Jan 272020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine A heavy load for an old woman. Lafayette Street below Astor Place, NYC 1912

 

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)
Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)
Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)
Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)
WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)
Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)
Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)
ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)
French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)
Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)
Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

 

 

Going through the latest corona numbers today, mostly released at midnight local time by the Beijing government, we now have:

• 81 deaths (round numbers, up 25 from yesterday, previous 2 days were both up 15)

• 2,744 infected (bit less than the 3,390 predicted by the Fibonacci sequence, but there’s a new category):

5,794 suspected infections (if only half are confirmed, this would blow Fibonacci out of the water)

• 461 critical patients

• reports of 90,000-100,000 infected in Wuhan (see articles below) and virus is spreading fast beyond Wuhan

• reports of 5 million Wuhan residents having left the city for the holiday, prior to the lockdown

Moreover, as Tyler remarked on Twitter: “Coronavirus mortality rises above 5% with 76 dead on 1,423 confirmed Hubei cases. Was 2% three days ago.”

Numbers from Beijing:

And the Fibonacci numbers again:


Fibonacci

Another 3-4 days of holiday. What good can it do with that 2-week incubation time? One thing is sure: it’s going to hurt the economy: “On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.”

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the government sought to signal it was responding seriously. But Asian shares tumbled, with Japan’s Nikkei average sliding 2.0%, its biggest one-day fall in five months, as investors grew increasingly anxious. Demand spiked for safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and Treasury notes. The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, with about half in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.


As worries grew around the world, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei in the past 14 days. The ban did not cover Hong Kong residents. The nearby gambling hub of Macau, which has had at least one case of the flu-like virus, imposed a similar ban on those arriving from Hubei, unless they can prove they are virus-free. The city of Haikou on Hainan island in southern China said tourists from Hubei would be quarantined for 14 days. “Hubei people are getting discriminated against,” a Wuhan resident complained on the Weibo social media platform. The number of deaths from the virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China.

Read more …

Slightly different numbers here and there, but the trend is clear:

Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)

• In China there are now 2,744 confirmed cases as of 1200am on Jan 27, an increase of 39% resulting in 80 deaths, up 43%. This is triple the 916 mainland China cases reported late on Friday. Across the globe, there are now 2,807 confirmed cases and 80 Chinese fatalities, as so far nobody outside of China has died from the disease (that we know of).

• Some very unpleasant math: in China’s Hubei province where Wuhan is located, epicenter of the coronavirus breakout, there have been 1,423 cases and 76 deaths, resulting in a mortality rate of over 5%.

• 5th US Coronavirus infection confirmed by CDC in 4 states (AZ, CA, IL, WA)

• Incubation is asymptomatic, contagious, and can be as long as 14 days

• 5 million may have left Wuhan for Lunar New Year

• 1st case was Dec 1 NOT Dec 31 so infect pop may be much bigger

• 3 Beijing hospitals using AIDS drugs to treat virus

[..] the outbreak-related news out of China went from bad to worse on Sunday, as Wuhan’s Mayor not only informed the public that he suspects the number of cases in the city to increase by a considerable margin (as we mentioned below), but also that some 5 million residents of Wuhan – roughly half of the city’s population – had already left the city before the quarantine was fully implemented. Some left early last week for the lunar new year holiday, while others fled after learning about Beijing’s plans to cut off the city from the outside world (except for the flow of personnel and supplies needed to fight the outbreak). Anybody who tries to leave Wuhan on Sunday will find the roads blocked and guards ordering them to turn back.

The barricade, at one of the tolls for highways exiting the city, was blocked with red and yellow plastic barriers and cones. “Nobody can leave,” a policeman told AFP. But that’s far from the only disturbing news to emerge in the past few hours. To try and assuage citizens’ frustration about the virus overshadowing the LNY holiday, Beijng announced an extension of the holiday. That should take a bigger bite out of China’s GDP as factories, offices and government services will remain shuttered – but ideally China’s battered travel and tourism industry might be able to make up for some of the hit. As we noted earlier, Suzhou, a factory hub, was the first city to announce a holiday-like shutdown of industry until Feb. 8. China’s top transportation official confirmed on Sunday that travel has plummeted for the holiday. On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.

After the third case was confirmed in California on Sunday, health officials in Virginia have announced that three patients suspected to have contracted the virus are under observation, according to Fox. More alarmingly, a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University is being monitored for the virus after reporting a fever and a cough. Though it has yet to be confirmed, this underscores the difficulty in stopping the spread of the virus to the US, as Chinese students return to their American schools for the new semester, as the Hartford Courant reports. More suspected cases have been reported in California and Texas (though the Texas cases have mostly been cleared).

Read more …

Neil Ferguson. Note: no separate reports on infection rates among children.

Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)

About 100,000 people could be infected with the new coronavirus around the world, experts have warned, as the UK government faced calls to reassure people that the NHS is ready to deal with any British cases within days. Prof Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College, said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there are only 2,000 confirmed cases so far, mostly in the city of Wuhan in China where the virus first appeared. “Sooner or later we will get a case,” he said. “There are very large numbers of Chinese tourists across Europe right now. Unless the Chinese manage to control this, and I’m sceptical about whether that is possible, we will get cases here.”

Ferguson, whose team have been modelling the disease for the World Health Organization, said they estimated the virus had a reproductive rate of 2.5-3, meaning that each person infected would potentially transmit it to up to three others. “My best guess now is perhaps 100,000 cases right now,” he said, although it could be between 30,000 and 200,000. “Almost certainly many tens of thousands of people are infected.” Most of the cases that have been exported to other countries from China have been mild, he said. That could mean mild cases of disease spread more easily than severe, life-threatening cases, which sounds like good news. But on the other hand, it means it is possible there will be a reservoir of mild disease in the country that goes unnoticed and can spread until it affects somebody vulnerable because of underlying poor health, who becomes seriously ill.

“People looking for people with a travel history to China are not necessarily looking in their local population,” he said. There is a lot still unknown, he explained. “We don’t have reports as yet as to the extent to which children are becoming infected, probably because of the bias towards severe cases.” Unlike Sars, which made everyone who contracted the virus severely ill, the new virus appears to be able to slip under the radar, he said. Firstly, there are the many mild carriers, who will infect other people without necessarily being recognised. Secondly, there are reports from China of people who have infected others before they have experienced any symptoms.

Ferguson said it was possible this is not quite as it appears. It may be that the authorities have not actually identified the index case – the person who infected a group of people – making it look as though they picked up the virus from someone who had no symptoms.

Read more …

This is from a few days before Ferguson gave his 100,000 infected estimate. The lack of medical supplies is also noteworthy. Stories about “amateur” equipment.

Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)

A viral video, reposted on Twitter 48 hours ago, has more than 800k views and reveals an urgent message from a Wuhan nurse, who claims more than 90,000 people in China have been infected with the fast-spreading coronavirus. An unverified translation of the nurse, posted by @purplelovehime, has been retweeted more than 13.7k times since Saturday, states: “I am Jin Wei. I am currently inside the Wuhan outbreak region, Han Hou area. I would like to describe the condition inside the Hubei province, as well as the outbreak situation in the entire China. Currently, there are already 90,000 cases of pneumonia contraction.”

“What is the rate of contraction? If one person contracted this disease and is not properly quarantined and treated, this I individual will infect 14 people that came in contact with him. That is a significant multiplier. During the spring festival, in our culture, families like to get together, dine together. But this is unlike any other years. I hope that people can stay home, do not gather, and do not visit families. There is a spring festival every year. If everyone can stay safe, you can always get together later,” the unverified translation of the nurse said. The translation went on to say that medical supplies from bio suits, medical masks, goggles, and gloves “are in great shortages.”

The nurse, in an emotional plea, said everyone in Wuhan and surrounding cities to “not go out! Stay home!” The translation ended with the nurse delivering some “very bad news:” “The coronavirus has mutated. It is now a second-generation virus. When it was still in its first generation, we were still able to treat this… However, after the last mutation, it became deadly… The rate of infection are now increasing exponentially. So please remember do not go out, do not visit people, do not gather in a group, do not have dinner party.”

Read more …

60 million under lockdown now? hard to keep track.

WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)

The head of the World Health Organisation will hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing on Monday to discuss how to contain the coronavirus that has killed 80 people and left more than 400 in a critical condition. In an effort to reduce chances of infection during what is China’s busiest travel season, officials announced the end of this week’s lunar new year holiday would be postponed until at least 2 February. Authorities have also widened sweeping restrictions that have curbed the movement of tens of millions of people. A total of 17 cities are now under lockdown, with several areas banning long-distance bus services, including Beijing, Shanghai and the eastern province of Shandong, home to 200 million people.


On Monday, Chongqing municipality, which has a population of 30 million, adopted similar measures. The municipality borders Hubei province, where the vast majority of deaths, have been recorded. The suspension of long-distance bus services, the cheapest way to travel, is likely slow down the return of millions of migrant workers who have visited their families over the lunar new year. By postponing the end of the holiday to Sunday from Friday, officials hoped to “effectively reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a cabinet statement said. Many of China’s big retail chains have also said they will temporarily close their stores, while some online businesses and banks have advised employees returning from Hubei province to work from home.

Read more …

As the “trial” restarts today, Bolton will hover in the background. From the Dems’ worst enemy to their best hope.

Aaron Maté: “Bolton news is fuzzy. Bolton isn’t saying Trump tied Ukraine weapons $ to opening a Burisma/2016 probe. Bolton says Trump wanted Ukraine to “[turn] over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related Mr. Biden & and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.” Huh?”

Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)

Former national security advisor John Bolton’s team was under fire from conservative commentators Sunday night, after a report in The New York Times revealed a bombshell excerpt from Bolton’s forthcoming book that could prove pivotal in President Trump’s impeachment trial — just as the Amazon product page for the book went live. The drama began earlier Sunday when the Times exclusively reported that Bolton’s manuscript included a claim that Trump explicitly linked a hold on Ukraine aid to an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump told Bolton in August, according to a transcript of Bolton’s forthcoming book reviewed by the Times, “that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”

The Times further claimed Bolton had shared a manuscript of his forthcoming book with “close associates” — prompting Bolton’s team to deny the claim, and assert that the National Security Council’s [NSC’s] review process of pending manuscripts is “corrupted” and prone to leaks. A “pre-publication review” at the NSC is standard for any former government officials who held security clearances and publicly write or speak publicly about their official work. The review typically would focus on ferreting out any classified or sensitive material in advance of publication, and could take from days to months.

Conservatives, however, suggested Sunday evening that Bolton’s team may have leaked the information themselves while using the media as unwitting tools to juice their book sales. Online merchants began taking orders for Bolton’s book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened,” just as the Times’ story broke, with a March release date. Sarah Tinsley, a senior adviser to Bolton, told Fox News he had submitted a hard copy draft of his manuscript to the NSC several weeks ago for “pre-publication review,” but had not shared it with anyone else. The NSC is the White House’s internal national security and foreign policy arm.

[..] “Just like James Comey, John Bolton is trying to get rich off of a lie- and leak-fueled campaign to overturn the 2016 election results,” wrote The Federalist’s Sean Davis.”I suspect it will work out as well as all of Bolton’s other wars.” Davis added: “John Bolton is running the exact same revenge playbook against Trump that James Comey used. He’s even using the same agent and leaking to the same reporters. All because he’s mad Trump fired him for leaking and trying to start new wars. It’s so boring and predictable. … If you think anyone other than Bolton’s lawyer, publisher, or agent leaked this to 1) juice sales of his book, and 2) get revenge against Trump for firing Bolton and refusing to start a bunch of new wars, you’re an idiot.”

Read more …

You don’t think they’ve given up yet?

Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)

Legendary geopolitical and financial analyst Martin Armstrong says, “The Fed is trapped. If it stops (injecting money into the repo market by billions of dollars daily), interest rates will rise.” Armstrong goes on to explain, “The Bank of Japan came out and said we’re going to buy government bonds unlimited. They, too, are trying to prevent interest rates from rising. . . . The ECB cannot afford rates to go up. . . . This is a global contagion that’s developing, and it’s pretty serious. The rise in interest rates has tremendous implications all the way around the globe. . . . Interest rates are rising because there is increased risk – period.” The big risk, according to Armstrong, is global governments, including the U.S., Armstrong says.

“You have to understand, at some point in time, capital begins to figure out who is the greatest risk, and the risk is government. At that stage in the game, when that point is reached, then you have shifts. The capital will move from public types of investments, such as government bonds and things of that nature, and then will move into the private sector. That’s equities, and that can be gold and real estate in different places. You try to go to tangible assets.” So, what could go wrong with the Fed trapped in the repo market and cannot stop liquefying bad debt? Armstrong says, “What can go wrong is that they lose the game. They are doing this to try to prevent interest rates from rising. If they did not do this, the short term rate would be up dramatically.”

What could go wrong is the Fed can continue to fuel the repo market with cheap money and interest rates can rise anyway? Armstrong says, “Correct. They have already lost control, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this. . . .They are trying to keep rates down. If the Fed loses, rates are going to go up, and you are going to see this in the Treasury auctions. Then it won’t matter what the Fed is trying to do in the repo market. You will see this stress in the Treasury auctions, and the government will have to start paying higher prices. This is what’s going to take place.”

Read more …

The ECB is using Bernanke’s “savings glut” boondoggle to destroy your savings and pensions. Lagarde said it very clearly: jobs are better than savings.

What actually IS happening is they protect bankers’ profits by annihilating (your) savings in a broad sense. Pitchforks!

ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)

European Central Bank policymaker Klaas Knot on Sunday said he does not expect interest rates to fundamentally change in the coming years. “I don’t see any move towards fundamentally different rates in the coming years,” Knot said in an interview with Dutch television program Buitenhof. Rates could go up again in the future, the Dutch central bank governor said, but for now are being kept historically low by an abundance of savings and by a structurally low inflation rate in the euro zone. Knot also warned of the lingering threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit at the end of this year, which he said could lower economic growth in the Netherlands by 0.5%. “The imminent threat of a no-deal Brexit on Jan. 31 is negligible”, Knot said. “But the Brexit risk has only been postponed, as it seems impossible to have a comprehensive trade agreement that includes financial services in 11 months.”

Read more …

This might work in France. But how about the EU?

French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)

An alliance of 14 French local authorities and several NGOs will take unprecedented court action this week against the French oil firm Total to try to force the firm to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first climate change litigation against a private company in France. Campaigners want the court to ensure Total does more to curb its emissions. Total is on the list of top 20 global fossil fuel companies whose joint exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era, according to analysis last year. The towns and local authorities that have brought the case range from Bayonne, in the south-west, to La Possession, on Réunion island in the Indian Ocean, and Sevran, north of Paris.

They argue that the climate emergency is already being felt by ordinary citizens and not enough is being done by large firms. Under a French law called the duty of vigilance, large companies must set out clear measures to any prevent human rights violations or environmental damage resulting from their activities. The non-governmental organisations bringing the case said Total had not included enough substantial detail in its vigilance plan to curb emissions, and the firm was out of step with the Paris climate agreement’s goals on limiting global heating. On Tuesday, a court summons will be made in Nanterre, outside Paris.

Sandra Cossart, the head of Sherpa, a French NGO working on economic transparency and corporate-related human rights, said: “It’s the first climate litigation in France against a private company, and it aims to change that company’s strategy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.” Sandra said that under the duty of vigilance law, “Total is legally required to identify the risks resulting from its contribution to global warming and to take the necessary measures to reduce its emissions.” She said the case was an “important moment” to show that big companies have to step up on the climate emergency. “The more impact you have, the more responsibility you have.”

Read more …

Best line of the day: “Even cows are wondering what is happening..”

“One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).”

Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)

The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the bugs swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger. “Even cows are wondering what is happening,” said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. “Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.”

When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says. “We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away. About $70 million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the U.N. says. That won’t be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva. Farmers are afraid to let their cattle out for grazing, and their crops of millet, sorghum and maize are vulnerable, but there is little they can do. About 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) of land in Kenya are already infested. [..] A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).

Read more …

Quite afew comments on this, but I would be careful linking street protests to changes in Julian’s conditions. The imates may have helped.

Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

The sustained violation of the human rights of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been carried out in full view of the world throughout his arbitrary detention in HMP Belmarsh. Until now, condemnation of his treatment and pleas to end his suffering have been met with denial and silence by the British authorities. But the announcement this week that Assange has been moved out of Belmarsh healthcare unit where he has been detained in solitary confinement since May, is a sign that the campaign to stop his persecution is gaining traction.

Also of significance is the involvement of his fellow inmates in helping to secure Assange’s release from solitary confinement, which suggests that within the walls of Belmarsh it is understood that the healthcare unit has been weaponized to arbitrarily isolate and punish a prisoner. Moving Assange from solitary confinement shows a shift from official government position that solitary confinement ‘does not exist’ Until now the British authorities have not only denied that Assange has been detained in solitary confinement, but that solitary confinement is not practised in British prisons.

In an attempt to mitigate growing public outrage, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has been sending out letters in response to the influx of complaints it has been receiving regarding the abuse of Assange. In its response it refuses to address his case and produces a list of standards and laws written for the protection of prisoners as evidence he is in ‘safe hands.’ However, anyone who has followed the continued arbitrary detention of Assange in Belmarsh will know he has been placed effectively outside the reach of laws and standards; even access to his lawyers and legal documents, normally preserved by statutory prisoner rights – has been harshly restricted, all of which has had a crippling effect on preparation for his defence in a case of historical significance.

Read more …

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1221454003491540992

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 242020
 


John Vachon Window in home of unemployed steelworker, Ambridge, PA 1941

 

Chinese Hospitals In Chaos As Lockdown Spreads To Affect 33m People (G.)
Four ‘Generations’ Of Spread Seen With Virus In China (STAT)
Cases of China’s Viral Pneumonia Surge Exponentially (ET)
Wuhan Virus Will Shape China’s Smart City Vision (R.)
Doomsday Clock Moves Within 100 Seconds Of Midnight (NPR)
The House Impeachment Case Vs The Law of Attempts (Turley)
Fed’s Repos Drop to Oct Level, T-Bills Surge, But MBS Fall (WS)
Turkey Demands Greece “Demilitarize” 16 Aegean Islands (ZH)
Assange May Not Get First Amendment Protection (AAP)
Go to Gaza and Cry ‘Never Again’ (Haaretz)
America’s Radioactive Secret (Rolling Stone)

 

 

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year. 450 million Chinese plan to travel to see family. 41 million are now under lockdown. 850 cases of “coronavirus” have been confirmed. 26 people have died, the elderly and vulnerable. But there are many reports of actual numbers being much higher.

Only 23.8% of Chinese doctors have a bachelor degree or higher. There are 60,000 licensed general practitioners in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Meanwhile, the Chinese “eat everything on four legs except for the table”.

“..the race to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in just six days began on Thursday night..”

Chinese Hospitals In Chaos As Lockdown Spreads To Affect 33m People (G.)

Hospitals in the Chinese city of Wuhan have been thrown into chaos and the movement of about 33 million people has been restricted by an unprecedented and indefinite lockdown imposed to halt the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. At least ten cities in central Hubei province have been shut down in an effort to stop the virus, which by Friday had killed 26 people across China and affected more than 800. The World Health Organisation described the outbreak as an emergency for China, but stopped short of declaring it to be a public health emergency of international concern.

In the city of Wuhan, where most cases have occurred, the race to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in just six days began on Thursday night. Diggers and bulldozers beginning work on the site of a holiday complex once intended for local workers, according to Chinese media. The hospital, which is due to open next week, is similar to those established in Beijing in 2003, when the city faced a Sars outbreak that killed almost 800 people and reached nearly 30 countries. During that crisis, 7,000 workers in Beijing built the Xiaotangshan hospital in its northern suburbs in just a week. Within two months, it treated one-seventh of all the country’s Sars patients, the Changjiang Daily said.

“It created a miracle in the history of medical science,” the paper added. It said the new Wuhan hospital “is to solve the shortage of existing medical resources”. People who sought treatment in Wuhan this week told the Guardian they had been turned away from hospitals, which have been inundated with patients. Facilities are reportedly running out of beds and diagnostic kits for patients who present with fever-like symptoms. [..] A series of additional measures were announced on Friday to prevent the spread of the virus, including a call from The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist party’s main newspaper, for people who have recently been to Wuhan to isolate themselves at home, even if they don’t have symptoms. The cities of Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Chibi, Qianjiang, Zhijiang, Jingmen and Xiantao have all been placed under lockdown.

Read more …

It’s advanced up to a point where it can no longer be ignored. That’s China for you.

Four ‘Generations’ Of Spread Seen With Virus In China (STAT)

Emerging data on the new virus circulating in China adds to evidence there is sustained human-to-human transmission in the city of Wuhan, and that a single case was able to ignite a chain of other infections. The World Health Organization reported Thursday that there have been at least four generations of spread of the new virus, provisionally called 2019-nCoV, meaning a person who contracted the virus from a non-human source — presumably an animal — has infected a person, who infected another person, who then infected another person. It’s not clear from a WHO statement whether transmission petered out after that point, or whether further generations of cases from those chains are still to come.

The WHO said the current estimate of the reproductive rate of the virus — the number of people, on average, that each infected person infects — is between 1.4 and 2.5. To stop an outbreak, the reproduction number has to be brought below one. “That gives me no comfort at all that anything that’s happening right now is going to bring this under control any time soon,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said of the data the WHO released. “And I think that as long as the virus is circulating in China as it appears to be, the rest of the world is going to be constantly pinged with it, as a result of people traveling to and from China in the near future,” he said.

To date, nine other countries, including the United States, have diagnosed cases of this new illness in tourists who traveled to Wuhan or residents who returned from there. Dr. Allison McGeer, who has firsthand experience with outbreaks caused by coronaviruses — the family to which 2019-nCoV belongs — also expressed concern about prospects for containing the outbreak. McGeer, a researcher at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, noted that the city’s SARS outbreak took off when fourth-generation cases were infected in the city’s hospitals. McGeer contracted SARS during that outbreak.

Read more …

No place in the hospital.

