations five years ago that foreshadowed the latest turbulence, is the highest-profile arrest since protests escalated in mid-June over fears Beijing was exerting greater control over the city. Two other prominent activists, Andy Chan and Agnes Chow, have also been detained. The bespectacled Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the student-led Umbrella Movement, has not been a prominent figure in current protests which have no identifiable leaders. He was released from jail in June after serving a five-week term for contempt of court. “He was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street,” Wong’s political party Demosisto, which advocates for greater democracy in Hong Kong, said on its official Twitter account.


“He has now been escorted to the police headquarters in Wan Chai,” it said. Demosisto’s lawyers were working on the case, it said. Police said Wong and Chow, both 22, were arrested on Friday on suspicion of “organizing unorganized assembly” and “knowingly participating in unauthorized assembly”. Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party that was banned last September, was arrested at Hong Kong’s international airport on Thursday on suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police” during a protest on July 13, police said. Police have refused permission for a pro-democracy march on Saturday and an appeal by organizers to allow the demonstration to proceed was turned down on Friday.

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If they don’t respond to the protesters’ demands, they will have no choice.

No Need Yet For Hong Kong To Use Emergency Powers: Senior Official (R.)

Hong Kong is a long way from having to declare emergency powers or to ask the Chinese military to intervene, a senior official with China’s parliament and pro-Beijing Hong Kong politician told Reuters, as months of protests show no sign of abating. Hong Kong has been engulfed in angry and sometimes violent protests against the government since mid-June, sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill and concerns that Beijing was trying to bring the territory under greater mainland control. Police fired water cannon and tear gas at anti-government demonstrators on Sunday, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned later that authorities would be forced to stamp down on the escalating violence.

Maria Tam, deputy director of the Chinese parliament’s Basic Law Committee, told Reuters in Beijing late on Thursday emergency legislation was not something for which Hong Kong’s government would have to ask Beijing’s permission. “The emergency legislation is something that is left behind by the colonial British government. It’s nothing to do with the Basic Law. It’s entirely in the power of the highly autonomous region,” Tam said, referring to the mini-constitution under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 return to China.

“At the moment there are still plenty of tools. We have different articles in the police force ordinance and articles in the public order ordinance which we can still invoke to control the situation. We haven’t got to the stage when we really have to engage in enacted laws by the chief executive with the executive council to, for example, enact anti-mask or interception of internet messages. We’re quite a distance from that,” she said. However, there may come a stage when Hong Kong has to do this, Tam said. “I think if its come to the stage when all the other ordinances I have mentioned have failed to work, then I suppose the chief executive may have to consider it,” she said.

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China needs Hong Kong as a trade center.

Hong Kong Emergency Powers ‘Would Be Used In A Measured Way’ – Adviser (SCMP)

The use of any emergency powers at the government’s disposal to end Hong Kong’s escalating protest crisis would have to come in a measured way rather than a blanket crackdown, to protect the city’s status as an international financial centre, a top adviser to the city’s embattled leader said on Wednesday. However, Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan said that while Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration had the option of using the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, the city was nowhere near requiring such a move, which would grant the power to seize property or shut down the internet.

Chan was speaking at the latest China Conference organised by the South China Morning Post, this time focusing on Beijing’s ambitious Greater Bay Area (GBA) plan in the context of Hong Kong’s advantages and challenges. The GBA national plan is to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine other Guangdong cities into a financial and technological powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley by 2035, with the two special administrative regions playing a leading role on the strength of the unique “one country, two systems” policy under which they are governed.

[..] he cautioned that speculative news reports were unnecessarily inciting fear, and suggested the government would not turn the city upside down overnight. “I know in some countries they decide to shut down the whole internet, that’s crazy, that would be so unhelpful for all the businesspeople in Hong Kong,” Chan said. “I think whatever decision we make, it has to be very measured, and equitable, and lawful.”

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One of many court cases. They appear to be too many in too many different courts for now. Focus!

I’m Going To Court To Stop Proroguing Parliament (Gina Miller)

My legal team and I have been in communication with Johnson’s legal advisers since early July. They repeatedly and comprehensively reassured me that prorogation was not an option for him, and that the whole issue was of no more than “academic” interest. I was therefore stunned by the announcement on Tuesday, not least because their last reply to us was on Monday evening. Lies are being told, professional rules broken, and a ruthless prime minister is subjecting our unwritten constitution to stresses that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

As a country we have more of a political constitution than a legal one, and as such it operates via conventions and precedents. I believe those conventions and precedents mean that prorogation is not to be used in the manner Johnson has announced, and disagree with the views of the eminent former supreme court justice Jonathan Sumption when he says this is not a matter for the courts. The effect of a prorogation of this length will be to prevent parliament from fulfilling its statutory duty to scrutinise any agreement between the UK and the EU. When you add to this the fact that the government must exercise its prerogative powers in good faith, I believe there is a legal principle at stake that qualifies for judicial review. I also think that Sumption has failed to take account of the evolutionary nature of the UK constitution, and that in these unprecedented constitutional times, the legal arguments involved can also be expected to be unprecedented.

The charge the Johnson government is making against me is that I am using the courts to subvert the will of the people. But a no-deal Brexit was never the will of the people, and at no point during the EU referendum campaign did the people authorise any government to abandon not just parliamentary democracy, but the laws of the land. Our laws are ultimately all that protect us from tyranny, and before them we are all equal – prime ministers and private citizens alike. Even against the desperate time constraints imposed upon us, I am hopeful that the courts will be able to check the omnipotent power Johnson wants for himself.

• Gina Miller is a businesswoman and transparency activist, and is taking legal action to prevent Boris Johnson proroguing parliament.

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For how many pennies on the dollar?

BNP Paribas Plans Bid For Deutsche Bank’s Equity Derivatives (R.)

French lender BNP Paribas plans to bid for Deutsche Bank’s equity derivatives book and is hopeful it can beat off rival bidders to secure a deal in the next few weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank is selling the portfolio as part of a restructuring that will see it exit equities trading and other unwanted businesses and shed 18,000 staff globally. CEO Christian Sewing is hoping the plan will turn around the bank, whose shares hit a record low this month. Deutsche Bank plans to auction its equity derivatives portfolio next month having received significant expressions of interest from banks, private equity firms and hedge funds, the sources told Reuters. It may sell the book in separate tranches rather than in its entirety, they said.

BNP is already close to taking control of Deutsche Bank’s prime brokerage business, which serves hedge fund clients. A preliminary deal was struck in July which is expected to be formalized early next month. Any equity derivatives deal would be separate from that transaction, the sources said. Reuters reported last month that Deutsche Bank’s derivatives exposure is tying up capital that could have generated income of 500 million euros a year. Reuters also reported the bank has set aside over 1 billion euros to cover the cost of offloading derivatives moved to its so-called “bad bank,” or capital restructuring unit to be wound down or sold.

The restructuring has seen the bank hive off 288 billion euros of assets into the bad bank. Equities, including equity derivatives, accounted for around 170 billion euros of those assets. Fixed-income assets, including long-dated interest rate and credit derivatives, accounted for 79 billion euros. The equity derivatives are short-dated and expected to attract a lot of interest from buyers, meaning Deutsche Bank may not have to take a discount to offload them. The bank’s longer-dated interest rate and credit derivatives are expected to be much harder to sell, as they require high levels of capital to be held against them, and could require deep writedowns [..]

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More Comey.

In Search of a Russiagate Scalp: The Entrapment of Maria Butina (Kiriakou)

Forgive me if this is burying the lede, but I also want to talk about how Maria Butina got into this predicament in the first place. We know that she was very active in the gun rights movement in both Russia and the U.S. and that she sought to improve contact between gun groups in both countries. We also know that she met and began dating Patrick Byrne, the founder and CEO of Overstock.com. We learned recently, thanks to Byrne himself, that he was a longtime FBI source and that the FBI directed him to begin dating Butina. He did so. And he reported back to the FBI that she was simply a graduate student. That wasn’t good enough for the FBI, though and, according to Byrne, he was instructed to go back to Butina, to begin a sexual relationship with her, and to again report back to the FBI. He did that, too.

In the end, the Justice Department accused her publicly of “trading sexual favors” for access, an accusation that prosecutors had to withdraw. It was patently untrue. But that didn’t stop them from accusing her in the press of being a Russian spy, which she was not. And it didn’t stop the judge from giving her three times the maximum sentence called for by the sentencing guidelines. I will ask your forgiveness again if I sound like a broken record. But this is how the FBI makes their cases. They entrap people. I’ve written extensively about how the FBI brazenly carried out a sting operation against me (unsuccessfully) that could have resulted in an espionage conviction and as much as 30 years in prison. They did the same thing to Butina.

Butina wasn’t committing a crime, so they just made something up, leaked it to the press, allowed it to influence the public and the judge, and hoped she would cave and take a plea. She did. Byrne went on CNN last week to say that two of the three people who instructed him to do all of this were James Comey, Peter Strzok, and another as-yet-unnamed individual. The operation was hatched at the top. The whole story sickens me.

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EU countries with high household debt are out of luck. They don’t make their own decisions.

Australia’s High Household Debt Could Complicate Rate Decisions – RBA (R.)

High household debt in Australia could make the economy less resilient to shocks and complicate future interest rate decisions, the country’s central bank said on Friday. A long boom in Australia’s housing market that ended in 2017 had sent the household debt to income ratio to all-time highs, prompting regulators to tighten bank lending standards which in-turn led to home prices crumbling. The recent property downturn together with miserly wage growth have squeezed household balance sheets and hurt consumer spending, a major reason why the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut interest rates twice since June to a record low of 1%.


“Movements in asset values and leverage may be more important for economic developments than in the past given the already high levels of debt on household balance sheets,” the RBA said in its 2019/20 corporate plan. The household debt to income ratio is above 190%, among the highest in the developed world. “Especially in the context of weak growth in household income, high debt levels could complicate future monetary policy decisions by making the economy less resilient to shocks,” it added.

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First you destroy, then you downgrade.

Australia Downgrades Outlook For Great Barrier Reef To ‘Very Poor’ (AFP)

The long-term outlook for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was downgraded to “very poor” for the first time Friday by the official agency charged with managing the world heritage site. In its latest five-yearly report on the health of the world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority singled out rising sea temperatures due to climate change as the biggest threat to the giant organism. “The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition,” the government agency said. It said “strong and effective management actions are urgent at global, regional and local scales” to rescue the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


“The Reef is core to Australia’s identity and improving its outlook is critical,” it said, adding that in addition to countering climate change, further action was needed to halt the run-off of agricultural pollutants into reef areas. “The window of opportunity to improve the reef’s long-term future is now,” it said. The conservative Australian government has faced criticism from environmentalists for favouring an expansion of its massive coal mining and export industry over action to curb climate change. Friday’s reef report coincided with the release of new government data showing that Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change continued a four-year rising trend during the first half of 2019.

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Science counts.

The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs (Atl.)

As tongues of flame lapped the planet’s largest tract of rain forest over the past few weeks, it has rightfully inspired the world’s horror. The entire Amazon could be nearing the edge of a desiccating feedback loop, one that could end in catastrophic collapse. This collapse would threaten millions of species, from every branch of the tree of life, each of them—its idiosyncratic splendor, its subjective animal perception of the world—irretrievable once it’s gone. This arson has been tacitly encouraged by a Brazilian administration that is determined to develop the rain forest, over the objections of its indigenous inhabitants and the world at large. Losing the Amazon, beyond representing a planetary historic tragedy beyond measure, would also make meeting the ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement all but impossible.

World leaders need to marshal all their political and diplomatic might to save it. The Amazon is a vast, ineffable, vital, living wonder. It does not, however, supply the planet with 20 percent of its oxygen. As the biochemist Nick Lane wrote in his 2003 book Oxygen, “Even the most foolhardy destruction of world forests could hardly dint our oxygen supply, though in other respects such short-sighted idiocy is an unspeakable tragedy.” The Amazon produces about 6 percent of the oxygen currently being made by photosynthetic organisms alive on the planet today. But surprisingly, this is not where most of our oxygen comes from.

In fact, from a broader Earth-system perspective, in which the biosphere not only creates but also consumes free oxygen, the Amazon’s contribution to our planet’s unusual abundance of the stuff is more or less zero. This is not a pedantic detail. Geology provides a strange picture of how the world works that helps illuminate just how bizarre and unprecedented the ongoing human experiment on the planet really is. Contrary to almost every popular account, Earth maintains an unusual surfeit of free oxygen—an incredibly reactive gas that does not want to be in the atmosphere—largely due not to living, breathing trees, but to the existence, underground, of fossil fuels.

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Aug 272019
 


Pablo Picasso Female bust (Dora Maar) 1938

 

Brexit: Shutting Down Parliament ‘Gravest Abuse Of Power In Living Memory’ (G.)
Iran’s Rouhani Says No Talks With US Until Sanctions Lifted (R.)
Brazil To Reject $20m Pledged By G7 To Fight Amazon Fires (G.)
The Geo-Politics of Looming Recession (Crooke)
Bernie Sanders Media Plan Decrying Corporate Control Of The Press (Hill)
German Economy Contracted On Weaker Exports In Q2 (R.)
Lifting Of Greek Capital Controls Signals Return To Normalcy (K.)
Johnson & Johnson Gets $572mn Slap On Wrist For Opioid Crisis In Oklahoma (RT)
How Did the 737 Max Get Approved in the First Place? (Spiegel)
Pluto Is A Planet, NASA Chief Says (Ind.)

 

 

Don’t know why they’re not in court already.

Brexit: Shutting Down Parliament ‘Gravest Abuse Of Power In Living Memory’ (G.)

