Jan 292020
 


Marion Post Wolcott Main Street. Sheridan, Wyoming 1941

 

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)
Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)
White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)
British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)
China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)
Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)
Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)
Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)
Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)
Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)
Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)
Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)
Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)
Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)
No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

 

 

First, we’re getting into faulty territory as far as terminology is concerned. We can call the current virus, “coronavirus”, and I have as well, but we can’t say things like “Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS”, because SARS is also a coronavirus, like MERS. They belong to the same “family”. The current virus is officially called “2019-nCOV”. Not too catchy. Perhaps “Wuhan coronavirus” is a good compromise, but that’s long. Here’s why they have that name:

 


Coronavirus under electron microscope

 

At dawn Beijing time, the latest numbers came out, and they said 131 deaths, which would have been another increase of 25, the third day in a row. later it was raised to 132. So over the past 5 days we have increases of 15, 15, 25, 25 and 26.

60,000 people are under observation, 20,000 of which in Hubei. 263 cases are deemed “severe.” Today was the first time that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it. It was also the first time that the numbers of increases was over 1,000 (I’ve seen that called a tipping point). There are 19 countries that have reported cases: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany, UAE.

A remarkable stsatement came from Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert, who said the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days.

But that is very different from what HKU’s faculty of medicine dean Gabriel Leung says. Does Zhong do Beijing damage control? Or will the epidemic fizzle out within a week?

SARS reached its peak after 4-5 months. The episode lasted 9 months. The “2019-nCOV” “Wuhan coronavirus” has already infected more people in one month than SARS during its entire episode.

Leung said his team’s research showed self-sustaining human-to-human transmission was already happening in all major mainland cities and warned that a pandemic might be close. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. The team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May.


At the height of the epidemic, as many as 150,000 new cases would be confirmed every day in Chongqing, because of its large population coupled with intense travel volume with Wuhan. But Leung added that their projections could be too pessimistic as they only took into account lockdown measures in Wuhan and not other health intervention policies.

Compare with Fibonacci:

 


Fibonacci

 

 

Already more cases than during 9 months of SARS.

Number Of Coronavirus Cases Surpasses SARS (ZH)

It’s only 8:15 am in Beijing and health officials have already confirmed more than 840 new cases in Hubei Province. That brings the toll to 6,049, including 263 cases deemed “severe.” The death toll has climbed to 132, according to SCMP. Those who have been closely comparing this outbreak with the 2003 SARS outbreak may notice that the coronavirus has achieved an important milestone. Barely a week into global response to the outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has already passed the number of SARS cases reported during the entire monthslong ordeal. Sars infected 5,327 people in mainland China in nine months and killed 349 people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Another 60k people are said to be under observation across China, with 20k in Hubei alone. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert who spoke with the SCMP on Tuesday, the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak, though he thinks the number of new cases will plateau within the next ten days. Back in the US, the Trump Administration is denying reports that it’s considering a total ban on passenger travel between the US and China. Will the fact that the coronavirus has already surpassed SARS – and is on track to achieve some of the more dire projections shared by epidemiologists – shake the market’s confidence? Or will a few soothing words from Jerome Powell save the day?

Read more …

Airlines don’t fly. Borders are closing. What will happen to business? Will we keep importing Chinese products? Will they still export?

Tourism in EU and US will be hit very hard.

But Apple was doing so well, up 86% in 2019. “Apple has bought back $319 billion in stock over the past 7 years, which is greater than the market cap of 490 companies in the S&P 500.”

Coronavirus May Disrupt Apple’s iPhone Production Ramp Up (R.)

Apple’s plan to ramp up iPhone production by 10% in the first half of this year may hit a roadblock as the coronavirus outbreak spreads across China, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday. The company has asked its suppliers, many of whom have manufacturing centers in China, to make up to 80 million iPhones in the first half of 2020, the Nikkei reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans. Apple has booked orders for up to 65 million of its older iPhones and up to 15 million units of a new cut-price model that it plans to unveil in March, according to the report. However, the mass production which is due to start in the third week of February might be delayed due to the virus outbreak, the Nikkei reported.


The coronavirus outbreak has so far killed more than 100 people and infected over 4,500 in China, stranded tens of millions during the Lunar New Year holiday and rattled global markets. Apple’s shares rose about 86% in 2019, outperforming a 29% rise in the S&P 500 index. The stock closed down nearly 3% at $308.95 on Monday as coronavirus fears dragged down high-flying U.S. chip and technology stocks. Cupertino, California-based Apple, which raked in more than $142 billion in iPhone sales in fiscal 2019, has introduced lower priced smartphone variants to woo budget conscious shoppers and check declining sales of its biggest product category.

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They will regret not having done it already. Note: this concerns flights to all of China, not just Wuhan.

White House Tells Airlines It May Suspend All China-US Flights (CNBC)

White House officials have told U.S. airlines the Trump administration is considering suspending flights from China to the U.S. amid an escalating outbreak of a new coronavirus that has infected thousands of people across the world, people familiar with the matter said. The Trump administration is looking at a variety of measures to contain the fast-spreading virus, U.S. health officials told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. White House officials called executives at major U.S. carriers on Tuesday, telling them that a temporary ban on China flights is on the table, according to people familiar with those conversations. As of Tuesday evening, the Trump administration had not taken that step and there was no guarantee that it would do so.


Two of the people said the White House told them it doesn’t immediately plan to ban China air travel, but administration officials are constantly evaluating the situation. United Airlines, which has the most service of the U.S. airlines to Hong Kong and mainland China with about a dozen daily flights, on Tuesday announced it would cancel dozens of flights next month to Hong Kong and mainland China as the outbreak worsens. The Chicago-based airline said it has experienced a “significant decline in demand for travel to China.” United and its rivals Delta and American are waiving cancellation and change fees for travelers booked to China.

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More will follow. No choice. No customers.

British Airways Suspends All Direct Flights To And From Mainland China (BBC)

British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the coronavirus outbreak, the airline has said. It comes after the UK Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to the country. The virus has caused more than 100 deaths, spreading across China and to at least 16 other countries. Hundreds of foreign nationals have been evacuated from the city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak. The UK government is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with up to 300 British people thought to be in the area. Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island – some 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland. Japan, the US and other EU countries are also repatriating their citizens.

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Boeing can’t catch a break. They don’t deserve one.

China Boom Exposes Airlines To Coronavirus Risk (R.)

Margins at many carriers remain narrow, economic growth has been fragile amid a U.S.-China trade war and there are fears that the return of the 737 MAX, expected mid-year, could lead to overcapacity and push down fares. Airbus and Boeing orders have fallen from the peak levels of 2013 and 2014. The epidemic is particularly concerning to the industry because China is the world’s biggest outbound international travel market and the second-largest domestic aviation market. The country accounts for about 25% of global sales for airplane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. About 450 million more passengers fly to, from and within China per year compared with a decade ago, according to the IATA.


For Chinese airlines, the biggest of which are state-backed, the impact of the new coronavirus has been swift. On Wednesday, 23% of departures from Shanghai Hongqiao airport had been canceled, according to FlightRadar24, compared with 8% at the more internationally focused Shanghai Pudong airport. Mike Boyd, head of U.S.-based aviation consultancy Boyd Group International, said that he had forecast airport traffic in China to rise 8.1% in 2020, but that he now sees traffic growing at less than half that rate. “It is a real slam,” he said. Cathay Pacific, already battered by a fall in demand because of anti-government protests in its home market of Hong Kong, said on Tuesday evening it would cut flights to mainland China by 50% or more through the end of March.

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“For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver.”

Viewers Choose Day Time Soaps Over The Impeachment Trial (Turley)

In the 1960s, many of the Senators heard the anti-war slogan of “what if they held a war and nobody came?” This week, they finally learned the answer . . . at least in holding an impeachment. Senators have expressed surprise at the empty seats in the Senate gallery. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was “really surprised . . . because this is kind of historic.” It is but the members are increasingly making history alone. Not only are spectators sparse, but the television audience has been declining to the point that, by the second day, the networks quickly switched over to shows in greater demand like The Young and The Restless.

Of course, there was a time when impeachment actually involved real trials. The trial of Andrew Johnson had dozens of witnesses. While the rage and partisanship was if anything greater in 1868, the trial itself was more substantive and deliberative. The Clinton trial abandoned that model at the insistence of Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) who opposed any witnesses and even wanted a summary vote without a trial. Only three depositions were allowed and then live testimony was blocked. For viewers, the result is the equivalent to watching professional wrestling with the same fake matches but without the thrill of an occasional pile driver. If the two teams are going to pretend to have a match, Schiff could at least pretend to hit Sekulow with a chair. The game – and ratings – changer may be the chance of witnesses which increased with the leaking of the material from the book of John Bolton.

While a Bolton appearance might “jump the shark” like Happy Days, it would add precisely what is missing in his ratings flop: drama. The size of the viewing audience should not matter, but it does because there is no real effort to try this case to a verdict. The arguments are tailored for public consumption, not jury deliberation. Edward R. Morrow once noted that “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.” This is not the Second Coming. It is more like the hundredth retelling the same scripted narrative. That is why viewers prefer to see how Pamela on The Bold and the Beautiful is going to kill Donna in the cabin while a bear is circling outside. Why? Because they do not know who will win: Pamela, Donna, or the bear. Now that is a drama.

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Fast and loose with terminology. Not a great idea for lawmakers.

Democrats’ Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason (Michael Tracey)

Less than 72 hours before Donald Trump was impeached last month, the House Judiciary Committee released a behemoth 658-page report outlining the rationale for the final articles produced by the Democratic majority. It would be interesting to conduct a secret ballot asking members of Congress — and indeed, members of the media — to confide whether they actually read the report before the vote took place. [..] Even if the Senate trial fails to result in a conviction (as is exceedingly likely) the long-term implications of what the House of Representatives has already ratified by way of its impeachment vote in December are highly ominous. For instance — and the fact that this has been overlooked is especially mind-blowing — the first article alleges that Trump “betrayed the Nation.” Grave stuff.

No president has ever been impeached for “betraying the Nation” before. What does this mean, exactly? The Judiciary Committee report helpfully provides a definition of the relevant terms. In a section describing what they believe constitutes “impeachable treason,” the Democratic majority writes, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.” There’s that phrase: “betrayal of the nation.” According to the drafters of the impeachment articles, then, Trump has been effectively impeached for treason — except the drafters presumably recognized that inserting the word “treason” in the actual text might prove a tad controversial. So instead they just heavily insinuate it, and confirm that they are charging the president with treason in supporting materials that few will ever read.

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.” This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” So let’s be clear on what was done here. The Democrats set forth a definition of treason in their lengthy impeachment report, and then inserted that same definition into the final impeachment articles — except without using the actual word “treason” in the text.

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A.k.a. Call Article II and Shoot The Witnesses.

Shoot Article II and Call The Witnesses (Turley)

Famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith once described politics as “the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Those words could not more aptly describe the choice now facing the House managers who lost this case before it began. Not because of the Republican majority but because of its own historic blunder in rushing the impeachment forward on an incomplete record. It now must make a choice between the disastrous in simply staying the course to certain acquittal or the unpalatable in admitting the blunder and offering a compromise. Thus far, the suggestions of a compromise has centered on an unlikely horse trade of a witness like former National Security Adviser John Bolton for Hunter Biden.

However, such a compromise does not address the separate institutional concern of some senators, which likely includes the four swing senators. For them, the threshold issue is not the inclusion of witnesses in the Senate but their omission by the House. This week, a key Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), indicated that she was not inclined to call witnesses that the House failed to pursue in its rushed vote. The decision is now with the House managers. They can either just grab the face time on national television or they can move to deal with its blunder and try to resuscitate this case. It might be able to do so but it will have to offer more than a witness swap.

A better compromise might be found in the two articles themselves. To put it simply, it may be time to dismiss Article 2. The obstruction of Congress article was dead on arrival but its dismissal could allow the Senate to go on the record in opposition to the House handling of this impeachment. It just might be enough to open a path for witnesses on Article 1 and abuse of power. The House destroyed any chance for an obstruction article when made an impeachment by Christmas its overriding priority despite warnings that it would effectively hand over an incomplete case to not just the other house but the opposing party.

Read more …

The UN should scrap its articles on self-determination in protest.

Trump and Netanyahu Dictate Terms of Palestinian Surrender (IC)

Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but no Palestinian leader, President Donald Trump unveiled “a vision for peace” in the Middle East on Tuesday which permits Israel to annex much of the occupied West Bank immediately, offering the Palestinians only local control in isolated Bantustans surrounded by Israeli territory. As many Israeli political observers noted, the timing of the announcement, just hours after Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges in Jerusalem, looked like an effort to boost the prime minister’s bid to win reelection in March, his best hope for avoiding prison.

The release of the 180-page plan — which was drafted by aides to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and an old family friend of Netanyahu — was staged as a celebration, and acted as a dual campaign rally, with the American president and the Israeli prime minister boasting of all they had achieved for Israel to a room filled with far-right supporters of the Jewish state, including Sheldon Adelson, the Republican and Likud megadonor who spent millions of dollars to elect both leaders. Trump, who intervened in a previous Israeli election campaigns on Netanyahu’s behalf — by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights last year — gave the embattled prime minister a podium at the White House to detail conditions imposed on the Palestinians which sounded like terms of surrender.

To start with, Netanyahu said, the Palestinians would be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, cede the entire Jordan Valley, disarm Hamas, and abandon the hope for both the return of refugees who fled homes in what is now Israel and for a capital in Jerusalem’s Old City. [..] Crisis Group analyst Tareq Baconi observed, “The plan sets out parameters that are impossible for Palestinians to accept, and effectively provides Israel with a blueprint to sustain the one-state reality that exists on the ground.” That sentiment was echoed by Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group that monitors the occupation. “What the Palestinians are being ‘offered’ now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts,”

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An invitation for violence.

Israel Will Now Officially Become an Apartheid State (Lauria)

Within hours of the so-called Trump peace plan on the Palestine-Israel question being revealed on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would propose the first phase of West Bank annexation to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday. Netanyahu sprang into action after the plan, which he essentially created, was unveiled by Trump with Netanyahu at his side at the White House. It was the final piece of a strategy that only a U.S. administration as slavishly pro-Israel as Trump’s could give Netanyahu. First the Israeli prime minister got the U.S. on Dec. 6, 2017 to recognize all of Jerusalem, including Arab East Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital with the move of the U.S. embassy there, something every previous U.S. administration had refused to do. Then on March 25, 2019 Trump recognized Israel’s illegal 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights.


