Aug 032020
 


W. Eugene Smith Orson Welles 1941

 

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)
Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)
How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)
White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)
The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)
Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)
Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)
America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)
White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)
Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)
How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

 

 

Every single thing about the US will from now on in evolve around party politics. But not in any way that you’ve ever seen.

 

 

Sunday numbers were quite low. But not every state and country reports anymore in the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Hunt Sweden

 

 

They would like that, but debates are a solid tradition. So they’ll try for just the one debate, they’ll try for a format that includes a teleprompter, they’ll try for factcheckers that can interrupt Trump all the time in the same way the House did with Bill Barr.

This piece even implies that Trump beat Hillary only because he was telling lies all the time.

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)

Democratic strategists and supporters of Vice President Joe Biden are urging him not to debate President Donald Trump in the lead-up to Election Day, citing Trump’s publicity stunts and disregard for the rules in 2016. Meanwhile Biden backers, including some conservatives, applauded the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan for cancelling their scheduled debates over COVID-19 concerns. Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart joined several Democratic Party strategists in bluntly advising Biden, “whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.” Speaking on CNN Saturday, Lockhart said Trump shouldn’t be given another platform which will enable him to “repeat lies,” which he said occurred in the 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton.

The Trump campaign has pushed the other way and urged the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which officially oversees the events, to hold even more debates. “We saw in the debates in 2016 Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues, every point she made was more honest and bested Trump,” Lockhart told CNN. “But Trump came out of the debates doing better I think because he just kept repeating the same old lies: ‘we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,’ ‘we’re going to keep all those Mexican rapists out of the country,’ and ‘we’re going to make great trade deals’ — none of these things have come to pass.” “Giving him that national forum to continue to spout — get him to 21,000 or 22,000 lies — I think just isn’t worth it for the Democrats or for Biden,” Lockhart continued.

Several opinion columns published in recent months have called for an outright cancellation of the debates, describing them — alongside the party conventions — as outdated political rituals designed purely for TV ratings. Longtime Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Zac Petkanas agreed with calls for Biden to back out of any and all debates with Trump in the coming months. As it stands currently, there are three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled between September 29 and October 22. “Biden shouldn’t feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all. This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate,” Petkanas tweeted last week, expressing his “opinion that no one asked for.”

Mussolini

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“The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

Thomas Frank published What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004. His new book is The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism.

Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)

The new conception of populism, as popularized by historians like Richard Hofstadter, pitted the common run of voters against a growing class of elite-educated managerial professionals, philosopher-kings who set correct policy for the ignorant masses. The model of enlightened government for this new “technocratic” class of “consensus thinkers” was John Kennedy’s “Camelot” cabinet of Experts in Shirtsleeves, with Robert McNamara’s corporatized Pentagon their Shining Bureaucracy on a Hill. This vision of ideal democracy has dominated mainstream press discourse for almost seventy years.

Since the establishment of this template, Frank notes, “virtually everyone who writes on the subject agrees that populism is ‘anti-pluralist,’ by which they mean that it is racist or sexist or discriminatory in some way… Populism’s hatred for ‘the elite,’ meanwhile, is thought to be merely a fig leaf for this ugly intolerance.” Trump and Bernie Sanders both got hit with every cliché described in Frank’s book. Both were depicted as xenophobic, bigoted, emotion-laden, resistant to modernity, susceptible to foreign influence, and captured by “unrealistic” ideas they lacked the expertise to implement. At the conclusion of The People, No, Frank sums up the book’s obvious subtext, seeming almost to apologize for its implications:

“My point here is not to suggest that Trump is a “very stable genius,” as he likes to say, or that he led a genuine populist insurgency; in my opinion, he isn’t and he didn’t. What I mean to show is that the message of anti-populism is the same as ever: the lower orders, it insists, are driven by irrationality, bigotry, authoritarianism, and hate; democracy is a problem because it gives such people a voice. The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

[..] The book’s concept also reflects the Sovietish reality of post-Trump media, which is now dotted with so many perilous taboos that it sometimes seems there’s no way to get audiences to see certain truths except indirectly, or via metaphor. The average blue-state media consumer by 2020 has ingested so much propaganda about Trump (and Sanders, for that matter) that he or she will be almost immune to the damning narratives in this book. Protesting, “But Trump is a racist,” they won’t see the real point – that these furious propaganda campaigns that have been repeated almost word for word dating back to the 1890s are aimed at voters, not politicians.

In the eighties and nineties, TV producers and newspaper editors established the ironclad rule of never showing audiences pictures of urban poverty, unless it was being chased by cops. In the 2010s the press began to cartoonize the “white working class” in a distantly similar way. This began before Trump. As Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone after the 2016 election, when the small-town American saw himself or herself on TV, it was always “a caricature. Some idiot. Or maybe some criminal, some white working-class guy who has just stabbed three people.”

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But there’s still only one war party, which sits its fat ass across the aisles.

“Glenn Greenwald gave an hour-long lecture on how America’s billionaires control the U.S. Government..”

How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)

The Intercept, 9 July 2020 – 2:45: There is “this huge cleavage between how members of Congress present themselves, their imagery and rhetoric and branding, what they present to the voters, on the one hand, and the reality of what they do in the bowels of Congress and the underbelly of Congressional proceedings, on the other. Most of the constituents back in their home districts have no idea what it is that the people they’ve voted for have been doing, and this gap between belief and reality is enormous.” Four crucial military-budget amendments were debated in the House just now, as follows: • to block Trump from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. • to block Trump from withdrawing 10,000 troops from Germany • to limit U.S. assistance to the Sauds’ bombing of Yemen • to require Trump to explain why he wants to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty

On all four issues, the pro-imperialist position prevailed in nearly unanimous votes — overwhelming in both Parties. Dick Cheney’s daughter, Republican Liz Cheney, dominated the debates, though the House of Representatives is now led by Democrats, not Republicans. Greenwald (citing other investigators) documents that the U.S. news-media are in the business of deceiving the voters to believe that there are fundamental differences between the Parties. “The extent to which they clash is wildly exaggerated” by the press (in order to pump up the percentages of Americans who vote, so as to maintain, both domestically and internationally, the lie that America is a democracy — actually represents the interests of the voters).

16:00: The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — which writes the nearly $750B annual Pentagon budget — is the veteran (23 years) House Democrat Adam Smith of Boeing’s Washington State. “The majority of his district are people of color.” He’s “clearly a pro-war hawk” a consistent neoconservative, voted to invade Iraq and all the rest. “This is whom Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have chosen to head the House Armed Services Committee — someone with this record.” He is “the single most influential member of Congress when it comes to shaping military spending.” He was primaried by a progressive Democrat, and the “defense industry opened up their coffers” and enabled Adam Smith to defeat the challenger.

That’s the opening. Greenwald went on, after that, to discuss other key appointees by Nancy Pelosi who are almost as important as Adam Smith is, in shaping the Government’s military budget. They’re all corrupt. And then he went, at further length, to describe the methods of deceiving the voters, such as how these very same Democrats who are actually agents of the billionaires who own the ‘defense’ contractors and the ‘news’ media etc., campaign for Democrats’ votes by emphasizing how evil the Republican Party is on the issues that Democratic Party voters care far more about than they do about America’s destructions of Iraq and Syria and Libya and Honduras and Ukraine, and imposing crushing economic blockades (sanctions) against the residents in Iran, Venezuela and many other lands.

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We saw this coming from miles away: no better opportunity for both sides to blame the other. Screw the people, it’s about power.

White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as staff members from both sides were meeting to try to iron out differences over the bill. Democrats were standing in the way of a separate agreement to extend some federal unemployment benefits in the short-term while negotiations continue on an overall relief package, he said. “We continue to see really a stonewalling of any piecemeal type of legislation that happens on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said. “Hopefully that will change in the coming days.”


Lawmakers and the White House have been unable to reach an accord for a next round of economic relief from a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans and triggered the sharpest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Both sides said on Saturday they had their most positive talks yet. But there was no sign of movement on the biggest sticking point – $600 per week in extra federal unemployment benefits for Americans that has been a lifeline for millions of jobless Americans and expired on Friday. Asked about efforts to renew the expired emergency federal jobless benefits, Pelosi said, referring to Trump: “He’s the one standing in the way of that.”

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Because we badly need central bakers to interfere in politics. How far away are we from MMT here?

The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)

Over the past decade, the one common theme despite the political upheaval and growing social and geopolitical instability, was that the market would keep marching higher and the Fed would continue injecting liquidity into the system. The second common theme is that despite sparking unprecedented asset price inflation, price as measured across the broader economy (at least using the flawed CPI metric) would remain subdued (as a reminder, the Fed is desperate to ignite broad inflation as that is the only way the countless trillions of excess debt can be eliminated and yet it has so far failed to do so).

The Fed’s failure to reach its inflation target has sparked broad criticism from the economic establishment, even though as we showed in June, deflation is now a direct function of the Fed’s unconventional monetary policies as the lower yields slide, the lower the propensity to spend. In other words, the harder the Fed fights to stimulate inflation, the more deflation and more saving it spurs as a result (incidentally this is not the first time this “discovery” was made, in December we wrote “One Bank Makes A Stunning Discovery – The Fed’s Rate Cuts Are Now Deflationary”). In short, ever since the Fed launched QE and NIRP, it has been making the situation it has been trying to “fix” even worse, all the while blowing a massive asset price bubble.


And having recently accepted that its preferred stimulus pathway has failed to boost the broader economy, the blame has fallen on how monetary policy is intermediated, specifically the way the Fed creates excess reserves which end up at commercial banks instead of “tricking down” all the way to the consumer level. To be in the aftermath of the covid pandemic shutdowns the Fed has tried to short-circuit this process, and in conjunction with the Treasury it has launched “helicopter money” which has resulted in a direct transfer of funds to US corporations via PPP loans, as well as to end consumers via the emergency $600 weekly unemployment benefits which however are set to expire unless renewed by Congress as explained last week, as Democrats and Republicans feud over which fiscal stimulus will be implemented next.

And yet, the lament is that even as the economy was desperately in need of a massive liquidity tsunami, the funds created by the Fed and Treasury (now that the US operates under a quasi-MMT regime) did not make their way to those who need them the most: end consumers. Which is why we read with great interest a Bloomberg interview published on Saturday with two former central bank officials: Simon Potter, who led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s markets group i.e., he was the head of the Fed’s Plunge Protection Team for years, and Julia Coronado, who spent eight years as an economist for the Fed’s Board of Governors, who are among the innovators brainstorming solutions to what has emerged as the most crucial and difficult problem facing the Fed: get money swiftly to people who need it most in a crisis.


The response was striking: they two propose creating a monetary tool that they call recession insurance bonds, which draw on some of the advances in digital payments, which will be wired instantly to Americans. As Coronado explains the details, Congress would grant the Federal Reserve an additional tool for providing support—say, a percent of GDP [in a lump sum that would be divided equally and distributed] to households in a recession.

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And while we’re at it, let the Fed regulate the lockdowns too. Such monetary wizards must be good at everything.

Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)

The U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for four to six weeks, a top Federal Reserve official said on Sunday, adding that Congress can well afford large sums for coronavirus relief efforts. The economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control, Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If we don’t do that and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.


“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.” He said Congress is positioned to spend big on coronavirus relief efforts because the nation’s budget gap can be financed without relying on foreign borrowing, given how much Americans are saving. “Those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our jobs, we’re saving a lot more money because we’re not going to restaurants or movie theaters or vacations,” Kashkari said. “That actually means that we have a lot more resources as a country to support those who have been laid off,” he said.

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When you let this continue, you’re not trying to let the economy recover.

Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)

Two months ago, we showed that contrary to conventional wisdom and corporate reps and warrants that buybacks had effectively been put on hold for the duration of the covid pandemic, not only were companies still repurchasing their shares but it was the tech names – those who have stormed higher since the March lows – that were the biggest culprits. Now, two months after we first revealed Wall Street’s worst kept secret, the Financial Times has also noticed that Corporate America is finding it hard to kick the share buyback habit, even after the US slipped into its worst recession in decades.

While total buybacks are indeed expected to drop this year as the downturn caused by coronavirus saps corporate profits, companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter earnings so far have reduced the number of their outstanding shares by an average of 0.3 per cent from the previous quarter, according to calculations from Credit Suisse. Furthermore, updates showed that some of the largest US multinationals continued to buy back their own stock or even accelerated stock repurchases and nowhere more so than the tech names we first highlighted at the end of May. Take Google’s parent company Alphabet, which spent $6.9bn on buybacks for the quarter, up 92% from a year prior, the company revealed in its earnings results last Thursday.

Microsoft, the second-largest listed US company, purchased $5.8bn of its own stock in the period, up 25% from a year earlier, and likely among the chief reasons for the stock’s amazing surge. Elsewhere, Biogen spent $2.8bn on buybacks for the period, up 17% from last year, WR Berkley, an insurer, did not buy any of its shares in the second quarter last year, but spent $97m on its stock in the period this year, and Celanese increased its planned buybacks for the year by $500m to $1.5bn in July, after selling its stake in a Japanese joint venture. Of course, the biggest source of buybacks was once again Apple, which repurchased $16BN in the second quarter, down 6% on the period last year, though by far the biggest stock repurchaser among S&P 500 companies in recent years.

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Preventing monopolies was once one of Washington’s main preoccupations.

America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)

The truth is that, even if Congress somehow decreed the breakup of all four tech giants, the U.S. would still have an astounding number of industries controlled by a tiny number of firms. That’s because the structure of modern capitalism favors companies that operate at once-unimaginable scale, in the absence of a government will to prevent monopolies from forming. Lawmakers and the public should be concerned about the surveillance networks by which Facebook and Google—which dominate the digital-advertising market—track users, build data profiles on them, and serve them customized ads. But millions of rural Americans cannot access the internet to begin with, in part because telecom companies harass, fight, and induce state legislatures to pass laws restricting municipal broadband.

Across America, people send their kids to Starbucks parking lots to piggyback on the wifi and complete their homework. Amazon’s rapidly expanding e-commerce empire—and the potential consequences for Main Streets and municipal tax bases across the country—is definitely worth worrying about. But among the other forces squeezing out small retailers are dollar stores, a market segment dominated by two firms that together have about six times more outlets in America than Walmart. Last summer in Marlinton, West Virginia, I saw a Dollar General right next door to a Family Dollar. Despite the pandemic, Dollar General still plans to open 1,000 new stores in 2020. Software developers who want to sell apps to iPhone users must do so through Apple’s App Store, which spells out rules that they must follow and collects up to 30 percent of sales.

This is little different from the situation of small farmers, who must raise livestock to the exacting specifications of the meatpacking giants and can lose their livelihoods on those companies’ whims. And just as Amazon sometimes undercuts the smaller third-party sellers that use its platform, Big Agriculture competes directly with smaller suppliers; the top four hog firms, which control around two-thirds of the market, typically own farms, slaughterhouses, warehouses, and distribution trucks, every step from the pig trough to the dinner table. Whether you are shopping for pacemakers, sanitary napkins, or wholesale office supplies, you will find very few sellers. You think you have choices in grocery aisles or at car-rental counters, but the majority of consumer products come from a handful of companies.

Competition is hardly stiff when even many store brands are just renamed versions of market-leading products; at Costco, the batteries come from Duracell and the coffee from Starbucks. To focus the discussion of monopoly on the tech sector is to minimize the scope of a problem long in the making. Forty years ago, the government essentially stopped policing industry concentration. The conservative legal theorist Robert Bork—later a failed Supreme Court nominee—and his allies in the law-and-economics movement argued that any merger making businesses more efficient must be approved, and that a larger scale generally increases efficiency. Bork’s analysis gained enormous power in the courts and the Reagan administration. The lawyers and the bankers who handled mergers and acquisitions loved it.

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Pelosi and Schumer agree.

White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump will take action against TikTok, WeChat and “countless” Chinese software companies that pose a national security threat to America, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, apparently widening the scope of attention the US government is paying to online tech platforms developed in China. “These Chinese software companies doing business with the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat, there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party their national security apparatus,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview. “It could be their facial recognition pattern, it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends who they’re connected to.”

“Those are the issues President Trump’s made clear we’re going to take care of,” Pompeo said. “He will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.” Focusing on TikTok specifically, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department is overseeing a national security review of the company, said on Sunday that the company will need to be blocked in the US or sold to another company. Pompeo’s warning to Chinese software companies came as Trump agreed to give the Chinese internet giant ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of the popular short-video app to Microsoft, according three people familiar with matter, Reuters reported.

[..] The mobile platform, which lets users create and share 15 second videos with custom music clips, has built a huge user base in the US, particularly within younger age brackets. Mnuchin added that he had spoken with Chuck Schumer, the most senior Democrat in the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat, about the issue and that they all agree that a sale or a block on the site would be necessary, using the authority of International Emergency Economic Powers Act, if needed. Responding to the drumbeat of comments about TikTok over the past week, the company’s general manager for US operations, Vanessa Pappas, told users on Saturday that the company was working to give them “the safest app” and that “We’re not planning on going anywhere”.

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Too much repetition makes people look away.

Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)

It’s not the news you want to hear during a global health crisis. In a new theoretical study appearing in Nature Scientific Reports, a pair of statistical researchers have warned that rampant human consumption has sent us on a tailspin towards a rapid “catastrophic collapse” — which could happen in the next two to four decades. Forest density, or the current lack thereof, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report. By comparing the rate of deforestation against humanity’s rate of consumption, study authors Mauro Bologna and Gerardo Aquino have determined there’s a 90% chance our species will collapse within decades — calling this estimate an “optimistic” measure.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” they wrote. While much attention has been paid to the ways in which greenhouse gases have contributed to the demise of our species, Aquino focused mathematical models on the “undeniable fact” of human-driven deforestation. “Before the development of human civilizations, our planet was covered by 60 million square kilometers [37 million square miles] of forest,” according to the article. “As a result of deforestation, less than 40 million square kilometers [25 million square miles] currently remain.”

The researchers set out to “evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilization” based on numerical simulations — charts and graphs that don’t look like much to us laymen, but for two theoretical physicists, they amount to disaster. They also call into play “Fermi’s paradox,” which refers to the theoretical discussion of extraterrestrial life from Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who once asked, “Where is everybody?” One aspect of the discourse is the idea that self-destruction caused by unsustainable environmental exploitation may be an inevitability of intelligent life — and thus a potential reason why we have not yet had the opportunity to meet our galactic neighbors.

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From February, but highly relevant today.

How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

[..] as the War Logs’ mutually-agreed publication deadline loomed, both the Times and Guardian grew increasingly anxious about being associated with the material. His film, shot just prior to the release, documents this transformation in real-time — in one highly illuminating segment, Assange informs Gavin MacFayden, then-director of the University of London’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, the New York Times has requested WikiLeaks ‘scoop’ them by publishing analysis of the Afghan War Logs first. The ‘naivety’ Davis referenced is palpably on display — “they want to report on our reporting, so they can claim they’re not involved!” Assange splutters bemusedly, in evident disbelief a newspaper would be actively resistant to publishing a seismic exclusive.

