Aug 302020
 


Pablo Picasso Girl Before A Mirror 1932

 

Rapid Home COVID19 Tests Could Help Find People While They Are Contagious (NP)
DNI Ratcliffe: Election Security Briefings Will Now Come In Written Form (JTN)
3/4 of Democratic Voters Still Believe Trump Campaign Colluded With Russia (JTN)
Will Hillary And The Dems Get The Civil War They Are Trying To Provoke? (Saker)
Michael Moore Warns That Donald Trump Is On Course To Repeat 2016 Win (G.)
Steele Associate Offered To ‘Feed’ Michael Flynn Story To WaPo Columnist (DC)
With New Monetary Policy Approach, Fed Lays Phillips Curve To Rest (R.)
Ex-Australia PM Menzies Boasted Of Delivering Large Budget Deficits (ABC.au)
Italy Evacuates Dozens From Overcrowded Banksy-Funded Migrant Rescue Boat (RT)
Airlines Warn Flying Back 100,000 Stranded Australians Will Take 6 Months (G.)

 

 

We passed 25 million global cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan:
– Population: 126 Million
– COVID deaths: 1,255 (10/M)
– % Obese: 4%

USA:
– Population: 328 Million
– COVID deaths: 183,000 (558/M)
– % Obese: 40%

If the US had the same obesity as Japan, we would have only 3,280 COVID deaths. 179,720 lives would have been saved…

 

 

Anti Face Mask Issue Solved

 

 

There is so much wrong with PCR tests, yet the “experts” refuse to even discuss rapid tests. Time to change that, test people every day in 15 minutes, not let them wait for days or weeks.

Rapid Home COVID19 Tests Could Help Find People While They Are Contagious (NP)

Cheap, rapid COVID-19 tests simple enough to use anywhere — home, school, the office — could help us climb out of the pandemic disaster, says infectious diseases specialist Dr. Andrew Morris. Just spit into a tube or swab your nose, wait a few minutes for the stripes to change colour — results available within minutes. With no vaccines or “fantastic therapies” for COVID, the best we can do is keep infected people out of buildings to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus, says Morris. Which is why he finds it “absurd” that Heath Canada says the risks of home or self-testing kits outweigh the benefits and that it will reject applications for such devices “without compelling new evidence to the contrary.”

The federal health agency worries that, “without the guidance of a health-care professional,” people would use the home test kit improperly or “misinterpret the results” and that it could be impossible to collect test results — information that’s key to “important health decisions involving disease control during an outbreak,” the department said in an emailed statement. “If it’s done in a haphazard way … you might actually create more problems, confusion than the actual benefits because you might get maybe a higher risk of false negative results,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Tuesday during a COVID-19 briefing. Morris wants the government to seriously rethink its position on home testing. They’re not the solution to COVID, but they are part of it, he believes.

Cheap, rapid testing is the backbone of infectious disease management, says Morris, of the Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto. “But if Health Canada says ‘we aren’t even interested in these tests,’ they are neither being open-minded nor strategic in understanding the potential of these tests.” It has echoes of earlier federal dismissals of face masks, when officials worried masks would lead to a “false sense of security” and more face-touching. “The current strategy is not to trust the public… and we need to change that,” Morris says. The gold standard of testing today is a workhorse called reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, which amplifies SARS-CoV-2 from nasal swabs, so that minute amounts of RNA can be detected.

Anyone who is sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19, or who thinks he or she may have been exposed, can get PCR testing. But PCR testing isn’t designed around getting our lives back to normal, Morris says. It’s expensive, testing capacity is seriously limited and it can take days to get results. Vancouver has seen traffic gridlock at testing sites as B.C. battles with a surge in cases. Ottawa has had four-hour-long waits at its COVID testing sites. “The only way we can get our society back up and running is by having some better situational awareness than what we have,” Morris says.

[..] Rapid tests aren’t perfect. They aren’t as sensitive as PCR tests. But they don’t need to be perfect, argues Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Michael Mina. Mina says the tests can detect the virus when a person is most infectious, with high viral loads. “The vast majority of PCR positive tests we currently collect in this country are actually finding people long after they have ceased to be infectious,” Mina told Harvard Magazine. Paper-strip test could cost less than one or two U.S. dollars to produce, he says. Millions could take them daily or every other day. Frequent testing, with fast results, would help break chains of transmission, Mina tweeted this week. Morris has heard talk the FDA is expected to authorize several lateral flow assay tests for COVID-19 in the coming weeks. “And nothing by Health Canada. To me, this is a massive, massive blind spot.”

Read more …

I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he provokes this gem from Adam Schiff (is this the 1950s?): “..the Trump administration “clearly does not want Congress or the country informed of what Russia is doing.”

DNI Ratcliffe: Election Security Briefings Will Now Come In Written Form (JTN)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe informed senators and representatives on Friday that election security briefings, previously given to Congress in person, will between now and the November elections be delivered in written form. The letter, which was sent on Friday and declassified on Saturday afternoon, notes that the intelligence community has given Congress dozens of briefings on election security over the past two years. “While many of these engagements and products have been successful and productive, others have been less so,” Ratcliffe wrote in the document.

“In order to ensure clarity and consistency across the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s … engagements with Congress on elections,” Ratcliffe continued, “the ODNI will primary meet its obligation to keep Congress fully and currently informed leading into the Presidential election through written finished intelligence products.”

Ratcliffe said the move will help ensure that intelligence information is neither “misunderstood nor politicized,” and that the new protocol will “protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.” Democrats on Saturday evening slammed the decision. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrote on Twitter that the move represented “a shocking abdication of [ODNI’s] responsibility to keep Congress informed.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, meanwhile, claimed that the Trump administration “clearly does not want Congress or the country informed of what Russia is doing.”

Read more …

Schiff can also claim a large role in this. Where’s that evidence, Adam? We’re still waiting.

3/4 of Democratic Voters Still Believe Trump Campaign Colluded With Russia (JTN)

Three-quarters of Democratic voters believe that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen. Asked whether it was more likely that Trump colluded with Russia in 2016 or that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign that year, 73% of Democrats said the Russia collusion theory was more likely to have occurred. In contrast, 67% of Republicans expressed more belief in the claim that the Obama administration spied on Trump during that election. Overall, 43% of voters put more stock in the Russia story.


The Russia collusion theory dominated headlines and politics for roughly the first three years of the Trump administration. A 22-month, special counsel probe led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller concluded without finding evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election. The survey of 1,200 Registered Voters was conducted by Rasmussen using a mixed-mode approach from August 20-22.

Read more …

“The Dems won’t get their civil war – but they will suffer the blowback for their attempts to destroy the United States.”

Will Hillary And The Dems Get The Civil War They Are Trying To Provoke? (Saker)

I don’t see a civil war happening in the US. But I do think that this country can, and probably will, break-up into different zones so to speak. In some regions, law and order will be maintained, by force is needed, while in others something new will appear: what the French call “des zones de non-droit“, meaning “areas of lawlessness” in which law enforcement will be absent (either because the political leaders will refuse to engage them, or because they will simply have to withdraw under fire). Typically, such zones have a parallel “black” economy which can make the gangs which control such zones very wealthy (think of Russia in the 1990s). Eventually, a lot of people will flee from such zones and seek refuge in the safer areas of the country (this process has already begun in New York).


Right now, there are a little over two months before the election, and I think that it is safe to say that the situation will deteriorate even faster and much worse. By November 2nd the country will be “ready” (so to speak) for a massive explosion of violence followed by months of chaos. Many will probably vote Trump just because they will (mistakenly) believe that he is the only politician who will stand against what the Dems promise to unleash against the majority of “deplorables” who want to keep their country and traditions. At the core, the conflict we are now witnessing is a conflict about identity, something which most people deeply care about. Sooner or later, there will be push-back against the Dems attempt to turn the USA into some kind of obese transgender liberal Wakanda run by crooks, freaks and thugs. The Dems won’t get their civil war – but they will suffer the blowback for their attempts to destroy the United States.

Read more …

Michael Moore’s winning slogan and strategy: the Democrats are terrible, but you DO have to vote for them.

Michael Moore Warns That Donald Trump Is On Course To Repeat 2016 Win (G.)

The documentary film-maker Michael Moore has warned that Donald Trump appears to have such momentum in some battleground states that liberals risk a repeat of 2016 when so many wrote off Trump only to see him grab the White House. “Sorry to have to provide the reality check again,” he said. Moore, who was one of few political observers to predict Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, said that “enthusiasm for Trump is off the charts” in key areas compared with the Democratic party nominee, Joe Biden. “Are you ready for a Trump victory? Are you mentally prepared to be outsmarted by Trump again? Do you find comfort in your certainty that there is no way Trump can win? Are you content with the trust you’ve placed in the DNC [Democratic National Committee] to pull this off?” Moore posted on Facebook late on Friday.

Moore identified opinion polling in battleground states such as Minnesota and Michigan to make a case that the sitting president is running alongside or ahead of his rival. “The Biden campaign just announced he’ll be visiting a number of states – but not Michigan. Sound familiar?” Moore wrote, presumably indicating Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race when she made the error of avoiding some states that then swung to Trump. “I’m warning you almost 10 weeks in advance. The enthusiasm level for the 60 million in Trump’s base is OFF THE CHARTS! For Joe, not so much,” he later added. He continued to voters: “Don’t leave it to the Democrats to get rid of Trump. YOU have to get rid of Trump. WE have to wake up every day for the next 67 days and make sure each of us are going to get a hundred people out to vote. ACT NOW!”

Moore, a vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders’s leftwing candidacy, warned in October 2016 that “Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘f*** you’ ever recorded in human history – and it will feel good,” even as Clinton appeared to be sailing to victory. “Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant because he’s saying the things to people who are hurting, and that’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump,” Moore warned at that time.

Read more …

A lot of people in that camp were actively working on this. There are new names just about every day.

Steele Associate Offered To ‘Feed’ Michael Flynn Story To WaPo Columnist (DC)

A former associate of Sen. John McCain served as a key conduit between journalists and dossier author Christopher Steele in early 2017, going so far as offering to “feed” stories about Trump associates to a Washington Post columnist, according to documents from a British court proceeding. David Kramer, a former State Department official who worked at the McCain Institute, kept Steele apprised of his contacts in January 2017 with journalists from BuzzFeed News, CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post regarding aspects of the dossier. Kramer relayed information he learned from reporters at ABC News and the Journal regarding the dossier’s allegation that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague, according to text messages read at a defamation trial against Steele in London last month.

The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained a transcript of the closed-door court proceedings, which were held in London from July 20-24. Steele, a former MI6 officer, is being sued by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian businessman who Steele’s dossier accuses of hacking Democrats’ computer systems in 2016. Kramer was already known to have met with reporters to discuss the dossier. He has acknowledged providing the dossier to a reporter for BuzzFeed News, which published the salacious document on Jan. 10, 2017. But the Steele messages suggest Kramer played a more proactive role in trying to put negative stories in the media about Trump associates. Kramer’s most eye-catching references are to David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist who writes about national security issues.

“The Flynn calls story is picking up legs,” Kramer wrote to Steele, seemingly referring to a Jan. 12, 2017, column by Ignatius that revealed that Flynn spoke by phone weeks earlier with Sergey Kislyak. According to text messages read at the trial, Kramer suggested to Steele that he would provide dirt on Trump associates to Ignatius. “I think it’s time to get that other [Manafort] story out there,” Kramer wrote in a message to Steele, referring to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “And Ignatius is the one I’ll feed it to,” he also wrote. Steele insisted during his testimony that Kramer was suggesting feeding a story to Ignatius about Flynn rather than Manafort. “It’s a Michael Flynn story, isn’t it?” Steele asked during the cross-examination.

He went on to say that the information regarding Flynn he discussed with Kramer was not found in the dossier. “Any story here about Michael Flynn is completely independent of anything in the dossier,” said Steele. The former spy did not describe the Flynn story, but Kramer told the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 that Steele told him that he believed that Flynn had an affair with a Russian-British researcher in the United Kingdom. The unverified allegation matches closely with stories that appeared in the media in March 2017 that alleged that Flynn had improper contacts with former Cambridge researcher Svetlana Lokhova in 2014, when Flynn visited the historic university as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Read more …

“Decades of thought at the Fed are now being pushed aside.”

In most other jobs, if you’ve been wrong for decades, you get fired or resign. But when you’re handling trillions of dollars, there are different standards.

With New Monetary Policy Approach, Fed Lays Phillips Curve To Rest (R.)

One of the fundamental theories of modern economics may have finally been put to rest. In the several years before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the global economy, Federal Reserve policymakers watched as the U.S. unemployment rate fell lower and lower and waited for the jump in inflation typically associated with such a tight labor market. The expectations were based on a rule that has shaped decades of monetary policy decisions: the Phillips curve, or the concept that inflation tends to rise when the unemployment rate falls, and vice versa. But the inflation that Fed officials anticipated never arrived, and in a monumental speech delivered on Thursday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell announced that the U.S. central bank’s policymakers are done waiting.

The Fed chief, speaking during the Kansas City Fed’s annual conference, unveiled the central bank’s new approach to monetary policy, which puts more emphasis on shortfalls in employment, and less weight on the fear that low unemployment could spark higher inflation. “The conditions in the economy have changed to such an extent that this upwardly sloped relationship between inflation and employment has now changed,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM. “Decades of thought at the Fed are now being pushed aside.” With its landmark policy shift, the Fed is putting new weight on bolstering the labor market and less on inflation, promising to aim for 2% inflation on average over a period of time rather than using that figure as a hard annual target, as it had done since 2012.

With their new approach, Fed officials are essentially saying they are no longer worried about the unemployment rate falling too low. Now that inflation expectations are anchored at low levels, the economy has room to keep adding jobs. Policymakers can also wait a little longer for the gains to reach the workers on the margins – including Black, Hispanic and low-income workers – who are often the last to reap the benefits of a tight labor market, Powell said. “It is hard to overstate the benefits of sustaining a strong labor market, a key national goal that will require a range of policies in addition to supportive monetary policy,” Powell said on Thursday, reflecting on the strong U.S. labor market that existed before the pandemic.

Read more …

h/t Steve Keen.

Ex-Australia PM Menzies Boasted Of Delivering Large Budget Deficits (ABC.au)

There’s a lot we’ve forgotten about Robert Menzies. Take his name, for example. Younger Australians may not know it, but our country’s longest-serving prime minister, one of the founders of the Liberal Party, was nicknamed “Ming”. He was our first prime minister to have two Australian-born parents, but his paternal grandfather was Scottish and he was proud of that heritage. He preferred his surname to be pronounced the way the Scots pronounce it — Ming-iss — but his attempts to convince his countrymen to do so were in vain. He received the nickname “Ming” instead. Then there was his time as prime minister, when he boasted about delivering a bigger budget deficit than Labor would have, for the good of the country. That’s right.

The father of Australia’s Liberal Party was proud of spending whatever was necessary to ensure full employment, even when the economy wasn’t in recession. A speech Mr Menzies gave in August 1962 about his budget that year is worth reading. He’d won the federal election eight months earlier, defeating the Labor opposition led by Arthur Calwell. During the campaign, Mr Calwell promised to deliver a deficit large enough to eradicate unemployment, and he figured that meant a deficit of 100 million pounds. Here’s Mr Menzies explaining why he was spending more than Labor pledged. “Too few people realise that a cash deficit of 120 million [pounds] … will of itself have a most expansionary effect,” he said.

“We shall pay out to the citizens 120 million [pounds] more than will be collected from them. “So, far from being timorous — I think that was another of the words used by the deputy leader of the opposition — this is adventurous finance. “Add to the deficit the tax refunds now being made, and it is clear that purchasing power in Australia this financial year will be uncommonly high. “The real task of any government today, as well as of the business community and all sensible citizens, is to get that purchasing power exercised.” It was uncomplicated Keynesian logic. As John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1933: “Look after the unemployment, and the budget will look after itself.”

[..] Mr Menzies’ second stint as prime minister lasted from 1949 to 1966. For his last nine budgets he delivered deficits, and the size of his last deficit, at 3.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), was 0.3 per cent larger than the deficit in Wayne Swan’s last budget in 2013. So why wasn’t the public angry? Because Australia’s economy, like economies in other western nations, grew strongly in the post-war period. In the 1940s, its average growth rate was 3.8 per cent. In the 1950s, it was 4.2 per cent. In the 1960s, it was 5.3 per cent. And that constant growth meant the size of Australia’s government debt relative to the size of the economy (the ratio of debt-to-GDP) shrank dramatically, too. All while the government was handing down budget deficits.

Read more …

How much extra attention because of Banksy’s involvement?

Italy Evacuates Dozens From Overcrowded Banksy-Funded Migrant Rescue Boat (RT)

Some 50 people were evacuated from the migrant rescue boat Louise Michel that got stranded off Malta’s coast after taking more than 200 people aboard. After one person died, the crew accused Europe of ignoring its pleas for help. The vessel, which reported rescuing a total of 219 people from the sea over the past few days, including “many women and children,” had become so “overcrowded” that a life raft was attached to its side, and it lost its ability to maneuver. The crew’s Twitter feed suggests they have been desperately sending distress signals and making calls to various European maritime authorities to no avail. To make the matters worse, one of the migrants died on the ship as conditions deteriorated.

“Louise Michel is unable to move … above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance,” a tweet from the crew read. Following about a day of pleas for help, Italy’s coast guard arrived at the scene and took 49 of “the most vulnerable” migrants in. While describing the development as “great,” the Louise Michel crew said it leaves the majority “still waiting.” It added that another NGO migrant rescue ship, Sea Watch 4, arrived to “do what Europe falters to do.” Photos and videos apparently taken on board the vessel – a 31-meter motor yacht once owned by French customs authorities, now named after a French anarchist – show it is extremely crowded with people who are cooped up literally everywhere, from the foredeck to the aft and even on top of the captain’s bridge.

[..] Painted in white and bright pink and featuring a Banksy artwork of a girl in a life vest holding a heart-shaped flotation device, Louise Michel is said to have set sail in secrecy from a Spanish port of Burriana, near Valencia. The first post in its Twitter account appeared about a week after what was called its first successful mission. The ship, flying a German flag, is captained by Pia Klemp, a controversial German boat captain credited with rescuing more than 1,000 North African migrants between 2011 and 2017. The woman was charged with colluding with human smugglers by the Italian authorities in 2019 and defiantly snubbed Paris’ highest civilian award months later.