Just three months ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared expanding Israeli colonies on the West Bank as legal, a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, which says: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The last piece Netanyahu needed was Tuesday’s much-awaited “peace plan” from the most anti-Palestinian administration in U.S. history. Even The New York Times‘ coverage admitted the plan was strongly biased towards Israel and that Netanyahu was in on the secretive plan all along. The operation was run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family are close personal friends with Netanyahu. It is a plan being imposed on the Palestinians rather than arising out of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as past U.S. administrations tried to do.

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“Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger…”

Hamas Calls Trump’s Mideast Plan ‘Aggressive’ (RT)

Hamas has brushed off US President Donald Trump’s proposal on Jerusalem as “nonsense.” The group rejected his peace plan altogether by calling his statement “aggressive,” adding that it would only spark “anger.” “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.” He added that the city will always be a land for the Palestinians, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Zuhri particularly slammed the US leader’s proposal on the future of Jerusalem, calling it “nonsense.”


He added that the city “will always be a land for the Palestinians”, and that they would oppose Trump’s deal. Trump’s speech contained conflicting messages, with him first declaring that Jerusalem would be Israel’s “undivided” capital, only to then say that Eastern Jerusalem will be turned into the capital of a newly formed Palestinian state if Palestinians accept his deal. He even vowed to open a US embassy there.

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Says Steve Keen. Not sure I would agree. For this to happen, Britain being successful, Boris would need to create some kind of unity in the country that does not today exist. But he’s much more likely to create more austerity, and divide it even more.

Brexit Britain To Outperform Brussels As ‘Ineffective’ Bloc Gamble Backfires (Exp.)

The European Union and Britain are expected to begin trade talks once EU leaders agree on a mandate in the weeks after Brexit on January 31, 2020. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday insisted the EU27 will hold the cards in the negotiations but economist Steve Keen said the bloc is likely to avoid any new “gambit” to secure an agreement and avoid the fall out of Britain leaving the EU. Speaking to RT News, Mr Keen said: “The whole reason the European Union was doing this ever since the Brexit vote is because they were trying to stop the vote going ahead. “Now, with Boris’ success in the election, they know that particular gamble is no longer workable, they have to make some sort of arrangement over the long-term.


“And they’ve got the hope the UK does worse and pleads to come back into the fold sometime down the track.” Mr Keen continued: “But I think that’s wishful thinking. “The European Union is a very poorly designed, ineffective trade bloc and it’s likely to do less well rather than better than the UK over time.” Speaking to the BBC, Irish Taoiseach Varadkar insisted the size of the European Union will play a significant role when the time comes to strike a Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom in the coming months. Mr Varadkar said: “I think the reality of the situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states. “The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people. The UK, it’s about 60. “So if these were two teams up against each other playing football, who do you think has the stronger team? So long as we’re united.”

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Why would Britain feel compelled to listen to the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm? They’re leaving the EU in 2days.

Human Rights Report To Oppose Extradition Of Julian Assange To US (G.)

Julian Assange’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent for journalists”, according to politicians from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm, who voted on Tuesday to oppose the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. The words of support for Assange and implicit criticism of the UK government will be contained in a final report produced by the Labour peer Lord Foulkes for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which focuses on upholding human rights across the continent. Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison prior to an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

Foulkes had drafted an initial report – Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe – that will now contain amendments referring to Assange tabled by a number of European parliamentarians. One of the amendments backs the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on torture who called last year for Assange’s release and for extradition to the United States to be blocked. The other states that his possible extradition to the US “would set a precedent and threaten journalists’ freedoms in all member states”.

Foulkes told the Guardian that campaigners and supporters of Assange had written to him while he was writing the report, which addresses media freedoms and threats to journalists in countries including Russia, Turkey and Malta, and asked that he consider including an amendment mentioning Assange. As a rapporteur for the assembly, he said it was not his role to do so but that colleagues from other states had done so. He added: “I was in favour of him being sent back to Sweden when there were allegations against him to face that, but as far as the US is concerned I think there would be deep concerns if he were to be sent there.”

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The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. Let’s get uglier.

Democratic Super PAC Ad Targets Bernie Sanders, Mentions Heart Attack (Hill)

A Democratic super PAC is expected to release a new ad campaign Wednesday that targets Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the heart attack that he suffered late last year. The ad from Democratic Majority for Israel features six Iowa voters and argues Sanders would be unable to beat President Trump in November, The New York Times reported. “I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” a male voter says in the ad, according to the Times. “I just don’t think Bernie can beat Trump.” Another voter highlights the heart attack that Sanders, 78, suffered while on the campaign trail in Las Vegas at the beginning of October.


“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’s health considering the fact that he did have a heart attack,” the person says, according to the newspaper. PAC president Mark Mellman told the publication that the goal of the ad is to highlight concerns that some Democratic voters have about Sanders’s electability, asserting the senator was in a “uniquely bad position” to defeat Trump. “For many months people were saying he really didn’t have much of a chance, but you have to look at the data now and say he does have a realistic chance of winning Iowa and potentially the nomination,” he said. “This is the point at which there could be room for someone else to make their case and have a better candidate emerge.”

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I don’t think Schiff “misunderstands” Russia or Putin. I think he wants war. And Trump won’t deliver.

No Points For Saying Anything Good About Russia – Stephen Cohen (RT)

US Congress heavyweights like Adam Schiff deeply misunderstand Russia but keep on bashing Moscow because it has become “politically advantageous” in Washington, Russia researcher Stephen Cohen said. “Being highly-critical of Russia is good politics in the United States,” Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, told the Grayzone’s Aaron Mate in an interview, uploaded online on Monday. “Nobody ever gets any points for saying anything good about Russia – and only rarely for advocating any kind of partnership with Russia.” Cohen said that “politically it’s advantageous to a lot of people to bash Russia,” and even some of the “progressive” Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 presidential race employ rhetoric, which is hostile toward Moscow.


“It has become an American way of life to blame Russia when things go wrong. Of course, sometimes Russia is to blame, but not all the time. And yet that’s become part of our discourse.” The US Democratic Party’s lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has invoked Russia a lot during the trial in the Senate. Democrats want to oust President Donald Trump because they believe he briefly suspended military aid to Ukraine while trying to pressure Kiev into investigating the dealings of his chief 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sending weapons to Ukraine serves America’s “abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism,” Schiff argued.

Cohen, however, said that shipping weapons to Kiev would effectively amount to the US turning its back on Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to resolve the conflict with Russia through peaceful means. Instead, he thinks Washington should focus on encouraging the neighbors to negotiate. “If Zelensky had full American backing for his peace talks with Putin – that would help him a lot.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe. Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Jan 232020
 
 January 23, 2020  Posted by at 10:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Jack Delano Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive shops San Bernardino, CA 1943

 

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)
Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)
Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)
UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)
The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)
TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)
Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)
Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

 

 

China Lunar New Year is from Jan 24-30. Hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling.

China Quarantines 11 Million In Wuhan As Virus Kills 17, With 95 Critical (RT)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended China’s swift response to a rapidly moving virus gripping the country, but despite a quick-climbing infection tally, the agency is reluctant to classify it a global health threat. “What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment,” WHO director-general Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, referring to Beijing’s shutdown of all public transportation in and out of the city of Wuhan, the viral epicenter. As of 10am local time, all trains, buses, railways and ferries traveling to and from Wuhan have halted operations until further notice in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, with the government calling on the city’s 11 million residents to refrain from leaving without “special reasons.”

Medical personnel were also posted at toll gates and checkpoints along major roadways to screen commuters for the illness. The comments followed an emergency WHO meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, where the health agency mulled whether to declare the novel coronavirus – now dubbed “2019-nCoV” – a worldwide emergency. Still unsure after a day of deliberation, however, WHO will meet again Thursday, with Tedros saying he took the decision “extremely seriously.” China’s National Health Commission (NHC), meanwhile, has provided the latest figures tracking the impact of the dangerous pathogen, with 131 newly confirmed infections bringing the total to 571 across some 25 Chinese provinces.

Seventeen people have died from the illness thus far, all in central China’s Hubei province, with another 95 in critical condition with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. There are also now 393 suspected infections in China – 257 of them registered on Wednesday alone – with 5,897 additional cases of “close contact,” the NHC said.

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Couldn’t find any relevant write-ups of Schiff’s marathon, so here’s the text -not sure it covers all 3.28 minutes of it. But who cares? He had nothing new and what he had, he repeated 20+ times. Including the very dead: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

The Hunter Biden/Burisma story has not been debunked as Schiff repeats ad nauseum, what has been debunked -by Mueller- is Russiagate. But who cares?

Michael Tracey: “Counted at least 57 references to Russia or Putin in today’s impeachment trial which is why it’s a total fallacy to separate this episode from the Russiagate narrative which has dominated US politics for 3+ years. What’s happening now is just its inevitable culmination..”

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers: “When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”


Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.” The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

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Go Tulsi. Someone has to break the DNC, or the Democrats are finished as a party..

Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation over the former secretary of State’s remarks on a podcast characterizing the Democratic presidential candidate as a Russian asset. Gabbard filed the defamation lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Gabbard’s lawyers allege that Clinton’s comments have “smeared” Gabbard’s “political and personal reputation.” “Tulsi Gabbard is a loyal American civil servant who has also dedicated her life to protecting the safety of all Americans,” Gabbard’s lawyer Brian Dunne said in a statement. “Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, but she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks.”


Gabbard’s campaign referred all questions on the lawsuit to Dunne. In response to the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said “that’s ridiculous.” [..] The lawsuit claims that Clinton is a “cutthroat politician” and “sought retribution” for Gabbard endorsing Clinton’s 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Gabbard is now facing Sanders in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary. “Clinton’s false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s presidential campaign,” it says. Gabbard’s lawyers claim Clinton’s “peddling of this theory” has harmed Gabbard, voters and “American democracy.” “Tulsi brings this lawsuit to ensure that the truth prevails and to ensure this country’s political elites are held accountable for intentionally trying to distort the truth in the midst of a critical Presidential election,” the lawsuit says.

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No. 1 for DNC: dump Biden. He’s roadkill.

Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)

A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep — as “a compromise choice.” Dalhi Myers told AP on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. “I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,’” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”


Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump’s dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar.” Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state’s Democratic primary electorate. Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state’s black community. In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was “the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win” against Trump in the general election.

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No, really. Dump Biden.

Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)

Hunter Biden has been ordered to stand in front of an Arkansas judge next Tuedsay to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to produce a laundry list of financial and personal information in his ongoing child support dispute with stripper Lunden Alexis Roberts. Roberts asked the court on Tuesday to hold Biden in contempt for failing to disclose financial information, contact information, and “a list of all companies he currently owns or in which he has an ownership interest,” as well as “all companies in which he has had an ownership interest in the past five years.” Also sought are a copy of Biden’s 2017 and 2018 tax returns, deeds to properties he owns, and an executed copy of a financial records release Biden has been avoiding filing unless the court allows him to do so under seal.


“The defendant continues to act as though he has no respect for this Court, its orders, the legal process in this state, or the needs of his child for support,” reads the filing, which adds “This is but another example of the defendant’s unnecessary actions to frustrate prompt adjudication of this matter and increase the plaintiff’s litigation costs.” Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer agreed, ordering Biden to appear in person to explain his failure to produce the requested information which was due in August, 2019. In November, a DNA test revealed Hunter to be the father of the unnamed child with Roberts. In order to determine what Biden can cough up, Roberts has sought extensive financial records for periods which include his time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was the Obama administration’s point-man on Ukraine.

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Still don’t quite get this. Did MbS pose as a Nigerian prince? Will the UN get involved if your phone is hacked? Are the UN and Bezos trying to seek vengeance for Khashoggi in a roundabout way?

UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)

Despite the Saudi Embassy’s denial of the “absurd” claims that MbS hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone, United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States. Independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a statement Wednesday: “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.” “The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul.”


“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.” The U.N. experts reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which they said was made available to them as U.N. Special Rapporteurs. The experts said that records showed that within hours of receipt of a video from the crown Pprince’s WhatsApp account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.

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Oh cut it out.

Boeing CEO Expects To Resume 737 MAX Production Before Mid-Year (R.)

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. planemaker expects to resume 737 MAX production months before its forecasted mid-year return to service and said it did not plan to suspend or cut its dividend. The company announced a production halt in December, when the global grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX following two deadly crashes in five months looked set to last into mid-2020 — a timeline pushed back after Boeing endorsed new simulator training for pilots. Calhoun said the company is not considering scrapping the MAX and expects it will continue to fly for a generation.


“I am all in on it and the company is all in on it,” Calhoun said, adding Boeing will not launch a marketing campaign to get customers to get back on 737 MAX planes. The company said on Tuesday it now expects regulators to approve the plane’s return to service in the middle of the year. Calhoun said he did not see recent issues raised about wiring or software as “serious problems.” The production delay threatens to cut U.S. GDP by as much as 0.5 percentage points. President Donald Trump on Wednesday told CNBC Boeing is a “very disappointing company.” United Airlines said Wednesday it does not expect to fly the Boeing 737 MAX this summer.

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Subtitle: US Fracking Gushes Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debt, and Worthless Shares

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

Following the sharp re-drop in oil and natural gas prices in late 2018, bankruptcy filings in the US by already weakened exploration and production companies , oilfield services companies, and “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, or store oil and natural gas) jumped by 51% in 2019, to 65 filings, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This brought the total of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust since 2015 in these three sectors to 402 bankruptcy filings. The debt involved in these bankruptcies in 2019 doubled from 2018 to $35 billion. This pushed the total debt listed in these bankruptcy filings since 2015 to $207 billion. The chart below shows the cumulative total debt involved in these bankruptcies since 2015.

But this does not include the much larger losses suffered by shareholders that get mostly wiped out in the years before the bankruptcy as the shares descend into worthlessness, and that then may get finished off in bankruptcy court. The banks, which generally had the best collateral, took the smallest losses; bondholders took bigger losses, with unsecured bondholders taking the biggest losses. Some of them lost most of their investment; others got high-and-tight haircuts; others held debt that was converted to equity in the restructured companies, some of which soon became worthless again when the company filed for bankruptcy a second time. The old shareholders took the biggest losses.


The Great American Fracking Bust started in mid-2014, when the price of WTI dropped from over $100 a barrel to below $30 a barrel by early 2016. Then the price began to recover, going over $70 a barrel in September and October 2018. But then it began to re-plunge. By the end of 2018, WTI had dropped to $47 a barrel. [..]