Boris Johnson would be committing the “gravest abuse of power and attack on UK constitutional principle in living memory” if he shuts down parliament to help force through a no-deal Brexit, according to legal advice obtained by Labour. In a six-page document prepared for Jeremy Corbyn, the shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, laid out how any such move by the prime minister would be open to immediate legal challenge in the courts. She said it could be subject to judicial review and the courts “might well even grant interim injunctive relief in order to allow both houses of parliament to continue to sit and discharge their primary and sovereign constitutional role in this current moment of national crisis”.

The advice from Chakrabarti, a barrister, was commissioned by Labour after leaked emails showed No 10 had sought the counsel of Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, on whether a five-week prorogation from 9 September might be possible to avoid a confidence vote and help enable a no-deal Brexit. The initial legal guidance for No 10 was that shutting parliament may be possible, unless action being taken in the courts by anti-Brexit campaigners succeeds in the meantime. Johnson was pressed repeatedly on Monday on what he would do if MPs tried to thwart his Brexit policy – at a press conference at the close of the G7 summit in Biarritz. He declined to rule out temporarily shutting down parliament.

“I think that this [is] really a matter for parliamentarians to get right ourselves,” he said. “We asked the people to vote on whether they wanted to stay in or leave the EU; they voted to leave by a big majority. [..] Parliament could be shut from 9 September until 14 October – two weeks before Johnson has promised to implement Brexit with or without a deal – under the plan being considered by No 10. The official reason would be a break before a Queen’s speech setting out Johnson’s legislative programme, but it would have the effect of stopping MPs legislating against a no-deal Brexit or ousting the prime minister.

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“Tehran has never wanted nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s Rouhani Says No Talks With US Until Sanctions Lifted (R.)

Iran will not talk to the United States until all sanctions imposed on Tehran are lifted, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump said he would meet his Iranian counterpart to try to end a nuclear standoff. Trump said on Monday he would meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and that talks were underway to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran’s economy afloat. Rouhani said Iran was always ready to hold talks. “But first the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.”


Speaking at a G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, Trump ruled out lifting economic sanctions to compensate for losses suffered by Iran. European parties to the deal have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy. Iran has scaled back its commitments under the pact in retaliation to U.S. sanctions. “We will continue to scale back our commitments under the 2015 deal if our interests are not guaranteed,” said Rouhani in a speech broadcast live. “Tehran has never wanted nuclear weapons.”

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Money pledged by the west to fight Amazon fires: $20 million.
Money pledged by billionaires to rebuild Notre-Dame: $835 million.

Brazil To Reject $20m Pledged By G7 To Fight Amazon Fires (G.)

Brazil will reject the offer from G7 countries of $20m to help fight fires in the Amazon, government sources have said, with a senior official telling French president Emmanuel Macron to take care of “his home and his colonies.” “We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, chief of staff to President Jair Bolsonaro, told the G1 news website. Lorenzoni was referring to a US$20m pledge made at the G7 summit in France to fight the rainforest blaze, which environmental campaigners dismissed as “chump change” in the efforts to fight the fires that have ravaged the Amazon. “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?” he continued, referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame cathedral.


AFP later confirmed the comments. Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles had earlier told reporters they had welcomed the G7 funding to fight the fires that have swept across 950,000 hectares (2.3m acres) and prompted the deployment of the army. But after a meeting between Bolsonaro and his ministers, the Brazilian government changed course. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said. The announcement of the $20m assistance package was the most concrete outcome of the three-day summit of major industrialised democracies in Biarritz and aimed to give money to Amazonian nations such as Brazil and Bolivia, primarily for more firefighting planes.

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History lessons always useful. But beware of causation and correlation.

The Geo-Politics of Looming Recession (Crooke)

[..] the ‘pattern’ starts with Woodrow Wilson’s observation in 1916, that “Britain has the earth, and Germany wants it”. Well, actually it was also about British élite fear of rivals (i.e. Germany arising), and the fear of Britain’s élites of appearing weak. Today, it is about the American élite fearing similarly, about China, and fearing a putative Eurasian ‘empire’. The old European empires effectively ‘died’ in 1916, Tooze states: As WWI entered its third year, the balance of power was visibly tilting from Europe to America. The belligerents simply could no longer sustain the costs of offensive war. The Western allies, and especially Britain, outfitted their forces by placing larger and larger war orders with the United States.

By the end of 1916, American investors had wagered two billion dollars on an Entente victory (equivalent to $560 billion in today’s money). It was also the year in which US output overtook that of the entire British Empire. The other side to the coin was that staggering quantity of Allied purchases called forth something like a war mobilization in the United States. American factories switched from civilian to military production. And the same occurred again in 1940-41. Huge profits resulted. Oligarchies were founded; and America’s lasting interest in its outsize military-security complex was founded. Wilson was the first American statesman to perceive that the United States had grown, in Tooze’s words, into “a power unlike any other.

It had emerged, quite suddenly, as a novel kind of ‘super-state,’ exercising a veto over the financial and security concerns of the other major states of the world.” Of course, after the war – there was the debt. A lot of it. France “was deeply in debt, owing billions to the United States and billions more to Britain. France had been a lender during the conflict too, but most of its credits had been extended to Russia, which repudiated all its foreign debts after the Revolution of 1917. The French solution was to exact reparations from Germany”. “Britain was willing to relax its demands on France. But it owed the United States even more than France did. Unless it collected from France—and from Italy and all the other smaller combatants as well—it could not hope to pay its American debts.”

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Can the press in the US still be saved?

Bernie Sanders Media Plan Decrying Corporate Control Of The Press (Hill)

Presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday released a plan to protect independent news outlets and journalists from the effects of widespread media consolidation. Sanders, decrying the mega-mergers he says have led to a handful of large corporations acting as gatekeepers for the information most Americans receive, calls for concrete steps “to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists can do the critical jobs that they love” in an editorial for the Columbia Journalism Review. “Today, after decades of consolidation and deregulation, just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download, Sanders writes.


“Given that reality, we should not want even more of the free press to be put under the control of a handful of corporations and ‘benevolent’ billionaires who can use their media empires to punish their critics and shield themselves from scrutiny.” Sanders proposes policies to better protect both local and national independent journalism. The plan includes undoing moves by the Trump administration that have made corporate media mergers easier to complete and an immediate freeze on major media mergers until their effects on the free press can be studied. “In the spirit of existing federal laws, we will start requiring major media corporations to disclose whether or not their corporate transactions and merger proposals will involve significant journalism layoffs,” Sanders writes.

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Will Germany start applying stimulus, even at the risk of rising debt?

German Economy Contracted On Weaker Exports In Q2 (R.)

Germany’s economy contracted on weaker exports in the second quarter, detailed data showed on Tuesday, highlighting the Achilles heel of Europe’s largest economy due to escalating trade disputes and waning foreign demand. The Federal Statistics Office confirmed a preliminary gross domestic product contraction of 0.1% quarter-on-quarter from April to June after a 0.4% expansion in the first three months of the year. The outlook for the German economy is uncertain as sentiment indicators point to a bumpy road ahead and most economists expect another quarter of contraction which would be a technical recession. Exports fell more strongly than imports in the second quarter which meant that net trade deducted 0.5 percentage points from overall economic expansion.


Construction investment was also a drag, falling 1.0% on the quarter. Household spending, state expenditure and private-sector investment in machinery and equipment all increased, but they were not strong enough to counter the massive drag of net trade. “The details of the growth components show that the contraction was almost exclusively driven by weak exports,” Carsten Brzeski from ING said, adding that the GDP figures showed that not everything was bad. “Some relief from trade could easily lead to a rebound toward the end of the year. Fiscal stimulus could boost confidence and improve structural growth in the years ahead.” Senior government officials have hinted that Berlin is mulling more fiscal stimulus linked to a comprehensive package of climate protection measures. Some suggested the government could even take on new debt to finance those steps.

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The new government wants all the applause, but given they’ve been in power mere weeks, that doesn’t fly.

More worrying is that police have started evicting migrants and refugees from Exarchia, known as an anarchist neighborhood, where 1000s are living in squats. Where will they go now?

Tsipras was a big disappointment, but Greece in no country for a right wing government right now. It can only lead to violence.

Lifting Of Greek Capital Controls Signals Return To Normalcy (K.)

In what is seen as a move symbolizing Greece’s return to normalcy, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Monday announced the full lifting of capital controls, earlier than the government had initially envisaged. “Capital controls are as of today a thing of the past,” Mitsotakis declared in Parliament, adding that the restrictions had been imposed in June 2015 as a result of SYRIZA-led government policies that resulted in the flight of millions of euros from bank deposits. Stressing that “a four-year cycle of insecurity” has come to an end, he said a “new cycle of optimism has begun for the economy and the banking system” and added that since his center-right New Democracy party was elected in July “faith has been restored in the Greek economy and banking system.”

For his part, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras lamented the capital controls as “a destabilizing factor, an instability factor for the banking system.” He added that the complete abolition of restrictions will be effective as of September 1. The prime minister’s announcement came after officials of the Finance Ministry met with members of the country’s banks and the Capital Markets Commission earlier in the day. Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras had recommended in July that the final restrictions be lifted after observing a continuing increase in bank deposits. One of the key aims of the abolition of all restrictions is Greece’s upgrading by credit agencies, a move that will bolster investor interest.

Meanwhile, hours after the premier’s announcement, former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos accused the government of piggybacking on his administration’s efforts to lift restrictions. “The only reason that capital controls had not been fully lifted was the banks’ reluctance due to political uncertainty [caused by] the elections. In any case, this is a positive step, which was fully prepared by SYRIZA,” Tsakalotos said. He said that the New Democracy government was benefiting from the SYRIZA administration’s economic legacy, adding that “we are still far from seeing a clear [ND] initiative.” “Of course, in the case of New Democracy, not having its own economic policy is probably better than having one,” he added.

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The state demanded $17 billion.

Johnson & Johnson Gets $572mn Slap On Wrist For Opioid Crisis In Oklahoma (RT)

Johnson & Johnson caused Oklahoma’s opioid crisis by pushing pain pills on the state and lying about their safety, a judge has declared in a landmark ruling, imposing a penalty on the pharma giant that amounts to pocket change. The company “caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome, in Oklahoma,” Judge Thad Balkman of Cleveland County District Court ruled on Monday, declaring the “misleading marketing and promotion” of its products had “compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.”

Johnson & Johnson’s drugs division, Janssen, supplied 60 percent of the opiate ingredients used to manufacture the deadly painkillers and lied about the safety and effectiveness of its products, state prosecutors charged. Using misleading promotional tactics to convince doctors to overlook the addiction risk, Janssen pushed opioids – including its own drugs, Duragesic and Nucynta – on medical professionals by colluding with pain patient advocacy organizations to enshrine pain as the “fifth vital sign” and opioids as the obvious remedy. The Johnson & Johnson suit is the first public-nuisance lawsuit against a drug company to go to trial, and Oklahoma’s victory means that the case will likely pave the way for future legal action against drug companies.

The state had sought $17 billion from Johnson & Johnson to remediate the crisis – a process Oklahoma officials claimed would end up costing between $12.7 and $17.5 billion. It was awarded just $572 million, a sum Balkman said was the maximum allowed under the public nuisance law and which pales in comparison to the company’s annual revenues, which totaled $82 billion last year. However, he left the door open to “additional programs and funding” that could be required “over an extended period of time.”

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Germany’s Der Spiegel sent entire teams of reporters all over the globe for comprehensive coverage. 3 long articles.

How Did the 737 Max Get Approved in the First Place? (Spiegel)

As has always been the case with large scandals, it is difficult to pinpoint the beginning. But there are plenty of reasons for identifying the year 2008 as the start of the 737 Max crisis, when Lufthansa made an announcement at the Farnborough Airshow that it planned to buy 30 Bombardier CS100s for its subsidiary Swiss. The jets, which are a bit smaller than the A320 and the Boeing 737, were a completely new model and, according to a former senior Lufthansa executive, that model was “the best on the market at the time.” The deal came as a provocation to the management of Airbus and Boeing, spoiled as they had been by success, and they reacted. But Airbus reacted more quickly and rapidly developed the A320neo.

The Dec. 1, 2010 announcement by the Europeans that the entire A320 family would be re-engineered and outfitted with new, unusually fuel-efficient and quiet engines must have hit Boeing’s Chicago headquarters like a bolt of lightning. Airbus promised to sink kerosene consumption by an entire 15 percent. And the year after the announcement, Airbus promptly sold more than 1,000 A320neo planes — with many longtime Boeing customers among the purchasers. At the time, Boeing had no fully developed plan for a new model or an acceptable new version of the 737. Most importantly, the company was not in a position to be able to install the new generation of jet engines on its planes. So, the industry was quite surprised when Boeing, just nine months later, appeared to catch up to Airbus.

In late August 2011, the construction of the 737 Max was announced, and the company even promised that the plane could be operated 7 percent more cheaply than the A320neo. It seems safe to assume that it was a difficult period for Boeing engineers. Even the smaller CFM56 turbines could only be crammed under the wings of the old 737 by resorting to a handful of tricks. But the CFM LEAP, which Airbus intended to use, has an air intake that is almost two meters in diameter — and the Boeing engineers had to fit them onto a plane where they didn’t fit at all. Once again, they tried to compress the engine shape. And once again, they commissioned a customized, smaller version of the engine. They tried pretty much everything to create more space under the plane, even lengthening the landing gear by 20 centimeters. The most important change, though, was installing the turbines a bit higher on the wings and quite a bit further forward.

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Some people have weird hobbies.

Pluto Is A Planet, NASA Chief Says (Ind.)