Cases of China’s Viral Pneumonia Surge Exponentially (ET)

It started with a light cough. He burped constantly, and complained of shortness of breath. Family members thought it was no big deal. The doctor said he seemed to have heart problems and suggested him to stay in the hospital. He appeared healthy except for a minor infection in one lung area. Two weeks later, he was dead, with both lungs infected and organ failure. His doctors at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital determined the cause of death as “unknown pneumonia.” It was days before Chinese health authorities identified the cause of the new viral pneumonia as 2019-nCoV, a coronavirus that first emerged in December in the commercial city of Wuhan, his home city.

As of press time, the virus has since sickened more than 540 people across China and around the world, with confirmed cases in South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. Much remains unclear about the virus that has sparked fear around the world and cast a cloud over the upcoming Lunar New Year festivities, a major traditional holiday when millions of Chinese travel to their hometowns or go on vacations abroad. Experts say the mass movement of people could accelerate the disease’s spread. The virus has already spread across the country to 17 provinces and regions.

To the man’s family, his death is far from the end of their sorrows. Among his relatives, five have fallen ill: one is under emergency rescue at a Wuhan hospital; his niece and nephew-in-law also have lung infections but doctors turned them away, saying there’s no space for them at the hospital; two others are also experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms. Buying one dose of medicine means waiting for hours in line. His sister, currently in Norway, told The Epoch Times that she was being “silenced” by Chinese authorities and not allowed to post anything about his death. The man is not listed on the authorities’ official death toll, because he did not show any signs of fever, his sister said. She has requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Read more …

Never let a good crisis go to waste. Surveillance is good for you!

Wuhan Virus Will Shape China’s Smart City Vision (R.)

An epidemic will shape China’s vision of intelligent cities. The metropolis of Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, is under unprecedented quarantine as a deadly virus, believed to have originated there, spreads around the world ahead of the Lunar New Year when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel. Big investments in healthcare, artificial intelligence, and even surveillance could help curb future pandemics and cushion some institutional weaknesses. [..] The future may be less grim: President Xi Jinping has pushed to upgrade the country’s rickety healthcare system, enlisting technology giants including $474 billion Tencent and insurance group Ping An.

A unit of the latter has partnered with local governments in Shenzhen and Chongqing to develop an algorithm it claims can predict the transmission of influenza and other infectious diseases with 90%-plus accuracy. Elsewhere, the likes of $50 billion video-surveillance specialist, Hikvision, are helping Beijing develop high-tech, digitally-connected urban areas. More than 500 so-called smart cities are already being built across China, according to government figures, equipped with sensors, cameras, and other gadgets that can crunch data on everything from traffic and pollution, to public health and security.

That market could top 103 billion yuan ($15 billion) in revenue by 2023, according to research commissioned by facial-recognition startup Megvii. Until now the push has focused on automating political surveillance, including ugly applications in restive ethnic minority regions like Xinjiang, with little regard to human rights or privacy concerns. But there’s a potential public good if the tech can be re-deployed to detect unusual numbers of feverish people in train stations, for example, while simultaneously cross-referencing healthcare history, travel records and weather patterns. After Wuhan, the pressure to deliver health security, not just political security, will be higher.

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Meat for sale in China (without the bats used for soup):



Doesn’t feel like that for me.

Doomsday Clock Moves Within 100 Seconds Of Midnight (NPR)

In 1953, months after the U.S. tested its first hydrogen bomb and as the Soviet Union was about to do the same, the Doomsday Clock was also set within two minutes of midnight. The minute hand was moved back gradually as nuclear arms control agreements reduced the threat of global catastrophe. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended in 1991, the clock was set at an unprecedented 17 minutes to midnight. It has moved closer ever since. “What you’re hearing,” said former California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who appeared at the event as the Bulletin’s new executive chairman, “is really the voices of the prophets of doom. Speaking of danger and destruction is never very easy — if you speak the truth, people will not want to listen, because it’s too awful and it makes you sound like a crackpot.”

The clock’s minute hand was moved forward after the August 2019 collapse of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The demise of the pact frees both nations to deploy land-based missiles over ranges that leave little time for a response. There were also growing signs in 2019 that the Trump administration was aiming to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which allows the U.S. and Russia to observe one another’s military installations through closely monitored overflights. And Iran increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and added new and improved centrifuges last year in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawing from a multination nuclear pact with Iran that was forged during the Obama administration.

“I have to admit [that] we set the clock in November,” said George Washington University research professor Sharon Squassoni. “This was before recent military actions by the U.S. and Iran, Iran’s statement or threat that it might leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and North Korea’s abandonment of talks with the United States.” A growing number of disasters linked to global climate change resulting from the continued consumption of fossil fuels was another factor cited for moving the clock even closer to midnight. “We’re in it, it’s dire, but we’re not there yet,” said Brown. “We can still pull back from the brink, but we have to do what we’re not doing. Whatever we’ve done to date, it is totally inadequate.”

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Close to thought crime.

The House Impeachment Case Vs The Law of Attempts (Turley)

With the start of the impeachment trial, the Senate (and the country) will soon be faced with what the late Yale professor Arthur Leff described as one of the law’s most “lovely, knotty problems.” Leff was speaking of what is loosely called “the law of attempts,” a category of crimes where someone is accused of contemplating, but not actually carrying out, an unlawful act. The Trump trial could be the first time the Senate considers charges that amount to allegedly conceiving, but then abandoning, an abuse of power. While it is certainly true that there was a temporary act of “nonfeasance” in withholding the aid to Ukraine, it was ultimately released over two weeks before the deadline under federal law.

The Trump administration will argue that there was no quid pro quo between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine; that the military aid to Kyiv, though authorized by Congress, was never withheld; and that the White House always intended to release the aid by the end of September. (It was released on Sept. 11, two days after a whistleblower complaint about the alleged bargain sparked congressional inquiries and, according to critics, was the reason that Trump decided to release the aid.) The question for the Senate is whether an attempt to cut the deal qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor. The law of attempts has long been debated, and has often favored defendants in securing lesser punishments or outright acquittals.

When, in 1879, an Alaska man sent an order for 100 gallons of whiskey from California, he was charged with illegally attempting to “introduce spirituous liquors” into Alaska. A court dismissed the charge, writing, “There are a class of acts which may be fairly said to be done in pursuance of or in combination with an intent to commit a crime, but are not, in a legal sense, a part of it, and therefore do not, with such intent, constitute an indictable attempt.” That helps explain why such attempted crimes are generally punished less severely. The California Penal Code Section 664 stipulates, for example, that most attempted offenses are punishable, at most, at a level half that for a completed offense. Of course, the Senate cannot “half-remove” a president. But one of the more knotty problems facing the Senate is whether a president can be saved by what Leff called the “luck” of an alleged plan that never actually played out.

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Can be restarted in a heartbeat. By killing the markets, the Fed has made itself a prisoner.

Fed’s Repos Drop to Oct Level, T-Bills Surge, But MBS Fall (WS)

The Fed had doused the market with $410 billion in liquidity between September and January 1 through its repo operations and its T-bill purchases. Market hype had expected this blistering pace of money-printing to continue, but wait… While T-bill purchases continue, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet are getting unwound, its mortgage-backed securities (MBS) continue to fall, and total assets on its balance sheet fell to the lowest level since mid-December. Under these repurchase agreements, the Fed offers to buy Treasury securities, MBS, and agency securities from counterparties with an agreement to sell those securities back to the counterparties at a set price on a specific date, such as the next day (overnight repos) or in 14 days or some other period (term repos).

When a repurchase agreement matures, the Fed takes back the money it had handed out and returns the securities to the counterparties. This zeros out that particular repo on the Fed’s balance sheet. When the Fed buys securities under a repurchase agreement, the amount it pays adds liquidity to the market. When that repo unwinds, and the Fed gets its cash back and returns the securities, it drains this liquidity from the market. Every day, old repos unwind. And every day, the Fed offers new repos. This is a constant in-and-out. The balance changes every day, but it has been on an uneven decline since the peak on January 1.

The total amount of repos on the Fed’s weekly balance sheet as of January 22, released this afternoon, has now fallen by $70 billion from the peak on January 1 ($256 billion), to $186 billion. This is below where it had first been on October 16. The $43-billion drop in repos over the past seven days was largely due to a 32-day $50-billion repo, dating from December 16, that unwound on January 17. It was not replaced by another 30-day repo, and there are no more 30-day repos on the Fed’s repo schedule or balance sheet.

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Erdogan wants to redo the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. He has little to lose, and much to gain domestically. But he has Putin against him.

Turkey Demands Greece “Demilitarize” 16 Aegean Islands (ZH)

At a moment tensions are soaring over Turkey’s expansive East Mediterranean claims, and after starting early last summer it began sending oil and gas exploration and drilling ships off Cyprus’ coast, Ankara is demanding that Greece “demilitarize” its islands in the Aegean Sea, reports Bloomberg. The demand from Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who formally requested Greece move to withdraw armed forces and weaponry from 16 Aegean islands near Turkey on Wednesday, is rich given it’s Turkey that’s been provocatively sending warships and military jets to accompany illegal gas drilling in the area, something lately condemned by the EU.

“Greece, arming 16 out of 23 islands with non-military status, in violation of agreements in the Aegean sea, should act in accordance with international law,” said Defense Minister Akar, cited in state-run Anadolu Agency. “We expect Greece to act in line with international law and the agreements it has signed,” he added. Though becoming increasingly internationally isolated over the drilling issue in EU-member Cyrpus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Turkey has remained unmoved and at times is positively boastful about it.

Not shying away from admitting Turkish maritime claims now stretch from Cypriot waters all the way to Libya (based on a controversial recent maritime boundary ‘deal’ signed with the Tripoli Government of National Accord), Akar further had this to say according to state media: In addition to the fight against terrorism, Turkey’s activities are ongoing in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, off Cyprus, and Libya, Akar said, adding that they are carried out in accordance with international law and the territorial integrity of the countries. Turkey is a guarantor country for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities, he said.

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Let’s see a few countries apply this to Americans.

Assange May Not Get First Amendment Protection (AAP)

Julian Assange faces the prospect of being denied press protections under US law if he goes to trial there, WikiLeaks says, citing evidence submitted for his London extradition case. The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder is set to face trial in the UK next month to determine whether he should be extradited to the US, where he has been charged with 17 counts of spying and one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charges related to allegations Assange tried to help former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning protect her digital identity as she accessed classified Pentagon files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. WikiLeaks helped publish thousands of those files, including some that revealed US war crimes in both countries.

His case is widely viewed as a litmus test for the protection of journalists’ sources. WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson says a new affidavit provided by US government lawyers this week for Assange’s upcoming extradition trial states that foreign nationals, like Assange, are not entitled to press protections under the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Mr Hrafnsson revealed the development outside Assange’s case management hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday. “On the one hand they have decided that they can go after journalists wherever they are residing in the world, they have universal jurisdiction, and demand extradition like they are doing by trying to get an Australian national from the UK for publishing that took place outside US borders,” he told AAP.

“But then at the same time they are not granting any foreign journalist the protection of the First Amendment. “That’s extremely serious. That’s of grave concern to all journalists. “We are seeing this incremental approach, a darkness flowing over journalism from that country, and it’s about time that journalists really united in resisting this.” Assange appeared by video link from prison at Thursday’s hearing, and did not speak except to say his name and birthdate for the court. Judge Vanessa Baraitser reluctantly agreed to split his trial into two segments with the first week to begin on February 24 and the final three weeks to be held from May 18.

Her ruling came after prosecutors flagged timetabling issues and the defence pleaded for more time to deal with an ever-expanding pile of evidence coming from the US. Mr Hrafnsson says the delay may give Assange and his legal team more time to review mounting evidence, as they have only been permitted four hours together since his arrest on April 11. But he admitted it would also further extend Assange’s time behind bars. “A maximum security prison for a non-violent person like Julian, who is a free man basically, who is on remand, is outrageous,” Mr Hrafnsson told AAP. “It’s totally unacceptable.”

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Commemorations vs political games.

Go to Gaza and Cry ‘Never Again’ (Haaretz)

It’s very important to remember the past; no less important is to be cognizant of the present without shutting one’s eyes. The dozens of statesmen who arrived in Israel yesterday may remember the past, but they’re blurring the present. In their silence, in their disregard of reality while lining up unconditionally alongside Israel, they not only betray their roles, they also betray the memory of the past in the name of which they came here. To be the guests of Israel without mentioning its crimes; to commemorate the Holocaust while ignoring its lessons; to visit Jerusalem without traveling to the Gaza ghetto on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – one can barely think of any greater hypocrisy.

It’s good that kings, presidents and other notables came here in honor of this remembrance day. It’s deplorable that they’re ignoring what the victims of the Holocaust are inflicting on another nation. The city of Yerevan will never witness such an impressive gathering to commemorate the Armenian holocaust. World leaders will never come to Kigali to mark the genocide that happened in Rwanda. The Holocaust was indeed the greatest crime ever against humanity, but it was not the only one. But Jews and the state of Israel know well how to sanctify its memory as well as using it for their own purposes.

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, world leaders are the guests of an Israeli prime minister who, on the eve of their visit, called for sanctions – believe it or not – on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is a legacy of the courts that were set up to judge the crimes of World War II. On this Remembrance Day, world leaders are coming to a prime minister who is trying to incite them against the court in The Hague. It’s hard to think of a more galling use of the Holocaust, it’s hard to conceive of a bigger betrayal of its memory than the attempt to undermine the court in The Hague only because it wishes to fulfill its role and investigate Jerusalem. The guests will hold their silence on this issue as well. Some of them may be persuaded that the problem is in The Hague, not in Jerusalem. Sanctions on the court instead of on the occupying state.

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“Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

America’s Radioactive Secret (Rolling Stone)

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.” In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas.

He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth. One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine. In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure. “A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says. So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

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From Suzie Dawson:

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 162020
 
 January 16, 2020  Posted by at 11:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


G. G. Bain Asbury Park, Jersey Shore 1914 (just 35 years before Springsteen was born)

 

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)
Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)
CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)
Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)
Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)
What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)
Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)
Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)
“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)
Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)
Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

 

 

I was amazed and profoundly Bizarro puzzled watching this attempt at a solemn procession, designed to make it look like this was some time-honored tradition on the Hill (no such thing). I read somewhere they were going to present the articles in a wooden box, but I guess they couldn’t find any. Topped off with Pelosi having dozens of pens printed for the occasion. Entertainment for the echo chamber.

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

Update (1745ET): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Wednesday shortly before they were delivered to the Senate, where the US president faces trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Pelosi said shortly before using several ceremonial pens to sign the articles. The articles were ceremonially walked through the US Capitol to the US Senate.

Trump’s impeachment trial will begin Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber’s floor. On Thursday, the House managers will present the impeachment articles to the full Senate at noon, and Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in the senators at 2 p.m., McConnell said. Then the Senate will notify the White House of the pending trial and summon Trump to answer the impeachment articles and send his lawyers, he said. “So the trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said. The next step in the process will be a formal reading of the impeachment charges against Trump on the Senate floor by the seven House prosecutors Thursday morning.


Update: As expected, the House of Representatives officially voted Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate and approved the House’s impeachment managers. The vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and approve the impeachment managers was 228-193. Democratic Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson was the only Democrat to vote nay, breaking with the rest of his party. House Republicans all voted together. [..] After waiting four weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will finally transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, and that they have chosen seven impeachment managers to prosecute the case during the upcoming trial.


Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the articles of impeachment…

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“Anderson Cooper says CNN “obtained” the audio recorded by CNN microphones on the CNN debate stage..”

Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)

The mystery of what presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said to each other in a heated exchange after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate has been solved, with debate host CNN revealing that Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television. In an exchange caught on camera after the debate but unable to be heard by the television audience, Sanders responded to Warren that it was she who had called him a liar. Moments earlier Warren had refused to shake Sanders’ hand. The two U.S. senators and liberal standard bearers in the Democrats’ nominating contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November had been locked in a dispute before and during the debate over an allegation by Warren that Sanders had told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not be elected president.


Sanders disputed that claim before and during the debate but Warren insists it’s true. CNN said on Wednesday that its microphones had caught the post-debate exchange and released its contents. After failing to shake Sanders’ hands, Warren said: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” “What?” Sanders replied. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren repeated. Sanders replied: “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.” Warren said: “Anytime.” Sanders said: “You called me a liar. You told me – all right, let’s not do it now.” Another Democratic candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, who was standing behind the two, said: “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say ‘hi’ to Bernie.”

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Matt is much too kind to CNN: “Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.”

CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)

CNN debate moderator Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders in the Tuesday debate in Des Moines: “CNN reported yesterday — and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement — that, in 2018, you told her you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” Not “did you say that,” but “why did you say that?” Sanders denied it, then listed the many reasons the story makes no sense: He urged Warren herself to run in 2016, campaigned for a female candidate who won the popular vote by 3 million votes, and has been saying the opposite in public for decades. “There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States,” he said. Phillip asked him to clarify: He never said it? “That is correct,” Sanders said.

Phillip turned to Warren and deadpanned: “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” That “when” was as transparent a media “fuck you” as we’ve seen in a presidential debate. It evoked memories of another infamous CNN ambush, when Bernard Shaw in 1988 crotch-kicked Mike Dukakis with a question about whether he’d favor the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife, Kitty. This time, the whole network tossed the mud. Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.

The cycle began with a “bombshell” exposé by CNN reporter MJ Lee. Released on the eve of the debate, Lee reported Warren’s claim that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win in a December 2018 meeting. Lee treated the story as fact, using constructions such as, “Sanders responded that he did not think a woman could win,” and “the revelation that Sanders expressed skepticism that Warren could win.” Lee said “the conversation” opened a window into “the role of sexism and gender inequality in politics”: The conversation also illustrates the skepticism among not only American voters but also senior Democratic officials that the country is ready to elect a woman as president … Although Lee said she based the story on “the accounts of four people,” they were “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter,” and “two people familiar with the meeting.” There were only two people in the room, Sanders and Warren. Lee’s “four people” actually relied on just one source, Warren.

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Cold feet? If the Dems get their witnesses and Trump does not, the 21st century equivalent of pitchforks can’t be far.

Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)

Senator Rand Paul warned his colleagues who plan to let the Democrats choose witnesses that they will lose their reelections. Senator Paul, who has seemingly been leading the charge to defend the president during this process, also explained that he would vote for Rep. Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to testify, especially since Schiff has a staff member who is friends with the whistleblower — potentially making him a material witness. Additionally, Sen. Paul stated that he wants the impeachment process to be over as soon as possible, but that if the Democrats are allowed to call witnesses, President Trump must be afforded the same right.

When asked if any other Republicans have been supportive of Sen. Paul’s assertion that he wants to call in the whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify, he asserted that there are a lot of people who do, but that they have been quiet. “There’s a lot of people who are quiet, so I’ve been kind of loud,” Sen. Paul said. “My goal in this is to be done with the impeachment as soon as possible, and probably the best way to do that is actually no witnesses — but, if we’re going to have witnesses we should have witnesses from both sides. In our interview, Sen. Paul warned that his Republican colleagues may be in trouble when they go up for re-election if they defy the president and allow Democrats to run amok, like they did in the House.

“What I keep trying to convince my colleagues, particularly the ones that might vote to allow the witnesses that the Democrats want to call, is that if they do that and they don’t vote to allow the president to bring his witnesses in, I think the Republican base and Trump supporters are going to be very very unhappy with them. I think it will have electoral consequences — which is sort of my way of saying that maybe they should reconsider having any witnesses at all,” Sen. Paul said. “My hope is some will reconsider and we will just be done with one vote.” [..] Sen. Paul explained that if there does end up being a vote for each individual witness, which could potentially be dozens, he believes that only the ones who are antagonistic to the president will get through.

This means that “Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the whistleblower may not pass a majority vote.” He said that if this is how witnesses are decided, the senate will end up with a situation like the House did — a lopsided witness list that would be mostly people hostile to the president. When asked if he had any other specific witnesses in mind that he was looking to hear, besides Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, Sen. Paul said that “if they end up approving witnesses like Bolton, who I think are harmful, I will insist on a motion that says the president should get to call all witnesses that he or his team deem to be necessary to his defense.” “I don’t want to limit it, I’m not his lawyer, I don’t want to tell him who he has to call — I’m just going to say anyone. ‘Anyone’ includes people he has mentioned, like Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” Sen. Paul said.

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

I suppose it is necessary, considering the bleak and humorless times we live in, to immediately start by acknowledging that the headline is meant as satire, what Webster defines as a form of “ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” In other words, nyet, the Kremlin does not have a hotline to the American brain that can trigger card-carrying Democrats to enter a catatonic trance on Election Day and vote against Joe Biden, or any of the other flawless Democratic gems for that matter. By this time, especially following the release of the Mueller Report, you would think that conspiracy theories involving Russia and American democracy would have subsided; instead they’ve only escalated as the U.S. enters the hot end of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Courtesy of Bloomberg: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, according to two officials familiar with the matter… Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there.” So how exactly does Russia, in a scene straight out of A Clockwork Orange, tap into the frontal lobe section of the U.S. electorate and cause them to lose all confidence in their political favorites?

“A signature trait of Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘is his ability to convince people of outright falsehoods,’ William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement. ‘In America, [the Russians are] using social media and many other tools to inflame social divisions, promote conspiracy theories and sow distrust in our democracy and elections.’” Yes, somehow those dastardly Russians have outsmarted the brightest and best-paid political strategists in Washington, D.C. by brandishing what amounts to some really persuasive memes over social media, and for just rubles on the dollar. The techies at Wired went so far as to call this epic assault on the fragile American cranium, “meme warfare to divide America.”

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Putin is not power hungry. He would love to be able to step back. But he fears for Russia, he fears the US neocons will take it as soon as he leaves.

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

It came out of nowhere. Even ministers in the Russian government apparently did not see their departure coming. Was it a case of a new working year in Moscow – out with the old and in with the new? But it was clear Vladimir Putin, 67, had change in mind. With four years to go before he leaves office, and 20 years already served, it was clear he was planning ahead. A new government, led by Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat who turned Russia’s hated tax service into an efficient operation, and the end of a man who has worked hand in glove with Mr Putin since he became president. Dmitry Medvedev even filled in as president for four years, because under the constitution Mr Putin could not.