And 2020 is starting out terrible for natural gas producers. The price of natural gas has plunged to $1.90 per million Btu at the moment, a dreadfully low price where no one can make any money. Producers in shale fields that produce mostly gas, such as the Marcellus, are in deeper trouble still, because oil, even at these prices, would be a lot better than just natural gas. Producing areas with constrained takeaway capacity (it takes a lot longer to build pipelines than to ramp up production) are subject to local prices, which can be lower still. In some areas, such as the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the most prolific oil field in the US, where natural gas is a byproduct of oil production, limited takeaway capacity has caused local prices to collapse, and flaring to surge.

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Sent to WIkiLeaks yet?

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell’s personal emails have been hacked, and damaging information, including the names of individuals linked to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case, are at risk of being publicly released. The revelation was made in a letter filed by the British socialite’s lawyers in the defamation case brought against her by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre, DailyMail.com has learned. The letter was sent by Maxwell’s attorney, Ty Gee, on December 5 to New York federal court Judge Loretta A. Preska but made public last week. The letter addresses the materials that should remain sealed or redacted in the case. It notes ‘the difficulty and complexity’ of the process as there are more than 8,600 pages, adding that it is ‘difficult-to-overstate importance to the lives of Ms. Maxwell and the non-parties’.

Gee’s letter says that the project ‘could not be accomplished by scanning or speed-reading’ as each page had to be carefully analysed to redact, for example, ‘a surname or an email address’. He refers to details that were released in error in the 2,000 pages that were made public in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Those filings revealed allegations that Maxwell procured underage girls for Epstein. She has denied those charges. ‘Despite the Second Circuit’s best efforts, it made serious mistakes. For example, it redacted a non-party’s name in one location but not another; so the media immediately gained access to that name,’ Gee wrote.

‘As another example, it redacted Ms. Maxwell’s email address (which linked to her own domain name) in one location but not another; shortly afterward hackers breached the host computer.’ The hack may have implications for Prince Andrew after it was revealed in December that the Duke of York exchanged emails with Maxwell in 2015 about Giuffre. In that email, revealed on Panorama, Maxwell and the British royal discussed Giuffre – despite denials from Prince Andrew that he had never met the then-teenager and that a photo of them together was a fake. ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,’ Prince Andrew wrote in an email to Maxwell. She replied: ‘Have some info – call me when you have a moment.’

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Make that 70.

TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has outlined plans for the decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, estimating that the process will take 44 years. Tepco presented the outline of decommissioning plans to the town assembly of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, one of the two host towns of the nuclear plant, on Wednesday. According to the outline, the decommissioning process will have four stages, taking 10 years for the first stage, 12 years for the second stage and 11 years each for the third and fourth stages.


Tepco will survey radioactive contamination at the nuclear plant in the first stage, clear equipment around nuclear reactors in the second, remove the reactors in the third and demolish the reactor buildings in the fourth. Meanwhile, the plant operator will transfer a total of 9,532 spent nuclear fuel units at the plant to a fuel reprocessing company by the end of the decommissioning process, and 544 unused fuel units to a processing firm by the start of the third stage.

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Like it behooves a major charity. When interviewing such a CEO, always ask what their salaries are.

Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)

The Australian Red Cross has admitted it may spend as much as $11 million processing the millions of dollars people from across the globe have donated to its bushfire appeal. However, in the face of public outcry, the charity has been forced to revise an earlier statement that suggested a large proportion of the $95 million raised could be quarantined for future natural disasters. The charity also pledged on Thursday to speed up the rate of its delivery of emergency funds to bushfire ravaged communities. “We’re now paying a million dollars a day and we’re keen to continue to speed that up, we know the assistance is needed now,” Red Cross’s director of emergencies, Noel Clement, told 7 NEWS.


Clement said the charity had already dispensed 700 grants of $10,000 each, totalling $7 million. He conceded however that of the revised total of $115 million donated so far – up from yesterday’s figure of $95 million – as much as $11 million could be spent on administration costs. Such a figure – roughly 10 per cent of total revenue raised – is generally considered to be the uppermost limit of acceptable administrative costs among large charitable organisations.

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1980s: 4.5 million. 2019: 29,000.

Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row, a count by an environmental group released Thursday showed. The count of the orange-and-black insects by the Xerces Society, a not-for-profit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey. That’s not much different than last year’s tally, when an all-time low 27,000 monarchs were counted. “We had hoped that the western monarch population would have rebounded at least modestly, but unfortunately it has not,” said Emma Pelton, a monarch conservation expert with the Xerces Society.


By comparison, about 4.5 million monarch butterflies wintered in forested groves along the California coast in the 1980s. Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western US due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases. Researchers also have noted the effect of climate change. Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile migration synced to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers.


Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

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

 

Jan 222020
 


Jack Delano Repair and overhauling in Chicago & North Western Railroad locomotive shops, Chicago 1942

 

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)
Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)
Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)
Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)
Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)
Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)
Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)
You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)
General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)
US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)
People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

 

 

A pretty good description. of the virus. There are 11 million people living in Wuhan. Officials now suggest no-one should leave or enter the city. Cases in Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, US.

New Coronavirus Has Unusually High Ability To Bind To A Human Protein (SCMP)

The coronavirus discovered in Wuhan may share the same bat-related ancestor as Sars, according to the latest study by Chinese scientists, which said the strain was weaker than the devastating 2002-03 Sars outbreak but was still “highly infectious”. The new virus shares a common ancestor with severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), in HKU9-1, a virus found in fruit bats, they found. The connection with wild animals was confirmed on Wednesday by Gao Fu, director general of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Gao, the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 400 people across the country and led to nine deaths, originated from wild animals sold at a seafood market in Wuhan.

Gao warned that a major challenge was that the new strain was adapting and mutating. The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community, and came a day after the Chinese government’s announcement of emergency measures to contain its spread. A joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai estimated how the viral strain would interact with cells in the human respiratory system using computer simulation based on released data. “The Wuhan coronavirus’ natural host could be bats … but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate,” the researchers said in a statement released with the paper.

Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of Sars because its genes were quite different. According to their calculations, the binding-free energy between the virus and the protein would be minus 50.6 kcal per mol, five times what was “usually considered significant”. “Although comparably weaker [than Sars], the Wuhan CoV S-protein is regarded to have strong binding affinity to human ACE2,” they wrote in a paper published on China Science Bulletin. What surprised the scientists most, however, was that the virus could maintain the strong binding ability despite its significant structural differences from Sars. Of the virus’ five amino acids that play important roles in the binding process, four are different from those of Sars.

Further examination of the virus’ structure showed that overall its binding protein had a high resemblance to that of Sars. The researchers also traced the evolution of the new virus in a government coronavirus database. On the evolutionary tree, the new virus belonged to Betacoronavirus, on a close but different branch to Sars. The two shared about 70 to 80 per cent of genes, less than the similarity between pigs and humans. Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was not involved in the new study, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that the new strain was an RNA virus, meaning that its mutation speed was 100 times faster than that of a DNA virus such as smallpox. RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.

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Always happy to see my view of Putin shared by others, and certainly when it’s Dmitry. Any major country on the planet could only wish they had Putin to lead it, and serve the best interests of its citizens. Of course we can’t get any real picture of this in the western press, who treat him as the bogey man, along with their governments.

Can you even imagine where the US would be if Putin had been its leader for the past 20 years? Try this stateside: “Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions

Life After Putin (Dmitry Orlov)

[..] we need to draw a distinction between Putin the man and the system of governance he has built over the past 20 years. There is always plenty to complain about, but overall it has been quite effective. During Putin’s period in power, Russia has solved the problems of separatism and domestic terrorism, reigned in the predatory oligarchy, paid off virtually all of its foreign debts including ones it inherited from the USSR, grew its economy by a factor of six (vs. China’s five and USA’s one), regained Crimea (which had been part of Russia since 1783), rebuilt its armed forces to a point where international security is no longer a major concern, and achieved an overall level of societal well-being that is unparalleled in all of Russian history.

The system of governance he has built has worked well with him as the head of government, but it will require some adjustments in order to work well under future presidents, who may not be equally gifted. Recognizing this fact, on Wednesday Putin has launched a limited overhaul of the Russian Constitution. In addition to an entire raft of minor tweaks that will limit the powers of the President and give more powers to the Parliament, to provide for better checks and balances and a more democratically responsive system, there are a few proposed changes that stand out.

[..] Proposed changes will insure that incomes and pensions are such that everybody has decent living conditions. There are also proposed legislative changes to what’s called “maternal capital” to make having more than two children financially attractive. The demographic situation in Russia is not as dire as it was in the 1990s, and certainly a lot less dire than in Western Europe whose native populations are rapidly going extinct, but the fact remains that to achieve its stated goals Russia is going to need a lot more Russians. The Russian government has the money to spend on these initiatives, and getting the job done is largely a matter of lighting a fire under the federal and regional bureaucracies.

Spelling out the social guarantees right in the Constitution is a good way to make that happen. Putin proposed that the constitutional changes be voted for in a referendum. Beyond the procedural nicety and the legitimizing effect of this exercise, it is sure to stimulate a lot more public interest and civic participation, making it more likely that the ever foot-dragging Russian bureaucrats (in the more remote regions especially) will be prevailed upon to act swiftly to enact the changes.

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And this is just the beginning. God help us. More Adam Schiff show.

Senate Votes Down Democrats’ Subpoena Proposals (G.)

Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning. In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. An eighth vote defeated a proposal to prevent the selective admission of evidence. “I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour. “We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”


Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine. Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president. “The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers .

https://twitter.com/i/status/1219661000556847107

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A bit sensational, but still you want to ask: Why?

Adam Schiff Caught ‘Fabricating’ Evidence (US24)

A bombshell new report is derailing the Democrats’ momentum against President Trump on Day One of the Senate impeachment trial. The article — in the left-leaning Politico of all places — on Tuesday night alleges that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have “mischaracterized” evidence that was used in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation. But Republicans are ridiculing the report as an attempt to “soft-pedal” his actions, insisting that Schiff “fabricated evidence” in a naked attempt to “frame” Trump. Either way, the shocking late-night report has thrown the Democrats’ Senate plan into complete chaos.

The stunning report focuses on a letter that Schiff sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last week that summarizes “a trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani,” Politico reported. “In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas ‘continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,’ citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: ‘trying to get us mr Z.’ The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to Schiff’s letter — was redacted.”

Politico added, “But an unredacted version of the exchange shows that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: ‘mr Z answers my brother.’ That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky not Zelensky.” Democrat officials did not dispute the suggestion that Schiff’s claim was false. [..] one senior GOP aide told Politico: “[..] given the selective redactions and contextual clues, it seems as though Chairman Schiff sought to deliberately portray an innocuous meeting with Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky as an insidious one with the President of Ukraine simply because both of their surnames start with the letter Z.”

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As I said yesterday: “This week, Bernie is sexist. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll find he’s racist too. If his numbers still don’t plummet then, he’ll be an anti-semitic Jew.”

Hillary Clinton Kicks Off ‘Stop Sanders’ Movement. Will Obama Follow? (Y!)

Nothing the Clintons do is accidental. And so when the news broke less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses that in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton badmouths her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as a “career politician” whom “nobody likes,” it didn’t just call attention to the ill feeling still lingering from that year’s bitter primary campaign. It also signaled that Clinton has thrown her weight behind the nascent “Stop Sanders” movement gaining steam among Democratic power brokers. The question now is whether Democratic voters will follow her lead — and whether Barack Obama himself might come out of semiretirement to join the cause. Asked by the Hollywood Reporter whether she would endorse and campaign for Sanders if he were to win the nomination, Clinton refused to commit. “I’m not going to go there yet,” she said.

Clinton immediately added, however, that her beef is “not only” with Sanders but with “the culture around him” — a culture she considers sexist. “It’s his leadership team,” Clinton said. “It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren].”

Then Clinton twisted the knife: “I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.” Clinton’s timing is conspicuous. Since the start of the 2016 primary, pundits and mainstream Democrats have refused to consider Sanders a serious threat for the nomination. That’s changed in recent weeks as Sanders has surged to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, cementing his status as the nearest competitor to frontrunner Joe Biden while also out-fundraising the entire field. Meanwhile, the headlines about Clinton’s remarks come on the heels of Sanders’s clash with Warren over the same subject: his (and his campaign’s) alleged sexism. In other words, this isn’t coming out of nowhere: Clinton is piggybacking on a fresh controversy at a pivotal moment.

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But of course. It must be perennial.

Why Congress Must Keep Investigating Trump After the Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Unlike a typical trial, the upcoming impeachment trial of President Donald Trump won’t establish facts or put an end to investigations about the Ukraine scheme at the heart of this case. Given that new allegations and evidence continue to emerge, a new investigation will be necessary. Although we still don’t know exactly what the trial will look like, public statements by senators suggest that we won’t hear from many witnesses—and could hear from none at all. That’s exactly what Trump’s legal team is asking for, which comes as no surprise because lawyers rarely want to prolong trials if they think they’ve already got the jury on their side. As it stands now, there is little doubt that Republicans are prepared to vote against removing Trump from office—which is why Democrats want to shake things up with witnesses they haven’t had the opportunity to interview, like former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

But the fact that months of Congressional inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine is almost certain to end in acquittal does not mean that Congress’s work is done. So much of the story of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of Trump’s impeachment still is not public that Congress is obligated to resume its inquiry regardless of the outcome in the Senate. There can be no serious question that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically, but many details of the scheme are still not known. How little we know about the Ukraine scheme headlined by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was underscored by public interviews given last week by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who currently faces a federal indictment in the Southern District of New York.

Parnas made sweeping claims, such as his assertion that Trump was “aware of all of my movements” and that Attorney General Bill Barr was “basically on the team.” These are provocative and damning assertions. But how exactly does Parnas claim to know all of this? [..] Parnas presented evidence that former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under surveillance. The American people—and Yovanovitch—deserve to know whether that allegation is true and exactly why Trump’s associates were surveilling our own ambassador. After all, it is possible this scheme constituted a federal crime, such as a conspiracy to threaten or assault a federal official.

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We knew that already. But Biden is sending around a memo denying it.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Biden Pushed To Oust Heavily Investigated Burisma (RT)

The Ukrainian prosecutor who Joe Biden pushed to oust had six cases against Burisma but they fizzled out after he left, a new documentary shows challenging the narrative by the former vice president that the media failed to check. When Joe Biden lobbied Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to replace Viktor Shokin with Yuriy Lutsenko in 2015, his entourage claimed that Shokin had failed to thoroughly investigate corruption, and by pushing for his replacement “saint” Biden even acted against his family’s interests. But the second episode of the documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts’ produced by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, founder of popular anti-corruption and economics blog Les Crises, shows information that undermines this narrative.