Pluto’s status as a planet has once again been called into question after the head of Nasa said he believed the celestial body to be a planet. Speaking at the FIRST Robotics event in Oklahoma, Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine went against convention by placing himself firmly on one side of the Pluto debate. “Just so you know, in my view Pluto is a planet,” he said. “You can write that the Nasa administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learned it and I’m committed to it.” Pluto was first declared a planet in 1930 after it was discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.


At the time it was believed to be the ninth planet from the Sun, existing on the outer edges of the solar system in the Kuiper belt. Its status as a planet was called into question 62 years later after other similarly-sized objects were discovered in the same region of space. In 2005, astronomers discovered a dwarf planet called Eris that was 27 per cent larger than Pluto. A year later, the International Astronomical Union laid out its official definition for what constituted a planet. Pluto was not included. Since then it has been classified as a dwarf planet, though the icy object has attracted a dedicated following of people who claim Pluto should be considered a planet.

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Aug 252019
 


Man Ray Departure of summer 1914

 

Boris Johnson Seeks Legal Advice On 5-Week Parliament Closure Pre-Brexit (O.)
Trump Says Boris Johnson Is ‘Right Man’ To Deliver Brexit (G.)
Boris Johnson Warns Trump US Must Compromise To Get UK Trade Deal (BBC)
Boris Johnson: UK Won’t Owe EU £39 Billion Under No Deal (Sky)
Boris Johnson: Macron Uses Amazon Fires To Halt Free Trade Negotiations (Ind.)
Tusk Says ‘Hard To Imagine’ EU-Mercosur Trade Deal While Amazon Burns (AFP)
Brazilian Farmers Believe They Have the Right to Burn the Amazon (RS)
Hundreds Of New Fires In Brazil As Amazon Outrage Grows (AFP)
Brazil Fines For Environment Crimes Plummet (BBC)
DNC Bans 2020 Candidates From Participating In Climate Change Debate (CNN)
Gabbard Campaign Voices Concerns Over DNC Debate-Qualifying Criteria (RT)

 

 

But if you close Parliament right ahead of the biggest political decision in ages, what reason could there be to re-open it again?

Boris Johnson Seeks Legal Advice On 5-Week Parliament Closure Pre-Brexit (O.)

Boris Johnson has asked the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, whether parliament can be shut down for five weeks from 9 September in what appears to be a concerted plan to stop MPs forcing a further extension to Brexit, according to leaked government correspondence. An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in No 10 – written within the last 10 days and seen by the Observer – makes clear that the prime minister has recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, known as prorogation. The initial legal guidance given in the email is that shutting parliament may well be possible, unless action being taken in the courts to block such a move by anti-Brexit campaigners succeeds in the meantime.


On Saturday Labour and pro-Remain Tory MPs reacted furiously, saying that the closure of parliament, as a method for stopping MPs preventing a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit, would be an affront to democracy and deeply irresponsible, particularly given the government’s own acceptance of the economic turmoil no-deal could cause. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Any plan to suspend parliament at this stage would be outrageous. MPs must take the earliest opportunity to thwart this plan and to stop a no-deal Brexit.” The prominent Tory remainer and former attorney general Dominic Grieve added: “This memo, if correct, shows Boris Johnson’s contempt for the House of Commons. It may be possible to circumvent the clear intention of the House of Commons in this way but it shows total bad faith. Excluding the house from a national crisis that threatens the future of our country is entirely wrong.”

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They don’t agree as much as they say here.

Trump Says Boris Johnson Is ‘Right Man’ To Deliver Brexit (G.)

Donald Trump has described Boris Johnson as “the right man” to deliver Brexit, as the pair met for a breakfast meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz. Asked what his advice was for Brexit, the US president said: “He [Johnson] needs no advice, he is the right man for the job.” Johnson said Trump was “on message there”. Trump also talked up the prospects for a US-UK trade agreement after Brexit, saying it would be a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had”. The pair were speaking to reporters after a working breakfast, accompanied by advisers and officials. Johnson confirmed he had reiterated his opposition to the NHS being opened up to US firms as part of any trade deal – and to the UK lowering animal welfare standards to US levels to get a deal.


“Not only have I made clear of that, the president has made that very, very clear. There is complete unanimity on that point,” he said. He suggested there would be “tough talks ahead”. Before their meeting, Johnson had said he would raise with Trump the issue of the increasingly bitter trade spat between the US and China; and press him to throw open the US market to British goods after Brexit. When Trump was asked by reporters if allies were pressuring him to give up his trade war with China he said: “Not at all.” He said his predecessors had allowed Beijing “to get away with taking hundreds of billions of dollars out every year, putting it into China”. Asked if he had second thoughts on escalating the dispute he said: “Sure … why not.” But then he added: “I have second thoughts about everything.”


Boris and Donald in Biarritz

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Not much there to gain.

Boris Johnson Warns Trump US Must Compromise To Get UK Trade Deal (BBC)

The US must lift restrictions on UK businesses if it wants a trade deal with the UK, Boris Johnson has said. Travelling to the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, the PM said there were “very considerable barriers in the US to British businesses”. Mr Johnson said he had already spoken to President Donald Trump about his concerns, adding he would do so again when they meet on Sunday morning. The prime minister will also hold talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk. “There are massive opportunities for UK companies to open up, to prise open the American market,” Mr Johnson said.


“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach, because currently there are too many restrictions.” Offering an example of a restriction, Mr Johnson said: “Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of food and drug administration restriction.” He continued: “UK bell peppers cannot get into the US market at all. “Wine shipments are heavily restricted. If you want to export wine made in England to the US you have to go through a US distributor. “There is a tax on British micro-breweries in the US that doesn’t apply to US micro-breweries in the UK.”

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“When Boris says the EU isn’t going to get the £30Bn the UK owes them he’s talking about:
Pensions for British civil servants
Subsidies for British farms
Funds for British regional development

Most of that “EU money” is spent in the UK.”

Boris Johnson: UK Won’t Owe EU £39 Billion Under No Deal (Sky)

Boris Johnson is expected to tell EU boss Donald Tusk that Britain will only pay a quarter of its so-called Brexit divorce bill if the country leaves without a deal on 31 October. The prime minister is due to meet the European Council president at the G7 summit in France later today. It is understood he will tell Mr Tusk that under no deal, the UK would only owe about £9bn of the £39bn liability agreed by former prime minister Theresa May. The approach is likely to stoke tension with other EU leaders at the meeting in Biarritz. In June, a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the G7 summit, said refusing to pay was the “equivalent to a sovereign debt default”.


Others argue the UK is legally bound to pay the £39bn sum and warn that reneging on the obligation will prevent a future trade deal being struck and could even lead to the EU pursuing the funds through the courts. It follows a war of words between Mr Johnson and Mr Tusk on Saturday over who would be to blame if the UK left the EU without an agreement. The government has also ramped up its preparations for Brexit, announcing that an online “60-second checker” will be brought in so businesses and the public can “work out what, if anything, they need to do before 31 October”. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the government would shortly begin an “engagement campaign to get the country and business ready for Brexit”.

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Someone will veto it.

Boris Johnson: Macron Uses Amazon Fires To Halt Free Trade Negotiations (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has issued a slapdown to Emmanuel Macron over the French president’s threat to veto a EU trade deal with South American states including Brazil, claiming that concern over the Amazon fires was being used as an “excuse” to interfere with free trade. Mr Macron has warned that he will block the EU-Mercosur deal – on the brink of completion after 20 years of talks – unless Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro shows he is taking seriously his duty to protect his country’s environment as part of the global fight against climate change. Arriving at the G7 summit hosted by Mr Macron in the French coastal resort town of Biarritz, Mr Johnson restated his horror at the thousands of wildfires currently wreaking devastation across swathes of the Brazilian Amazon.


But he stopped well short of supporting the president’s proposal, also backed by Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar, to withhold final EU approval for the free trade agreement until Mr Bolsonaro meets environmental commitments. The Mercosur deal, also covering Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, is opposed by many in France because it would expose the country’s farmers to competition from large quantities of cheap beef from South America. Mr Johnson said that he would do “everything we possibly can” to help Brazil tackle the “tragedy” of rainforest destruction But asked whether he would join other leaders in refusing to ratify the Mercosur deal, he said: “People will take any excuse at all to interfere with free trade and to frustrate trade deals, and I don’t want to see that.

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Merkel wants that deal.

Tusk Says ‘Hard To Imagine’ EU-Mercosur Trade Deal While Amazon Burns (AFP)

EU Council president Donald Tusk said it was hard to imagine the bloc ratifying its trade pact with South America’s Mercosur grouping as long as Brazil fails to curb the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest. The European Union “stands by the EU-Mercosur agreement”, Tusk told reporters at a G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France on Saturday. “It is hard to imagine a harmonious process of ratification by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government allows for the destruction of the green lungs of planet earth,” he said. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the G7 should hold emergency talks on the Amazon fires, taking the lead in piling pressure on Brazil’s far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.


He and Irish leader Leo Varadkar have both pledged to block a new trade deal between the EU and Latin American trading bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But Spain, which has close ties to South America, does not support the moves to block the massive trade, the government in Madrid said Saturday. Spain “does not share the position of blocking the deal,” and “has been at the forefront of the last effort to sign the EU-Mercosur agreement that will open huge opportunities for the two regional blocs,” Madrid said in an online message to media. On Friday Germany said that opposing the trade pact was “not the right response” to tackling the Amazon fires in Brazil.

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Corporatism rules.

Brazilian Farmers Believe They Have the Right to Burn the Amazon (RS)

From the time he campaigned for president, Bolsonaro vowed to open the Amazon to development, finishing hydroelectric dams and paving roads that cut through the forest. I traveled to the region in June for Rolling Stone on a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to witness firsthand the battle over the forest’s future. Emboldened by the election of Bolsonaro, farmers were already burning forest to clear more land for soy farms and cattle ranches. Bolsonaro owes his election largely to a relatively new coalition in Brazil known as the Beef, Bible and Bullets caucus, which pressured his predecessor, Michel Temer, to open the Amazon for development to stave off a scandal that threatened to engulf his presidency.

According to documents leaked earlier this week, Bolsonaro has been implementing a strategy to “occupy” the Amazon with development projects — including the Trombetas River hydroelectric plant and the Obidos bridge over the Amazon River — and to prevent conservation. FUNAI, the government agency charged with protecting indigenous land, has had its budget cut in half, and IBAMA, the agency that cracks down on those destroying the forest, has had dozens of its bases shut down. Bolsonaro installed a climate-change denier as environmental minister and tried to put FUNAI under the agriculture department, which would have opened indigenous land to development had it not been blocked by congress.

The tragedy of all of this is that for over a decade, Brazil was the world’s leader in stopping deforestation. Under the leftist Worker’s Party, deforestation in Brazil dropped by 85 percent between 2004 and 2015 due to a series of aggressive reforms and the demarcation of national forest, conservation units, and indigenous reserves. IBAMA functioned as a sort of elite environmental commando unit, choppering into cleared land where, by law, they were empowered to seize tractors and bulldozers, or torch them so they couldn’t be used again.

Now, the agencies are stripped of power and resources and barely able to function in some places. “Our operations have nearly ground to a halt,” an IBAMA agent tells me. “There’s a sense of impunity that nothing will happen if the forest is cleared. It’s open season.”

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“..1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday..”

Hundreds Of New Fires In Brazil As Amazon Outrage Grows (AFP)

Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, official data showed Saturday, amid growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro to put out the worst blazes in years. The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are dominating the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France. Official figures show 78,383 forest fires were recorded in Brazil so far this year, the highest number of any year since 2013, and experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has accelerated the deforestation. More than half of the fires are in the Amazon, and some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).


The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activities in the region. The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday. Earlier this week, Bolsonaro blamed the fires on non-government organizations, suggesting they deliberately started them after their funding was cut. The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.

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Where it all started.

Brazil Fines For Environment Crimes Plummet (BBC)

The record number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has coincided with a sharp drop in fines for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found. Official data from Brazil’s environment agency shows fines from January to 23 August dropped almost a third compared with the same period last year. At the same time, the number of fires burning in Brazil has increased by 84%. It is not known how many of these fires have been set deliberately, but critics have accused President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration of “green lighting” the destruction of the rainforest through a culture of impunity. Mr Bolsonaro has sent in the military to help put out the fires after coming under pressure from the international community, saying he wanted to “help protect” the Amazon.


[..] Analysis by BBC Brasil shows the number of fines handed out by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) for environmental violations has dropped significantly since Mr Bolsonaro took office on 1 January. This year saw the lowest number of fines handed out by the agency in a decade (in the period between January and August). Between 1 January and 23 August 2019, the total number of fines handed out was 6,895. Ibama handed out 9,771 fines during the same period in 2018: a drop of 29.4%. The total number of fines relating to “flora” – which includes deforestation and burning – dropped from 4,138 to 2,535 over the same period. And in the nine states that make up the Brazilian Amazon, the drop in fines relating to flora dropped from 2,817 to 1,627.

[..] During last year’s presidential race, Mr Bolsonaro vowed to open up the Amazon for commercial activity. When he was sworn in, he stayed true to his word. Many of his critics say that Mr Bolsonaro operates a double standard when it comes to addressing environmental crimes, most of which remain unpunished. After all, the president promised a tough stance on criminal activity. Now, in face of national and international pressure, Mr Bolsonaro appears to have changed his tone and finally adopted measures to battle the fires. But he still hasn’t acknowledged the link between the fires and the increase in deforestation in Brazil this year. And in a televised address on Friday he reinforced his plans to bring “economic dynamism” to the Amazon.


Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) has shown an increase of 85% this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.

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Only speak when we tell you to.

