Pablo Picasso Women running on the beach 1922
It’s either the biggest loss ever, or the biggest since 1924. And still May doesn’t want to step down. Someone must force her. Send her the bill.
• Theresa May Faces No Confidence Vote After Historic 230-Vote Defeat (Ind.)
Brexit has been dealt a hammer blow after Theresa May’s plans fell to the biggest ever Commons defeat and Jeremy Corbyn launched a bid to topple her government within 24 hours. Even Downing Street insiders admitted being shocked by the scale of the rout, which sent shockwaves across the English Channel and saw critics brand her deal “dead”. In total, 118 of the prime minister’s own MPs refused to back the withdrawal agreement she spent 19 arduous months negotiating with Brussels. Labour leader Mr Corbyn branded the result “catastrophic” and immediately said he would table a motion of no confidence, which Ms May must win on Wednesday to avoid a general election.
The prime minister will simultaneously begin a desperate scramble to save her deal, meeting senior parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to see what changes she might seek to win support. But sources from both the pro-EU and Eurosceptic wings of the cabinet admitted to The Independent in the aftermath, that a softer Brexit was now a more likely outcome. Ms May’s spinners had briefed that they hoped to limit the number of Tory MPs opposing her to double digits, with many people thinking Conservative opposition would weaken as the big moment approached. But there were gasps as the result was read out – 432 votes against and just 202 for – making it a bigger margin of defeat than the previous comparable loss suffered by Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.
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The Independent had two headlines for this piece. The other one was: “Despite the views of the right-wing press, the British people still want a Final Say on Brexit”. Because they’re just one the papers themselves. Also interesting: they talk about “Her Majesty’s Press”. What a curious view of the media that is.
• The People Want A Final Say – Whatever The Papers Say (Ind.)
Judging by the polling evidence, a small but consistent majority of people favour a second referendum to resolve the current crisis over Britain’s relationship with Europe. The divergence between this and the house views of most traditional media outlets is quite striking. Of the national titles, only The Independent has given its unequivocal support to such an outcome, although The Guardian has come close with its call for “people’s assemblies” that it admitted could very well lead to a fresh poll. The remainder have either backed May’s deal, with more or less tepidity, or a no deal – with the exception of the Daily Mirror, which is in tune with the Labour leadership’s desire for a general election that probably won’t resolve anything and, as things stand, is unlikely to happen.
The London-centric media is often said to be “out of touch” with the world outside the M25. I’d suggest that the gulf has seldom been as wide as it is today, at least on this issue. Whichever way you look at it, the views of such a substantial portion of the British population have one only one, or perhaps two, outlets in what one might describe as the mainstream media. That could be considered worrying. It surely can’t be a good thing at such a polarised time that such a substantial portion of the population is being ignored by the majority of Her Majesty’s press – even though it is probably true that many if not most readers of the right-leaning titles (including The Sun, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the The Daily Telegraph) would, on balance, reject a Final Say referendum on Theresa May‘s Brexit deal.
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“It’s time to buy the pound,” said Deutsche Bank’s analysts..
• Market Reaction To Theresa May’s Brexit Defeat Is Over-Optimistic (Coppola)
Theresa May has just suffered the heaviest defeat of any U.K. Prime Minister for a century. Her Brexit deal was resoundingly rejected by the House of Commons. More than twice as many lawmakers voted against the deal as for it, including over a hundred members of her own party. Previous prime ministers that have suffered such humiliation have resigned. But not Mrs. May. Her deal is dead in the water, but she intends to struggle on. Though it is not clear where she goes from here, or even for how long she will survive. Tomorrow, she faces a vote of no confidence. If she loses it, her government will fall. You would think that all this drama would elicit a strongly negative response from markets, wouldn’t you?
A run on the pound, perhaps? After all, May’s previous gaffes and humiliations caused sterling’s exchange rate to fall. Not a bit of it. The pound rose on the news that May’s horrible deal had been resoundingly defeated. On Twitter, Jamie McGeever of Reuters reported that both Deutsche Bank and Nomura were going long sterling. “It’s time to buy the pound,” said Deutsche Bank’s analysts: “Prime Minister May lost tonight’s UK parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal by a larger margin than expected – 432 votes to 202. Notwithstanding, after more than two years since the UK triggered Article 50 to leave the EU and over eighteen months of negotiations, a positive Brexit resolution is finally in sight.”