[..] Reports claim that Klemp was personally contacted by the artist as early as in September 2019 and was offered assistance with buying a new boat. She told the Guardian that she sees the effort as “part of anti-fascist fight,” while adding that Banksy’s involvement in the project is limited to financial support. “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists,” she said.

Read more …

And you thought your “leaders” were incompetent.

Airlines Warn Flying Back 100,000 Stranded Australians Will Take 6 Months (G.)

Frustrated airlines continuing to fly into Australia are warning it will take six months to repatriate more than 100,000 Australians stuck overseas if the country’s strict arrival caps are not eased. Pressure is also mounting within government ranks to address the growing number of Australians stranded by the caps, with Coalition MPs complaining the limits are “probably the biggest area of concern” raised with them by constituents currently, who claim airlines are repeatedly bumping them off flights to prioritise more expensive tickets and remain profitable under the caps. Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, on Friday criticised the government’s position of recommending those affected by the caps rely on early super withdrawals to fund what could be an indefinite period away from their jobs, families and secure accommodation.

“The government should be offering financial support to stranded Australians who need it. People shouldn’t be forced to raid their super or launch a GoFundMe fundraiser in order to return home,” she said, noting earlier reports that consular staff had told Australians to start crowdfunding sites to sustain living costs and business class flights. Wong said she had been contacted by a pensioner forced to sleep in a car in France because his flight had been cancelled and he couldn’t get a refund. Wong also criticised the government for recent travel exit exemptions – including allowing Tony Abbott to fly to the UK, and an entrepreneur to collect a yacht in Italy – calling it “special treatment for the privileged few” with “everyone else being left behind”.

Qatar Airways on Friday announced it had suspended sales of tickets into Australia until the caps are lifted, and said it will have to cancel the tickets of “thousands” more Australian citizens who are currently scheduled to fly home with the carrier in the coming months. The airline has acknowledged it has been forced to prioritise customers who pay more for tickets after reports its aircraft were landing in Sydney with as few as four economy passengers. The Guardian has been inundated by stories of Australians who have been forced to live in caravans for months, exhaust all their paid leave, and forgo seeing dying parents in Australia while they wait for airlines to honour their economy flights home.

Read more …

 

 

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If Greece and Turkey go to war, it’s over this:

 

 

Long time favorite. Possibly the ultimate Calvin and Hobbes:

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 142020
 


Byron Street haberdashery, New York 1900

 

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)
Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)
Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)
Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)
Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)
Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)
72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)
36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)
Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)
Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)
COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)
FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)
US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)
Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

 

 

• US New cases 21,449

• New deaths 1,896 (yesterday 1,894, Monday: 830, Sunday: 776)

• Russia breaks its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with 9,974

 

 

 

Cases 4,451,226 (+ 93,006 from yesterday’s 4,358,220)

Deaths 298,520 (+ 5,284 from yesterday’s 293,236)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The UK never had an actual lockdown, they just pretended they did.

18.1 million arrivals to the UK by air, land and sea from 1 January to 23 March, pre-“lockdown”. Another 95,000 just by air between 1 April and 26 April, during the lockdown. With tons of stories of very few if any checked out.

The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed.

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)

At least 95,000 people have entered the UK from overseas since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, one of the government’s chief scientific advisers has revealed, while repeatedly failing to provide an estimate of how many of these people had Covid-19. Appearing before MPs on the science and technology committee, Prof John Aston, the chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, admitted that had tougher restrictions been introduced at the border, the peak of the virus may have been delayed – but he did not say by how long, or if this would have saved lives. Aston, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is advising the government during the crisis, was asked repeatedly for the estimated proportion or number of people arriving in the UK with Covid-19.

He insisted instead that a more “robust” assessment was the ratio of imported cases to domestic cases. This model, formulated by Sage, estimates 0.5% of all cases on any given day are imported from overseas. The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed. Since then, there has been little intervention other than advice provided on leaflets and posters. Arrivals will have been subjected to the same lockdown restrictions imposed on the wider population since 23 March. [..] Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, [..] asked Aston if ministers had a central estimate of the number of people arriving each week who might have Covid-19 when the decision to stop asking any arrivals to self-isolate was made.

[..] Cooper [..] said: “Previously people were asked to self-isolate at the border for 14 days. Inexplicably when other countries were increasing their restrictions or their requirements to self-isolate, the UK lifted them all. It was before the peak in Spain, it was still around the peak in Italy, it was several weeks before the peak in UK.” Aston’s evidence comes as the government prepares to enforce a 14-day quarantine for arrivals by air at the UK border – a policy that some have suggested would have been more appropriate prior to the UK lockdown on 23 March. There were 18.1 million arrivals to the UK in the period from 1 January to 23 March across air, land and sea, of whom 273 air passengers were formally quarantined. Aston told the committee that between 1 April and 26 April there were 95,000 arrivals into the UK by air, of whom about 53,000 were UK citizens.

Read more …

This looks more like a lockdown. Just 6,500 non-Australians arrived in April.

Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)

Australia saw overseas arrivals collapse to almost nothing in April as it closed its borders to fight the coronavirus pandemic, in a massive blow for the tourist industry. Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed arrivals of 21,600 in April, down 98.7% from a year earlier. Returning Australian citizens accounted for 15,100 of them. The biggest decline was in arrivals from New Zealand, which dived by 161,950 to just 1,180. Arrivals from China, where closures had already badly curbed tourism in March, dropped 132,040 to only 320. Departures from Australia likewise plunged 96.5% to 63,500, mostly foreigners returning home.

Read more …

50% of people still leave their homes every day. Not a lockdown.

Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)

The Times asked UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford, a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about why the plateau persists. “As long as it’s going up, it has not ended. It’s got to come down for it to end,” he said. Rutherford offered two reasons why the disease is persisting: a certain percentage of people still must go out to work, and others are getting fed up with staying at home. A significant part of the population has chosen not to say home or has been unable to do so because they’re essential workers manning supermarkets, meat processing plants, prisons and nursing homes.

A CDC study estimated that around April 1, about two weeks into a regional stay-at-home order, nearly 50% of residents in five Bay Area counties were still leaving home, down from 80% in late February. “That’s still 50%,” Rutherford said, adding that people can still get infected even if they limit their trips outside the home to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket. Essential workers who must leave home — people working in the food industry, making deliveries and staffing medical facilities — are among those contracting the coronavirus. A UC San Francisco study of thousands of residents and workers in the city’s Mission District found that 57% of those tested must leave their homes for work, and those who had to leave home to work accounted for 90% of the positive cases.

Nearly 89% of those who tested positive earn less than $50,000 a year, and most live in households with three or more people. While Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. Many residents and workers in the Mission District are employed in essential services such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, restaurants, grocery stores and janitorial and domestic services, the university said. Staying home, the researchers said, clearly seemed to make a difference.

Read more …

Ambrose Evans Pritchard quotes a “London cardiologist friendly to Boris”:

“We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that the patients were infected, no testing available, and no PPE to prevent transmission.”

Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)

More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19, academics have calculated – more than double the number stated as passing away from the disease in official figures. Academics at the London School of Economics found that data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to the virus published by the Office for National Statistics significantly underestimated the impact of the pandemic on care home residents and accounted for only about four out of 10 of the excess deaths in care settings recorded in recent weeks in England and Wales. ONS statisticians said on Tuesday that 8,314 people had died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in English care homes up to 8 May.

The figures suggest the impact of the virus in care homes is finally reducing. They are based on reports filed directly from care home operators to the regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Care Inspectorate Wales has said Covid was confirmed or suspected in a further 504 cases in homes up to the 8 May in Wales. But academics at the care policy and evaluation centre at the LSE found that when excess deaths of other care residents and the deaths of care home residents from Covid-19 in hospitals are taken into account, the toll that can be directly and indirectly linked to the virus pandemic is likely to be more than double the current official count.

[..] Care homes have been running at 10% to 20% staff absence rates and many homes have been trying to isolate residents in their rooms to reduce infection spread, but this can also make their normal care more difficult and residents’ needs less visible.

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Well, if you put them all together and insert known patients, no wonder. Do the same with younger people and you get the same result.

Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)

As Britain edges back to work and employees consider the risks of moving beyond lockdown, official figures underscore that working-age Britons are 34 times less likely to die of coronavirus than over-65s. About 12% of all deaths relating to Covid-19 have occurred among those under 65 – a total of 4,066 deaths. Most victims have been in the over-65 category, accounting for 30,978 fatalities. There have been 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people among the under-65 category, which rises to 286 deaths per 100,000 in the over-65 group, meaning pensioners are 34 times more likely to die of the illness. The contrast is even starker in data concerning those under 45. According to the Office for National Statistics figure, there have been just 401 deaths in this age group – one death for every 100,000 people, or around 1% of the overall death toll.

However, age is just one of the factors that will affect a person’s vulnerability to the virus. Research has shown that ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing health conditions and occupation also contribute to an individual’s risk of dying. The death rate among the working population differs by gender. The death rate for men is 9.9 per 100,000 people and 5.2 per 100,000 women. This may also be driven by the death rate in particular occupations, as some workers appear to be more vulnerable depending on exposure to the virus.

Death rates among some minority ethnic groups are also disproportionately high, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals was more than 2.5 times that of the white population. Guardian reporting also found that areas with high BAME populations tended to have higher death rates.

New data released by the ONS on Monday showed for the first time that people in low-paid manual jobs were at much greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Men in low-paid jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than professionals, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.6 among white-collar male workers, according to the analysis. Jobs which were found to have high death rates included security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers. Commenting on the findings, Professor Neil Pearce, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The observations are almost certainly due to … exposure to people….”

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Probably a lowball, but very far from herd immunity.

Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)

A study led by the Pasteur Institute says a mere 4.4% of the French population – or 2.8 million people – have been infected by the novel coronavirus, much higher than the official count of cases but way too low to achieve so-called “herd immunity”. In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science, researchers say the infection rate in the worst-hit parts of France – the eastern part of the country and the Paris region – is between 9 and 10 percent on average. “Around 65% of the population should be immune if we want to control the pandemic by the sole means of immunity”, the study says. Herd immunity refers to a situation where enough people in a population have immunity to an infection to be able to effectively stop that disease from spreading. The rate of infection was measured by the Pasteur Institute as of May 11, the day when France started to unwind its almost two-month-long national lockdown.


“As of a consequence, our results show that, without a vaccine, the herd immunity alone will not be enough to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Efficient control measures must thus be upheld after May 11”, researchers say. France’s overall death toll from the virus rose to 27,074 on Wednesday, the fifth-highest in the world, and total number of cases officially stood at 177,700, the seventh-highest total. The Pasteur Institute also said the lockdown put in place on March 17 in France led to a drastic decline of the coronavirus’ reproduction rate, going from 2.9 to 0.67 over the 55-day virtual standstill of the country. A Spanish study also published on Wednesday showed similar results, saying about 5% of the country’s population had contracted the disease and that there was no herd immunity in Spain, also emerging progressively for long lockdown.


Large sero-survey in Spain with 60,000 participants shows ~5% of population tested positive for #coronavirus antibodies, 11% in region with highest incidence (Madrid)
1) Infection fatality rate ~1.2%
2) Herd immunity is not an option

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Why then have a law that says you can’t drive through city center at 200 mph? Same difference. “I will not give up my freedom for your safety”.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority. In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.” The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.


The ruling says the judges weren’t challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature. One of the dissenting justices, Rebecca Dallet, said her conservative colleagues in the majority were the ones who were exceeding their authority, and she noted precedent for Palm’s directives — a monthslong stay-at-home order during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history,” she said. “And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.” [..] During oral arguments, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested that the order amounted to “tyranny,” and at another point, she referred to Japanese Americans’ internment during World War II.

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A protest meeting.

72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)

More than 70 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for coronavirus after admitting they attended a ‘large gathering’ in the state – around the same time that thousands of protesters were pictured ignoring social distancing and shunning face masks at a mass anti-lockdown rally. The state’s Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed that 72 individuals who were diagnosed with the deadly virus on or after April 26 had all attended a large gathering not long before their diagnosis. ‘We were able to pull some limited data – out of 1,986 cases with onset/diagnosis on or after 4/26, there were seventy-two cases who reported attending a large gathering,’ DHS spokesperson Jennifer Miller told The Progressive.


Two days earlier on April 24, thousands of protesters gathered outside Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison demanding Democratic Governor Tony Evers reopen the state for business. It marked one of the largest anti-lockdown rallies to take place across the country. At the time there were 5,356 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin and 262 people had died. As of Wednesday, cases have almost doubled to 10,611 and the death toll has reached 418. [..] ‘Possible exposures during protests haven’t been specifically added to the database because we already ask about large gatherings,’ Miller told The Progressive. ‘Contact tracers do ask if patients attended mass gatherings, but not specifically about protests, so there’s really no data on who may have contracted COVID-19 at a protest.’ Miller added: ‘No, it doesn’t specifically state that the 72 were at a rally, but this is the data we have.’

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Right before they go on the ventilator.

36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)

Over a third of patients treated for COVID-19 in a large New York medical system developed acute kidney injury, and nearly 15% required dialysis, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The study was conducted by a team at Northwell Health, the largest health provider in New York state. “We found in the first 5,449 patients admitted, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury,” said study co-author Dr. Kenar Jhaveri, associated chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, whose findings were published in the journal Kidney International. Acute kidney injury occurs when the kidneys fail and become unable to filter out waste. Of those patients with kidney failure, 14.3% required dialysis, Jhaveri said in a phone interview.


The study is the largest to date to look at kidney injury in COVID-19 patients. It may be helpful, Jhaveri said, as other hospitals face new waves of patients with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.3 million people and killed over 295,000 globally. Several groups have noted increased rates of kidney failure among patients with COVID-19. Jhaveri and colleagues set out to quantify it by combing through medical records of 5,449 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March 1 and April 5. They found that kidney failure occurred early on, with 37.3% of patients arriving at the hospital with failing kidneys, or developing the condition within the first 24 hours of being admitted. In many cases, the kidney failure occurred around the time severely ill patients needed to be placed on a ventilator, Jhaveri said.

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Canada’s not doing well.

Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)

The Canadian province of Ontario is allowing its education staff, including teachers and custodians, to voluntarily redeploy into the province’s long-term care homes, the provincial government said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak at just one Toronto-area home alone has killed dozens. Coronavirus deaths in long-term care nursing homes account for 815 of 1,765 total deaths in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, according to provincial data released on Wednesday. Camilla Care Community recorded 56 deaths, according to the home’s owner, Sienna Senior Living, on Wednesday. The regional health authority reported 179 residents and 39 staff have tested positive at the facility.


In March, Ontario closed schools in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, requiring many educators and other staff to leave their jobs. This latest redeployment focuses on training and moving any employees who volunteer into nursing homes. Ontario has previously moved workers from hospitals into long-term care homes, and Wednesday’s announcement expands the province’s support for the facilities, which have been hit hard by the virus. The province also issued an emergency order on Wednesday morning, allowing the provincial government to issue mandatory management orders to any long-term care home struggling to deal with an outbreak.

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Not just care homes, poor parts of town as well.

Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)

Springtime in Montreal is normally a cause for celebration. After the city’s long, arduous winters, people emerge from the confines of their apartments at the first inkling of warmth to lounge in parks and on patios – or terrasses – and enjoy a meal, beverage and the company of friends. Not this year. Montreal, a city touted by tourist guides as “North America’s Europe” for its rich culture and joie de vivre, is Canada’s centre for Covid-19. Of the entire country’s 70,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, the city of 2 million people has 20,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, or about 64% of the entire province’s death toll. Those numbers have catapulted Quebec into an unfavourable position: it is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily coronavirus deaths, according to Quebec newspaper La Presse.


[..] Earlier this month, the province admitted that its effort to manage staffing shortages by moving workers around the long-term care network could be spreading the virus. Montreal North feels the consequences of that. One in five Montrealers infected with Covid-19 are healthcare workers – none of whom are receiving danger pay. In Montreal North, 23% are infected, said community organizer Will Prosper. “It’s these people who are still taking care of us, when not too long ago they were the people who we wanted to kick out,” said Prosper.

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Just a bigger casino.

COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)

The $2.3 trillion CARES Act, the Donald Trump-led rescue package signed into law on March 27th, is a radical rethink of American capitalism. It retains all the cruelties of the free market for those who live and work in the real world, but turns the paper economy into a state protectorate, surrounded by a kind of Trumpian Money Wall that is designed to keep the investor class safe from fear of loss. This financial economy is a fantasy casino, where the winnings are real but free chips cover the losses. For a rarefied segment of society, failure is being written out of the capitalist bargain. This is a fresh take on a long-developing dynamic. Dating to the late Eighties, when then-Fed-chief Alan Greenspan slashed interest rates after the 1987 stock-market crash, there’s been an understanding that the government would be there to help Wall Street back on its feet in hard times.

[..] What’s happening in the COVID-19 crisis is the next step: a financial bubble where the Fed isn’t the cleanup mechanism, but the source of the mania itself. While the real economy is seeing record disruptions, Wall Street has seen prolonged rallies of “rational exuberance” over the Fed’s decision to usher in “QE infinity” and essentially ban losing in finance capitalism. Though this is a Trump bill — El Pompadour is so determined that the CARES Act be remembered as his work, he fought to get his signature on relief checks — it passed unanimously, by voice vote in the House, and 96-0 in the Senate. Talk to Democrats on the Hill and they will tell you this is a bailout to be cheered and supported, nothing like the 2008 rescue. This time is different, the argument goes: Three-quarters of the money goes to real people.

[..] Technically, “only” about $500 billion of the congressionally passed rescue package goes to “big business.” Moreover, the big-business aid ostensibly comes with a range of draconian-sounding conditions barring greedy hijinks, meaning no layoffs, no stock buybacks, no big bonuses, etc., if companies want the handout. The loophole comes via $454 billion created as part of that big-business package. This “emergency fund” will be dumped into a “special-purpose vehicle” used to backstop further lending by the Federal Reserve. That $454 billion is designed to grow by a factor of 10 or more. “We can lever up to $4 trillion,” said Steve Mnuchin, playing the “free-spending Goldman Sachs-trained Treasury secretary” role that apparently is a prerequisite for financial-disaster narratives in modern America.