The American media reported that Shokin’s case against Ukrainian energy company Burisma had gone “dormant,” and that by pressing for Lutsenko’s appointment, Biden was quashing corruption, even if that meant subjecting his own son to investigation in the process. Hunter Biden was on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019. However, documents collected by Berruyer show that Shokin’s Burisma probe was far from “dormant.” Shokin himself even told ABC News that his office had six investigations into Burisma open at the time of his resignation. Lutsenko, he said, “stopped all those cases.”

ABC didn’t air this part of the interview, and the American media – including the Washington Post and the New York Times – continue to label Shokin’s investigation “dormant,” despite a number of publicly available documents showing otherwise and presented in the documentary.

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John Solomon is back.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.

Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal. Here are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.

Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.

Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.

Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.

Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.

Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.

Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.

Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.

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Accused of “..hacking the cellphones of Brazilian prosecutors and public officials..”

Brazil Charges Glenn Greenwald With Cybercrimes (ZH)

Prosecutors in Brazil charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes on Tuesday for his role in spreading embarrassing text messages that exposed corruption within the Brazilian judicial system, according to the New York Times. In a 91-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of participating in a “criminal organization” that spread text messages which called into question the “integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures.” Greenwald – who moved to Brazil in 2005 with his husband David Miranda – now a congressman, went beyond simply receiving the texts and publishing newsworthy information according to prosecutors.

“Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks. Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app”. -New York Times. Greenwald – an attorney, rose to international prominence in 2013 for his role in the release of classified documents revealing America’s extensive NSA surveillance apparatus, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to Greenwald, who worked for The Guardian at the time.

In 2016, Greenwald launched The Intercept Brasil, which began publishing articles based on the leaked text exchanges last June. “The articles raised questions about the integrity, professionalism and motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system — particularly of figures directly involved in the investigation of a vast corruption scheme that resulted in the imprisonment of powerful business and political figures. Among the revelations in the articles, for instance, were chats in which Sérgio Moro, a former federal judge who handled the prosecution of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2017, provided strategic guidance to prosecutors, in violation of legal and ethical norms. Mr. Moro is now Brazil’s justice minister. -New York Times.

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Someone lend them the $10 billion.

Boeing Has Officially Stopped Making 737 MAX Airplanes (CNN)

The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped building Boeing’s bestselling plane, the company confirmed late Monday. Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production for an undetermined period in December, but it had not previously announced a precise day for the shutdown. Boeing will not furlough or lay off workers because of the shutdown, but pain will ripple through its supply chain and could hurt America’s economic growth. The shutdown will make restarting production and recovering from the crisis more difficult for Boeing once it finally gets permission for the plane to fly again. The 737 Max has been grounded since March..

Although Boeing couldn’t deliver the 737 Max planes to customers, the company continued to build the jets, albeit at a slightly reduced pace of 42 a month. It now has about 400 completed jets parked in Washington and Texas, waiting to be delivered to airlines around the world. But Boeing doesn’t get most of its money from the sale of the jets until they are delivered, and it could not indefinitely continue to incur the costs of building them without being able to deliver them. The company hoped that the plane would fly again before the end of 2019. But in December Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, announced approval would not come until some time in 2020. Shutdown plans were announced a week later.

Boeing would not release a headcount for people who had been working on the plane. The company said the employees will be reassigned to other duties during the shutdown, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, under federal labor law, Boeing would have to pay them for 60 days following a layoff notice. Since Boeing is still hoping to resume work on the plane soon, it probably would have limited cost savings to go through the process of laying off the workers. And with unemployment in the Seattle metropolitan area at 2.9% – lower than the national unemployment rate that’s at a 50-year low – Boeing can’t risk losing the workers it needs once production resumes.

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All pilots in the US must now do simulator training. The exact issue that made Boeing screw around with the plane to make it appear like it was the same as with the much smaller engine, so no training was needed. Very dumb. When this thing started, there were lerss than a handful simulators available. Have they built a lot more since? I’d like to know. These things don’t come cheap.

You Won’t Be Flying On A 737 MAX Anytime Soon (CNN)

No one knows when the Boeing 737 Max will return to service. But it won’t be any time soon. Boeing eagerly awaits the US FAA’s approval to allow the grounded plane to fly again. But the FAA refuses to provide a specific timeframe, saying only that it will make a decision sometime this year. “We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft,” said the FAA’s most recent statement on the plane, issued on January 9. “Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.” The plane has been grounded since March. Boeing had initially hoped a fix for the safety system, known as MCAS, could be approved in a matter of weeks after the second crash.

But it has missed target date after target date for completion of the process. Aerospace analysts believe regulatory approval could come in the spring. Cai von Rumohr of Cowen now forecasts March. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says he’s thinking April or perhaps May. But they both say that is only their best guess at this point. [..] It’s also unclear whether aviation regulators around the world will follow the FAA’s lead and approve the plane to fly when it is cleared to fly in the United States. More than 80% of the planes are in foreign countries. One of the reasons the FAA has emphasized its work with other regulators is the agency hopes they will quickly follow its lead. But the process of getting that consensus is also causing delays, according to industry experts.

After the 737 Max is approved to return to service, it will be at least weeks, if not months, before any of them are carrying paying passengers once again. Boeing and the FAA have agreed that as part of the return to service 737 Max pilots will first complete simulator training. Pilots were previously permitted to fly the 737 Max without learning the specifics of the aircraft on a simulator. The new trainings won’t start until the certification process is complete. That will slow the time it will take to have the teams of pilots necessary to handle the flights. [..] Southwest and American Airlines have both announced they have canceled flights until early June, at the start of the summer travel season.

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The EU has done it. It’s turned the Greeks against immigrants.

General Strike Planned On Greek Aegean Islands Today Over Migration (K.)

The Greek government is under growing strain over immigration amid ongoing protests against plans to create at least 10 closed pre-departure centers across the country coupled with a delay in the disbursement of European Union funds for that purpose. Meanwhile tension at existing hotspots is brewing. A 17-year-old Afghan girl was hospitalized in serious condition on Monday after being stabbed by a 20-year-old fellow Afghan at Lesvos’ Moria camp. The attacker was arrested. On Sunday, newly installed Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was heckled by locals during visits to Lesvos and Samos.

During his trip, Mitarakis stressed that reducing immigration flows is a top priority of the government. However, a general strike is planned on the Aegean islands on Wednesday in response to its perceived failure to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by the diaNEOsis nonprofit think tank shows that most Greeks believe migrants and refugees have a negative impact on the country. The survey found that 85.2 percent of respondents said that the number of immigrants in Greece is “very or too high.” Just 12.1 percent said that the number is “normal.” At the same time, 79 percent disagreed with the statement that migrants are a solution to the country’s demographic problem.

Meanwhile, 56 percent said they believe that migrants have a negative impact on the economy, while 58 percent said that their presence is a “threat to our national identity.” However, 30 percent recognized the cultural enrichment brought by migrants. Asked about crime, 53 percent said they believe that migrants are responsible for soaring crime rates while 44 percent said that Greeks and non-Greeks were as likely to engage in criminal behavior.

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Oh well, overpopulation and things…

US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals’ (R.)

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.

“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said. In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies. The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

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Stop drinking the poison.

People Still Want Plastic Bottles, Says Coca-Cola (BBC)

Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still want them, the firm’s head of sustainability has told the BBC. Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight, said Bea Perez. The firm, which is one of the biggest producers of plastic waste, has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030. But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill. The drinks giant produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute. In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.


But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ms Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be “part of the solution”. Coke has pledged to use at least 50% recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection. However, Ms Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales. She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,” she said. “So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

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I know, it’s corny

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 182020
 
 January 18, 2020  Posted by at 10:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Esther Bubley Watching parade to recruit civilian defense volunteers, Washington DC 1943

 

Sanders Campaign Looks At Warren For Vice President AND Treasury Secretary (IC)
US Seeks To Determine If Yovanovitch Was Under Threat – Pompeo (R.)
Grave Tendings (Kunstler)
A Malicious Indictment (Buchanan)
New IMF Boss Says Global Economy Risks Return Of Great Depression (G.)
Battle of the Ages To Stop Eurasian Integration (Pepe Escobar)
China’s Growing Economic Collapse (WRB)
UK Cops Block Bid To Trace Prince Andrew’s Location 19 Years Ago (NYP)
Rich People Are Staying Healthy For Almost A Decade Longer Than Poor People (CNN)
Children, Young Adults Can’t Sue US Government Over Climate Change – Court (R.)

 

 

The fight didn’t poll well, methinks.

Sanders Campaign Looks At Warren For Vice President AND Treasury Secretary (IC)

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders has researched the question of whether the same person can serve as both vice president and treasury secretary, according to three sources on the campaign. The person the Sanders campaign had in mind with the inquiry was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his rival for the nomination and the bane of Wall Street over the last decade. The answer the lawyers came back with was yes: There is nothing in the Constitution that bars the vice president from also serving as treasury secretary. Sanders has made no final decisions on a potential running mate or cabinet officers, considering such questions premature and presumptuous, but the research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two — an affinity that was dealt a setback over the past week, as the pair clashed over the contents of a year-old private conversation.


Warren and Sanders have been allies since at least 2008, before she came to Washington to chair a panel with oversight of the Wall Street bailout. An author of books on the struggles of the middle class and an expert on bankruptcy law, she was invited by Sanders to a Vermont town hall, where the two talked about their shared agenda. Sanders was a strong supporter of her effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial crisis and privately lobbied President Barack Obama to name her the head of the new agency. Ideologically, Sanders and Warren are largely aligned when it comes to Wall Street, though Warren has concentrated more attention on bankers, meaning the two different skill sets could complement each other in the same administration.

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Still no idea how Parnas went from very major Dem enemy to posing with Maddow in no time. Everyone just stopped thinking?

US Seeks To Determine If Yovanovitch Was Under Threat – Pompeo (R.)

The U.S. State Department will do everything necessary to determine whether former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under threat in Ukraine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday. Documents released this week indicated Lev Parnas, a Ukraine-born U.S. citizen, helped U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani investigate U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. They also showed Parnas was involved in monitoring Yovanovitch’s movements before Trump removed her in May. Yovanovitch, a respected career diplomat, was a key witness in the U.S. House of Representatives’ investigation of Trump before he was impeached in December.

Late on Friday, a Democratic aide said House Democrats will be sending additional text messages, photographs and other documents provided by Parnas for the Senate impeachment trial that gets underway in earnest next week. Some of the documents appeared to show communications between Parnas and an aide to Representative Devin Nunes, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. In his first comments on the issue since the documents were released on Tuesday evening, Pompeo said he had never met nor communicated with Parnas, adding that he thought much of what had been reported on the issue would be proven wrong.

“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” he told conservative radio host Tony Katz in an interview. “I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that,” he said. Yovanovitch testified she had received a late night call from Washington warning her that she needed to return to the United States urgently and that there were concerns about her safety.

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Jim is hurting some of his earlier fans.

Grave Tendings (Kunstler)

Wouldn’t you like to hear from the legendary “whistleblower,” since his actions provoked this chapter of the three-year orchestrated coup to oust Mr. Trump? If it’s a basic tenet of law that a defendant has a right to face his accuser, can there be any further excuse for concealing this person’s identity — whose supposed right to anonymity, by the way, has been one of the signal frauds of the whole episode. Would it not be instructive to seat his mentor and former boss, John Brennan, in the witness chair and give him another opportunity to perjure himself? We must also hear from Michael Atkinson, the “whistleblower’s” enabler and Lawfare warrior Mary McCord, Atkinson’s former boss at the DOJ national security desk, who apparently stage-managed the “whistleblower’s” doings through Adam Schiff’s House intel Committee. Mr. Schiff would be the ripest witness of all, of course, since he has left a trail of falsehoods and fabrications longer than the Pacific Trail — but it’s unclear just now whether the Senate rules will allow a manager to be called to testify.

There is also much to be unraveled about the American mischief in Ukraine — which includes, but goes far beyond — the arrant grift of Hunter Biden. For example, the relationships between between the George Soros-backed NGO Atlantic Council and Burisma, the NatGas company that put Hunter B on its board, and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, board member of the Atlantic Council (and $25-million contributor to the Clinton Foundation), and Dmitri Alperovitch (also Atlantic Council) co-founder of Crowdstrike, the company that “examined” the supposedly “hacked” DNC servers, and Hillary Clinton herself, the self-dealing Secretary of State behind the international pay-for-play charity fraud she operated while in office. Also bring back former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to ‘splain the actions she took to conceal all these machinations, as well as her role in operating the 2016 Kiev Hillary campaign office.

What would soon be obvious is that the precipitating “whistleblower” caper was an effort to divert attention from a network of Americans that used a politically captive Ukraine — following the Maidan Revolution of 2014 — to protect an enormous racketeering operation threatened by the candidacy, and then the election, of Mr. Trump. Naturally, they are desperate to get him out of the way. So many of the facts are already publicly known and documented about these matters that the legal machinery has yet to catch up with it all. And when it does, the Democratic Party will have driven a wooden stake through its own depraved heart.

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Pat Buchanan doesn’t let up either.

A Malicious Indictment (Buchanan)

Assume Zelenskiy, without prodding, sent to the U.S., as a friendly act to ingratiate himself with Trump, the Burisma file on Hunter Biden. Would that have been a crime? Why is it then a crime if Trump asked for the file? The military aid Trump held up for 10 weeks — lethal aid Barack Obama denied to Kyiv — was sent. And Zelenskiy never held the press conference requested, never investigated Burisma, never sent the Biden file. There is a reason why no crime was charged in the impeachment of Donald Trump. There was no crime committed. Not political, said Pelosi. Why then did she hold up sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a month, after she said it was so urgent that Trump be impeached that Schiff and Nadler could not wait for their subpoenas to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court?

Pelosi is demanding that the Senate get the documents, subpoena and hear the witnesses, and do the investigative work Schiff and Nadler failed to do. Does that not constitute an admission that a convincing case was not made? Are not the articles voted by the House inherently deficient if the Senate has to have more evidence than the House prosecutors could produce to convict the president of “abuse of power”? Can we really have a fair trial in the Senate, when half of the jury, the Democratic caucus, is as reliably expected to vote to remove the president as Republicans are to acquit him? What kind of fair trial is it when we can predict the final vote before the court hears the evidence?