As Davis attested, the footage makes for thoroughly “chilling” viewing in the present day, given Assange is “now in jail as a result of that subterfuge”. Simultaneously, Assange himself was also growing increasingly anxious, in his case about the identities of informants and other individuals featured in the logs being revealed — no effort had been made by Guardian journalists to remove a single one, and despite repeated requests he wasn’t provided with staff or technical support to redact them. As a result, the WikiLeaks chief took up the “moral responsibility” for the files — his requests for publication to be delayed in order to give him enough time to adequately “cleanse” the documents were ignored, so he was compelled to “literally work all night” to redact around 10,000 names, Davis said.

In a perverse irony, the documentarian also exposed how despite Assange ultimately acquiescing to publishing the Logs Sunday 25th July 2010 in order to allow The Guardian and Times to ‘report’ on the story the next day, the plan was disrupted by technical issues with the WikiLeaks website. As Assange struggled to get the content online, Davis said he was inundated with “panicked, hysterical calls” from The Times and Guardian, which grew more frenzied as the day wore on — the two outlets were literally on the verge of ‘stopping the presses’, as the front-page splashes on the Afghan War Logs were entirely predicated on the notion WikiLeaks had published the documents the day prior.

It would take several days for WikiLeaks to publish the War Logs — The Guardian and Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories on 26th July 2010, reporting on the release of the logs, despite the fact they hadn’t actually appeared on the WikiLeaks website. “Julian was their fall guy. They printed a lie. These two high priests of journalistic integrity very happily colluded, reporting on something that hadn’t happened. The entire searchable Afghan War Logs interface was the sole creation of The Guardian, they promoted it on their website and in the paper, but then they turned round and said ‘we didn’t publish this, Julian did’. They set him up from the start. They should be in jail too,” Davis concluded.

Read more …

 

 

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A 1968 cartoon.

 

 

Easily Tweet of the day. Hands down.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 292020
 


Fresco from the Minoan Palace in Knossos, Crete, Greece. 16th century B C.

 

Coronavirus To Spread In One Big Wave and Won’t Go Away – WHO (RT)
WHO Says Keeping Borders Shut To Thwart COVID-19 Not “Sustainable” (CBS)
Six US States See Record COVID19 Deaths, Latinos Hit Hard In California (R.)
Hong Kong Warns City On Verge Of Large Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
China’s Surging Crude Imports Mask Weakness In The Rest Of Asia (R.)
OPEC Prepares For An Age Of Dwindling Demand (R.)
Big Tech CEOs To Defend Their Companies By Listing Competitors (R.)
“People Have Too Much Money To Play With” (BBG)
It Is Time to Abandon Dollar Hegemony (Foriegn Affairs)
DOJ Could Pursue Treason Charges Over Russia Probe Misconduct – Steube (JTN)
Ghislaine Maxwell Fights To Keep Nude Photos And Sexualised Videos Secret (RT)
Assange Spied On Like ‘In A Film,’ Lawyer Says (Rap)
It’s Not Assange Who Should Be Facing Prosecution (Can.)

 

 

I was watching some of the Bill Barr hearing yesterday, bewildered by the lack of manners exhibited. Not because I’m a Trump or Bill Barr fan, but come on, this is Congress, and if you can’t show respect for the US Attorney General, no matter how much you may dislike him, you’re not showing respect for the House you’re sitting in, or its history, or its meaning for the country.

Several of the Representatives didn’t start with a question, but began by telling Barr what a despicable human being he is, something that only makes sense if you aim it at the camera’s, then at last asked questions and refused to let him answer them.

 

 

 

New cases for the world and US remain somewhat subdued, but the US new daily deaths number is the highest since May 27. Let’s hope that is an anomaly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the same problem as Ben Hunt. Very much so.

 

 

Byron York

 

 

Not seasonal. That took only 7 months.

Coronavirus To Spread In One Big Wave and Won’t Go Away – WHO (RT)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has quashed hopes that the coronavirus might simply disappear over the summer. It urged the world to instead brace itself for “one big wave” of infections. WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told reporters via conference call that, contrary to some expectations, the coronavirus will not wane during warmer seasons like the flu would. People are still thinking about seasons. What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus and… this one is behaving differently. Harris warned that there will be “one big wave” of coronavirus infections that will “go up and down a bit,” instead of several distinct waves one after another. “The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she said.


Many European countries have been gradually lifting or relaxing their quarantine restrictions since May. Because there is still no vaccine, the governments are calibrating their Covid-19 response while bracing for a potential second wave of the infection. Asian countries, like China and South Korea, as well as several US states were forced to re-impose some of the lockdown measures after infection rates went up again and new coronavirus hotspots were discovered. Harris reiterated the call to slow the spread of the virus by avoiding mass gatherings. This has proven to be challenging in recent months due to recurring large-scale anti-racism and police brutality protests in a number of Western countries.

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Here’s looking at you, Jacinda Ardern?!

WHO Says Keeping Borders Shut To Thwart COVID-19 Not “Sustainable” (CBS)

Keeping borders closed to halt the spread of COVID-19 is unsustainable, the World Health Organization said Monday, urging countries to adopt comprehensive strategies based on local knowledge of where the virus is spreading. Border closures and travel restrictions remain an important part of many countries’ strategy to combat the novel coronavirus. At the same time, rising cases in a range of countries in Europe and elsewhere that had loosened measures after appearing to get their outbreaks under control have spurred discussions of possible fresh border closures. But the UN health body warned that such measures cannot be kept up indefinitely, and are also only useful when combined with a wide range of other measures to detect and break chains of transmission.

“Continuing to keep international borders sealed is not necessarily a sustainable strategy for the world’s economy, for the world’s poor, or for anybody else,” Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies director, told journalists in a virtual briefing. “It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future,” he said, pointing out that “economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.” He acknowledged that when it comes to COVID-19, it is impossible to have a “global one size fits all policy” because outbreaks are developing differently in different countries. While countries with rampant community transmission may need to use the blunt instrument of lockdowns to gain control of the situation, others should be burrowing down to get a clear overview of where and how the virus is spreading at a local level.

They should be prepared to tighten or loosen measures accordingly, he said, warning against “releasing pressure” on the virus, which has killed some 650,000 people and infected 16.3 million worldwide.”Release pressure on the virus and the numbers can creep back up.” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said that instead of expecting drastic measures to keep the virus in check, people need to adapt their behaviours for the long haul. “What we’re going to have to figure out… is what our new normal looks like?” she told reporters. “Our new normal includes physical distancing from others, (and) wearing masks where appropriate,” she said. “Our new normal includes us knowing where this virus is each and every day, where we live, where we work, where we want to travel.”

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Wonder what the situation will be in one week, two weeks.

Six US States See Record COVID19 Deaths, Latinos Hit Hard In California (R.)

A half-dozen U.S. states in the South and West reported one-day records for coronavirus deaths on Tuesday and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark as California health officials said Latinos made up more than half its cases. Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas each reported record spikes in fatalities. In the United States more than 1,300 lives were lost nation wide on Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase since May, according to a Reuters tally. California health officials said Latinos, who make up just over a third of the most populous U.S. state, account for 56% of COVID-19 infections and 46% of deaths. Cases are soaring in the Central Valley agricultural region, with its heavily Latino population, overwhelming hospitals. The state on Tuesday reported 171 deaths.


Florida saw 191 coronavirus deaths in the prior 24 hours, the state health department said. Texas added more than 6,000 new cases on Monday, pushing its total to 401,477, according to a Reuters tally. Only three other states – California, Florida and New York – have more than 400,000 total cases. The four are the most populous U.S. states. California and Texas both reported decreases in overall hospitalizations as Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious diseases expert, saw signs the surge could be peaking in the South and West while other areas were on the cusp of new outbreaks. Fauci said early indications showed the percentage of positive coronavirus tests rising in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

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Panic over low numbers.

Hong Kong Warns City On Verge Of Large Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak of the coronavirus and urged people to stay indoors as much as possible as strict new measures to curb the disease’s spread take effect on Wednesday. The new regulations ban gatherings of more than two people, close dining in restaurants and make the wearing of face masks mandatory in public places, including outdoors. These are the toughest measures introduced in the city since the outbreak. The government has also tightened testing and quarantine arrangements for sea and air crew members, effective on Wednesday.


“We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly,” Lam said in a statement late on Tuesday. “In order to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible.” The new measures, which will be in place for at least seven days, were announced on Monday after the global financial hub saw a spike in locally transmitted cases over the past three weeks. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 106 new coronavirus cases, including 98 that were locally transmitted. Since late January, more than 2,880 people have been infected in the former British colony, 23 of whom have died.

Read more …

Imports of vast quantities of oil that was bought in April means China’s buying a whole lot less now. And their storage is rapidly filling up.

China’s Surging Crude Imports Mask Weakness In The Rest Of Asia (R.)

The ongoing flood of crude oil into China is obscuring the fact that demand in the rest of Asia remains weak, and that countries in the world’s top-consuming region didn’t join China is stocking up when prices slumped. China’s crude imports set consecutive records in May and June, and will remain at high levels in July and likely August too, as the massive volumes of oil bought during a brief price war in April enter the country. China imported 12.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in June, eclipsing the prior all-time high of 11.3 million bpd in May, according to official data. Imports for July may set a new record high, with Refinitiv Oil Research estimating 13.04 million bpd will be offloaded in the month.

Tracking China’s imports has been made more tricky by the sheer volume of tankers heading to, or waiting at, ports. Delays in discharging cargoes mean that August’s figures may get a bit of a boost from the earlier buying spree. Crude prices plunged to the lowest in 17 years in late April after Saudi Arabia and Russia, the leading producers in the group known as OPEC+, disagreed on whether to extend and deepen output cuts in a bid to support prices. The Saudis said they would sell as much oil as they could, and the sheer volume of oil being made available, coupled with the economic hit from the spreading novel coronavirus pandemic, saw benchmark Brent futures drop as low as $15.98 a barrel on April 22, some 78% down from this year’s peak of $71.75 in early January.

While the price war didn’t persist, with OPEC+ agreeing to extend and deepen output cuts, it did last long enough to give refiners an opportunity to stock up with bargain-basement crude. However, it appears that only Chinese refiners took up the offer, and perhaps trading houses with access to storage tanks, with many Asian buyers apparently more worried about the demand hit from the coronavirus than they were tempted by the low crude prices.

Read more …

OPEC, the whole structure of it, is not made for downsizing. It won’t survive it.

OPEC Prepares For An Age Of Dwindling Demand (R.)

The coronavirus crisis may have triggered the long-anticipated tipping point in oil demand and it is focusing minds in OPEC. The pandemic drove down daily crude consumption by as much as a third earlier this year, at a time when the rise of electric vehicles and a shift to renewable energy sources were already prompting downward revisions in forecasts for long-term oil demand. It has prompted some officials in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, oil’s most powerful proponent since it was founded 60 years ago, to ask whether this year’s dramatic demand destruction heralds a permanent shift and how best to manage supplies if the age of oil is drawing to a close.

“People are waking up to a new reality and trying to work their heads around it all,” an industry source close to OPEC told Reuters, adding the “possibility exists in the minds of all the key players” that consumption might never fully recover. Reuters interviewed seven current and former officials or other sources involved in OPEC, most of whom asked not to be named. They said this year’s crisis that sent oil below $16 a barrel had prompted OPEC and its 13 members to question long-held views on the demand growth outlook. Just 12 years ago, OPEC states were flush with cash when oil peaked above $145 a barrel as demand surged. Now it faces a dramatic adjustment if consumption starts a permanent decline. The group will need to manage even more closely its cooperation with other producers, such as Russia, to maximise falling revenues and will have to work to ensure relations inside the group are not frayed by any fratricidal dash to defend market share in a shrinking businesses.

Read more …

Their only real line is they compete with each other.

Nothing will happen, though, because they all work with and for US intelligence.

Big Tech CEOs To Defend Their Companies By Listing Competitors (R.)

The chief executives of four of the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon.com, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet’s Google , plan to argue in a congressional hearing on antitrust on Wednesday that they face intense competition from each other and from other rivals. The testimony from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook, which was released Tuesday, portrays four chief executives who are looking over their shoulders at competitors who could render them obsolete. Pichai argued that search – which Google dominates by most metrics – was broader than just typing a query into Google, and said he remained concerned about being relevant as people turn to Twitter, Pinterest or other websites for information.

“We know Google’s continued success is not guaranteed. Google operates in highly competitive and dynamic global markets, in which prices are free or falling, and products are constantly improving,” Pichai said in the prepared remarks. The four will testify reut.rs/2DhrEFT to a panel of lawmakers investigating how their business practices and data gathering have hurt smaller rivals as they seek to retain their dominance, or expand. In his remarks, Bezos said Amazon occupies a small share of the overall retail market and competes with retailers like Walmart (WMT.N), which is twice its size. He also said the coronavirus pandemic boosted e-commerce businesses across the spectrum and not just Amazon.

Bezos also lays out how small sellers have succeeded on Amazon’s third-party marketplace, a practice that has come under scrutiny from lawmakers. In his prepared testimony, Zuckerberg argued that Facebook competes against other companies appearing at the hearing and against others globally. Zuckerberg will also defend Facebook’s acquisitions by saying the social media platform helped companies like WhatsApp and Instagram grow. Both are owned by Facebook. He will also remind lawmakers of the competitive threat U.S. tech companies face from China, saying that China is building its “own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries.”

Read more …

Investing in bankrupt companies. Thanks, Jay Powell.

“People Have Too Much Money To Play With” (BBG)

The warning to shareholders of newly bankrupt Ascena Retail Group Inc. could hardly have been more direct. There it is, in black-and-white, on page 5 of the court declaration filed by Ascena’s most senior official just hours into the case: “Existing common equity in Ascena will be canceled.” Full stop. Creditors will take ownership of the retail chain, which Ascena also made plain. So how did stock investors respond? By bidding up the shares just shy of 120%, on off-the-charts volume. It was a similar story for bankrupt Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. The airborne Wi-Fi service jumped more than 50% on July 24 after its court filing, despite warning shareholders earlier in July that they stood to lose everything to creditors in a Chapter 11 case.


And it hearkens back to Hertz Global Holdings Inc., whose stock became Example A of post-bankruptcy rallies. The persistent mania for busted companies baffles financial advisers. “What’s going on here? I really couldn’t tell you; it’s not something I would ever recommend to anyone,” said George Gagliardi at Coromandel Wealth Management in Lexington, Massachusetts. “People have too much money to play with,” said Dennis Nolte, an adviser at Florida’s Seacoast Investment Services. “Most of these traders won’t be around when the bankruptcy proceedings are complete. Just turn the light off when you leave the room, if the lights aren’t turned off by the utility company because there’s no money to pay the bill.”

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Bet you didn’t think the Council on Foreign Relations would come with this.

It Is Time to Abandon Dollar Hegemony (Foriegn Affairs)

In the 1960s, French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing complained that the dominance of the U.S. dollar gave the United States an “exorbitant privilege” to borrow cheaply from the rest of the world and live beyond its means. U.S. allies and adversaries alike have often echoed the gripe since. But the exorbitant privilege also entails exorbitant burdens that weigh on U.S. trade competitiveness and employment and that are likely to grow heavier and more destabilizing as the United States’ share of the global economy shrinks. The benefits of dollar primacy accrue mainly to financial institutions and big businesses, but the costs are generally borne by workers.

For this reason, continued dollar hegemony threatens to deepen inequality as well as political polarization in the United States. Dollar hegemony isn’t foreordained. For years, analysts have warned that China and other powers might decide to abandon the dollar and diversify their currency reserves for economic or strategic reasons. To date, there is little reason to think that global demand for dollars is drying up. But there is another way the United States could lose its status as issuer of the world’s dominant reserve currency: it could voluntarily abandon dollar hegemony because the domestic economic and political costs have grown too high.

The United States has already abandoned multilateral and security commitments during the administration of President Donald Trump—prompting international relations scholars to debate whether the country is abandoning hegemony in a broader strategic sense. The United States could abandon its commitment to dollar hegemony in a similar way: even if much of the rest of the world wants the United States to maintain the dollar’s role as a reserve currency—just as much of the world wants the United States to continue to provide security—Washington could decide that it can no longer afford to do so. It is an idea that has received surprisingly little discussion in policy circles, but it could benefit the United States and ultimately, the rest of the world.

The dollar’s dominance stems from the demand for it around the world. Foreign capital flows into the United States because it is a safe place to put money and because there are few other alternatives. These capital inflows dwarf those needed to finance trade many times over, and they cause the United States to run a large current account deficit. In other words, the United States is not so much living beyond its means as accommodating the world’s excess capital. Dollar hegemony also has domestic distributional consequences—that is, it creates winners and losers within the United States. The main winners are the banks that act as the intermediaries and recipients of the capital inflows and that exercise excessive influence over U.S economic policy. The losers are the manufacturers and the workers they employ. Demand for the dollar pushes up its value, which makes U.S. exports more expensive and curtails demand for them abroad, thus leading to earnings and job losses in manufacturing.

Read more …

Treason sounds big, any charge in that direction would suffice. Problem is, they have only 3 months left.

DOJ Could Pursue Treason Charges Over Russia Probe Misconduct – Steube (JTN)

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., sharply rebuked the FBI and suggested that the Department of Justice could potentially pursue charges of treason in connection with conduct related to the Trump-Russia investigation. “If it’s not clear to you now, it should be abundantly clear when these indictments start coming out for individuals involved in this through the Durham probe, that … this was a politicized, weaponized FBI at the highest level that was solely trying to take down a presidential campaign and then an incumbent president once he got sworn in—and that should scare every American,” Steube said during an interview with the John Solomon Reports podcast.


The Florida Republican, an Army veteran who has worked as an Airborne Infantry Officer and JAG Corps Officer, said that he believes “the level to which this agency and these individuals were trying to thwart an incoming president, to me, is treasonous.” The congressman believes the DOJ should be able to pursue charges of lying to Congress—he also said that there should be consequences for “misrepresentations” before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Steube said that the FBI’s reputation has been severely damaged. “We’re not talking about individual agents operating in field offices across the country. We’re talking about the leadership of the FBI operating the FBI in a way that they’re deceiving the FISA Court, that they’re surveilling on American citizens for political purposes. And it completely discredited an agency that was once esteemed throughout law enforcement,” the congressman noted.

Read more …

First reaction: yes, sure, gag the victims.

Ironically, though, if the material IS widely distributed it may help Maxwell in trying to have the case thrown out.

Ghislaine Maxwell Fights To Keep Nude Photos And Sexualised Videos Secret (RT)

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of grooming underage girls for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has requested a gag order against prosecutors to keep evidence including naked photos and ‘sexualised’ videos private. Maxwell, 58, was arrested earlier in July and is scheduled to be tried for sex-trafficking offenses in a Manhattan federal court in July next year. She has pleaded not guilty to charges that she’d groomed and aided the abuse by Epstein of at least three girls throughout the 1990s. Court documents show that Maxwell’s lawyers want to keep the evidence, which they describe as “highly confidential information” and including “nude, partially-nude, or otherwise sexualised images, videos or depictions of individuals” private, to prevent it appearing online and potentially impacting a series of civil lawsuits leveled against her by survivors of Epstein’s abuse.