DNC Bans 2020 Candidates From Participating In Climate Change Debate (CNN)

Democratic National Committee members on Saturday voted down a resolution that would have resulted in single-issue debates among candidates — including on the issue of the climate crisis. The language that was rejected — inserted at the behest of climate change activists during a contentious Resolutions Committee meeting on Thursday — said the DNC, “will continue to encourage candidates to participate in multi-candidate issue-specific forums with the candidates appearing on the same stage, engaging one another in discussion.” Democratic presidential candidates are barred from appearing together on stage outside of DNC-sanctioned debates.


The committee’s approved language from Thursday “essentially lifted the ban on candidates being unable to appear together on a stage at a forum or a candidate gathering,” Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski, a leader in the effort, told CNN. DNC members defeated the move to lift such a ban Saturday in a 222-137 vote. There were multiple observers from both sides who monitored the vote count. Prior to the voting, DNC Chairman Tom Perez set up a system for members on both sides to speak about their reasoning. The text approved in committee also conflicted with the resolution itself because it stated, “the DNC concluded that it should not hold debates devoted to one specific topics, nor can it agree to requests for such debates by individual presidential candidates.”

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Tulsi’s on active duty in Indonesia. When she gets back she will be out.

Gabbard Campaign Voices Concerns Over DNC Debate-Qualifying Criteria (RT)

Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign has called on the DNC to ensure fairness by updating its approved debate-qualifying polls, raising concerns about a lack of transparency and the consistency of the required criteria. In order to qualify for the next round of Democratic presidential debates in September, the Democratic National Committee’s rules require all candidates to have 130,000 unique donors and to have reached 2 percent in four approved polls. Representative Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has surpassed 2 percent in 26 national and state polls – including two polls by the biggest newspapers in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina – but only two of these are DNC-certified.

Strangely, the DNC has not released the criteria it used to select the sixteen polling organizations they have certified. “Without these exclusions, Gabbard would have already qualified,” her campaign says. Gabbard’s team also point out that there have only been four certified polls released since the second round of Democratic debates, whereas there were 14 released after the first debate. Gabbard was the most googled candidate after her second debate and had a standout moment when she confronted Kamala Harris’s record of incarcerating people for marijuana use when she was attorney general. She was also the most googled candidate during the first debate.

The DNC had said that it would “continually assess” the race and make adjustments when necessary, given the fluid nature of the race, when it released a memo explaining its process in 2018, and the Gabbard campaign is calling on it to do so now to ensure fairness before the August 28 cut-off date. “Crucial decisions on debate qualifications that impact the right of the American people to have the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process should not be made in secret by party bosses,” the Gabbard campaign cautioned.

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Aug 232019
 


Odilon Redon Breton harbor 1879

 

Seeking Clarity From Fed’s Powell? Good Luck With That (R.)
Japan’s July Core Inflation Hovers At Two-Year Low, Adds Pressure On BOJ (R.)
Bernie Sanders Reveals $16.3 Trillion Green New Deal (R.)
Another FBI Failure Involving The Clintons Surfaces (Solomon)
Boeing Jumps On Reuters Report Of Record 737 Production Target (ZH)
Macron Says UK Can Still Revoke Article 50 And Cancel Brexit (Ind.)
US Teachers Are Again Opening Up Their Wallets To Buy School Supplies (EPI)
Wildlife Meeting Backs More Protection For Giraffes (AFP)
Bolsonaro Burns Down The Amazon (G.)
French Mayors Ban Glyphosate Weedkiller, Defying Government (R.)

 

 

Futility in action.

Seeking Clarity From Fed’s Powell? Good Luck With That (R.)

When Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, traders will comb through his remarks for clues on whether the U.S. central bank will deliver more rate cuts this year. They may be disappointed. For all his reputation as the most plain-spoken person to run the U.S. central bank in decades, if not ever, Powell may be reluctant in his remarks to fellow central bankers at this year’s Kansas City Fed economic symposium to say much about where rates will go. The reason: he may not actually know, and does not want to get locked in.

Fellow Fed policymakers, even those who supported July’s rate cut, are signaling reluctance to do more, with Philadelphia Fed chief Patrick Harker calling for a wait-and-see approach and Dallas Fed chief Robert Kaplan saying he is “open minded” but would “like to avoid having to take further action.” Since the Fed cut rates in July, the U.S. economic picture has darkened. New threats by President Donald Trump to impose additional tariffs on China, and then a decision to defer some of those new taxes until December, are boosting already heightened uncertainty for businesses. U.S. factory activity is on the decline.


Globally, dozens of central banks are cutting rates and some economies look poised to fall into recession. Finally, in a signal that investors are increasingly worried about a U.S. recession, yields on 2-year Treasuries sank below those 10-year debt on Thursday in yet another “yield curve inversion.” At the same time, labor markets remain strong and consumers continue to spend at stores and online. Part of the reason the yield curve inverted is because the U.S. economy remains so much stronger than much of Europe: investors would rather have “safe” U.S. Treasuries, even with their dropping yields, than say, German bonds with a negative yield.

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What is it now, 20 years? Good lord.

Japan’s July Core Inflation Hovers At Two-Year Low, Adds Pressure On BOJ (R.)

Japan’s core consumer inflation wallowed at a two-year low in July, increasing pressure for the central bank to acknowledge price momentum was slowing and expand its radical stimulus program. With the global economy hit by the Sino-U.S. tariff war and a pick-up in demand in the second half of the year uncertain, attention has turned to global central banks to gauge their readiness for further stimulus. Indeed, expectations that the BOJ will ease further have grown, a recent Reuters poll showed, after the central bank at its last policy meeting committed to expanding stimulus if a global slowdown prolongs and threatens to derail Japan’s economic recovery.

The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices, rose 0.6% in July year-on-year, matching economists’ median estimate. The reading for July matched the previous month’s gain, which was the slowest pace since July 2017 when the index climbed 0.5%. The so-called core-core CPI, which excludes the effects of volatile food and energy costs, was also up 0.6% in July from a year earlier. It is closely watched by the BOJ to gauge how much the economy’s strength has translated into price gains. But the data indicates the central bank remains well behind in its efforts to achieve its 2% inflation target as an eight-month long export slump on the back of the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global demand take a toll on the world’s third-largest economy.


“It’s just a matter of time before the BOJ acknowledges that the momentum of a higher inflation rate is being lost,” said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at Sony Financial Holdings.

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Looks like it’s only a switch from one source to another. Blind. Useless.

Bernie Sanders Reveals $16.3 Trillion Green New Deal (R.)

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday unveiled a $16.3 trillion climate change strategy on a tour of northern California that included meeting families displaced by deadly wildfires and a rally in the state capital Sacramento. The plan would “launch a decade of the Green New Deal”, a 10-year federal “mobilization” that would factor climate change into every policy action from immigration to foreign policy while promising to create 20 million jobs in the process. The U.S. would generate 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and achieve “full decarbonization” by 2050, according to the plan.

“We are going to invest massively in wind, solar and other sustainable energies,” Sanders told a cheering crowd that had braved near triple digit temperatures to see him in a downtown Sacramento park. Addressing about 5,000 people inside and outside the park, Sanders accused fossil fuel companies of being willing to destroy the planet for short-term profits. “We cannot turn our backs on this crisis,” Sanders said. “We have got to lead the entire world in a new energy direction.” His plan outlines dozens of policies to aggressively move the United States off fossil fuels in the electricity, transportation and building sectors.


It aims to restore U.S. leadership and financial aid under the Paris Climate Agreement and spend trillions of dollars to assist fossil fuel workers and vulnerable minority communities in the transition to a green economy. It bans the practice of fracking to extract natural gas and oil, the import and export of fossil fuels and sets a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals. Sanders’ plan comes a day after Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, dropped out of the race for the Democratic party’s nomination to try to unseat Republican Donald Trump as president in 2020.

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Starting to think the breakthrough needed will come from a source other than Bill Barr.

Another FBI Failure Involving The Clintons Surfaces (Solomon)

As I previously wrote, then-FBI Director Comey’s original draft findings in the Clinton case concluded her transmission of classified emails through an unsecure server was “grossly negligent,” the legal standard supporting a felony charge under the Espionage Act. But the findings were edited and the term changed to “extremely careless,” and Comey chose on his own to announce on July 5, 2016, that he would not seek criminal charges, a decision that the DOJ’s IG concluded had wrongly usurped prosecutors’ authority to make charging decisions. In addition, as I have written, FBI general counsel James Baker believed — almost until the last minute before Comey’s announcement — that Clinton should, in fact, face criminal prosecution, but he was talked out of it.

And in a passage that often gets overlooked by reporters and pundits alike, IG Horowitz concluded in his final report about the Clinton email caper that the anti-Trump biases that FBI agent Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page expressed in text messages may have affected their decision-making to focus more urgently on the now disproven Trump-Russia collusion allegations rather than to finish work on the former secretary of state’s email problems, an investigation code-named Midyear. “In assessing the decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead … we were particularly concerned about text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions they made were impacted by bias or improper considerations,” the Justice’s watchdog wrote.


So the FBI’s chief lawyer originally thought Clinton should be indicted, and the bureau wrote a draft supporting the felony standard, but then walked back its decision. And agents focused more on unsubstantiated Trump collusion than Clinton emails in what the IG feared might be a sign of bias. And now we learn the FBI willfully chose to ignore highly classified evidence in the Clinton email case and has stonewalled Congress for a year on whether it intends to reexamine that evidence. It’s exactly that sort of behavior that leaves many Americans wondering whether there are two systems of justice inside the FBI — one for the Clintons, and one for the rest of the country.

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It’s not just the FAA, regulators everywhere must clear the 737 MAX. Some of them will be very reluctant.

Boeing Jumps On Reuters Report Of Record 737 Production Target (ZH)

The Dow has managed to levitate into the red following a Reuters report that sent the stock of Dow heavyweight Boeing higher, according to which Boeing told suppliers it will resume production of its best-selling 737 jets at a rate of 52 aircraft per month in February 2020, then stepping up to a record 57 jets monthly in June. There is, of course a catch: the aerospace giant will only be able to boost production if the FAA clear the plane. To wit, Boeing told more than 100 suppliers during at least one Web meeting July 30 that the new schedule depended upon regulators approving the 737 MAX to fly again commercially in the fourth quarter. Of course, since the entire report is contingent on the firm getting a greenlight, it is nothing more than a trial balloon, and also an attempt by Boeing to make the FAA responsible for the future wellbeing of Boeing shareholders.


As Reuters notes, one of the sources “expressed skepticism over the timing given the intense scrutiny from regulators that grounded the 737 MAX after deadly crashes killed nearly 350 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia in the span of five months.” More to the point, there is no guarantee when regulators will clear the 737 MAX to fly again, and Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last month that Boeing would consider further 737 output cuts or potentially suspending production if the grounding dragged on. In other words, Boeing production could be a record in Q2 2020… or it could be zero.

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Have a nice flight home Boris.

“..a trade deal with the United States. “Even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of the British state,” Mr Macron said.”

Macron Says UK Can Still Revoke Article 50 And Cancel Brexit (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has insisted Article 50 can still be revoked “up to the last second”, as he warned Boris Johnson a no-deal Brexit would be Britain’s fault. As the two leaders prepared to hold their first face-to-face meeting in Paris, Mr Macron once again dismissed the prime minister’s repeated demands to reopen the withdrawal agreement as “not an option”. In highly-critical remarks on the eve of talks, the French president also said the UK would be the “main victim” of a hard Brexit, as he warned the cost would not be offset by a trade deal with the United States. “Even if it were a strategic choice it would be at the cost of a historic vassalisation of the British state,” Mr Macron said. “I don’t think that is what Boris Johnson wants.”


Rejecting accusations the bloc would be at fault for a no-deal Brexit, he continued: “It will be the responsibility of the British government, always. “Firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50.” The frank comments from Mr Macron could overshadow Mr Johnson’s first meeting in Paris as prime minister, as the pair meet for a working lunch to discuss the current state of Britain’s exit from the EU.

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How sad is this? The new normal in the UK too. Don’t know about other countries.

US Teachers Are Again Opening Up Their Wallets To Buy School Supplies (EPI)

It’s the beginning of the school year, a time of eager anticipation and hopeful expectations. Amid the excitement, parents are engaged in practical tasks, including opening their wallets to stock their children’s backpacks with school supplies. Teachers, too, are gearing up to go back to their classrooms by opening their wallets to buy classroom supplies. An overwhelming majority of them—more than nine out of 10—will not be reimbursed for what they spend on supplies over the school year, according to survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The nation’s K–12 public school teachers shell out, on average, $459 on school supplies for which they are not reimbursed (adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars), according to the NCES 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). This figure does not include the dollars teachers spend but are reimbursed for by their school districts. The $459-per-teacher average is for all teachers, including the small (4.9%) share who do not spend any of their own money on school supplies.


Unlike the data from the more recent 2015–2016 survey (now called National Teacher and Principal Survey or NTPS), the 2011–2012 SASS microdata provide state-by-state information, allowing us to see how much teachers spend on supplies by state. The map below shows the inflation-adjusted state-by-state spending. We know that the figures in the map are not an atypical high driven by the Great Recession because the 2011–2012 spending levels are lower than spending levels in the 2015–2016 NTPS data. The figure after the map shows that teachers’ unreimbursed school supply spending has actually increased overall since the recovery.

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But of course they fight over this too.

Wildlife Meeting Backs More Protection For Giraffes (AFP)

Wildlife-supporting countries on Thursday backed regulating international trade in giraffes in a bid to offer more protection to the gentle giants, feared to be facing a “silent extinction”. The vote in Geneva by parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) recognises for the first time that international trade is part of the threat facing giraffes. The decision, which passed with 106 votes in favour to 21 votes opposed and seven abstaining, took place in committee and still needs a stamp of approval by the full CITES conference before it wraps up on August 28.