It is ridiculous to deny that this impeachment is partisan, political and personal. It reeks of politics, partisanship and Trump-hatred. As for patriotic, that depends on where you stand — or sit. But the forum to be entrusted with the decision of “should Trump go?” is not a deeply polarized Senate, but with those the Founding Fathers entrusted with such decisions — the American people.

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But the IMF will save us, I’m sure.

New IMF Boss Says Global Economy Risks Return Of Great Depression (G.)

The head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that the global economy risks a return of the Great Depression, driven by inequality and financial sector instability. Speaking at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington, Kristalina Georgieva said new IMF research, which compares the current economy to the “roaring 1920s” that culminated in the great market crash of 1929, revealed that a similar trend was already under way. While the inequality gap between countries had closed in the last two decades, it had increased within countries, she said, singling out the UK for particular criticism.


“In the UK, for example, the top 10% now control nearly as much wealth as the bottom 50%. This situation is mirrored across much of the OECD, where income and wealth inequality have reached, or are near, record highs.” She added: “In some ways, this troubling trend is reminiscent of the early part of the 20th century – when the twin forces of technology and integration led to the first gilded age, the roaring 20s, and, ultimately, financial disaster.” She warned that fresh issues such as the climate emergency and increased trade protectionism meant the next 10 years were likely to be characterised by social unrest and financial market volatility. “If I had to identify a theme at the outset of the new decade, it would be increasing uncertainty,” she said.

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Pepe’s starting to sound a bit like a broken record. We already know what he thinks about this. he should try a different angle.

Battle of the Ages To Stop Eurasian Integration (Pepe Escobar)

The Deep State and crucial sectors of the US ruling class are absolutely terrified that China is already outpacing the “indispensable nation” economically and that Russia has outpaced it militarily. The Pentagon officially designates the three Eurasian nodes as “threats.” Hybrid War techniques – carrying inbuilt 24/7 demonization – will proliferate with the aim of containing China’s “threat,” Russian “aggression” and Iran’s “sponsorship of terrorism.” The myth of the “free market” will continue to drown under the imposition of a barrage of illegal sanctions, euphemistically defined as new trade “rules.” Yet that will be hardly enough to derail the Russia-China strategic partnership. To unlock the deeper meaning of this partnership, we need to understand that Beijing defines it as rolling towards a “new era.”

That implies strategic long-term planning – with the key date being 2049, the centennial of New China. The horizon for the multiple projects of the Belt and Road Initiative – as in the China-driven New Silk Roads – is indeed the 2040s, when Beijing expects to have fully woven a new, multipolar paradigm of sovereign nations/partners across Eurasia and beyond, all connected by an interlocking maze of belts and roads. The Russian project – Greater Eurasia – somewhat mirrors Belt & Road and will be integrated with it. Belt & Road, the Eurasia Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank are all converging towards the same vision.

So this “new era”, as defined by the Chinese, relies heavily on close Russia-China coordination, in every sector. Made in China 2025 is encompassing a series of techno/scientific breakthroughs. At the same time, Russia has established itself as an unparalleled technological resource for weapons and systems that the Chinese still cannot match. At the latest BRICS summit in Brasilia, President Xi Jinping told Vladimir Putin that “the current international situation with rising instability and uncertainty urge China and Russia to establish closer strategic coordination.” Putin’s response: “Under the current situation, the two sides should continue to maintain close strategic communication.”

Russia is showing China how the West respects realpolitik power in any form, and Beijing is finally starting to use theirs. The result is that after five centuries of Western domination – which, incidentally, led to the decline of the Ancient Silk Roads – the Heartland is back, with a bang, asserting its preeminence. On a personal note, my travels these past two years, from West Asia to Central Asia, and my conversations these past two months with analysts in Nur-Sultan, Moscow and Italy, have allowed me to get deeper into the intricacies of what sharp minds define as the Double Helix. We are all aware of the immense challenges ahead – while barely managing to track the stunning re-emergence of the Heartland in real-time.

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This would be a good angle for Pepe. How do countries integrate that are in serious trouble?

China’s Growing Economic Collapse (WRB)

China’s $40 Trillion banking system dwarfs the American system at double the size, with over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks. The world’s four largest banks, including behemoth ICBC ($4TN), are all Chinese. The failure of just three banks was important enough that Chinese regulators submitted Chinese banks to a stress test and the results were shocking. China’s central bank admitted that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain.” The stress tests had revealed that over 13% of China’s 4,379 lenders were designated “high risk” by the central bank’s report. With this amounting to over 570 banks, and thus multiplied by the three existing examples of bank bail-out funding, with the Chinese economy following the world into recession, the financial numbers and likelihood of any future series of bail-outs are truly biblical. If not, fiscally impossible.


Separately, the PBOC also stress-tested 30 medium- and large-sized banks in the first half of 2019. In the base-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 5.3% – or well above where China’s real GDP is now – nine out of 30 major banks failed and saw their capital adequacy ratio drop to 13.47% from 14.43%. In the worst-case scenario, assuming GDP growth of 4.15%, or just 2% below the latest official Chinese GDP report, seventeen out of the thirty of these major banks failed the test. Separately, a liquidity stress test at 1,171 banks, representing nearly three-quarters of China’s banking sector by total assets, showed that ninety failed in the base-case and 159 in the worst-case scenario. The metrics of any collective bail-out indicates that China has upwards of an insurmountable $20 trillion problem rapidly approaching.

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I kid you not: for “national security” reasons. All they talk about is Big Ben bongs and blaming Meghan for being chased out of town by the paparazzi.

UK Cops Block Bid To Trace Prince Andrew’s Location 19 Years Ago (NYP)

British police have blocked a legal bid to trace Prince Andrew’s bodyguards’ movements on the night he allegedly first had sex with a Jeffrey Epstein accuser. The disgraced royal claims that he could not have had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre in London in March 2001 — because he was grabbing pizza with his daughter at a chain restaurant in the small town of Woking. With no witnesses of the prince’s pie date, the Mirror Online submitted a Freedom of Information Act request hoping that his royal protection officers’ movements would help prove his whereabouts that day. But London’s Met police rejected the request, citing national security concerns — and sparking an immediate backlash, the UK news site said.


Graham Smith, of anti-monarchy group Republic, slammed the decision. “Revealing locations from 19 years ago cannot possibly reveal personal data, either directly or indirectly,” Smith told Mirror Online. “The police are tasked with protecting the royals from physical harm, not from legitimate inquiry, criminal investigation or embarrassment.” Giuffre — who claims to have had sex with Andrew three times after being trafficked by late pedophile Epstein — attacked the “lies after lies” that she claims protect the prince. “There could only be one reason the prince’s bodyguards would not to expose where the prince had been on March 10th 2001- the night in question, bc he wasn’t at Woking Pizza with his daughter B,” she tweeted, referring to Princess Beatrice.

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Health care, education etc. must be universal. Or you can aim for the majority to be sick and stupid.

Rich People Are Staying Healthy For Almost A Decade Longer Than Poor People (CNN)

Rich people live healthy, disability-free lives an average of nine years longer than less wealthy people, according to a major study that lays bare the troubling economic inequalities behind lifespans in the US and UK. Researchers analyzed data on more than 25,000 adults over 50, looking for factors that could predict how long they lived before they started suffering from age-related disabilities, like being unable to get out of bed or cook for themselves. The biggest socioeconomic factor in predicting when those problems began was wealth, the team discovered, with richer people enjoying almost an extra decade before experiencing difficulties.

From the age of 50, the wealthiest men analyzed could expect another 31 healthy years of life — compared with the least well-off, who could only expect another 22 to 23 healthy years. For women, the wealthiest were projected to enjoy 33 more years of good health, compared with 24 for the poorest. “While life expectancy is a useful indicator of health, the quality of life as we get older is also crucial,” lead author Paola Zaninotto, a public health specialist at University College London, said in a statement. “By measuring healthy life expectancy we can get an estimate of the number of years of life spent in favorable states of health or without disability.”

The study — the work of researchers from a team of universities in Europe and the US — is far from the first to pinpoint the importance wealth plays in how long people live, though most have focused on life expectancy rather than quality of life. Research in 2016 found that men in the top financial 1% in the US can expect to live until the age of 87.3, nearly 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1%. The gap for women was 10 years. And in the UK, a study in 2018 found that poor people die around a decade earlier than those who are better off. [..] In general, the global life expectancy at birth in 2016 — the latest year for which data is available — was 72 years, according to the World Health Organization. The global average life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016, the fastest increase since the 1960s, WHO said.

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They probably need to be much more specific. How do they intend to achieve their goal? And don’t say electric cars.

Children, Young Adults Can’t Sue US Government Over Climate Change – Court (R.)

A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit by children and young adults who claimed they had a constitutional right to be protected from climate change, in a major setback to efforts to spur the U.S. government to address the issue. In a 2-1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 8 and 19 when the lawsuit began in 2015, lacked legal standing to sue the United States. Circuit Judge Andrew Hurwitz said the majority reached its conclusion “reluctantly,” given “compelling” evidence the government had long promoted fossil fuels despite knowing they could cause catastrophic climate change, and that failing to change policies could hasten an “environmental apocalypse.”

Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based non-profit behind the lawsuit, said in a statement that it would seek an 11-judge panel of the court to review the decision. The ruling had “catastrophic implications,” said Julia Olson, the group’s executive director. A Department of Justice spokesman said the government was pleased with the outcome. The 21 children and young adults had accused federal officials and oil industry executives of violating their due process right to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life,” by knowing for decades that carbon pollution poisons the environment but doing nothing about it. The government argued that neither U.S. law or history supported the young people’s claim of a fundamental right to a “livable climate.”

It also called the lawsuit an unconstitutional attempt to control the entire country’s climate and energy policy through a single court. Hurwitz said the case left “little basis for denying that climate change is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace,” but that addressing it required “complex policy decisions entrusted, for better or worse, to the wisdom and discretion” of the White House and Congress. “That the other branches may have abdicated their responsibility to remediate the problem does not confer on Article III courts, no matter how well-intentioned, the ability to step into their shoes,” he wrote.

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Ali would have turned 78 yesterday

 

 

 

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

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

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

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

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

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

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

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

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

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

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

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

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

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

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

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

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

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The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

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

 

Jan 142020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

The Coming Clash Between Bernie And Biden (Pol.)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Sanders-Warren Fight Unnerves Progressives (Hill)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sedition in Real Time (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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David Graeber on Brexit. Excellent.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Please fork over your $50 trillion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nothing changed.

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

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


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

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Can’t survive on hubris alone, white boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alfred Palmer Conversion. Beverage containers to aviation oxygen cylinders 1942

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)

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

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


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

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

Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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

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But not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

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

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


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

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Nov 272019
 


Margaret Bourke-White Beach Accident, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 1951

 

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)
The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)
Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)
MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)
China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)
More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)
Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)
Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)
Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)
Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)
A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

 

 

Sounds logical. Will logic decide this though? It doesn’t seem to have had much influence so far.

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)

If more Democratic swing-state representatives defect from the impeachment camp, which seems likely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a big problem. How can she proceed?
• If the House votes down impeachment Donald Trump wins.
• If the House holds no vote on the issue Donald Trump wins.
• If the House votes for censure Donald Trump will have won on points and the issue will be over.
• If the House votes for impeachment the case goes to the Senate for trial.

The Republican led Senate has two choices:
• It can decide to not open an impeachment trial by simply voting against impeachment. Trump wins.
• It can open a impeachment trial, use it to extensively hurt the Democrats and, in the end, vote against impeachment. Trump wins big time.

Should the House vote for impeachment the Senate is likely to go the second path. During impeachment the whole Senate sits as the High Court. The House of Representatives sends ‘managers’ who act as prosecutors. The chief justice of the U.S. presides. A vote for impeachment at the end of the trial requires a two-third majority. The Republican majority in the Senate could use such a trial to bring disarray into the Democrats’ primary. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet are all senators and Democratic primary candidates. They would probably have to stop campaigning to attend the trials. Another leading Democratic candidate would be a top witness.

The Republican senators would immediately call up a number of people for questioning. These would include Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer, John Kerry who was Secretary of State when Biden intervened for Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky and of course the CIA spy and (not-)whistleblower Erik Ciaramella. It would also be of interest to hear how deep the former CIA director John Brennan was involved in the issue. The Senators could use the impeachment trial to dig into all the crimes the Democrats under Obama committed in Ukraine. They would concentrate not on the Maidan coup but on the aftermath when the deals were made. There surely is a lot of dirt out there and it is not only Joe Biden’s.

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Free speech.

The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)

As Texans will certainly remember, then-Governor Rick Perry was indicted in 2014 by a grand jury for abusing his official capacity when he threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit unless the district attorney, who had previously been convicted of drunk driving and subsequently incarcerated, resigned. Sounds a lot like a quid pro quo, no? At the time, the special prosecutor’s operative legal theory required that the First Amendment not protect a governmental actor’s right to threaten taking a lawful action in order to attain a preferred political outcome. If the special prosecutor were wrong, then Governor Perry’s attempted quid pro quo would hardly be illegal at all — it would actually be constitutionally protected speech.

At the time, powerful and ideologically diverse group of attorneys argued that the special prosecutor sought to criminalize constitutionally protected speech. The group included right-leaning legal luminaries such as law school professors Eugene Volokh and former Judge Michael McConnell, as well as former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The group also includes historically liberal-leaning First Amendment scholars, such as Floyd Abrams and Alan Dershowitz. The counsel of record on this notable amicus brief was then-private attorney James C. Ho — for whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I served as a law clerk upon his successful nomination as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The amicus brief argued that “[a] political official has the right to threaten to perform an official act in order to persuade another government official to engage in some other official act.” It continued: “That is not a crime — it is core political speech.” Governor Perry’s quid pro quo with respect to withholding funds from the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, the brief contended, “is protected free expression, and the [g]overnor cannot be prosecuted for it.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the Lone Star State’s highest court for criminal cases, agreed. “[P]ublic servants have a First Amendment right to engage in expression, even threats, regarding their official duties,” the Court held. “Many threats that … public servants make as part of the normal functioning of government” would be criminalized under the special prosecutor’s legal theory, the Court continued.

The Court’s rationale is not even remotely partisan or political; it is pure logic and common sense. Quid pro quos routinely happen in politics as a day-to-day reality of politics. Before issuing his DAPA executive amnesty, President Barack Obama consistently threatened to use his “pen and phone” if Congress did not take the legislative action he desired. Unruly congressmen often have their committee assignments threatened by committee chairmen if they fail to vote in accordance with congressional leadership’s desires. Heck, does anyone think that neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engages in dozens of quid pro quos on a weekly basis as a rudimentary requirement of executing their chamber-wide leadership jobs?