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Steve doesn’t agree with Deutsche: “In general, I think the pound will be at least 30 percent lower than it had been..”
• Expect A Wild Ride For The British Pound – Steve Keen (RT)
As the British Parliament voted down Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan on Tuesday, analysts expect more losses for sterling amid uncertainty over how the UK’s eventual withdrawal from the EU will take shape. Professor of Economy, Steve Keen who is the author of Debunking Economics, told RT that it’s hard to say how the vote will affect the British currency but added “definitely, expect a wild ride,” while the markets are “completely dominated with speculation.” “With speculators gambling one can’t actually say whether it will have impact one way or the other,” he said. “In general, I think the pound will be at least 30 percent lower than it had been,” Keen said, explaining “I think it is overvalued and that makes British manufacturing uncompetitive…”
The professor also said that if the break with the European Union happens the pound will fall in value but “overall it won’t be a good thing or a bad thing” because it is already seriously overvalued. The British currency has been sliding since 2008, well before the Brexit referendum. According to Keen, that means that Britain has some other serious economic problems. “The main problem the British have had is that they made a mistake 40 years ago deciding to go with services rather than manufacturing.” He explained that Britain is now running a substantive deficit compared to Germany which is running a gigantic balance of trade surplus. “So, that is the key problem for the British economy and it really has almost nothing to do with Brexit,” Keen said.
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The costs are already running in the many billions. Who will pay, the UK?
• EU States Escalate No-Deal Brexit Preparations After May Defeat (G.)
European Union capitals were ramping up their preparations to minimise the chaos and disruption of a possible no-deal Brexit after Theresa May’s plan was crushed by MPs. With 72 days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, met cabinet ministers on Tuesday to discuss their top priorities for a package of emergency Brexit laws that he wants to present to parliament before the end of February. The Belgian government has told businesses and citizens that a no-deal Brexit could lead to the imposition of up to €2.2bn in extra tariffs on goods and the loss of more than 40,000 jobs. In France, which has already passed its no-deal contingency legislation, the Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, stressed that no further concessions could be expected from the bloc.
“It’s up to the British parliament and the British government to have a back-up plan in case,” Loiseau told reporters at the European parliament in Brussels. “It’s no longer up to us – we have given everything we can give.” The Spanish government this week launched an online information service for citizens and businesses, including advice on how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. It has also drafted a decree enabling it to enact no-deal contingency provisions drawn up by the European commission. [..] The EU’s executive last month unveiled bare-bones plans to keep planes in the air and money flowing should the UK crash out, saying it would take all necessary steps to limit the fallout from the ensuing disruption for its members.
A temporary nine-month regime would allow UK airlines to fly to the continent and back (but not between EU cities), EU banks to clear transactions in the City of London, British trucks to deliver goods into the EU, and vital data to be shared. The bloc can terminate this regime unilaterally. [..] The Netherlands, home to Europe’s largest port in Rotterdam, aims to have hired more than 900 extra customs officials by the end of the year – one-third of them by the time Britain plans to leave the EU on 29 March – as well as 150 vets and other scientists for checks on food, plant and animal products. Along with the Belgians, French and Danish, the Dutch have launched comprehensive Brexit impact assessment schemes allowing companies to analyse their specific no-deal risks based on business sector and relationship with the UK.
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German car exports are down some 10%. They would not like losing UK sales.
• Time For Playing Games On Brexit Over – German Foreign Minister (R.)
With the clock ticking ahead of Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union at the end of March, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday the “time for playing games” was over after London’s rejection of a withdrawal agreement. Maas said further talks would almost certainly be needed after Britain’s parliament voted down the exit deal worked out between London and the bloc over the past two years. “The time for playing games is over,” Maas told Deutschlandfunk radio, adding that the EU would deal “constructively” with any British request to delay the departure date. German economy minister Peter Altmaier said that the EU would look at any fresh proposals London made, but said the substance of the deal was non-negotiable.