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Lovely.

FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks. The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot. It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public. “This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it. Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.

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Or should the FBI be held in contempt?

US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)

A U.S. judge on Wednesday signaled reluctance to allow the Justice Department to drop its criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn, tasking a retired judge with advising on whether the former Trump administration official should face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury. In a short written order, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to present arguments in the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. Sullivan said he was seeking Gleeson’s recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury because he testified under oath that he was guilty of lying to the FBI but then reversed course and said he had never lied. Sullivan also said he wanted Gleeson to make the case for why a motion to dismiss the Flynn case filed by the Justice Department last week should be rejected.


The Justice Department’s bombshell May 7 decision to drop its case against Flynn came on the heels of growing pressure from Trump and Trump’s political allies who repeatedly accused the FBI of improprieties in how it handled the investigation. Up until that point, the Justice Department had staunchly defended the FBI’s actions in the case. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russia’s U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. However, later in the case he switched lawyers and tactics, accusing the FBI of tricking him and seeking to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

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Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Patrick M. McLaughlin served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio from 1984-1988 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1984.

Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

For most Americans, it must be absolute confusion trying to decipher truth from non-truth as charges and countercharges are leveled by the Democrats and Republicans, and the media weigh in on the Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn case. My suggestion is to ignore the talking heads and read the DOJ’s 20-page motion to dismiss the criminal information against Flynn, and all the exhibits attached to that motion. Then, you will have the facts necessary to come to an informed opinion. I have done that, so let me give a primer. The DOJ determined that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice” because the interview of Flynn by the FBI was unjustified by the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, since that investigation “had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.’”

The DOJ is unpersuaded that Flynn’s interview “was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis” and does not believe that Flynn’s statements “were material even if untrue.” In addition, in consideration of all the evidence “including newly discovered and disclosed information,” the government doubts that it can prove “either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.” The motion, plus 86 pages of exhibits, provides evidence, at best, of the dereliction of duty by the FBI under James Comey and, at worst, possible criminal misconduct. Only a full disclosure of all relevant information, documents, and testimony under oath by participants will satisfy the right of Americans to have the evidence we deserve in order to form our opinions unfiltered by the talking heads. Let the real facts fall where they may.

[..] When you review the DOJ’s filing, put yourself in Flynn’s shoes and consider how you would feel if the government treated you in the same manner and, to top it off, hid material exculpatory information from your defense team and the court. Overlay on that: How would you handle it if legal fees had wiped you out financially and the agents and prosecutors were threatening to indict a member of your family to pressure you to cave? The conduct of Comey’s FBI, of the Special Counsel, and of some at Main Justice should be placed under the microscope of a truth-seeking, nonpartisan inquiry with the interests of the nation in mind. Find out what happened and why — then fix it.

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Dorothea Lange Crossroads grocery store and filling station, Yakima, Washington, Sumac Park 1939

 

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)
Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)
Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)
Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)
Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)
Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)
Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)
Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)
Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)
Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)
‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

 

 

No discussion of the Iran situation is worth a grain of salt if it doesn’t include Putin. He called for a conference on Lybia yesterday; Iran is (one of the) next. But yeah, of course China wants to add its two bits as well.

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)

China’s top foreign policy officials scolded President Trump’s January 3 hit on Iranian general Kassam Soleimani over the weekend, vowing to do what they could to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told the local press on Monday that Iran was basically “forced” to end its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after the death of Soleimani by drone strike outside of a Baghdad airport last week. Geng said that by doing so, however, they would be in violation of their non-proliferation obligations. The South China Morning Post reported Geng saying that, “China will continue to maintain close communication and coordination with all related parties, and will take relentless efforts” to save the nuclear deal and avoid greater conflict in the Gulf.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed under then-president Barack Obama in the summer of 2015. But the deal has had its critics ever since, with some saying the U.S. was basically bribing Iran not to enrich uranium for nuclear weaponry. Iran has been fighting a proxy war with the United States and its allies since the fall of the Washington-backed Shah of Iran. Soleimani was a lead soldier in that fight, and has since climbed the ranks to lead the elite Quds Force. He was blamed by Washington for leading a militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Brent crude oil prices rose to $70 in intraday trading on Monday morning, but have since fallen below $70. Texas crude is still pricing in the low $60s, up half a percent following a rash of pro-Iran militia attacks against U.S. facilities this weekend.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly held telephone conversations on Saturday with the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and France, reiterating that China would not back U.S. military strikes on Iran. China, France and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. That body has a weapons ban on Iran in place since 2010, set to expire in October of this year. “China will continue to uphold an objective and just position,” Wang said, adding that China will help safeguard “peace and security in the (Persian) Gulf.” On Friday, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and urged the U.S. not to start a regional war in the Middle East.

Last week, Russia’s Vedomosti business daily sourced an unnamed diplomat who surmised that Iran would retaliate by blocking free shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that roughly 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide, goes through that Strait. The Strait curves through the coasts of Oman and Iran and is a key transit route for Saudi Arabian oil into China. China’s imports of Saudi oil have hit a record high of late due to sanctions on Iran and dwindling resources in Venezuela, making that body of water very important to Chinese oil supply. China imported 8.21 million tons of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in November, pushing the total volume for 11 months to a record 76.33 million tons. That’s up 53% from the same period in 2018, based on numbers crunched by Caixin Global..

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Don’t worry, the thought police has your back.

Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)

Instagram and its parent company Facebook are removing posts that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business Friday. The Iranian government has called for nationwide legal action against Instagram in protest, even creating a portal on a government website for the app’s users to submit examples of posts the company removed, Iranian state media reported. Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. Facebook and Twitter are blocked but some Iranians access those sites using VPNs.


In a tweet, Iran’s government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called Instagram’s actions “undemocratic.” Instagram shut down Soleimani’s own account on the platform last April after the US government designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Soleimani was an IRGC commander. “We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Iranian soccer player Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has a verified Instagram account, posted a photo of Soleimani after his death. Jahanbakhsh said Instagram had removed that post.

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Would almost like to see them try, but don’t think they will. Too many risks. Can’t just wave around the petrodollar; it’s not made of steel; we know because it’s getting rusty.

Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)

The Trump administration this week warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if Baghdad expels American troops from the region, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s warning follows the U.S. airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander and the face of the Islamic Republic’s interventions across the Middle East. The strike led to Iraq’s parliament voting to force out American troops — a move some officials argued would hurt Iraq — and a counterstrike by Iran on two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq last week. Shutting down Iraq’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York could be detrimental to its financial system.


The country puts its revenue from oil sales there, and takes out that money to pay government salaries and contracts. The Fed held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018, according to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq. President Trump threatened to place economic sanctions on Iraq after parliament voted to request that Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi oust about 5,300 American troops. Those sanctions would also extend to Iran. The White House could also end waivers that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel generators that supply a large portion of the country’s power, placing another pressure on the prime minister over addressing U.S. troops without enduring economic and financial loss. Mahdi has argued that forcing out American troops is the only way to avoid conflict in Iraq.

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Brought to you courtesy of John McCain and Victoria Nuland. This is America.

Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel has told Jerusalem to butt out of the debate about honoring of Nazi collaborators. Thursday’s intervention by Hennadii Nadolenko, head of Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, reflects an escalation in the disagreement between Israel and Ukraine over the issue. The subject is related to “internal issues of Ukrainian politics” and Israel’s protests about it are “counterproductive,” Nadolenko told Israeli diplomats, according to the news site Jewish.ru. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, and his Polish counterpart Bartosz Cichocki wrote officials an open letter condemning the government-sponsored honoring of Stepan Bandera and Andryi Melnyk, two collaborators with the Third Reich.


The two have written on the subject before. In 2018, Lion wrote that he was shocked at an earlier act of veneration for Bandera, saying: “I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” Ukrainian diplomats had previously refrained from commenting publicly about Lion’s protests. The veneration of Nazi collaborators, including killers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many consider such individuals as heroes because they fought against Russian domination. But few of Lion’s counterparts in those countries have spoken out as forcefully and publicly on this issue.

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For Trump, it’s an easy campaign. 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.

Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)

Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager is warning that Democrats would struggle in a general election against Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. In an interview with POLITICO, Jim Messina predicted that Trump would exploit Sanders’ stamp of socialism in battleground states needed to defeat Trump, keep control of the House and have a shot at winning the Senate. “If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said. “I think the contrast is the best. He can say, ‘I’m a business guy, the economy’s good and this guy’s a socialist.’ I think that contrast for Trump is likely one that he’d be excited about in a way that he wouldn’t be as excited about Biden or potentially Mayor Pete or some of the more Midwestern moderate candidates.”

This is not the first time Messina has questioned Sanders’ viability as a general election candidate. His latest remarks come amid Sanders’ first-place showing in the marquee Iowa Poll and as the Vermont senator‘s messaging has increasingly focused on his electability. Messina said he is not endorsing in the 2020 race. He recently attended a fundraiser for Biden in Irvine, Calif., he said, because his wife is a supporter of the former vice president. “From a general election perspective, socialism is not going to be what Democrats are going to want to defend,” Messina added.“If you’re the Democratic nominee for the Montana Senate race, you don’t want to spend the election talking about socialism.”

Messina is the latest Democrat to raise concerns about Sanders at the top of the ticket. Endangered House Democrats are coalescing around Biden because of concerns that Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could threaten their reelection hopes, POLITICO reported Saturday. [..] Sanders surged starting in late October after recovering from a heart attack and receiving a pivotal endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For more than a week, Sanders has more directly attacked Joe Biden, the national top polling candidate, arguing the former vice president has too much “baggage” to win a general election. Sanders has argued the excitement behind his campaign and his steady dominance in grass-roots fundraising makes him the more electable candidate.

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From the Sanders campaign: “Jim Messina’s corporate clients include Google, Uber, AirBNB, a major private equity firm, a major airline that has been fighting its workers’ efforts to form a union, and Third Way, the Wall Street front group whose mission is to destroy the progressive movement.”

The campaign had set January 1st as the starting date for attacking rivals long ago.

Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)

Bernie Sanders’s campaign ratcheted up its attacks on Joe Biden’s claim that he did not support the Iraq War nearly as soon as it started. “It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Saturday. “Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn’t regret it.” Biden voted for the Iraq War in 2002 while he was a Delaware senator, but he has claimed several times on the campaign trail that he opposed the effort “from the moment” the March 2003 invasion started.

The then-senator expressed support for the war, saying in July 2003 that he still thought the job was “doable.” In a Senate floor speech, Biden said, “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.” He later changed his position. As vice president, Biden oversaw the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops from Iraq in 2011, which many argue fueled the rise of the Islamic State. “Bernie Sanders saw the same information and had the judgment to vote against the Iraq War,” Weaver said. “That’s the kind of commander in chief we need — someone with the toughness and judgment to get those calls right, not someone who undermined Democratic opposition, enthusiastically supported a disastrous war, refuses to admit mistakes, and then tries to rewrite history.”

Foreign policy shot to prominence in the Democratic presidential field after President Trump ordered a strike that killed of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, changing the landscape of Middle East policy. Sanders argued that the move puts the United States on the path to another war. Despite flaunting in Iowa last week that his supporters “have not heard me disparage any of the candidates,” Sanders has been increasing his attacks on the former vice president as the the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses loom. “You know, Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate, talking about the need to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday. “Joe Biden pushed a bankruptcy bill, which has caused enormous financial problems for working families.”

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The worst of this relates to Clapper and Brennan’s Russiagate comments.

Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)

David Petraeus, Van Hipp, Jeh Johnson, John Negroponte (and these are just the ones featured in Fang’s piece)—all have ties to the Big 5 contracting companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (whose stocks are soaring in response to recent events) and/or work for venture capital firms that invest in these companies. In fact, General Jack Keane, who is reportedly at the elbow of the president, advising him directly, while alternately appearing on FOX News to congratulate him after launching kinetic attacks like killing Gen. Soleimani, currently serves as a partner for such a firm (SCP Partners) and has worked for General Dynamics and Blackwater. [..] key here, according to Fang is this: “Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence.”


Whether they are not disclosing their ties to producers or the hosts don’t bother to mention it on air doesn’t matter. It’s called ethics and journalistic integrity. Due diligence. Honesty. None if it seems to be in evidence here. “It is imperative that viewers are aware when their news commentary is coming from someone with a financial incentive tied to the topic they’re coming on, especially when so many lives hang in the balance,” Gin Armstrong, who’s with the Public Accountability Initiative, told Fang. Quite right. This seems so simple, yet this practice of deception—and it is a deception—has been going on for decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to swallow it passively.

Think of all the damage that was done in the run-up to the Iraq War and after the invasion, when former military generals were cultivated by the Pentagon and delivered to the networks and cable shows as commentators for years, helping to sell the war and pacify public opinion when conditions on the ground went sour. The “Afghanistan Papers” revealed last month that hundreds of government officials and military officers knew for years that the war was lost and that the American people were being sold a bill of goods throughout the entire 18-year campaign. By their silence and complicity they served as enablers. How many of them have cycled through the revolving door to the private sector and have served as “experts” in any media capacity (authors, speechmakers, pundits) to promote those lies back to the American people? If they hadn’t, might there be more public pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home (14,000 still there) today?

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Tree-planting anyone?

Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)

The wildfires raging along Australia’s eastern coast have already pumped around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further fueling the climate change that’s already intensifying the nation’s fires. That’s more than the total combined annual emissions of the 116 lowest-emitting countries, and nine times the amount produced during California’s record-setting 2018 fire season. It also adds up to about three-quarters of Australia’s otherwise flattening greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019. And yet, 400 million tons isn’t an unprecedented amount nationwide at this point of the year in Australia, where summer bush fires are common, the fire season has been growing longer, and the number of days of “very high fire danger” is increasing.

Wildfires emissions topped 600 million tons from September through early January during the brutal fire seasons of 2011 and 2012, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. But emissions are way beyond typical levels in New South Wales, where this year’s fires are concentrated. More than 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have burned across the southeastern state since July 1, according to a statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Climate change doesn’t spark wildfires. But rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall dries out trees, plants, and soil, converting them into fuel that can amplify fires when they do break out.

A 2018 report by Australia’s national science agency and the Bureau of Meteorology concludes climate change has contributed to the nation’s worsening fire conditions, noting that average temperatures have risen more than 1˚C. In turn, these huge fires are fueling climate change. As trees and plants burn, they release the carbon stored in their trunks, leaves, branches, and roots. That creates a vicious feedback loop, as the very impacts of climate change further exacerbate it, complicating our ability to get ahead of the problem.


Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service

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But to be replaced with what? I still haven’t seen an answer to that which makes any sense.

Stay out of Davos, Greta, you’re being bought.

Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg and fellow youth climate campaigners are demanding that global leaders immediately end the “madness” of huge ongoing investments in fossil fuel exploration and enormous subsidies for coal, oil and gas use. The 21 young activists are also calling on the political and business leaders who will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to ensure investment funds dump their holdings in fossil fuel companies. “Anything less would be a betrayal against life itself,” said Thunberg and colleagues in an article in the Guardian. “Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that you play your part in putting an end to this madness.”

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate emergency. Scientists predict catastrophic impacts unless deep cuts in emissions are made rapidly, but global emissions are still rising. “Young people are being let down by older generations and those in power,” the climate strikers said. “To some it may seem like we are asking for a lot. But this is just the very minimum effort needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.” Much of the world’s existing coal, oil and gas reserves must be kept in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. But investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction remains high.

Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the world’s largest investment banks have provided more than $700bn to fossil fuel companies to develop new projects, with the total investment estimated to be trillions of dollars. Fossil fuel companies argue that their products will be used for many years to come and that they have a pivotal role in shifting the energy system to zero emissions. But their investments in green energy are tiny compared with those in fossil fuels. Subsidies for fossil fuels also remain high despite a G20 pledge in 2009 to eliminate them. The IMF estimates such subsidies run at $10m a minute, or $5.2tn a year. “The fact that [ending investment and subsidies] hasn’t been done already is, quite frankly, a disgrace,” said Thunberg and colleagues.

Investors managing funds totalling $12tn have already divested from coal, oil and gas, but the climate activists demand that “all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels”. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said in December that the financial sector was not cutting investments in oil and gas companies rapidly enough and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. He said in October that companies and industries not moving towards zero-carbon emissions would be punished by investors and go bankrupt.

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UK 2020. Laughing stock.

Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)

Extinction Rebellion is threatening legal action against counter-terrorism police for what it said was the illegal listing of the group as an extremist ideology in a guide designed to help stop terrorist violence. The Guardian revealed on Friday that counter-terrorism police had placed the non-violent protest group on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme. Police now say that was an error. Amnesty International condemned the decision on Saturday as criticism grew and questions remained about how Extinction Rebellion (XR) came to be included in the guide alongside neo-Nazi and terrorist groups.

The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) titled “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism”. XR has instructed lawyers. Jules Carey, who acted for XR when it successfully struck down police protest bans in the courts last year, told the Guardian that the latest guidance was unlawful. “It is extraordinary that Counter Terrorism Policing South East have added Extinction Rebellion to the list of terrorist groups and extremist organisations that the Prevent strategy was set up to deal with.

“The guidance issued by the CTPSE is clearly unlawful. It constitutes an unlawful interference with human rights including free speech, right to assemble and enjoyment of a private life. “The guidance is clearly designed to harm Extinction Rebellion and cast those who support the movement as domestic extremists. It is a glaring example of the sort of overzealous policing we have come to expect around protests. Being referred to Prevent could have long-lasting and life-changing consequences for a young school activist.”

[..] Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said the police guidance added to longstanding concerns about Prevent. “It’s deeply shocking that the police ever seriously considered classifying peaceful climate crisis protesters as extremists. To see that schoolchildren were effectively going to be profiled under these proposed measures, just deepens our shock. “Given that children are potentially those who will be most affected by the climate emergency, it’s vital that they are able to speak out on these issues without this heavy-handed and entirely disproportionate police attention. This episode only adds to our existing concerns about Prevent, which is a highly dubious scheme sorely in need of a proper, independent and impartial review.”

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“Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture..”

Might as well register them as cartoon characters. Same difference. We really don’t have any connection to anything alive anymore, do we?

‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s. Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.