The Trump impeachment defense should adopt this line of argumentation. How on earth can the president of the United States be impeached for engaging in constitutionally protected speech? How on earth can the president’s deployment of constitutionally protected speech, in the context of foreign policy, amount to an “abuse or violation of some public trust” that merits impeachment less than one year away from a presidential election?

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Oh boy: “..we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people..”

Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)

President Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, Politico reported Tuesday. The former president reportedly said if Sanders held a strong lead in the Democratic primary, he would speak out to prevent him from becoming the nominee. A close adviser to Obama told Politico he could not confirm whether Obama would stand up against Sanders. “He hasn’t said that directly to me,” the adviser said. “The only reason I’m hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don’t think that’s likely. It’s not happening.”


An Obama spokesperson, when asked about his previous comments on Sanders, referred to the president’s past comments that he would back whomever became the Democratic nominee. “Look, we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people who have a history of public service, and whoever emerges from the primary process I will work my tail off to make sure that they are the next president,” Obama said earlier this month, according to his spokesperson.

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This must be the weirdest poll graph I’ve ever seen.

MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)

Progressive journalist Michael Tracey claimed Tuesday that MSNBC is has dropped all pretenses for their “contempt” towards Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). The political news contributor said the left-leaning network has treated her fellow 2020 Democratic candidates, including businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unfairly, but he argued that with Gabbard it, “crosses a certain threshold.” “Fundamentally they’re beholden to whatever the market incentives are and right now it’s within their market interests to depict Tulsi as an infiltrator, as a Trojan horse in the Democratic Party and not deal on the substance with what she’s saying which is why over and over again they tar her as a Russian plant essentially,” Tracey told Hill.TV.


“There’s nobody who can really offer any kind of countervailing view because it’s just not economically advantageous for them at this point,” he added. Tracey pointed to a fiery exchange between Gabbard and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during last week’s 2020 primary debate as a prime example. During the debate, Harris accused Gabbard of being a conservative media darling and consistently going on Fox News to bash President Obama during his tenure. “I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who, during the Obama administration, spent four years full-time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,” Harris said. Gabbard dismissed the criticism, calling it “ridiculous.”

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I think Hong Kong is a lot more than a “financial window”. It feels like China would be blind without it.

China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)

[..] although the leisure sector may have landed in the rough, the decision by the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act could represent a more significant long-term threat to the territory’s economic fortunes. The bill has infuriated Beijing as an “intervention” in its affairs but despite the delicate stage of US-China trade talks, Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation because of its near-unanimous backing in Congress. The bill means the US would make an annual check that Hong Kong has sufficient autonomy from Beijing to qualify for the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial centre. It also gives officials the power to levy sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

A second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong authorities. George Magnus, the former chief economist of the investment bank UBS and now an associate of the London School of Economics’s IDEAS thinktank, said the legislation was potentially damaging for China. “Hong Kong is China’s financial window on the world, and vice versa. The territory lends China capital, clout and kudos. All of this is now at risk.” The consultancy Capital Economics said the bills highlighted a growing feeling that Hong Kong’s autonomy was “deteriorating” and could persuade some firms to look for new accommodation in east Asia. “The bill itself would not directly reduce the territory’s international status unless other countries follow suit,” Capital said this week.


“But it could lead the large number of foreign firms operating in the city to increasingly focus their energy on other Asian financial centres with less uncertain outlooks.” [..] with most experts agreed that Beijing will not back down and allow Carrie Lam’s government to give concessions to the pro-democracy groups, it is hard to see how the situation can be resolved quickly and pull the economy back from a disastrous, prolonged recession. Dan Harris, a lawyer at the Seattle firm of Harris Bricken who has done business in the region for decades, says the ongoing protests mean Hong Kong as an international financial centre is “no more”. “It’s finished as an international business centre because it was based on trust, safety and the rule of law and that’s all gone. Companies are looking to leave. No one is thinking of moving in,” he said.

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There are bank runs, small ones for now.

More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)

[..] with less income from lending and without the full suite of funding options available to much larger peers, the interest rates that China’s legion of small banks may have to offer to attract deposits could further undermine their stability. The irony is that to preserve their critical deposit base, small banks have to hike deposit rates even higher to stand out, in the process sapping their own lifeblood and ensuring their self-destruction, or as we dubbed it earlier, China’s own version of Europe’s “doom loop.” Dai Zhifeng, a banking analyst with Zhongtai Securities, told Reuters the funding difficulties risked distorting small banks’ behavior, making failure even more likely: “Lacking core competitiveness, some of them have turned to high-risk, short-sighted operations,” he said, adding that a liquidity crunch was possible at some institutions.


But for a nation with a $40 trillion financial system, double the size of US banks, and well over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks, here please recall that the 4 largest banks in the world are now Chinese:• ICBC: $4TN • China Construction: $3.4TN • Agri Bank of China: $3.3TN • Bank of China: $3.1TN … the question how many banks will fail in the near future, is especially relevant not only for China but for the entire world. Luckily, we got an answer from none other than China’s central bank, which on Monday said that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain”, with more than 13% of 4,379 lenders now considered “high risk” by the central bank. In other words, take the 5 banks listed above which either suffered a bank run and/or were bailed out or nationalized, and add to them over 500 which are about to suffer the same fate.

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Full control of the process is the only thing the FAA could do. They are co-responsible for the entire crisis.

Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)

The FAA said on Tuesday that it planned to exercise full control over all aspects of certification of Boeing’s 737 Max, even once the plane returns to commercial service. Relatively routine activities, such as certifying individual airplanes as they roll off the production line — as opposed to certifying the overall type of plane — will be performed by FAA officials, an agency spokesperson told Business Insider. Normally, routine day-to-day activities like certifying individual planes of an already certified type — the issuing of Airworthiness Certificates — which are among the final phases of the manufacturing process, are delegated to the planemaker.

Additionally, the likelihood of the plane being cleared to fly in 2019 was cast into further doubt, as was the possibility of Boeing resuming deliveries of completed planes to airline customers before the plane was fully cleared to reenter commercial service, according to The Air Current, an aviation industry publication. Boeing had stated earlier this month that it expected to resume deliveries in December, and for the plane to be fully cleared to fly again in January. However, it was not clear whether airline customers would accept delivery of the plane while it was not allowed to carry passengers.


“The FAA notified Boeing today that the agency will retain authority over the issuance of Airworthiness Certificates for all newly manufactured 737 MAX aircraft,” the FAA said in a statement. “This action is in line with Administrator Steve Dickson’s commitment that the agency fully controls the approval process for the aircraft’s safe return to service.” [..] “The FAA has not completed its review of the 737 MAX aircraft design changes and associated pilot training. The agency will not approve the aircraft for return to service until it has completed numerous rounds of rigorous testing. The FAA will take all the time it needs,” the agency added.

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NATO is a monster that has taken on a life of its own because of arms manufacturers.

Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)

During the Cold War, NATO enjoyed the widespread support of Americans and Europeans, and understandably so. The USSR had 20 divisions in Germany, surrounded West Berlin, and occupied the east bank of the Elbe, within striking distance of the Rhine. But that Cold War is long over. Berlin is the united free capital of Germany. The Warsaw Pact has been dissolved. Its member states have all joined NATO. The Soviet Union split apart into 15 nations. Communist Yugoslavia splintered into seven nations. As a fighting faith, communism is dead in Europe. Why then are we Americans still over there?

Since the Cold War, we have doubled the size of NATO. We have brought in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but not Finland or Sweden. We have committed ourselves to fight for Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro but not Serbia, Bosnia or North Macedonia. Romania and Bulgaria are NATO allies but not Moldova or Belarus. George W. Bush kept us out of the 2008 Russia-Georgia clash over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And Barack Obama refused to send lethal aid to help Ukraine retrieve Crimea, Luhansk or Donetsk, though Sen. John McCain wanted the United States to jump into both fights. In the House Intel Committee’s impeachment hearings, foreign service officers spoke of “Russian aggression” against our Ukrainian “ally” and our “national security” being in peril in this fight.


But when did Ukraine become an ally of the United States whose territorial wars we must sustain with military aid if not military intervention? When did Kyiv’s control of Crimea and the Donbass become critical to the national security of the United States, when Russia has controlled Ukraine almost without interruption from Catherine the Great in the 18th century to Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 20th century? Among the reasons Trump is president is that he raised provocative questions about NATO and Russia left unaddressed for three decades, as U.S. policy has been on cruise control since the Cold War. And these unanswered questions are deadly serious ones.

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Yes, it takes a group of Germans to probe how Americans fell for Browder. And for their own Deep State, which used the story because RussiaRussia.

Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)

There are two versions of what happened to Magnitsky. The more well-known version has all the makings of a conspiracy thriller. It’s been repeated in thousands of articles, TV interviews and in parliamentary hearings. In this version of the story, the man from the Moscow cemetery fought nobly against a corrupt system and was murdered for it. The other version is more complicated. In it, nobody is a hero. The first version has had geopolitical implications. In 2012, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions against Russian officials who were believed to have played a role in his death. The measure was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama after receiving a broad bipartisan majority.

Back then, if there was one thing that politicians on both sides of the aisle could agree on, it was their opposition to a nefarious Russian state. In 2017, Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Act, which enabled the U.S. to impose sanctions against Russia for human rights violations worldwide. The facilitator behind these pieces of legislation is Bill Browder, Magnitsky’s former boss in Moscow. “When he was put to the ultimate test, he became the ultimate hero,” Browder says of Magnitsky. Browder was born in the U.S.. For years, his company, Hermitage Capital Management, was one of the largest foreign investors in Russia. At the time, Browder was an advocate for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the West. That is, until he was prohibited from entering Russia in 2005.

[..] Browder tells a gripping story of how Magnitsky, the whistleblower, is believed to have died. This narrative is his ticket into the political sphere. It’s why he’s received by members of parliament, diplomats and human rights activists alike, often with open arms. They support his push for more legislation because they see it as setting an important precedent: Corrupt regimes all over the world that are violating their citizens’ rights must be held accountable and made to suffer consequences in the form of entry bans and frozen accounts as laid out by the Global Magnitsky Act. The law makes it more difficult, if only slightly, for autocrats to sneer at and ignore human rights.

But there’s another version of the Magnitsky saga, one that is more contradictory than Browder’s telling and more difficult to summarize. The legal documents that underpin it fill dozens of binders, not only in Moscow, but also in London and New York. After sifting through thousands of pages, one might begin to wonder: Did the perfidious conspiracy to murder Magnitsky ever really take place? Or is Browder a charlatan whose story the West was too eager to believe?

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Now dig into Bellingcat’s role in MH17.

Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)

Before we begin I should highlight that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which according to its own cofounder was set up to do overtly what the CIA had previously been doing covertly, namely orchestrating narrative management geared toward the elimination of governments which refuse to comply with US interests. NED is funded directly by the US government, which means that Bellingcat is funded by the US government via an organization set up to promote imperialist regime change agendas. Bellingcat is also funded by Open Society Foundations, another imperialist narrative management operation.

[..] Bellingcat’s latest phenomenal report on how you’re supposed to think about important geopolitical disputes, titled “Emails And Reading Comprehension: OPCW Douma Coverage Misses Crucial Facts”, addresses the leaked OPCW email which was recently published by WikiLeaks and various other outlets revealing that the OPCW omitted crucial information from its Douma report which indicated that a chemical weapons attack was unlikely to have occurred. I encourage you to go and check out Bellingcat’s new masterpiece for yourself. Don’t worry about giving them clicks; that’s not where they get their money.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bellingcat’s article is that at no point does it even attempt to address the actual inflammatory comments within it, such as the OPCW whistleblower’s assertion that the samples tested where a chlorine gas attack is alleged to have occurred in April 2018 contained levels of chlorinated organic compounds which were so low that it would be unreasonable to claim with any confidence that a chlorine gas attack had occurred at all. The whistleblower writes in the leaked email to the OPCW cabinet chief that the levels “were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1–2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.”

As we discussed previously, early skeptics of the establishment Douma narrative highlighted the bizarre fact that when the OPCW published its Interim Report in July of last year its report contained no information about the levels at which the chlorinated organic chemicals occurred. Chlorinated organic chemicals occur at trace levels in any industrialized area, so they are only indicative of a chlorine gas attack when samples test at high levels. The email said they didn’t. The OPCW omitted this in both its Interim and Final Reports. The whistleblower told journalist Jonathan Steele that the levels found “were comparable to and even lower than those given in the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on recommended permitted levels of trichlorophenol and other COCs in drinking water.”

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You go George.

A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

The grand old Duke of York sleeps tonight on a feather pillow in a royal palace. Julian Assange, the publisher of the century sleeps in the hell of Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s own Guantanamo Bay. The Duke of York lied about the length duration and nature of his relationship with the presumed deceased child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Julian Assange told the truth about the high crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful during times of war and peace. The FBI need to speak to the Queen’s favorite son, but no power on earth will be deployed to make him testify about what he might have seen, or even have participated in, at the townhouse in Manhattan, a Sodom and Gomorrah of our times.

The same US Justice system has caused the cruel incarceration of Assange and his Kafkaesque entrapment in an extradition saga which may last for years – if he doesn’t die before it is over as no less than 60 doctors have recently warned he may well do. The US-UK extradition arrangements may be the most unequal treaty ever concluded by Her Majesty’s ministers. In this case the former Blair government Home Secretary David Blunkett, a blind man who could, nonetheless, see exactly what he was doing. In essence extradition from Britain to the US became virtually on request without the slightest need to show just cause. But not vice versa. It would be easier to pull a camel through the eye of a needle than for Britain to extradite a US citizen to face justice in the UK.

I was a member of the British Parliament at the time this treaty was signed. Not that this mattered a jot or tittle. The Treaty was signed during the Summer Recess when no Parliament was sitting and through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Only when it was already in operation was I even able to oppose the extradition of its first victims – alleged City of London financial fraudsters, as well as a fitted-up “terrorist” London man Babar Ahmad. Under the old extradition rules neither case could have satisfied the previous requirement to produce prima facia evidence sufficient to persuade a British judge. Under the new Treaty it was easy peasy lemon squeezy. And off they went.

Prince Andrew will face no such ordeal albeit now banished from Royal Circles and effectively reduced to the ranks, his epaulettes ripped off his glittering array of obscure medals turned to scrap metal on his tunic. Although accused of sexual abuse of a teenager and with an admitted close relationship to the alleged procurer of underage female victims, Ghislaine Maxwell, in whose London home it is alleged one of the sexual encounters took place – the US will never require the Prince to give evidence and the UK will never offer him up. Assange, who was falsely accused of rape, has spent virtually the last decade locked up in one form or other of incarceration. And faces up to 175 years of prison time, if successfully extradited.