But umbrella groups representing German industry, whose cross-border supply chains stand to be hit by the imposition of a hard customs border between Britain and the continent, were less conciliatory. Martin Wansleben, head of the German Chambers of Commerce, warned that the political uncertainty now made planning almost impossible and that German companies were already starting to build inventory in preparation. German auto makers would start asking whether it was worth investing in Britain, he added. “The House of Commons has missed an opportunity to avert a hard Brexit and lay the foundations for close ties to the EU,” said Carl Martin Weicker, head of machine tools association VDMA.
“It is simply irresponsible that the British governing coalition is still trying to reach a unified position 10 weeks before the exit deadline,” he added.
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China’s like Japan: deperate attempts to stimulate domestic demand fail miserably. You can’t force people to consume, and the more you try, the more suspicious they become, causing them to halt spending.
• China Vows Tax Cuts, More Public Spending To Halt Economic Slowdown (G.)
China has vowed to take action to support its slowing economy with a package of tax cuts for small businesses and higher public spending. Officials said they would cut taxes “on a larger scale” in order to boost business activity, announced against a backdrop of disappointing industrial production figures and the first drop in car sales for almost three decades. The interventions, designed to soothe concerns among international investors, come after official figures on Monday revealed a 4.4% decline in exports in December – the biggest drop since 2016 – on the back of faltering demand in most of its key markets. Imports also fell by 7.6% as domestic appetite waned.
China has been embroiled in a trade dispute with the US, which has put a handbrake on global trade. Although Beijing and Washington are edging closer to a deal, concerns remain the dispute could be reignited. Financial markets around the world rallied after the announcement from Beijing, with the FTSE 100 closing up more than 40 points and gains on other stock markets elsewhere across Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average had gained about 90 points in afternoon trading in New York. While exact details of the stimulus package are yet to be unveiled, the Chinese finance ministry suggested the measures would include cutting value added tax for some companies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, as well as rebates for other businesses to ward off a more damaging slowdown.
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“Sources close to Whitaker say he will await final judgment but, in recent days, has developed reservations about proceeding with the plan…”
• Rosenstein, DOJ Explore Ways To More Easily Spy On Journalists (Solomon)
For months now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) quietly has been working on a revision to its guidelines governing how, when and why prosecutors can obtain the records of journalists, particularly in leak cases. The work has been supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office, especially since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions departed, but is not wrapped up. The effort has the potential to touch off a First Amendment debate with a press corps that already has high degrees of distrust of and disfunction with the Trump administration. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is aware of the effort but has not been given a final recommendation. Sources close to Whitaker say he will await final judgment but, in recent days, has developed reservations about proceeding with the plan.
“After a lengthy period of turmoil and regular criticism from President Trump, DOJ has enjoyed a period of calm normalcy that has put employees’ focus back on their work and not the next tweet. Matt doesn’t want to disrupt that unless a strong legal case can be made,” a source close to the acting AG told me. The current guidelines have their origins back to a time when Bill Clinton was president and Janet Reno was attorney general, long before WikiLeaks was a twinkle in Julian Assange’s eye. They were designed to strike a balance between law enforcement’s investigative interests and the First Amendment rights of reporters.
[..] With Rosenstein signaling last week that he plans to step aside in a few weeks, palace intrigue has risen inside Justice about whether the rule changes will be finished and whether Whitaker might reject them. If not, a process begun under Sessions could drag into the tenure of a new attorney general. Trump has nominated William Barr for the job, which Barr held under President George H.W. Bush three decades earlier. According to my sources, the arguments for changing the rules emanate from the stresses that a massive increase in criminal leak investigations have placed on the DOJ.
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Moon of Alabama has a long list. Check it out.
• Here Is A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russia (MoA)
Slate’s Fred Kaplan writes: “The Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday that President Donald Trump’s confiscation of the translator’s notes from a one-on-one conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 was “unusual.” This is incorrect. It was unprecedented. There is nothing like it in the annals of presidential history.” Not really. Other U.S. leaders held long private meetings with their counterparts without notes being taken. When Richard Nixon met Leonid Brezhnev he did not even bring his own interpreter: “Nixon would meet Brezhnev alone, the only other person in attendance being Viktor Sukhodrev, the Soviet interpreter. “Our first meeting in the Oval Office was private, except for Viktor Sukhodrev, who, as in 1972, acted as translator.” Nixon on Brezhnev’s 1973 visit. RN, p.878 .