“There is a substantial concern that these individuals will seek to use discovery materials to support their civil cases and future public statements,” Maxwell’s attorney Christian Everdell, the prosecutor who brought Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to justice, explained. The proposed order, submitted Monday, is somewhat routine in sex-abuse cases but prosecutors have refused the request that witnesses and lawyers in the trial would be subject to any gag orders, and are expected to reply officially later on Tuesday. “The defense believes that potential government witnesses and their counsel should be subject to the same restrictions as the defense concerning appropriate use of the discovery materials – namely, if these individuals are given access to discovery materials during trial preparation, they may not use those materials for any purpose other than preparing for trial in the criminal case, and may not post those materials on the Internet,” the affidavit said.

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Two cases came before a court on the 27th. One on London, and one in Madrid. Spying on clients and their attorneys, spying on a president, it should be enough to have the entire case vs Assange thrown out.

Assange Spied On Like ‘In A Film,’ Lawyer Says (Rap)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was spied on while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London like “in a film,” his lawyer Baltasar Garzon said Monday, July 27, after testifying at a top Spanish court probing the allegations. Assange, who is in a British prison after being removed from the embassy last year, filed a lawsuit against private Spanish security firm Undercover Global, accusing it of spying on him and passing the information to the United States. The company was in charge of providing security at the embassy during the bulk of the seven years which the 49-year-old Australian spent inside the building.

Garzon, a prominent former Spanish judge, said he had seen images taken inside of the embassy of Assange talking to his lawyers which were allegedly recorded by the company. “This is scandalous, we think this only happens in spy movies but this is not a spy movie because someone’s life is at stake,” he told reporters after testifying at Spain’s National Court in Madrid. Assange has accused the firm of gathering information on him through video cameras and hidden microphones, copying identity documents and monitoring visitors’ mobile phones, and then passing the information to the US intelligence services. The lawsuit is key to Assange’s efforts to fight an extradition request by the US Justice Department which wants to put him on trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

Garzon said Assange’s legal team has provided British courts with information about the alleged spying because it has “a direct impact on the extradition and shows, in our view, that Julian Assange was the target of political persecution.” Assange’s extradition hearing will take place on September 7. Spain’s National Court in June opened an investigation into a complaint by Ecuador’s ex-president Rafael Correa that Undercover Global also spied on him. Correa accuses the firm, which provided him with security services until 2019, of “monitoring and taking photos” of his meetings with Garzon, who made global headlines in 1998 when former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London.

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The law has been rendered meaningless. Therefore, so have the courts that are tasked with upholding it. That is not a trifle matter.

It’s Not Assange Who Should Be Facing Prosecution (Can.)

On 27 July two court hearings took place – one in the UK, the other in Spain. Both concerned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. From their proceedings, it became clear that it’s not Assange who should be facing prosecution, but the current office holder of the US presidency and his associates. At the 27 July ‘administrative hearing’ at Westminster magistrates court, Judge Vanessa Baraitser stated that the prosecution had failed to present its latest ‘superseding indictment‘. That superseding indictment was first made public on 24 June, just prior to the last court hearing, though the prosecution failed to submit the document to that hearing too. Defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald made it clear to the court that he was concerned the prosecution might still try to present the superseding indictment later, so as to delay the extradition hearings. He argued:

“We are concerned about a fresh request being made at this stage with the potential consequence of derailing proceedings and that the US attorney-general is doing this for political reasons.” Indeed, prosecution barrister Joel Smith refused to comply with any timeline to serve the superseding indictment. However, Baraitser told Smith that the deadline to submit the superseding indictment had passed. Controversially, the superseding indictment provided testimony from known (but unnamed) FBI informants, both of whom have criminal convictions and were engaged in entrapment operations. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the prosecution did not formally present a copy of the superseding indictment to the court. What the judge did not address, however, is that by publishing the superseding indictment on the internet, the US department of justice may have prejudiced the case against Assange – and that could be grounds for dismissal of all charges.

Meanwhile in Spain, the prosecution of David Morales, who is charged with organising the surveillance of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, proceeds, with testimony from former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who is representing Assange. Morales, via his company UC Global, is also accused of providing that surveillance to US intelligence services. Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson commented that the surveillance constituted a “serious crime in European law”. Also monitored were meetings between Assange and some of his other lawyers, including Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Garzón. Surveillance also included logging of visitors, such as Gareth Peirce, another of Assange’s lawyers, as well as a seven-hour session between Assange and his legal team on 19 June 2016.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 142020
 


John M. Fox Garcia Grande newsstand, New York 1946

 

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)
South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)
How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)
US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)
New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)
30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)
North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)
Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)
White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)
In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)
A French Disaster (Guy Millière)
Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)
Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)
Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)
China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)
China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

 

 

It’s been a few days, but leafing through today’s news, it seems obvious that incompetence once again rules the day. Macron is the first to say he’s sorry for that. Sort of. Still, we should not lose sight of the fact that, as I wrote recently in Little Managers, we don’t elect our ‘Leaders’ to solve pandemics. The best I can do for you is we elect them to make us feel rich, which is why they focused for far too long, as the pandemic already raged, on their economies.

• Over the past 24 hours, the U.S. reported 27,243 new cases of coronavirus and 1,555 new deaths, raising total to 587,752 cases and 23,765 dead.

 

 

1,934,128
Cases 1,862,584 (+ 72,011 from yesterday’s 1,790,573)

120,437
Deaths 114,982 (+ 5,328 from yesterday’s 109,654)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I would certainly pay $37 for a test if it were available. And reliable.

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)

Coronavirus tests can be difficult to come by in many countries including in hard-hit parts of the United States and Britain, but in Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the pandemic, they are fast, cheap and easy to get. My colleagues and I had just arrived in the central city where the novel coronavirus emerged in humans late last year, and as a foreigner I was told that I was required to take a nucleic test to prove that I was free of the potentially deadly flu-like virus. A government official escorted me to the test site, a table outside the entrance of a shuttered hotel. A single medical worker sat there, dressed in a zipped-up hazmat suit and goggles.

She asked for my personal details and told me to sit. She then stuck a swab down my throat, nearly triggering a gag, and then it was over. “You’ll get your results in about one and a half days,” the official said. The test, while not pleasant, took less than three seconds. Wuhan is testing liberally as it tries to get back up and running after lifting a 76-day lockdown last week. The term “nucleic acid test” has become a familiar one in the city of 11 million people, where many companies are asking workers to present test results before they can return to work, although it is not mandatory. At one Wuhan hospital, people only need to spit into a test tube. That test costs 260 yuan ($37) and results are available by mobile app. Since Feb. 21, 930,315 tests have been carried out in Wuhan, according to government data.

“Testing is a good thing,” said Zhao Yan, a emergency medicine doctor and vice president of Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital told reporters on a government-organised trip last week. “If you’re an enterprise with 500 employees and you want to start working again, you test everybody.” Across China, officials are simplifying and speeding up the process to obtain a nucleic acid test, even though questions persist about its accuracy. Some Chinese doctors have pushed to raise requirements for discharging hospitalised patients from two negative nucleic acid tests to three. Cities including Beijing have required some arriving travelers to present test results when entering. China has not yet indicated it will require testing for large swathes of the population.

Read more …

There go the dreams of reopening your economy.

South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)

South Korea has confirmed 111 cases of coronavirus reinfection (as of Sunday noon) with most cases reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, two epicenters of the domestic outbreak. Jung Eun-kyeong, director of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said on Sunday the organization was exploring possible causes of reinfection. “For now it is uncertain what led to reinfection  revived virus that survived treatment or fresh exposure to the virus after recovery,” Jung said. The director said an extensive research was under way and the KCDC would share the result with WHO and other nations battling coronavirus.

Earlier health authorities here have said the virus was highly likely to have been reactivated, instead of the people being reinfected, as they tested positive again in a relatively short time after being released from quarantine. They also said the COVID-19 virus may remain latent in certain cells in the body and attack the respiratory organs again once reactivated. A COVID-19 patient is deemed fully recovered after showing negative results for two tests in a row within a 24-hour interval. The country’s COVID-19 infections reported 32 additional virus cases, bringing total infections to 10,512.

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Oh no. No sirree. The system is bringing itself down, not the virus. This is like you take a house so decrepit that it should long have been condemned, and then you blame a storm when it finally collapses.

How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)

In the third week of March, while most of our minds were fixed on surging coronavirus death rates and the apocalyptic scenes in hospital wards, global financial markets came as close to a collapse as they have since September 2008. The price of shares in the world’s major corporations plunged. The value of the dollar surged against every currency in the world, squeezing debtors everywhere from Indonesia to Mexico. Trillion-dollar markets for government debt, the basic foundation of the financial system, lurched up and down in terror-stricken cycles. On the terminal screens, interest rates danced. Traders hunched over improvised home workstations – known in the new slang of March 2020 as “Rona rigs” – screaming with frustration as sluggish home wifi systems dragged behind the movement of the markets.

At the low point on 23 March, $26tn had been wiped off the value of global equity markets, inflicting huge losses both on the fortunate few who own shares, and on the collective pools of savings held by pension and insurance funds. What the markets were reacting to was an unthinkable turn of events. After a fatal period of hesitation, governments around the world were ordering comprehensive lockdowns to contain a lethal pandemic. Built for growth, the global economic machine was being brought to a screeching halt. In 2020, for the first time since the second world war, production around the world will contract. It is not only Europe and the US that have been shut down, but once-booming emerging market economies in Asia. Commodity exporters from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa face collapsing markets.

[..] What Europe and the US have succeeded in doing is to flatten the curve of financial panic. They have maintained the all-important flow of credit. Without that, large parts of their economies would not be on life support – they would be stone dead. And our governments would be struggling with a financial crunch to boot. Maintaining the flow of credit has been the precondition for sustaining the lockdown. It is the precondition for a concerted public health response to the pandemic. During major crises, we are reminded of the fact that at the heart of the profit-driven, private financial economy is a public institution, the central bank. When financial markets are functioning normally, it remains in the background.

But when they threaten to break down, it has the option of stepping forward to act as a lender of last resort. It can make loans, or it can buy assets from banks, funds or other businesses that are desperate for cash. Because it is the ultimate backer of the currency, its budget is unlimited. That means it can decide who sinks and who swims. We learned this in 2008. But 2020 has driven home the point as never before.

Read more …

Where are Dr. Fauci’s 200,000 deaths?

US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus topped 23,000 on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, as officials said the worst may be over and the outbreak could reach its peak this week. The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has recorded more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other country. There were a total of nearly 570,000 U.S. cases as of Monday with over 1.8 million reported cases globally. Deaths reported on Sunday numbered 1,513, the smallest increase since 1,309 died on April 6. The largest number of fatalities, over 10,000, was in New York state with the concentration in and around New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.4 million people.


Wyoming reported its first coronavirus death on Monday, the final U.S. state to report a fatality in the outbreak. Sweeping stay-at-home restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, in place for weeks in many areas of the United States, have taken a painful toll on the economy. With businesses closed and curbs on travel, officials and lawmakers are debating when it might be safe to begin reopening some sectors. The Trump administration has indicated May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions while urging caution.

Read more …

Stop planning. Make sure you get it right first.

New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)

Ten U.S. governors on the east and west coasts banded together on Monday in two regional pacts to coordinate gradual economic reopenings as the coronavirus crisis finally appeared to be ebbing. Announcements from the New York-led group of Northeastern governors, and a similar compact formed by California, Oregon and Washington state, came as President Donald Trump declared any decision on restarting the U.S. economy was up to him. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was teaming up with five counterparts in adjacent New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to devise the best strategies for easing stay-at-home orders imposed last month to curb coronavirus transmissions. Massachusetts later said it was joining the East Coast coalition.


“Nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers,” said Cuomo, whose state has become the U.S. epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, during an open conference call with five other governors. “Addressing public health and the economy: Which one is first? They’re both first.” The three Pacific Coast states announced they, too, planned to follow a shared approach for lifting social-distancing measures, but said they “need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening” can take place. The 10 governors, all Democrats except for Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, gave no timeline for ending social lockdowns that have idled the vast majority of more than 100 million residents in their states. But they stressed that decisions about when and how to reopen non-essential businesses, along with schools and universities, would put the health of residents first and rely on science rather than politics.

Read more …

How on earth do you get this so wrong?

30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)

Never has so much been asked of America’s grocery store and meatpacking workers. They are working through a pandemic, getting sick and in some cases even dying so that others can put food on the table. Most of them are doing it for lower wages than other essential workers who continue to do their jobs as coronavirus cases balloon. Many who risk their health each day have been relaying their fears and frustrations to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and Canada and is one of the largest private-sector unions in the country.

Marc Perrone, the UFCW’s president, told HuffPost that the union is working hard to keep up with its members’ concerns, as well as those of nonunion workers now highly interested in organizing. For many in the latter category, the pressure of recent weeks has stripped away any sense that they are paid fairly and protected adequately on the job. “We have more leads than we’ve ever had as a union,” Perrone said. “The question is … are we at the tipping point yet? This pandemic ripped gaping holes in the system. Is it going to change the way workers can unify together to make a move?”

The UFCW has emerged as one of the most important labor unions in the coronavirus crisis because of where it represents workers: in grocery stores, meatpacking and processing plants and pharmacies. Few private-sector unions outside of health care would have so many members continuing to clock in because their work is so crucial to the lives of others. The work seems to have come at a steep cost already. The union is still gathering data on infections and deaths among its membership, but Perrone said that around 30 people appear to have died since the pandemic began. In some cases, he cautioned, a COVID-19 diagnosis has not been confirmed yet.

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Better get some other protein supply in.

North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)

At a Wayne Farms chicken processing plant in Alabama, workers recently had to pay the company 10 cents a day to buy masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus, according to a meat inspector. In Colorado, nearly a third of the workers at a JBS USA beef plant stayed home amid safety concerns for the last two weeks as a 30-year employee of the facility died following complications from the virus. And since an Olymel pork plant in Quebec shut on March 29, the number of workers who tested positive for the coronavirus quintupled to more than 50, according to their union. The facility and at least 10 others in North America have temporarily closed or reduced production in about the last two weeks because of the pandemic, disrupting food supply chains that have struggled to keep pace with surging demand at grocery stores.


According to more than a dozen interviews with U.S and Canadian plant workers, union leaders and industry analysts, a lack of protective equipment and the nature of “elbow to elbow” work required to debone chickens, chop beef and slice hams are highlighting risks for employees and limiting output as some forego the low-paying work. Companies that added protections, such as enhanced cleaning or spacing out workers, say the moves are further slowing meat production. Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, on Sunday said it is indefinitely shutting a pork plant that accounts for about 4% to 5% of U.S. production. It warned that plant shutdowns are pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge” in meat supplies for grocers.

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The size of this “industry” is bearable only because we keep it hidden.

Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)

Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers. Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock. Smithfield extended the closure of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after initially saying it would idle temporarily for cleaning. The facility is one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production, according to the company.


South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said on Saturday that 238 Smithfield employees had active cases of the new coronavirus, accounting for 55% of the state’s total. Noem and the mayor of Sioux Falls had recommended the company shut the plant, which has about 3,700 workers, for at least two weeks. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Smithfield Chief Executive Ken Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.” Smithfield said it will resume operations in Sioux Falls after further direction from local, state and federal officials. The company will pay employees for the next two weeks, according to the statement.

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Stupid is as stupid does. Come autumn, you’re going to need food. Underpaying essential workers will not help. Raise their wages, and you may even attract a few Americans.

White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)

New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans. Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages. The measure is the latest effort being pushed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help U.S farmers who say they are struggling amid disruptions in the agricultural supply chain compounded by the outbreak; the industry was already hurting because of President Trump’s tariff war with China.


“The administration is considering all policy options during this unprecedented crisis to ensure our great farmers are protected, and President Trump has done and will do everything he can to support their vital mission,” a White House official told NPR. The nation’s roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers have been officially declared “essential workers” as the administration seeks to ensure that Americans have food to eat and that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked. Workers on the H-2A seasonal guest-worker program are about 10% of all farmworkers. The effort to provide “wage relief” to U.S. farmers follows an announcement Friday by the USDA to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by the coronavirus. Trump said Friday that he has directed Perdue to provide at least $16 billion in relief.

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Well, at least he did it. Where are the others?

In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday announced he was extending a virtual lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11, adding that progress had been made but the battle not yet won. Following Italy in extending the lockdown but announcing no immediate easing of restrictive measures as in Spain, Macron said the tense situation in hospitals in Paris and eastern France meant there could be no let-up in the country. Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Tuesday.

“I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation in a televised address at the end of the lockdown’s fourth week, adding the current rules were working. “When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said. Schools and shops would progressively reopen on May 11, Macron said. But restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would have to remain shut longer, he added. International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice. Macron, whose government has faced criticism over a shortage of face masks and testing kits, said that by May 11, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms and give nonprofessional face masks to the public.

Macron also said he had asked his government to present this week new financial aid for families and students in need. Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron appeared to seek a humble tone in contrast to the war-like rhetoric of his previous speeches. “Were we prepared for this crisis? On the face of it, not enough. But we coped,” he said. “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the “best healthcare in the world,” have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment and have watched with envy the situation in neighbouring Germany. Macron’s acknowledgment of the shortcomings was broadly well-received. “It’s not every day you hear a president offer a mea culpa and dare say ‘we have no definitive answers.’ Reassuring and necessary sincerity,” analyst Maxime Sbaihi of the think tank GenerationLibre said.

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You have to read this to believe it. Mind you, I read a note earlier that said 200 flights came into to Heathrow yesterday from all over the globe, including China, Italy, Spain, whose passengers were barely checked if at all.

A French Disaster (Guy Millière)

On April 9, in France, one of the three European countries most affected by COVID-19 — the others being Spain and Italy, 1,341 people died from the Chinese Communist Party virus. For Italy, the main European country affected so far, the figure on April 9 was 610 deaths; for Spain 446, and for Germany 266. While the pandemic has been stabilizing in Italy and Spain — and in Germany seems contained — in France it seems still expanding. Extremely bad decisions taken by the authorities created a situation of contagion more destructive than it should have been. The first bad decision was that, in contrast to European Union fantasies, borders apparently do matter. France never closed them; instead it allowed large numbers of potential virus-carriers to enter the country.

Even when it became clear that in Italy the pandemic was taking on catastrophic proportions, France’s border with Italy remained open. The Italian government, by contrast, on March 10, prohibited French people coming to its territory or Italians going to France, but to date, France has put no controls on its side of the border. The situation is the same on France’s border with Spain, despite the terrifying situation there. Since March 17, it has been virtually impossible to go from France to Spain, but coming to France from Spain is easy: you just show a police officer your ID. The same goes for France’s border with Germany. On March 16, Germany closed its border with France, but France declined to do the same for its border with Germany.