The African giraffe population as a whole has shrunk by an estimated 40 percent over the past three decades, to just under 100,000 animals, according to the best figures available to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). And yet Thursday’s vote, which implies listing all giraffes under CITES Appendix II and thus requiring tracking and regulation of all trade in the species, was highly controversial. The proposal to list the giraffe came from a range of countries in western, central and eastern Africa, where giraffe populations have been particularly hard hit. Chad’s representative argued that “illegal cross-border trade (poses) a significant threat to the survival of giraffes.”


But they met harsh resistance from southern African countries where the populations have traditionally been better protected and are healthier. Countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania, maintained there was little evidence that international trade is contributing to the decline of the giraffe. And they argued that imposing international regulations was unfair to countries that have strived to protect their giraffes. “Such a decision fails to recognise our conservation achievements,” the Tanzanian representative said.

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Time to boycott Brazil.

Bolsonaro Burns Down The Amazon (G.)

The Amazon is the centre of the world. Right now, as our planet experiences climate collapse, there is nowhere more important. If we don’t grasp this, there is no way to meet that challenge. For 500 years, this has been a place of ruins. First with the European invasion, which brought a particularly destructive form of civilisation, the death of hundreds of thousands of indigenous men and women and the extinction of dozens of peoples. More recently, with the clearance of vast swaths of the forest and all life within it. Right now, in 2019, we are witnessing the beginning of a new, disastrous chapter. The area of trees being cleared has surged this year. In July, the deforestation rate was an area the size of Manhattan every day, a Greater London every three weeks.


This month, fires are incinerating the Amazon at a record rate, almost certainly part of a scorched-earth strategy to clear territory. Why is this happening now? Because of a change in power. A predatory form of politics called Bolsonarism has assumed nearly total, and totalitarian, power in Brazil. President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief project is to create more ruins in the Amazon forest, methodically and swiftly. This is why, for the first time since Brazil became a democracy again, it effectively has a minister against the environment. For more than 30 years no environment minister has enjoyed the same autonomy as Ricardo Salles. He is a gofer for agribusiness, which is responsible for the majority of the deaths in the fields and forests, and Brazil’s greatest destructive force. The landowners lobby has always been part of Brazil’s government, formally or not. But today, this has reached a new level. They are not just in the government, they are the government.

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It’s the farmers who want Roundup. Crazies.

French Mayors Ban Glyphosate Weedkiller, Defying Government (R.)

Some 20 French mayors have banned glyphosate from their municipalities, defying the government, which is now taking legal action to impose national legislation which allows the controversial weedkiller’s continued use for now. In 2017, President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to ban glyphosate in France within three years, rejecting a European Union decision to extend its use for five years after heated debate over whether glyphosate, developed by Bayer-owned Monsanto, can cause cancer. But Macron has since said that a blanket ban is not possible within that time frame.

Bayer says regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe. On Thursday, the administrative tribunal of Rennes, western France, heard the mayor of Langouet, Brittany, who has banned the use of pesticides in his town within 150 meters of people’s homes and workplaces. Mayor Daniel Cueff told the court – which is set to rule next week – the ban was aimed at protecting residents from molecules considered a health risk. About 300 people attended the hearing and nearly 100,000 have signed a petition to support Cueff’s ban. A lawyer for the French state argued that is not in a mayor’s powers to ban phytosanitary products, which are regulated by the agriculture ministry.


The ministry declined to comment, but Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said in January France will phase out 80% of its glyphosate usage by 2021. Farmers’ unions opposed the ban, saying there are no viable alternatives for the chemical and that a transition to organic farming is too costly. Allowing the mayor to override the state over glyphosate “would be the return of the local barons and the reign of the lords over their serfs,” Cedric Henry, head of Brittany farmers union FDSEA-35 said in a statement.

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The Amazon is burning.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 222019
 
 August 22, 2019  Posted by at 9:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Marc Chagall Blue lovers 1914

 

Trump’s Idiotic, Immoral Rhetorical Attack On Denmark (WE)
WHO Claims Microplastics In Water Not Harmful To Humans (G.)
Negative-Yielding Debt Poses Major Risk To Investors (CNBC)
The Dog Whistle Heard Around The World (RIA)
China’s Economy Slows To 4.6% In June (ZH)
White House Preps GOP Elite For “Mild Recession” Before Election Day (ZH)
Johnson Accepts Merkel Challenge To Replace Irish Backstop In 30 Days (Ind.)
France Dampens Brexit Deal Hopes As Johnson Visits (BBC)
UK Health Leaders Issue New No-Deal Brexit Warning (BBC)
Greece Says It Won’t Aid Iranian Tanker (K.)
MIT Professor Quits In Protest Over Lab Links To Epstein (AFP)

 

 

A prime example of idiotic writing, this one from the Washington Examiner. And these people do not understand that this is why Trump won. Half the nation is addicted to its daily dose of Trump is stupid, and so the ‘media’ provide that. Article after article after article. Been doing it for three years straight now.

Trump’s Idiotic, Immoral Rhetorical Attack On Denmark (WE)

Denmark’s frustration is understandable, and Trump’s disrespect to Denmark is both idiotic and immoral. Idiotic, because Denmark is a committed and capable ally. The Danish military is well-trained and supported by increasingly advanced capabilities. Danish maneuver infantry, air strike, cyber, and anti-ship forces are especially impressive. They attest to a nation that intends to fight alongside keystone NATO forces if Russia ever attacks the alliance. The same cannot be said of many other European powers, including Belgium, Germany, and perhaps soon, Italy. But Trump’s words will only spark Danish public anger and empower left-wing politicians who want to weaken our alliance.


The stakes here are potentially great. What, for example, if Denmark now chucks the U.S. military out of Greenland? That would greatly reduce our ability to detect and defend against Chinese and Russian nuclear attacks. Trump’s words are also immoral. Unlike many U.S. allies, Denmark has fought alongside us in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Seven Danes gave their lives in Iraq. In Afghanistan, 43 Danes died, and hundreds more were wounded. There, Denmark chose to operate in the restive Helmand Province, taking the fight to the enemy. We should thank Danes for giving their sons’ and daughters’ lives for our common cause.

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And this is equally idiotic. Let’s have more plastics! If ever science need to stick to the precautionary principle, this must be it.

WHO Claims Microplastics In Water Not Harmful To Humans (G.)

Microplastics are increasingly found in drinking water, but there is no evidence so far that this poses a risk to humans, according to a new assessment by the World Health Organization. However, the United Nations body warned against complacency because more research is needed to fully understand how plastic spreads into the environment and works its way through human bodies. There is no universally agreed definition of microplastics but they are generally considered to be smaller than half a millimetre across. Plastic production has grown exponentially in recent decades and is predicted to double again by 2025, said the report, which means more beads and threads are breaking down into minute particles and winding up in water supplies, pipes, cups, throats and bellies.

Studies suggest bottled drinking water even contains minuscule elements of the polymers used in the container and cap. This has prompted concerns that humans might be contaminated by the chemicals used in plastics or the pathogens that ride on the particles. More alarming still are suggestions that vital systems could be overwhelmed by the alien matter, conjuring up images of seabirds, fish and other wild animals with their innards choked with plastic waste. These fears are not grounded in science, according to the WHO report, which summarises peer-reviewed research on the subject.

Counterintuitively, the report said larger microplastics (those bigger than 150 micrometres – about the diameter of a hair) are of least concern because they pass straight through the human body. Smaller particles could potentially pass through the walls of digestive tracts and get stuck, but researchers believe they are unlikely to accumulate in harmful quantities. Not enough is known about the tiniest nanoplastics (those less than 1 micrometre) to be sure of their impact. “Based on the limited evidence available, chemicals and microbial pathogens associated with microplastics in drinking water pose a low concern for human health. Although there is insufficient information to draw firm conclusions on the toxicity of nanoparticles, no reliable information suggests it is a concern,” the conclusion stated.

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Investors in the casino?!

Negative-Yielding Debt Poses Major Risk To Investors (CNBC)

Government bonds aren’t the only instruments producing negative yields these days, with corporate debt recently passing the $1 trillion mark in a continuing sign of global financial displacement. Investors these days are facing huge amounts of fixed income instruments that carry no yield. Various estimates of sovereign debt in that category put the total in excess of $15 trillion, a number that has been escalating over the past several years while central banks drive interest rates to zero and below. Negative-yielding corporate debt, though, is a relatively new thing, rising from just $20 billion in January to pass the $1 trillion mark recently, according to Jim Bianco, founder of Bianco Research.

The trend poses a potentially dangerous threat, especially if market winds shift and bond holders looking for price gains rather than yield get stuck holding too much risk. “The interest rate risk that these bonds carry is huge,” Bianco said in a recent interview. “The financial system doesn’t work with negative rates. If the economy recovers, the losses that investors would take are unlike anything they’ve ever seen.” Negative yields have been confined to places outside the U.S., though some Federal Reserve officials have toyed with the idea at least in a hypothetical sense. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently jolted some investors when he said there was nothing actually standing in the way of negative U.S. rates.

Most of the negative-yielding corporate debt is in Switzerland, while some also is in Japan, Bianco said. Investors don’t actually pay to borrow money, but the negative yield is symbolic of how much above par investors are willing to pay for these bonds. That’s because those who buy negative-yielding bonds are essentially making a bet that rates will stay low and prices will rise, which is the traditional relationship when it comes to fixed income. Should rates start to rise even a little, that will start to eat into the capital appreciation that bond holders have been enjoying. For instance, Bianco said, if yields on Swiss bonds go up just 2 percentage points, it would amount to a 50% loss for holders. While some individual investors might be able to absorb such losses, they would be catastrophic for institutions.

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Perception trumps facts. Stating the obvious.

The Dog Whistle Heard Around The World (RIA)

On August 15, 2019 the Washington Post led with a story entitled Markets sink on recession signal. The recession signal the Post refers to is the U.S. Treasury yield curve which had just inverted for the first time in over ten years. We have been highlighting the flattening yield curve for the past six months. As we have discussed, every time the ten-year Treasury yield has fallen below the two-year Treasury yield, thus inverting the yield curve, a recession has eventually developed.


Blaming the yield curve for market losses because it inverted by a couple of basis points is a nonsensical narrative for talking heads on business television. This article is about a different concern, a second-order effect caused by headlines like the one shown below. The story in the Post and similar ones in many major publications have awoken the public to the real possibility that a recession may be coming. It is a dog whistle that may cause the public to alter their behavior, and even slight changes in consumption habits can produce outsized effects on economic activity.

The 2s/10s yield curve stood at 265 basis points on January 1, 2014, meaning the ten-year yield was 2.65% higher than the two-year yield. From that date forward, as shown below, it has steadily declined. Like the changing of the seasons, as the days passed, that spread steadily fell. Unlike the seasons, investors are somehow now suddenly shocked to learn that economic winter follows fall. Since the beginning of 2019, the curve has been as steep as 25 basis points but has flirted with inversion on numerous occasions.

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“..reflects a strategic decision by China to rebalance the economy…?”

China’s Economy Slows To 4.6% In June (ZH)

According to Fathom Consulting, a global independent macro research consultancy, its proprietary China Momentum Indicator 2.0 has slowed to 4.6% in June, the lowest reading since Aug. 2016. There is also a growing gap between the China Momentum Indicator 2.0 at 4.6% and official GDP data at 6.2%. Might suggest China’s economy hasn’t yet bottomed, could continue to decline through 2H19 into 1H20. Gary Cohn, the former chief economic advisor to Donald Trump, has said the slowdown predates the trade war and reflects a strategic decision by China to rebalance the economy. Fathom notes that China’s economy was even slowing before the rebalancing.


The global macro research firm said, “with the consumer share of total import demand on a downward trend since 2016, we also find little evidence to suggest that China is successfully rebalancing.” To combat dangerous crosscurrents of the trade war disrupting global supply chains in and out of China, Chinese policymakers resorted to the same playbook as before, pump the economy with record amounts of the stimulus earlier in the year. Currency depreciation came into the picture when President Trump escalated the trade war by raising tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion of Chinese goods in May. Then a massive devaluation of the renminbi followed in early August, when the president slapped 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective Sept. 1.

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Not just the elite.

White House Preps GOP Elite For “Mild Recession” Before Election Day (ZH)

President Trump’s polls show that the issue that voters most trust him on is the economy. But on Wednesday, Politico reported that Trump and his team have been quietly prepping donors, other key Republican power brokers and members of the GOP elite for a mild downturn between now and the election, something that economists believe to be increasingly likely. According to Politico, Trump and his aides are aware that his biggest selling point heading into 2020 is the economy. But now that he’s gotten drawn in to this trade war with Beijing, Trump needs to find a way to prepare people for a mild or moderate recession as a matter of course, to ensure that his reputation as a businessman and as a populist who puts the economy first isn’t tarnished.

But without control of the House, the administration is examining its limited options to shore up the economy or assuage voters’ concerns if a recession arrives soon than economists expect. President Trump’s attacks on the Fed have worked so far, but whether the central bank delivers the 2-3 more cuts that markets are pricing in remains to be seen. And those reports about a payroll tax cut and shaving another few points off the corporate rate represent serious policy considerations. Trump famously said he’s been behind payroll tax cuts “for a long time.”

Then, there’s the trade war. The administration is also urging the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates sharply, a move Trump has long sought in his public attacks on the central bank, and it is pursuing a trade deal with China amid various tariffs that some businesses say are posing substantial economic risks. “The only thing they have in their control is China and putting out regulatory rules,” said one former senior administration official. “Beyond that, there is very little that they can do – but that does not mean people are not brainstorming options.”