Therefore, the only “notes” that would exist would be those of the Soviet interpreter. Not sure he would have time to make notes and translate and, even if he did so, whether those notes would be housed in any US archive. Nixon’s White House office was bugged. There are probably tape recordings of the talks. There might also be recordings of the Trump-Putin talks. At their 1986 Reykjavik summit Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev talked without their notetakers: “Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev began their second day of talks with a private meeting that had been scheduled to last 15 minutes but ran for nearly 70 minutes, with only interpreters present. They met in a small room in the Soviet Mission, with the Soviet leader seated in a small armchair and Mr. Reagan on a sofa. In the afternoon, they meet alone for a little over 20 minutes and then again for 90 minutes. All told, the two leaders have spent 4 hours and 51 minutes alone, except for interpreters, over the two days here.”
The archives of the Reykjavik talks do not include any notes of those private talks. But, who knows, maybe Nixon and Reagan where also on the Russian payroll, just like Donald Trump is today. Only that Trump is controlled by Putin can explain why the FBI opened a counter-intelligence investigation against Trump (see section three). That the FBI agents involved in the decision were avid haters of Russia and of Trump has surely nothing to do with it. That the opening of a counter-intelligence investigation gave them the legal ability under Obama’s EO12333 to use NSA signal intelligence against Trump is surely irrelevant.
What the FBI people really were concerned about is Trump’s public record of favoring Russia at each and every corner. Trump obviously wants better diplomatic relations with Russia. He is reluctant to counter its military might. He is doing his best to make it richer. Just consider the headlines below. With all those good things Trump did for Putin, intense suspicions of Russian influence over him is surely justified.
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“Britain is not alone in its Russophobic policy. Except the nations with the same mindset mostly are in Eastern Europe.”
• Russian Security Chief Calls BBC A ‘Fake News Factory’ (RT)
Britain is a former empire trying to stay relevant in European affairs by becoming an anti-Russian champion, Nikolai Patrushev, a senior Russian security official, believes. British people see through this ruse, he said. Patrushev, the former head of the security service FSB, who currently chairs the Russian national security council, painted a highly unfavorable picture of modern Britain in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. He said the British establishment still cannot get over their country’s rapid transition from the world’s most-powerful empire to a nation subjugated by its former colony, the United States. Today the British leadership learns about the most important decisions taken in the White House from the media. Britain cannot remain even the leader of the Old World.
The continental Europe is tired of London’s arrogant one-sided policy, its outdated habit of trying to dictate terms to others. The Russian official said Britain is trying to preserve its diminishing influence by becoming Europe’s champion in an anti-Russian crusade, based on supposed common European values. This foundation however is false, Patrushev said. “Britain poses as a model democracy. But it’s not clear how it complies with the strict censorship in the British media, for example,” he said. “The BBC has pretty much become a fake news factory that the Britons themselves take with a smile,” Patrushev added. “Admittedly, Britain is not alone in its Russophobic policy. Except the nations with the same mindset mostly are in Eastern Europe.”
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The deal is designed to let FYROM enter NATO. Greek PM Tsipras has lost his coalition partner recently over it, and called a confidence vote this week. All for NATO.
• Putin Slams FYROM Name-Change Deal (K.)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the name deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) suggesting it is part of a campaign to increase western influence in the Balkan region. In an interview with Serbia’s Vecernje Novosti newspaper Tuesday ahead of his scheduled visit to the country later this week, Putin said that the so-called Prespes accord had been enforced from outside against popular will in a bid to draw the country into the NATO military alliance. In the same interview, the Russian president said the United States were destabilizing the Balkan peninsula by “asserting their dominant role” in the region.