Mr Medvedev, the unpopular head of the United Russia party, is not going away, but his new role as deputy head of Russia’s security council is far more behind the scenes. “It’s a golden parachute. It means he is in reserve, as the security council is Putin’s closest inner circle – his own mini-government,” says Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Mr Putin is coming to the same point he reached after his second term, when Dmitry Medvedev deputised for him. But this time the president will not take a false backseat as prime minister. It now appears that Mr Putin’s fourth term as president will be his last. On the face of it, it means more powers for parliament – selecting the prime minister and approving the cabinet, for a start. But that won’t happen yet. Mr Putin has chosen Mr Medvedev’s successor and parliament will have to ratify him.

[..] One of the standout proposals is making the State Council a formal government agency enshrined in the constitution. At the moment it is an advisory body packed with 85 regional governors and other officials including political party leaders. It is so large that when it meets it fills a hall in the Kremlin. But Mr Putin clearly has designs on its future. One theory is that he could become a new, powerful leader of the State Council. “The very fact he’s started a discussion on the State Council is that he’s maybe trying to create another place where power resides, where he can step above the presidential post,” Mr Baunov suggests.

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

They say money can’t buy you love, but billionaire Michael Bloomberg is living proof that it can’t buy you common sense, either. Bloomberg has now spent $200 million on his campaign to defeat President Donald Trump — but that hasn’t put him on track to earn a single delegate. The long-shot Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is also shelling out roughly $10 million for a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl. His campaign previously announced that it would spend $100 million on an online ad campaign going after the president. But does anyone understand what Bloomberg plans to do for America? Has all that money passed on a clear political message?

Bloomberg remains fifth in the crowded Democratic field with only eight weeks to go until Super Tuesday. Internal data from one of his rivals suggested he is not polling above 10 percent in any of the four early voting states or the 15 that follow in March. The massive campaign spending coming from the former mayor is unheard of politically. No one is setting up a field operation that is even close to what Bloomberg is spending to influence American politics. “Mike Bloomberg is either going to be the nominee or the most important person supporting the Democratic nominee for president,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, recently told NBC News. “He is dedicated to getting Trump out of the White House.”

Since his late entrance into the race in November, he has hired more than 800 staff members and is opening a dozen offices in Ohio, nine in Michigan, and 17 in Florida. His campaign has repeatedly said that their mission is to make sure Trump loses in 2020, whether Bloomberg wins the nomination or not. Apparently, like other Democrats and media bigwigs, Bloomberg hasn’t been paying attention for the past few years.

Ever since Donald Trump walked down the escalator in Trump Tower and announced he was running for president, he has been the target of a relentless attack by the media. A recent study found that 90 percent of all coverage he received in 2018 was negative. From the “Access Hollywood” tape to voting to impeach him, opponents of Trump have thrown everything they can at him to change public opinion, but nothing sticks. A Media Research Center analysis found that 93 percent of the coverage of the impeachment on ABC, CBS and NBC was negative. Evening news viewers of these networks heard 72 positive statements vs. 981 negative statements about the president since September 24.

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The other day we saw how the US builds giant monopolies. This is why: they’re the only ones making money. That this is due to share buybacks, who cares as long as the press don’t ask questions?

Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)

It’s absolutely stunning how the Fed/ECB/BoJ injected upwards of $1.1 trillion into global markets in the last quarter and cut rates 80 times in the past 12 months, which allowed money-losing companies to survive another day. The leader of all this insanity is Telsa, the biggest money-losing company on Wall Street, has soared 120% since the Fed launched ‘Not QE.’ Tesla investors are convinced that fundamentals are driving the stock higher, but that might not be the case, as central bank liquidity has been pouring into anything with a CUSIP. The company has lost money over the last 12 months, and to be fair, Elon Musk reported one quarter that turned a profit, but overall – Tesla is a blackhole. Its market capitalization is larger than Ford and General Motors put together. When you listen to Tesla investors, near-term profitability isn’t important because if it were, the stock would be much lower.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in the past 12 months, 40% of all US-listed companies were losing money, the highest level since the late 1990s – or a period also referred to as the Dot Com bubble. Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, provided The Journal with a chart that shows the percentage of money-losing IPOs hit 81% in 2018, the same level that was also seen in 2000. The Journal notes that 42% of health-care companies lost money, mostly because of speculative biotech. About 17% of technology companies also fail to turn a profit.


A more traditional company that has been losing money is GE. Its shares have plunged 60% in the last 42 months as a slowing economy, and insurmountable debts have forced a balance sheet recession that has doomed the company. Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows for small companies, losing money is part of the job. About 33% of the 100 biggest companies reported losses over the last 12 months.

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)

Shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge plunged 7.9% in December 2019 compared to a year earlier, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. It was the 13th month in a row of year-over-year declines, and the steepest year-over-year decline since November 2009, during the Financial Crisis. The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods and industrial products and supplies by all modes of transportation, but it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. As always when things get ugly, the calendar gets blamed – Christmas fell on a Wednesday, as it does regularly.

More realistically, December was also the month when Celadon Group, with about 3,000 drivers and about 2,700 tractors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased operations — the largest truckload carrier ever to file for bankruptcy in US history. It rounded off a large wave of bankruptcies and shutdowns of trucking companies in 2019, most of them smaller ones, but also some regional carriers, and on December 9, Celadon. Rail traffic in December capped off a miserable year, with carloads down 9.2% year-over-year in December, and container and trailer loads (intermodal) down 9.6%, according to the Association of American Railroads. For the 52-week period, traffic of carloads and intermodal units fell 5%. The 7.9% year-over-year drop of the Cass Freight Index pushed it below a slew of prior Decembers, including December 2011. The top black line represents 2018, the fat red line 2019:

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)

Human rights groups say it is “unthinkable” that Australia has been secretly exporting arms to the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries whose militaries have been consistently accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Australian government had approved the export of weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo four times in 2018-19. It has also issued more than 80 weapons export permits to Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The DRC has been gripped by successive waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil for decades. As recently as Friday, the United Nations warned ethnic killings and rape occurring in the DRC represented crimes against humanity.

Save the Children estimates more than five million people have been forced to flee their homes in the DRC alone, and says millions of children are “desperately in need of humanitarian assistance”. The chief executive of Save the Children Australia, Paul Ronalds, said the public would be shocked to learn their government was approving weapons sales in such an environment. “The fact we weren’t previously aware that Australia was exporting weapons to the DRC says it all really,” Ronalds told the Guardian. “It is unthinkable that Australian arms could potentially be fuelling these conflicts, and it’s kept a secret from the public.

“The public has a right to know where Australian-made arms are going, especially when taxpayers’ money is being used to market the industry to the world.” [..] Over the 2018-19 financial year, Australia issued 45 weapons export permits to the United Arab Emirates, 23 to Saudi Arabia, 14 to Sri Lanka and four to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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“Some as young as 11″. But of course that’s no reason to go talk to Ghislaine.

Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)

Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein continued to sexually abuse and traffic young women and girls to his private island as recently as 2018, with potentially hundreds of previously unknown victims, a new lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed by the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cites new evidence that Epstein used a computerized database to track women and girls – some as young as 11 – to Little Saint James island, a private estate Epstein purchased in 2016. According to the lawsuit, one girl attempted an escape by swimming, but was later found and had her passport confiscated. According to Wednesday’s complaint, Epstein and his alleged accomplices “trafficked, raped, sexually assaulted and held captive underage girls and young women” at his Virgin Islands properties.


In July last year, Epstein faced federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges for allegedly exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state prostitution charge and completed a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges. He died by suicide in a New York jail cell in August. According to Denise N George, attorney general for the US Virgin Islands, the suit aims to recoup damages from Epstein’s estate, estimated to be worth $577.7m. This suit marks the first against Epstein’s estate by the American territory or any government entity. George enlisted her office’s independent investigators and court documents from other cases to allege that Little Saint James was the epicenter of a decades-long sex trafficking scheme.

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“Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7.”

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

Another slot of judicial history, another notch to be added to the woeful record of legal proceedings being undertaken against Julian Assange. The ailing WikiLeaks founder was coping as well as he could, showing the resourcefulness of the desperate at his Monday hearing. At the Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange faced a 12-minute process, an ordinary affair in which he was asked to confirm his name, an ongoing ludicrous state of affairs, and seek clarification about an aspect of the proceedings. Of immediate concern to the lawyers, specifically seasoned human rights advocate Gareth Peirce, was the issue that prison officers at Belmarsh have been obstructing and preventing the legal team from spending sufficient time with their client, despite the availability of empty rooms.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.” Three substantial sets of documents and evidence required signing off by Assange before being submitted to the prosecution, a state of affairs distinctly impossible given the time constraints. A compounding problem was also cited by Peirce: the shift from moving the hearing a day forward resulted in a loss of time. “This slippage in the timetable is extremely worrying.” Whether this shows indifference to protocol or malice on the part of prosecuting authorities is hard to say, but either way, justice is being given a good flaying. The argument carried sufficient weight with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to result in an adjournment till 2 pm in the afternoon, but this had more to do with logistics than any broader principle of conviction.

As Baraitser reasoned, 47 people were currently in custody at court; a mere eight rooms were available for interviewing, leaving an additional hour to the day. In her view, if Assange was sinned against, so was everybody else, given that others in custody should not be prevented from access to counsel. (This judge has a nose for justice, albeit using it selectively.) As things stand, Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7. The case proceeding itself was adjourned till January 23, and Assange will have the choice, limited as it is, of having the hearing at the Westminster Magistrates Court or Belmarsh.

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The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 142020
 


G. G. Bain The new Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge over the East River, NYC 1909

 

The Coming Clash Between Bernie And Biden (Pol.)
Joe Biden’s Campaign Chairman Rallies Wall Street Donors (CNBC)
Sanders-Warren Fight Unnerves Progressives (Hill)
The Democrats Are Demanding Witnesses With One Notable Exception (Turley)
Sedition in Real Time (Kunstler)
The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the ‘Brexit Election’ (Graeber)
UN Draft Plan Sets 2030 Target To Avert Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction (G.)
EU To Unveil Financial Plan To Shift To Green Economy (R.)
US Drops China Currency Manipulator Label Ahead Of Trade Deal Signing (R.)
Australia’s Indigenous People’s Answer To Bushfires Is 50,000 Years Old (CNN)
Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? (Goodale)
Assange Legal Team Close To Bringing Legal Action Against Belmarsh Prison (Sp.)

 

 

China trade deal. Dems Debate. Senate impeachment trial. Should be a fun week.

The Democrats are in self-destruct mode. Debate tonight, no more Mr. or Mrs. nice gal. Nobody can afford to be nice anymore. You’re my friend, but…

But as I said the other day: “Bernie is a socialist, Biden is a sleepy flip flop who blackmailed Ukraine, Warren is Pocahontas squared and a socialist, Buttigieg has a closet full of things he hasn’t yet outed, and nobody likes Bloomberg.”

 

The Coming Clash Between Bernie And Biden (Pol.)

Bernie Sanders’ first major tangle with Joe Biden — over a 2010 deal that Biden struck with Republicans that liberals believed threatened Social Security — helped fuel his national rise. Now Sanders is set to reprise that clash Tuesday night on the debate stage, where the Vermont senator is preparing to lay into Biden over his record on Social Security. For the past week, Sanders and his campaign have telegraphed his attack over the former vice president’s long-standing record entertaining cuts to the program that are anathema to progressives and many mainstream Democrats. Sanders’ speechwriter and senior adviser David Sirota said Tuesday will be time for Biden to answer hard questions about his past onstage.

“Joe Biden has repeatedly worked to cut Social Security, and has never offered up a good explanation for that crusade. His Social Security record is not only atrocious on a policy level, it is an enormous political vulnerability in both a primary and a general election,” Sirota said. “Bernie Sanders has exactly the opposite record — he’s fought those cuts and fought to expand Social Security, and that is a contrast Democratic voters deserve to know.” [..] Sanders, though, differs from [..] other candidates in one important way: He has a devoted base of loyal followers who show no signs of deserting him, many of whom want to see Sanders take the fight to a rival they view as the embodiment of the Democratic establishment by focusing on one of the party’s signature legacy programs, Social Security.

He has also already repeatedly criticized Biden for his votes for the Iraq War and free-trade deals on the debate stage without seemingly suffering. The Sanders team’s expected assault comes as he is at the top of the polls in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, but still significantly polling behind Biden among seniors. It’s not guaranteed he will execute the attack on Biden in a sustained way: After previous debates, some of his aides and supporters have been disappointed that he hasn’t confronted Biden more aggressively.

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I don’t think it’s time for America to go socialist, the economy has to get a lot worse for that. But a Democratic candidate who is exposed getting funded by billionaires may already be bridge too far.

Joe Biden’s Campaign Chairman Rallies Wall Street Donors (CNBC)

Joe Biden’s campaign chairman privately met with some of Wall Street’s top donors last week in an attempt to rally them around the former vice president’s push for the Democratic nomination. Steve Ricchetti, the campaign chairman and one of Biden’s closest advisors, gathered with about 90 financiers Wednesday at investment banking firm Evercore in New York, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. His pitch appeared to sway several of the big-money donors, as well, these people said. Attendees included Evercore founder Roger Altman, longtime investor Blair Effron, Blackstone Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray, Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, Centerbridge Partners co-founder Mark Gallogly, and former U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, said the people, who declined to be named since the meeting was deemed private.


Ricchetti told the donors that he believes now is the time for them and their donor networks to get behind Biden as the first contests of the 2020 primary season are set to kick off in three weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Polling averages show that Biden has maintained his spot as the national Democratic front-runner with six months to go until the Democratic convention. Yet he is in extremely tight races with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary early in February.

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They tried anti-semite on Jewish Bernie Sanders, and if possible smearing him as sexist is even crazier. Bye Warren!

Sanders-Warren Fight Unnerves Progressives (Hill)

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appear to be at war after a long-standing detente, unnerving liberals who hoped to see a progressive win the party’s nomination and fear the clash could hurt both presidential candidates. Tensions between the Sanders and Warren camps were already rising, but they boiled over ahead of a pivotal Tuesday night debate in Des Moines, Iowa, after CNN reported that Sanders told Warren at a meeting in 2018 that a woman could not be elected president. Sanders vehemently denies the story, which came from four anonymous sources close to Warren. Warren, in a statement released late Monday, said Sanders did make the remark, but she also sought to cool tensions. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed. I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she said.


[..] The CNN report about Sanders’s alleged sexist remark was a dramatic escalation after a year of campaigning in which the candidates and their campaigns refused to go after one another. Sanders released a statement strongly denying that he had ever told Warren that a woman could not be elected president. The Vermont senator, who has at times singled out CNN and other mainstream outlets over their coverage of his campaign, called the report “ludicrous.” “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened,” he said. “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

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Don’t forget, this is going to overlap the Democratic nomination race. The Dems can get Bolton perhaps, but that opens the door for the GOP to call Hunter and Joe Biden. And many others. Hillary, Obama?!

The Democrats Are Demanding Witnesses With One Notable Exception (Turley)

For those who have the votes, witnesses are an unnecessary risk. For those who don’t, they are an absolute necessity. On Friday, Schumer insisted that “there is only one precedent that matters here: that never, never in the history of our country, has there been an impeachment trial of the president where the Senate was denied the ability to hear from witnesses.” Put another way, Schumer does not have the votes and thus needs the witnesses. Schumer now wants to hear from the witnesses who never testified before the House, which rushed through an impeachment without seeking to compel testimony from key officials. One of those, former national security adviser John Bolton, said Monday he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.

In the Clinton impeachment trial 21 years ago, Schumer and the Democrats opposed hearing from witnesses. In that impeachment chapter, the Democrats had the votes. Lacking the votes this time, the unpredictability of witnesses now appeals to Schumer and his party. But only up to a point. Schumer has opposed the suggested Republican witnesses as a mere “distraction.” One witness in particular could prove not just a distraction but a disaster: Hunter Biden. In a conventional trial, Biden would be a relevant defense witness. Biden’s testimony would have bearing on a key question in an abuse-of-power trial. Trump insists that he raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s relationship with a Ukrainian energy firm to the Ukrainian president as part of an overall concern he had about ongoing corruption in that country.

If that contract with the son of a former vice president could be shown to be a corrupt scheme to advance the interests of a foreign company or country, it might be Trump’s best defense. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 401, courts will often review possible testimony under the standard of whether “it has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Even before the adoption of the Bill of Rights, Congress enacted a statute reaffirming the right of the “defense to make any proof that he can produce by lawful witnesses” in cases of treason and capitol cases.

[..] Trump’s position is that he did not arbitrarily ask a country to investigate a possible political rival. Had Trump called for an investigation into Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) husband, for example, without a scintilla of proof of corruption, it would be entirely indefensible. However, the Biden contract was so openly corrupt it would have made Jack Abramoff blush. Even in the United States, lobbyists and companies will often give family members undeserved lucrative jobs and contracts to curry favor with powerful politicians. Overseas, it is standard operating procedure.

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Jim does a lot of reading into the topic. He’s becoming an expert.

Sedition in Real Time (Kunstler)

It is a wonder of these incendiary times that even as impeachment of a president moves to its ripest phase, trial in the Senate, the acts of sedition that prompted it still go on behind the scenes with no intervention — an epic failure of authority, if there ever was one. And further irony, if ever there was a trial that cried for witnesses, the impeachment case being brought by Mrs. Pelosi is such a hash of fraud, incompetence, and chicanery, that it begs for summary dismissal — so that these seditious caitiffs will not have to answer to the nation. I speak of the “whistleblower” scheme cooked up by a network of officials who have actively plotted to overthrow the president for three years, as laid out at The Last Refuge website Sunday night:

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson in league with former colleagues from the Department of Justice National Security Division and the Lawfare org — a group dedicated to weaponizing law, in service to the political Left. As I have averred in this blog as far back as October, Mr. Atkinson’s previous job before being appointed ICIG was counsel (lawyer) to the Department of Justice’s Chief of National Security. During the first half of the election year 2016, that was John Carlin. Mr. Carlin’s job was not just to sign-off on FISA warrants, but to actually write them. It also happens that Mr. Carlin had previously served as chief of staff to Robert Mueller, when Mr. Mueller was FBI Director.

Mr. Carlin signed-off on a March 2016 warrant against Carter Page, under suspicion of being a Russian Spy, when in fact Carter Page was a CIA informant who had been operating in Russia for years to uncover Russian adventures against the USA. CIA Director John Brennan inserted Mr. Page into the Trump campaign to open up Mr. Trump’s campaign to FBI surveillance, since the CIA has no law enforcement powers. The FISA Court’s Two-hop Rule allows a second hop to anyone who communicated with the initial subject of a warrant, which might have achieved surveillance of everyone in the Trump campaign, including the candidate himself. It also would have allowed access to all communications going back for years. This part of the scheme was probably green-lighted by White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice for Mr. Brennan, with President Obama’s approval, for the purpose of helping Hillary Clinton win the election.

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David Graeber on Brexit. Excellent.

“Insofar as they dreamed of anything, now, it was of finding some British equivalent of Barack Obama, a leader who looked and acted so much like a visionary, who had so perfected the gestures and intonations, that it never occurred to anyone to ask what that vision actually was (since the vision was, precisely, not to have a vision).”

The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the ‘Brexit Election’ (Graeber)

Politics, in wealthy countries, is increasingly becoming a war between the generations. While the support for smaller parties in the UK (Liberal Democrats, Greens, the Scottish National Party, even Brexit) is constant across ages, the split between Labour and Conservative is almost entirely based on age cohort: The result, according to YouGov opinion polling data from 2018, is that if only Britons over the age of sixty-five were allowed to vote, the Labour Party would be all but wiped out, whereas if only Britons under twenty-five were allowed to vote, there would simply be no Tory MPs whatsoever. This is particularly striking when one takes into consideration that the left Labour policies the young so overwhelmingly voted for in the 2017 and 2019 elections were ones that had been treated, even a year or two before, as so radical as to fall off the political spectrum entirely.

Proclamations of the death of British socialism, then, seem decidedly premature. Meanwhile, the Tories’ core constituency is quite literally dying off. If conventional wisdom is correct, historically young people only begin to vote Conservative when they acquire a mortgage, or otherwise feel they have a secure position to defend within the system, which bodes ill indeed for the Tories’ future prospects. Why, then, such an apparently devastating victory? Why did middle-aged swing voters—particularly in the former Labour heartlands of the North—break right instead of left? The most obvious explanation is buyer’s remorse over the European Union. For many working-class Northerners in their sixties, the first vote they ever cast was in the Common Market referendum of 1975, in which a majority of Britons declared in favor of the European project.


Electoral maps of the UK based on projected results of opinion polling from 2018 if, respectively, only over sixty-five year-olds (left) or only eighteen-to-twenty-four year-olds (right) were allowed to vote

Most experienced the next forty or so years largely as a sequence of disasters. In 2016 they turned against the “Eurocrats,” then watched in dismay as the entire political class proceeded to engage in endless and increasingly absurd procedural ballet that appeared designed to reverse their decision. This explanation is true, but superficial. To understand why Brexit became such an issue in the first place, one must first ask why a populism of the right has so far proved more adept than the left at capitalizing on profound shifts in the nature of class relations that have affected not just the UK but almost all wealthy societies; second, one must understand the uniquely nihilistic, indeed self-destructive, role of centrism in the British political scene.

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Please fork over your $50 trillion.

UN Draft Plan Sets 2030 Target To Avert Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction (G.)

Almost a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by the end of the decade to stop and reverse biodiversity decline that risks the survival of humanity, according to a draft Paris-style UN agreement on nature. To combat what scientists have described as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the proposal sets a 2030 deadline for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife that perform crucial services for humans. The text, drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, is expected to be adopted by governments in October at a crucial UN summit in the Chinese city of Kunming. It comes after countries largely failed to meet targets for the previous decade agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010.

As well as calling for a commitment to protect at least 30% of the planet, the 20-point draft plan, which has been likened to the 2015 Paris agreement on the climate crisis, aims to introduce controls on invasive species and reduce pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%. The draft text has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, who have called on governments to treat the targets outlined in the accord as the minimum acceptable level for which to aim. The director of Campaign for Nature, Brian O’Donnell, said: “Today’s draft shows that countries are listening and that they recognise the increasingly important role that protecting land and water must play in confronting climate change, preventing wildlife extinctions, and supporting people and local communities. This is a very encouraging first step.