[..] Trump spent Tuesday stridently defending his administration’s trade standoff with China, which many economic experts and Republicans pinpoint as the main driver of any U.S. economic troubles. “You should be happy that I’m fighting this battle, because somebody has to do it. We couldn’t let this go. I don’t even think it’s sustainable to let go on what was happening,” Trump told reporters as he detailed the way China steals U.S. intellectual property and argued none of his presidential predecessors were willing to confront China as he has. “My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t take China on. But I like doing it because I have to do it. And we’re getting great help. China’s had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years, and a lot of people saying the worst year they’ve had in 54 years,” he added.

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A headline similar to that in many UK papers today. Except it’s largely nonsense; there’s no such challenge. Merkel said it could take two years or 30 days, but until there is a solid plan she will not let go of the backstop. Maybe she shouldn’t have said 30 Days at all, but it’s mostly moot.

Johnson Accepts Merkel Challenge To Replace Irish Backstop In 30 Days (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has pledged to come up with a plan to replace the Irish backstop within 30 days, after Angela Merkel warned that time was running out to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The prime minister agreed that the “onus” was on his government to set out a solution, telling a joint press conference with the German chancellor: “You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days – if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.” Ms Merkel said her side was “prepared” for a no deal but struck a conciliatory tone during the trip, which is Mr Johnson’s first to a foreign country as prime minister. He will travel to Paris on Thursday for similar talks with Emmanuel Macron, the French president.

The prime minister claimed there were “abundant solutions” to the border problem in Ireland and that they had only not come to the fore because the British government had not pushed them hard enough in talks. He reiterated that the backstop needed to be removed from the withdrawal agreement and “plainly has to go”, and rejected even accepting a time-limited version of the policy. Ms Merkel, along with all other EU leaders, has said the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened and that any solution has to be found in the future relationship. “The backstop has always been a fall-back option until this issue is solved and one knows how one wants to do that,” Ms Merkel said.

“It was said we will probably find a solution in two years. But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?” British and EU officials tried in vain to find alternative solutions to the withdrawal agreement backstop, but have so far drawn a blank. Technological solutions mooted by some Brexiteers are not thought to currently exist.

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“It was said we will probably find a solution in two years,” she said. “But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?”

France Dampens Brexit Deal Hopes As Johnson Visits (BBC)

Boris Johnson is to meet Emmanuel Macron later, hours after the French president seemed to downplay hopes of solving the Irish backstop problem. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested a solution to the backstop – a key Brexit sticking point – might be achievable within 30 days. The PM said he was “more than happy” with that “blistering timetable”. But later on Wednesday, Mr Macron insisted reopening negotiations on the issue was “not an option”. Mr Johnson has said that the backstop – which aims to prevent a hard Irish border after Brexit – must be ditched if a no-deal exit from the EU is to be avoided. The EU has repeatedly said the withdrawal deal negotiated by former PM Theresa May, which includes the backstop, cannot be renegotiated.


But at a news conference in Berlin with Mr Johnson on Wednesday, Mrs Merkel indicated that an alternative might be possible, stressing that the onus was on the UK to find a workable plan. “It was said we will probably find a solution in two years,” she said. “But we could also find one in the next 30 days, why not?” A Downing Street spokesman described the meeting of the two leaders as “constructive”. However, hours later, Mr Macron appeared to downplay the prospects of a breakthrough, telling reporters in Paris: “Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by [EU] President Tusk.”

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“More than two-thirds of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports come from the EU.”

UK Health Leaders Issue New No-Deal Brexit Warning (BBC)

Health leaders have written to Boris Johnson issuing new warnings on the impact of a no-deal Brexit. In a letter to the prime minister, the heads of 17 royal colleges and health charities across the UK say clinicians are “unable to reassure patients” their health and care will not be affected. They go on to say they have “significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies”. Government said it was working with the health sector on “robust preparations”. The letter, co-ordinated by the Royal College of Physicians, is signed by the heads of organisations including the British Dental Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Kidney Care UK and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

It calls for the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock to be put on the EU exit strategy committee chaired by Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning. The signatories argue that – given the scale of the NHS – without sufficient planning, even the smallest of problems could have “huge consequences on the lives of millions of people”. And they say: “The public rightly expects candour from us, and we are simply unable to reassure patients that their health and care won’t be negatively impacted by the UK’s exit from the EU.” There are also, despite ongoing conversations with the Department of Health and Social Care, “significant concerns about shortages of medical supplies”, the letter adds.

“Delays at the border could exacerbate current supply issues and create the very real possibility that life-saving medication is delayed from making it across the Channel.” There have been concerns there will be tailbacks of lorries at Dover and Calais with longer customs checks, if there is a no-deal Brexit. The government has said it is drawing up contingency plans to create more ferry capacity for medicines and other vital supplies on other routes. More than two-thirds of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports come from the EU.

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Like Gibraltar, Greece must stick to EU rules, not US ones. But yes, in Gibraltar it took a judge to point that out, politics was silent.

Greece Says It Won’t Aid Iranian Tanker (K.)

As an Iranian oil tanker which Washington wants seized heads toward Greece, officials Wednesday indicated that Athens would not help the ship reach Syria while seeking to play down the prospects of such a development. In comments to ANT1 TV Wednesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Greece has “sent out a clear message, that there is no way we want to facilitate the transfer of oil to Syria.” “We don’t want to facilitate the course of that ship toward Syria,” he said. He added that the vessel, the Adrian Darya 1, was too big to dock at any Greek port. If it were to enter Greek territorial waters, Greek authorities would respond accordingly, he said, without elaborating. “There is no way that Greece wants to affect its relationship with the US, with which it has a close cooperation,” he added.


Varvitsiotis said the US had been in contact with authorities in Athens, pressing them not to aid the vessel. He added that the Iranian government had not sent any request for the vessel to dock in Greece, noting that the port of Kalamata has been mentioned only in shipping tracking data. Late on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US will take every action it can to prevent the tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo said. He added that if the tanker’s oil was sold, the revenue would be used by elite units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which the US has designated a terrorist organization.

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Pecunia non olet.

MIT Professor Quits In Protest Over Lab Links To Epstein (AFP)

The head of a research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said he will quit in protest after the revelation of financial ties between the institution and disgraced hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, said he would leave at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year after finding out that lab director Joi Ito took money from Epstein, who committed suicide in prison on August 10 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. “My logic was simple: the work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view,” Zuckerman wrote in a message posted on the Medium forum Tuesday and added to Wednesday.


“It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship.” Zuckerman said he had apologized to the three recipients of the Media Lab’s 2018 “Disobedience Prize” who were recognized for their fight against sexual harassment in the science world. “For me, the deep involvement of Epstein in the life of the Media Lab is something that makes my work impossible to carry forward there,” Zuckerman said.

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The Amazon is burning.

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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Jun 082019
 
 June 8, 2019  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Georges Seurat Study for “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” 1884

 

Freeing Julian Assange: Part One (Suzie Dawson)
WikiLeaks Warns US Preparing More Charges Against Assange (Wsws)
YouTube, Facebook Purges Are More Extensive Than You Think (Taibbi)
Too Much Money -And Too Few Places To Invest It- (Axios)
Putin Says UK’s Next Prime Minister Should ‘Forget About’ Skripal Attack (Ind.)
Going Where, Exactly? (Kunstler)
Orwell’s Classic ‘1984’ Turns 70 Amid Enduring Interest (AFP)
Boeing Delayed Fix Of Defective 737 MAX Warning Light For Three Years (R.)
Russia-China: a Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century (SCF) /span>
Our Dying World (CP)
Why Replace Dolphins With Oil Drilling? (G.)
The White Man Is Our Finishing Off Our Planet And We Want To Defend It (CD)

 

 

Excellent by Suzie. Who fears for her life and freedom for writing it. She has been living in exile in Moscow.

All of WIkiLeaks has been hit by sex smears. Which destroyed all of their reputations, businesses, etc.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part One (Suzie Dawson)

Julian Assange controlled policy, process, publishing and protected sources. He established satellite organisations and was the managing director of the WikiLeaks empire. Jacob Appelbaum went on stages around the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about the value and importance of utilising and supporting WikiLeaks. He was a major conduit to the tech crowd and a constant presence at developer, privacy and journalism conferences. Trevor Fitzgibbon liaised with media bigwigs, musicians and celebrities, recruiting them to the cause and utilising them to enhance WikiLeaks public profile. He managed media relationships, engineered and pushed proactive narratives.

These three men relentlessly championed WikiLeaks. These three men built the original campaign to save Chelsea Manning. These three men helped to save Edward Snowden. These three men all had their public reputations destroyed. You don’t have to look hard on social media or the web to see how often Julian Assange is described as a serial rapist. Nor to discover that Jacob Appelbaum is described as a serial rapist too. And Trevor Fitzgibbon? Yup, also called a serial rapist. What is the likelihood of all three public figures representing the key pillars of WikiLeaks, conveniently being serial rapists? In retrospect, it defies logic. In aggregate, the subterfuge is so obvious as to be ludicrous. But when the CIA is targeting you there’s always more in store. One rapist, two rapists, three rapists, four.

When celebrated Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson was appointed Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks in October 2018, the announcement was lauded across the aisles. The accolades would be short-lived however, as within a week of his accepting the mantle, he was being smeared as “a hostile and abusive person toward women“, and a “violent drunk with a history of being physically and emotionally abusive of women”. The wording of the smear article is as limp as the accusations – “An air of allegations… He may now face allegations… unable to independently confirm the veracity of these allegations…” No victims came forward. No charges were filed. No investigation launched. They just threw their mud at the new head of the WikiLeaks publishing pillar and hoped it would stick, as it had with the others.

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“In its statement, WikiLeaks warned: “While the case would collapse in the US due to the prosecution’s reliance on testimony by Thordarson and Monsegur, who are not credible witnesses, the United States can conceal their witnesses’ identities during UK extradition proceedings in order to boost their chances of winning.” It continued: “This will make it impossible for Assange to challenge the credibility of the witnesses during UK extradition proceedings, which will commence on 14 June.”

WikiLeaks Warns US Preparing More Charges Against Assange (Wsws)

The US Justice Department is preparing even more charges against journalist and publisher Julian Assange, WikiLeaks warned Thursday. The charges, WikiLeaks said, would be based on the testimony of Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant previously convicted of fraud, who recently travelled to the United States to answer questions aimed at preparing a new indictment. The news came the same day as fresh warnings about the deterioration of Assange’s health. Assange’s father, John Shipton, was scheduled to visit his son in Belmarsh Prison but was turned away and told Assange was seeing a doctor for an apparently urgent visit. “My visit was double-booked, it has been cancelled,” he told Australia’s Herald Sun. “[The doctor’s visit] must be at short notice because a double booking occurred.”

Earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned that Julian Assange could die in prison if his persecution is not stopped immediately. When ABC reporter Philip Williams asked Melzer, “If your calls are ignored, do you fear that he could actually die in prison?” he replied, “Absolutely, yes. That’s a fear that I think is very real.” The Trump administration has until June 14 to present its full request to Britain for Assange’s extradition. The current indictment includes 18 charges, over Assange’s role in the exposure of US war crimes and global diplomatic conspiracies, carrying a maximum sentence of 175 years’ imprisonment. WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange.

WikiLeaks’ press release, however, stated that the US is likely preparing a superseding indictment. It would include the already unveiled charges, along with new counts against Assange. WikiLeaks noted: “Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that Sigurdur Thordarson was flown to the United States last week where he was ‘comprehensively interrogated,’ in preparation for the filing of a new superseding indictment against Julian Assange by the end of next week.” [..] The FBI informant has no credibility. He has a lengthy record of involvement in illegal spying and state provocations, along with a criminal record encompassing convictions for embezzlement, fraud and sex crimes against minors. Thordarson could not be considered a reliable or honest witness in any prosecution that upheld the right to due process for the accused.

[..] Within a year of his involvement, Thordarson was suspected by WikiLeaks of stealing from the organisation. He was subsequently convicted in Iceland in 2014 of 18 theft-related charges[..] In August 2011, Thordarson claims that he contacted the US embassy in Reykjavik, offering to assist in the “ongoing criminal investigation in the United States” against Assange. He was rapidly picked up as an informant by the FBI. By his own admission, Thordarson met with FBI agents multiple times in Reykjavik between 2011 and 2012. During that period, US authorities flew him to Denmark three times and to the US on one occasion, for secret meetings about WikiLeaks. Thordarson provided the FBI with eight hard drives of material he claimed was from WikiLeaks. He received thousands of dollars from the US government.

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“Legitimate journalists are again being caught in the wash of internet cleanups..”

I like Taibbi, but not this. Talking about “Legitimate Journalists” is far too slippery a slope. What makes a journalist legitimate? Being employed by MSM? Is Assange a journalist? (the term invites that discussion). Moreover, he invites YouTube and Facebook to censor people, but only the “illegitimates”. Only the legal system can decide that, not social media.

YouTube, Facebook Purges Are More Extensive Than You Think (Taibbi)

If you turned on cable news this week, or read our own coverage in Rolling Stone, you might have heard about YouTube’s decision to demonetize well-known conservative commentator Steven Crowder. Crowder’s offense involved calling Vox journalist Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and a “gay Vox sprite,” leading, says Maza, to further harassment. Much press commentary either cheered YouTube’s move or called it belated. Simultaneously, YouTube announced it would ban whole genres of videos that fell under a hate/conspiracy label. From a Yahoo news summary:


“YouTube announced Wednesday it would ban videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination as well as those denying well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.” “Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended under our YouTube Partner Program.” Many greeted these stories with a shrug. If blue-state audiences even know who Steven Crowder is, they think he’s a jerk. And what could be wrong with removing videos “denying well-documented violent events”?

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“The top 1% of U.S. households are holding a record $303.9 billion of cash, a quantum leap from the under $15 billion they held just before the financial crisis.”