It is a tale of two cities – Buckingham Palace and Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison. A tale of two individuals – one now a proven liar and one a well attested truth-teller. A tale of two fates. The Prince who became a moral pauper, the other an impecunious journalist who became a moral giant. It is a tale of our times.

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Paul Gauguin A seashore 1887

 

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)
‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)
Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)
No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)
New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)
James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)
Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)
Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

 

 

Did they plan this in advance?

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear U.S. troops from Turkey’s path. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire. He also said he would travel to the region soon to try to mediate the crisis. Pence said Trump had been firm with Erdogan on the phone. “The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Pence told reporters.

Turkey launched a cross-border operation into northern Syria on Wednesday just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region. Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism that this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely seen as giving Erdogan a green light for his operation. With lawmakers in the U.S. Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.


In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” said Trump.

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The New York Times had no credibility left anyway.

‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)

A damning report by the New York Times, which accused Russia of bombing four UN-protected hospitals in Syria, is a product of misinformation by Western intelligence services and jihadists, the Russian military said. On Sunday, the leading US newspaper said it had irrefutable proof that Russian warplanes had bombed four sites in Syria, which it knew to be locations of civilian hospitals. The accusation stems from analysis of social media, interviews with witnesses, data provided by local plane spotters and records of communications of the Russian military deployed in Syria. The bombings, which happened on May 5 and 6, are just a faction of attacks on civilian infrastructure, for which Moscow carries responsibility, the newspaper alleged.

Responding to the accusation on Monday, the Russian military said Times report was flawed for several reasons, including failure to explain that Idlib Governorate, where the four alleged bombings took place, lives under rule of brutal jihadists. That detail affects the entire narrative, indicating its flawed sourcing. “Gadgets, modern radio scanners, protected notebooks, internet connection are all things that the local civilian population simply cannot afford. They are more interested in daily surviving under the yoke of the terrorists,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He was referring to the equipment used by “plane spotters”, who provided their data to Times.


The newspaper said those observers “insisted on anonymity for their safety”, but the Russian military says they shouldn’t have bothered and identified them as the people behind a “combat intelligence system” based on equipment developed by a US company called Hala Systems. The system known as Sentry is a collection of suitcase-sized sensors connected into a network plus an AI-based algorithm, which uses signals from those sensors as well as social media data to analyze and predict airstrikes in Idlib. Hala Systems says it’s a for-profit company that develops and operates the system on grants from governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark the United States, and Germany.

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Electable?

Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)

Bernie Sanders released a proposal today that would gradually shift 20 percent of corporate equity into funds owned and controlled by the workers in each company. The plan, which would apply to all publicly-traded companies and large closely-held companies, would move 2 percent of corporate stock into worker funds each year for a decade. Once the shares are transferred into the funds, workers would begin receiving dividends and have the ability to exercise the voting rights of the shares, including the right to vote on corporate board elections and on shareholder resolutions. Sanders’s plan is by far the most radical worker ownership proposal put forward by a presidential candidate in recent memory.

By last count, the market value of publicly-traded domestic companies stood at $35.6 trillion. This means that the Sanders plan would shift at least $7.1 trillion of corporate equity into worker funds by gradually diluting the value of previously-issued corporate stock. Those who stand to “lose” from the proposal are the incumbent owners of corporate equity, which are overwhelmingly affluent people. At present, the top 10 percent of families own around 86.4 percent of corporate equities and mutual fund shares, with the top one percent owning 52 percent by themselves.


Closely-held businesses, which will also be affected by the scheme if they are large enough, have similarly concentrated ownership, with the top 10 percent of families owning 87.5 percent of private business equity and the top one percent of families owning 57.5 percent of it. Of course, these incumbent owners will not actually lose anything in an absolute sense. The average historical return of the US stock market has been 9.8 percent per year, while the average return of the last 10 years has been just over 13 percent. The effect of the two percent share issuances is to knock the total rate of return down by two percentage points, meaning that incumbent owners still get richer year-over-year, just less so than they would absent the Sanders plan.

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Well, they’re on oil company. What did you expect?

No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)

Royal Dutch Shell still sees abundant opportunity to make money from oil and gas in coming decades even as investors and governments increase pressure on energy companies over climate change, its chief executive said. But in an interview with Reuters, Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon the world’s second-largest listed energy company due partly to what he called the “demonisation” of oil and gas and “unjustified” worries that its business model was unsustainable. The 61-year-old Dutch executive in recent years became one of the sector’s most prominent voices advocating action over global warming in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Shell, which supplies around 3% of the world’s energy, set out in 2017 a plan to halve the intensity of its greenhouse emissions by the middle of the century, based in large part on building one of the world’s biggest power businesses. Still, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell’s operations and the products it sells rose by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018. A defiant van Beurden rejected a rising chorus from climate activists and parts of the investor community to transform radically the 112-year-old Anglo-Dutch company’s traditional business model. “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it,” van Beurden said. “We have no choice” but to invest in long-life projects, he added.

[..][ “We can sustain an upstream portfolio all the way into the 2030s if there is an economic rationale for doing that and a societal rationale for doing that,” van Beurden said. “Fortunately enough, we have more of those than we have money to spend on them.” Van Beurden rejected as a “red herring” arguments that Shell’s oil and gas reserves, which can sustain its current production for around eight years, would be economically unviable, or stranded, in the future. A lack of investment in oil and gas projects could lead to a supply shortage and result in price spikes, he said. “One of the bigger risks is not so much that we will become dinosaurs because we are still investing in oil and gas when there is no need for it anymore. A bigger risk is prematurely turning your back on oil and gas.”


Shell plans to increase its annual spending to around $32 billion by 2025 from the current $25 billion, with up to one tenth allocated to renewables and the power business. The company, the world’s largest dividend payer, plans to return $125 billion to shareholders in the five years to 2025.

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“..banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.”

New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)

Germany has finalised rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks that, in a snub to the United States, will not exclude China’s Huawei Technologies. Government officials confirmed that Germany’s so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but that no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors. “We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained ‘back doors’ that would enable China to spy on other countries.


German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks. The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead. U.S. officials have also argued that, under China’s national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.

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No kidding: “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”

James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)

Losing a job and having your career go up in flames can be scarring. But the smoldering embers sometimes give forth to fertile new soil from which to start anew. Few have had a more public and dramatic firing than former-FBI director James Comey, who President Donald Trump infamously and suddenly ousted in 2017 amid inquiries into Russian meddling and suspicions that he did not have Comey’s loyalty. That fateful decision sent Comey’s law-enforcement career up in smoke — and precipitated the special-counsel investigation by Robert Mueller — but also laid the groundwork to launch a lucrative second-act in media, including six-figure speaking fees, prestigious writing contracts, a TV series, and a multimillion dollar book deal.

In a profile of his post-FBI life by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times, Comey asserts his primary preoccupation now, as a self-described “unemployed celebrity,” is stopping Trump. This vocation, while lacking the official powers of his former post in the FBI, appears well-suited for raking in piles of cash. Comey may have lost a roughly $170,000 annual salary as FBI director, but now he earns as much in a single speaking engagement. He’s been traveling the country giving six-figure paid speeches on leadership, as well as gratis appearances at universities, according to the NYT. “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”


Comey recently gave talks at Yale, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the Sacramento Speaker Series, and he’s due to speak at “Politicon” in Nashville later this month. He also has a contract to write opinion columns for The Washington Post, according to the NYT. And then there’s the forthcoming CBS Studios miniseries, in which he’ll be portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels. The series is based on Comey’s bestselling 2018 book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” which reportedly netted him millions as well. Of course, Comey was already a multimillionaire before accepting the job in 2013 as FBI director under President Barack Obama. In financial filings, he reported a net worth of $11 million, not including an anticipated $3 million payout from hedge-fund giant Bridgewater Associates, where Comey spent a couple years as general counsel.

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Whitney Webb continues her series.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)

Media reports cite Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell as having developed a close relationship at least by February 2000, when Andrew had spent a week at Epstein’s controversial New York penthouse at 9 East 71st Street. One report published in 2000 by London’s Sunday Times claimed that the two were introduced by Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, often referred to as “Fergie” in the press, and further claims that this introduction had taken place several years prior. Epstein is alleged to have first been introduced to Andrew via Maxwell in 1999. Years after this introduction was made, Jeffrey Epstein would provide financial assistance to Ferguson at Prince Andrew’s behest by paying Ferguson’s former personal assistant £15,000, allegedly in order to allow for “a wider restructuring of Sarah’s £5 million debts to take place,” according to The Telegraph.

Oddly, by April of that year, Maxwell and Prince Andrew were spotted by their fellow diners at a posh New York restaurant holding hands, prompting both the Prince and Maxwell to claim that their relationship was merely “platonic.” However, a separate report from 2007 in the Evening Standard refers to Maxwell as one of Prince Andrew’s former girlfriends. Within a year of their close relationship having become public, Andrew and Ghislaine were reported to have gone on eight different vacations together, of which Epstein accompanied them for five. Andrew also brought Maxwell and Epstein to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 2000 as his personal guests.


Several reports from this period also provide interesting insight into Maxwell’s business activities and private life. One article from 2000, published in London’s Sunday Times, states that “for all her high-profile appearances on Manhattan’s A-List merry-go-round, she [Maxwell] is secretive to the point of paranoia and her business affairs are deeply mysterious.” It goes on to say that Maxwell “has been building a business empire as opaque as father’s” — referencing Robert Maxwell’s business empire, which included multiple front companies for Israeli intelligence — and adds that “her office in Manhattan refuses to confirm even the nature or the name of her business.”

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A slightly different take.

Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)

The new slogans of Hong Kong’s black bloc – a mob on a rampage connected to the black shirt protestors – made their first appearance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, scrawled on walls in Kowloon. Decoding the slogans is essential to understand the mindless street violence that was unleashed even before the anti-mask law passed by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) went into effect at midnight on Friday, October 4. By the way, the anti-mask law is the sort of measure that was authorized by the 1922 British colonial Emergency Regulations Ordnance, which granted the city government the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Perhaps the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was unaware of this fine lineage when she commented that the law “only intensifies concern over freedom of expression.” And it is probably safe to assume that neither she nor other virulent opponents of the law know that a very similar anti-mask law was enacted in Canada on June 19, 2013. More likely to be informed is Hong Kong garment and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, billionaire publisher of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the city’s Chinese Communist Party critic-in-chief and highly visible interlocutor of official Washington, DC, notables such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and ex-National Security Council head John Bolton.


On September 6, before the onset of the deranged vandalism and violence that have defined Hong Kong “pro-democracy protests” over the past several weeks, Lai spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle from his Kowloon home. He pronounced himself convinced that – if protests turned violent China would have no choice but to send People’s Armed Police units from Shenzen into Hong Kong to put down unrest. “That,” he said on Bloomberg TV, “will be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre and that will bring in the whole world against China….. Hong Kong will be done, and … China will be done, too.”

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Science fights poverty?! Sounds like absolute BS to me. I asked Steve Keen if he knows the winners. He replied:

“No. Experimental economics is the latest fad, though it’s not supposed to encompass real world experiments like the IMF’s program for Argentina.”

Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

U.S.-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for work fighting poverty that has helped millions of children by favoring practical steps over theory. French-American Duflo becomes only the second woman to win the economics prize in its 50-year history, as well as the youngest at 46. She shared the award equally with Indian-born American Banerjee and Kremer, also of the United States. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work had shown how poverty could be addressed by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, and then testing solutions in the field.

It said the results of their studies and field experiments had ranged from helping millions of Indian schoolchildren with remedial tutoring to encouraging governments around the world to increase funding for preventative medicine. “It starts from the idea that the poor are often reduced to caricatures and even the people that try to help them do not actually understand what are the deep roots of (their) problems,” Duflo told reporters in Stockholm by telephone. “What we try to do in our approach is to say, ‘Look, let’s try to unpack the problems one-by-one and address them as rigorously and scientifically as possible’,” she added.


The team pioneered “randomized controlled trials”, or RCTs, in economics. Long used in fields such as medicine, an RCT could for example take two groups of people and study what difference a treatment makes on one group while the other group is only given a placebo. Applied to development economics, such field experiments found for example that providing more textbooks and free school meals had only small effects, while targeting help for weak students made a big difference to overall educational levels. “It’s a prize not just for us but for the whole movement,” Banerjee later told a joint news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they both work. Kremer is a researcher at Harvard University.

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When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set


Lin Yutang

 

 

 

Sep 012019
 


Edouard Vuillard The two sisters 1899

 

Hong Kong Protesters Plan To Disrupt Airport After Night Of Chaos (R.)
The Sheer Scale Of The Crisis Facing Britain’s Decrepit Constitution (O.)
How A Secret Plan To Close Parliament Sparked Uproar Across Britain (O.)
British PM Johnson Challenges Lawmakers To Deliver Brexit (R.)
EU’s Barnier Not Optimistic About Avoiding A No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Lagarde Says Negative Rates Have Helped Europe More Than They’ve Hurt (MW)
Bianco Warns “Negative Rates Are Extremely Toxic” (Gisiger)
Low Interest Rates Compound The Big Problems Facing Pension Funds (MW)
Bernie Sanders Proposes Canceling $81 Billion US Medical Debt (R.)
Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange (MPN)
Fifty Shades of Epstein (Hope Kesselring)

 

 

Get the parties involved around a table before people get killed.

Hong Kong Protesters Plan To Disrupt Airport After Night Of Chaos (R.)

Pro-democracy demonstrators planned on Sunday to choke travel routes to Hong Kong’s international airport after a chaotic night of running battles between police and masked protesters, the latest wave of unrest to hit the Chinese-ruled city. Protest organizers have urged the public to overwhelm road and rail links to the airport, one of the world’s busiest, on Sunday and Monday, potentially disrupting flights. People would begin gathering at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT), protest groups said. The airport closed one of its car parks and advised passengers to use public transport, without giving a reason.

A similar so-called “stress test” of the airport last weekend failed to gain momentum. Three weeks ago, some flights were delayed or canceled after protesters swarmed the airport. Late on Saturday and into the early hours, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters threw petrol bombs, escalating clashes that have plunged the Asian financial center into its worst political crisis in decades. As government helicopters hovered overhead, protesters who had been banned from demonstrating set fires in the streets and threw bricks at police near government offices and Chinese military headquarters.