When, on February 26, a soccer match between a French team and an Italian team took place in Lyon, the third-largest city in France, 3,000 Italian supporters attended, even though patients were already flocking to Italy’s hospitals. France never closed its airports; they are still open to “nationals of EEA Member States, Switzerland, passengers with a British passport, and those with residence permits issued by France” and healthcare professionals. Earlier, until the last days of March, people arriving from China were not even subject to health checks. French people in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic originated, were repatriated by a military plane, and, upon their arrival in France, were placed in quarantine. While Air France interrupted its flights to China on January 30, Chinese and other airlines departing from Shanghai and Beijing continue to land in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron summarized France’s official position on the practice: “Viruses do not have passports,” he said. Members of the French government repeated the same dogma. A few commentators reminded them that viruses travel with infected people, who can be stopped at borders, and that borders are essential to stop or slow the spread of a disease, but the effort was useless. Macron ended up saying that the borders of the Schengen area (26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and border control with one another) could not be shut down and raged at other European leaders for reintroducing border checks between the Schengen area member countries. “What is at stake,” he said, seemingly more concerned with the “European project” than with the lives of millions of people, “is the survival of the European project.”

[..] by the end of March, most doctors and caregivers still had no masks. Several doctors fell ill. As of April 10, eight have died from COVID-19 and several others are in critical condition. On March 20, the government’s spokeswoman, Sibeth N’Diaye, incorrectly said that “masks are essentially useless”. At the end of February, France had almost no tests available, and no means of manufacturing them. The government decided to buy tests from China, but by March 19, the number of tests was still insufficient. While Germany performed 500,000 screening tests per week, France was only able to only perform 50,000. Rather than admit that tests were unavailable, or that the government had mismanaged situation, the France’s minister of health, Olivier Veran, announced that large-scale screening was useless, and that France had chosen to “proceed differently”.

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“..92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. [..] 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus.”

Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)

Many older people are being “airbrushed” out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned. The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital – but not those in care homes or in their own houses. It comes after the government confirmed there had been virus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England. Meanwhile, scientific advisers for the government will meet later to review the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures. The evaluation will be passed to the government – but ministers have said it was unlikely restrictions would change.

On Monday, the UK’s chief medical adviser said he would like “much more extensive testing” in care homes due to the “large numbers of vulnerable people” there. Prof Chris Whitty told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on that 92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus. The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for elderly people. “The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said.

Ms Abrahams said the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing is leading to the spread of coronavirus across the care home sector. “We were underprepared for this, we are playing catch-up on getting enough PPE and testing, I’m wondering if the needs of care homes were taken seriously early on,” she said. She joined industry leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society in writing a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic. They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.

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“The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident,..”

Care homes, nursing homes are a major issue. Stories abound from the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Canada about elderly people being left alone and untested, and their subsequent COVID19 deaths not counted.

Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)

The Quebec government on Monday said it was putting the safety and general conditions of the province’s 2,600 long-term care and nursing home facilities under the microscope following the deaths of 31 people in a single home for the elderly since March 13. Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the deaths at the Residence Herron, a 139-unit home in Montreal, which has been put under provincial control. Quebec Premier François Legault said health officials had only been informed that the nursing home had a shortage of staff, but not that dozens of residents had died. “[Health officials] didn’t know before Friday night that there were 31 deaths,” Legault told reporters on Monday. “We knew that there were a few deaths, but surely not 31.”


Only five deaths are confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19, with the rest under investigation. Legault blamed the situation on “major negligence” over the weekend and said the facility’s management had not cooperated when authorities first tried to probe reports of problems. “I think that what happened in the month of March was that suddenly many of their residents got the COVID-19, many of the employees decided to leave,” he said. The residence is located on Montreal’s West Island and is owned and operated by Katasa Group, which owns six other retirement homes. The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident, according to the Montreal Gazette. The private nursing home touts itself as having “an enviable reputation in the field of residences for retirees in need of special care,” according to its website.

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Until further- convincing- notice, make that Brazil and every other country.

Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)

Brazil likely has 12 times more cases of the new coronavirus than are being officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results, according to a study released on Monday. Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths through April 10 and compared it with data on the expected death rate from the World Health Organization. The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil indicates there are many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study estimating only 8% of cases are being officially reported.


The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Center for Health Operations and Intelligence. The center and medical professionals have also complained of long wait times to get test results. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has said that it is difficult to distribute tests in Brazil because of the size of the country but acknowledges that testing needs to improve. Officially, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,328 on Monday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 23,430, according to health ministry data. As of last Thursday, Brazil had had around 127,000 suspected cases and carried out just short of 63,000 tests, ministry figures indicate. A health ministry official on Monday said more than 93,000 tests are still being processed for results.

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Russia is not doing well.

China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)

China has approved early-stage human tests for two experimental vaccines to combat the new coronavirus as it battles to contain imported cases, especially from neighbouring Russia, the new “front line” in the war on COVID-19. Russia has become China’s largest source of imported cases, with a total of 409 infections originating in the country, and Chinese citizens should stay put and not return home, the state-owned Global Times said in an editorial. “Russia is the latest example of a failure to control imported cases and can serve as a warning to others,” said the paper, which is run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily. “The Chinese people have watched Russia become a severely affected country… This should sound the alarm: China must strictly prevent the inflow of cases and avoid a second outbreak.”


China’s northeastern border province of Heilongjiang saw 79 new cases of imported coronavirus cases on Monday. All the new cases were Chinese citizens travelling back into the country from Russia, state media said on Tuesday. They formed the bulk of new cases on the Chinese mainland, which stood at 89. Heilongjiang’s provincial authority said on Tuesday that it had established a hotline to reward citizens for reporting illegal immigrants crossing into the province. According to a notice, people supplying verified information about illegal cross-border crimes will be granted 3,000 yuan. Those who apprehend the illegal immigrants themselves and hand them over to the authorities will be given 5,000 yuan. As of Tuesday, China had reported 82,249 coronavirus cases and 3,341 deaths. There were no deaths in the past 24 hours.

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The robots, like the doctors, are on Big Pharma’s payroll.

China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

China’s biggest corporate showdown has kicked off. Alibaba, Tencent and Ping An Insurance dominate e-commerce, video games and insurance respectively. Now the trio, worth a combined $1 trillion-plus in market capitalisation, is converging on healthcare. Before Covid-19 hit, China’s medical system suffered from chronic under-investment. Healthcare expenditure, of which the government accounts for over half, was just 5.2% of GDP in 2017, data from the World Health Organization show, far lagging 17% in the United States. A big problem is a shortage of general practitioners, resulting in threadbare primary care. It’s geographically unbalanced too; medical resources are concentrated in wealthier urban areas.

Top-tier hospitals, representing just 8% of the country’s total, received nearly half of all patients in 2016, according to research cited by China Renaissance. Alibaba and Ping An, as well as the Tencent-backed WeDoctor, see potential for profit in filling the gaps left by overstretched, overcrowded hospitals. All three offer cheap online consultations, which have spiked in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. They are racing to develop all-encompassing apps offering diagnosis, prescriptions, referrals, appointment bookings, 1-hour drug delivery and even insurance.

Ping An’s Good Doctor is ahead for now. The app, run by a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, has 67 million monthly active users as of the end of last year, thanks to a sizable team of in-house doctors and a network of partner hospitals and pharmacies. But Alibaba is beefing up its healthcare arm, also listed in Hong Kong, by reshuffling its pharmaceutical business and appointing a new chief executive. Tencent’s ubiquitous messaging app, WeChat, too has rolled out features like Covid-19 heat maps and hospital appointment bookings. It owns an undisclosed stake in WeDoctor, which is now looking to raise up to $1 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering this year …

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It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Ads no longer pay for all you read, your support has become an integral part of the process.

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth. It’s good for your mental health.

 

Dec 272019
 


Alfred Palmer Women as engine mechanics, Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA 1942

 

Barr None (R.)
The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)
Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)
Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)
Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)
Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)
China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)
Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)
Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

 

 

Bill Barr going after Big Tech? Let’s wait and see…

Barr None (R.)

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up tech giants a plank for her bid to win the U.S. presidency. But chances are Team Trump will steal her thunder. One of the few things Democrats and Republicans agree upon is that Silicon Valley firms have gotten too big. Warren wants to send Amazon to the chopping block, arguing Jeff Bezos’s online-shopping colossus shouldn’t be allowed to both run a marketplace and sell its own stuff on it. She ran a fake political message on Facebook. It claimed founder Mark Zuckerberg was backing President Donald Trump for re-election to prove a point that the social-media network has an obligation to fact-check campaign-related advertising.

Across the aisle, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has sponsored several pieces of legislation including a “Do Not Track” bill that is backed by Democrats. The Trump Administration is likely to strike first. It has already been laying some groundwork, including by the tweeter-in-chief himself. In November Trump blasted out a message accusing Alphabet’s Google of suppressing votes by limiting the targeting capabilities of political contenders. The president’s top trustbuster launched a probe in July into whether the sheer size of market-leading online platforms has stifled innovation and reduced competition. Although unnamed, it’s clear Attorney General William Barr is targeting Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook.

He also over the summer appointed his own antitrust adviser. It’s an unusual move: The agency already has a division dedicated to the issue, headed by Makan Delrahim. He, though, had been more skeptical about Big Tech and anti-competitive concerns, before starting to change his tune around a year ago. Barr has also been a good Trump soldier. He has been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s potential involvement – and launched his own investigation into the origins of that case, which the president has demanded.

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“In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump..”

The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)

When William Shakespeare wrote that “all the world is a stage” and “one man in his time plays many parts,” he could have probably had in mind Senator Charles Schumer. In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump, and that a trial without witnesses would be deemed the “most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.” That does not include the Clinton case where Schumer sought to proceed to a summary vote without a trial. As the Senate now gears up for the third presidential impeachment in history, the fight has begun over the rules and scope of a trial.

The Framers were silent on the expected procedures and evidence for a trial, beyond the requirement of a two-thirds vote to convict a president. The only direct precedent on these issues is derived from two very different trials, those of President Johnson and Clinton. By sending a thin record to the Senate, the House could not have made things easier for Trump. Since the House did not take time to subpoena critical witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, or to compel testimony of other witnesses, the Senate could simply declare that it will try the case on the record supplied by the House, a record that Democrats insist is already conclusive and overwhelming. Moreover, in reviewing the past trials of Johnson and Clinton, Democrats may have to struggle with precedents of their own making.

Indeed, Republicans could argue that a trial without witnesses is impeachment in Democratic style. The first question for the trial could be whether there should even be a trial held at all. In early England, the House of Lords often refused to hold trials on impeachments, which often were raw political exercises. In the Clinton trial, Democrats moved to dismiss both impeachment articles as meritless. The motion by Senator Robert Byrd failed on a largely party line vote with Democrats, including Senator Joe Biden, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Schumer, opposing having any impeachment trial at all.

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It’s not a stock market rally.. It’s a Fed rally.

Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)

President Donald Trump’s stock market stacks up well against the majority of his presidential predecessors. The S&P 500 has returned more than 50% since Trump was elected, more than double the 23% average market return of presidents three years into their term, according to data from Bespoke Investment Group dating to 1928. The bellwether index gained more than 28% this year, well above the average 12.8% return of year three for past U.S. presidents. “Year three has been by far the best year of the cycle with an average gain of 12.81%, and the playbook has stuck to the script in year three of the current cycle,” the firm said in a note to clients last month.

Despite the volatility from the U.S.-China trade war, 2019 has been a year of all-time highs for the major stock averages. The S&P 500 crossed 3,200 for the first time ever last week, hitting its seventh round-number milestone of 2019. While business investment slumped due to uncertainty surrounding the world’s two largest economies, public market investors remained confident enough to put money into stocks. Trump’s market got a boost from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank, which lowered interest rates three times this year, the first time since the end of the financial crisis. The Fed slashed rates on fears of slowing growth at home and abroad. Trump was highly critical of Powell for not lowering rates more and faster, often mentioning the near $15 trillion in negative yielding government securities outside the U.S.

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This is where that Trump rally comes from. Very close to what I’ve been writing about central banks. “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.”

Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)

Let us begin with a basic question, that lies at the heart of this issue: Who profits from a loan that is guaranteed to pay back less than the amount borrowed? Obviously, it is the borrower and not the lender, which in our case is the government and those closely connected to it. Negative rates and negative-yielding bonds by definition favor the debtors and punish the savers. In addition, these policies are an affront to basic economic principles and to common sense too. They contradict all logical ideas about how money works and they have no basis and no precedent in any organic economic system. Thus, now, in addition to the hidden tax that is inflation, we also have another mechanism that redistributes wealth from the average citizen to those at the top of the pyramid.

Thus, this very concept of a central authority being able to bend and twist the rules, even when the result is illogical, has implications that extend way beyond daily economic activities. In fact, it ultimately divides society into two classes, those who profit from this arbitrary and unilateral rewriting of the rules and those who are forced to pay the price even though they never agreed to it. In fact, they weren’t even asked. Of course, we can also look at it from the collective perspective of the so-called social contract of Rousseau and argue that this system of overt (taxation) and covert (monetary policy) redistribution is legitimate, or even benign. You might still believe that the state will take care of you in the future, and thus you are willing to sacrifice a part of your wealth and savings today to make sure that happens.

In that case, it is useful to remember that the current central banking system is not that old. It’s only been around for about hundred years, or two long-term debt cycles combined. The first cycle ended when President Nixon officially tried to demonetize gold in 1971, empowering a centralized system whereby a few decide who receives the currency first and at what interest rate, allowing them to create bubbles in certain asset classes, protect different key industries and to use it to finance wars and enrich politicians and those close to them. So far, total credit on a global scale stands around $240 trillion. It’s hard to conceive of such a number, but if you consider that 1 trillion seconds are equal to 31,709 years, you might begin to wrap your head around just how leveraged the system has become.

We should never forget that debt is always consumption brought forward. That being said, debts need to be paid back or forgiven — there is no other outcome. In addition, the amount of debt that a system can take on is limited, and when a credit-based system can’t grow any further, the logical outcome is the collapse of the whole system. As Ludwig von Mises described this a long time ago, “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

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Just the fact that she still has a job says enough.

Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)

Conspiracy theorist and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has been called out by Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple for breathlessly peddling the Steele Dossier – becoming a “clearinghouse” for the largely debunked opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC in 2016 (and fed to the MSM six weeks before the 2016 US election by the former British spy who wrote it). Wemple has been writing about the media’s coverage of the Steele dossier since it was significantly undercut earlier this month by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ Inspector General. Thursday’s feature details how Maddow spewed Russophobic propaganda to the American public based on Steele’s fabricated claims.

Horowitz absolutely shredded the dossier, writing in his report on FBI FISA abuse that “The FBI concluded, among other things, that although consistent with known efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”

Maddow began using the dossier to smear Trump in March of 2017 – when both CNN and the New Yorker falsely claimed that US authorities had loosely confirmed ‘some of the details’ from the dossier. An emboldened Maddow claimed that while the “baseline” dossier claim that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election had yet to be proven, “all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.” Based on the conclusions reached by both the FBI and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Maddow was peddling conspiracy theories.

“When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them,” writes Wemple. “At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report.” “She seemed to be rooting for the document.”

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Makes sense for Xi.

Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)

The Wall Street Journal continued its string of reports on the Chinese government’s shadowy campaign to support mission-critical companies in the private sector on Christmas Day by exposing for the first time to totality of government support for Huawei. Billions of dollars in credit facilities backed by state-controlled “policy banks”, coupled with pro-business tax breaks, allowed Huawei to cement its position as the world’s leading telecoms giant, according to WSJ. Huawei’s grants, credit facilities, tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance details for the first time how Huawei had access to as much as $75 billion in state support as it grew from a little-known vendor of phone switches to the world’s largest telecom-equipment company—helping Huawei offer generous financing terms and undercut rivals’ prices by some 30%, analysts and customers say.

Around the world, Huawei is vying to build next-generation 5G telecom networks, much to Washington’s chagrin. In a well-documented campaign, the US has struggled to convince it allies to exclude Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure, claiming that Huawei parts would compromise security and allow the Chinese government to tap into civilian and military communications. But thanks in part to all of this government support, Huawei is able to offer telecoms equipment at world-beating prices. Its biggest competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, can’t even come close. This government support also undermines Huawei’s claims that it operates independent of Beijing, and that it would under no circumstances cooperate with state intelligence against its customers.

Nevermind that multiple investigations have uncovered evidence that Huawei builds backdoors into its equipment to allow easy access by Chinese intelligence forces. It’s important to remember that Huawei’s commercial interests align with those of the Chinese government in more ways than one. “While Huawei has commercial interests, those commercial interests are strongly supported by the state,” said Michael Wessel, a member of a U.S. congressional panel that reviews U.S.-China relations, in an interview. The U.S. has raised concerns that use of Huawei’s equipment could pose a security risk, should Beijing request network data from the company. Huawei says it would never hand such data to the government.

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Divide and rule.

China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)

Less than two weeks after Beijing issued an overt threat at Germany, when Chinese ambassador to Germany Ken Wu told ex-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that if Germany excludes Huawei 5G from its communication networks, then China could “declare German cars unsafe” for its domestic market, effectively giving Angela Merkel a quid-pro-quo ultimatum that a ban of Huawei – as demanded by the Trump administration – would lead to retaliation against German auto exports, Beijing’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, doubled down and warned the bloc against pursuing policies to curb Chinese companies’ access to Europe, saying it would damage its own interests and deter investment.

The ambassador, a veteran diplomat and previously a senior foreign ministry official in Beijing, said plans to clamp down on foreign corporate ownership, trade opportunities and 5G mobile communications technology threatened to trigger a backlash from “suspicious” Chinese entrepreneurs. Ming added that EU countries needed to promote international co-operation and free markets, by which of course he meant free markets that suit China. “Otherwise, it’s disastrous for them,” he warned in an interview with the FT. “What I hope to see is that the EU will keep to the principles of multilateralism and free trade, as well as the principles of openness, fairness, justice and non-discrimination.”

Zhang said the hardening attitude on the EU side had made “many Chinese entrepreneurs working in Europe suspicious” and “also had some kind of impact on Chinese investment in the EU.” “My colleagues and I are strongly committed to promoting China–EU co-operation, so I’m following the development with interest and concerns,” said the envoy who was a former vice-minister of foreign affairs and took his current post in Brussels in 2017. “Capital is very sensitive, and even cowardly in some cases. In case of any changes or developments, they will feel highly vigilant or even be scared away”

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Oh, sure. Because rain is so rare in the UK. People just stay home and wait for the usual balmy weather to set in again.

Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)

UK shoppers sheltered at home on Thursday, with the numbers hitting post-Christmas sales set to drop significantly for a fourth year in a row, initial data showed. Footfall up to 12 p.m. on Dec. 26, known in Britain as Boxing Day and a key date for retailers, was down 10.6% compared with the same period a year ago, market research company Springboard said, adding that bad weather had deterred shoppers. High streets were most affected by the rainy weather with consumers reluctant to go out in the morning, Springboard said. Black Friday sales in November and a growing number of people shopping online have reduced Boxing Day footfall in recent years. “Boxing Day is indisputably a less important trading day than it once was,” said Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, adding that the Boxing Day footfall was 10.9% lower than during Black Friday morning.

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A 2-second cameo in a 27-year old movie. Tons of publicity.

“Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.”

Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

Donald Trump has said Home Alone 2 “will never be the same” after his cameo was cut from the film by a Canadian TV broadcaster. When he was a real estate mogul and New York celebrity, Trump briefly appeared as himself in 1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, offering travel advice to Macaulay Culkin’s character. But the scene was missing from the film when it was broadcast on Canada’s CBC Television this week, leading a spokesperson having to deny that it was cut for political reasons. “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format,” a representative said. On Twitter, Trump addressed the missing scene furore, and joked that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau may have been to blame.


“The movie will never be the same! (just kidding),” he tweeted. “I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on Nato or trade!” On Christmas Eve, Trump boasted that “young kids” always reference his Home Alone cameo to him. “It turned out to be a very big hit, obviously,” he said during a conference call to US troops overseas. “It’s a big Christmas hit – one of the biggest. So it’s an honour to be involved in something like that.” Trump made a number of cameos in films and television series throughout the 1990s. Speaking in 2017, Matt Damon explained that Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.

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Pangaea with modern-day international borders

 

 

 

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Nov 082019
 
 November 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Whatever happened to Nancy?

 

NATO Alliance Experiencing Brain Death, Says Macron (BBC)
Merkel & Stoltenberg Slam Macron’s ‘Brain-Dead NATO’ Comment (RT)
Big Tech Is Dragging Us Towards The Next Financial Crash (G.)
Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities (WS)
Colonel Vindman Is an ‘Expert’ With an Agenda (Giraldi)
Obama Admin Tried To Partner With Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Gas Firm (Solomon)
Assange Lawyers’ Links To US Govt & Bill Browder (Komisar)
Brazil Court Ruling Could Free Lula (BBC)
Human Population Came From Our Ability To Cooperate (PhysOrg)

 

 

A slow quarter for French arms sales?

NATO Alliance Experiencing Brain Death, Says Macron (BBC)

President Emmanuel Macron of France has described Nato as “brain dead”, stressing what he sees as waning commitment to the transatlantic alliance by its main guarantor, the US. Interviewed by the Economist, he cited the US failure to consult Nato before pulling forces out of northern Syria. He also questioned whether Nato was still committed to collective defence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key ally, said she disagreed with Mr Macron’s “drastic words”.


Russia, which sees Nato as a threat to its security, welcomed the French president’s comments as “truthful words”. Nato, which celebrates 70 years since its founding at a London summit next month, has responded by saying the alliance remains strong. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Mr Macron told the London-based newspaper. He warned European members that they could no longer rely on the US to defend the alliance, established at the start of the Cold War to bolster Western European and North American security.

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Oh wait, it’s time to play good cop bad cop. Gotcha.

Merkel & Stoltenberg Slam Macron’s ‘Brain-Dead NATO’ Comment (RT)

NATO is alive and well and integral to Europe’s security, German chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg have insisted, hitting back at French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim the alliance is “brain-dead.” Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at a Berlin news conference on Thursday, insisting the “transatlantic partnership is indispensable for us.” Stoltenberg backed her up, declaring “European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity,” and warning that the EU cannot defend Europe without outside assistance. When the UK finally leaves the alliance, some 80 percent of NATO’s defense will be funded by non-EU countries, he warned.

The general secretary praised Germany as “the heart of NATO” and lauded Merkel’s government for boosting its military spending. With most of NATO’s member countries failing to chip in their promised 2 percent of GDP, Germany announced on Thursday it hopes to hit that target for the first time by 2031 – seven years later than the date agreed upon by the alliance’s members in 2014. That fervent defense of the military bloc’s image hardly addressed the problems brought up by Macron, though. Macron had urged France’s fellow NATO members to “reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States” in an interview with The Economist published Thursday, suggesting “we are currently experiencing the brain-death of NATO” and lamenting that Europe was losing its grip on its “destiny.”

After the US’ unilateral decision to pull troops out of Syria without consulting the rest of NATO, Europe can hardly trust the Americans to defend it, Macron suggested.

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I think it’s the Fed, not Apple.

Big Tech Is Dragging Us Towards The Next Financial Crash (G.)

In every major economic downturn in US history, the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom,” said the late, great management guru Peter Drucker. I cannot help but wonder if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and possibly the world) heads toward its next big slowdown. Downturns historically come about once every decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” institutions responsible for our falling stock portfolios, home prices and salaries. Technology companies, by contrast, have led the market upswing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role.

You wouldn’t think it could be so when you look at the biggest and richest tech firms today. Take Apple. Warren Buffett says he wished he owned even more Apple stock. (His Berkshire Hathaway has a 5% stake in the company.) Goldman Sachs is launching a new credit card with the tech titan, which became the world’s first $1tn market-cap company in 2018. But hidden within these bullish headlines are a number of disturbing economic trends, of which Apple is already an exemplar. Study this one company and you begin to understand how big tech companies – the new too-big-to-fail institutions – could indeed sow the seeds of the next crisis. No matter what the Silicon Valley giants might argue, ultimately, size is a problem, just as it was for the banks. This is not because bigger is inherently bad, but because the complexity of these organisations makes them so difficult to police. Like the big banks, big tech uses its lobbying muscle to try to avoid regulation. And like the banks, it tries to sell us on the idea that it deserves to play by different rules.

Consider the financial engineering done by such firms. Like most of the largest and most profitable multinational companies, Apple has loads of cash – around $210bn at last count – as well as plenty of debt (close to $110bn). That is because – like nearly every other large, rich company – it has parked most of its spare cash in offshore bond portfolios over the past 10 years. This is part of a Kafkaesque financial shell game that has played out since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, interest rates were lowered and central bankers flooded the economy with easy money to try to engineer a recovery. But the main beneficiaries were large companies, which issued lots of cheap debt, and used it to buy back their own shares and pay out dividends, which bolstered corporate share prices and investors, but not the real economy. The Trump corporate tax cuts added fuel to this fire. Apple, for example, was responsible for about a quarter of the $407bn in buy-backs announced in the six months or so after Trump’s tax law was passed in December 2017 – the biggest corporate tax cut in US history.

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Will future history books recognize that the Fed collapsed the economy, or will they say it happened DESPITE their genius interventions?

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities (WS)

Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet, released today, jumped by $94 billion over the past month through November 6, to $4.04 trillion, after having jumped $184 billion in September. Over those two months combined, as the Fed got suckered by the repo market, it piled $278 billion onto it balance sheet, the fastest increase since the post-Lehman month in late 2008 and early 2009, when all heck had broken loose – this is how crazy the Fed has gotten trying to bail out the crybabies on Wall Street:

In response to the repo market blowout that recommenced in mid-September, the New York Fed jumped back into the repo market with both feet. Back in the day, it used to conduct repo operations routinely as its standard way of controlling short-term interest rates. But during the Financial Crisis, the Fed switched from repo operations to emergency bailout loans, zero-interest-rate policy, QE, and paying interest on excess reserves. Repos were no longer needed to control short-term rates and were abandoned.


Then in September, as repo rates spiked, the New York Fed dragged its big gun back out of the shed. With the repurchase agreements, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, and hands out cash. When the securities mature, the counter parties are required to take back the securities and return the cash plus interest to the Fed. Since then, the New York Fed has engaged in two types of repo operations: Overnight repurchase agreements that unwind the next business day; and multi-day repo operations, such as 14-day repos, that unwind at maturity, such as after 14 days.

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“Vindman’s concern is all about Ukraine without any explanation of why the United States would benefit from bilking the taxpayer to support a foreign deadbeat one more time. ”

Colonel Vindman Is an ‘Expert’ With an Agenda (Giraldi)

Washington inside-the-beltway and the Deep State choose to blame the mess in Ukraine on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the established narrative also makes the absurd claim that the political situation in Kiev is somehow important to US national security. The preferred solution is to provide still more money, which feeds the corruption and enables the Ukrainians to attack the Russians. Colonel Vindman, who reported to noted hater of all things Russian Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to By Jingo We’ll Go To War John Bolton, was in the middle of all the schemes to bring down Russia. His concern was not really over Trump vs. Biden. It was focused instead on speeding up the $380 million in military assistance, to include offensive weapons, that was in the pipeline for Kiev.

And assuming that the Ukrainians could actually learn how to use the weapons, the objective was to punish the Russians and prolong the conflict in Donbas for no reason at all that makes any sense. Note the following additional excerpt from Vindman’s prepared statement: “….I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine…. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.” Vindman’s concern is all about Ukraine without any explanation of why the United States would benefit from bilking the taxpayer to support a foreign deadbeat one more time.

One wonders if Vindman was able to compose his statement without a snicker or two intruding. He does eventually go on to cover the always essential national security angle, claiming that “Since 2008, Russia has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy, leveraging military power and employing hybrid warfare to achieve its objectives of regional hegemony and global influence. Absent a deterrent to dissuade Russia from such aggression, there is an increased risk of further confrontations with the West. In this situation, a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.”

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“Burisma’s own American legal team was lobbying State to help eliminate the corruption allegations against it in Ukraine.”

Obama Admin Tried To Partner With Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Gas Firm (Solomon)

A State Department official who served in the U.S. embassy in Kiev told Congress that the Obama administration tried in 2016 to partner with the Ukrainian gas firm that employed Hunter Biden but the project was blocked over corruption concerns. George Kent, the former charge d’affair at the Kiev embassy, said in testimony released Thursday that the State Department’s main foreign aid agency, known as USAID, planned to co-sponsor a clean energy project with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas firm that employed Hunter Biden as a board member. At the time of the proposed project, Burisma was under investigation in Ukraine for alleged corruption. Those cases were settled in late 2016 and early 2017. Burisma contested allegations of corruption but paid a penalty for tax issues.

Kent testified he personally intervened in mid-2016 to stop USAID’s joint project with Burisma because American officials believed the corruption allegations against the gas firm raised concern. “There apparently was an effort for Burisma to help cosponsor, I guess, a contest that USAID was sponsoring related to clean energy. And when I heard about it I asked USAID to stop that sponsorship,” Kent told lawmakers. When asked why he intervened, he answered: “”Because Burisma had a poor reputation in the business, and I didn’t think it was appropriate for the U.S. Government to be co-sponsoring something with a company that had a bad reputation.”

[..] And internal State memos I obtained this week under FOIA show Hunter Biden and Archer had multiple contacts with Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken in 2015-16, and that Burisma’s own American legal team was lobbying State to help eliminate the corruption allegations against it in Ukraine. Hunter Biden’s name was specifically invoked as a reason why State officials should assist, the memos show. A month after Burisma’s contact with State, Joe Biden leveraged the threat of withholding U.S. foreign aid to force Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who at the time was overseeing the Burisma probe.

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Yes, worrying.

Assange Lawyers’ Links To US Govt & Bill Browder (Komisar)

Now look at another Assange link. Mark Summers, who is representing Julian Assange is, along with Bailin, a member of Matrix Chambers. But while he is Assange’s lawyer, Summers is acting for Assange’s persecutor, the U.S. government, in a major extradition case involving executives of Credit Suisse in 2013 making fake loans and getting kickbacks from Mozambique government officials. Does Assange, or those who care about his interests, know he is part of chambers working for the U.S. government? And where do you put this factoid? Alex Bailin is representing Andrew Pearse, one of the Credit Suisse bankers that the U.S. government, represented by Summers, is seeking to extradite!

But there’s chambers where two members are each supporting both Browder and Assange. Geoffrey Robertson is founder of Doughty Street Chambers. He is also a longtime Browder / Magnitsky story promoter. He has pitched implementation of a Magnitsky Act in Australia and has served Browder in UK court. In 2017 British legal actions surrounding an inquest into the death of Alexander Perepilichnyy, he represented Browder, who claimed that the Russian, who died of a heart attack, was somehow a victim of Russian President Putin. Perepilichnyy had lost money in investments he was handling for clients and had to get out of town.

Needing support, he decamped to London and gave Browder documents relating to his client’s questionable bank transfers. He died after a jog, Browder claimed he was poisoned by a rare botanical substance, obviously ordered by Putin, but forensic tests found that untrue. Robertson accused local police of a cover-up. He is a legal advisor to Assange and is regularly interviewed by international media about the case. Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers also has a Browder connection. She is acting for Paul Radu a journalist and official of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is being sued by an Azerbaijan MP. OCCRP is a Browder collaborator.

Browder admits in a deposition that OCCRP prepared documents he would give to the U.S. Justice Department to accuse the son of a Russian railway official of getting $1.9 million of $230 million defrauded from the Russian Treasury. The case was settled when the U.S. couldn’t prove the charge, and the target declined to spend more millions of dollars in his defense. OCCRP got the first Magnitsky Human Rights award, set up for Browder’s partners and acolytes. Robinson is also the longest-serving member of Assange’s legal team. She acted for Assange in the Swedish extradition proceedings and in relation to Ecuador’s request to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion proceedings on the right to asylum.

Why did Assange or his advisors choose lawyers associated with the interests of the U.S. government and Browder? Or how could those lawyers be so ignorant about the facts of Browder’s massive tax evasion and his Magnitsky story fabrications?

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Imagine a country so corrupt you can put your political counterparts on trial.

Brazil Court Ruling Could Free Lula (BBC)

Brazil’s top court has voted to overturn a rule about the jailing of criminals – a change which could lead to ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva being freed from custody. The ruling, announced on Thursday, stipulates that convicted criminals should go to prison only after they have exhausted their appeal options. The change could lead to the release of thousands of prisoners, including Lula. The left-winger led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, but was jailed last year. He was favourite to win last year’s presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption investigation.


However, even if he is released, he will be barred from standing for office because of his criminal record. Lula has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated. After he was barred from running, right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro went on to win the race. Lula’s lawyers say they will seek the former president’s “immediate release” after speaking to him on Friday.

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And here I was thinking opposable thumbs.

Human Population Came From Our Ability To Cooperate (PhysOrg)

Humans may owe their place as Earth’s dominating species to their ability to share and cooperate with each other, according to a new study published in the Journal of Anthropological Research. In “How There Got to Be So Many of Us: The Evolutionary Story of Population Growth and a Life History of Cooperation,” Karen L. Kramer explores the deep past to discover the biological and social underpinnings that allowed humans to excel as reproducers and survivors. She argues that the human tendency to bear many children, engage in food sharing, division of labor, and cooperative childcare duties, sets us apart from our closest evolutionary counterparts, the apes.

In terms of population numbers, few species can compare to the success of humans. Though much attention on population size focuses on the past 200 years, humans were incredibly successful even before the industrial revolution, populating all of the world’s environments with more than a billion people. Kramer uses her research on Maya agriculturalists of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the Savanna Pumé hunter-gatherers of Venezuela to illustrate how cooperative childrearing increases the number of children that mothers can successfully raise and—in environments where beneficial—even speed up maturation and childbearing. Kramer argues that intergenerational cooperation, meaning that adults help support children, but children also share food and many other resources with their parents and other siblings, is at the center of humans’ demographic success. “Together our diet and life history, coupled with an ability to cooperate, made us really good at getting food on the table, reproducing, and surviving,” Kramer writes.

[..] She found that Maya children contributed a substantial amount of work to the family’s survival, with those aged 7-14 spending on average 2 to 5 hours working each day, and children aged 15-18 spending as much as their parents, about 6.5 hours a day. Labor type varied, with younger children doing much of the childcare, older children and fathers fill in much of the day-today cost of growing and processing food and running the household. “If mothers and juveniles did not cooperate, mothers could support far fewer children over their reproductive careers,” Kramer writes. “It is the strength of intergenerational cooperation that allows parents to raise more children than they would otherwise be able to on their efforts alone.”

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Oct 232019
 


Salvador Dali Portrait of my father 1920

Bernie Pledges To End Prosecuting Whistleblowers Under Espionage Act (IC)
Everyone Is a Russian Asset (Matt Taibbi)
Hillary, Acknowledge the Damage You’ve Caused (Tulsi Gabbard)
Graham To Introduce Resolution Condemning House Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)
The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be An Expensive Run (ZH)
EU Moves Towards Brexit Delay As Johnson Seeks Election To Break Impasse (R.)
Facebook Probe By US States Expands To 47 Attorneys General (R.)
US States Plan Google Antitrust Meeting Next Month In Colorado (R.)
Boeing Ousts First Senior Executive As 737 MAX Crisis Grows (R.)
Trump Approves $4.5 Million In Aid To ‘White Helmets’ In Syria (RT)
The Medicare for All Cost Debate Is Extremely Dishonest (Dayen)

I kid you not, Bernie doesn’t know who Reality Winner is. While AOC has only heard her name, it seems.

These are the people who should protect Julian Assange. They’re just posturing.

Bernie Pledges To End Prosecuting Whistleblowers Under Espionage Act (IC)

As President, Bernie Sanders would end the practice of using the controversial Espionage Act to prosecute government whistleblowers, the Vermont senator told The Intercept in an interview on Saturday ahead of a major rally in New York. The century-old law had largely gone out of fashion until it was deployed heavily by the Obama administration, which prosecuted eight people accused of leaking to the media under the Espionage Act, more than all previous presidents combined. President Donald Trump is on pace to break Barack Obama’s record if he gets a second term: He has prosecuted eight such whistleblowers, five of them using the Espionage Act, according to the Press Freedom Tracker. Asked if it is appropriate to prosecute whistleblowers using the Espionage Act, Sanders said, “Of course not.”

The Espionage Act, which was passed in 1917 to suppress opposition to World War I and now considers leakers to effectively be spies, makes a fair trial impossible, as relevant evidence is classified and kept from the defense, and the bar for conviction is low. The law also comes with stiffer criminal penalties and longer sentences than more obvious charges that might be leveled, such as mishandling classified intelligence. During the interview, The Intercept noted that Trump has referred to White House officials, who provided information to the whistleblower who went through legally sanctioned channels and alerted Congress of Trump’s Ukraine activities, as “spies.”

Democrats widely condemned Trump for the comparison, though those same Democrats have not generally objected to the Justice Department’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists, suggesting that the media is being treated tantamount to a foreign adversary. “Whistleblowers have a very important role to play in the political process,” Sanders said in response. “And I am very supportive of the courage of that whistleblower, whoever he or she may be.” Asked if he would give a second look at the record-setting length of the sentence doled out to National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, Sanders demurred, saying that he was supportive of whistleblowers but unfamiliar with her case.*

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who joined Sanders during the interview, agreed. “I don’t want to speak out of turn when it comes to Reality Winner, but I just think that the prosecution of whistleblowers is frankly against our democracy. We rely on whistleblowers, we rely on journalists, in order for us to hold our systems accountable.”