Environmental advocates argue that the huge, commercially driven proliferation of the European honeybees used on almond farms is itself undermining the ecosystem for all bees. Honeybees out-compete diverse native bee species for forage, and threaten the endangered species that are already struggling to survive climate change. Environmentalists argue a better solution is to transform the way large-scale agriculture is carried out in the US. Like all bees, honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year.

Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture because of the creature’s vital role in food production. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honeybees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers,” says Nate Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

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The state of -rich western- mankind in a few words.

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 052020
 
 January 5, 2020  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Jack Delano Foggy night in New Bedford, Massachusetts 1941

 

Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)
Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)
Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)
Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)
Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)
To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)
PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)
Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)
How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)
Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)

 

 

It’s very hard not to wonder what everyone would have been writing and talking about in these first few days of 2020 if Australia weren’t burning and the US hadn’t killed Soleimani. Because this is all people are on about. Nobody talks about impeachment, for one thing.

It’s a shame that virtually all use the two events to reaffirm their prior positions, that they see to tweak events to reinforce their prior positions. It’s nigh impossible not to read that Trump will start a grand war, or the US will. This first article by Hassan Hassan is a rare exception.

Something else that crossed my mind: Soleimani’s death has -perhaps greatly- increased the chance that US troops will have to leave Iraq. Who would want that to happen?

Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)

The killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani could prove to be the most consequential US slaying of an enemy operative in recent memory. It will eclipse in its significance the killing of Osama bin Laden almost a decade ago or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. Not because it might spark another Middle East war, as many have warned, or merely because Suleimani was irreplaceable. Rather, his killing came at a time when the project he had led – to create an Iranian hegemony in the region – is facing unprecedented challenges in Iraq and Lebanon, through cross-sectarian and grassroots protests, while in Syria the project is still in its infancy. One can add to this picture a more aggressive policy adopted by the US.

Indeed, Suleimani was killed while he was trying to deal with these very challenges. His successor is unlikely to be able to complete that mission and contain the spiral of events in countries where, only a year ago, Iran declared major victories – in Syria against the rebels, in Lebanon through a Hezbollah-friendly government and in Iraq and Syria against Isis. In the short term, doomsday scenarios seem far-fetched. Neither side is interested in an outright war, even if developments over the past few years indicate that both have been caught in an unpredictable cycle of escalation and mounting tension. Crucially, nearly all the most influential public figures in Iraq, so far the main battle-space for the two powers, have called for a restrained and clear-headed response to prevent the situation in their country from spinning out of control.

These calls reduced significantly the chances for the worst-case scenario – of Iraq’s public figures mobilising impulsively and collectively against the United States in a way that might spark attacks and retaliations. Such scenarios would have made the US presence in Iraq unsustainable, at best. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered cleric, condemned Washington for its “flagrant aggression” but, in the same breath, he also called for restraint. What’s more, he cited the Iran-linked attack on the US embassy in Baghdad as part of a dangerous whirlwind of events that could steer Iraq into renewed chaos.

Beyond the extreme scenarios, Iran’s options for retaliation seem limited to familiar patterns of proxy and asymmetric warfare. Even Iranian officials have suggested any response to Suleimani’s killing would have to come later; foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that Tehran would launch “legal measures” at international level to hold the US to account. While a future response is possible, alarmism about a spiral into confrontation between Iran and the US is misplaced.

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Hmmm. Yes, Trump was the first to use Twitter, social media the way he does. because they didn’t exist the way they do. Presidents, CIS etc., would use the NYT and WaPo to start wars, sell them to voters. Does any of this mean Twitter should censure Trump? Or that not doing it makes them warmongers?

Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)

Lost in the back-and-forth over the legality of the assassination and whatever future consequences it may hold is that Trump may be the first president to stoke, and perhaps even declare, war through the Internet. [..] Since taking office, Trump has used Twitter to antagonize North Korea, start false rumors about Russia, intimidate witnesses, harass journalists, slander political rivals and — perhaps we should have seen it coming — threaten Iran. For its part, Twitter seems okay — maybe even pleased — that Trump has selected their platform to connect directly with the public. To date, no other social media platform has been able to boast that two sitting presidents have actively used their platform with the level of tenacity seen on Twitter.

That was likely the thought in mind when Twitter responded to criticism over its selective enforcement of its own terms of service — the kind that prohibit direct harassment against a person, incitement of violence, certain slurs and other acts of malfeasance — by saying it would give greater leniency to world leaders because what they have to tweet is important for people to read. “Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation,” a blog post published in January 2018 said. “Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

Twitter goes on to argue that removing a world leader like Trump from the platform would not silence them as some would wish, but rather “hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.” “We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly,” Twitter said. So far, that enforcement has amounted to a blank check for Trump to say whatever he want with impunity, with the social network apparently figuring that whatever Trump has to say — on his personal account that he used for several years before he became president — has roots in political discourse. And, hey, it’s not like anyone has died from a president’s tweet before.

But the assassination of Gen. Soleimali at Trump’s direction changes everything. Nowhere has Trump’s trademark approach to public discourse — filterless, unhinged, often ignorant and without regard to consequence — played out more than on Twitter. Now, people are paying closer attention to what Trump has to say, particularly on Iran, and a lot of the focus is on what Trump will tweet next. Certainly among those waiting with baited breath are world leaders — allies who are trying hard to prepare for what’s ahead with virtually little advance notice and foes who are looking for any excuse to attack.

As the crisis between the United States and Iran over the killing of Gen. Soleimali intensifies, it’s not unreasonable to assume Trump will, at some point, tweet something that instigates an attack or declaration of war. When that happens, Americans will die. By choosing not to enforce its terms equitably across users and show privilege and favor to world leaders, Twitter — as a platform and as a company — will play a role in whatever comes next.

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Trump alos said he wants no war with Iran. Biden and Mayor Pete are twisting like pretzels, Warren has a hard time keeping up with events.

Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)

Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”

Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.

Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”

Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.

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Propaganda is what it is.

Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)

In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence. Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.

What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. [..] The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.

This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.

Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.

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“One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.”

Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) SUBJECT: Doubling Down Into Another “March of Folly”?

The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters. What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.

Cui Bono? It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon payed a huge role in getting George W. Bush to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Usually taciturn, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, warned in August 2002 that “U.S. action against Iraq … could turn the whole region into a cauldron.” Bush paid no heed, prompting Scowcroft to explain in Oct. 2004 to The Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized”; that Sharon has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.)

In Sept. 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, who was Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission, stated publicly in a moment of unusual candor, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.” Zelikow did not explain how Iraq (or Iran), with zero nuclear weapons, would not be deterred from attacking Israel, which had a couple of hundred such weapons.

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Guess who the main Democratic donors are. Except for Bernie and Warren, but she’s already in funding trouble.

To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)

Since President Trump took office in 2017, the leadership of the Democratic Party has overwhelmingly supported the precursors to today’s dangerous U.S. escalation towards Iran: sanctions, proxy battles and a bloated military budget. Yet, now that we stand on the brink of a possible U.S. war of aggression, Democratic leaders are feigning concern that Trump is leading a march to war without congressional approval, and using a faulty strategy to do so. These objections, however, are grounded in process critiques, rather than moral opposition—and belie Democrats’ role in helping lay the groundwork for the growing confrontation.

The U.S. drone assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force and a ranking official of the Iranian government, takes confrontation with Iran to new heights, inching the U.S. closer to the war the Trump administration has been pushing for. While Trump deserves blame for driving this dangerous escalation, he did not do it on his own.

As recently as December 2019, the House overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 with a vote of 377-48. Two amendments were stripped from that bill before it went to a vote: Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) amendment to block funding for a war with Iran barring congressional approval and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to repeal 2001’s “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” (AUMF). That AUMF effectively allows the government to use “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone suspected of being connected to the 9/11 attacks, and has been interpreted broadly to justify U.S. aggression around the world. Officials from the Trump administration have suggested that the 2001 AUMF may give them authority to go to war with Iran.

Of the 377 Representatives who voted for the $738 billion defense bill, 188 were Democrats. Just 41 Democrats opposed the legislation. The bill cleared the Senate with a tally of 86-8, with just four Democrats voting against it. None of the Senators running for the 2020 Democratic nomination were present for the vote. Before the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to brag about the fact that “partisan demands” had effectively been removed from the bill and declared that “sanity and progress” had won out. “Reassuringly, the past few days have finally brought an end to bipartisan talks and produced a compromise NDAA,” said McConnell.

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Talk about propaganda. Hollow words.

PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)

China will keep monetary policy prudent, flexible and appropriate, and continue to deepen financial reforms, the central bank said on Sunday, reiterating previous policy statements. After a work meeting chaired by People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, the central bank also vowed to prevent any financial crisis, and said it would continue to help small companies seeking financing, according to a statement posted on PBOC’s website. It also said it will continue to let market play a decisive role in the currency exchange rate, but would keep the yuan exchange rate stable within a reasonable range. China’s economic growth cooled to a near 30-year low of 6% in the third quarter, but is expected to meet the government’s full-year 2019 target of 6%-6.5%. The PBOC on Wednesday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the eighth time in nearly two years…

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And there’s more where that came from. The rate cuts Bernanke once labeled “uncharted territory”, he now calls “conventional”.

Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve still has enough clout to fight a future downturn, but policymakers should state in advance the mix of policies and policy promises they plan to use to get the most bang for their buck, former Fed chief Ben Bernanke said on Saturday. In an address to the American Economics Association, Bernanke pushed back on the notion that central banks have lost influence over the economy, and laid out his thoughts about how the Fed in particular could change its monetary policy “framework” to be sure that is not the case. Citing new research of his own and others at the Fed and elsewhere, Bernanke said the bondbuying programs known as “quantitative easing” were effective in lowering long-term interest rates even after the Fed’s target policy rate had been cut to zero.


Several rounds of QE were rolled out in response to the deep 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession, and Bernanke said bondbuying should be made a permanent part of the U.S. central bank’s toolkit. Similarly, “forward guidance,” or promises about future policy, proved effective particularly as those pledges became more specific and tied to particular goals like reaching a certain level of unemployment. “Forward guidance in the next downturn will be more effective – better understood, better anticipated, and more credible – if it is part of a policy framework clearly articulated in advance,” Bernanke said. “Both QE and forward guidance should be part of the standard toolkit going forward.” “The room available for conventional rate cuts is much smaller than in the past,” Bernanke said, but “the new policy tools are effective.”

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You can talk about the Framers all you want, but the country has changed a lot since them.

How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)

From the mid-1960s through the mid-’90s, American politics had something more like a four-party system, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alongside liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Conservative Mississippi Democrats and liberal New York Democrats might have disagreed more than they agreed in Congress, but they could still get elected on local brands. You could have once said the same thing about liberal Vermont Republicans and conservative Kansas Republicans. Depending on the issue, different coalitions were possible, which allowed for the kind of fluid bargaining the constitutional system requires.

But that was before American politics became fully nationalized, a phenomenon that happened over several decades, powered in large part by a slow-moving post-civil-rights realignment of the two parties. National politics transformed from a compromise-oriented squabble over government spending into a zero-sum moral conflict over national culture and identity. As the conflict sharpened, the parties changed what they stood for. And as the parties changed, the conflict sharpened further. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats went extinct. The four-party system collapsed into just two parties.

The Democrats, the party of diversity and cosmopolitan values, came to dominate in cities but disappeared from the exurbs. And the Republicans, the party of traditional values and white, Christian identity, fled the cities and flourished in the exurbs. Partisan social bubbles began to grow, and congressional districts became more distinctly one party or the other. As a result, primaries, not general elections, determine the victor in many districts.

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Nice find, dark humor.

Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)

An amazing photo taken by a woman as fires raged nearby seemed to mimic the Aboriginal flag. South Australian woman Rose Fletcher took the photo at Victor Harbour as the sun rose on New Year’s Day when fires near her home were at their worst. ‘It was taken on New Year’s Day, just after sunrise, when the fires were arguably at their worst, and hearts were heavy and people were frightened – me included,’ Mrs Fletcher told Daily Mail Australia. ‘The rising sun was just a pale disc behind the layers of smoke over the Southern Ocean – and then, for just a few magic seconds, as it moved up through successively dense layers, it formed the Aboriginal flag.’


Towns on Australia’s east coast have been plunged into darkness in the middle of the day recently, while others have witnessed the sky turn apocolyptic red as the fire front approached. At least 24 people have died so far and dozens more are still missing so far this fire season. Authorities predict that number will rise. In addition to the death toll, more than 1,500 homes and four million hectares of land have been wiped out. More than 500 million animals are feared to have perished. Ms Fletcher said she recognised right away the power of the image and immediately went home to share it. ‘So I went home and put it up on Facebook, hoping that those moments would speak to other people as they spoke to me, and the rest is history,’ she said.

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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 022020
 


VIncent van Gogh Weeping woman seated on a basket 1883

 

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)
House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)
Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)
Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)
The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)
Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)
Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)
EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)
Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)
UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)
Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

 

 

I wondered here the other day where the military was. If this were the US the National Guard would have been sent in weeks ago. So this was a hopeful headline. Was, because it’s actually just about a few boats and helicopters. That’s not “the military”.

What I read these days about the fires is always about the same things: PM Scott Morrison is a fool. But Australia has a political class made up entirely of fools, far as I can see, so nothing special there. Blaming him means evading the real problems.

The second issue is everyone blames climate change. That is also evasive. The earth is such a complex system that we should be careful with claiming that A automatically means B; it takes years of intensive study to link the two.

Moreover, it’s not just a temperature change. Australia’s landscape has been drastically changed since Europeans arrived and forced it to look like England, with rolling lawns etc., something Australia was never made for.

The Aboriginees lived in harmoney with the land for 10s of 1000s of years. It’s the white man who made the land prone to large scale disaster.

Military Moves In To Help Mass Evacuation From Australian Bushfires (R.)

Tens of thousands of holiday makers raced to evacuate popular seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Wednesday, fleeing ahead of advancing bushfires, as military ships and helicopters planned missions to rescue thousands more trapped by the blazes. Long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations near high-danger areas as both residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape, but many shops and fuel stations had already run out of supplies. Major roads were closed due to fire risks, leaving motorists only a handful of escape routes causing lengthy traffic jams.

More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water, after catastrophic fires ripped through the region on Dec. 31 sending the sky blood red and destroying towns. Authorities have urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia’s southeast coast, an area that is hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke raging fires. “It is vital, critical,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Australian Broadcasting Corp television. “We need everybody to leave. We are going to face a worse day on Saturday than what we have been through.”

[..] Five military helicopters and two naval ships were en-route to the south coast to back up firefighters, bring in supplies like water and diesel and to evacuate people, the Australian Defense Force said. One ship was headed for the coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria, where around 4,000 people have been stranded on the beach front since New Year’s Eve when they watched much of the town burn down. The navy rescue team will include 1.6 tonnes of water and paramedics, officials said. The only road in and out of Mallacoota was expected to remain blocked for several weeks.

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Rod Blagojevic was the the 40th governor of Illinois. He has time to think in prison. Nice angle.

House Democrats Would Have Impeached Lincoln (Blagojevich)

I, like most people from my home state of Illinois, am a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. Recently I’ve wondered what would have happened had Nancy Pelosi been the Speaker of the House when Abraham Lincoln was president. Would Speaker Pelosi’s House Democrats use the same flimsy impeachment standard they are currently using to impeach Honest Abe, one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country? In 1998 I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Clinton impeachment, and in 2009, as the 40th governor of Illinois, I had the unhappy experience of being impeached and removed from office. Nevertheless, I offer this interesting and unique perspective about impeachment as I sit here in prison.

Consider the possibilities. First, today’s Democrats would have impeached Lincoln for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power when he unilaterally issued his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t ask Congress for permission when he declared an end to nearly 250 years of slavery and offered freedom to millions of slaves in the American South. He neither consulted Congress nor sought its consent before he acted. In fact, at the time Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Democrats of that day opposed it. And then there’s the matter of the job offer to Robert E. Lee. Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter by secessionists in South Carolina, and one day after Virginia seceded from the Union, President Lincoln sent an emissary to Robert E. Lee to offer him command of the Northern armies.

General Lee declined the offer. When his native state of Virginia left the Union, General Lee left with it, eventually going on to become the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia and the greatest military leader of the Civil War. Can’t you see how a Speaker Pelosi and many of today’s House Democrats would call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Lincoln for “Confederate Collusion” and bring impeachment charges for abuse of power for offering the top military command to a guy who would go on to become the top military commander of the other side? And surely, articles of impeachment would be brought against Lincoln by today’s House Democrats for suspending the writ of habeas corpus across the Union as it related to traitors, spies, prisoners of war and Union soldiers.

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I’ll never understand why it took so long.

Obama’s NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks (ZH)

The White House National Security Council is sharply downsizing ‘in a bid to improve efficiency’ by consolidating positions and cutting staff, according to the Washington Times – which adds that a secondary, unspoken objective (i.e. the entire reason) for the cuts is to address nonstop leaks that have plagued the Trump administration for nearly three years. “Leaks of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and other damaging disclosures likely originated with anti-Trump officials in the White House who stayed over from the Obama administration, according to several current and former White House officials.” -Washington Times The reform is being led by National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien, who told the Times that 40-45 NSC staff officials had been sent back to their home-agencies, and more are likely to be moved out.

“We remain on track to meeting the right-sizing goal Ambassador O’Brien outlined in October, and in fact may exceed that target by drawing down even more positions,” said NSC spokesman John Ullyot. Under Obama, the NSC ballooned to as many as 450 people – and officials wielded ‘enormous power’ according to the report, directly telephoning commanders in Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East to give them direct orders in violation of the military’s strict chain of command. Meanwhile, the so-called second-hand ‘whistleblower’ at the heart of President Trump’s impeachment was widely reported to be a NSC staffer on detail from the CIA, Eric Ciaramella, who took umbrage with Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who Ciaramella worked with.

After O’Brien is done, less than 120 policy officials will remain after the next several months. The downsizing will be carried out by consolidating positions and returning officials to agencies and departments such as the CIA, the State and Defense departments and the military. “Mr. O’Brien noted that the NSC had a policymaking staff of 12 in 1962 when President Kennedy faced down the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. During the 2000s and the George W. Bush administration, the number of NSC staff members increased sharply to support the three-front conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism. However, it was during the Obama administration that the NSC was transformed into a major policymaking agency seeking to duplicate the functions of the State and Defense departments within the White House.” -Washington Times

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‘T is the season to be jolly.