Officers fired two warning shots in the air to scare off a group of protesters who had them surrounded and were trying to steal their pistols, the police said, only the second time live rounds have been used in more than three months of unrest. Police sprayed demonstrators with blue-dyed water to make it easier to identify them later. Parts of the metro system ground to a halt as skirmishes spread to the subway, with television showing images of people being beaten as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas. Police said they arrested 40 people inside Prince Edward metro station on suspicion of obstructing officers, unlawful assembly and criminal damage. Three stations stayed shut on Sunday.

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“..the eight-word British constitution established in 1689 – What The Crown Assents In Parliament Is Law – is a decaying, time-worn construct on which to protect and advance today’s democracy..”

The Sheer Scale Of The Crisis Facing Britain’s Decrepit Constitution (O.)

To prorogue parliament for no better reason than to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of a no-deal Brexit may have been an intolerable abuse of power, and an affront to democracy, but in Britain it is constitutionally possible. As a result, for all the threats of judicial review and court actions, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge. For the prime minister controls everything, from the business of the House of Commons to the ability to prorogue it. He or she is lent monarchial sovereignty, the same sovereignty that Charles 1 tried to justify because the monarch was supposedly God’s representative on Earth: the divine right of kings, now transmuted into the divine right of Boris.

Part of the-then cleverness of the 17th-century deal was that it co-opted the crown into being the above-the-fray, holder-of-the-ring of proper parliamentary procedure and process. But today, that capacity has evaporated. So when Jacob Rees-Mogg travelled to Balmoral last week to ask the Queen to prorogue parliament, there was virtually no prospect of her refusing – as an elected head of state might have done. She did have the option of saying that on such a controversial use of prerogative power she wanted to go beyond the minimum quorate of three for a privy council meeting (the chief whip and leader of the House of Lords accompanied Rees-Mogg on a separate plane to Balmoral to avoid suspicion) and call for a full meeting including former ministers from other parties, purportedly the constitutional forum to advise her on use of the royal prerogative.

But that would have been seen as a political act. She folded. Exposed as a constitutional cipher, the case for an elected head of state has suddenly become unanswerable. It is but one of the many constitutional earthquakes triggered by Brexit whose aftershocks will be felt for decades. Even the character of the referendum itself is testament to our lack of a constitution. No super-majority was required for this fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with Europe, any more than it was for the Scottish referendum: amazingly, a 42-year and a 300-year union could be ripped apart by a majority of one citizen’s vote.

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It is a peculiar chain of events no matter what you think of it.

How A Secret Plan To Close Parliament Sparked Uproar Across Britain (O.)

For much of August the plan to shut down parliament for five weeks was kept a very tight secret at the heart of government. For the few Whitehall officials who were made aware of it early on, however, it was not difficult to decipher whose fingerprints were all over it. It was clear to that small group that the bombshell idea had been hatched by Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, and No 10’s director of legislative affairs, Nikki da Costa. Cummings has long been known at Westminster for his disdain for Whitehall and the way the entire system of British government works. He doesn’t mince his words or tolerate those he regards as fools. “If he meets resistance from ministers or officials he will just tell them to fuck off, whoever they are,” said one Whitehall source, who has worked with him.

[..] Last Friday an email between a Whitehall official and No 10 was leaked to this newspaper. It made clear that Johnson had approached Cox for advice on a five-week suspension from around 9 September to 14 October. Cox’s initial view, the correspondence made clear, was that it would probably be legal, unless various court actions being planned by Remainers to block prorogation were successful. Downing Street’s official response when asked about the leak was, at first, muted. “No 10 officials ask for legal and policy advice every day,” said a government source.

But when the Observer story broke last Saturday evening, as Johnson and his team were in Biarritz for the G7 summit preparing for meetings with US president Donald Trump and EU council president Donald Tusk the next day, Downing Street changed tack and tried to dismiss the story in a way that was to backfire spectacularly. Johnson’s press team issued a statement saying that “the claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false”. It did not deny that the attorney general had been consulted about prorogation but its intent was clear: to create the impression that shutting down parliament was not going to happen.

But less than 72 hours later more leaks were to follow from people inside the government machine to media organisations saying that the prime minister was to make an announcement about prorogation on Wednesday morning. After the BBC got wind of the new leaks, some senior staff were initially dubious that they were genuine, given No 10’s previous denials. When Johnson announced the exact same plan on which his team had poured buckets of cold water four days earlier, large sections of the media, as well as MPs and much of the country, were understandably furious.

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Johnson is just a figurehead.

British PM Johnson Challenges Lawmakers To Deliver Brexit (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson challenged lawmakers to deliver on the Brexit vote and not thwart his plans to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31. Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, but opposition lawmakers – and several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservatives – want to act to rule out a no deal Brexit when parliament returns from recess on Tuesday. Previous votes have indicated a majority in parliament opposing a no-deal Brexit, but in a newspaper interview, Johnson said that backing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn risked there being no Brexit at all.


“The fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum? Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people — and plunge this country into chaos?,” Johnson told the Sunday Times. “Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda? That’s the choice.”

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He’s seen enough.

EU’s Barnier Not Optimistic About Avoiding A No-Deal Brexit (R.)

The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario as the EU could not meet Britain’s demands that the backstop for the Irish border is removed from the withdrawal agreement. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Barnier said that the so-called “backstop” had to stay to protect the integrity of the EU’s single market while ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland. “I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination,” Barnier said, according to extracts of his article on the newspaper’s front page.


“The backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31. Opposition lawmakers plan to act next week to stop no-deal in parliament. Writing in the same newspaper, Johnson’s de facto deputy Michael Gove said that to remove the option of a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 would “diminish” the “chances of securing changes” to the Brexit deal that could get it passed through parliament.

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Translation: the new ECB head does not have confidence in free markets. She thinks central bankers can do a better job.

Lagarde Says Negative Rates Have Helped Europe More Than They’ve Hurt (MW)

The next head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, appears to be as much of a fan of negative interest rates as the current chief, Mario Draghi. In written answers provided to the European Parliament that were released on Thursday, Lagarde said negative interest rates have helped Europe. The ECB’s deposit rate is negative 0.4%. “On the one hand, banks may decide to pass the negative deposit rate on to depositors, lowering the interest rates the latter get on their savings,” she wrote. “On the other hand, the same depositors are also consumers, workers, and borrowers. As such they benefit from stronger economic momentum, lower unemployment and lower borrowing costs.


“All things considered, in the absence of the unconventional monetary policy adopted by the ECB – including the introduction of negative interest rates – euro area citizens would be, overall, worse off.” European banks have complained about the impact on profitability, but even there the current managing director of the International Monetary Fund defended the move. “With regard to the impact of negative rates on banks’ profitability, empirical analysis suggests that the negative effects on banks’ net interest income have been so far more than offset by the benefits from more bank lending and lower costs for provisions and impairments due to the better macroeconomic environment, which to a significant extent is a result of accommodative monetary policy,” she wrote.

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“..Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.”

Bianco Warns “Negative Rates Are Extremely Toxic” (Gisiger)

Jim Bianco, President of Bianco Research, cautions against evermore unconventional monetary policy interventions. He fears that the global slowdown is going to get worse and he spots opportunities in long-term bonds and gold. The global economy is on the brink: Europe is headed for recession, Japan as well and China’s growth rate is the slowest in almost thirty years. Only the economy in the United States seems to hold up. But for how long? «We live in a global world and if Japan and Europe are struggling and the world has a problem it’s going to come to the US eventually», says Jim Bianco. According to the internationally renowned macro strategist, the biggest threat to the US economy is the inverted yield curve.

«This is the market’s way of saying the Federal Funds Rate is too high and must come down», Mr. Bianco is convinced. Against this backdrop, the founder and President of Chicago based Bianco Research argues that the Federal Reserve should cut its target rate by 50 basis points at the next FOMC meeting. He also cautions against introducing negative interest rates in the United States during the next recession because in his view that would cripple the global financial system.

[..] First, the trade and currency wars where the situation reminds me somewhat of «This Is Spinal Tap». It’s a cult satire movie from the eighties about a rock band and they coined the phrase «up to eleven» because that’s how high their amplifier went. So the expression «turning it up to eleven» refers to the act of taking something to an extreme. I’m saying this because I think Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.

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Pension funds are dead.

Low Interest Rates Compound The Big Problems Facing Pension Funds (MW)

The largest public pension funds have over $1 trillion in aggregate unfunded liabilities. Low interest rates are going to make it harder for these and other pension plans to rely on investment returns alone to meet their obligations to retirees. Interest rates in the U.S. have been declining for over 20 years, and short-term rates have been hovering close to zero over the last decade. Negative interest rates in Japan and Europe and mounting expectations of rate cuts by the Federal Reserve have expanded the pool of bonds with negative yields to more than $16 trillion, or around 27% of the global bond market. Initially, low interest rates are good for asset prices.

Simplistically, this is because investors seeking similar returns as before are now forced to take capital that they would have otherwise invested in safe government bonds and deploy it into riskier assets (equities, high yield bonds, etc.), thereby driving up prices of these assets. In addition to stronger economic growth coming out of the 2008 financial crisis, this is one of the factors leading to strong performance of equities over the past decade. However, going forward it is unlikely that asset returns are going to be similar to what we witnessed over the last decade. One of the reasons is that risky asset returns are generally priced as a spread over risk-free real returns (i.e. inflation-adjusted returns). This makes intuitive sense, as investors would demand additional return for taking on risk.

If the risk-free rate is low, and there is high demand for risky assets, then the total investment return (risk free rate + risk premia/spread) will likely be lower than in a scenario with higher interest rates, all else being equal. According to Voya Investment Management’s capital market assumptions, expected returns for equities over the next 10 years is likely to be around 1.50 percentage points to 3.3 percentage points lower than assumptions in 2013.

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Like with student debt, helping only some people appears counter-productive.

Bernie Sanders Proposes Canceling $81 Billion US Medical Debt (R.)

U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders proposed a plan on Saturday to cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt for Americans, but offered no details on how it would be financed. Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont, said in a statement that under his plan, the government would negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills that have been reported to credit agencies. The proposal, he said, would also repeal some elements of the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill and allow other existing and future medical debt to be discharged. “In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick,” said Sanders.


“That is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of seeing over 500,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay.” According to Sanders, medical debt is the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy, with more than half a million Americans filing due to medical expenses each year. He said the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill made it difficult to discharge medical debt by imposing strict means tests and eliminated fundamental consumer protections for Americans. “It also trapped families with medical debt in long-term poverty, mandated that they pay for credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy, and increased the need for expensive legal services when filing a case for medical bankruptcy,” the senator said.

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“..the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate..”

Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange (MPN)

The role of journalism in a democracy is publishing information that holds the powerful to account — the kind of information that empowers the public to become more engaged citizens in their communities so that we can vote in representatives that work in the interest of “we the people.” There is perhaps no better example of watchdog journalism that holds the powerful to account and exposes their corruption than that of WikiLeaks, which exposed to the world evidence of widespread war crimes the U.S. military was committing in Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists; showed that the U.S. government and large corporations were using private intelligence agencies to spy on activists and protesters; and revealed how the military hid tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Red Cross inspectors.

It’s this kind of real journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect but engaging in it has instead made WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange the target of a massive smear campaign for the last several years — including false claims that Assange is working with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and hackers, as well as open calls by corporate media pundits for him to be assassinated. The allegations that Assange conspired with Putin to undermine the 2016 election and American democracy as a whole fell completely flat earlier this month when a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this case as “factually implausible,” with the judge noting that at no point does the prosecution’s “threadbare” argument show “any facts” at all, and concluding that the idea that Assange conspired with Russia against the Democratic Party or America is “entirely divorced from the facts.”


[..] It is important to ask ourselves what Julian Assange’s real crime is. In an era, dubbed the Information Age, where the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate, Assange worked to prevent that imbalance from becoming a rout, and stuck like a bone in the throat of the mighty.

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Interesting take for sure.

Fifty Shades of Epstein (Hope Kesselring)

A few weeks ago, half the top ten Amazon best sellers in romantic erotica were based around the trope of the BDSM billionaire, with Grey by E. L. James holding firm in the top ten. In the world of erotic romance, the 50 Shades of Grey series has been a continuous presence for over seven years. Thousands of riffs on the sexy and sadistic billionaire exist: Russian billionaire, billionaire blackmailer, billionaire stepbrother. I’m not trying to kink shame, but it would take a lot of money to convince me to write detailed descriptions of torture sessions in a gilded dungeon. This is especially true in the shadow of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death. Mental and sexual abuse by an obscenely wealthy man now just seems, well, obscene.


I should point out that James’ character, Christian Grey, strikes me as more a domestic abuser than a real BDSM enthusiast. He is a billionaire in the tech industry who fixates on Ana, a 21-year old virgin. He puts surveillance software on her phone. He harasses her to sign a submissive’s contract, and even though she never signs it, he still treats her like a sex slave. He manipulates Ana into doing sex acts for which she doesn’t give consent. Blatant consumerism sits on the page in stark contrast to real life. 50 Shades of Grey eroticizes money and abuse. The writing is universally panned and mocked by critics, yet it’s sold 125 million copies. How in the world of publishing did it even come to be? Let’s go back to 2008. That year the economy was melting down, Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to a felony sex offense, and the Twilight series of vampire romance novels for teen girls were bestsellers.

Twilight was a young adult twist on the long-popular vampire romance, which had flourished in that market since Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire appeared. Probably some of Epstein’s victims read the Twilight books. 50 Shades of Grey marks a shift in the erotic romance genre from vampires to billionaires. In 2009, E. L. James started publishing her version of Twilight on fanfiction websites, churning out a chapter every couple of days. Master of the Universe, as it was called then, was popular but criticized for being too racy, so she moved it to her own website and renamed the characters. James didn’t know it yet, but she was about to be catapulted to international fame by some upper middle class moms in the suburbs of New York City.


[..] In the autumn of 2011, news about Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began in reaction to the deeds of the predatory class, dominated headlines. Posters portrayed the 1% as greedy Monopoly men, far from sexy. Occupy protesters had the media’s attention for a short time before the idea was squashed. That November, Jeffrey Epstein registered as a sex offender in New York after completing his jail term and moving back into his Manhattan mansion, free to continue abusing girls. 2012 was E. L. James’ year. A prominent lifestyle blog (started by an NYU communications graduate married to a talent manager) promoted James’ fanfiction novel as sexually liberating to fashion-conscious moms in upscale suburban New York. James got a book deal and “mommy porn” was born. Paperbacks with necktie covers appeared on bookshelves and in beach bags everywhere.

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