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“Trump’s campaign was a clown show. He had almost no institutional backing. His “ground game” was nonexistent: his “campaign” was a TV program based almost wholly around unscripted media appearances. [..] He didn’t prepare a victory speech, for the perfectly logical reason that he never expected to win.”

Everyone Is a Russian Asset (Matt Taibbi)

Democrats now are assuming the role once played by Republicans of the Tom Delay era, who denounced everyone opposed to the War on Terror as “Saddam-lovers.” In the midst of this in 2003, the Washington Post protested the way American journalism was “infected with jingoism and intolerance.” That was after Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post ran a headline, “Don’t aid these Saddam-lovers” about “appeasement-loving celebs” like Laurence Fishburne, Tim Robbins, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, and Susan Sarandon. Today, the New York Post is the paper crying out against the “sad, sick conspiracy theories” about Gabbard (an “Assad-lover” instead of a “Saddam-lover”), but some of the other players are the same.

Sarandon is regularly denounced now by Democrats instead of Republicans, this time for having supported Stein in 2016, an act seen as equivalent to having tongue-kissed Putin on live TV. She was also one of a handful of celebrities noted for a “controversial” political donation in the Daily Beast’s red-baiting May article about the suspicious contributors to Gabbard’s campaign. The #Resistance has come up with all sorts of words for such fifth-columnists and deviationists: they are “false-balancers” or “false equivalencers,” “neo-Naderites,” “purity-testers,” “both-sidesists,” “whataboutists,” “horseshoe theorists,” “Russia skeptics” or “Russia denialists,” and “anti-anti-Trumpers.” Such heretics are all ultimately seen as being on “team Putin.”

This witch-hunting insanity isn’t just dangerous, it’s a massive breach from reality. Trump’s campaign was a clown show. He had almost no institutional backing. His “ground game” was nonexistent: his “campaign” was a TV program based almost wholly around unscripted media appearances. Trump raised just over half the $1.2 billion Hillary pulled in (making him the first presidential candidate dating back to 1976 to win with a funds deficit). He didn’t prepare a victory speech, for the perfectly logical reason that he never expected to win. Even if you posit the most elaborate theories of Russian interference (which I don’t, but of course I’m denialist scum), what happened in 2016 was still almost entirely a domestic story, with Trump benefiting from long-developing public rejection of the political establishment.

Rather than confront the devastating absurdity of defeat before an ad-libbing game show host who was seemingly trying to lose – a black comedy that is 100% in America’s rich stupidity tradition – Democrats have gone all-in on this theory of foreign infiltration. House speaker Nancy Pelosi even said as much in a White House meeting, pointing at Trump and proclaiming: “All roads lead to Putin.” All? Seriously? Is this ever going to end?

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Tulsi pushes on as rumors of Hillary entering the race get louder.

Hillary, Acknowledge the Damage You’ve Caused (Tulsi Gabbard)


Hillary, your foreign policy was a disaster for our country and the world—resulting in the deaths and injuries of so many of my brothers and sisters in uniform, devastating entire countries, millions of lives lost, refugee crises, our enemy al-Qaeda/ISIS strengthened, increased Iranian and Russian influence in the region, Turkey emboldened, and exacerbated the problem of nuclear proliferation by overthrowing Gadhafi in Libya. Yet despite the damage you have done to our country and the world, you want to continue your failed policies directly or indirectly through the Democratic nominee.


It’s time for you to acknowledge the damage you have caused and apologize for it. It is long past time for you to step down from your throne so the Democratic Party can lead with a new foreign policy which will actually be in the interests of and benefit the American people and the world.

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Senate 180º opposite the House. Lovely.

Graham To Introduce Resolution Condemning House Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is planning to introduce a resolution condemning the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process, and argued that any articles should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial. “This resolution puts the Senate on record condemning the House. …Here’s the point of the resolution: Any impeachment vote based on this process, to me, is illegitimate, is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial,” Graham told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. President Trump and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill have lashed out at how House Democrats are handling the impeachment inquiry, arguing they should hold a vote to formally launch the investigation.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has argued the rules don’t require a vote. But Republicans say it would give them more leeway to call their own witnesses, and put swing-state Democrats on the record on launching the impeachment inquiry. Graham added on Tuesday night that Trump should get “the same rights that any American has if you’re giving a parking ticket to confront the witnesses against you: can’t be based on hearsay.” “We cannot allow future presidents and this president to be impeached based on an inquiry in the House that’s never been voted upon that does not allow the president to confront the witnesses against him, to call witnesses on his behalf, and cross-examine people who are accusing him of misdeeds,” he added.

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That’s a given in every next election.

The 2020 Election Is Shaping Up To Be An Expensive Run (ZH)

President Trump has more cash on hand than any single Democratic primary candidate, a product of his unorthodox campaign that started amassing money his first day in the White House, a move no other president in U.S. history has done. While President Trump is gearing up for the general election, there are still 18 Democratic candidates who are fighting to become the party’s nominee in the primary. As Statista’s Sarah Feldman notes, Senator Bernie Sanders has the most cash on hand, followed closely by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the three leading Democrats by cash on hand. All top three Democratic hopefuls have over double the cash that former Vice President Joe Biden has on hand. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a moderate $9 million in cash, a number that hasn’t changed much since last quarter.

The amount of cash on hand includes money from fundraising, and any funds from any previous presidential, senate, or congressional campaigns. The cash on hand metric provides insights into how much wiggle room campaigns have to grow their staff, expand their operations, and develop their advertising strategy. Candidates need to do all three to gain traction in early primary and caucus states. Many of the middling and cash-strapped candidates will be in danger of running out of funds, or not meeting the DNC’s stringent fundraising threshold to make the next debate stage. The fundraising requirement involves getting 130,000 donors, 400 of whom need to be from at least 20 states.

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From what I understand the Withdrawal Agreement Bill did not pass parliament, as many claim. It merely passed the second reading, the step before being debated in both houses. Then Boris delayed it.

EU Moves Towards Brexit Delay As Johnson Seeks Election To Break Impasse (R.)

EU leaders should delay Brexit after Prime Minister Boris Johnson paused legislation on his deal following a parliamentary defeat, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday, as Britain spins towards a possible election to break the impasse. As the clock ticks down to the deadline for Britain’s departure on Oct. 31, Brexit is hanging in the balance as divided lawmakers debate when, how and even whether it should happen more than three years since the 2016 referendum. In another day of Brexit drama in the 800-year-old Westminster seat of power, lawmakers handed Johnson the first major parliamentary victory of his premiership by signalling their support for his deal in an early legislative hurdle.


But that was overshadowed just minutes later when lawmakers defeated him on his timetable to rush the legislation through the House of Commons in just three days, prompting the government to say it would pause the legislative process. Tusk recommended late on Tuesday evening that the leaders of the remaining 27 member states back a delay. “In order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension,” he said on Twitter. [..] On Tuesday, lawmakers did vote by 329 to 299 in favour of the second reading of the legislation for the Brexit deal – still no guarantee of success since the bill could be amended by lawmakers who want changes. They then opposed by 322 to 308 votes Johnson’s extremely tight timetable.

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Will it lead anywhere?

Facebook Probe By US States Expands To 47 Attorneys General (R.)

A New York-led probe into allegations that Facebook Inc put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates has expanded to include attorneys general from 47 U.S. states and territories, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Tuesday. The investigation of Facebook announced in September had included Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. It now includes most U.S. states as well as the U.S. territory of Guam. Facebook shares closed down 3.9% at $182.34 on Tuesday. The statement provided a list of states involved in the probe and added that other states “cannot confirm their participation in pending investigations.” California, the largest state by population, was not on the list.


Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices. Facebook said that its users had multiple choices for the services that the company provides. “We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face,” said Will Castleberry, vice president, state and local policy, at Facebook. “We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.” Facebook also faces probes by the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

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They should investigate the links between CIA and Facebook/Google.

US States Plan Google Antitrust Meeting Next Month In Colorado (R.)

U.S. state attorneys general probing Alphabet’s Google plan to meet next month in Colorado to discuss a probe into whether the search giant’s business practices break antitrust law, according to three sources knowledgeable about the meeting. The meeting, which is being planned for Nov. 11, would be similar to a gathering this week in New York where state and federal enforcers from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission discussed their probe of Facebook, according to one of the sources. A second source said that this meeting would touch on organizational issues and was likely to be one in a long series of gatherings to discuss the probe.


The investigation of Google appears to be well underway since Texas sent the search and advertising giant a subpoena asking for information about its ad business. As of earlier this month, Google began sending data to the attorneys general. The investigation, which involves all state attorneys general except Alabama and California, seeks to dig into the opaque business of online digital advertising, where Google is a dominant player. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico are also part of the investigation.

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The first of many, we may hope.

Boeing Ousts First Senior Executive As 737 MAX Crisis Grows (R.)

Boeing Co on Tuesday ousted the top executive of its commercial airplanes division, Kevin McAllister, marking the first high-level departure since two fatal crashes of its 737 MAX jets. The company said it named veteran Boeing executive Stan Deal to succeed McAllister effective immediately as president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). Deal had led Boeing’s Global Services division. The world’s largest planemaker faces a growing crisis over the eight-month safety ban of its previously best-selling flagship single-aisle jet prompted by crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.


Tuesday’s announcement, a day before the company was due to report quarterly financial results, shocked some Boeing employees, with one insider calling McAllister a “scapegoat” and pointing out that he came to the helm of BCA later in the 737 MAX development. It ends a relatively unusual experiment at Boeing of handing an outsider a prominent position, and places the crucial commercial airplanes division in the hands of a long-serving Boeing insider who has formed relationships with some important customers, such as Singapore Airlines. McAllister, a regular figure at industry conclaves, had formed deep relationships with key airline customers forged during his previous position selling services for General Electric Co.

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The Deep State rules supreme: “Last May, the Trump administration had announced it would stop funding the White Helmets, only to backtrack a month later and send the group $6.8 million.”

Trump Approves $4.5 Million In Aid To ‘White Helmets’ In Syria (RT)

US president Donald Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid to the so-called Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), aka “White Helmets,” calling their work “important and highly valued.” The group’s critics point to its terrorist ties. “Over the course of the 8-year conflict in Syria, the SCD has rescued more than 115,000 people, including many ethnic and religious minorities,” the White House said, announcing the aid on Tuesday. However, the source of this figure is the group itself, and it has not been independently verified. Likewise, the organization has only been around since 2014. Washington pledged $5 million in aid to the group at a conference back in March. Last May, the Trump administration had announced it would stop funding the White Helmets, only to backtrack a month later and send the group $6.8 million.

The group’s name is highly misleading, as the White Helmets have operated solely in areas controlled by anti-government militants, such as the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, now called HTS. The actual Syrian civil defense is part of the government, and has been subjected to US sanctions as such. Currently the White Helmets operate solely in the parts of Idlib province controlled by the militants. Photographs of armed militants with “White Helmets” insignia, participating in the Turkish-backed ‘Operation Peace Spring’ against the Kurds in northern Syria, have appeared on social networks over the past two weeks. Still, the US continues to encourage “allies and partners” to join in its support of the White Helmets, and “efforts to protect civilians, religious and ethnic minorities, and other innocent victims of the Syrian conflict,” according to the White House.

In December 2018, the Russia-based Foundation for the Study of Democracy presented evidence of their investigations in Syria, showing the group to be engaged in staging false chemical and other attacks, harvesting organs of the people they pretended to rescue, and looting the bodies of the fallen, among other things.

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Time to clean up the debate.

The Medicare for All Cost Debate Is Extremely Dishonest (Dayen)

Over the weekend in Indianola, Iowa, Elizabeth Warren announced that she would soon roll out specific details for financing Medicare for All, the culmination of a week of “but how will you pay for that” demands from the media and rival presidential candidates. That a nation with millions of uninsured people and tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths from lack of access to health care is consumed with talking about taxes, rather than the revolution in human rights that would come from universal coverage, tells you a lot about life in the United States, and why we still suffer from a broken system.

But this triumph of budgetary scolding is being applied unevenly. If we want to talk about “paying” for universal coverage, we should expand the discussion to all the candidates who claim to support it. While Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg and others have howled about cost, there’s a deception at the heart of their own plans: either they put just as much health care costs on the federal government as the Warren-Sanders single-payer model, or they’re effectively useless. Biden and Buttigieg have separately proposed public options that would compete with private insurance. In Biden’s plan, even those with employer-sponsored insurance could opt out and choose the public plan.

Buttigieg would offer subsidies to help people pay for the public option, capping the cost of insurance at 8.5 percent of income. Both explicitly pitch this as a cheaper way to establish universal coverage. But that claim relies on a hide-the-ball scenario. Biden or Buttigieg’s public option, over time, will either serve as a weak alternative to private coverage, with high premiums and substandard coverage. Or, backed by government bargaining power, it will outshine private insurance and gradually supplant it. Buttigieg himself talks about his plan as a “glide path” to Medicare for All.

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Places with mass protests : Chile, Ecuador, Lebanon, Barcelona, France, London, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Iraq, Guinea, Bolivia, Algeria, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil, Sudan

New addition today: Azerbaijan.

Despite the name, snow leopards and clouded leopards are not closely related to leopards.

Jul 132019
 


Pablo Picasso Weeping woman 1937

 

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)
Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)
Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)
Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)
Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)
Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)
About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)
CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)
CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)
US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)
EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)
Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

 

 

The circus comes to town one week later but with a much longer show and added attractions. This will be nuts.

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)

The special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation on 24 July, one week later than his appearance was originally planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him. Mueller had been scheduled to report on the inquiry into Russian election meddling and ties between Russia and the campaign of Donald Trump on 17 July. But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions. Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time, three hours instead of two, before the House judiciary committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing.

The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him. In the joint statement, the panels said the longer hearing “will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power”. Mueller has expressed his reluctance to testify and said he won’t go beyond what is in his 448-page report. But Democrats have been determined to highlight its contents for Americans who they believe have not read it. They want to extract information from the former special counsel and spotlight what they say are his most damaging findings against Trump.

Democrats are expected to ask Mueller about his conclusions, including that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice after detailing several episodes in which Trump tried to influence the investigation. Mueller also said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin. One thing judiciary members want to focus on in questioning Mueller is whether Trump would have been charged with a crime were he not president. Mueller said at the news conference that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” because of longstanding justice department policy. But Democrats want to know more about how he made that decision and when.

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Michael Cohen couldn’t deliver.

Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)

A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss, President Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, however, their investigation has quieted, the people familiar with the inquiry said, and prosecutors now don’t appear poised to charge any Trump Organization executives in the probe that stemmed from the case against Cohen.


In January, one month after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors requested interviews with executives at the company, CNN reported. But prosecutors never followed up on their initial request, people familiar with the matter said, and the interviews never took place. Meanwhile, there has been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, one person familiar with the matter said.

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“..the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history.”

Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)

Where are Clintons, these dog days of summer? The Hamptons? Salty, sunny Martha’s Vineyard? Under a rock somewhere in the Chappaqua woods? Fate is turning in more than one uncomfortable way for the once-charmed couple of Boomerdom. There is, of course, the freshly re-issued Jeffrey Epstein underage sex scandal, come ‘round again with a vengeance this time because there are fewer Clinton partisans left in the Department of Justice where the matter has festered for decades like a fistula slowly seeping its rot through the body politic. The vengeance emanates from the Clinton’s nemesis, the uppity Golden Golem of Greatness who dared to “steal” Hillary’s place in the Oval Office (and history).

To put it plainly, Mr. Trump had enough of the two-year-plus persecution he endured from the Clinton-inspired Mueller investigation into the Clinton-propagated Russia Collusion flim-flam. And having patiently survived this audacious, seditious effrontery, is now out to squash the Clintons like a pair of palmetto bugs. [..] And now there is the Epstein matter, which threatens not only former president Bill Clinton, but a cosmos of political, financial, and entertainment “stars” in countless ugly incidents that involve a kind of personal corruption that has no political context but says an awful lot about the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history. President Clinton has already kicked off this debacle by lying to the media about the number of rides he took on Mr. Epstein’s notorious airplane.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice. When they came up from the backwater of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1992, they seemed like the fresh, bright antidote to twelve years of fusty Reaganism with the GHW Bush moldy cherry-on-top. Governor Bill, so glib and charming. Tall and catnip to the ladies, too! And almost immediately he was in deep shit over that part of his act, but he wiggled through it all with the aid of his perky, stalwart wife and partner, who defended him sedulously on nationwide TV. (America had never even heard about her misadventures on the Watergate Committee, where, age 27, she gained a reputation for being less than honest.) And that was followed by the first instance of Hillary moneygrubbing when she turned a few thousand bucks into a six-figure bonanza almost overnight in a wired commodities trade.

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There is so much ugliness still hidden in this. Will we ever know?

Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)

Federal prosecutors allege in a new court filing that Jeffrey Epstein may have engaged in witness tampering by paying off two potential witnesses days before the Miami Herald began publishing a series of explosive exposés about the registered sex offender and his victims. According to financial records, Epstein wired $350,000 to two ‘possible co-conspirators’ who could testify against him. $100,000 was wired from “Institution-1” to one person, while just three days later $250,000 was wired to another individual. Neither of the payments appear to be recurring based on five years of bank records. Is one of the co-conspirators Ghislaine Maxwell? The daughter of a British media barron, Maxwell was described by one Epstein accuser in a 2017 lawsuit as “the highest ranking employee” of his alleged enterprise, in which she was said to have managed both Epstein’s household and his sex life.

Via the Wall Street Journal: “Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of a British media baron, was a fixture for years in Manhattan’s social scene, often written about in tabloids for her close ties to British royalty and to a mysterious financier named Jeffrey Epstein. But Mr. Epstein’s arrest last week on sex-trafficking charges has brought renewed attention to her alleged role as one of his top aides. Ms. Maxwell, 57 years old, has been accused by three women in affidavits and other court filings of recruiting young women for Mr. Epstein and training them for sex. Two of the women have alleged that Ms. Maxwell, together with Mr. Epstein, sexually assaulted them, according to the filings.

What’s more, “Juan Alessi, who said in one of the depositions that he served as the Palm Beach house manager from around 1992 through 2002, described a basket of sex toys in Ms. Maxwell’s bathroom closet. He said he would find them around when he cleaned up after visits from the young women,” according to the Journal.

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Only Big Ag deals with Wall Street.

Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)

In the wake of the U.S. housing meltdown of the late 2000s, JPMorgan Chase & Co hunted for new ways to expand its loan business beyond the troubled mortgage sector. The nation’s largest bank found enticing new opportunities in the rural Midwest – lending to U.S. farmers who had plenty of income and collateral as prices for grain and farmland surged. JPMorgan grew its farm-loan portfolio by 76 percent, to $1.1 billion, between 2008 and 2015, according to year-end figures, as other Wall Street players piled into the sector. Total U.S. farm debt is on track to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation-adjusted $317 billion a decade earlier and approaching levels seen in the 1980s farm crisis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


But now – after years of falling farm income and an intensifying U.S.-China trade war – JPMorgan and other Wall Street banks are heading for the exits, according to a Reuters analysis of the farm-loan holdings they reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion, between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019, the analysis showed. That’s a 17.5% decline.