Trump Calls Pelosi The ‘Most Overrated Person I Know’ (Hill)

President Trump on Tuesday ripped Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the “most overrated person I know” as he fumed over the uncertainty surrounding his impeachment trial in the Senate. Trump has spent a chunk of his December vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida complaining about Pelosi’s decision to withhold the two articles of impeachment from the Senate until after lawmakers return from recess. “They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.


“Remember when Pelosi was screaming that President Trump is a danger to our nation and we must move quickly. They didn’t get one Republican House vote, and lost 3 Dems. They produced no case so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies. Most overrated person I know!” [..] The Speaker’s decision to hold onto the articles has proven to be a sticking point for Trump, who has tweeted more than a dozen times about Pelosi since arriving at his West Palm Beach property. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that Democrats “will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate” in an effort to protect former Vice President Joe Biden. The president has called for Biden, his son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry to testify.

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Robert Fisk has a better understanding than most, but can’t refrain from blaming, among others, Russia while he’s at it. That really drags him down. Pity. The story here is Bellingcat,OPCW, White Helmets as propaganda channels for US intelligence and western media. Not unsubstantiated accusations.

The Syrian Conflict Is Awash With Chemical Warfare Propaganda (Fisk)

The most recent information – published on WikiLeaks, in a report from Hitchens again and from Jonathan Steele, a former senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian – suggests that the OPCW suppressed or failed to publish, or simply preferred to ignore, the conclusions of up to 20 other members of its staff who became so upset at what they regarded as the misleading conclusions of the final report that they officially sought to have it changed in order to represent the truth. (The OPCW has said in a number of statements that it stands by its final report.) At first, senior OPCW officials contented themselves by merely acknowledging the Henderson report’s existence a few days after it appeared without making any comment on its contents.

When the far more damaging later reports emerged in early November, Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s director general, said that it was in “the nature of any thorough enquiry for individuals in a team to express subjective views. While some of the views continue to circulate in some public discussion forums, I would like to reiterate that I stand by the independent, professional conclusion [of the investigation].” The OPCW declined to respond to questions from Hitchens or Steele. But the new details suggest that other evidence could have been left unpublished by the OPCW. These were not just from leaked emails, but given by an OPCW inspector – a colleague of Henderson – who was one of a team of eight to visit Douma and who appeared at a briefing in Brussels last month to explain his original findings to a group of disarmament, legal, medical and intelligence personnel.

[..] This weekend, for example, WikiLeaks sent to The Independent an apparent account of a meeting held by OPCW toxicologists and pharmacists “all specialists in CW (Chemical Warfare)”, according to the document. The meeting is dated 6 June 2018 and says that “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there is no correlation between symptoms [of the victims] and chlorine exposure.” In particular, they stated that “the onset of excessive frothing, as a result of pulmonary edema observed in photos and reported by witnesses would not occur in the short time period between the reported occurrence of the alleged incident and the time the videos were recorded”.

[..] The deep concerns among some of the OPCW staff and the deletion of their evidence does not mean that gas has not been used in Syria by the government or even by the Russians or by Isis and its fellow Islamists. All stand guilty of war crimes in the Syrian conflict. The OPCW’s response to the evidence should not let war criminals off the hook. But it certainly helps them.

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Daily Mail, so perhaps a few pounds of salt.

Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Is A Foreign Spy Hiding In Israel’ (DM)

An explosive new report has asserted that deceased sex criminal Jeffery Epstein and his alleged ‘madame’ Ghislaine Maxwell were foreign intelligence ‘assets’, and that she is currently hiding in a safehouse in Israel. ‘Ghislaine is protected. She and Jeffrey were assets of sorts for multiple foreign governments. They would trade information about the powerful people caught in his net — caught at Epstein’s house,’ a unnamed source told Page Six. Maxwell, 58, has been accused in lawsuits of procuring underage girls for Epstein to sexually traffick among his wealthy and powerful friends, and is reportedly the subject of an ongoing FBI probe.m She has always denied any wrongdoing.

After Epstein’s re-arrest last year and death behind bars in August, Maxwell has remained out of sight and her whereabouts unknown. Now the Page Six source claims she is being protected by powerful foreign interests. ‘She is not in the US, she moves around. She is sometimes in the UK, but most often in other countries, such as Israel, where her powerful contacts have provided her with safe houses and protection,’ the source said. Maxwell is being ‘protected because of the information she has on the world’s most powerful people,’ the source said. The source also claimed that Prince Andrew begged Maxwell to come forward and clear his name, after Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with the royal when she was 17.

Prince Andrew, 59, strenuously denies having sex with Roberts and claims he can’t remember meeting her despite a photograph of him with his arm around her. ‘Andrew pleaded with Ghislaine to publicly defend him. She carefully considered it, but decided no good would come of it (if she came forward). It isn’t in her best interests,’ the source told Page Six.

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MI6 can accommodate Andrew.

Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell Are Still Chums And Still Talk (MN)

For Prince Andrew, it appears that some old habits die hard — even if those habits led to his international downfall and ejection from his official role in the British royal family. The Duke of York’s habit of being friends and staying in contact with Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly continues, even though the one-time U.K. socialite is under FBI investigation for her alleged role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation. Laura Goldman, a longtime friend of Maxwell’s, revealed to The Sun that the socialite, while in hiding and protected by “wealthy connections,” continues to text and call her friends.

Maxwell, 57, also is confident that she has enough “dirt” on enough powerful people that she’ll be able to evade prosecution and eventually clear her family name and return to her high-society life, Goldman said. As for Andrew, Maxwell still “adores” him, Goldman said. After all, Maxwell credits the 59-year-old duke with helping her to return to high-society after the controversial 1991 death of her father, publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. Maxwell also reportedly introduced Andrew to Epstein, whom she dated for several years in the 1990s.

However, Goldman said that Maxwell is not about to come out of hiding right now and offer up any information that could clear Andrew’s name, which has been tarnished by allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged underaged “sex slaves.” Goldman said: “(Maxwell) adores Prince Andrew, they’re still in touch now, but she won’t come out of hiding, even for him. “She’d only reveal herself if it was in her best interest, which it isn’t yet,” Goldman continued. “So she’ll be staying out of the limelight for now and leaving him to fend for himself, despite her huge affection for him and the fact that she could have taken some of the heat off him recently.”

[..] The Sun reported in early December that Andrew had a secret meeting with Maxwell at Buckingham Palace in June and has kept in constant contact with her by phone and email — even as the scandal escalated. “They talk regularly.” a source told The Sun. “If he wasn’t in the spotlight at the moment he would have found a way to meet up with her.”

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The EU will have to respond in kind.

EU Nationals Face Humiliation Of Applying To Stay In The UK Post-Brexit (NBC)

Over the course of years and in some cases decades, millions of Europeans have built their careers and families in the U.K. – a place they call home. But with Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of January, European citizens living in the U.K. have been forced to apply for permission to stay in the country after it pulls out of the 28 nation bloc. Some 2.6 million of the more than 3 million E.U. citizens who live in the U.K. have already applied to remain as part of a settlement scheme introduced by the British government this year. For some, having to apply to stay in the country they call home has been a humiliating experience.

Richard Bertinet, a baker, has lived in the U.K. for 31 years after moving from France. He was granted the right to remain, but getting it wasn’t easy. To his surprise, he initially qualified only for “pre-settled status,” intended for people who have lived in the U.K. for less than five years and one step before the full “settled status.” “I spent more of my life in the U.K. than in France,” Bertinet, 53, told NBC News, as he took a break from teaching a baking class at his cooking school in the picturesque city of Bath in southwest England where he lives with his British wife and three children. “To have to prove 31 years of your life here? It’s a joke,” he said. “They can go to my Wikipedia page and see who I am.”

Frustrated, he shared his ordeal on Instagram, where it went viral. Bertinet appealed the decision and can now stay in the U.K. indefinitely. But he said he was worried about more vulnerable people — the elderly, those with fewer resources, insufficient language skills or simply confused about the application process. “If this happened to me, it will happen to other people,” Bertinet said. [..] “I really can’t get over the fact that I am made to apply to stay in my own home,” said Corinne Byron, 47. Born in Belgium and raised in Switzerland, Byron moved to the U.K. in 2004 after marrying a British soldier. “I was a rather proud army wife, as I even sang with the military wives choirs,” she said. “I guess you could say that I was the proudest non-British British person you could imagine.”

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And CEO Muilenburg, the man responsible for it all, walks away with $100 million or so. If that’s not crazy, I must be.

Airbus Deliveries Soar To Record High As Boeing’s Crash (ZH)

A new report from Reuters specifies how Airbus locked in a record number of aircraft deliveries in Dec. to exceed full-year delivery targets while outshining troubled Boeing in becoming the world’s top planemaker. By midnight on New Year’s Eve, Airbus delivered 863 aircraft for the year, up 7.9% from 800 in 2018, sources told Reuters. The sources said the numbers aren’t official and must be audited before officially published. Shown in The Seattle Times chart below (updated on Dec. 29), the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max and now suspension of its production had more than halved deliveries from 806 in 2018 to 370 in 2019. With Max sales stalled, deliveries tanking, and production halted, Airbus is now soaring ahead as Boeing is facing its biggest crisis in 100 years with no word on a timeline of an ungrounding.

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Happy 2020 for Chelsea too, as for Julian. Stop this.

UN Special Rapporteur Melzer Accuses US Of Torturing Chelsea Manning (G.)

A top United Nations official has accused the US government of using torture against Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst currently jailed in the US over her refusal to testify against WikiLeaks. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, made the charge in a letter sent in November but only released on Tuesday. In the missive, Melzer says Manning is being subjected to “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Manning, who was detained on 16 May after refusing to testify before a grand jury, is currently being held at the Alexandria detention center in Virginia until she agrees to give evidence or until the grand jury’s term expires in November next year.

She also faces fines currently running at $1,000 a day. In the letter, Melzer writes: “The practise of coercive deprivation of liberty for civil contempt … involves the intentional infliction of progressively severe mental and emotional suffering for the purposes of coercion and intimidation at the order of judicial authorities.” Warning that “victims of prolonged coercive confinement have demonstrated post-traumatic symptoms and other severe and persistent mental and physical health consequences”, Melzer said Manning’s detention “is not a lawful sanction but an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture & should be discontinued & abolished without delay”.

Mannings’ lawyers have argued that her detention is “for refusing to comply with a grand jury is pointless, punitive, and cruel” and warned that she is not likely to change her mind. In a letter released in March when Manning was first sent back to jail, her lawyers warned: “Chelsea has clearly stated her moral objection to the secretive and oppressive grand jury process. We are Chelsea’s friends and fellow organizers, and we know her as a person who is fully committed to her principles. They warned US authorities that if they “believe that subjecting Chelsea to more punishment will change her mind, they are gravely mistaken”.

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Lemme guess: because it sinks?!

Why Can’t We Find The Vast Majority Of Ocean Plastic? (G.)

Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.


“I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job, because you can always find a bit wherever you look,” says Van Sebille. But, he adds, the reality is that our maps of the ocean essentially end at the surface, and solid numbers on how much plastic is in any one location are lacking. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, it could fragment into such small pieces that it can barely be detected. At this point it becomes, Niemann says, “more like a chemical dissolved in the water than floating in it”.

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Ghislaine Maxwell in 1999 photoshoot for Sotheby’s

 

 

 

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

 

Sep 292019
 
 September 29, 2019  Posted by at 9:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Portrait of Ingeborg Thaulow 1877

 

Pelosi Says Public Opinion Shifting In Support Of Impeachment Inquiry (R.)
Pelosi’s House Rule Changes are Key Part of “Articles of Impeachment” (CTH)
Scott Adams Makes the Case for ‘President for Life’ Trump (Ricochet)
The Problem With Impeachment (Chris Hedges)
On The Motives Behind Whistleblower-gate (MoA)
The Latest Plot To Topple Trump: Politics According To -Groucho- Marx (SCF)
State Dept. Ramps Up Probe Into Clinton Email Server (Hill)
Has Australia Really Had a 28-Year Expansion? (St.Louis Fed)
U.S. Income Inequality Worsens, Widening To A New Gap (NPR)
Edward Snowden’s Julian Assange is an Unfamiliar Julian Assange (MPN)

 

 

She made that up.

Pelosi Says Public Opinion Shifting In Support Of Impeachment Inquiry (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday that public opinion is now on the side of an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump following the release of new information about his conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Pelosi this week announced her support for an investigation after the surfacing of a whistleblower complaint that said Trump appeared to solicit a political favor from Ukraine’s president aimed at helping him be re-elected next year. Pelosi for months took a cautious approach in weighing the calls of other Democratic House members to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, which grew louder after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on July 24 about his probe of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“In the public, the tide has completely changed; it could change now – who knows – but right now after seeing the complaint and the IG (Inspector General) report and the cavalier attitude the administration had towards it, the American people are coming to a different decision,” Pelosi said at a journalism event hosted by the Texas Tribune news website. She added that her resistance to holding an impeachment inquiry quickly evolved from urging that fellow Democrats remain cautious of the political fallout ahead of next year’s elections to full steam ahead as details emerged of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s leader. “A president of the United States would withhold military assistance paid for by taxpayers to shake down the leader of another country unless he did him a political favor – that is so, so clear,” Pelosi said.

[..] Several Democratic presidential candidates attended the three-day event in Austin, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, all of whom agreed with Pelosi that the campaign to push Trump from office must focus on policies and not impeachment. While some polls have shown Americans are split on supporting impeachment, Castro, who served under former President Barack Obama, said he thinks the public will increasingly back the inquiry. “Like in Watergate, after more evidence gets out there … you’ll see more people of different political stripes start to support it,” Castro said at the event, referring to moves in 1974 to impeach former President Richard Nixon.

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Pelosi called for impeachment without having seen the transcript or the complaint. That will forever be weird.

Pelosi’s House Rule Changes are Key Part of “Articles of Impeachment” (CTH)

Back in December 2018 CTH noted the significant House rule changes constructed by Nancy Pelosi for the 116th congress seemed specifically geared toward impeachment. {Go Deep} With the House going into a scheduled calendar recess, those rules are now being used to subvert historic processes and construct the articles of impeachment. A formal vote to initiate an “impeachment inquiry” is not technically required; however, there has always been a full house vote until now. The reason not to have a House vote is simple: if the formal process was followed the minority (republicans) would have enforceable rights within it. Without a vote to initiate, the articles of impeachment can be drawn up without any participation by the minority; and without any input from the executive. This was always the plan that was visible in Pelosi’s changed House rules.

Keep in mind Speaker Pelosi selected former insider DOJ official Douglas Letter to be the Chief Legal Counsel for the House. That becomes important when we get to the part about the official full house impeachment vote. The Lawfare group and DNC far-left activists were ecstatic at the selection. Doug Letter was a deep political operative within the institution of the DOJ who worked diligently to promote the weaponized political values of former democrat administrations. Speaker Pelosi has authorized the House committees to work together under the umbrella of an “official impeachment inquiry.” The House Intelligence (Schiff) and Judiciary Committees (Nadler) are currently working together leading this process.

From recent events we can see the framework of Schiff compiling Trump-Ukraine articles and Nadler compiling Trump-Russia articles. Trump-Ukraine via Schiff will likely focus on a corruption angle; Trump-Russia via Nadler will likely focus on an obstruction angle. How many articles of impeachment are finally assembled is unknown, but it is possible to see the background construct as described above. Unlike historic examples of committee impeachment assembly, and in combination with the lack of an initiation vote, Pelosi’s earlier House Rule changes now appear intentionally designed to block republicans during the article assembly process. The minority will have no voice. This is quite a design.

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Not really, but his arguments are interesting, and shared by many: how to put the CIA offside.

Scott Adams Makes the Case for ‘President for Life’ Trump (Ricochet)

No, Scott Adams is not suggesting that Trump be president for life. But Scott is making the case for Trump being the last legitimate president. Hence (my conclusion), if we want our president to be legitimate then we should want Trump to be president for life. And given his age that would not be an oppressively long time. So what is Scott talking about?! He referenced the other day a tweet from the person Scott thinks is the “smartest man he has ever met” — Naval Ravikant: Does it bother anyone else that our elected officials live in a panopticon run by our intelligence agencies? A panopticon is like a one-way mirror where a person can see everything without being seen.

In other words, if you assume that our intelligence service has technological access to conversations, emails, texts by accessing both public networks and “things” owned by elected officials that are connected to the internet, then our intelligence apparatus is in an enormously powerful position vis a vis elected officials. That is, bureaucrats have something on officials that can be used as leverage to override the desires and preferences of constituencies. This delegitimizes the elected politician as acting in the constituents’ interest rather than that of the intelligence community. Earlier Senator Schumer said much the same thing: “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

Now, according to Scott, Trump is the only elected politician who can resist the threats of the intelligence agencies because his flaws are well-known and flagrant, thus he has the least risk of losing political power from anything the intelligence officials could leak and would be believed. (At this point most voters don’t think or will ever be made to think that Trump is a traitor, intentionally working against the interests of the United States. Nor do they think that he is engaged in any “abuse of power” that is over the line for a president.) This makes him more legitimate as a political leader — from a constituency standpoint — than anyone who could be elected. So why wouldn’t you want Trump to be president for life?

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Chris Hedges has the same reasoning as Scott Adams.

The Problem With Impeachment (Chris Hedges)

Impeaching Donald Trump would do nothing to halt the deep decay that has beset the American republic. It would not magically restore democratic institutions. It would not return us to the rule of law. It would not curb the predatory appetites of the big banks, the war industry and corporations. It would not get corporate money out of politics or end our system of legalized bribery. It would not halt the wholesale surveillance and monitoring of the public by the security services. It would not end the reigns of terror practiced by paramilitary police in impoverished neighborhoods or the mass incarceration of 2.3 million citizens. It would not impede ICE from hunting down the undocumented and ripping children from their arms to pen them in cages. It would not halt the extraction of fossil fuels and the looming ecocide. It would not give us a press freed from the corporate mandate to turn news into burlesque for profit. It would not end our endless and futile wars. It would not ameliorate the hatred between the nation’s warring tribes—indeed would only exacerbate these hatreds.