Also on Tuesday, Moscow dismissed Greece’s accusation that it was meddling in its internal affairs but insisted it will express its opinion about the Prespes agreement to the United Nations Security Council. “We are in no way meddling in Greece’s internal affairs, but Russia will be expressing its point of view on the issues within the competence of the UN Security Council,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko. Grushko said the Russian Foreign Ministry statement was a fundamental assessment of “how negotiations [between Athens and Skopje] had proceeded.” He said the West’s interference was unprecedented and was aimed at achieving quite clear geopolitical goals.
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Canada is for sale. And Monsanto has plenty cash.
• Canada Sees No Cancer Risk From Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer (RT)
Canadian farmers will continue using glyphosate after Health Canada concluded that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer poses no human risks. The federal agency dismissed eight notices of objection and assertions made in the so-called Monsanto Papers in 2017. “After a thorough scientific review, we have concluded that the concerns raised by the objectors could not be scientifically supported when considering the entire body of relevant data. The objections raised did not create doubt or concern regarding the scientific basis for the 2017 re-evaluation decision for glyphosate,” Health Canada said in a press release.
The 2017 re-evaluation determined that glyphosate is not genotoxic and is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk. It also determined that dietary exposure associated with the use of glyphosate is not expected to pose a risk of concern to human health. When used according to revised label directions, glyphosate products are not expected to pose risks of concern to the environment, according to the study. Health Canada said it has selected a group of 20 of its own scientists who were not involved in the 2017 decision to evaluate the eight objections and the concerns raised publicly around glyphosate. The agency said its scientists “left no stone unturned in conducting” the review.
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What a surprise.
• EU Glyphosate Approval Was Based On Plagiarised Monsanto Text (G.)
EU regulators based a decision to relicense the controversial weedkiller glyphosate on an assessment plagiarised from industry reports, according to a report for the European parliament. A crossparty group of MEPs commissioned an investigation into claims, revealed by the Guardian, that Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) copy-and-pasted tracts from Monsanto studies. The study’s findings have been released hours before a parliamentary vote on tightening independent scrutiny of the pesticides approvals process. The authors said they found “clear evidence of BfR’s deliberate pretence of an independent assessment, whereas in reality the authority was only echoing the industry applicants’ assessment.”
Molly Scott Cato, a Green MEP, said the scale of alleged plagiarism by the BfR authors shown by the new paper was “extremely alarming”. “This helps explain why the World Health Organization assessment on glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen was so at odds with EU assessors, who awarded this toxic pesticide a clean bill of health, brushing off warnings of its dangers,” she said. The study found plagiarism in 50.1% of the chapters assessing published studies on health risks – including whole paragraphs and entire pages of text. The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), based its recommendation that glyphosate was safe for public use on the BfR’s assessment.
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But are we ready for no economy?
• Immediate Fossil Fuel Phaseout Could Arrest Climate Change (G.)
Climate change could be kept in check if a phaseout of all fossil fuel infrastructure were to begin immediately, according to research. It shows that meeting the internationally agreed aspiration of keeping global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible. The scientists say it is therefore the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal. The study found that if all fossil fuel infrastructure – power plants, factories, vehicles, ships and planes – from now on are replaced by zero-carbon alternatives at the end of their useful lives, there is a 64% chance of staying under 1.5C.
In October, the IPCC said the difference between 1.5C of warming and the earlier international target of 2C was a significantly lower risk of drought, floods, heatwaves and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Christopher Smith, of the University of Leeds, who led the research, said: “It’s good news from a geophysical point of view. But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could possibly do. We are basically saying we can’t build anything now that emits fossil fuels.” Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics, who was not part of the research team, said: “We are rapidly approaching the end of the age of fossil fuels. This study confirms that all new energy infrastructure must be sustainable from now on if we are to avoid locking in commitments to emissions that would lead to the world exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement.”
[..] The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, used computer models to estimate by how much global temperatures would rise if a fossil fuel infrastructure phaseout began immediately. The lifespan for power plants was set at 40 years, cars an average of 15 years and planes 26 years. The work also assumes a rapid end to beef and dairy consumption, which is responsible for significant global emissions. In this scenario, the models suggest carbon emissions would decline to zero over the next four decades and there would be a 66% chance of the global temperature rise remaining below 1.5C. If the phaseout does not begin until 2030, the chance is 33%.
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