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I meant to do that?!

Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)

A widely expected interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve would give China more breathing room in shoring up its slowing economy, some analysts said. Overnight, markets took Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments during the first of a two-day Congressional testimony as affirming expectations for easier monetary policy in the U.S. The S&P 500 briefly topped 3,000 for the first time, and Treasury yields edged lower. A looser monetary policy environment would reduce pressure on China’s central bank to ease monetary policy. Amid trade tensions with the U.S., China’s economy has struggled to gain momentum.


Private surveys released last week by Caixin showed services activity fell in June to its lowest since February, and the manufacturing sector contracted, after three months of expansion. Among several measures to support the economy over the last several months, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has made targeted attempts to lower financing costs to privately run enterprises, which account for the majority of the country’s economic growth and employment. “If the Fed does go ahead and cut rates, which I don’t think is a given … it simply means the PBoC has a little breathing room to see if the policies it has implemented have an impact on the real economy,” Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told CNBC on Thursday by phone.

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“Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion..”

“..debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017..”

About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)

China’s lending to other countries has surged in the past decade, causing debt levels to jump dramatically, and as much as half of such debt to developing economies is “hidden,” a new study has found. Such “hidden” debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, or the Paris Club — a group of creditor nations. Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion — or from 1% of global economic output to more than 5%, according to the study from Germany-based think tank the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank,” the report’s researchers said.


The study, which looked at nearly 2,000 Chinese loans to 152 countries from 1949 to 2017, was undertaken by well-known debt expert Carmen Reinhart from Harvard University, as well as Kiel Institute’s Christoph Trebesch and Sebastian Horn. For 50 developing countries which have borrowed from China, that debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017, according to estimates by the study’s researchers. “Advanced and higher middle income countries tend to receive portfolio debt flows, via sovereign bond purchases of the People’s Bank of China, ” the report said. “As a result, many advanced countries have become highly indebted towards the Chinese government.”

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There’s Adam Schiff for you in all his glory. Watch for him in the Mueller hearings too.

CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)

When the CIA and other agencies in the United States government pushed for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in 1981, it was crafted to exclude “covert agents” who resided in the U.S. There was consideration by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of how the legislation might “chill or stifle public criticism of intelligence activities or public debate concerning intelligence policy.” More than three decades later, the CIA is apparently unsatisfied with the protections the bill granted “covert agents. It has enlisted a select group of senators and representatives to help expand the universe of individuals who are protected, making members of the press who cover intelligence matters more vulnerable to prosecution.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, was involved in adding language to expand the IIPA to the Intelligence Authorization Act moving through Congress. “Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans by criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill,” declared Daniel Schuman, who is the policy director for Demand Progress. Schuman added, “Schiff’s expansion of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act beyond all reason will effectively muzzle reporting on torture, mass surveillance, and other crimes against the American people—all at the request of the CIA. Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.”

The CIA put their specific request for what language they would like amended in writing and sent it to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Their request was essentially copied and pasted, with no changes, into the intelligence bill. “Undercover agency officers face ever-evolving threats, including cyber threats,” the CIA argued. “Particularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past agency programs, such as the RDI investigation [CIA torture report], the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid.”

“This proposal would provide protection for all undercover agency officers by allowing for the prosecution of individuals responsible for disclosing the identities of those officers, regardless whether the undercover officer serves inside or outside of the United States,” the agency additionally stated. Schiff supports the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and shares the CIA’s view that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” not a media organization. In 2018, when Assange was willing to speak with investigators about the Russia probe, he replied, “Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

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Do I want to read this report?

CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)

In December 2014, the Bureau, alongside The Rendition Project, began a major project to trace the history of the RDI programme. The impetus for our investigation came from the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture by the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee. The authors of this report had high-level access to internal CIA documents, which they mined to produce a damning assessment of the torture programme’s brutality, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. But they were compelled by the Obama administration, and by the CIA itself, to censor — “redact” — all parts of the report that could identify specific times and places where abuses had occurred.

This is important, because without being able to tie illegal activities to specific times and places, the quest for redress is hamstrung, and meaningful accountability — legal, public, historical — remains a mirage. The Senate report did offer a crucial insight, however: the first complete list of prisoners held in the CIA’s black sites. 119 names, each with a date of custody (redacted) and a record of how many days they were held (also partly redacted). In the days after the publication of the Senate report, we set to work reconstructing this list to reveal the hidden dates. Figuring out a date often meant that we could match it to a flight record; matching to a flight record meant that we could determine where a prisoner was brought from or sent to.

As we cross-correlated thousands of data points — from declassified government documents, footnotes in the Senate report, aviation data, records of corporate outsourcing of rendition flights, legal cases, media reporting and NGO investigations — the contours of the CIA’s programme of secret detention and torture began to emerge more clearly. Rather than just understanding certain individual histories, we could begin to discern the entire scope of the programme’s development. More than four years later, we’re publishing the results of our investigation in a 400-page report entitled CIA Torture Unredacted. It is the first time that the entirety of the CIA’s detention programme has been systematically revealed.

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“Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes.”

US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office will hold a hearing on Aug 19 in its probe of France’s new planned tax on big technology companies, calling the proposal “unreasonable.” President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the tax, which could lead to the United States imposing new tariffs or other trade restrictions. USTR said in a public notice the levy was an “unreasonable tax policy.” The plan departs from tax norms because of “extraterritoriality; taxing revenue not income; and a purpose of penalizing particular technology companies for their commercial success,” it said. USTR added that statements by French officials suggest the tax will “amount to de facto discrimination against U.S. companies… while exempting smaller companies, particularly those that operate only in France.”


The tax is due to apply retroactively from the start of 2019. USTR said that calls into question the fairness of the tax. On Thursday, the French Senate approved the 3% levy that will apply to revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than 25 million euros in French revenue and 750 million euros ($845 million) worldwide. Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes. They say a levy is needed because big, multinational internet companies such as Facebook and Amazon are currently able to book profits in low-tax countries like Ireland, no matter where the revenue originates. Political pressure to respond has been growing as local retailers in high streets and online have been disadvantaged.

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The crazies.

EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday it would allow for the expanded use of a pesticide it considers toxic to bees, a move that comes just days after the Trump administration said it was suspending data collection on bee populations. The pesticide known as sulfoxaflor will be permitted for use on certain crops for the first time, and in other areas that were prohibited under the Obama administration. The agency considers sulfoxaflor “very highly toxic” to bees. In a call with reporters to announce the decision, a top EPA official emphasized the agency’s research on the pesticide’s effects on bees and said the rule was designed with pollinators in mind.


“To reduce exposure to bees, the product label will have crop-specific restrictions and important pollinator protection language,” including limits on how close to bloom sulfoxaflor can be sprayed, the official said. But it may be difficult to monitor whether the regulations spare bees as intended. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it was suspending one of the few remaining government data sets that monitor bee populations and loss. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Earthjustice, which fought sulfoxaflor use in the 2015 suit, said in a statement Friday. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”

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“..perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation.”

Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

Deep set beady eyes peer from folds of thick leather skin. They close slowly in a leisurely, ponderous blink. Nostrils flare with each warm, damp exhalation, causing a slight rise of the stubby nasal horn that rests on those cavernous nostrils. I stare at this primitive, prehistoric creature which seems to have just trundled out of the Jurassic Period. Her skin is leather-thick, her face is topped by a firm horn and her species is over 20 million years old. She seems invincible. Somehow our soft-skinned species has managed to mangle her population down and down until today, when only one Malaysian Sumatran Rhino exists on earth. And there I stand looking into her eyes. She is called Iman. Iman means faith.

Faith is a funny concept when you stand looking at the very last individual of a species and your ears ring with her plaintive cries. Rather than feel faith in humanity, I felt a deep loss, a deep hopelessness. That was only after five minutes of meeting Iman. Yet behind me stood Dr Junaidi Payne and Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who have been working on protecting the Sumatran Rhino in Sabah for almost their whole lives. They were there in 2017 when Puntung had to be euthanised. They were there in May this year when Tam, the last male, died. They will, most likely, be there when Iman breathes her last breath. The last breath of a species. They have front row seats of the sixth mass extinction, directed and produced wholly by humans.


Iman cannot be saved. It is the brutal yet undeniable truth that one day she will be gripped by illness or old age and will leave us. If I choose to have children, their world will be undoubtedly different to ours today. Perhaps they will cry at the abundance of life that has been ravaged by their ancestors. Perhaps they will listen to the story of the time I met Iman. But perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation. Rhino and girl. We were two, yet we were alike. Our hearts both pounding as we watched each other, our gazes both narrowed and our breath quickened.

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Jun 042019
 


Henri Matisse Still Life with Apples on Pink Cloth 1925

 

Repeal the Espionage Act (FFF)
Swedish Court Rejects Request To Detain Julian Assange (G.)
US Moving Toward Major Antitrust Probe Of Tech Giants (R.)
Tech Stocks Crushed by Potential “Unprecedented, Wide-Ranging Probe” (WS)
Amazon and Facebook Both Want To Read Human Emotions (Kesel)
House To Vote Next Week On Whether To Find Barr, McGahn In Contempt (R.)
The Zeitgeist Knows (Kunstler)
New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Referendum (TNE)
Canadian Inquiry Calls Deaths Of Indigenous Women ‘Genocide’ (R.)
The Great Insect Dying (Hance)
Arctic Is Thawing So Fast Scientists Are Losing Their Measuring Tools (TO)
High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End in 2050 (Nafeez Ahmed)

 

 

A good place to start.

Repeal the Espionage Act (FFF)

World War I is the gift that just keeps on giving. Although the U.S. government’s intervention into this senseless, immoral, and destructive war occurred 100 years ago, the adverse effects of the war continue to besiege our nation. Among the most notable examples is the Espionage Act, a tyrannical law that was enacted two months after the U.S. entered the war and which, unfortunately, remained on the books after the war came to an end. In fact, it is that World War I relic that U.S. officials are now relying on to secure the criminal indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks head who released a mountain of evidence disclosing the inner workings and grave wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. national-security establishment, especially with respect to the manner in which it has waged it undeclared forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Some news media commentators are finally coming to the realization that if the Espionage Act can be enforced against Assange for what he did, it can be enforced against anyone in the press for revealing damaging inside information about the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Therefore, they are calling on the Justice Department to cease and desist from its prosecution of Assange. Of course, they are right, but the problem is that they don’t go far enough. Their mindsets reflect the customary acceptance of the status quo. The mindset is that we Americans simply have to accept the way things are and plead with the government to go easy on us.

That’s just plain nonsense. It is incumbent on the American people to start thinking at a high level, one that doesn’t just accept the existence of tyrannical laws and instead calls for their repeal. [..] Wilson had to force American men to fight in World War I. He conscripted them. Enslaved would be a better word. When a government has to force its citizens to fight a particular war, that’s a good sign that it’s a bad war, one that shouldn’t be waged. In fact that was one of the reasons for the Espionage Act—not to punish people for spying but rather for criticizing the draft and the war. The law converted anyone who publicly criticized the draft or attempted to persuade American men to resist the draft into felons. And make no mistake about it: U.S. officials went after such people with a vengeance, doing their best to punish Americans for doing nothing more than speaking.

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The only thing that makes any sense is to close the case immediately.

Swedish Court Rejects Request To Detain Julian Assange (G.)

An attempt to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden has suffered a setback after a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevents Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its grant of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.

The 47-year-old Australian was too ill to appear last week at the latest hearing at Westminster magistrates court in relation to a rival US extradition request. US government lawyers are seeking his removal to the US where he is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years. He also faces additional charges of violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks. If both Sweden and the US present competing extradition requests, it will be up to the UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, to decide which application takes priority. At the Swedish court on Monday, a judgment was read out saying that since Assange was already in a British prison he did not need to be formally detained to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors.

“As Julian Assange is currently serving a prison sentence, the investigation can proceed with the help of a European investigation order, which does not require Julian Assange’s detention (in Sweden). The court therefore does not find it proportional to detain Julian Assange,” the judgment said. Assange’s Swedish defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, argued that Assange’s imprisonment in Britain meant there was no flight risk. “He is in prison for half a year at least, and he is detained on behalf of the United States. So there is no point detaining him in Sweden too,” Samuelson said.

Responding to the ruling, the Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said: “The investigation continues with interviews in Sweden. I will also issue a European investigation order in order to interview Julian Assange. No date has been set yet. We will constantly review the state of the investigation.” Before the judgment, the prosecutor confirmed that if the court granted her request she intended to issue a European arrest warrant for Assange “concerning surrender to Sweden”.

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May take years.

US Moving Toward Major Antitrust Probe Of Tech Giants (R.)

The U.S. government is gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google misuse their massive market power, sources told Reuters on Monday, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which enforce antitrust laws in the United States, have divided oversight over the four companies, two sources said, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department.


With jurisdiction established, the next step is for the two federal agencies to decide if they want to open formal investigations. Results are not likely to be quick. A previous FTC probe of Google took more than two years. Technology companies face a backlash in the United States and across the world, fueled by concerns among competitors, lawmakers and consumer groups that the firms have too much power and are harming users and business rivals. Shares of Facebook Inc fell 7.5% on Monday while Google’s owner Alphabet Inc shed more than 6%. Amazon.com Inc shares fell 4.6% and Apple Inc dipped 1%.

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Pretty wild swings.

Tech Stocks Crushed by Potential “Unprecedented, Wide-Ranging Probe” (WS)

It’s a rare moment in recent years that US government regulators are suddenly going after four tech and social media giants simultaneously – Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple. These four companies are part of my FANGMAN index that also includes Microsoft, Nvidia, and Netflix. The index dove 4.3% today, the biggest percentage decline since the infamous 4.6% drop on December 24, 2018. In terms of dollars, $137 billion in market capitalization was wiped out. Over the past four trading days the FANGMAN index has dropped by 6.6%. I highlighted today’s move in red (market cap data via YCharts):

The index has gone through some brain-twisting surges and plunges over the past two years. It peaked on August 31, 2018 (at $4.63 trillion), then plunged 29% by December 24 (to $3.29 trillion), then exploded 40% higher by April 29. But that day, at $4.61 trillion, it failed to take out the August high. And then the selling started. Since April 29, the FANGMAN index has dropped 14.0%, or by $645 billion in market cap, giving up 49% of the post-Christmas rally in just five weeks.

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And here’s that Orwell guy again.

Amazon and Facebook Both Want To Read Human Emotions (Kesel)

Facebook and Amazon’s insanity only seems to continue with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Now, the two big conglomerate giants want to move into the uncharted territory of reading human emotions, both in their own ways. Facebook wants a robot that has five senses which can read human emotions. Facebook wants “emotionally sensitive” robots that can explore the world, identify objects and people and enable its users to make more friends, Dailymail reported. The robots would be fitted with wheels or tank-like caterpillar treads that would allow them to trundle about their environment. Alternatively, such robots could be fitted out with drive systems that would allow them to move around underwater, fly through the air or float in space, Facebook suggest in their patent.


I am not sure why anyone would trust Facebook with data ever again, let alone biometric data, after all the numerous scandals Activist Post has documented including data mining. But to each their own I guess. Amazon is also looking into reading human emotions in a completely different way by utilizing a voice-activated wearable device, that will sense its wearer’s state of mind by the tone of voice, Bloomberg reported. It’s worth noting that both companies have a smart home device, and after reading this you should fear what information is being gathered by the cameras and microphones attached to those electronics … besides the typically targeted advertising to turn consumers into the product.

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The Democrats need to hurry with that impeachment plan, lest ‘the other side’ starts handing out indictments.

House To Vote Next Week On Whether To Find Barr, McGahn In Contempt (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the No. 2 House official said on Monday. “Next Tuesday, I will bring a resolution to the House floor forcing Attorney General Barr and former White House counsel McGahn to comply with congressional subpoenas that have been duly issued by the House Judiciary Committee,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement. “The resolution will authorize the Judiciary Committee to pursue civil action to seek enforcement of its subpoenas in federal court,” said Hoyer, a Democrat.


The House move escalated the fight between the Republican White House and Democrats who control the House and are seeking documents and testimony relating to various investigations, ahead of the 2020 presidential election in which President Donald Trump is seeking a second term. The House Judiciary Committee voted on May 8 to recommend that the full House cite Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, for contempt of Congress after he defied its subpoena to hand over an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on 2016 Russian election interference. Democrats had also subpoenaed McGahn to testify before the Judiciary Committee last month, but he did not appear after the White House directed him not to comply.

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“Everybody’s broke, one way or another, even though they are up to their eyeballs in products designed to fall apart in a few years.”

The Zeitgeist Knows (Kunstler)

Who said the global economy was a permanent installation in the human condition? The head cheerleader was The New York Times’s Tom Friedman, with his 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the trumpet blast for the new order of things. Since then, we partied like it was 1999, with a few grand mal seizures of the banking system along the way, some experiments in creating failed states abroad, and the descent of America’s middle-class into a Disney version of Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgment — which is kind of what you see on the streets of Los Angeles these days.

Guess what: the global economy is winding down, and pretty rapidly. Trade wars are the most obvious symptom. The tensions underlying that spring from human population overshoot with its punishing externalities, resource depletion, and the perversities of money in accelerated motion, generating friction and heat. They also come from the fact that techno-industrialism was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end — and we’re closer to the end than we are to the middle. There will be no going back to the prior party, whatever way we pretend to negotiate our way around or through these quandaries.

The USA-China romance was bound to end in divorce, which Mr. Trump is surreptitiously suing for now under the guise of a negotiated trade rebalancing. The US has got a chronic financial disease known as Triffin’s Dilemma, a set of disorders endemic to any world reserve currency. The disease initially expressed itself in President Nixon’s ditching the US dollar’s gold backing in 1971. By then, the world had noticed the dollar’s declining value trend-line, and threatened to drain Fort Knox to counter the effects of holding those dollars. Since then, all world currencies have been based on nothing but the idea that national economies would forever and always pump out more wealth.

It turns out that they pump out more debt in the pursuit of that chimerical wealth until the economic viziers and banking poohbahs begin to declare that debt itself is wealth — and now all the major players around the world are choking to death on that debt, especially the USA and China, but also Japan and the dolorous commune known as the EU. Everybody’s broke, one way or another, even though they are up to their eyeballs in products designed to fall apart in a few years. Better learn how to fix stuff, especially machines, because a lot of it won’t be replaced going forward.

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Explosive.

New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Referendum (TNE)

New polling has found that 61% of those who would vote in a second referendum would vote to Remain in the European Union. The YouGov survey for KIS Finance found that between the choice of Theresa May’s Brexit deal or remaining in the EU, 61% of those who confirmed they would vote stated they wanted the UK to stay in the European Union. When a no-deal scenario is added into the mix, 53% of people would vote to Remain, while 34% would vote for no-deal, and just 12% would vote for Theresa May’s deal. The research also uncovered that 1 in 10 have put off important financial decisions, such as buying their first home, moving house, spending money on home improvements, investing and making major purchases such as a car, until the future of Brexit is clear. In London this figures rises to 1 in 5 who have delayed key financial decisions as a direct result of Brexit.