“Much work remains to be done in the coming months to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are advanced, and bold conservation and finance targets are included in the final agreement.” By 2030, the trade in wild species must be legal and sustainable, according to the draft document, which also aims to promote the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making about biodiversity.

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They claim only $1 trillion initially. Just so you don’t scare away.

EU To Unveil Financial Plan To Shift To Green Economy (R.)

The European Commission will propose on Tuesday how the EU can pay for shifting the region’s economy to zero CO2 emissions in 2050 while protecting areas and industries most dependent on coal from taking the brunt of changes aimed at preventing climate change. The commission, the European Union’s executive arm, is to unveil details of its Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to mobilize investment of 1 trillion euros over 10 years using public and private money to help finance its flagship project — the European Green Deal. All EU countries except Poland agreed last month they should transform their economies over the next 30 years to not emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb, so as to limit global warming and resulting climate changes.

The deal came amid overwhelming support from Europeans who see irreversible climate change as one of their biggest threats, more so than terrorism or unemployment. In the only dissent among the 28 European Union countries to the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal, Poland argued that its energy systems and economy were too dependent on coal and lignite to make the transition over that time. To secure Warsaw’s support, the commission is to unveil on Tuesday the details of how it can help it financially through a Just Transition Fund that would generate 100 billion euros over seven years to ease the transition of coal-dependent regions to a “green” economy.

The Just Transition Fund is to be a mix of money from the EU’s long-term budget, loans from the European Investment Bank and the InvestEU program, using the principle of leveraging limited public funds to attract private cash by covering the riskiest parts of an investment. The commission announcement on Tuesday will spell out eligibility criteria for the funds, which are widely expected to be tilted in favor of Europe’s most coal- or lignite-dependent regions like Silesia in Poland. As well as being a huge challenge, the commission sees a switch to an economic model not based on burning fossil fuels for energy as a great opportunity for European industry to shift to making environmentally clean, re-usable and repairable products based on renewable energy sources.

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Nothing changed.

US Drops China Currency Manipulator Label Ahead Of Trade Deal Signing (R.)

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday dropped its designation of China as a currency manipulator days before top officials of the world’s two largest economies were due to sign a preliminary trade agreement to ease an 18-month-old tariff war. The widely expected decision came in a long-delayed semi-annual currency report, reversing an unexpected move by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last August at the height of U.S.-China trade tensions. Mnuchin had accused China of deliberately holding down the value of its yuan currency to create an unfair trade advantage, just hours after President Donald Trump, angered at the lack of progress in trade negotiations, had also accused China of manipulating its currency.


The Treasury Department had not labeled China a currency manipulator since 1994. Beijing had recently met just one of the department’s three criteria needed for such a designation – a large bilateral trade surplus with the United States. In its latest currency report, the Treasury said that as part of the Phase 1 trade deal, China had made “enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation” and agreed to publish relevant data on exchange rates and external balances. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington on Monday for a White House ceremony to sign the trade deal with Trump. People familiar with the negotiations said that although the manipulator designation had no real consequences for Beijing, its removal was an important symbol of goodwill for Chinese officials.

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Can’t survive on hubris alone, white boy.

Australia’s Indigenous People’s Answer To Bushfires Is 50,000 Years Old (CNN)

The fires in Australia have been burning for months, consuming nearly 18 million acres of land, causing thousands to evacuate and killing potentially millions of animals. They’re showing minimal signs of slowing down. The Australian state of New South Wales, where both Sydney and Canberra are located, declared a state of emergency this week, as worsening weather conditions could lead to even greater fire danger. But a 50,000-year-old solution could exist: Aboriginal burning practices. Here’s how it works. Aboriginal people had a deep knowledge of the land, said historian Bill Gammage, an emeritus professor at Australian National University who studies Australian and Aboriginal history.

They can feel the grass and know if it would burn well; they knew what types of fires to burn for what types of land, how long to burn, and how frequently. “Skills like that, they have but we don’t know,” Gammage said. Aboriginal techniques are based in part on fire prevention: ridding the land of fuel, like debris, scrub, undergrowth and certain grasses. The fuel alights easily, which allows for more intense flames that are harder to fight. The Aboriginal people would set small-scale fires that weren’t too intense and clear the land of the extra debris. The smaller intensity fires would lessen the impact on the insects and animals occupying the land, too, as well as protect the trees and the canopy.

Setting smaller, low-intensity fires to prevent larger bushfires may sound like common sense. In practice, though, it’s really hard. It comes down to knowledge, Gammage said. When do you a start a fire? What time of the year? What time of day? How long you want it to burn? What plants are there? What’s the weather like — is there a drought like now? “You have to have a lot of local skill,” Gammage said. He cited an example. In Australia, fires that are too hot actually allows the flammable undergrowth to germinate more. When early Europeans tried to copy Aboriginal techniques by lighting fires, they made the fires too hot, and got even more of the flammable scrub. So, they tried again. And again. “Even though people can see the Aboriginese doing the fire control, and could see the benefits, they couldn’t copy it,” he said.

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James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? (Goodale)

[..] The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life. After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange. When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried. Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove.

Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense. The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make. When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

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Why do I have to read about this onn Sputnik? Where is the western coverage?

Assange Legal Team Close To Bringing Legal Action Against Belmarsh Prison (Sp.)

Julian Assange’s legal team is on the verge of bringing a judicial review against prison authorities for denying their client proper access to his lawyers and his case files, Westminster Magistrate’s Court was told on 13 January 2020. Assange appeared in person for an administrative hearing for the first time in months and was greeted by supporters raising their clenched fists in solidarity, which he acknowledged with a nod and a small wave of the hand. At the hearing Judge Venessa Baraitser told Assange’s lawyers that the “longest period [Assange will have before being taken back to Belmarsh prison] is going to be an hour” due to the fact that there were already 47 people in the custody cells and eight in the consultation rooms.

Gareth Pierce, Assange’s lead solicitor, said that his legal team came to court with the expectation that they would discuss a “pretty substantial amount of evidence which only Mr Assange can sign off on” and which would take far more than an hour. “[Only having an hour] sets us back in our timetable enormously”, she explained. The court is expecting Assange’s lawyers to serve further key documents in the next couple of days but Pierce said that that would not be possible without proper time with their client. She told the court that if it was willing to contact Belmarsh prison on her client’s behalf then a meeting with his lawyers could be secured as early as 14 January. Judge Baraitser has consistently refused to intervene with prison authorities, claiming that she has no jurisdiction to do so, despite being presented with evidence of another judge doing precisely that.

“We have used every ability to press Belmarsh every way, and have [even] used government lawyers to note it is a breach of a defendant’s right to a defence… we are at the brink of judicial review”, Pierce told Judge Baraitser. [..] While Judge Baraitser remained unwilling to intervene with Belmarsh she did allow his hearing to be adjourned later in the day by another judge. In doing so she secured more time for Assange to consult with his lawyers before being returned to Belmarsh. Journalist and activist John Reese who attended the hearing suggested that Judge Baraitser was taking an increased interest in helping Assange secure more access to his lawyers

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Jan 042020
 


Jack Delano Near Shawboro, North Carolina, Florida migrants on way to Cranberry, NJ 1940

 

The Dubious Official Story Behind the Soleimani Assassination (Whitney Webb)
Israel Had Advance Notice Of US Plan To Kill Iranian General Suleimani (LAT)
How Trump Decided To Kill Iran’s Soleimani (Pol.)
Inside The Plot By Iran’s Soleimani To Attack US Forces In Iraq (R.)
Iraqi PMF Militias Retract Claims Of Medics Targeted By US Airstrike (RT)
The Dogs of War (Kunstler)
Fed Policymakers Broadly See Eye To Eye On 2020 Outlook (R.)
Fed’s Mester Warned Of Inflation Risks, Says Current Policy ‘Well Calibrated’ (R.)
Australian Troops Called To Tackle Fires (BBC)
Slow Burn (John Quiggin)
Australia’s Bushfires Push Countless Species To Extinction (G.)
Mexico President Calls For Julian Assange To Be Released From UK Prison (R.)

 

 

See far too many people pretending they’re far too sure about what’s going on. Mostly in line with their pre-conceived views, but others, too, appear to think there’s shame in not having a strong opinion on things they don’t know much about (there will be a war!). While Israel and Saudi are almost completely missing from those opinions and reports.

First victim of war is truth, guys, and that war for now only exists in opinions. And don’t believe everyone in Iran is in deep mourning now. There, too, in the upper echelons there’s a constant power battle, with lots of bloodshed and torture and renditioned people. Just like in America. Plenty Iranians will be happy to see Soleimani gone.

The Dubious Official Story Behind the Soleimani Assassination (Whitney Webb)

Much has been written by MintPress and other outlets about the long-standing efforts by prominent neoconservatives in the U.S. as well as the Israel lobby and Israeli government to prod the U.S. into a major war with Iran. Neoconservative efforts at regime change in Iran have been decades in the making and the current presidential administration has several notable Iran hawks in prominent positions. Furthermore, both President Trump and his foremost ally in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are facing domestic efforts aimed at removing them from office and are facing fresh elections, giving both leaders incentive to ratchet up tensions abroad to distract from their own domestic conflicts.

Yet, the current pressure facing both Trump and Netanyahu in their respective policies is only the latest factor that has pushed both administrations into a renewed and increasingly desperate push to satisfy the decades-old effort of Iran hawks in both countries to stoke war and “reshape” the Middle East in favor of the U.S.-Israel axis. Given the recent assassination of Soleimani, however, it is essential to point out that the U.S. airstrike targeting the Quds Force leader came just a few months after Israel tried but failed to assassinate the general. Indeed, the most recent of these failed attempts was slated to occur early last October and, per The Times of Israel:

“The assassins planned to dig under a religious site associated with Soleimani’s father and set off an explosion under the building when he was inside, and then try to deflect blame so that it ignited an interfaction[al] religious war. The assassins prepared some 500 kilograms to use for the bomb.” Israel’s government did not comment on the alleged plot, though it is notable that the plan to dig below a Muslim holy site and plant a bomb has been attempted by Israeli extremist groups in the past, groups which have a major foothold in Israel’s current government.


This alleged attempt by Israel to kill Soleimani came after claims that, in 2018, the Trump administration had given Israel a “green light” to assassinate the general. The report claimed that “there is an American-Israeli agreement” that Soleimani is a “threat to the two countries’ interests in the region” and was published by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, which is widely considered to be “an Israeli platform for conveying messages to other countries in the Middle East,” according to Israeli media.

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Geez, what a surprise.

Israel Had Advance Notice Of US Plan To Kill Iranian General Suleimani (LAT)

Israel had advance notice of the U.S. plan to kill Iranian military leader Gen. Qassem Suleimani, Israeli military and diplomatic analysts reported Friday night while refraining from providing further details due to heavy military censorship. “Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago,” Barak Ravid, a journalist and commentator with deep sources in the Israeli security establishment, said on Channel 13. An Israeli army officer with knowledge of Israeli military assessments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to reporters, told the Los Angeles Times that the attack on Suleimani “did not come as a surprise.”

The reactions of Israel’s political leadership to Suleimani’s assassination were mostly positive, though deep concern was registered throughout the leadership. Iran and Israel maintained warm relations for almost four decades before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah and imposed a theocratic Shiiite Muslim regime that for four decades now has called for “death to Israel” and is accused of backing and masterminding numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli or Jewish targets, including the 1992 and 1994 attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left over 100 people dead. Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy militia, has in recent years been accused of perpetrating further attacks against Israeli targets in India, Thailand and Bulgaria.


[..] Due to the heightened alarm, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Greece, where he had signed an agreement for a regional gas pipeline. He made a statement on the tarmac ahead of boarding his flight back to Israel, saying that the United States had the right to defend itself. “Qassem Suleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks. President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense.” The Israeli army officer described the situation as “definitely higher readiness than usual, but not DEFCON One. We want to err on the side of caution, but we know we are not the first target. We are the second.”

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Lots of stories of Trump spilling the beans before the attack to run of the mill Mar-a-Lago guests. While Howie Carr didn’t know anything until afterwards. Don’t let news outlets shape your opinions for you.

How Trump Decided To Kill Iran’s Soleimani (Pol.)

Hours before the U.S. military sent a Reaper drone to kill one of the most wanted men on the planet, President Donald Trump was relaxing at his palatial Florida properties. In the morning, he played 18 holes at Trump International, his West Palm Beach golf club. At around 3 p.m., he returned to Mar-a-Lago, the historic oceanfront estate he’s branded “the Winter White House,” and waited, donning a navy blue suit with a powder-blue tie and an American flag pinned to his lapel. He’d already made a risky—and potentially world-altering—decision to allow the U.S. military to kill Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite paramilitary forces.

Earlier this week, he’d been surrounded at Mar-a-Lago by top officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. Throughout the entire week, Trump sought input from other advisers by phone. “He was calm, cool and collected,” said conservative radio host Howie Carr, who spoke with Trump on Thursday at Mar-a-Lago soon after the news first broke, as the president dined with GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy. “I had no idea there was anything out of the ordinary going on until I got home.”

As rocket attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq intensified over the last two months, the president had granted the Pentagon extraordinary latitude: The U.S. military had his permission to kill Soleimani the next time it had an opportunity to do so, according to a senior defense official who was not authorized to speak on the record. “We had authority before the strike to take that action,” said the official, who wouldn’t say how recently Trump gave the Pentagon that authorization—whether it was hours, weeks or even months earlier. As recently as New Year’s Eve, the president was telling reporters that he didn’t want war with Iran.


For a man U.S. officials have portrayed as a terrorist mastermind, an evil genius responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, Soleimani often flaunted his influence as he jetted between Tehran, Baghdad and Beirut for meetings with local potentates. “I don’t think it was so hard [to find him] because he was not below the radar in the last two or three years,” said a former senior Israeli government official, who noted that Soleimani had previously moved around under strict operational secrecy. “But the last two or three years, he worked in the open.”

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We simply don’t know what is fact and what fiction. And that’s okay.

Inside The Plot By Iran’s Soleimani To Attack US Forces In Iraq (R.)

In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad. The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters. The strategy session, which has not been previously reported, came as mass protests against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq were gaining momentum, putting the Islamic Republic in an unwelcome spotlight.

Soleimani’s plans to attack U.S. forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect that rising anger toward the United States, according to the sources briefed on the gathering, Iraqi Shi’ite politicians and government officials close to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Soleimani’s efforts ended up provoking the U.S. attack on Friday that killed him and Muhandis, marking a major escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran. The two men died in air strikes on their convoy at a Baghdad airport as they headed to the capital, dealing a major blow to the Islamic Republic and the Iraqi paramilitary groups it supports. Interviews with the Iraqi security sources and Shi’ite militia commanders offer a rare glimpse of how Soleimani operated in Iraq, which he once told a Reuters reporter he knew like the back of his hand.


Two weeks before the October meeting, Soleimani ordered Iranian Revolutionary Guards to move more sophisticated weapons – such as Katyusha rockets and shoulder-fired missiles that could bring down helicopters – to Iraq through two border crossings, the militia commanders and Iraqi security sources told Reuters. At the Baghdad villa, Soleimani told the assembled commanders to form a new militia group of low-profile paramilitaries – unknown to the United States – who could carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases. He ordered Kataib Hezbollah – a force founded by Muhandis and trained in Iran – to direct the new plan, said the militia sources briefed on the meetings. Soleimani told them such a group “would be difficult to detect by the Americans,” one of the militia sources told Reuters.

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That second strike everyone’s talking about? Did it even happen?

Iraqi PMF Militias Retract Claims Of Medics Targeted By US Airstrike (RT)

The Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have dropped their claims that a medical convoy was destroyed in a US air raid along Taji road, north of Baghdad. In a new press release cited by several news agencies, the PMF leadership retracted their statement in which the group said their medics were hit by a US airstrike. This happened after Reuters cited Iraqi Army sources who said that six people were killed in a raid near Taji. The Iraqi Army, however, later denied that an airstrike took place there. In a statement quoted by local media, the military urged everyone to be “careful” about spreading unverified information and “rumors” in the future. The US-led coalition in Iraq also said that no air raids have been conducted in that area in recent days.

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“..the little towns that dotted that landscape where all the carnage and horror played out. Not a strip-mall in the whole gorgeous panorama. The rolling fields neatly fenced in the stillness of a summer’s day. A peaceful tranquility we today cannot even imagine.”

The Dogs of War (Kunstler)

In that mercifully quiet week between Christmas and New Years, I re-watched Ken Burns’ documentary of the first Civil War, in contemplation of a possible second. What an almighty bloodbath that was. Thousands butchered in minutes in one battle after another, heads and limbs flying, men turned inside-out, and horses, too. The blue and the gray were hostage to their battlefield tactics and didn’t seem to learn from the insane extravagance of souls wasted in massed assaults against massed artillery again and again and again. The population of the whole nation (Confederacy included) was 31 million in 1860 and the war killed two percent of that, almost entirely young men.

Another impression left by that documentary was the startling beauty of the countryside in that day, and of the little towns that dotted that landscape where all the carnage and horror played out. Not a strip-mall in the whole gorgeous panorama. The rolling fields neatly fenced in the stillness of a summer’s day. A peaceful tranquility we today cannot even imagine. Everything human-scaled and so many buildings graced with beauty deliberately made: pediments, steeples, cupolas, columns, and swags. Walt Disney could not have imagined a more tender and appealing place. The lyrical names of those towns are linked to rivers of blood: Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Missionary Ridge, Cold Harbor….


And the last impression accumulated over each installment was that this we did it to ourselves, and couldn’t seem to stop, just as today various parties to current events can’t seem to stop their provocations to a new episode of national domestic violence. This time it is the very government at war with itself, and so far the war is merely legalistic, the battles of lawyers — of which, one senses, we have far too many for our own good. The Department of Justice in particular is at war with itself, one faction in it refusing to cooperate with the other, hiding documents, trafficking in political muck, kluging up the works with deceptions, and still at it in the yet-unresolved case of General Flynn, which should have been thrown out of court months ago based on obvious prosecutorial malice.

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These people think you are really really stupid…

Fed Policymakers Broadly See Eye To Eye On 2020 Outlook (R.)

Federal Reserve policymakers who last year were frequently at odds over where to set U.S. borrowing costs opened 2020 telegraphing confidence in the state of the economy and signaling broad agreement that monetary policy is right where it should be. In their first remarks in the new year, heads of several regional Fed banks noted a strong job market, robust consumer spending and a rising optimism for a resolution to the trade tensions that had nicked growth in the second half of 2019.


And after cutting interest rates three times last year to bring the Fed’s target to a range of 1.5% to 1.75% and ensure global headwinds didn’t short-circuit the longest U.S. economic expansion in history, “I think most of us think that we are well-calibrated now,” Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said in an interview on the sidelines of an economics conference in San Diego. Based on forecasts of her fellow policymakers on the Fed’s rate-setting committee, she said, “the committee thinks a flat path (for interest rates)… is appropriate.” Mester had been among a handful of Fed policymakers who argued last year that the U.S. economy did not need lower rates to continue to grow.

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… so stupid, in fact, that they say whatever sounds good, truth be damned.

Fed’s Mester Warned Of Inflation Risks, Says Current Policy ‘Well Calibrated’ (R.)

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester, among the Fed policymakers most concerned that easy monetary policy would risk excessive inflation, said on Friday she has put those fears to rest for now and is willing to leave rates at their current level absent some substantial change in the economy. Her comments in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the American Economic Association conference suggest how firmly the Fed is anchored to its current setting for overnight interest rates, fixed in a range of between 1.5% and 1.75% after three rate cuts last year. Advocates for even deeper rate reductions now agree the current setting is helping the economy enough that the Fed can stand pat while Mester and others who worried that lower rates might court faster inflation or risky lending have concluded that at this point there is little cause for concern.


I have been kind of forecasting inflation to go up to 2% for quite a while and we have been undershooting,” said Mester, who assumes a voting role this year on the Fed’s policy-setting committee. Mester, who was skeptical last year that rate cuts were needed, said, “I think we are really well calibrated now.” A rate increase would not be needed, “until I see either financial stability issues looming or some indication that inflation is going to pick up strongly. I don’t see that now and it is not in my forecast.” “You want to see that inflation really is at 2%. You want persistence. You want to be able to say that I am confident now that inflation is meeting our goal,” which was set at 2% in 2012 but never consistently achieved, she said.

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Finally, and even then it’s just reserve troops.

Australian Troops Called To Tackle Fires (BBC)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced 3,000 reserve troops will be deployed to help tackle raging bushfires across the country. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said this is the first time this has happened in Australia’s history. Temperatures have surpassed 40C (104F) in parts of south-east Australia. Officials had warned that Saturday was set to be a “dangerous day”. Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Mr Morrison told reporters: “We have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level.”


An emergency warning was issued for areas of eastern Victoria that told remaining residents it was now too late to leave. “The safest option is to plan how you will safely take shelter indoors as conditions worsen,” the warning said, adding: “Leaving now would be deadly.” Residents were instructed to attempt to take shelter indoors or in a large clearing or body of water. Dozens of people are missing and some 1,500 homes have already been lost this fire season. Mr Morrison also announced A$20m (£10m) has been allocated to lease four water bomber planes. Defence force bases would provide temporary accommodation, he said.

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Just think about all the plastics and paints etc. that are burning.

Slow Burn (John Quiggin)

At least eighteen people have already been killed by this season’s bushfires — and, with most of January and all of February still to come, that number is sure to rise. But these dramatic deaths are far outweighed by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, that will ultimately result from the toxic smoke blanketing Australian cities.

The most dangerous component of bushfire smoke are tiny particulates, no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, known as PM2.5. Over the past twenty years, studies have shown that high levels of PM2.5 have contributed to millions of premature deaths in highly polluted cities like Beijing and Delhi. Sydney, Canberra and other Australian cities have recently joined this list. In 2016 alone, exposure to PM2.5 contributed to an estimated 4.1 million deaths worldwide from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease and respiratory infections.

Even before the current cataclysm, air pollution was a major health hazard. While Sydney’s prevailing average of 6 micrograms per cubic metre (6 μg/m3) is within international health standards, it is above the levels observed in most European and American cities. A study led by the Sydney Public Health Observatory’s Richard Broome estimated that particulates and associated forms of pollution already account for between 310 and 540 premature deaths annually.