Impeachment is about cosmetics. It is about replacing the public face of empire with a political mandarin such as Joe Biden, himself steeped in corruption and obsequious service to the rich and corporate power, who will carry out the same suicidal policies with appropriate regal decorum. The ruling elites have had enough of Trump’s vulgarity, stupidity and staggering ineptitude. They turned on him not over an egregious impeachable offense—there have been numerous impeachable offenses including the use of the presidency for personal enrichment, inciting violence and racism, passing on classified intelligence to foreign officials, obstruction of justice and a pathological inability to tell the truth—but because he made the fatal mistake of trying to take down a fellow member of the ruling elite.

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Decent overview of what’s going on.

On The Motives Behind Whistleblower-gate (MoA)

The whistleblower statute says that the matter in question must be an “urgent concern” that is defined as: “… a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operations of an intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters”. At the core of the complaint in question is a claim that Trump used a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of the Ukraine to press Zelensky to investigate two issues. The call memorandum was declassified and published. During the phone call Zelensky had two requests. He wanted U.S. anti-tank weapons and he wanted an invitation to the White House. (He got both.)

Trump also had a request. He asked that Ukrainian authorities investigate two issues of U.S. public interest. The first is the reported interferences by Ukrainian government officials in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign. This also involved the notorious security company CrowdStrike which made some false claims about Russian hacking in the Ukraine. The second one is the also well-know intervention by then Vice-President Joe Biden against a Ukrainian Attorney General who had an open investigation against a company that was sponsoring his son Hunter Biden. The U.S. and the Ukraine have a treaty that requires them to cooperate on law enforcement matters. That Trump wanted the Ukrainian authorities to investigated these issues was well known.

His personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani had said for several months that he was looking into these questions. The issues pointed out in the complaint are clearly beyond the scope of the whistleblower statute. Trump’s actions with regard to the Ukraine, especially the phone call, were neither outside of any law nor do they involve any intelligence activity. What Trump did during the call was not nefarious. The issue is clearly a question of “differences in opinion concerning public policy matters”. A whistleblower complaint must be send to the relevant agency’s inspector general. If he finds it credible it goes to the head of the agency who decides if it is within the statute and, if it is, sends the complaint to Congress.

The agency’s inspector general Michael Atkinson found the complaint ‘credible’ but, after seeking legal advice, the acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire did not forward it to Congress. It was the right thing to do as the content of the complaint is neither ‘whistleblowing’ nor within the relevant statute. What happened next is curious: “The agency’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, notified Congress that the complaint existed but says he and Maguire have reached an “impasse” over whether to turn it over.” I have found no legal analysis if this was a required move or outside of the usual process. After that step was taken details of the complaint leaked to the press as they were supposed to do.

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I increasingly suspect Hillary will emerge.

The Latest Plot To Topple Trump: Politics According To -Groucho- Marx (SCF)

Right after being falsely accused of conspiring with Russia for the past two and a half years, Trump is suddenly accused of the opposite – of conspiring with Ukraine instead! This Reversal of Fortune – and of accusations – demands that the American public be as stupid and brainwashed as the oppressed population of Oceania in George Orwell’s dark and prophetic classic dystopia “1984.” “We are at War with Eurasia! We have always been at War with Eurasia!” “No! We LOVE Eurasia! We are at War with EASTAsia! We have always been at war with Eastasia!” Clearly, the readers and viewers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN and all the rest of America’s media “Powers That Be” have already been well trained in Orwellian Doublethink and witless stupidity.

Suddenly, President Vladimir Putin of Russia is no longer the Evil Bad Guy plotting with Trump. Now it is new President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, himself a former professional comic actor on television. The Marx Brothers would have loved to co-star with him. Perhaps after being forced out of the presidency Trump, himself a former hit TV star across America, could hire Zelenskyy as his sidekick in a revival of his famous reality television show “The Apprentice.” As the late great British satirist Michael Wharton, who wrote under the nom de plume Peter Simple liked to say – the wilder the fantasy, the more rapidly it was bound to ‘collapse” into the realm which we naively and inaccurately describe as “reality.”

And what is the latest terrible crime that the President of the United States is now –suddenly and without warning – accused of? He dared to investigate whether Hunter Biden, the son of another eminent politician, former vice president Joe Biden was guilty of corruption. Just think of the consequences if Trump and his officials were allowed to continue their investigation unhindered: They might – shockingly! – put some other corrupt former US politicians out of business. Obviously, that would be the most terrible threat imaginable to the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

No wonder the US Deep State hates Donald Trump! But there is another goal for this concocted scandal. It’s a twofer – a two for one scandal – intended to topple Trump and remove Biden from serious consideration at the same time, clearing the way for the Deep State’s True Candidate – Senator Elizabeth Warren. The shamelessness of this latest concocted scandal would leave Josef Goebbels green with envy and laughing uncontrollably. Unfortunately, it isn’t a joke.

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Hilarious: “It is such an obscene abuse of power and time involving so many people for so many years,” they said. “This has just sucked up people’s lives for years and years.”

I could have sworn they were talking about the Mueller investigation.

State Dept. Ramps Up Probe Into Clinton Email Server (Hill)

The State Department reportedly intensified a probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, contacting dozens of former aides involved in email exchanges that passed through Clinton’s server. The Washington Post reported Saturday that as many as 130 former Clinton aides have been contacted by State Department investigators in recent weeks, with many being informed that they have been found “culpable” for transmitting information that should have been classified at a higher level than it was originally sent. Former Obama administration officials describe the probe to the Post as an extraordinary investigation fueled by political animosity.

But current officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper that the probe was structured to avoid the appearance of political bias. The probe, which reportedly reached the stage where former officials began being contacted shortly after Trump’s inauguration, was described by one senior agency official to the Post as having nothing to do with President Trump’s vows to investigate Clinton if elected during the 2016 election. “This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” the official said. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about three and a half years.” “The process is set up in a manner to completely avoid any appearance of political bias,” another official told the Post.

Former officials involved in the probe described it as a political vendetta, with one telling the Post it was an “abuse of power” by the Trump administration. “It is such an obscene abuse of power and time involving so many people for so many years,” they said. “This has just sucked up people’s lives for years and years.”

Read more …

No.

Has Australia Really Had a 28-Year Expansion? (St.Louis Fed)

In July, the U.S. officially entered its longest expansion on record. Naturally, many are wondering if the expansion is sustainable. When asking this question, many turn to the Australian case, as it has been argued that Australia hasn’t had a recession in 28 years. But is this really the case? The figure below shows the growth rate of Australia’s GDP, with recessions shaded gray. (Recessions are defined here as two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.)

According to this, Australia has not had a recession since 1991 and has been growing since. However, when we look at real per capita GDP growth, the story changes. The figure below shows Australia’s per capita GDP growth rate. Again, recessions are shaded gray and defined as two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth.

As shown in the figure, Australia has had three recessions since 1991 when looking at GDP per capita, the most recent one being from the second quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. This discrepancy between the growth rate of per capita GDP and the growth rate of GDP implies that population growth has been a key factor for Australia’s economic expansion. A rising population increases the size of the economy, and therefore total output increases, which is reflected in the level of GDP. However, the fact that we do see economic downturns in per capita terms means that population is growing faster than GDP. For nearly 40 years, Australia has had a higher population growth rate than other industrialized economies, as seen in the figure below.

In particular, it had a surge in population around 2008—during the height of the global financial crisis—due to migration. This population growth translated to overall positive GDP growth, but its effect on GDP growth hasn’t been enough to prevent recessions in per capita terms. Per capita recessions are not unique to Australia. In the table below, we compare the number of observed recessions when using GDP growth versus per capita GDP growth for several OECD countries. Again, a recession is defined as two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth.

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On a societal level (in)equality is strongly linked to prosperity.

U.S. Income Inequality Worsens, Widening To A New Gap (NPR)

The gap between the richest and the poorest U.S. households is now the largest it’s been in the past 50 years — despite the median U.S. income hitting a new record in 2018, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. income inequality was “significantly higher” in 2018 than in 2017, the federal agency says in its latest American Community Survey report. The last time a change in the metric was deemed statistically significant was when it grew from 2012-2013. While many states didn’t see a change in income inequality last year, the income gap grew wider in nine states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia.

The disparity grew despite a surging national economy that has seen low unemployment and more than 10 years of consecutive GDP growth. The most troubling thing about the new report, says William M. Rodgers III, a professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center at Rutgers University, is that it “clearly illustrates the inability of the current economic expansion, the longest on record, to lessen inequality.” When asked why the rising economic tide has raised some boats more than others, Rodgers lists several factors, including the decline of organized labor and competition for jobs from abroad. He also cites tax policies that favor businesses and higher-income families.

Income inequality is measured through the Gini index, which measures how far apart incomes are from each other. To do that, the index assigns a hypothetical score of 0.0 to a population in which incomes are distributed perfectly evenly and a score of 1.0 to a population where only one household gets all of the income. In the U.S., the Gini index figure had been holding steady for the past several years. But it moved from 0.482 in 2017 to 0.485 in 2018. While that change may seem small, it’s statistically significant, the Census Bureau says. The agency notes that back in 2006, the figure stood at 0.464.

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I haven’t read the book, but this is a little alarming.

Edward Snowden’s Julian Assange is an Unfamiliar Julian Assange (MPN)

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks’ former editor Julian Assange have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, they share important similarities: both are perceived as dangerous enemies by the United States government, and both have been documentary subjects of filmmaker Laura Poitras. On the other hand, they clearly disagree when it comes to the means of achieving government transparency and accountability. After all, if Snowden had agreed with Assange about publishing practices, it is likely that he would have followed Chelsea Manning’s example and sent the NSA documents he collected and disclosed in 2013 to WikiLeaks.

The recent publication of Permanent Record, Snowden’s 336-page memoir, takes the Snowden-Assange dynamic to new—and problematic—heights. When Assange was forcibly dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in early 2019, Snowden was among the leading voices condemning the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder, calling it a dangerous assault on journalism. But in his memoir, Snowden uses rhetorical tricks to present Assange and WikiLeaks as his deceitful and irresponsible foils in a blatant and seemingly self-serving effort to highlight his own trustworthiness and accountability. Indeed, reviewers at the Washington Post and New Yorker have already seized upon Snowden’s anti-Assange rhetoric to serve their own anti-Assange agendas.

Proponents of press freedom have become accustomed to Pentagon and national security state attacks on Assange, but Snowden’s puzzling claims about the white-haired Australian and his transparency organization are exceptionally dangerous because they come from an otherwise highly respectable and trustworthy source, and at a time when there is otherwise a virtual media blackout on WikiLeaks. To be sure, Snowden deserves recognition as a courageous whistleblower and as a global champion of privacy rights, but in Permanent Record, Snowden appears willing to use a political prisoner for personal gain, deliberately distorting the truth and perpetuating the imperialistic propaganda that threatens not only Assange’s health but also his very life—just like the corporate media and national security state he exposed in 2013.

Read more …

 

Trans I Re by Fredrik Raddum

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 012019
 
 June 1, 2019  Posted by at 1:44 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Rest (Marie-Thérèse Walter) 1932

With the news that Julian Assange is “wasting away” in Belmarsh prison hospital, and with UN rapporteur Professor Nils Melzer’s report detailing how this happens, I’m once again drawn towards the lawlessness that all “authorities” involved in his case have been displaying, and with impunity. They all apparently think they are literally above the law. Their own laws.

But they can’t be, nowhere, not above their respective national laws nor the international ones their countries have signed up to. They can’t, because that would instantly make any and all laws meaningless. So you tell me where we find ourselves today.

There’s this paragraph in an article by Jonathan Cook entitled Abuses Show Assange Case Was Never About Law, which lists “17 glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles”, that sums it all up pretty perfectly:

Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

See, Cook is already skipping a step there. Gillard didn’t take Assange’s citizenship away, because that is against Australian law, but it’s just as much against Australian law for a government to let one of its citizens rot in some kind of hell. Still, they did let him rot, but as an Australian citizen. At that point, what difference does anything make anymore?

This is a pattern that runs through the entire Assange “file”, and it does so to pretty astonishing levels. Where you’re forced to think that the countries involved effectively have no laws, and no courts, because if they did, the actions by their governments would surely be whistled back by parliaments or judges or someone, anyone. They’re all essentially lawless.

 

There are 5 principal countries involved in the case (that doesn’t absolve any other country from its own responsibility for speaking out when international laws are broken). In alphabetical order, they are Australia, Ecuador, Sweden, the UK and the US. We can go through them in that order.

Australia: The above already mostly sums up where Australia comes up short, i.e. fails miserably to such an extent that both its legal and its political system should long have sounded a five alarm -but didn’t-. A government cannot abandon its own citizens abroad, just because it doesn’t agree with what that citizen has done or said.

It can’t do that even if that citizen is a Hannibal Lecter or an Adolf Hitler, and Julian Assange is very far removed from either. Nor has anyone ever even claimed that Assange broke even one Australian law, let alone proven it. What it comes down to then is that it’s the government that has broken its own laws, not Assange. That, too, is a pattern, it holds for all 5 countries I mentioned above.

It’s not Assange who breaks laws and should be persecuted for that, it’s the politicians who form the governments of these countries. Plus of course the parliamentarians tasked with controlling them. And the legal systems as well as the press tasked with controlling the entire system.

UN rapporteur Nils Melzer says in his report: “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.”

 

Ecuador: This country’s former president, Rafael Correa, followed international law on asylum in the exact way it was framed and intentioned, by granting Julian Assange asylum in the summer of 2012. But his successor and former friend Lenin Moreno broke that law in the most flagrant ways imaginable.

Ecuador is a signatory country to both the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Moreno’s actions, which have led to UK police dragging Assange out of the Ecuador embassy in London, which international law says is Ecuadorian territory in which the UK has no jurisdiction, violate an entire litany of laws, rules and regulations phrased by both these international bodies, as well as Ecuador’s own laws (if only because they ARE a signatory member of both).

Asylum laws, necessarily international, have zero meaning if and when a country seeks to (re-)interpret them whenever the wind changes direction and/or a new government is installed. Asylum laws are there to last. You can’t throw out a person your country has previously granted asylum just because someone offers you a bag of money. That is the exact reason why there are such laws.

And every single country that is a signatory to these laws MUST protest what Moreno did to Assange, lest the laws covering asylum become invalid overnight. Well, that’s what they have become in April. For every single country, and for every single human being. That’s how far-reaching the events are.

Does phrasing it like that perhaps make it -a little bit- clearer how big an issue this is, that if it doesn’t apply to Assange, it by default doesn’t apply to anyone anymore? That his case wipes out many decades of jurisprudence, established after, and because of, two world wars and many other atrocities? That Assange’s treatment throws us back in time at least a full century?

Everyone NOT protesting what has been done to Assange had better think again. If you are a law student, lawyer, a judge in a democratic country, you have an obligation here, as much as all politicians have. It makes no difference what you think about Assange or what he’s done.

 

Sweden: The Swedes have sex crime laws that apparently are different from anyone else’s, more strict etc. Maybe they think they know better than everyone else?! In Assange’s story, this means they have closed the file on him on 2010, 2013 and 2017, but re-opened it again and again, for reasons that are not immediately clear -to me-.

This appears to indicate that once you’re suspected, let alone accused, of for instance rape, you may never be able to clear your name anymore. And don’t let’s forget that Assange was never charged with anything, not one single thing, all the way back to 2010.

From what we know, the two women mentioned in the case never wanted to file a complaint against him. But the police did. And then that complaint was thrown out. And revived. He was specifically allowed to leave the country after staying on for over a month, and then shortly after he did leave for London a Swedish prosecutor filed an Interpol Red Notice against him, something hitherto exclusively reserved for terrorists and war criminals.

Prosecutor Marianne Ny refused to interview Assange in London for years, though other such interviews – by Swedish prosecutors in Britain- took place 44 times during Assange’s stay in the Ecuador embassy. The UK even told Sweden not to close the case. And there’s still so much more that happened in Sweden. There is a term for a country that behaves like this: a rogue state.

 

The UK: Former UK ambassador and Assange adviser Craig Murray probably summarizes it best today when he says the UK has become a rogue state. This is true as well for Australia, Ecuador, Sweden and the US. It is the inevitable consequence of flouting the law.

Professor Melzer is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Professor Melzer is Swiss. He is an extremely distinguished lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow in addition to Professor of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy. He served 12 years as a Red Cross Delegate. There is no doubting either Professor Melzer’s expertise or his independence in this matter. When Professor Melzer says that “UK courts have not shown the objectivity and impartiality required by law”, people should sit up and listen.

I have detailed judge Michael Snow calling Assange a “narcissistic personality” in a brief hearing in which Assange had said virtually nothing but “not guilty”, on the basis of prejudice Snow brought with him into the courtroom. Snow convicted him summarily of bail jumping and sentenced him to a virtually unprecedented 50 weeks.

I have detailed Judge Arbuthnot, wife of a former Tory Defence Minister who co-owns a company with a former Head of MI6, mocking Assange and saying he can get all the exercise his health required on a Juliet balcony, as she dismissed a motion to have the bail charges dropped. I have detailed Judge Phillips of the Supreme Court choosing to rely on the French text and discount the English text of a treaty in arguing extradition was in order.

The bias of the British courts has been palpable and stinking.[..] when the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary and Illegal detention ruled that Julian was being held against his will in the Ecuadorean Embassy and should be permitted to leave to Ecuador, in repudiating the UN Working Group – whom the UK had supported in every single one of hundreds of previous cases – then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stood up in the Commons and denounced the UN Working Group as being “lay people not lawyers”, when in fact every single one of the panel is an extremely distinguished international lawyer.

Hammond’s lie to parliament did not surprise me; but I was genuinely astonished that the entire corporate and state media went along with this most blatant of lies and did not call it out. The BBC, Times, Financial Times, Guardian all reported Hammond’s comment that the UN panel were “not lawyers”. None of them would agree to publish a correction of this basic and easily verifiable fact.

Britain no longer makes a pretence of obeying the rule of international law. It simply refuses to acknowledge the concerns of the UN in the Assange case, happily dependent on the bubble of prejudice the political and media elite have manufactured. This is part of a general pattern of direspecting the UN. Theresa May as Home Secretary refused to let the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women inside Yarls Wood immigration detention centre to inspect conditions there. The Tory government reacted to the recent shocking UN report on poverty in the UK – none of the basic facts of which are challenged – by seeking to have the UN Rapporteur removed.