Too Much Money -And Too Few Places To Invest It- (Axios)

A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it. Why it matters: At a time when growing income inequality is fueling voter discontent and underpinning an array of social movements, the top 1% of earners and big companies are holding record levels of unused cash. The big picture: U.S. companies raked in a record $2.3 trillion in corporate profits last year, while the country’s total wealth increased by $6 trillion to $98.2 trillion (40% of which went to those with wealth over $100,000). So, where is all the money going?

The IMF notes large companies around the world are overwhelmingly and uniformly choosing not to reinvest much of it into their businesses. They’re hoarding it in cash and buying back stock. “There are only 2 things that money can do — sit on a balance sheet unused, where it’s just earned income earning an interest rate of zero,” ICI chief economist Sean Collins points out. “Or it makes sense to release it to share buybacks or dividends.” • Companies could pay their workers more, but “that would be terrible for the stock market,” says Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics — half-jokingly. • Companies made a record $1.1 trillion in stock buybacks in 2018 and are on track to surpass that number this year.

But they still have record cash holdings of close to $3 trillion. Wealthy households and individuals are pouring money into asset managers, betting on companies that lose $1 billion a year, bonds from little-known Middle Eastern republics, and giving hot Silicon Valley start-ups more venture capital than they can handle. And private equity has seen so much cashflow that firms have $2 trillion of unused capital. But even that hasn’t been enough to account for all the new money. The top 1% of U.S. households are holding a record $303.9 billion of cash, a quantum leap from the under $15 billion they held just before the financial crisis.

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Trolling.

Putin Says UK’s Next Prime Minister Should ‘Forget About’ Skripal Attack (Ind.)

Britain’s next prime minister should “forget about” the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, Vladimir Putin has said. The Russian president said he hoped whoever succeeded Theresa May would see what he described as the bigger picture and move on from the Skripal attack. “When all’s said and done we need to turn this page connected with spies and assassination attempts,” Mr Putin said on the sidelines of an economic forum in St Petersburg. He described Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to MI6, as London’s spy. “He’s your agent not ours. That means you spied against us and it’s hard for me to say what happened with him subsequently. We need to forget about all this in the final analysis,” he said.


[..] Mr Putin recalled his own experience working first for the Soviet Union’s KGB spy service and then Russia’s FSB security service. “Global issues linked with common national interests in the economic, social and security spheres are more important than games played by intelligence services,” he said. ”I’m talking to you as an expert, believe me. We need to cast off this fluff and get down to business.” [..] Mr Putin also issued a stern warning about the danger of a new arms race, accusing the United States on shunning talks on extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which is set to expire in 2021. He said while Russia had repeatedly signalled its intention to begin discussions on extending the pact, Washington had been unresponsive. “We have said 100 times already that we are ready, but no one is talking to us,” he claimed.

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“..consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter.”

Going Where, Exactly? (Kunstler)

Societies are self-organizing, emergent phenomena. They respond to the circumstances that reality presents, and they take us in unexpected directions. The general expectation in the USA since the Second World War has been for ever-increasing material comfort provided by an inexhaustible techno-industrial cornucopia, kind of a cosmic goodie machine. Well, we’d better adjust our thinking to the fact that the horn-of-plenty is shockingly out of goodies, and that no amount of financial hocus-pocus is going to refill it. Valiant attempts to redistribute the already-existing wealth are liable to prove disappointing, especially when the paper and digital representations of that wealth in “money” turn out to be figments — promises to pay that will never be kept because they can’t be kept.


So, instead of fantasizing about free PhD programs for everybody, and free insulin for the multitudes, consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter. Consider a world in which, if we are lucky, the electricity runs for a few hours a day, but possibly not at all. Imagine a world in which men and women actually function in different divisions of labor and different social spaces because they must, to keep the human project going. Imagine a world in which the ideas in your head about that world actually have to comport with the way the way that world really works — and the severe penalty for failing to recognize that. That’s the more likely world we’re heading into. It won’t put an end to dreams of utopias and cosmic rewards, but it will be a sobering moment in history.

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AFP of course can’t write this without referring to Trump.

Orwell’s Classic ‘1984’ Turns 70 Amid Enduring Interest (AFP)

Seventy years after its publication, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel “1984” continues to fascinate readers, in particular youngsters growing up in a social media-dominated age of increasing angst. “Some students are very shocked by it, and remain shocked by it,” said Michael Callanan, an English teacher and director of the Orwell Youth Prize, which supports political expression amongst young people. “It is part of the paradox of a book being 70-years-old,” he added. “I think they were taken aback by how fresh and how true to our lives today it strangely is.” Written in 1948, and published the following year, “1984” depicted a chilling future world in which a totalitarian state controls people’s thoughts and actions, suppressing any dissent.


This rigidly-controlled society features a so-called “ministry of truth” that distorts reality, with the ever-watchful eyes of “Big Brother” keeping tabs on citizens’ behaviour. The novel introduced other terms that have endured in the lexicon, including “double-think”, which means “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”, according to Orwell. For Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, which promotes the work of the writer who died in 1950 aged 46, and administers various awards, his masterpiece was “very prescient”. She noted the book’s description of “two minutes hate” – in which citizens watch a daily film inciting them to hate enemies of the state – as comparable to online hate-mobs today.

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Sinking further.

Boeing Delayed Fix Of Defective 737 MAX Warning Light For Three Years (R.)

Boeing Co learned that a cockpit warning light on its 737 MAX jetliner was defective in 2017 but decided to defer fixing it until 2020, U.S. lawmakers said on Friday. The defective warning light alerts pilots when two sensors that measure the angle between the airflow and the wing disagree. Faulty “angle of attack” data is suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia in March. Those crashes, which killed 346 people, have triggered investigations by aviation regulators and U.S. lawmakers and left Chicago-based Boeing facing one of the biggest crises in its more than 100-year history.


Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to correct the so-called AOA Disagree alert defect until 2020, three years after discovering the flaw, U.S. Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen said in a press release on Friday. Boeing only accelerated this schedule after the Lion Air accident in Indonesia, they added. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said by email that a company safety review found the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation. “Based on the safety review, the update was scheduled for the MAX 10 entry into service in 2020,” Johndroe said. “We fell short in the implementation of the AoA Disagree alert and are taking steps to address these issues so they do not occur again.”

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Just don’t think they’re friends.

Russia-China: a Strategic Alliance for the 21st Century (SCF) /span>

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s Xi Jinping to Moscow this week for a three-day state visit. It wasn’t just the personal warmth between the two leaders that was on display. They have met on nearly 30 occasions over the past six years. President Xi referred to Putin as his closest international ally and friend. More importantly, the two nations are solidifying a strategic alliance that could define the shape of geopolitics for the 21st Century. Putin and Xi, who also attended the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum this week, signed a raft of bilateral commercial agreements which will propel Eurasian development and indeed global development.

Of particular significance is the continued drive by Moscow and Beijing to conduct international trade in national currencies, obviating the US dollar as a payment means. This is a crucial step in countering the desired “hegemonic control” of the global financial system by Washington. Time and again, Washington has abused its privileged position of printing or withholding dollars in order to further its own agenda of dominating other nations. That abuse has to stop, and it will stop as Russia and China pave the way to a new, fairer mechanism of international finance and trade. The vision of cooperation and partnership outlined by Putin and Xi is one based on mutual respect and peaceful prosperity.

Not just for those two nations but for all others who participate in the multilateral vision that they promulgate. In that way, the alliance being consolidated by Russia and China is one that offers renewed hope in a progressive and peaceful future for the planet. This positive vision is especially welcome at a time when the US under President Donald Trump is unleashing a barrage of tensions and potential conflicts from its bid to assert global dominance. The US is wielding sanctions and threats at numerous nations, including Russia and China, as well as even towards its own supposed allies in Europe, all in a desperate attempt to assert a hegemonic unipolar ambition.

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“twenty-two percent of the earth’s landmass was altered by humans just between 1992 and 2015..”

“More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in the past three decades..”

Our Dying World (CP)

[..] “twenty-two percent of the earth’s landmass was altered by humans just between 1992 and 2015. Ninety-six percent of the world’s animals, by weight, are now humans and their livestock,” writes Wallace-Wells. He describes “the forces that unleashed climate change – namely ‘the unchecked wisdom of the market’” to conclude that “neoliberalism is the God that failed on climate change.” Indeed those who hope that salvation from the human-induced climate catastrophe will come from our neoliberal leaders are deluding themselves and wasting time.

For those who consider our ravaged climate the work of centuries, this book will be a shock. “More than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in the past three decades,” Wallace-Wells writes. The climate catastrophe is predominantely the creation of the World War II generation, the boomers and their children. And if we don’t wean ourselves quickly from oil and gas, from our meat-intensive diet, and if we don’t stop pouring concrete, large parts of the earth will become uninhabitable. In fact, the UN projects “200 million climate refugees by 2050.” At the high end, Wallace-Wells quotes “a billion or more vulnerable people with little choice but to fight or flee.” You think the Syrian war produced a refugee crisis for Europe (a war, by the way, largely fuelled by climate-change induced drought)? Or that Central American drought has propelled unsustainable numbers of migrants to the U. S.? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

If business continues as usual, by century’s end, we humans will have the distinction of having produced eight degrees of warming. (Currently we’ve produced one degree of warming.) People “at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying…whole regions will become unlivable…as soon as the end of this century.” Train tracks will buckle and roads will melt. Another way of stating matters is “twenty-five Holocausts and the worst case outcome puts us on the brink of extinction.” And this disaster has just started.

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Because Greece needs money.

Why Replace Dolphins With Oil Drilling? (G.)

Before the giants of oil and gas joined the litany of threats facing Greek sperm whales, the plight of the world’s largest-toothed animal was little known. Like the Hellenic trench, which was discovered only two decades ago and is the habitat most associated with the species, the mammals were once the preserve of dedicated oceanographers. Now international eco-warriors, bent on stopping oil companies drilling for underwater reserves, are determined to put both the region and its unique species on the map. At stake is an unusually endangered zone. One of the world’s most significant marine mammal areas, it is home not only to the sperm whale, Greece’s chief predator, but fin whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, fast-vanishing common dolphins, Mediterranean monk seals and loggerhead sea turtles.

All face mortal danger if, as planned, exploration for hydrocarbons is conducted off the country’s western coast. With worries mounting, WWF Greece and Greenpeace recently went to Athens’ highest administrative court, the council of state, in the hope of getting two oil company concessions annulled in waters off western and south-western Crete. The organisations cited inadequate environmental monitoring, both post- and pre-exploration. The move follows publication of an unprecedented declaration by 100 of the world’s leading scientists, conservation and ecological groups. The prospective drilling was described in a two-page statement as the death knell for iconic sea mammals already facing manmade threats ranging from ship strikes and plastic pollutants to radar noise from military naval exercises.

“Despite its global import, cetaceans in the Hellenic trench are already facing a series of direct and severe threats,” the signatories opined, calling on leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras to cancel the offshore activity. “Oil and gas exploration and exploitation as an additional great threat … would become an important blow to their chances of survival.” Greece, they said, should instead follow “the bold political and investment decisions” of other EU member states by embracing renewable energy rather than hydrocarbons, one of the biggest drivers of climate change.

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But the domain name goes to Bezos.

The White Man Is Our Finishing Off Our Planet And We Want To Defend It (CD)

Satellite images reviewed by the Brazilian government show massive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a grim reminder of the devastation wrought by the country’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. According to Reuters, 285 square miles of forest was cleared in May, the highest one month total in a decade. The information comes from Brazilian space research institute INPE’s DETER alert system. “If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” said INPE satellite monitoring head Claudio Almeida. The Amazon deforestation is just part of a global problem, said youth activist Greta Thunberg. “Disastrous deforestation like this must come to an end,” Thunberg said. “And not just in the Amazon… We are literally sawing off the branch we all live on.”


[..] The Bolsonaro administration in January announced its plans to open the Amazon for resource exploitation—a move that came before the new presidency was even a month old. At the time, Bolsonaro’s chief of strategic affairs Maynard Santa Rosa referred to the Amazon as an “unproductive, desertlike” area that would benefit from development. In April, as Common Dreams reported, indigenous activists in Brazil sounded the alarm over the Bolsonaro government’s attack on the rainforest and made a non-violent demonstration at the country’s capital city of Brasilia. “The white man is our finishing off our planet and we want to defend it,” Alessandra Munduruku, a representative of the Munduruku tribe from the northern state of Pará, said during that protest.

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May 272019
 
 May 27, 2019  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Landscape 1928

 

Europe’s Biggest Blocs Lose Grip On Power (BBC)
Centrist Bloc Loses Majority In EU (CNBC)
UK Tories And Labour Savaged As Voters Take Brexit Revenge (G.)
Nigel Farage Demands A Seat At Brexit Talks (R.)
US Efforts To Jail Assange For Espionage Grave Threat To Media (Rusbridger)
S&P 500 Would Be 19% Lower Between 2011 And Q1 2019 Without Buybacks (CNBC)
Fiat Chrysler Puts Merger Offer To Renault Board (R.)
China’s Small Bank Bailouts Duck Bankruptcy Test (R.)
US Army Twitter Question Highlights Toll Of America’s Wars (AFP)
Peru, Colombia, Ecuador And Bolivia Denounce Decision On Amazon Domain (R.)
World’s Rivers ‘Awash With Dangerous Levels Of Antibiotics’ (G.)

 

 

They’ve managed to fool people into thinking this has relevance. Both big blocks lose bigly, but they will still deliver Juncker’s successor. And the Commission decides the big issues. Yawn.