As far as can be determined, the mortality and health risks of PM2.5 are a linear function of the level of exposure. Being exposed to 6 μg/m3 every day for a year, for example, amounts to 2190 “microgram days.” Broome and his colleagues’ work implies that each microgram day is associated with between 0.14 and 0.25 premature deaths. This figure is consistent with a range of international studies they cite.

The overall mortality effects are also a linear function of the number of people exposed. That’s why a city like Delhi, with thirty million people and an average PM2.5 of 150 μg/m3, suffers tens of thousands of premature deaths every year.

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Think anyone cares? Always had the impression white Australia only wants to sell off all resources as fast as they can, because they know they stole all of them to begin with. Before you get caught, make sure the money’s in your pocket.

Australia’s Bushfires Push Countless Species To Extinction (G.)

Close to the Western River on Kangaroo Island, Pat Hodgens had set up cameras to snap the island’s rare dunnart – a tiny mouse-like marsupial that exists nowhere else on the planet. Now, after two fires ripped through the site a few days ago, those cameras – and likely many of the Kangaroo Island dunnarts – are just charred hulks. “It’s gone right through the under storey and that’s where these species live,” said Hodgens, an ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, a not-for-profit conservation group. “The habitat is decimated.” On Friday afternoon word came through that three other Land for Wildlife sites protecting dunnarts and other endangered species, including the southern brown bandicoot, had also been consumed by fire on the island off the South Australian coast.


Prof Sarah Legge, of the Australian National University, said the prognosis for the Kangaroo Island dunnart was “not good” and its plight was symbolic of what was happening all across the east coast of Australia. “Many dozens” of threatened species had been hit hard by the fires, she said. In some cases “almost their entire distribution has been burnt”. So far, the Australian bushfire season has burned through about 5.8m hectares of bush, known across the world for its unique flora and fauna. Ecologists say the months of intense and unprecedented fires will almost certainly push several species to extinction. The fires have pushed back conservation efforts by decades, they say, and, as climate heating grips, some species may never recover. Climate scientists have long warned that rising greenhouse gases will spark a wave of extinctions.

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AMLO doesn’t appear to be very effective so far, certainly not internationally. A socialist right on America’s doorstep. Can’t be easy.

Mexico President Calls For Julian Assange To Be Released From UK Prison (R.)

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday called for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be released from prison in London, urging an end to what he described as his “torture” in detention. Assange, 48, is in a British jail for skipping bail when he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he spent nearly seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape that were dropped in November. Assange is also battling U.S. attempts to extradite him over Wikileaks’ publication of vast caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables. He faces a lengthy prison term if extradited to the United States.


A U.N. human rights investigator last year said Assange has suffered psychological torture from a defamation campaign and should not be extradited to the United States where he would face a “politicized show trial.” Lopez Obrador, a leftist who has close ties with Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, expressed his solidarity with Assange and said he hoped the former hacker and activist is “forgiven and released” from prison. “I don’t know if he has recognized that he acted against rules and norms of a political system, but at the time these cables demonstrated how the world system functions in its authoritarian nature,” Lopez Obrador said in response to a question about Assange at a regular government news briefing. “Hopefully consideration will be given to this, and he’s released and won’t continue to be tortured.”

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Jan 012020
 


Vincent van Gogh Weeping woman 1883

 

‘I’m Slowly Dying Here’: Julian Assange in Christmas Eve Call (RT)
US Chief Justice Warns Of Internet Disinformation (R.)
Taiwan Anti-Infiltration Bill Passed As Opposition Lawmakers Protest (SCMP)
Taiwan Leader Rejects China’s Offer To Unify Under Hong Kong Model (R.)
Sydney House Prices Set To Top $1 Million Again (SMH)
Negative Rates, The Destruction Of Money (Lacalle)
Google Veterans: The Company Has Become ‘Unrecognizable’ (CNBC)
Should Racists Get Health Care? (Ron Paul)
Coyotes Take Up Residence At Trump’s New York City Golf Course (G.)
Earthshot: William And Kate Launch Prize To ‘Repair The Earth’ (BBC)

 

 

Happy New Year Julian! May your nightmare come to an end in 2020.

‘I’m Slowly Dying Here’: Julian Assange in Christmas Eve Call (RT)

Julian Assange sounded like a shell of the man he once was during a Christmas Eve phone call, British journalist Vaughan Smith told RT, noting the WikiLeaks founder had trouble speaking and appeared to be drugged. Assange was allowed to make just a single call from the maximum security Belmarsh prison in southeast London for the Christmas holiday, hoping for a reminder of the world beyond his drab confines of steel and concrete. “I think he simply wanted a few minutes of escape” and to revive “happy memories,” Smith told RT, adding that Assange had spent the holiday at his home in 2010. The brief conversation was far from cheerful, however, with Assange’s deteriorating condition increasingly apparent throughout the call.

He said to me that: ‘I’m slowly dying here.’ “His speech was slurred. He was speaking slowly,” the journalist continued. “Now, Julian is highly articulate, a very clear person when he speaks. And he sounded awful… it was very upsetting to hear him” Though Assange didn’t say it out loud during the call, Smith said he believes the anti-secrecy activist is being sedated, noting that “It seemed pretty obvious that he was,” and said others who visited Assange were of the same opinion. Smith isn’t the first to raise this issue, but British authorities have so far refused to divulge whether Assange has been given psychotropic drugs in prison, insisting only that they aren’t “mistreating” him. But given that he is “being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” with requests by numerous doctors to examine his physical condition denied, Smith said he has a hard time taking the officials at their word.


“Julian was extremely good company over Christmas in 2010,” the journalist said, but the man he talked to on the phone last week sounded like a different person. “I just don’t understand… why he’s in Belmarsh Prison in the first place. He’s a remand prisoner. He’s not a danger to the public.” [..] Going forward, Smith said it will be important to continue pressuring the British government to answer a litany of questions about Assange, his treatment in prison and his health, as well as to push for an “independent assessment” of the situation. Confined in one form or another since taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and now denied the ability to defend himself in court, Assange should finally receive a fair hearing.

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Shouldn’t he be warning about the NYT, WaPo instead? Just because he reads them every day doesn’t make them any less dangerous. The opposite, really.

US Chief Justice Warns Of Internet Disinformation (R.)

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern on Tuesday about disinformation amplified by the internet and social media as he focused his year-end report on the weakening state of civics education in the United States. “In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital,” Roberts said in his annual report on behalf of the federal judiciary. The chief justice warned that Americans “have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside.” Roberts’ comments come as U.S. legislators and officials have raised concerns about the persistence of foreign propaganda and false news aimed at sowing discord in the U.S. political system in the lead-up to the 2020 election.


U.S. intelligence agencies and an inquiry by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia engaged in a campaign of hacking and propaganda to sway the 2016 presidential race toward Republican President Donald Trump. Mueller did not establish that members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election. Roberts said in his report that an independent judiciary was a “key source of national unity and stability” and called on his judicial colleagues to promote public confidence and trust by reflecting on their duty to judge without fear or favor. He has previously lamented the perception in an increasingly polarized society that lower courts and the Supreme Court are becoming politicized, and that judges are guided primarily by their partisan affiliations.

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Quite a few Taiwanese support the mainland.

Taiwan Anti-Infiltration Bill Passed As Opposition Lawmakers Protest (SCMP)

Taiwan’s independence-leaning lawmakers have pushed through a controversial bill in the final legislative session of the year that critics say could have a chilling effect on the self-ruled island and worsen ties with Beijing. The anti-infiltration bill, which criminalises political activities backed or funded by “hostile external forces” – referring to mainland China – was passed by the Democratic Progressive Party-controlled legislature after it was put to a vote on Tuesday. “The voting result shows 67 of those present in favour of passing the bill against zero opposing it,” legislative speaker Su Jia-chyuan said in an announcement afterwards.

Opposition politicians, including those from the mainland-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), had strongly criticised the bill, saying it was a move by President Tsai Ing-wen and her government to silence dissent ahead of elections on January 11. The ruling DPP said the legislation aimed to combat efforts by Beijing to influence politics and the democratic process on the island, including through illicit funding of politicians, and the media. After the vote, Tsai said in a Facebook post that “preventing Chinese infiltration is what every diplomatic country is doing”. “Chinese infiltration of Taiwan is of great concern to the society here, and the law is against infiltration but not against exchanges,” she said.


[..] Analysts said the legislation could have a chilling effect on Taiwan. “Many Taiwanese people – including academics, politicians and businesspeople – receive gifts or are entertained by mainland authorities during their visits,” said Wang Kung-yi, a political science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. “This may create a chilling effect and it will only further hamper cross-strait exchanges.” Chu Chao-hsiang, a political science professor at National Taiwan Normal University, said a chilling effect caused by the legislation would potentially mean lost opportunities for the island as businesses turned away from the mainland. “Many overseas subsidiaries of mainland companies have investments in Taiwan. If they send funds to their Taiwanese executives in Taiwan to carry out certain investment projects, would this be seen as receiving funds and instructions from the mainland?” he said.

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Wonder what Hong Kong model they have in mind.

Taiwan Leader Rejects China’s Offer To Unify Under Hong Kong Model (R.)

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday the island would not accept a “one country, two systems” political formula Beijing has suggested could be used to unify the democratic island, saying such an arrangement had failed in Hong Kong. China claims Taiwan as its territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name. Tsai, who’s seeking re-election in a Jan. 11 vote, also vowed in a New Year’s speech to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, saying her government would build a mechanism to safeguard freedom and democracy as Beijing ramps up pressure on the island.


Fear of China has become a major element in the campaign, boosted by months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong. “Hong Kong people have showed us that ‘one country, two systems’ is definitely not feasible,” Tsai said, referring to the political arrangement that guaranteed certain freedoms in the former British colony of Hong Kong after it was returned to China in 1997. “Under ‘one country, two systems’, the situation continues to deteriorate in Hong Kong. The credibility of ‘one country, two systems’ has been sullied by the government’s abuse of power,” Tsai said.

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A very fitting topic as 500,000 wildlife have burned to death.

Sydney House Prices Set To Top $1 Million Again (SMH)

Sydney house owners are set to become millionaires again in February, mortgages allowing. The typical Sydney free-standing home was worth $974,000 as the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, according to an exclusive preview of key home price data due to be released by CoreLogic on Thursday. The median Sydney unit was worth $746,000. The value of a typical Sydney free-standing house tumbled from peak of $1,060,000 in July 2017 to $865,000 in June 2019. But a combination of interest rate cuts and an easing of loan serviceability tests reignited Sydney’s property market in the second half of 2019.


One day before the end of 2019, preliminary figures provided to The Sydney Morning Herald by CoreLogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, show Sydney dwelling prices rose 5.3 per cent in 2019, after an 8.9 per cent fall in 2018. “It’s been quite a turnaround,” Mr Lawless said. “Prices have rebounded much faster than anyone would have expected.” In December alone, prices gained a little over 1.5 per cent. This was a slight slowing in the pace of price growth from November’s 2.7 per cent monthly gain, which was the fastest rate of growth since records began in the 1980s. “It’s still a very strong rate of growth, but a step down from November,” Mr Lawless said. “What was probably slowing that rate of growth down a little bit was we did start seeing a bit more stock, giving buyers a bit more choice.”

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A few days old, I think, but there’s a direct link to those Sydney home prices.

Negative Rates, The Destruction Of Money (Lacalle)

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists who start from a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea. Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, perpetuating overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity and zombifying the economy by subsidizing the low productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it, they do not strengthen the credit capacity of families, because the prices of non-replicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrocket because of monetary excess, and the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk. Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money. It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending.


They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, that come from using 2001-2007 as “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble. The argument of the central planners is based on an inconsistency: That rates are negative because markets demand them, not because they are imposed by the central bank. If that were the case, why don’t they let rates float freely if the result was going to be the same? Because it is false. [..] Negative rates are a huge transfer of wealth from savers and real wages to the government and the indebted. A tax on caution. The destruction of the perception of risk that always benefits the most reckless. The bailout of the inefficient.

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It’s part of the CIA now.

Google Veterans: The Company Has Become ‘Unrecognizable’ (CNBC)

When Google co-founders Larry Page and President Sergey Brin stepped down from their roles as CEO and president of Google holding company Alphabet earlier this month, it marked the end of an era. While it’s unclear what prompted the two to leave their formal management positions, longtime employees, many of whom also left the company this year, described to CNBC a massive cultural shift that percolated throughout 2019. They cited changes to Google’s all-hands meetings, human resources processes and transparency from management. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in October admitted the company’s challenge in scaling the trust of its own workforce which numbers more than 100,000 people.

More recently, Lazlo Bock, former director of human resources for Google, told Bloomberg that he thinks Alphabet is “a different company than it used to be” but that “not everyone’s gotten the memo.” The change has been noticed by some on the outside, too. “What the hell is going on over there?” tweeted Andreessen Horowitz partner Martin Casado over the summer. “The brain drain at Google right now is astonishing.” Workers told CNBC that 2018 was a pivotal point in the company’s shift away from upfront communication. That was when news of Project Dragonfly, a secret Google plan to develop a censored search engine for possible rollout in China, first broke in The Intercept. Internally, the existence of the project had been kept on a need-to-know basis.


The company later canceled Project Dragonfly after employees expressed concern over the secrecy of the project. Some workers left the company altogether. “There’s no way a few years before, they would have had a secret project with these kinds of ethical concerns,” said Raph Levien, a former level 6 engineer who left Google after 11 years. “It crossed the line and felt misleading. It definitely felt like this was Google changing.”

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Must a society’s health care be measured by perceptions of big bad goverment? Do we remember how societies used to build bridges and roads et al? If your govenment doesn’t serve your society, replace it, don’t sell off all your community assets.

Should Racists Get Health Care? (Ron Paul)

Political correctness recently took a dangerous turn in the United Kingdom when the North Bristol National Health Service Trust announced that hospital patients who use offensive, racist, or sexist language will cease receiving medical care as soon as it is safe to end their treatment. The condition that treatment will not be withdrawn until doing so is safe seems to imply that no one will actually suffer from this policy. However, health-care providers have great discretion to determine when it is “safe” to withhold treatment. So, patients could be left with chronic pain or be denied certain procedures that could improve their health but are not necessary to make them “safe.” Patients accused of racism or sexism could also find themselves at the bottom of the NHS’s infamous “waiting lists,” unable to receive treatment until it truly is a matter of life and death.

Since many people define racism and sexism as “anything I disagree with,” the new policy will no doubt lead to people being denied medical care for statements that most reasonable people would consider unobjectionable. This is not the first time NHS has withheld treatment because of an individual’s behavior. A couple years ago, another local health committee announced it would withhold routine or nonemergency surgeries from smokers and the obese. Since reducing smoking and obesity benefits both individual patients and the health care system as a whole, this policy may appear defensible. But denying or delaying care violates medical ethics and sets a dangerous precedent. If treatment could be denied to smokers and the obese, then it could also be denied to those who engage in promiscuous sex, drive over the speed limit, don’t get the “proper” number of vaccinations for themselves and their children, or have “dangerous” political views.


Government bureaucrats denying care to individuals for arbitrary reasons is the inevitable result of government interference in the health-care market. Government intervention is supposed to ensure quality and affordable (or free) care for all. But, government intervention artificially lowers the costs of health care to patients while increasing costs to providers. As demand rises and supply falls, government imposes rationing to address the shortages and other problems caused by prior government interference. Rationing has been part of American health care at least since the passage of the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973. Every plan to expand government’s role in health care contains some form of rationing.

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Take any story at all and see if you can inject Trump. Because that sells. Journalism today.

Nor is this a new thing. 10 years ago off of the farm near Ottawa, there were always coyotes howling in the woods.

Coyotes Take Up Residence At Trump’s New York City Golf Course (G.)

Donald Trump has a $269m golf course in New York City that is regularly prowled by feared, largely nocturnal individuals that instinctively prey upon those they deem smaller and weaker. We are, of course, talking about coyotes. The shrewd canines have spread so far from their ranges in the western US that they are now making unlikely homes in cities on the east coast, including beside the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a landscaped sward frequented by visor- and chino-wearing golfers in the faintly incongruous setting of the Bronx. “The staff at the golf course think the coyotes are cool,” said Chris Nagy, a wildlife biologist and co-founder of Gotham Coyote, a collaboration of researchers who study coyotes in New York. “But there’s a point where if the coyotes are getting annoying and worrying the golfers, then they’ll change their minds.”

As humanity chews through landscapes for housing, farming, roads and mining, ecologists have warned of the Earth’s sixth great extinction, with about a million species now endangered. But some creatures have proved flexible in the face of this onslaught, even blossoming in the new circumstances. Coyotes, unfussy eaters that can cover large distances in search of a suitable home, are one of the winners in this denuded age. Cities like New York and Detroit, where redevelopment or economic blight has left urban sites bereft of humans, are increasingly being colonized by coyotes, as well as other opportunists such as raccoons, opossums and even bobcats. Researchers have found a riot of non-human carnivores dwelling in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Washington DC.


[..] “We’re finding coyotes like almost everything or at least can survive on almost everything,” Nagy said as he trudged through the scrub and reeds in search of the Ferry Point camera trap. “A pack of wolves would need, like, the whole county. But not coyotes. They’ve lived kind of underfoot of both wolves and people for thousands of years. And so they’ve evolved to survive metaphorically running among the feet of the giants. “They’re my favorite animal. And I liked them before I started studying them. They’re clever. We’ve tried our best to eradicate them and they’ve thwarted us at every turn. I really admire that, I guess.”

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Between these hollow drips, Greta in Davos and Carney as the UN climate go-to finance guy, 2020 could well be the year when the entire movement dies of good but misguided intentions. If you turn to the billionaires to solve the issue, they will instead end up purchasing it and selling it off for profit.

Earthshot: William And Kate Launch Prize To ‘Repair The Earth’ (BBC)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced a global prize to tackle climate issues, pledging “a decade of action to repair the Earth”. Five winners will receive the Earthshot Prize every year between 2021 and 2030. The cash prize will be for individuals or organisations who come up with solutions to environmental problems. Prince William said the world faces a “stark choice” to continue “irreparably” damaging the planet or “lead, innovate and problem-solve”. The announcement was made in a video narrated by Sir David Attenborough posted on social media. The veteran broadcaster and naturalist said the prize would go to “visionaries rewarded over the next decade for responding to the great challenges of our time”.


The prize is set to launch officially later in 2020 – a year that will also see the Convention on Biodiversity in China in February and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. A series of challenges will be announced, aimed at finding least 50 solutions to the “world’s greatest problems” including climate change and air pollution. More than 60 organisations and experts were consulted in the development the prize. It will initially be run by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but could become an independent organisation. Kensington Palace said it would be supported by philanthropists and organisations.

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Dec 282019
 
 December 28, 2019  Posted by at 10:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Conversion. Beverage containers to aviation oxygen cylinders 1942

 

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)
Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)
Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)
Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)
Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)
Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)
Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)
FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)
Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)
Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)
Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

 

 

WikiLeaks’ new leak. We now have OPCW, White Helmets, Bellingcat exposed as lying through their teeth about this. Much of their funding follows s similar trail: US government, Atlantic Council etc. The basis of US foreign policy.

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)

The leadership of the chemical weapons watchdog took efforts to remove the paper trail of a dissenting report from Douma, Syria which pointed to a possible false flag operation there, leaked documents indicate. In an internal email published by the transparency website WikiLeaks on Friday, a senior official from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) ordered that the document be removed from the organization’s Documents Registry Archive and to “remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever.” The document in question is a technical assessment written by inspector Ian Henderson after a fact-finding mission to Douma, a suburb of Damascus, in the wake of an alleged chlorine gas attack.

Western politicians and media said at the time that the government forces had dropped two gas cylinders as part of an offensive against jihadist forces, killing scores of civilians. The OPCW inspector said evidence on the ground contradicted the airdropping scenario and that the cylinders could have been placed by hand. Considering that the area was under the control of anti-government forces, the memo lands credence to the theory that the jihadists had staged the scene to prompt Western nations to attack their opponents. The final report of the watchdog all but confirmed that Damascus was behind the incident, but in the past months an increasing amount of leaked documents and whistleblower testimonies have emerged, pointing to a possible fabrication.


The OPCW leadership stands accused of withholding opinions contravening the West-favored narrative and using misleading language to report what the inspectors found on the ground. The alleged email was written by Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW. Its authenticity is yet to be confirmed, but the organization never said any of the previously leaked documents were not real. Another document published on Friday outlines a meeting with several toxicology experts and their opinions on whether symptoms shown and reported in alleged victims of the attack were consistent with a chlorine gas poisoning. “The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure,” the document said, adding that the chief expert suggested that the event could have been “a propaganda exercise.”

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J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.

Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)

President Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate is a foregone conclusion. But it will not be impeachment’s conclusion for Democrats. Democrats’ decision not to send House impeachment articles to the Senate clearly signals their strategy: Delegitimize any action short of removal. They will not let impeachment go, now or ever, because they must counter their sagging – and President Trump’s strengthening – political position. Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s removal forever, pursuing de facto impeachment since taking the House this year, and pursuing it in fact since September. This marathon became a sprint: One week in the House Judiciary Committee and one day on the House floor.

Now, it has abruptly halted at what should be its climax. House leaders say they are not sending the impeachment articles to the Senate in order to leverage a fair trial there. How this gives them leverage, or how a trial there could be less fair than the House’s proceedings, is unclear. What is clear is that Democrats intend to maintain impeachment as an issue beyond its constitutional course. To rephrase Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, even after the fat lady sings.” To understand why, it is necessary to understand the myriad reasons behind Democrats’ singular obsession with impeachment. First, they have a weak case. This was evidenced by the bipartisan opposition to impeachment and the Democrats’ inability to convince even one Republican to support it.


Democrats therefore must blame someone else, and they are laying the foundation for claiming that someone else – additional witnesses – could have provided it. Second, the left is pushing Democrats hard on impeachment, and Democrats are dependent on their left. The left forced impeachment on Democrats. The further left, the harder the push. Simply recall who Democrats’ impeachment leaders were and who stayed most assiduously away — even if ultimately voting for it. Democrats are as dependent on the left as the left is insistent on impeachment. The left is credited with the party’s 2018 success. In the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field, liberals dominate collectively, even if they have not yet coalesced around one candidate. The so-called moderates are running left, and the liberals are staying put.