When you add this together with the UK’s refusal to accept the 13-1 Opinion of the International Court of Justice that the Chagos Islands belong to Mauritius, and the UK’s refusal to accept the ruling of the agreed International Chambers of Commerce Court of Arbitration that Britain must pay its debt to Iran, you get what is a very clear picture that the UK has gone full rogue state and has simply abandoned its support for the system of international law which was in very large part a UK creation.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday thought attack is the best defense and called out Professor Melzer for his criticism of the UK. Melzer responded by implying Hunt doesn’t know his own laws.

 

 

I was thinking when I saw the “conversation” that Hunt is basically implying Assange tortured himself. And that doesn’t just demonstrate poor knowledge of the law, that is full-blast BS. Because no matter what led to Assange seeking refuge in the Ecuador embassy, according to international law he always, under any and all circumstances, has (among other things) the right to proper medical care. The UK has refused him that.

It doesn’t even have anything to do with him being free to leave or not. Which he evidently was not. Moreover, other than skipping bail Assange didn’t do anything illegal, and under asylum laws, he had a right to skip bail. Once again, it’s not Assange who has broken laws, it’s everyone else involved in this tragic saga. And even if Assange had broken a law, he still would have had the right to proper medical care.

 

The US: Where to even start? The American hunt for Assange is a decade old and has recently escalated when they could get heir hands on the new Ecuador president. Then they invoked the much ridiculed 1917 Espionage Act to accuse a foreign national of spying. And whatever Assange has done, spying it is not.

But they obviously think they can get Eastern District of Virginia Judge Leonie Brinkema (aka the hanging judge) to pretend that it is, or at least that some of what he’s done falls under a law that almost everyone agrees should have been abolished long ago.

What Nils Melzer also mentioned in his report on Assange is that certain parts of the Espionage Act allow for the death penalty. Not those that he has been charged under so far, but they could attempt to stick them on. Which would make it illegal for the UK to extradite Julian Assange. But who still thinks these people give one flying hoot about the law?

For them, laws are things they use to further their means, nothing else. Other than that, they care nothing for the laws that govern their countries, even though they are the very same laws that allowed them to assume their power.

They think they’re going to get away with the murder of Julian Assange. Unhindered by any law. That means there no longer is a functioning -international- legal system. There are only rogue states left.

 

 

 

 

May 252019
 


 

What Assange Charges Could Mean For Press Freedom (Jonathan Turley)
A Threat to the Press and the American People (IC)
Professional #Assange Smearers Finally Realize His Fate Is Tied To Theirs (CJ)
The Belligerence of Empire (Orphan)
Australian Government Urged To Intervene In Assange Case (G.)
Trump Wants Investigation Into Australia’s Role In ‘Russian Hoax’ (G.)
The Golem Strikes Back (Kunstler)
Political Media Is a Hucksters’ Paradise (Taibbi)
Trump Declares Emergency To Expedite Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia And UAE (CNN)
For The First Time Ever, China Takes Over An Insolvent Bank (ZH)
EU Fraud Watchdog Considering Nigel Farage Investigation (G.)
We’ve Created A Civilisation Hell Bent On Destroying Itself (C.)

 

 

Hundreds of assessments of what the Assange charges mean. Turley’s not a bad place to start.

What Assange Charges Could Mean For Press Freedom (Jonathan Turley)

For over a decade, there has been a raging debate over precisely what Julian Assange is – whistleblower, journalist, or spy. Now that question will have to be answered after the United States hit him with 17 new counts under the Espionage Act for receiving and publishing information from Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The Trump administration has now crossed the line that many counselled it to avoid – and may have triggered the most important press freedom case in the US in 300 years. While the status of Assange has long been hotly debated, his actions in publishing classified information on Wikileaks is a common component of journalism. Indeed, the most celebrated cases in history – such as the failed attempts to stop the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 – were based on the publications of classified evidence.

Assange’s supporters note that his publications revealed alleged war crimes in places like Afghanistan and Iraq that were unlikely to have been exposed otherwise. If it was a crime for Assange to receive and publish such information, much of the journalism in the US would become a de facto criminal enterprise. In April, the government avoided this threshold question by charging Assange with a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge related to helping Manning obtain access to defence department computers in 2010. In doing so, the justice department stayed clear of charging him as a publisher as opposed to an intruder. That is until Thursday.

The charges were brought under the controversial Espionage Act of 1917. Passed after World War One, it was used to target anti-war activists and political dissidents. The law has long been denounced as unconstitutional in its criminalising of receiving and publishing classified information. It is no surprise that the justice department had to use this much-ridiculed law to achieve this ignoble goal. Counts nine through 17 against Assange concern the publications of “national defence information.” The justice department takes pains to try to argue that Assange is not a journalist and that the publication counts concern the disclosure of not just classified information but the actual names of intelligence sources. That however may establish that Assange is a poor journalist, but a journalist all the same.

Read more …

Everybody does what WikiLeaks does. Just not as successful.

A Threat to the Press and the American People (IC)

The indictment says that Assange and WikiLeaks “repeatedly sought, obtained, and disseminated information that the United States classified due to the serious risk that unauthorized disclosure could harm the national security of the United States.” That is almost a textbook definition of the job of a reporter covering national security at a major news organization. Take a look at the tips pages of most news outlets, and you’ll see a remarkable similarity between what journalists ask for and what WikiLeaks sought. The indictment goes on to say that “WikiLeaks’s website explicitly solicited censored, otherwise restricted, and until September 2010, ‘classified’ materials.”


Today, virtually every major news organization has a similar secure drop box where sources can provide information anonymously. WikiLeaks popularized that technique for soliciting anonymous leaks, but it is now common journalistic practice. “Assange personally and publicly promoted WikiLeaks to encourage those with access to protected information, including classified information, to provide it to WikiLeaks for public disclosure,” the indictment says. Nearly every national security reporter goes on television, gives speeches, or launches book tours to promote their work and hopefully obtain new sources. All of this raises an obvious question: If the government can charge Assange for conspiring to obtain leaked documents, what would stop it from charging the CIA beat reporter at the New York Times for committing the same crime?

Read more …

Rachel Maddow is a giant blemish on our world.

Professional #Assange Smearers Finally Realize His Fate Is Tied To Theirs (CJ)

“And, you know, I know you,” Maddow continued, pointing to the camera. “Given everything else that we know about the WikiLeaks guy, I can feel through the television right now your mixed feelings about what I am saying. I can feel what may be, perhaps, a certain lack of concern about Julian Assange’s ultimate fate, given his own gleeful and extensive personal role in trying to help a hostile foreign government interfere in our election in order to install their chosen president with WikiLeaks’ help. Okay? I know. Okay, I feel ya. I got it. But, it is a recurring theme in history, heck, it is a recurring theme in the Bible, that they always pick the least sympathetic figures to try this stuff on first.

Despite anyone’s feelings about this spectacularly unsympathetic character at the center of this international drama, you are going to see every journalistic institution in this country, every First Amendment supporter in this country, left, right and center, swallow their feelings about this particular human and denounce what the Trump administration is trying to do here. Because it would fundamentally change the United States of America.” Wow. Make no mistake, this is a hugely significant development. This isn’t just some columnist for the New York Times or the Guardian, this is Rachel effing Maddow, the Queen Mother of all tinfoil pussyhat-wearing Russiagate insanity.

This same pundit was just a couple of months ago not just smearing but outright lying about Assange, deceitfully telling her audience that the new legal rings closing around Assange were about his 2016 publications then instructing viewers not to Google anything about it because they’ll get computer viruses. Now that she’s recognized that this could actually hurt her and her network directly, she’s finally feeding her audience a different narrative out of sheer enlightened self-interest.

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Violence is the sole language of empire.

The Belligerence of Empire (Orphan)

Violence is the sole language of empire. It is this only currency it uses to enforce its precepts and edicts, both at home and abroad. Eventually this language becomes internalized within the psyche of the subjects. Social and cultural conditioning maintained through constant subtle messaging via mass media begins to mold the public will toward that of authoritarian conformity. The American Empire is emblematic of this process. There is mass compliance to the dictates of the ruling class and this occurs most often without any prompting or debate whatsoever. In this dictatorship of money the poor are looked at with ridicule and contempt, and are often punished legally for their imposed poverty.

But the social conditioning of the American public has led toward a bizarre allegiance to its ruling class oppressors. Propaganda still works here and most are still besotted with the notion of America being a bastion of “freedom and democracy.” The growing gap between the ultra-wealthy and the poor and the gutting of civil liberties are ignored. And blind devotion is especially so when it comes to US foreign policy. Most Americans still believe they live in the greatest country on the planet. They believe the American military to be noble and that they always reluctantly go into or are forced into war. Indeed, both the Democrats and Republicans possess an uncanny ability to bridge their ideological distances when it comes to defending US militarism, the Pentagon and the war machine of imperialism.

But this is tied to the defense of capitalism, the ruling class, and the ultimate reason for war: the protection of that class’s global capital investments. The persecution of Chelsea Manning, much like the case of Julian Assange, is demonstrative of this. It is a crusade against truth tellers that has been applauded from both sides of the American establishment, liberal and conservative alike. It does not matter that she helped to expose American war crimes. On the contrary, this is seen as heresy to the Empire itself. Manning’s crime was exposing the underbelly of the beast. A war machine which targeted and killed civilians and journalists by soldiers behind a glowing screen thousands of miles away, as if they were playing a video game.

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They would have already if they wanted.

Australian Government Urged To Intervene In Assange Case (G.)

The Australian film-maker who spent 15-months in a Cambodian jail on spying charges says he fears Julian Assange is being used as an “example” to other journalists as part of what he described as “a fundamental attack on the fourth estate”. James Ricketson spent more than a year inside the overcrowded Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on spying charges before his release last September after a public outcry and lobbying by the Australian government. On Friday he told Guardian Australia he hoped the Morrison government would make “a forthright public statement” in support of Assange and the principle of press freedom.


“I would like to think the Australian government is woking in the background to forge some kind of resolution that is fair and equitable in the Julian Assange case,” he said. “Although it was not clear to me at the time, it’s now clear that from at least January last year there were fairly high-level representations being made to the Cambodian government on my behalf. “The government had its own reasons for why it needed to keep that secret [but] it would certainly be nice if it were to make a public statement to the effect that we’re concerned about the fate of Julian Assange and the impact of this extradition attempt on investigative journalism in Australia and worldwide.”

Read more …

Talking about Australia…

Trump Wants Investigation Into Australia’s Role In ‘Russian Hoax’ (G.)

Donald Trump has said he wants Australia’s role in setting off the FBI inquiry into links between Russia and his election campaign examined by the US attorney general, William Barr. It is a potentially explosive development for the historically solid US-Australian alliance and the first time Trump has publicly named Australia while discussing what he calls the “Russia hoax” and “witch hunt”. A spokesman for Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, responded to the comments on Saturday by saying: “Australia and the United States are the closest of allies.” “The government has not commented on these matters and doing so could prejudice any ongoing investigation,” he said.

Trump said he had declassified “potentially millions of pages” of intelligence documents related to surveillance activities on his campaign and Barr would be in charge of analysing it. “So what I’ve done is I’ve declassified everything,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday before leaving on a trip to Japan. “He can look and I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine. “I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.” Trump’s former campaign aide George Papadopoulos has claimed that Australia’s former high commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, spied on him during a meeting at a London bar in May 2016.

Downer has rejected this, but said that during the meeting Papadopoulos had told him Russia had damaging material on Trump’s presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. In an interview with the ABC’s Matt Bevan, Downer said Papadopoulos told him during the meeting he was confident Trump would win the election because the Russians had some information on Clinton which could be damaging to her if released. Downer then passed this information on to Canberra. Papadopoulos denies he ever mentioned Russia and Clinton during the meeting.

Read more …

“..the US Intel “community” trafficked in fictitious malarkey supplied by Mrs. Clinton..”

The Golem Strikes Back (Kunstler)

There’s perhaps a lot to dislike about Donald J. Trump, US President No. 45. Despite all the grooming and tailoring, there’s little savoir faire there. He tweets not like a mellifluous songbird, but in snorts like a rooting aardvark. His every predilection is an affront to the refined Washington establishment: his dark business history, his beloved ormolu trappings, his Mickey-D cheeseburgers, the mystifying hair-doo. Even so, the bad faith of his antagonists exceeds even Mr. Trump’s defects and vices. The plot they concocted to get rid of him failed. And, yes, it was a plot, even a coup. And they fucked it up magnificently, leaving a paper trail as wide as Interstate-95.

Now all that paper is about to fall over the District of Columbia like radioactive ash, turning many current and former denizens of rogue agencies into the walking dead as they embark on the dismal journey between the grand juries and the federal prisons. Hence, the desperate rage of the impeachment faction, in direct proportion to their secret shameful knowledge that the entire RussiaGate melodrama was, in fact, a seditious subterfuge between the Hillary Clinton campaign and a great many key figures in government up-to-and-including former president Barack Obama, who could not have failed to be clued-in on all the action. Even before the declassification order, the true narrative of events has been plainly understood: that the US Intel “community” trafficked in fictitious malarkey supplied by Mrs. Clinton to illegally “meddle” in the 2016 election.

[..] The evidence already public indicates that Robert Mueller must have known as early as the date of his appointment (and likely before) that the predicating evidence for his inquiry was false. After all, his lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, was informed of that in no uncertain terms by Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr in 2016. Justice may seek to know why Mr. Mueller did not inform the target of his inquiry that this was so. The answer to that may be that Mr. Mueller’s true mission was to disable Mr. Trump as long as possible while setting an obstruction of justice trap — which also failed tactically.

Read more …

“..Democratic organizers realized they’d come within a hair’s breadth of printing bumper stickers and posters for an unraveling one-man Enron.”

Political Media Is a Hucksters’ Paradise (Taibbi)

Avenatti became an instant celebrity after he filed a lawsuit seeking to void the non-disclosure agreement between Trump and Daniels, in which she received a $130,000 payoff to be quiet about what she would later call “the least impressive sex I ever had.” In that, Avenatti had something cable television wanted more than anyone ever wanted anything: details about the president’s “smaller than average” tackle and Daniels’ tale of “getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart.” Avenatti leveraged being the gatekeeper of this story into daily TV appearances, where he quickly became a political figure in his own right, someone who would play the Democrats’ bare-knuckle answer to Trump.

By last summer in Iowa, he was already giving speeches as a presidential hopeful. CNN gushed: “Cribbing but amending Obama, Avenatti added, “When they go low, I say, we hit harder…” Whether by calling Michael Cohen a “thug,” or demanding an “immediate indictment” over the hush money issue, Avenatti could be counted on to take the maximally aggressive posture. Media figures couldn’t praise him enough. He was great, emotionally satisfying TV! Our own version of Trump! Ana Navarro compared him to the “Holy Spirit” on The View, while Joy Behar said “being a lawyer is minimal compared to what he’s doing.” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle said, ”The Democrats could learn something from you.”

Brian Stelter, who later excused his admiration on the grounds Avenatti showed “Trump-like mastery” of media, said Avenatti should be taken “seriously as a contender.” In another forum he was called the “savior of the Republic.” Avenatti wasn’t the savior of anything. He turned out to be an epic buffoon and massive net minus for Democrat causes. His performance in the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation last fall – where the Maya Angelo-quoting self-described feminist ended up having his own witness tell NBC he’d “twisted” her words – was just one faceplant. He was soon after arrested for domestic violence. This helped lead to cancellation of campaign events, as Democratic organizers realized they’d come within a hair’s breadth of printing bumper stickers and posters for an unraveling one-man Enron.

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Empire.

Trump Declares Emergency To Expedite Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia And UAE (CNN)

The Trump administration has declared an emergency to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — citing the need to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran throughout the Middle East. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally told lawmakers Friday of the administration’s plans. “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement that put the value of the sales at $8.1 billion.


In a Friday letter to congressional lawmakers, Pompeo said that he “determined that an emergency exists, which requires the immediate sale of the defense articles and defense services” to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan “in order to deter further the malign influence of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East region,” according to a copy obtained by CNN. The notification comes on the same day as President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is sending an additional 1,500 US troops to the Middle East to counter Iran. Pompeo noted in his statement that “today’s action will quickly augment our partners’ capacity to provide for their own self-defense and reinforce recent changes to US posture in the region to deter Iran.”

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First time they announce it anyway.

For The First Time Ever, China Takes Over An Insolvent Bank (ZH)

There was a time when in the years following the financial crisis, every Friday the FDIC would report of one or more small and not small banks failing, as their liabilities exceeded their assets, who were taken over by larger peers with a taxpayer subsidy to cover the capital shortfall. And while this weekly event, also known as “FDIC Failure Friday” has faded from the US, for now, it has made a grand appearance in China. China’s financial regulators said on Friday the country’s banking and insurance regulator and the central bank, will take control of the small, troubled inner Mongolia-based Baoshang Bank due to the serious credit risks it poses.


The regulator’s control of Baoshang will last for a year starting on Friday, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) said on their websites. China Construction Bank (CCB) will be entrusted to handle the business operations of the small lender, based in the industrial city of Baotou, the statement said. Such a takeover by national authorities is extremely rare, and takes place amid gathering concerns among regulators and financial analysts about a renewed surge in bad debts…

… a record pace of corporate defaults, amounting to 39.2 billion yuan of domestic bond defaults in the first four months of the year, 3.4 times the total for the same period of 2018…

Moody’s analyst Yulia Wan told the WSJ that regulators likely decided to take over Baoshang to limit any fallout to businesses in Inner Mongolia. “The move is to reduce the risk of a shock to the local economy,” said said, adding that the Baoshang takeover appeared to be the first time that national authorities seized control of a bank since Chinese lenders started listing on stock markets in the 1990s. In the past when banks came under pressure, local authorities would pull together funds from local state-owned firms and investors, or have another bank stage a takeover.

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He’ll claim it’s a witch hunt.

EU Fraud Watchdog Considering Nigel Farage Investigation (G.)