Europe’s Biggest Blocs Lose Grip On Power (BBC)

The big centre-right and centre-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority amid an increase in support for liberals, Greens and nationalists. The centre-right European People’s Party remains the largest bloc, and is expected to form a pro-EU coalition. The Liberals and Greens had a good night, while nationalists were set for victory in Italy and France. Turnout was the highest for 20 years, bucking decades of decline. Populists gained ground in some countries but fell short of the very significant gains some had predicted.


In the UK, the newly-formed Brexit Party claimed a big victory, and a strong performance by the Liberal Democrats came amid massive losses for the Conservatives and Labour. Analysts said the EPP was likely to form a “grand coalition” with the Socialists and Democrats bloc, with support from the Liberals and Greens. The turnout bucked a long trend of decline in voter numbers, rising to just under 51% of eligible voters across the 28 member states.

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751 overpaid lackeys.

Centrist Bloc Loses Majority In EU (CNBC)

The EU Parliament will be much more fragmented over the next five years with the established centrist bloc set to fall short of securing a majority at this week’s election, early results show. The current projection from the European parliament is that center-right and center-left blocks will end up with a total of 329 seats out of 751.The lack of a majority for the centrist bloc — the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialist and Democrats (S&D) which has held power in Brussels for several decades — could further complicate decision-making at the European Union.


Pro-EU parties will hold onto two-thirds of the seats at the EU Parliament, but their nationalist opponents have also produced solid results. Italy’s anti-immigration Lega party has reportedly secured 28 seats, essentially doubling its level of national support. Euroskeptic groups in France and the U.K. look to have held the gains they saw in 2014 but that said, the results on Monday morning suggested a strong showing for Liberal and Green parties.

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Time for Corbyn to leave.

Fun: both sides, remain and leave, claim that overall, they won.

UK Tories And Labour Savaged As Voters Take Brexit Revenge (G.)

An insurgent Brexit party and reinvigorated Liberal Democrats have delivered a harrowing night for the Conservatives and Labour at the European elections, prompting profound soul-searching at the top of both major parties. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party humiliated the Conservatives in their rural heartlands but also made sweeping gains in cities such as Cardiff, Leeds and Sheffield, as well as in Hillingdon, the home of Boris’ Johnson’s seat where the Tories were pushed into fourth. Farage’s success campaigning in favour of a no deal Brexit is likely to push the Conservative leadership candidates into hardline positions on leaving the EU.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, warned the Conservative were facing an “existential threat”, while Johnson said it was a “crushing rebuke” to the government’s failure to take the UK out of the EU. The night also confirmed an extraordinary revival of the Lib Dems, who overtook the Tories in Theresa May’s Maidenhead seat and came first in Jeremy Corbyn’s north London home of Islington. Overnight, the Brexit party gained 28 seats, with the Lib Dems in second on 15 seats. Labour held 10, having lost seven so far, the Green party won seven, a gain of four, and the Tories were languishing in fifth place, with just three seats.


The results so far show that the hard Brexit vote totalled 34.9% – with the Brexit party on 31.6% and Ukip on 3.3%. The overall total for pro-leave parties was up at 44% including the Conservatives on a historically low 9.1%. The pro-remain vote added up to 40.3% – with the Lib Dems on 20.3%, the Greens on 12.1%, the SNP on 3.5%, Change UK on 3.4% and Plaid Cymru on 1%. Labour, which tried to appeal to both sides with a soft Brexit pitch or a possible confirmatory referendum, was on 14.1%.

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A Brexit now would lead to civil war. Don’t do it. Postpone.

Nigel Farage Demands A Seat At Brexit Talks (R.)

Nigel Farage demanded a seat at Brexit negotiations on Monday after his new party swept to victory in the United Kingdom’s European Parliament election, warning that he would turn British politics upside down if denied. Farage, a bombastic 55-year-old commodities broker-turned anti-establishment supremo, won by riding a wave of anger at the failure of Prime Minister Theresa May to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union. As May’s Conservative Party prepares to pick a new leader, Farage had a warning for the next prime minister: A say in the United Kingdom’s biggest decision since World War Two.


“We should be part of the team now, that’s pretty clear,” Brexit Party leader Farage told Reuters at an election count in the southern English city of Southampton. After repeated delays to Brexit, Farage said the United Kingdom had to leave the EU on Oct. 31, the current deadline for Britain’s parliament to agree an exit deal. Farage would prefer to leave without a deal. “If we don’t leave on that day, then you can expect the Brexit Party to repeat this kind of surprise in the next general election,” he said.

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Alan Rusbridger is the former editor of the Guardian that publishes Luke Harding’s smear pieces on Assange. But now it’s the very same Guardian that feels threatened.

US Efforts To Jail Assange For Espionage Grave Threat To Media (Rusbridger)

As editor of the Guardian, I worked with Assange when we jointly (along with newspapers in the US and Europe) published other material Manning had leaked. Vanity Fair called the resultant stories “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years… they have changed the way people think about how the world is run”. The stories were, indeed, significant – but the relationship with Assange was fraught. We fell out, as most people eventually do with Assange. I found him mercurial, untrustworthy and dislikable: he wasn’t keen on me, either. All the collaborating editors disapproved of him releasing unredacted material from the Manning trove in September 2011. Nevertheless, I find the Trump administration’s use of the Espionage Act against him profoundly disturbing.


The Espionage Act was a panic measure enacted by Congress to clamp down on dissent or “sedition” when the US entered the First World War in 1917. In the subsequent 102 years it has never been used to prosecute a media organisation for publishing or disseminating unlawfully disclosed classified information. Nobody prosecuted under the act is permitted to offer a public interest defence. Whatever Assange got up to in 2010-11, it was not espionage. Nor is he a US citizen. The criminal acts this Australian maverick allegedly committed all happened outside the US. As Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has observed: “Under this rubric, anyone anywhere in the world who publishes information that the US government deems to be classified could be prosecuted for espionage.”

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Lowballing.

S&P 500 Would Be 19% Lower Between 2011 And Q1 2019 Without Buybacks (CNBC)

Buybacks have gotten a bad rap from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers this year. But the stock market would be trading at a much lower level without them. Data compiled by Ned Davis Research shows the S&P 500 would be 19% lower without buybacks. The firm looked at the S&P 5002 s performance between the first quarter of 2011 and the first three months of 2019. Then they subtracted the amount of net monthly repurchases to arrive to that conclusion. The broad market is up more than 125% in that time while net buybacks have totaled about $3.5 trillion. “Without focusing too much on numbers, we can say that the S&P 500 index would probably be lower today if not for buybacks versus other uses of cash”, Ed Clissold, chief U.S. strategist at Ned Davis Research, wrote in a note last month.

Lawmakers on both sides are bashing buybacks and want to make it harder for companies to repurchase their own stock. They argue that buybacks inflate corporate executives’ pay and share price at the expense of a company’s workers. In a Feb. 20 Medium post, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said companies should reinvest their capital differently. Earlier in February, Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT — a presidential hopeful — proposed in a New York Times op-ed that companies should provide living wages and health benefits to workers if a buyback program is launched. “At a time of huge income and wealth inequality, Americans should be outraged that these profitable corporations are laying off workers while spending billions of dollars to boost their stock’s value to further enrich the wealthy few, ” the senators wrote in the op-ed.

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Still owned by governments, for Pete’s sake. What year is this?

Fiat Chrysler Puts Merger Offer To Renault Board (R.)

Fiat Chrysler has made a “transformative” merger proposal to Renault, the Italian-American carmaker said, in a deal that would create a new third-ranked global manufacturer. The proposal, finalised in overnight talks with Renault, was being discussed at a meeting of the French group’s board early on Monday. The deal would create a carmaker selling 8.7 million vehicles annually with a strong presence across key regions, automotive markets and technologies, FCA said. It would generate 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in estimated annual savings. The “broad and complementary brand portfolio would provide full market coverage, from luxury to mainstream,” it added.

If successful, the FCA-Renault tie-up would alter the competitive landscape for rival carmakers from General Motors to Peugeot maker PSA Group, which recently held inconclusive talks with FCA. It could also have profound repercussions for Renault’s 20-year-old alliance with Nissan, already weakened by the crisis surrounding the arrest and ouster of former chairman Carlos Ghosn late last year. The FCA-Renault plan would see the two carmakers merged under a listed Dutch holding company. After payment of a 2.5 billion-euro dividend to current FCA shareholders, each investor group would receive 50 percent of stock in the new company.


[..] The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15% stake, supports the merger in principle but will need to see more details, its main spokeswoman said on Monday. France will be “particularly vigilant regarding employment and industrial footprint,” another Paris official said – adding that any deal must safeguard Renault’s alliance with Nissan, which had recently rebuffed a merger proposal from the French carmaker. The Italian government may also seek a stake in the combined group to balance France’s holding, a lawmaker from the ruling League party said on Monday. [..] Nissan, which is 43.4%-owned by Renault, would be invited to nominate a director to the 11-member board of the new combined company, under the plan presented on Monday.

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“Shanghai’s Pudong Development Bank was fined for using 1,493 shell companies to hide non-performing loans.”

China’s Small Bank Bailouts Duck Bankruptcy Test (R.)

China is ducking a bankruptcy test. Baoshang Bank, linked to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua, has been brought under state control. Despite threats, Beijing remains wary of allowing even disgraced local lenders to fail. Interest in Baoshang, based in Inner Mongolia, comes thanks to its colourful history. Its biggest stakeholder – and a major borrower – was Tomorrow Holdings, run by Xiao until he vanished in 2017 from a Hong Kong hotel. The insurance conglomerate’s assets are now being sold off piecemeal. Rickety municipal lenders are common in China, even if Baoshang is more precarious than most: a 2018 analysis by Jason Bedford of UBS named Baoshang as one of a trio of lenders with Tier 1 capital adequacy ratios below 8 percent, the lowest in his national survey.


City banks held just 13% of total assets in the first quarter of 2019, and rural lenders another 7%, but they represent an outsize share of the country’s financial risk. As the state giants attract the best, government-guaranteed clients, small fry make do with the rest, which means more duff debt. Ruses to cover up the damage are not uncommon: in 2018, Shanghai’s Pudong Development Bank was fined for using 1,493 shell companies to hide non-performing loans. Other lenders, like Bank of Dalian, have been bailed out repeatedly. The People’s Republic rolled out a deposit protection scheme in 2015. This theoretically allows poorly run banks to collapse without hurting ordinary depositors. But work is still in progress. The national insurance fund had only $12 billion at the end of September, and officials were still talking about creating an implementation agency in March.

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What did the army expect would happen?

US Army Twitter Question Highlights Toll Of America’s Wars (AFP)

Days ahead of an annual holiday when Americans remember those who died while serving in the armed forces, the US Army’s Twitter account asked people how their time in the military affected them and received an outpouring of grief. The question drew some 10,000 replies since it was posted late last week — many of which were anonymous or included details that could not be independently confirmed, but which paint a harrowing picture of the toll America’s wars have taken on those who fought them. “OEF, OIF ptsd with chronic pain,” one Twitter user wrote, using the US military’s acronyms for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abbreviation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The US launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq war in 2003.


The conflicts left thousands of American service members dead and many more wounded. US troops are still deployed in both countries to this day. “My dad came back from fighting in Iraq and was abusive, constantly angry, paranoid, and following that went through a lot of therapy but his mental and physical health are still off and he was definitely changed through all he had been through,” another user wrote. “My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, re-enlisted, and shot himself in the head,” said another. “The ‘Combat Cocktail’: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage. It cost me my relationship with my eldest son and my grandson. It cost some of my men so much more,” another Twitter user wrote. “How did serving impact me? Ask my family.”

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Priorities. Question should be: which came first?

Peru, Colombia, Ecuador And Bolivia Denounce Decision On Amazon Domain (R.)

The presidents of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia criticized a recent decision by the organization that manages internet protocol to grant global retailer Amazon Inc the rights to the .amazon domain. Amazon Inc has been seeking the exclusive rights to the .amazon domain name since 2012. But Amazon basin countries – including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – have argued it refers to their geographic region and should not be the monopoly of one company. The four leaders – Peru’s Martin Vizcarra, Colombia’s Ivan Duque, Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno and Bolivia’s Evo Morales – vowed to join forces to protect their countries from what they described as inadequate governance of the internet.


Last week, the global Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees internet addresses, said it decided to proceed with the designation requested by Amazon Inc pending a 30-day period of public comment. The decision sets “a grave precedent by prioritizing private commercial interests above the considerations of state public policies, the rights on indigenous people and the preservation of the Amazon,” Vizcarra, Duque, Moreno and Morales said in a joint statement on Sunday after a gathering in Lima of the Andean Community regional bloc. They added that Latin American and Caribbean countries agreed in 2013 to reject any attempt to appropriate the Amazon name or any other name that refers to geography, history, culture or nature without the consent of countries in the region.

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Intelligent species.

World’s Rivers ‘Awash With Dangerous Levels Of Antibiotics’ (G.)

Hundreds of rivers around the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found. Antibiotic pollution is one of the key routes by which bacteria are able develop resistance to the life-saving medicines, rendering them ineffective for human use. “A lot of the resistance genes we see in human pathogens originated from environmental bacteria,” said Prof William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter who studies antimicrobial resistance but was not involved in the study. The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global health emergency that could kill 10 million people by 2050, the UN said last month.


The drugs find their way into rivers and soil via human and animal waste and leaks from wastewater treatment plants and drug manufacturing facilities. “It’s quite scary and depressing. We could have large parts of the environment that have got antibiotics at levels high enough to affect resistance,” said Alistair Boxall, an environmental scientist at the University of York, who co-led the study. The research, presented on Monday at a conference in Helsinki, shows that some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. In many cases they were detected at unsafe levels, meaning resistance is much more likely to develop and spread.

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Don’t think I ever heard of this girl until recently. She’s haunting.