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Sis weeks to Iowa. Time for the candidates to turn on each other. Time for Trump to laugh.

Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)

Democrats are bracing for a long, drawn-out primary season. With just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats say they don’t expect a likely nominee to emerge anytime soon after early-voting states hold their contests. Instead, they’re preparing for a bruising four-way match-up that could drag on for months as candidates compete for the chance to challenge President Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently topped nationwide polls, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remain key contenders who show no signs of slowing down. “It’s going to be uglier than ugly,” one Democratic strategist said, pointing to surveys showing there is no clear winner across the first four states in the nominating process.

“It’s going to be a bloody slugfest. And the thing a lot of us fear is that Trump will benefit from all of it.” Democrats have focused their efforts on electability, making the case for rallying behind the kind of candidate who can topple Trump. Some Democrats say that while a progressive candidate can energize the party’s base and win in the primary, it would be much more difficult for that same White House hopeful to win the general election against Trump. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, argued that because the top candidates each have strong pockets of support, the primary may even lead to a brokered convention in July. “Although people always say that, this time it could be true,” Zelizer said.

“Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump they have very different visions of how to do this and won’t concede easily.” The party’s top four candidates — two progressive candidates and two moderate candidates — are indicative of where the Democratic Party is right now, said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. “It shouldn’t be a surprise you are seeing two progressives and two moderates vying for the top spot,” he said, adding that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also a wild card in the primary race. “What is the most interesting factor here is that voters are somewhat interchangeable between Biden and Sanders as they are between mayor Pete and Sen. Warren.”

[..] The Democratic strategist who predicted the primary would be a “bloody slugfest” said this election cycle is reminiscent of 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders were locked in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination. Clinton emerged the winner, but “she was damaged from the primary,” the strategist said. “And anyone who says Sanders didn’t hurt her has their head in the clouds,” the strategist said. This time around, a brokered convention “could only add further division at a time when we need it most. It’s a bit of a nightmare situation.”

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There you go. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, but..”

Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)

Warning that President Donald Trump cannot be defeated by an establishment Democrat running a “same old, same old type of campaign,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board published Thursday that Trump would have a field day with former Vice President Joe Biden’s record of support for the Iraq War, job-killing trade deals, and other destructive policies. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him,” Sanders said. “But my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch.”

The Los Angeles Times interview was not the first time Sanders has distinguished his own record from Biden’s by highlighting the former vice president’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During a Democratic primary debate in September, Sanders noted that, unlike Biden, he “never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq.” “I voted against the war in Iraq, and helped lead the opposition,” the Vermont senator said. Sanders told the Times that defeating Trump in 2020 will require a candidate who embraces “ideas that are going to excite and energize millions of people who right now are not particularly active in politics, and who may not vote at all”—and the Vermont senator argued he is the Democratic contender best positioned to deliver such a campaign.


“The reason I believe that I am the strongest candidate, and the reason I believe our approach is right is if you want a large voter turnout, if we understand that there are tens of millions of people in this country who don’t vote, who’ve kind of given up on the political process… I think I am by far the strongest candidate to reach out to those people,” Sanders said. “I think I’m the strongest candidate to bring together a multiracial coalition of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asians.”

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Joe Biden’s biggest problem appears to be that he can’t identify his biggest problem. Either that or he knows there’s no escaping it.

Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)

Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Friday he would not comply with a subpoena to testify in a Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump earlier this month alleging Trump abused his presidential power by tying foreign aid approved by Congress to a politically motivated investigation into a company on which Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board. Leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate are trying to come to terms for an impeachment trial. Biden said in early December he wouldn’t comply with a subpoena by the Senate, and confirmed that statement Friday in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board.

He has not been subpoenaed, but Trump’s allies have floated the idea. Testifying before the Senate on the matter would take attention away from Trump and the allegations against him, Biden said. Not even “that thug” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and former New York City mayor, has accused Biden of doing anything but his job, the former vice president said. Biden also said any attempt to subpoena him would be on “specious” grounds, and he predicted it wouldn’t come to that. Biden said even if he volunteered to testify in an attempt to clear the air, it would create a media narrative that would let Trump off the hook.

“What are you going to cover?” Biden said to Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter in response to a question. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything that I said. And (Trump’s) going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time. Not a joke … Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help.” Shortly after the House voted to impeach Trump, Biden was campaigning in Iowa, where he called impeachment “a sad moment for our country.” It underscored the need for a president who can unify the country, he said.

“No one’s taken as much heat and as many lies thrown at them as I have, but again, this is not about me. It’s not about my family. It’s about the nation. And we have to reach out and unify this country,” Biden said in Ottumwa on Saturday. A centerpiece to Biden’s campaign is his ability to beat Trump in a general election. It was a sentiment most likely Democratic caucusgoers shared in a mid-November Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll. He was the only candidate whom a majority of respondents said they were either almost certain or fairly confident would defeat Trump, according to the poll.

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Warren and Bernie rely on the same donors. She may be gone in six weeks’ time.

Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign told supporters on Friday its fundraising haul stands at just over $17 million and made a plea for more donations with just days left in the fourth quarter. The figure was a sharp drop from the previous quarter and accompanied the progressive Democrats’ slight slide in opinion polls in recent weeks in the Democratic contest to face Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. “We’re only days away from the biggest fundraising deadline of the year, and we’re at risk of missing our $20 million goal,” Warren’s campaign said on its website. In an email to supporters, the campaign said its haul of a little over $17 million this quarter was “a good chunk behind where we were at this time last quarter.”


In the third quarter of 2019, Warren’s campaign reported raising $24.6 million, slightly behind the $25.3 million raised by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to swear off big-money fundraisers. Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has for months been polling in the top three of the crowded Democratic field, along with Sanders and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Support for her White House bid has slid since she announced in November how she would finance her $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan with new taxes on the wealthy and corporations but without raising middle-class taxes. The plan drew criticism from rivals who say it is unrealistic and from some voters concerned that it was too extreme.

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3 years of daily RussiaRussia rants transferred to the field of entertainment. Get real. Here’s hoping OAN does Maddow, MSNBC and Comcast real damage.

Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)

One America News (OAN) is in court against MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow in a $10 million lawsuit after Maddow said her conservative competitor “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Now, Maddow is arguing in court that her words should not be taken as fact. Her actual legal defense, put out in a motion by her lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., reads: “…the liberal host was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.’”

During one of her MSNBC segments, Maddow claimed, “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America is really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” and added, “Their on-air politics reporter (Kristian Rouz) is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Leaving aside that Maddow now says her words should not be believed as fact, a linguistics professor’s testimony is leading observers to believe Maddow is also now lying in court. UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries said, “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”


[..] OAN host Jack Posobiec tweeted at Maddow after she made her defamatory remarks, writing “Do you understand how defamation laws work? Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.” OAN’s lawsuit also named MSNBC, Comcast, and NBC Universal Media as defendants, and accuses Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company, of “anti-competitive censorship” because the network refuses to carry OAN as part of its cable package.

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Who cares after all this time? Let’s see some action.

FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)

The FBI is investigating British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. They said a principal focus of the FBI’s investigation is Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein, and other “people who facilitated” Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior. Maxwell has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Her lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the probe remains at an early stage. The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager. A representative for the British royal family said that whether the agency interviewed Andrew was “a matter for the FBI.” Following Epstein’s arrest, the FBI urged anyone who had been victimized by Epstein or had additional information to call the agency’s hotline.


U.S. Attorney General William Barr vowed to carry on the case against anyone who was complicit with the financier. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he said in August. The two law enforcement sources said the FBI’s principal focus is on people who facilitated Epstein and that Andrew does not fit into that category. They did not rule out the possibility that the FBI would seek to interview Andrew at a later date.

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“..an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup..”

Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)

What is most perilous for our country now, would be to journey through a second epic crisis of authority in recent times without anybody facing the consequences of crimes they might have committed. The result will be a people turned utterly cynical, with no faith in their institutions or the rule of law, and no way to imagine a restoration of their lost faith within the bounds of law. It will be a deadly divorce between truth and reality. It will be an invitation to civil violence, a broken social contract, and the end of the framework for American life that was set up in 1788.

The first crisis of the era was the Great Financial Crash of 2008 based on widespread malfeasance in the banking world, an unprecedented suspension of rules, norms, and laws. GFC poster-boy Angelo Mozilo, CEO and chairman of Countrywide Financial, a sub-prime mortgage racketeering outfit, sucked at least half a billion dollars out of his operation before it blew up, and finally was nicked for $67 million in fines by the SEC — partly paid by Countrywide’s indemnity insurer — with criminal charges of securities fraud eventually dropped in the janky “settlement.” In other words, the cost of doing business. Scores of other fraudsters and swindlers in that orgy of banking malfeasance were never marched into a courtroom, never had to answer for their depredations, and remained at their desks in the C-suites collecting extravagant bonuses. The problems they caused were papered over with trillions of dollars that all of us are still on-the-hook for. And, contrary to appearances, the banking system never actually recovered. It is permanently demoralized.

How it was that Barack Obama came on-duty in January of 2009 and got away with doing absolutely nothing about all that for eight years remains one of the abiding mysteries of life on earth. Perhaps getting the first black president into the White House was such an intoxicating triumph of righteousness that nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Perhaps Mr. Obama was just a cat’s paw for banksterdom. (Sure kinda seems like it, when your first two hires are Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.) The failure to assign penalties for massive bad behavior has set up the nation for another financial fiasco, surely of greater magnitude than the blow-up of 2008, considering the current debt landscape. Not a few astute observers say they feel the hot breath of that monster on the back of their necks lately, with all the strange action in the RePo market — $500 billion “liquidity” injections in six weeks.

But now we are a year into Attorney General Bill Barr coming on the scene — the crime scene of RussiaGate and all its deceitful spin-offs. The Mueller investigation revealed itself as not just a thumping failure, but part of a broader exercise in bad faith and sedition to first prevent Mr. Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to harass, obstruct, disable, and eject him from office. And six months after Mr. Mueller’s face-plant, out comes the Horowitz Report tracing in spectacular detail further and deeper criminal irregularities in the US Justice agencies. What’s more, tremendous amounts of evidence for all this already sits on-the-record in public documents. The timelines are well understood. And so, an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup — that our polity is so saturated in corruption nothing will be allowed to clean it up.

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But not really.

Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)

The Guardian has corrected an article describing a “plot” to “smuggle” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of London, more than a year after publication. Russia called the article “disinformation and fake news” from the outset. Assange is currently languishing in London’s Belmarsh Prison, awaiting a hearing on his extradition to the US where he is facing espionage charges. However, in the runup to Christmas 2017 he was still safe inside the city’s Ecuadorian embassy. At the time, Assange had become a thorn in the side of Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, and Moreno was reportedly mulling a plan to offer him a diplomatic post in Russia, shifting him out of the UK and away from the threat of extradition.

When The Guardian reported on the story in 2018, it turned up the drama. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper described a “plot” to “smuggle” Assange out of London on Christmas Eve, speeding the fugitive publisher away in a diplomatic vehicle and onwards to refuge in Russia. Ultimately, the report claims, the plan was deemed “too risky” and called off. Though the report painted a picture of a Kremlin-instigated cloak-and-dagger operation, Ecuador would have been well within its rights to grant Assange diplomatic status, had the UK Foreign Office signed off on it. However, plots and plans sell better than backroom diplomatic wrangling, and the paper went with the spy-movie version of events.

It even shoehorned in a paragraph on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin,” and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, for good measure. The Russian embassy in London called the article a clear example of “disinformation and fake news by British media.” On Sunday, the Guardian itself issued a correction. “Our report should have avoided the words ‘smuggle’ and ‘plot’ since they implied that diplomatic immunity in itself was illicit,” read a statement from the paper. The correction was made after a complaint from Fidel Narvaez, who served as Ecuador’s London consul at the time of the alleged “plot.” The paper described Narvaez as a middleman between Assange and the Kremlin. Narvaez outright denied any discussions with Moscow.

Though The Guardian corrected its choice of words, the bulk of its story remains as is. The identity of the anonymous sources cited remain a mystery, as does the level of awareness the Russian government had about the plan at any stage in its formation. As events transpired, Assange was bundled out of the embassy by Metropolitan Police in April, after Ecuador revoked his asylum.

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Nothing more fitting mere days before 2020. Russia’s hypersonics travel at 27x the speed of sound. China’s testing 5x. The US? Nothing so far.

Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own. The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are. The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept.

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard had entered combat duty. “I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen Sergei Karakaev, said during the call that the Avangard had been put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural mountains. Putin unveiled the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target would render missile defense useless. “It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.


China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of travelling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state. US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

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Dec 242019
 
 December 24, 2019  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


George N. Barnard Federal picket post near Atlanta, Georgia 1864

 

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)
‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)
Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)
US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)
Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)
Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)
Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)
New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)
World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)
For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)
‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

 

 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

She has some intriguing arguments: “they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.”

The discussion is far from over.

Impeachment Foot-Dragging Is Proof Dems Have Nothing On Trump (McCaughey)

McConnell is proposing that House Dems and then White House lawyers make their arguments to the senators. The trial could be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, unless senators ≠decide after hearing the arguments that they need to hear witnesses. But Schumer wants more witnesses guaranteed upfront. After 17 witnesses, 8,000 pages of testimony and legal arguments, 106 House staff members working full-time, six high-paid outside lawyers and millions of dollars spent to produce a party-line vote in the House to impeach, Senate Democrats are hankering for another long, drawn-out spectacle. They aren’t outsmarting anyone except themselves. The witnesses they are seeking are unlikely to show up, no matter what political tricks the Democrats try.

Meanwhile, national support for impeachment is steadily falling, and every day Democrats spend on impeachment lessens their chances of unseating Trump in November. Schumer wants four White House officials, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify. But Democrats lost their chance to bring in these witnesses by voting to impeach. Close advisers to any president are protected by executive privilege. That isn’t a Trump invention. Presidents, including George Washington, have said “no” when Congress demanded access to evidence of White House decision-making. President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was especially aggressive about asserting privilege.

The Constitution creates three equal branches of government, and the president has a duty to protect his branch from congressional overreach. When these two branches clash, the federal courts are the referee. That’s true generally, but House Dems took a shortcut. When Trump refused to provide certain witnesses, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff balked at “a lengthy game of rope-a-dope with the courts.” It was a short-sighted move. Once House Dems voted to impeach, they lost any chance to have the federal courts order Trump’s advisers to appear. The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that judges cannot interfere in impeachment trials, because the Senate has “the sole power” over them.

In fact, minutes after the vote, federal appeals judges asked Congress to show why its case to compel the testimony of former White House lawyer Don McGahn isn’t abruptly ended because “the articles of impeachment render the case moot.” With the courthouse doors slammed shut on impeachers, they are trying to strong-arm McConnell into calling witnesses. Yet they are forgetting that McConnell can’t negotiate away executive privilege. It’s not his to surrender.

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The only thing left for Pelosi appears to try and draw it out.

‘Stop Playing Games’: Graham Warns Pelosi Senate May ‘Strike Back’ (ZH)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Monday that the “Constitutional outrage” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “needs to end,” and that if it continues into 2020, “the Senate needs to strike back.” “The Senate will decide how we dispose of this sham created by the house,” Graham tweeted, referring to the impasse created by Pelosi – who is refusing to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Trump until the Senate agrees to her terms. President Trump also had words for Pelosi on Monday after the Speaker called for “fairness” in a Senate trial.

“Pelosi gives us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she is crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so,” Trump tweeted, adding “She lost Congress once, she will do it again!” Pelosi says she will only transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announces the process they will use for Trump’s trial. McConnell has advocated for a similar process to Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment, which included an initial agreement to first hear the case, followed by a vote on whether to call witnesses.

Speaking with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, McConnell said “we’re at an impasse” and “we can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.” McConnell blasted Pelosi for trying to “tell us how to run the trial.” “Look, what we need to do is to listen to the arguments, have a written questioning period, and then decide whether we need witnesses or not,” McConnell said, adding that some Republican senators “have said, ‘I am thinking of myself as a juror,'” while others believe “the case against President Trump is very thin.” -NBC News

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Either Joe drops Hunter or the Dems will drop Joe.

Hunter Biden Allegedly Linked To Multiple Criminal Probes (NYP)

Hunter Biden is the subject of multiple criminal investigations related to “fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” it’s claimed in court documents filed Monday in his Arkansas paternity case. The claims were put forward by a Florida-based private-eye firm, D&A Investigations, in Biden’s ongoing case against alleged baby mama Lunden Alexis Roberts, a former Washington, DC, stripper who went by “Dallas.” Soon after the claims were filed, a judge struck the allegations down because they were filed by an “intervener,” according to court papers. Biden filed a motion to strike down the claims, arguing “the notice is filed by a non-party simply to make scandalous allegations in the pending suit to gain some media attention.”

Biden, 49, “is the subject of more than one criminal investigation involving fraud, money laundering and a counterfeiting scheme,” the filing alleges. One of those purported investigations relates to Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company with which Biden held a lucrative board post while his father, Joe, was vice president — drawing allegations of impropriety from Republicans including President Trump. Biden and a group of business associates “established bank and financial accounts with Morgan Stanley … for Burisma Holdings Limited … for the money laundering scheme,” D&A claims, further alleging that the accounts showed an average account value of nearly $6.8 million between March 2014 and December 2015.

Biden and the others — including Devon Archer, John Galanis and Bevan Cooney — allegedly “utilized a counterfeiting scheme to conceal the Morgan Stanley et al Average Account Value,” D&A claims in the papers filed at the Circuit Court of Independence County, Arkansas. The filing additionally alleges that Biden had a hand in a plot including Galanis, Cooney and Archer to rip off Sioux Native Americans to the tune of $60 million through the shady sale of tribal bonds. Galanis, Archer and Cooney were found guilty for their roles in June 2018, following a lengthy trial in Manhattan federal court. In November, Archer’s conviction was overturned by a Manhattan federal judge.

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In case you were wondering who really rules the USA.

US Govt Blew $3 Trillion On Afghanistan, Congress Adds Another Trillion (OP)

It’s rare that I read something on the Washington Post that I don’t find highly biased, even repugnant. But with their recent article on the Afghanistan Papers, they truly knocked the ball out of the park. The facts they shared should have every American protesting in the streets. Trillions of dollars have been spent on a war that the Pentagon knew was unwinnable all along. More than 2300 American soldiers died there and more than 20,000 have been injured. More than 150,000 Afghanis were killed, many of them civilians, including women and children. And they lied to us constantly. Congress just proved that the truth doesn’t matter, though. A mere 22 hours after the release of this document, the new National Defense Authorization Act that breezed through the House and Senate was signed by the President.

That bill authorized $738 billion in military spending for 2020, actually increasing the budget by $22 billion over previous years. So, how is your representation in Washington, DC working out for you? [..] I know, I know – WaPo. But believe me when I tell you this is something all Americans need to see. This was an article that took three years of legal battles to bring to light. WaPo acquired the documents using the Freedom of Information Act and got more than 2000 pages of insider interviews with “people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.” These documents were originally part of a federal investigation into the “root failures” of the longest conflict in US history – more than 18 years now.

Three presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, have been involved in this ongoing war. It turns out that officials knew the entire time this war was “unwinnable” yet they kept throwing American lives and American money at it.

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“Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are.”

Christmas in Flyover Land (Kunstler)

When you get down to it, the sickness at the heart of our nation these days is the result of countless bad choices, large and small, that we’ve made collectively over decades, including the ones made by our elected officialdom. The good news is that we could potentially move in the opposite direction and start making better choices. However deficient and unappetizing you think Mr. Trump is, and how crudely unorthodox his behavior, that equation is what got enough people to vote for him. The strenuous efforts to antagonize him, disable him, and get rid of him by any means necessary — including police-state tactics, bad faith inquisitions, and outright sedition — have prevented the nation as a whole from entertaining a realistic new consensus for making better choices. In fact, it has achieved just the opposite: a near civil war, edition 2.0.

All the people of America, including the flyovers, are responsible for the sad situation we’re in: this failure to reestablish a common culture of values most people can subscribe to and use it to rebuild our towns into places worth caring about. Main Street, as it has come to be, is the physical manifestation of that failure. The businesses that used to occupy the storefronts are gone, except for second-hand stores. Nobody in 1952 would have believed this could happen. And yet, there it is: the desolation is stark and heartbreaking. Even George Bailey’s “nightmare” scene in It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the supposedly evil Pottersville as a very lively place, only programmed for old-fashioned wickedness: gin mills and streetwalkers.

Watch the movie and see for yourself. Pottersville is way more appealing than 99 percent of America’s small towns today, dead as they are. The dynamics that led to this are not hard to understand. The concentration of retail commerce in a very few gigantic corporations was a swindle that the public fell for. Enthralled like little children by the dazzle and gigantism of the big boxes, and the free parking, we allowed ourselves to be played. The excuse was “bargain shopping,” which actually meant we have sent the factories to distant lands and eliminated your jobs, and all the meaning and purpose in your lives — and cheap stuff from Asia is your consolation prize. Enjoy…

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After Doctors For Assange, it’s high time for Lawyers For Assange. Take the governments involved to court in their own countries.

Medical Opinion, Torture and Julian Assange (AIM)

The medical degrading of Assange has assumed ever greater importance, suggesting unwavering state complicity. On November 22, over 65 notable medical doctors sent the UK Home Secretary a note based on Melzer’s November 1 findings and Assange’s state at the October 21 case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. “It is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).”

In a second open letter to the UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice dated December 4, the Doctors for Assange collective warned that the UK’s “refusal to take the required measures to protect Mr Assange’s rights, health and dignity appears [to] be reckless at best and deliberate at worst and, in both cases, unlawfully and unnecessarily exposes Mr Assange to potentially irreversible risks.” The same grounds were reiterated in a December 16 letter to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, with a curt reminder that she had “an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.” In the event that Payne took no action on the matter, “people would want to know what you […] did to prevent his death.”