The European Union’s anti-fraud watchdog is considering whether Nigel Farage should be investigated for any illegal activity over lavish payment from Arron Banks, the Guardian has learned. The agency, which goes by its French acronym, Olaf, revealed it was carrying out an assessment, which could lead to a formal investigation. This “initial assessment … does not mean that the individuals in question are guilty of any wrongdoing”, it said. While not a full-blown inquiry, it is a rare and significant step for Olaf to consider investigating a member of the European parliament. The European parliament this week opened an investigation into revelations made by Channel 4 that the insurance tycoon Arron Banks funded a lavish lifestyle for Farage in the year of the Brexit referendum.


In 2016, Farage received expenses of about £450,000, including rent on a Chelsea home, furniture, security and promotional trips to the US, where he attended the Republican national convention. Nothing was declared, an apparent violation of the European parliament’s code of conduct, which states that MEPs must report expensive gifts and attendance at events bankrolled by third parties. “We are aware of the press reports and public statements on the matter you are referring to,” a spokesperson for Olaf said, in response to questions from the Guardian. “It is only after such an initial assessment, which is currently ongoing, that Olaf decides whether or not to open an investigation.” The agency usually takes two months to carry out an assessment, which will examine whether the case falls under its remit and if there is “sufficient suspicion of fraud, corruption or any illegal activity affecting the EU’s financial interests”.

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Death cult.

We’ve Created A Civilisation Hell Bent On Destroying Itself (C.)

The coffee tasted bad. Acrid and with a sweet, sickly smell. The sort of coffee that results from overfilling the filter machine and then leaving the brew to stew on the hot plate for several hours. The sort of coffee I would drink continually during the day to keep whatever gears left in my head turning. Odours are powerfully connected to memories. And so it’s the smell of that bad coffee which has become entwined with the memory of my sudden realisation that we are facing utter ruin. It was the spring of 2011, and I had managed to corner a very senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during a coffee break at a workshop. The IPCC was established in 1988 as a response to increasing concern that the observed changes in the Earth’s climate are being largely caused by humans.

The IPCC reviews the vast amounts of science being generated around climate change and produces assessment reports every four years. Given the impact the IPPC’s findings can have on policy and industry, great care is made to carefully present and communicate its scientific findings. So I wasn’t expecting much when I straight out asked him how much warming he thought we were going to achieve before we manage to make the required cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. “Oh, I think we’re heading towards 3°C at least,” he said. “Ah, yes, but heading towards,” I countered: “We won’t get to 3°C, will we?” (Because whatever you think of the 2°C threshold that separates “safe” from “dangerous” climate change, 3°C is well beyond what much of the world could bear.)

“Not so,” he replied. That wasn’t his hedge, but his best assessment of where, after all the political, economic, and social wrangling we will end up. “But what about the many millions of people directly threatened,” I went on. “Those living in low-lying nations, the farmers affected by abrupt changes in weather, kids exposed to new diseases?” He gave a sigh, paused for a few seconds, and a sad, resigned smile crept over his face. He then simply said: “They will die.”

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Apr 062019
 


Dante Gabriel Rossetti Monna Vanna 1866

 

Cross-Party Talks Fail As Labour Says May Unable To Compromise (G.)
France, Spain and Belgium ‘Ready For No-Deal Brexit Next Week’ (G.)
Sucker Punch (Jim Kunstler)
The Russian Collusion Hoax Meets An Unbelievable End (Nunes)
Boeing Slashes 737 Production By 20% (ZH)
Trump Says Economy Would Take Off Like ‘A Rocket Ship’ If Fed Cut Rates (CNBC)
Ray Dalio Says Capitalism Needs Urgent Reform (MW)
Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave (Kerevan)
EU Charges BMW, Daimler and VW With Collusion Over Emissions (G.)
Australian Housing Downturn Becomes Widespread |(ZH)
Saudi Arabia Threatens To Ditch Petrodollar (R.)

 

 

6 days to April 12. May can’t offer Labour anything the Brexiteers don’t want. And vice versa. Thing is, that was obvious 3 years ago.

The problem is not the idea of Brexit, it’s purely the execution.

Cross-Party Talks Fail As Labour Says May Unable To Compromise (G.)

Theresa May’s prospects of cobbling together a cross-party majority to convince EU leaders to grant a short Brexit delay next week appear to be slipping away after Labour claimed she had failed to offer “real change or compromise” in talks. The prime minister made a dramatic pledge to open the door to talks with Labour on Tuesday after a marathon cabinet meeting. But after two days of negotiations and an exchange of letters on Friday, Labour issued a statement criticising the prime minister for failing to offer “real change or compromise”.= “We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in parliament and bring the country together,” a spokesperson said.


The pessimistic note came after May wrote to the European council president, Donald Tusk, on Friday morning, asking for Brexit to be delayed until 30 June, while cross-party talks continue. Even before Labour’s statement, EU politicians responded with bemusement to her failure to offer a concrete plan for assembling a coalition behind a workable deal – increasing the risk that they will take a tough line at next Wednesday’s summit. May’s letter suggested that the UK was preparing to field candidates in European parliamentary elections on 23 May if no deal could be reached.

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Don’t be surprised if one country just says NO. Or more than one. For a new extension, May will need a new plan. She has none.

France, Spain and Belgium ‘Ready For No-Deal Brexit Next Week’ (G.)

France has won the support of Spain and Belgium after signalling its readiness for a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if there are no significant new British proposals, according to a note of an EU27 meeting seen by the Guardian. The diplomatic cable reveals that the French ambassador secured the support of Spanish and Belgian colleagues in arguing that there should only be, at most, a short article 50 extension to avoid an instant financial crisis, saying: “We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.” The chances of Theresa May’s proposal of an extension to 30 June succeeding appeared slim as France’s position in the private diplomatic meeting was echoed by an official statement reiterating its opposition to any further Brexit delay without a clear British plan.


May wrote to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, on Friday to ask for the delay until 30 June while she battles to win cross-party agreement on a way forward. EU states are extremely sceptical that an extension to 30 June will resolve anything in Westminster. Tusk is pushing the EU to offer at a summit next Wednesday what he has described as a “flextension” in which the UK would be given a year-long extension with an option to come out early if the deal is ratified.

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“Mr. Mueller produced a brief of arguments pro-and-con about obstruction for others to decide upon. In doing that, he was out of order, and maliciously so.”

Sucker Punch (Jim Kunstler)

Having disgraced themselves with full immersion in the barren RussiaGate “narrative,” the Resistance is now tripling down on RussiaGate’s successor gambit: obstruction of justice where there was no crime in the first place. What exactly was that bit of mischief Robert Mueller inserted in his final report, saying that “…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him?” It’s this simple: prosecutors are charged with finding crimes. If there is insufficient evidence to bring a case, then that is the end of the matter. Prosecutors, special or otherwise, are not authorized to offer hypothetical accounts where they can’t bring a criminal case. But Mr. Mueller produced a brief of arguments pro-and-con about obstruction for others to decide upon.

In doing that, he was out of order, and maliciously so. Of course, Attorney General Barr took up the offer and declared the case closed, as he properly should where the prosecutor could not conclude that a crime was committed. One hopes that the AG also instructed Mr. Mueller and his staff to shut the fuck up vis-à-vis further ex post facto “anonymous source” speculation in the news media. But, of course, the Mueller staff — which inexplicably included lawyers who worked for the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic National Committee — at once started insinuating to New York Times reporters that the full report would contain an arsenal of bombshells reigniting enough suspicion to fuel several congressional committee investigations.

The objective apparently is to keep Mr. Trump burdened, hobbled, and disabled for the remainder of his term, and especially in preparation for the 2020 election against whoever emerges from the crowd of lightweights and geriatric cases now roistering through the primary states. It also leaves the door open for the Resistance to prosecute an impeachment case, since that is a political matter, not a law enforcement action. This blog is not associated with any court other than public opinion, and I am free to hypothesize on the meaning of Mr. Mueller’s curious gambit, so here goes: Mr. Barr, long before being considered for his current job, published his opinion that there was no case for obstruction of justice in the RussiaGate affair. By punting the decision to Mr. Barr, Mr. Mueller sets up the AG for being accused of prejudice in the matter — and, more to the point, has managed to generate a new brushfire in the press.

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Investigate the road the Steele dossier traveled. Might be all you need.

The Russian Collusion Hoax Meets An Unbelievable End (Nunes)

It is astonishing that intelligence leaders did not immediately recognize they were being manipulated in an information operation or understand the danger that the dossier could contain deliberate disinformation from Steele’s Russian sources. In fact, it is impossible to believe in light of everything we now know about the FBI’s conduct of this investigation, including the astounding level of anti-Trump animus shown by high-level FBI figures like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as the inspector general’s discovery of a shocking number of leaks by FBI officials.

It’s now clear that top intelligence officials were perfectly well aware of the dubiousness of the dossier, but they embraced it anyway because it justified actions they wanted to take – turning the full force of our intelligence agencies first against a political candidate and then against a sitting president. The hoax itself was a gift to our nation’s adversaries, most notably Russia. The abuse of intelligence for political purposes is insidious in any democracy. It undermines trust in democratic institutions, and it damages the reputation of the brave men and women who are working to keep us safe. This unethical conduct has had major repercussions on America’s body politic, creating a yearslong political crisis whose full effects remain to be seen.

Having extensively investigated this abuse, House Intelligence Committee Republicans will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved in these matters. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future. The men and women of our intelligence community perform an essential service defending American national security, and their ability to carry out their mission cannot be compromised by biased actors who seek to transform the intelligence agencies into weapons of political warfare.

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The only thing they talk about is software. But if anything goes wrong, these people will be guillotined.

Boeing Slashes 737 Production By 20% (ZH)

Just a few hours after Ethiopian Airlines warned of a “stigma” associated with the 737 Max that may make them choose not to take delivery of the planes they ordered, Boeing has released a statement after-hours that the company will slash production of the 737 plane from 52 to 42 airplanes per month. Bloomberg reports that Boeing plans to coordinate with customers and suppliers to blunt the financial impact of the slowdown, and for now it doesn’t plan to lay off workers from the 737 program. “When the Max returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement Friday after the market close.


Boeing had planned to hike output of the 737, a workhorse for budget carriers, about 10 percent by midyear, to meet the backlogs. [..] if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner and production of the 737 MAX needs to be halted for an extended period of time, it would take about 0.15% off the level of GDP, or about 0.6%-point off the quarterly annualized growth rate of GDP in the quarter in which production is stopped. [..] the value of total shipments of aircraft by domestic producers in the US totaled $129 billion in 2016. Extrapolating that figure using monthly shipments data by the aircraft and parts industry implies a similar figure for 2018, around $130 billion.

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End the Fed.

Trump Says Economy Would Take Off Like ‘A Rocket Ship’ If Fed Cut Rates (CNBC)

President Donald Trump said Friday the U.S. economy would climb like “a rocket ship” if the Federal Reserve cut interest rates. Commenting after a strong jobs report for March, Trump said the Fed “really slowed us down” in terms of economic growth, and that “there’s no inflation.” “I think they should drop rates and get rid of quantitative tightening,” Trump told reporters, referring to the Fed’s policy of selling securities to unwind its balance sheet, a stimulus put in place during the financial crisis. “You would see a rocket ship. Despite that we’re doing very well.” White House aides have called for the Fed to cut interests rates by as much as 50 basis points. Following the Fed’s most recent meeting in March, the central bank decided to maintain interest rates and hold off on any further increases this year.

As Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow did on Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell highlighted the slowing global economy. “We’re facing a worldwide slowdown [as] Europe is not doing well,” Kudlow said on Bloomberg TV. But unlike the White House, the Fed did not conclude in March that slowing global growth means the bank should begin cutting rates. Trump has been heavily critical of Powell’s decisions at the Fed, going as far as to say that “the Fed has gone crazy” with raising rates. Trump has blamed Powell’s decision-making for drops in the stock market, calling him “loco” for steadily raising rates in 2018 and saying choosing Powell for Fed chairman was the worst mistake of his presidency,

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Capitalism needs capitalism first of all. For that to happen, the Fed will have to be dismantled. You can’t have capitalism without functioning markets. Ergo: America doesn’t appear to like capitalism, or it would make sure it exists.

Ray Dalio Says Capitalism Needs Urgent Reform (MW)

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s biggest hedge fund, says capitalism has developed into a system that is promoting an ever-wider wealth gap that puts the very existence of the United States at risk. In a two-part series published on LinkedIn, the noted investor argues that capitalism is now in need of reform — and offered ways to accomplish it: ‘I have also seen capitalism evolve in a way that it is not working well for the majority of Americans because it’s producing self-reinforcing spirals up for the haves and down for the have-nots. This is creating widening income/wealth/opportunity gaps that pose existential threats to the United States because these gaps are bringing about damaging domestic and international conflicts and weakening America’s condition.’

[..] Today, however, the system has produced little or no real income growth for most people for decades, according to the Dalio essay on LinkedIn. Prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980, and the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents has fallen to 50% from 90% in 1970. The wealth gap is at its widest point since the late 1930s, with the top 1% owning more than the bottom 90% combined, “which,” Dalio notes, “is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period (a period that brought in an era of great internal and external conflicts for most countries).”

Most people in the bottom 60% “are poor,” he writes. About 40% of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency, he says, citing a recent Federal Reserve study. The childhood poverty rate stands at 17.5% and has not shown meaningful improvement in decades. That, in turn, leads to poor academic achievement, low productivity and low incomes.

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It’s good when people who are not familar with it learn about Kondratieff (though I’ve seen better write-ups), but again: the Fed has become the economy, so what is real anymore?

Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave (Kerevan)

There is a rich literature trying to identify the cause, in particular the work of the Belgian economist, the late, great Ernest Mandel. Crudely, it works like this. Social and economic conditions mature to spark a runaway investment boom in the latest cluster of new technologies. After a period, excess investment and increased competition lower rates of profitability, curbing the boom. At the same time – because this is as much a sociological as an economic process – growth expands the global workforce, both in numbers and geographically. The new, militant workforce launches social struggles to capture some of the wealth created in the boom.


This, in turn, adds to the squeeze on profits. The peak and early down wave are characterised by violent social conflicts, whose outcome determines the length of the contraction. To date each K-wave has seen a crushing of social protest and a halt to wage growth, if not a fall in real incomes for the working class. Thus conditions accumulate for a fresh investment boom, as profitability recovers. The ultimate trigger for the new upcycle is investment in the next bunch of new technologies, which simultaneously provide monopoly profits and a new set of markets.

Where precisely are we in the Kondratiev cycle? There is a dispute about this. Economists convinced by the Kondratiev theory largely agree there was a strong up-phase following the Second World War, lasting till the early 1970s. This was driven by the collapse in European wages imposed earlier by the Nazis and by the universal adoption of Fordist, mass production techniques. This expansion turned into a downswing in the 1970s and early 1980s, as profitability declined and the revived European economies (linked through the early Common Market) eroded American competitiveness.


The dispute concerns what happened next – the era of Reagan, Thatcher, neoliberalism and globalisation, running up to the present. In 1998, the American economic historian Robert Brenner published a hugely influential account of global capitalism which claimed to identify a super downswing running from circa 1970 to the turn of the millennium. Brenner rejected the notion global capitalism had (or was likely) to regain profitability, citing excess capacity rather than working class resistance as the primary driver. He pointed to the sudden stagnation in the Japanese economy, in the 1990s, as a precursor for the West’s future.

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Youi’re going to have to go after individuals, not allow them to hide behind corporations.

EU Charges BMW, Daimler and VW With Collusion Over Emissions (G.)

The European commission has charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology, in the preliminary findings of an antitrust investigation. The car manufacturers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of billions of euros – up to 10% of their global annual turnover – if their explanations are rejected. A similar cartel case the commission took out in 2014 against MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF ended with €2.93bn (£2.53bn) of penalties being levied. The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality.”


She added: “Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology.” The EU announcement follows raids on the auto manufacturers in July 2017 after allegations in Der Spiegel that they had met in secret working groups in the 1990s to coordinate a response to diesel emissions limits. Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers – including VW’s Audi and Porsche divisions – colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters.

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The drought comes one drop at a time.

Australian Housing Downturn Becomes Widespread |(ZH)

After a three-decade boom, the Australian economy is finally facing a recession. The outlook for the economy is exceptionally bleak this year, as the decline in housing prices is more widespread than thought, according to a new report from CoreLogic. National home prices recorded a month-on-month decline of 0.60% in March, which CoreLogic noted was the smallest rate of monthly decline since October. “While the pace of falls has slowed in March, the scope of the downturn has become more geographically widespread,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless said. All eight capital cities in Australia posted declines, with Sydney recording the most significant price drop of .90% month-on-month.

Quarterly, the value of single-family homes and condos declined 3.9%, followed by Melbourne (3.4%), Sydney (3.2%), Perth (2.9%), and Brisbane (1.1%). Prices in Canberra were unchanged. Sydney recorded the most significant annual decline of 10.9%. Melbourne followed with 9.8%. Australia’s regional housing markets have also deteriorated. Regional areas outside Sydney declined by 3.6% over the past year while regional Queensland saw a 1.6% decline. Regional Western Australia experienced a 9.5% decline over the past year, and for the past five years, values in the region have collapsed by 25.8%

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It’s not entirely Fake News, but it’s certainly No News. There’s one competitor for the USD, and that’s the renminbi, which nobody wants because it’s not traded freely. End of story.

Saudi Arabia Threatens To Ditch Petrodollar (R.)

Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell its oil in currencies other than the dollar if Washington passes a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits, three sources familiar with Saudi energy policy said. They said the option had been discussed internally by senior Saudi energy officials in recent months. Two of the sources said the plan had been discussed with OPEC members and one source briefed on Saudi oil policy said Riyadh had also communicated the threat to senior U.S. energy officials.


The chances of the U.S. bill known as NOPEC coming into force are slim and Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to follow through, but the fact Riyadh is considering such a drastic step is a sign of the kingdom’s annoyance about potential U.S. legal challenges to OPEC. In the unlikely event Riyadh were to ditch the dollar, it would undermine the its status as the world’s main reserve currency, reduce Washington’s clout in global trade and weaken its ability to enforce sanctions on nation states. “The Saudis know they have the dollar as the nuclear option,” one of the sources familiar with the matter said. “The Saudis say: let the Americans pass NOPEC and it would be the U.S. economy that would fall apart,” another source said.

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