In the addendum to the open letter, further to reiterating the precarious state of Assange’s health and medical status as a torture victim, the doctors elaborate on the circular cruelty facing the publisher. An individual deemed “a victim of psychological torture cannot be adequately medically treated while continuing to be held under the very conditions constituting psychological torture, as is currently the case for Julian Assange.” Appropriate medical treatment was hardly possible through a prison hospital ward. A lesson in understanding mental torture is also proffered. “Contrary to popular misconception, the injuries caused by psychological torture are real and extremely serious. The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress.”

At Assange’s case management hearing on December 19, restrictions on medical opinion were again implemented; psychiatrist Marco Chiesa and psychologist David Morgan were prevented from attending. Both had been signatories to the spray of open letters. According to Morgan, he had hoped to “provide some observations about Julian Assange’s health, psychologically, and with my colleagues, physically.” Instead, it transpired that access was denied, according to psychologist Lissa Johnson, “despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.”

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They have been for 5.5 years. But they have already been found guilty before any trial. The “investigators” went with Ukraine and Bellingcat instead, and are now so deeply invested they can’t get out anymore.

Russia Ready To Share All Info Required By MH17 Crash Investigators (RT)

Moscow is poised to give assistance in the investigation of the crash of flight MH17 in 2014, as it always has been, a Russian EU envoy has assured stakeholders, responding to a call for cooperation by the Dutch foreign minister. “We are ready to cooperate in clarifying all the circumstances of the incident,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, told media on Monday. In fact, Moscow has always been poised to do so, but its proposals were brushed aside, the diplomat recalled. Moscow is also prepared to hand over “the data we have” to its Dutch counterparts, ahead of a court trial that will look at the evidence collected by the Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in March next year, Chizhov said.

The envoy spoke shortly after Stef Blok, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said Russia’s contribution is needed to find some missing facts about the crash, which killed 298 passengers and crew. The Hague had “asked the Russian Federation to cooperate in a factual investigation into the closing of airspace above and around Ukraine,” Blok wrote to Dutch lawmakers on Sunday. Blok’s letter comes two months after Chris van Dam, spokesman for the MH17 probe, announced the inquiry will focus on why Ukraine’s airspace “was not closed” over Donetsk at the time of intense hostilities between the government military and rebel forces in the breakaway Donbass region.

Back in 2015, a report released by the Dutch Safety Board confirmed that, while it was hard to find out who was behind downing of flight MH17, the airspace over Ukraine should have been closed. Meanwhile, lawyers representing some victims of the crash maintain that it was Ukraine’s responsibility to ensure the safety of civilian air traffic during the fighting. [..] Moscow has consistently said that, despite not being included in the investigation team, it is still open to cooperation. Russia has already provided radar records, declassified military data on a missile thought to have downed the plane, and files proving that the projectile which downed the plane had been in Ukraine since the 1980s – but the data was persistently rejected as the probe proceeded.

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St Petersburg to Sevastopol: a 43-hour train ride.

New Russia-Crimea Rail Link Condemned By EU (BBC)

President Vladimir Putin has heralded the opening of a railway bridge to the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula by posing in the driver’s cab and praising construction workers. But opening of the railway was immediately condemned by the European Union as “another violation” by Russia of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory. Russia’s 19km (12-mile) bridge to Crimea first opened in May last year. President Putin marked that occasion by driving a lorry over it. On Monday he asserted that millions of cars had already crossed the bridge and said the rail link “was a big deal as well”, with plans to carry 14 million passengers and 13 million tonnes of freight in 2020. Until the bridge was built, Russia had to rely on sea and air to supply the peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in February 2014 before annexing it through a referendum rejected by the United Nations as invalid.


The $3.6bn (£2.8bn; €3.2bn) bridge was built by a close friend of the president, Arkady Rotenberg. Mr Rotenberg and several of his companies had EU and US sanctions imposed on them. Russia’s president said the Kerch Strait bridge, with its new rail link, would have an impact on Russia’s economy as a whole. In a tweet, the presidency declared the bridge open to railway traffic. Mr Putin boarded a three-carriage train in the Crimean city of Kerch, stood in the cab beside the driver and sounded the horn, before sitting with Mr Rotenberg as well as Russian and local officials as they travelled across the strait to Taman in southern Russia. Mr Putin told construction workers that there had only been three times in 145 years that the rail route from St Petersburg to Sevastopol in Crimea had been broken: during the Russian revolution, during World War Two and in 2014.

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Some things simply won’t happen because they can’t.

World ‘Faces 80% Calorie Increase By End Of Century’ (BBC)

The amount of food needed to feed the world’s population by the end of the century could increase by almost 80%, a study has suggested. Researchers from Germany said a trend of increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is resulting in individuals requiring more calories. The authors warn that failure to meet the need for more calories could lead to greater global inequality. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One. The study, carried out by a team from the University of Gottingen, calculated that 60% of the calorie increase would be a result of the growing number of people in the world.


According to the UN World Population Prospects, the global population was estimated to increase from almost seven billion in 2010 to almost 11 billion in 2100. Yet, more that 18% of the increase in the calories from 2010 levels would come from a projected increase in height and weight figures in the global population. “The increase in the average daily required energy rises by 253 kcal per person between 2010 and 2100 in our estimations, assuming a rising BMI and height,” explained co-author Lutz Depenbusch from the World Vegetable Center. He told BBC News: “On a global scale, we calculate that the effect of the BMI and height increases in our model would lead to additional calorie requirements that match the 2010 requirements of India and Nigeria combined.”

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The system many people claim would be too expensive to repair or replace. Sounds like pretty straightforward fraud to me.

For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 (NPR)

Alexa Kasdan had a cold and a sore throat. The 40-year-old public policy consultant from Brooklyn, N.Y., didn’t want her upcoming vacation trip ruined by strep throat. So after it had lingered for more than a week, she decided to get it checked out. Kasdan visited her primary care physician, Roya Fathollahi, at Manhattan Specialty Care, just off Park Avenue South and not far from tony Gramercy Park. The visit was quick. Kasdan got her throat swabbed, gave a tube of blood and was sent out the door with a prescription for antibiotics. She soon felt better, and the trip went off without a hitch. Then the bill came. The news was that her insurance company was mailing her family a check — for more than $25,000 — to cover some out-of-network lab tests.

The actual bill was $28,395.50, but the doctor’s office said it would waive her portion of the bill: $2,530.26. “I thought it was a mistake,” she says. “I thought maybe they meant $250. I couldn’t fathom in what universe I would go to a doctor for a strep throat culture and some antibiotics and I would end up with a $25,000 bill.” The doctor’s office kept assuring Kasdan by phone and by email that the tests and charges were perfectly normal. The office sent a courier to her house to pick up the check. How could a throat swab possibly cost that much? Let us count three reasons. First, the doctor sent Kasdan’s throat swab for a sophisticated smorgasbord of DNA tests looking for viruses and bacteria that might explain Kasdan’s cold symptoms.

Dr. Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, says such scrutiny was unnecessary. “In my 20 years of being a doctor, I’ve never ordered any of these tests, let alone seen any of my colleagues, students and other physicians order anything like that in the outpatient setting,” she says. “I have no idea why they were ordered.” The tests might conceivably make sense for a patient in the intensive care unit or with a difficult case of pneumonia, Mishori says. The ones for influenza are potentially useful, since there are medicines that can help, but there’s a cheap rapid test that could have been used instead.

The second reason behind the high price is that the doctor sent the throat swab to an out-of-network lab for analysis. In-network labs settle on contract rates with insurers. But out-of-network labs can set their own prices for tests, and in this case the lab settled on list prices that are 20 times higher than average for other labs in the same ZIP code. In this case, if the doctor had sent the throat swab off to LabCorp -Kasdan’s in-network provider- it would have billed her insurance company about $653 for “all the ordered tests, or an equivalent,” LabCorp told NPR. The third reason for the high bill may be the connection between the lab and Kasdan’s doctor. Kasdan’s bill shows that the lab service was provided by Manhattan Gastroenterology, which has the same phone number and locations as her doctor’s office.

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A fitting end to the year.

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ Goodies Hottest Holiday Merch This Xmas (NYP)

It’s the most controversial time of the year. Following the August death of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a rash of sweaters, Christmas tree ornaments and other holiday goods have appeared on retail sites like Amazon and Etsy touting conspiracies that the 66-year-old was murdered. “Christmas lights are a lot like Epstein — they don’t hang themselves,” reads one $19.80 sweater on Amazon featuring the 66-year-old in a Santa hat. Plenty of ornaments also include the allegation, including this one, which also features a noose.

“During Christmas, an elf may sit on a shelf, but Epstein didn’t kill himself,” says another Amazon sweater, available starting at $29.99 in eight different colors.“Dasher & dancer & prancer & Epstein & didn’t & kill himself & Donner & Blitzen,” reads one $18.99 T-shirt. An almost-classic gingerbread-themed ornament has a naughty box, a nice box — and an “Epstein didn’t kill himself” box, which is checked. “Merry Christmas!” reads the cover of a $6.99 notebook, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” A ransom-style note sweater with “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” is available in designs featuring Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong-un.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 222019
 
 December 22, 2019  Posted by at 10:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Esther Bubley Passengers on Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus 1943

 

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)
Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)
Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)
Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)
The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)
We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)
2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)
2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)
Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)
Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

 

 

But then he says it on average every other day.

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)

US President Donald Trump has said that Beijing and Washington, locked in a bitter trade dispute, will be inking a trade deal “very shortly,” claiming a breakthrough has been achieved in the recent talks. Trump was speaking at the Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, as he made the announcement. “We just achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal and we will be signing it very shortly,” he said, without providing any additional details as to the terms of the mooted agreement or the timeframe within which it is expected to be signed.

Trump said that he spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday, noting that Beijing has been “already buying billions and billions of agricultural products” from US farmers. The US push for China to step up purchase of US farm products has been one of the key demands of the Trump administration in the negotiations, that had dragged on for almost two years without bearing much fruit. However, last week Washington and Beijing announced that they finally reached “a historic and enforceable agreement” that will see the US lowering levies on $120 billion worth of Chinese imports, while 25% tariffs an another $250 billion worth of Chinese goods would still remain in effect.

China reciprocated by agreeing to boost purchase of American products to up to $200 billion over the next two years, that include agricultural products. In addition, Beijing suspended a new tariff hike on a series of US goods, ranging from corn and wheat to vehicles and auto parts.

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If the deal is so good for the US, why this? Is Xi just saving face?

Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Friday the “phase one” trade deal is beneficial to both China and the U.S., according to state-run media agency Xinhua. “The first-phase economic and trade agreement reached between the U.S. and China is a good thing for the U.S., China, and the entire world,” Xi said. “Both the U.S. and Chinese markets and the world have responded very positively to this. The U.S. is willing to maintain close communication with China and strive to sign and implement it as soon as possible.”


Xi acknowledged a phone call he had on Friday with President Donald Trump regarding the trade agreement. Trump said earlier Friday that they had a “very good talk,” that China has started “large scale” purchases of U.S. agricultural products and a formal deal signing is being arranged. The Xinhua report didn’t mention any detail in the limited trade deal. The two countries announced last week that they had agreed on the text of the agreement that includes some tariff relief and increased agricultural buying. Xi expressed serious concerns over the U.S.2 recent involvement in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, saying these practices interfered with China’s internal affairs, harmed China’s interests, and were not conducive to mutual trust and cooperation.

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The SCMP lifts part of the veil.

Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)

The different approaches adopted by American and Chinese officials in dealing with the long-awaited first trade deal reflect their different sentiments and views on the result of the marathon deliberations. US President Donald Trump has been super proud of the accord, praising it as “a big deal”, “an amazing deal”, and “a historic deal”. In sharp contrast, Beijing has maintained a rarely seen cautious attitude, with its often superlatively upbeat state media muted and shying away from commenting on the development. The only positive word used in China’s official statement is “significant”. In news briefings, United States officials gave detailed information and specific numbers about the accord, trying to give the impression that the deal is “measurable, enforceable and verifiable”.

Chinese officials, by comparison, released just the outlines of agreement in nine areas without giving any specifics. The fact that Beijing has released fewer details about the deal than Washington might speak volumes. The downgraded signing ceremony for the “significant” deal might be more evidence of differing views over the significance of the accord. The deal will not be signed by both presidents as planned, but instead by their lead negotiators – US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a change that is likely to have been a Chinese suggestion. From the beginning, the US-China trade talks have been a one-way avenue as they are all about a deal between what the US wants and what China can give.

Trump initiated the tariff war with the aim of forcing China to overhaul its state-dominated system and market-unfriendly policy, and to change what the US claimed were unfair trade practices. The nine areas outlined in the 86-page document China released are largely about how it has to make changes – in other words, the accord is a must-do list for Beijing. In the tariff war, Washington apparently has the upper hand as the US has imported much more from China than vice versa. Thus Washington slapped tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products, while Beijing, in turn, lashed back at US$185 billion worth of American products – with the sum of both figures equivalent to about the entire trade volume between the two countries.

[..] Beijing’s compromises are substantive. For instance, the Chinese pledge to purchase an additional US$100 million of American products and services in each of the next two years represents a 77 per cent jump in US imports from the 2017 level of US$130 billion. Beijing’s commitment to purchase US$40 billion to US$50 billion of agricultural produce over that period also represents a sharp increase from an all-time peak of US$29 billion and a current annual run rate of less than US$10 billion. These pledges, as they are easily described and verifiable, reflected China’s eagerness to reach a deal.

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I know many people don’t like Bannon, and don’t like Fox, but that doesn’t make this less interesting.

Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be the “trial of the century” in an interview with FOX Business Network’s Trish Regan. “I think this trial is going to be the trial of the century, and the mainstream media is going to be all over it,” Bannon said. “That’s why I think it’s so important not just for his legacy, but for his presidency and his second term. He’s got to engage in this. He’s got to take them on. He’s got to have the whistleblower; we have to have the Bidens in front of the nation and the world. They’re going to have to stand and deliver under oath. And we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And I think that’s going to lead to an exoneration, not just an acquittal, but an exoneration of President Trump.”

“The trial of the century. Wow. You know, a lot of people are worried, well, you get John Bolton. What is he going to do? What is John Bolton going to say? And what is this one going to say? What is that one going to say? What do you say to those concerns?” Regan asked. “The call was perfect. He looked at everything that led up to it,” Bannon answered. “This is why the American people heard him. And you just saw the bureaucrats that were in it that were testified. This is because that is the managed decline of the United States. This is about the Washington consensus. The Washington Post published the Afghanistan papers last week. Two trillion dollars. 2,400 dead. Tens of thousands wounded.

What’s that? That’s the inter-agency consensus in 18 years that betrayed our country. That’s what betrayed our countries. With Brennan, that’s what betrayed our country, not Donald Trump. Donald Trump has stood up. The reasons people cheer for him, it’s their sons and daughters that have died in Afghanistan. It’s their lives, their kids’ lives being thrown away, and their tax dollars. And they understand that Donald Trump is fighting that. That’s why we need a trial, a real trial and Senate with witnesses. So, before the world, Donald Trump could get his day in court.”

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Tulsi reveals how democratic the Democratic party really is.

The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)

Along strongly partisan lines, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two articles, by a total of 230-197-1 on abuse of power and 229-198-1 on obstruction of Congress. The first stems from his alleged pressuring of the Ukranian government to announce investigations into his political rival, Joe Biden. The second is because of his alleged refusal to cooperate with the investigation, withholding evidence and barring aides from testifying. The notable “1” in both counts was Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who, instead of siding with the overwhelming majority of her fellow Democrats, voted “present” both times.

[..] The Hawaii congresswoman explained her stance yesterday with a press release on her campaign website. “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she said. “I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.”

She also introduced a resolution calling on the House to censure Trump on five issues she implied were far more substantial. Those include carrying out wars without congressional approval, illegally “occupying and pillaging” Syria, “recklessly enabling” Turkey to invade Northern Syria and ethnically cleanse Kurds (a U.S. ally), continuing to support Saudi Arabia’s “genocidal war” in Yemen and scrapping nuclear agreements with Iran and Russia, thereby strongly increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

While her move was undeniably unpopular within the Democratic Party she is hoping to lead into the next election, impeachment itself is a highly controversial tactic. The latest poll from Gallup (published Wednesday) shows support for impeachment dropping well below 50 percent while the president’s approval ratings continue to move upwards. Furthermore, it is entirely unclear how Democrats intend to actually remove Trump from office as to do so would require a similar vote from the Republican-controlled Senate.

[..] the entire process is a high-risk strategy from the Democrats that some feel could end up backfiring. “Trump is going to be able to say there was a conspiracy against him– with some justification,” Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said. “It’s a disaster. If they had just not done this and argued against Trump’s presidency on other grounds– on how is America doing, inequality, all those things, it would have been tough for him. But now they’ve handed him a couple of issues, huge ones, that he’ll be able to carry all the way to the finish line…it’s amazing that they did this.”

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Team Maggot and Team Corpse..

We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)

With Trump’s impeachment it’s time to say goodbye to yesteryear’s Team Evil and Team Stupid. Say hello in 2020 to Team Maggot and Team Corpse! Even though Trump has not turned out to be the transformative and restorative president that many of his supporters might have hoped for, he certainly will be (assuming he survives impeachment, which he probably will) the lesser of evils in November 2020 compared to whoever ends up as the Maggot Party nominee. Worse from his opponents’ point of view, he remains a toxic avatar of the old America they thought would be well and truly laid to rest for ever and ever, amen, when Hillary Clinton came into her kingdom.

That having misfired in 2016, partisans of that legacy America’s marginalization, displacement, and eventual extinction can’t breathe easy while Trump remains in office lest he, however unlikely in view of his failures of performance, serve as a catalyst for revival of the historic American nation facing loss of its birthright: an organic, uncontrived, living ethnos characterized by European, mainly British origin (a/k/a, “white”); Christian, mainly Protestant; and English-speaking, as augmented by members of other groups who have totally or partially assimilated to it. The certified victim classes standing on the threshold of the permanent, total power that eluded them three years ago are haunted by the knowledge that there’s still lots of them Muricans in red MAGA hats rallying to Trump out there in Flyover Country ….

In short, Democrats hate Trump not so much for what he’s done (which, contrary to what his passionate supporters think based on his Tweets, isn’t much) but as an expression of an amorphous dread that by some mysterious populist alchemy he might still breathe life back into the Corpse Party’s deplorable base.

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Lots of 2019 overviews, of course. I don’t agree with thinking that this is a 2019 issue, though. For hysteria, look at 2020.

2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)

Then it happened … perhaps the loudest popcorn fart in political history. The Mueller Report was finally delivered. And just like that, Russiagate was over. After three long years of manufactured mass hysteria, corporate media propaganda, books, T-shirts, marches, etc., Robert Mueller had come up with squat. Zip. Zero. Nichts. Nada. No collusion. No pee-tape. No secret servers. No Russian contacts. Nothing. Zilch.

Cognitive dissonance gripped the nation. There was beaucoup wailing and gnashing of teeth. Resistance members doubled their anti-depressant dosages and went into mourning. Shell-shocked liberals did their best to pretend they hadn’t been duped, again, by authoritative sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, et al., which had disseminated completely fabricated stories about secret meetings which never took place, power grid hackings that never happened, Russian servers that never existed, imaginary Russian propaganda peddlers, and the list goes on, and on, and on … and hadn’t otherwise behaved like a bunch of mindless, shrieking neo-McCarthyites.

Except that Russiagate wasn’t over. It immediately morphed into “Obstructiongate.” As the corporate media spooks explained, Mueller’s investigation of Trump was never about collusion with Russia. No, it was always about Trump obstructing the investigation of the collusion with Russia that the investigation was not about, and that everyone knew had never happened. In other words, Mueller’s investigation was launched in order to investigate the obstruction of his investigation.

[..] Never mind that the entire planet continues to be ruled by global capitalism, transnational corporations, and supra-governmental bodies, and that most of it is occupied by the U.S. military, NATO, and other GloboCap allies, and assorted corporate military contractors. Never mind that Russia isn’t “attacking” anyone, and that the “Nazis” haven’t taken over anything, and that no one is rounding up and murdering the Jews, or the Mexicans, or anyone else for that matter … because when have facts had anything to do with maintaining an official narrative?

The answer, in case you were wondering, is “never.” We are, all of us, living in a fiction. A fiction authored by those in power to serve the interests of those in power. That’s what an official narrative is. It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. It functions as “reality” regardless. If you doubt that … well, just ask Jeremy Corbyn. Or watch as the Labour “anti-Semitism crisis” evaporates into thin air, as the War on Terror did in 2016, once it no longer served a useful purpose.

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We go back a long way with Dave. Which has been hindered a lot by Twitter removing him from my feed. Extra good to see he still reads the Automatic Earth as one of his staples.

As for the review.. who has the time?

2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)

I read many blogs, but those I read religiously include mailings from Ron Griess’s The Chart Store, Jim Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, Bill Fleckenstein’s Daily Rap, Tony Greer’s daily TGMacro mailings, Grant Williams Things That Make You Go Hmmm, Automatic Earth, Jesse Felder’s blog, and selected podcasts from Grant Williams’ and Raoul Pal’s RealVisionTV. I am a huge supporter of Adam Taggart’s and Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity. And then there’s Zerohedge: you can love ‘em or hate ‘em, but I am a die-hard fan of Zerohedge.

“Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.”

~ @LifeTipsPage

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Sweden has lots of serious issues, Assange is just one of them. I’m still surprised at the lack of assertiveness of the Swedish people. So much so that sometimes I think perhaps they deserve what’s happening to them. That this may be the only way to wake them from their mental slumber.

Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)

Sweden’s Ministry of Justice pressured the country’s Crime Prevention Council to hide, manipulate, or ignore potentially embarrassing crime statistics, a university study has found. Sweden’s Crime Prevention Council (Brå) has a difficult task. In a country where media outlets omit police-circulated descriptions of suspects’ ethnicity, and the government actively downplays the surge in gun crime and bombings in its immigrant ghettoes, Brå is charged with compiling factual, accurate crime statistics. According to a study published by Linköping University this week, the government intervenes here too to downplay “politically sensitive” data.


Employees told the university researchers that their managers – acting on orders from the country’s Justice Ministry – instructed them to manipulate results on “hot potato” issues. Presumably, these results were ones that could embarrass the government, and likely dealt with issues of race or immigration. One interviewee stated that “methodological deficiencies” was the reason given for the change. Brå’s own statistics show an upsurge in lethal violence since 2014, particularly among criminals and in disadvantaged and immigrant neighborhoods. They also show a sharp rise in sexual violence, assaults, threats and robbery since 2015, when the country welcomed more than 160,000 refugees and migrants – more per capita than any other European country.

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Not the greatest interview, but a great message nonetheless. Julian should be with his family for Christmas.

Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

Exclusive: The mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be celebrating Christmas again this year. Distraught that her son remains in the notorious Belmarsh prison, Australian Christine Assange said she has nothing to mark. “All I want for Christmas is my son Julian to be home safe with his family, under the protection of his country, to be free from this nine-year unlawful and brutal political persecution and to heal from the human rights abuses and torture which have damaged his mind and body,” said Ms Assange. Unable to speak with her son since he was jailed earlier this year, Ms Assange said all she has for Christmas this year are memories.

“Our Christmases were never boring. Julian would delight the children in the family with special Christmas performances,” said Ms Assange, in her first interview since his imprisonment. She revealed he would delight the children with a trick involving shaving sparklers and putting them in the mouth of a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur toy, lighting it, giving the impression that he was alive and breathing fire. She said Julian had a lot of fun with his own son Daniel, decorating the Christmas tree. “He was a devoted, innovative and playful father,” she said. “Julian would love to string up the fairy lights …. we would make homemade decorations together.

“Julian’s Christmas presents were always very thoughtful. “He chose presents for the children in the family that would encourage curiosity, creativity and inventiveness.” “He would give me art books and materials because he knew I had a passion for art.” “I really miss our family Christmases … they have never been the same without him. There is something missing. We haven’t had a proper family Christmas since he has been detained … nothing is the same”.

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Dec 212019
 
 December 21, 2019  Posted by at 10:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Unknown Butler’s dredge-boat, sunk by Confederate shell, James River, VA 1864

 

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)
Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)
Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)
It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)
Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)
China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)
How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)
Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)
Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)
Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)
Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)
How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

 

 

The only coverage of Julian’s court appearance yesterday that I could find is from RT. ¿Perqué?

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly stepped out of maximum security prison in the UK to testify via video-link in a Spanish case against a company that spied on him inside the Ecuadorian embassy, allegedly on the US’ behalf. Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in southern London pending his hearing on extradition to the US, was driven over to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where a video-link was set up for him to speak with a judge in Madrid. The proceedings were closed to the press on the grounds of “national security.” The High Court in Madrid is hearing Assange’s case against Undercover Global Ltd, a Spanish security company that allegedly bugged him during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Undercover Global was contracted to provide embassy security between 2015 and 2018, and in that capacity secretly recorded Assange’s every move via hidden cameras, microphones and electronic surveillance, the lawsuit says. Assange told the court “he was absolutely unaware that the cameras recorded audio, that hidden microphones had been introduced” into the fire extinguisher mounts inside the embassy, his attorney Aitor Martinez told reporters in Madrid after the testimony. Assange was “an absolutely passive subject of an illegitimate interference that would have been eventually coordinated by the United States,” Martinez added. If the illegal surveillance targeted Assange’s legal team and violated his attorney-client privilege, that has ramifications on the proceedings against him in both the UK and the US, his lawyers have argued.

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Rand Paul: “In the advocacy culture of our new media, ex-government officials such as Brennan, Clapper and McCabe can be paid to appear on news programs to analyze (or vindicate) their own unethical behavior.”

Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)

Former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have lots of things in common. One, they ran the nation’s key intelligence and investigatory agencies under former President Barack Obama. They were deeply involved in the “Russian collusion” hoax. And they participated in the surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition. Comey and McCabe both signed applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants requesting surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized Comey and McCabe’s FBI for falsehoods and misrepresentations during its investigation of the Donald Trump campaign.

Clapper, Brennan and the FBI helped to disseminate the fallacious Steele dossier to the press and among government agencies. Two, Comey, McCabe, Brennan and Clapper have all lied either under oath or in the public sphere. Horowitz has said that he referred Comey for criminal prosecution for leaking classified memos he wrote about his confidential conversations with the president, but the Justice Department did not pursue charges. Comey signed FISA warrant applications that the inspector general has determined were misleading at best and at worst simply flat-out wrong. In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, there were 245 occasions on which Comey claimed he couldn’t remember details or couldn’t answer questions. Comey did not tell the truth when he said the Steele dossier was not the prime evidence that he submitted to the FISA court.

He also lied about when he was briefed on the dossier. McCabe was given a criminal referral for lying to federal investigators. His story about conspiring to catch Trump on tape in an effort to remove him under the 25th Amendment cannot be reconciled with the version of the account told by his apparent partner in that gambit, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Brennan has on two occasions lied under oath to Congress, first about collateral deaths caused by drone strikes abroad, then about CIA spying on Senate staffers’ computers. Clapper got caught lying about the surveillance of U.S. citizens and claimed he gave the “least untruthful” answer. Both have given accounts of their knowledge of the Steele dossier that are contradicted by a number of sources. Clapper falsely claimed of the dossier that “more and more of it has been corroborated.”

Three, all four of these former intelligence chiefs detest the president of the United States. Comey has compared Trump to a Mafia don and stated that he is morally unfit to be president. McCabe, who was likewise fired from the FBI, has called Trump’s behavior “disgusting.” Clapper said that Trump may be working with Putin as a Russian “asset.” Brennan called Trump a “disgraced demagogue” as well as venal, corrupt and amoral.

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“..when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?”

Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Trump appears eager and avid to go to trial, where his side could call witnesses to his heart’s delight while denying the opposition any witnesses, just as the Dems did in the house. His managers could call in the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, to explain their 2014 adventures in Ukraine, and the impressive payments tendered to them — for what? The defense could compel the testimony of the rogue CIA agent, Eric Ciaramella, to explain his pretensions of whistleblowing, and also his enabler, Intel IG Michael Atkinson, who left a procedural slime-trail in his handling of the “whistleblower” ruse. They could call in the fact-witness to all that, Rep. Adam Schiff, who would excite the wonder and loathing of the nation in being forced to reveal his part in that charade and to recount the myriad falsehoods he has spawned in three years of RussiaGate chicanery — which, in a truly just world, would prompt his expulsion from the house.

They could haul in Messrs Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Mueller, Weissman, Rosenstein, McCabe, Ohr, Lynch, Strzok, Ms. Page, Ms. Yates, Mrs. Lynch, Mr. Halper — though I suspect that bunch would be better left to the ministrations of John Durham, just as the Democratic primaries roll out. A trial like that would be a rich spectacle for sure after subjecting the nation to three years of malicious, perfidious sedition. But other gusts of rumor intimate that senators on the Republican side would prefer to not open any cans of Ukrainian worms in a trial, since money laundered through the Ukrainian oligarch mills may have found its way into their pockets as well. Who knows…?

The simplest explanation for this hot mess is that Mrs. Pelosi’s team wanted desperately to just distract the country’s attention from the Horowitz report — which it pretty much failed to do — and now that she’s shot her wad with that gambit, she’s left holding a bag of meritless impeachment bullshit that will disappoint and embarrass the Resistance just as much as the Mueller investigation managed to do. Which leads to the question: when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?

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There you go. Put Schiff in charge.

It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)

For the last four years, we have been living a collective nightmare. Our shared values have been undermined. Our cherished culture has come under attack. At its least harmful, this nightmare has taken the form of empty nostalgia, in which the leaders who have been entrusted with ushering us into the next era have instead looked into the past, distracting us with symbolic gestures that serve no purpose except to cover up a lack of vision. At its worst, a combination of incompetence, erraticness, and sometimes sheer malice has squandered decades of progress. The ensuing conversation has been fruitless and ugly, and the experience has left many of us polarized, angry, and exhausted.


This week, it finally started to look as if that nightmare might end—but only in the weakest and most slapdash manner. This resolution, which is not really a resolution, is not only a disaster: It’s a disappointment, a pointless, abysmal letdown that is virtually certain to fully satisfy almost no one. The result is a rushed and poorly executed product of bad management, empty thinking, and shallow wish-fulfillment that will only further the public’s loss of faith in the entire enterprise. I speak, of course, of the Star Wars franchise, which in late 2015 returned to movie theaters under the managerial oversight of Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, with a strong creative influence from Hollywood’s reigning prince of blockbuster mediocrity, J.J. Abrams.

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Close to what I recently wrote on capitalism and free markets, but from a professional investor point of view. Problem is, what does John Mauldin mean when he says “socialism”? Everyone means something different. That also makes polls on socialism suspect.

Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)

When you write for a wide audience, no matter what you say, or how carefully you say it, some people will misunderstand. Sometimes it’s amusing. Reading through my feedback (and I do read all of it), I get called both heartless capitalist and bleeding-heart socialist in reaction to the same article. In fact, I’m neither. I am a capitalist, and proudly so. I believe free markets are the best way to bring maximum prosperity and peace for everyone. But I’m not heartless, nor do I think markets are perfect. Even the best medicines can have serious side effects. That is doubly so when you aren’t taking the medicine correctly. I also don’t think the word capitalism means what we think it means, at least those of us of a certain age.

Take a look at the data from an interview Charles Payne did with David Bahnsen on Fox Business a few weeks ago. Asked if they favor capitalism or socialism, 49% of Millennials favored socialism. But if you ask if they favor big business or “free enterprise,” the numbers change significantly. In the future, I intend to substitute “free market” for capitalism where possible. Capitalism, at least the free market version, can’t work without competition. It motivates producers to offer the best products at the lowest prices, and lets consumers choose whatever best fits their needs. Yet instead of encouraging and protecting competition, the US government increasingly suppresses it. Last February I wrote about a then-new book, The Myth of Capitalism, by old friend Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. They aren’t leftists at all. They respect classical capitalism and want it to work better than it is.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book. “Free to Choose” sounds great. Yet Americans are not free to choose. In industry after industry, they can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The US now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely. We’ve already described the airline industry. Here are other examples: • Two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink. • Five banks control about half of the nation’s banking assets. ª Many states have health insurance markets where the top two insurers have an 80 percent to 90 percent market share. For example, in Alabama one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has an 84% market share and in Hawaii it has 65% market share.


Getty

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Just like America’s.

China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)

China’s Xi Jinping probably tops any list of people who can’t wait to see the back of 2019. These last 12 months produced the slowest mainland growth since the early 1990s, the biggest pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s history and mounting criticism of Beijing’s human rights record. By taking such an authoritarian stance, Taiwan has slipped further away from Beijing’s grip, while some political wags questioned whether Communist Party members were losing faith in President Xi’s governing style. But Xi has an even bigger challenge on his hands, and not just Donald Trump’s trade war antics. Make that 13 trillion challenges.

This figure refers to the size, in U.S. dollar terms, of China’s onshore bond market. And generally, its growth and development have long been touted as a vital rite of passage for the second-biggest economic power. The trouble with debt markets, though, is they tend to expose cracks in financial systems. Herein lies Xi’s biggest problem. Keeping growth north of 6% is reasonably easy for a command economy. Even amid the trade war, Xi’s party can order up giant infrastructure projects, slash taxes and cajole local governments to ramp up fiscal stimulus. It has its own ATM—the People’s Bank of China.

Trouble is, the more you borrow, the more investors can push back and the more even the most authoritarian of governments can lose control as punters vote with their feet. That risk is increasing along with a recent jump in private-sector debt defaults to a record high. According to Fitch, 4.9% of private companies missed bond payments from January to November, up from 4.2% for all of 2018. When you combine state and private companies, China Inc.’s onshore defaults risks are growing apace—from none a few years back to at least $18 billion so far this year. There’s an obvious caveat here. We can only discuss the default risks we know about—the ones regulators in Beijing cop to, not those that are being papered over with public assistance.

Signs of stress are also emerging in the offshore debt market. So are this year, there have been at least $75 billion defaults. With well over $200 billion of debt maturing over the next 24 months, Standard and Poor’s warns of increasing missed payments episodes. This trajectory collides with U.S. President Trump’s trade war. Ignore all that excitement over Trump’s “phase one” deal with Xi. It’s a polite ceasefire than won’t hold. With Trump getting zero from Xi in terms of re-ordering U.S.-China trade dynamics and facing the risk of removal from office, the odds of him lashing out anew at Asia are growing, not waning. It means that Xi’s annus horribilis won’t end even as calendars switch to 2020. The year ahead may very well be the one in which China’s debt troubles supersede all else.

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Very long, certainly for Reuters. But useful background.

How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the plan that ignited the revolt in her city was born of a straightforward quest for justice. While on a trip to Taiwan, a Hong Kong man strangled his Hong Kong girlfriend, then returned home and confessed. The city lacked an extradition pact with Taiwan, and Lam argued the only way to send him back for trial was new laws that also would enable sending criminal suspects to mainland China. She dismissed fears about the proposal – which would mean Hong Kong residents could face trial in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts – and pushed ahead. As protests raged this summer, even in private Lam kept to her story that she, not Beijing, was the prime mover, driven by “compassion” for the young victim’s devastated parents.

“This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” she told a room of Hong Kong businesspeople at a talk in August. A Reuters examination has found a far more complicated story. Officials in Beijing first began pushing for an extradition law two decades ago. This pressure to extend the arm of Chinese law into Hong Kong’s independent British-style legal system intensified in 2017, a year before the slaying and two years before Lam’s administration announced its extradition bill. The impetus came from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Communist Party’s powerful internal anti-corruption body, which has been spearheading Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mass anti-graft campaign.

Xi’s crackdown spilled over dramatically into the streets of Hong Kong in the early hours of January 27, 2017. Among the targets of CCDI investigators at the time, two mainland Chinese officials with knowledge of the probe told Reuters, was a Chinese billionaire living in the city named Xiao Jianhua. A businessman with close ties to China’s political elite, Xiao was abducted that morning from his serviced apartment at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel. Unidentified captors whisked him out the entrance in a wheelchair with his head covered, a witness told Reuters.

The sensational kidnapping, widely reported at the time, was assumed by most people in this city of 7.5 million to have been the work of Chinese agents; Beijing has never commented publicly on the matter. Frustrated at the lack of legal means to get their hands on Xiao, the two Chinese officials told Reuters, the CCDI that same year began pressing mainland officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement. The CCDI wanted a less politically damaging method than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong, the officials said. The two sides failed to strike a deal, but the killing in Taiwan would provide a new opening.

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People book Ryanair 6-8 weeks before the flight, but planes are assigned less than 24 hours before.

Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)

As Boeing winds down production of the 737 Max aircraft, the Ryanair boss has said passengers will “love them” when the planes are finally flying again. Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest budget airline, has ordered 210 of a special version of the Max, seating eight extra passengers. None has so far been delivered, as the Boeing jet is grounded worldwide. The no-fly stipulation was declared worldwide after a second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max. [..] Boeing had initially predicted that software fixes would enable the 737 Max to be flying by the end of 2019. But as that hope faded, airlines have gradually removed it from the schedules in early 2020.


Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “As every day passes, it keeps moving backwards. “We originally hoped we’d get 30 aircraft for the summer, then it was 20, now it’s only 10. “If there really is more, another one month’s delay, it looks much more likely we will get zero aircraft in advance of the June-July-August summer peak.” But when the Boeing 737 Max is flying for Ryanair, anxious passengers who do not wish to travel on it will have no advance warning. “You won’t know, because on average you book seats on Ryanair six to eight weeks in advance of travel,” said Mr O’Leary. “We only do the aircraft allocations the night before, because we don’t know which aircraft is where. “During the first year, you’ll have a 10 per cent chance you’ll be on a Max aircraft. “Will anyone know or care? Frankly, I don’t think they will.”

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The airlines will demand compensation. But what about the crews, who work far fewer hours and lose wages?

Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)

The effluence of Boeing’s long-avoided decision, announced Monday, to halt production of 737 MAX aircraft until the plane is recertified for service has begun rolling downhill, causing the biggest third-party supplier to the program to suspend production of MAX fuselages. Spirit AeroSystems, a former division of Boeing based in Wichita, Kansas, said today it will stop making MAX fuselages – effectively the body of the plane, excluding its small nose cone and large tail section – effective Jan. 1. That’s the same day Boeing will stop building MAX planes, about 400 of which currently are finished but undeliverable and parked on ramps, unused taxiways and even employees’ parking lots at Boeing facilities.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, which had to park 14 MAX planes and stop taking delivery of others nine months ago when the Federal Aviation Administration took away the MAX’s certification, said today that it has pushed back plans to bring the MAX back into its schedule all the way to June 4. Most recently it had been targeting an April restart of MAX flying. But continued delays in getting the plane recertified by the FAA (and ultimately by the aviation safety regulators of other nations) has made it very difficult for airlines to predict when they’ll be able to fly MAX planes once again. United has the smallest batch of MAX planes in its fleet of the three U.S. carriers that have bought the newest, and significantly re-designed version of the venerable 50-year-old 737 line.

Southwest had 34 copies of the MAX when the grounding took place, while American had 24. All three carriers also have large orders for more MAX planes and have been unable to add them to their fleets since March, reducing their ability to retire older planes or to grow their fleet size. That reduced growth opportunity has affected the airlines’ abilities to grow their revenue and profits as planned, and has increased their costs somewhat by forcing them to underuse the pilots, flight attendants and other employees who were expected to staff the now-grounded MAX planes.

[..] leaders of the Transport Worker Union unit that represents Southwest’s 17,00 flight attendants today released a letter they sent this week to Southwest president Gary Kelly and vice president of inflight operations Sonya Lacore. The union leaders asked for additional help in addressing the “financial toal” on flight attendants whose pay has been reduced significantly while the MAX planes have been idled. The MAX groundings have left Southwest with more flight attendants on the payroll that it need. But rather than lay off hundreds of them and incur huge costs for retraining and re-scheduling attendants who’d be displaced by the resulting wave of seniority displacements, Southwest has retained all those extra attendants. But that means many attendants now are being assigned fewer flight hours, which diminishes their earnings.

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Are Colombia’s laws that much different from other countries?

Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)

Colombia on Friday ordered Uber to cease its ride-hailing operations in the Andean country, effective immediately, after a judge ruled the company violated competition rules. Following a lawsuit filed against Uber by COTECH SA, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) said the U.S. company had breached market rules. Uber has more than 2.3 million active users in Colombia and around 88,000 driver partners. The app, however, has existed in a regulatory no-man’s land in Colombia. The Technology Ministry deems ride-hailing apps legal while transport authorities say they are against the law.


In a statement the SIC said Uber generated “a significant advantage in the market” by rendering transport services for individuals via its application. The SIC said that following analysis, it ordered Uber’s ride-hailing services “through the use of the Uber application to cease immediately.” The order applies to Uber, Uber X and Uber VAN. Uber said in a statement that it rejects the ruling and immediately appealed it. “This decision reflects an act of censorship and infringes on the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, which has already condemned attempts to block Uber for violating the neutrality of the web, liberty of expression and freedom of internet,” Uber said in a statement.

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Interesting, but since this is CNN, they blame Russia China, not America. A deepfake group that spends $10 million on Facebook ads sounds like a professional campaign.

Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)

Artificially-generated faces of people who don’t exist are being used to front fake Facebook (FB) accounts in an attempt to trick users and game the company’s systems, the social media network said Friday. Experts who reviewed the accounts say it is the first time they have seen fake images like this being used at scale as part of a single social media campaign. The accounts, which were removed by Facebook on Friday, were part of a network that generally posted in support of President Trump and against the Chinese government, experts who reviewed the accounts said. Many of the accounts promoted links to a Facebook page and website called “The BL.” Facebook said the accounts were tied to the US-based Epoch Media Group, which owns The Epoch Times newspaper, a paper tied to the Falun Gong movement that is similarly pro-Trump.

The publisher of the Epoch Times denied that Epoch and The BL were linked in emails to the fact-checking organization Snopes earlier this year. The dystopian revelation of the use of artificially-generated images in this way points to an increasingly complicated online information landscape as America enters a presidential election year. Silicon Valley and the US intelligence community are still struggling with the fallout from widespread online interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Facebook accounts used profile pictures that appeared to show real people smiling and looking directly into a camera. But the people do not and have never existed, according to Facebook and other researchers. The images were created using artificial intelligence technology.

The same basic methods are used to produce deepfake videos — fake videos that the US intelligence community has warned could be used as part of a foreign disinformation campaign targeting Americans. [..] In all, Facebook said Friday, it had removed a network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, 90 groups, and 72 Instagram accounts. About 55 million accounts followed one or more of the pages, and the vast majority of followers were outside the United States, Facebook said. Facebook did not say if all of all these followers were real — some of them may themselves have been fake accounts. The network of pages removed on Friday had spent almost $10 million on Facebook ads, according to Facebook.

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It’s a question of organization.

How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

Fragments of pre-Aztec murals recently unearthed on the outskirts of what was once the largest city of the Americas are adding to mounting evidence that even commoners there enjoyed the finer things in life. Each year, millions of tourists visit the towering pyramids and temples of the sprawling metropolis of Teotihuacan, far from the latest discoveries on the city’s southern edge. “We’re now finding that life on the periphery was pretty good,” said Boston University archeologist David Carballo, who discovered brightly-colored paintings over fine stucco on three buildings he began excavating there in July.

Decorated with flowers and birds that appear to be singing, the murals evoking a paradise found nearly three kilometers (2 miles) from Teotihuacan’s core came as a complete surprise, he said. Carballo and his team have also found other signs of wealth nearby, including jade, a finely carved stone mask, and shells from Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. The unpublished mural discoveries point to the radically different path charted by Teotihuacan, which thrived from about 100 B.C. to 550 A.D., compared to other ancient civilizations. At a time when daily life in the biggest contemporary Mayan cities, or ancient Rome and Egypt, was marked by a tiny elite lording over impoverished or enslaved masses, most of Teotihuacan’s estimated 100,000 inhabitants fared far better.

[..] In the city’s La Ventilla district, another aspect of Teotihuacan’s egalitarian character comes into view: stone, multi-family apartment compounds where over 90% of Teotihuacanos lived. Off limits to tourists despite extremely rare glyphs painted on a plaza, the narrow streets of La Ventilla’s residential compounds suggest a densely-packed urban existence. The compounds boast white lime-plaster floors, built-in drainage systems, open-air courtyards and murals. Lying 48 km northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan has more than 2,000 such compounds, thanks to a century-long building boom that ended around 350 A.D.

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