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No words. How can a country allow this to happen?

Canadian Inquiry Calls Deaths Of Indigenous Women ‘Genocide’ (R.)

The deaths in Canada of more than a thousand aboriginal women and girls in recent decades was a national genocide, a government inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women concluded in a report on Monday. The 1,200-page report, which resulted from an inquiry launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in 2016, blamed the violence on long-standing discrimination against indigenous people and Canada’s failure to protect them. It also made sweeping recommendations to prevent future violence against indigenous women. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed in 2014 that 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012.


The inquiry, which was beset by delays and staff resignations, opened painful wounds as it heard testimony from 468 family members of missing or murdered women. “This colonialism, this discrimination and this genocide explains the high rates of violence against indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA people,” Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry, said at a ceremony held to present the report. The 2SLGBTQQIA group refers to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people. “An absolute paradigm shift is required to dismantle colonialism in Canadian society. And this paradigm shift must come from all levels of government and public institutions,” Buller said.

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“To assess the range of scientific opinion, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists working on six continents, in more than a dozen countries, to better determine what we know, what we don’t, and, most importantly, what we should do about it. This is part one of a four-part exclusive series by Mongabay senior contributor Jeremy Hance.”

The Great Insect Dying (Hance)

Humans like to think we run the world, believing in our omnipotence. But while we shape and engineer — make, muddle and destroy — we are not, according to scientists, the world’s ultimate controllers. That role clearly falls to insects, “the little things that run the world,” as E.O. Wilson, the world’s pre-eminent entomologist, told us back in 1987. Insects may be tiny, but they are mighty and superabundant. British entomologist and ecologist C.B. Williams once estimated a population of one million trillion insects on Earth at any given time. They are everywhere that there is land and sky — intimately involved with everything.


Mirror image? Two look-alike insects photographed in Southeast Asia. Image by Tan Ming Kai

Insects tend to every square centimeter of living soil; they aerate and fertilize; they breakdown the billions of bits of organic debris and waste that other Earth residents produce, disposing of everything from leaf litter to elephant dung. Insects are the original recyclers, digesting dead wood and dead bodies. They also reside at the base of the food chain, feeding tens of thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish — and, by extension, us. More than 300,000 known plants are pollinated by animals, most of them insects.


It’s estimated that all the world’s arthropods, a group that includes insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes and crustaceans, weigh 17 times more than the planet’s 7.5 billion humans. Take away this vast mass of crawling, fluttering, skittering insects — comprising maybe 90 percent of all animal species — and you’re truly staring planetwide ecological breakdown in the eye. Waste will pile up; soil will shed nutrients without replacement; animals will starve; and potentially hundreds of thousands of plant species will vanish. Extinction would stalk the land like a famished beast, and the future of humanity would be at stake.


The Schoenherr blue weevil (Eupholus schoenherrii) is a spectacular blue and turquoise beetle from New Guinea. Image by Rhett Butler/Mongabay

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Tools swallowed up by thawing soil.

Arctic Is Thawing So Fast Scientists Are Losing Their Measuring Tools (TO)

Greenland is melting much faster than previously understood, as melting has increased six-fold in recent decades, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We wanted to get a long precise record of mass balance in Greenland that included the transition when the climate of the planet started to drift off natural variability, which occurred in the 1980s,” study co-author Eric Rignot told CNN. “The study places the recent (20 years) evolution in a broader context to illustrate how dramatically the mass loss has been increasing in Greenland in response to climate warming.”

Rignot added, “As glaciers will continue to speed up and ice/snow melt from the top, we can foresee a continuous increase in the rate of mass loss, and a contribution to sea level rise that will continue to increase more rapidly every year.” The study also shows how sea level rise is accelerating, and will continue to do so with each passing year, as the effects compound upon themselves. On that note, Indonesia recently announced it will be moving its capital city of Jakarta, partly due to the sinking of the land and sea level rise. This is a city of 10 million people.

Permafrost in the Arctic is now thawing so fast that scientists are literally losing their measuring equipment. This is due to the fact that instead of there being just a few centimeters of thawing each year, now several meters of soil can become destabilized in a matter of days. Adding insult to injury, another study revealed that this permafrost collapse is further accelerating the release of carbon into the atmosphere, possibly even doubling the amount of warming coming from greenhouse gases released from the tundra. Already in Greenland, the ice sheet’s melt season began about a month early while in Alaska, several rivers saw winter ice break up on their earliest dates on record.

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It’s life, captain, but no longer as we know it.

The headline may look crazy, but Nafeez is not a crazy man.

High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End in 2050 (Nafeez Ahmed)

A harrowing scenario analysis of how human civilization might collapse in coming decades due to climate change has been endorsed by a former Australian defense chief and senior royal navy commander. The analysis, published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, describes climate change as “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” and sets out a plausible scenario of where business-as-usual could lead over the next 30 years. The paper argues that the potentially “extremely serious outcomes” of climate-related security threats are often far more probable than conventionally assumed, but almost impossible to quantify because they “fall outside the human experience of the last thousand years.”

On our current trajectory, the report warns, “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.” The only way to avoid the risks of this scenario is what the report describes as “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization”—but this time focused on rapidly building out a zero-emissions industrial system to set in train the restoration of a safe climate.

The scenario warns that our current trajectory will likely lock in at least 3 degrees Celsius (C) of global heating, which in turn could trigger further amplifying feedbacks unleashing further warming. This would drive the accelerating collapse of key ecosystems “including coral reef systems, the Amazon rainforest and in the Arctic.” The results would be devastating. Some one billion people would be forced to attempt to relocate from unlivable conditions, and two billion would face scarcity of water supplies. Agriculture would collapse in the sub-tropics, and food production would suffer dramatically worldwide. The internal cohesion of nation-states like the US and China would unravel.

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“If we are (almost) the only animal with a sense of justice, it is because we also are (almost) the only animal with a sense of cruelty.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

 

Apr 042019
 
 April 4, 2019  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Nude on a beach 1929

 

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)
Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)
Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On
Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)
US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)
Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)
Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)
UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)
No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)
Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)
IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)
Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)
‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

 

 

Let’s start with the Seattle Times, because this article strongly hints that Boeing’s problems cannot possibly be solved with a software tweak. It’s a hardware issue as much as anything else. Cutting corners until there’s no corner left. And well over 300 people lost their lives due to this.

“Normal” planes have 3×3 sensors. The 737MAX effectively has one. And it was known to fail.

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)

Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. Its most advanced planes, for instance, have three flight computers that function independently, with each computer containing three different processors manufactured by different companies. So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor — a type of sensor that was known to fail.

Boeing’s rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. “A single point of failure is an absolute no-no,” said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. “That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can’t imagine how.” Boeing’s design made the flight crew the fail-safe backup to the safety system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

A faulty reading from an angle-of-attack sensor (AOA) — used to assess whether the plane is angled up so much that it is at risk of stalling — is now suspected in the October crash of a 737 MAX in Indonesia, with data suggesting that MCAS pushed the aircraft’s nose toward Earth to avoid a stall that wasn’t happening. Investigators have said another crash in Ethiopia this month has parallels to the first. [..] one problem with two-point redundancies is that if one sensor goes haywire, the plane may not be able to automatically determine which of the two readings is correct, so Boeing has indicated that the MCAS safety system will not function when the sensors record substantial disagreement.

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The Wall Street Journal counterbalances the NYT and WaPo.

Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)

Democrats are still reeling from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russians in 2016. But they’ve now hit upon a political comeback strategy: Accuse Attorney General William Barr of a coverup. That’s the context for Wednesday’s decision by House Democrats to authorize subpoenas, on a partisan vote, demanding that Mr. Barr immediately hand over the entire Mueller report and its supporting evidence. This is intended to give the impression, abetted by a press corps that was fully invested in the collusion story, that Mr. Barr is somehow lying about Mr. Mueller’s real conclusions. That’s preposterous, since Mr. Barr’s four-page letter quotes directly from Mr. Mueller’s report.

The AG surely understood on releasing the summary of conclusions last week that he would be open to contradiction by Mr. Mueller if he took such liberties. Mr. Barr also knew he’d be called to testify before Congress once the rest of the report is released. Mr. Barr has committed to releasing as much of the report as possible subject to Justice Department rules. He’s working with the special counsel’s office to make redactions required by grand-jury rules of secrecy, intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and “the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.” Under Justice rules relating to special counsels, Mr. Barr has no obligation to provide anything beyond notifying Congress when an investigation has started or concluded, and whether the AG overruled a special counsel’s decisions.

Mr. Barr’s notice to Congress that Mr. Mueller had completed his investigation said Mr. Mueller was not overruled. Congress has no automatic right to more. The final subparagraph of DOJ’s rule governing special counsels reads: “The regulations in this part are not intended to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any person or entity, in any matter, civil, criminal or administrative.” Mr. Barr has made clear that he appreciates the public interest in seeing as much of Mr. Mueller’s report as possible. Yet his categories of information for review aren’t frivolous or political inventions. The law protecting grand-jury secrecy is especially strict, as even Democrats admit.

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Glenn Greenwald tweets about this:

Trump/Russia conspiracists are like zombies: the dream can’t die. Their new hope is a) anonymously sourced, b) bereft of even one specific, c) irrelevant to *conspiracy* as opposed to obstruction & d) unrelated to the fact that Mueller indicted *zero* Americans for conspiracy

[..] Mueller could have concluded he thinks Trump was guilty of obstruction, but chose not to. He could have alleged a Trump/Russia conspiracy, or could have charged Trump officials & family members with conspiring with Russia, but didn’t. These last-gasp efforts don’t change that.

[..] Anyway, we’ve had 3 years of anonymously-sourced “bombshells” journalists spend 16-24 hours tiring themselves out celebrating on Twitter, only for it to fizzle into nothing (ie: no indictments from Mueller for conspiring with Russia). Why not have one more? An addict’s last fix.:

Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On

The conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are more damaging to President Donald Trump than Attorney General William Barr has revealed, the New York Times reported late Wednesday. The Times said some investigators who were part of the probe are frustrated that Barr has undersold the findings, which may be creating a misleading narrative that could be hard to overcome if and when the full report is released. The sources did not specify how they believe the report is more damaging to Trump. The investigators told the Times that they had written numerous summaries of their main conclusions, which were not included in Barr’s summary of the report. Barr said the report found no collusion between Trump and Russia, but did not exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction of justice. House Democrats have pressed Barr to release the full report, but Barr claims parts of it needs to be redacted first for security reasons.

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It would be crazy if there isn’t one.

Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)

Former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump’s calls for a possible investigation into how special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry started, adding that it creates a troubling precedent. During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Comey was asked about whether he feared possible counterinvestigations. “I don’t fear it personally. I fear it as a citizen,” he said. “Right? Investigate what? Investigate that investigations were conducted? What would be the crime you’d be investigating? So it’s a terrible cycle to start.” Several days after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Mueller’s report, Trump and his team have called for investigations into how the probe began.


“Hopefully, somebody is going to look at the other side,” Trump told reporters late last month. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has also made similar statements. On Tuesday, Trump continued to advocate for an examination of how the FBI and Mueller investigations began. “I hope they now go and take a look at the origins of the investigation, the beginnings of the investigation,” the president told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “You look at the origin of the investigation, where it started, how it started, who started it.” “Whether it‘s [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe or Comey or a lot of them, where does it go? How high up in the White House did it go?“ Trump continued, calling on reporters to investigate the origins of Mueller‘s probe, even dangling the prospect of a Pulitzer Prize to journalists in the room.

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Whatever powers these people have should be taken away from them. Both sides of the aisle want war with Russia.

US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday seeking to deter Russia from meddling in U.S. elections by threatening stiff sanctions on its banking, energy and defense industries and sovereign debt. The “Deter Act” is the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to increase pressure on Moscow over what they see as a range of bad behavior, from its aggression in Ukraine and involvement in Syria’s civil war to attempts to influence U.S. elections. The measure was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. They offered a similar measure last year, when it also had bipartisan support but was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Trump has gone along with some previous congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Russia, although sometimes reluctantly. Backers of stronger action against Russia believe such measures will have better prospects in 2019, given control of the House of Representatives by Democrats, who are less reluctant than Trump’s fellow Republicans to push back against the White House. According to details of the legislation, first reported by Reuters, it would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, whether Russia or other foreign government or anyone acting as an agent of that government, had engaged in election interference.

If the DNI found such interference occurred, the act would require, among other things, that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on, among others, Russian banks and energy companies. The act would mandate that sanctions be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank. It also would order the prohibition of all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

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Very-long-time Automatic Earth friend John Rubino has a series of reasons why politics matter.

Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)

Looking strictly at the numbers it’s hard to work up much interest in whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge after 2020. Either way, trillion-dollar deficits and extremely easy money are guaranteed, which means the US – along with most of the rest of the world – will fall off a financial cliff shortly. After that, the only non-financial issue that will matter is war – and both parties seem about equally bloodthirsty these days. However, after the November congressional elections — in which Democrats with, ahem, assertive ideas and attitudes did extremely well — proposing big, potentially transformative change now looks like the best way to cut through the media clutter and gain a following.

So the Democrat base has lost its fear of the “S” word and is now embracing a list of policies that are designed to lock in their dominance for a generation, but which carry myriad unintended consequences. If the Dems were in charge today, there’s a good chance that they would: Make Washington D.C. a state This is a no-brainer for Democrats. Since DC voters skew liberal (no surprise for people who by and large work for the government), making it a state adds two guaranteed votes in the Senate and several solid votes in the House. That alone might be enough to tip the balance on many votes.

[..] The math of elector apportionment gives more per-capita clout to small states as a way of protecting them from the whims of the large. Without this advantage, according to fans of the Electoral College, candidates would ignore Wyoming and Rhode Island and spend all their time in population centers like Los Angeles and Dallas. Subsequent governments would favor big states over small; good luck to Nevada if it has a water dispute with California. In short, without the Electoral College, flyover country is toast. But with the Electoral College it’s possible to win the most votes and still lose the election, as has happened a couple of times recently to the Dems. As the following chart shows, a majority of Democrats would abolish the College while Republicans would keep it.

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The City sees itself as immune.

Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)

The received wisdom within the City is that Brexit will cause widespread disruption to the Square Mile. But according to Dr Savvas Savouri, chief economist at Toscafund Asset Management, the $4bn London-based investment firm, so great is the extent of foreign investment in UK companies that leaving the EU carries no risk for the City at all. In an interview with Financial News at Toscafund’s Covent Garden office, when asked what is the biggest risk posed by Brexit to London’s finance industry, the abrasive and outspoken economist replied: “Nothing. The whole point about Brexit is there’s too much insurable interest in the UK across Europe for it to fail [for the UK and the EU not to form an agreement]. Ireland would go into immediate deep recession, so would Spain, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.”


An IMF study in August estimated that a scenario where the UK leaves the customs union and single market, and trades with the EU on WTO terms — an orderly version of a no-deal Brexit — would impose long-term costs on Ireland of 4% of output, and between 0.2% and 0.5% on countries such as Spain and Greece. Economists have warned that a disorderly Brexit would likely hit such countries even harder. “They know a bad Brexit would undermine the pound, a currency in which they have large holdings,” Savouri said. Warming to his theme, he added that the lack of short interest in European stocks exposed to the UK suggests investors are not particularly worried about a crash-out Brexit. “The people in finance who tell you they’re worrying about Brexit are not putting their money where their mouth is.”

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The most dangerous majority on earth.

UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)

MPs have voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario. Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move, which the Commons passed in one day. The bill will need Lords approval to become law, while it is the EU who decides whether to grant an extension. It comes as talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to end the Brexit deadlock are set to continue. Discussions between the two leaders on Wednesday were described as “constructive”, but were criticised by MPs in both parties.


Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”. Ms Cooper’s attempts to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312. The draft legislation by the former Labour minister would force the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process beyond 12 April and would give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay.

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Yup. They voted down No Deal again, and the press keeps talking about what happens under a No Deal.

No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)

Cabinet ministers were told they must agree emergency contingency plans to keep planes flying to North America and Australia, as well as keeping British troops legally in Bosnia, in case the EU forces a no-deal exit. Before their marathon cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, briefed ministers that major security and commercial decisions would need to be completed if Brussels rejected Theresa May’s plan to ask for a short extension to article 50. A cabinet source said the decisions were likely to result in large costs to the taxpayer and that decisions would also need to be taken on direct rule in Northern Ireland and payment of the UK’s £39bn divorce bill to the EU.

Among the decisions outlined in a 14-page document handed to ministers in Downing Street were: • New agreements would be required for air services with Canada, the US and Australia. • British troops in Bosnia currently serving as part of an EU force would need to be placed under Nato command. • Negotiations would need to be urgently completed on a future fisheries agreement so that EU fishing boats could be expelled from British waters. Sedwill, the UK’s highest-ranking civil servant, is said to have warned cabinet ministers that some of the biggest decisions were likely to be very difficult to reverse, because they involved international agreements.

The warnings from Sedwill, who is also May’s national security adviser, follow an earlier letter he wrote to ministers warning that no deal would lead to food price rises and a reduction in security capacity. The 14-page leaked letter, obtained on Monday by the Daily Mail, said no deal would result in the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland. Sedwill also warned that the UK would face a recession “more harmful” than the 2008 financial crisis and that food prices could increase by up to 10%. He wrote that it was possible that the government would come under pressure to bail out companies facing collapse due to the barriers to trade with the EU and that security services and police would face a reduction in their capabilities.

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May would be done if she’d give in.

Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)

Labour is on the brink of a major bust-up if Jeremy Corbyn fails to demand a second referendum as the price for any Brexit deal struck with Theresa May. A string of senior figures – including shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry – believe securing a public vote is an absolute must, while 11 MPs, including four frontbenchers, have written an open letter to Mr Corbyn in The Independent saying “it would be untenable for Labour not to insist” on one. As Mr Corbyn was in the prime minister’s office holding the talks, one of his party’s biggest trade union backers also endorsed a motion calling for a confirmatory referendum on any deal.


But key individuals on the Labour side of the talks indicated a new vote may not be one of his asks, with one shadow cabinet member attending having stated hours earlier that a deal endorsed by the party would not need a referendum. It comes despite Labour, and indeed Mr Corbyn himself, backing a motion in the House of Commons days ago which called for a referendum on any Brexit plan passed by parliament.

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Yeah, we really trust the IMF in everything they say.

IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the market power exercised by a small number of global companies threatens to stifle innovation and make it harder for central banks to deal with recessions. Adding its contribution to the growing public debate about the corporate power exercised by the US tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, the IMF said it would be concerned if there was any further increase in the clout of already dominant firms. The IMF said there was a need for stronger competition policy to ensure that established firms did not block the entry of potential rivals and called for excess profits to be targeted by a tougher international tax regime.

Although the study contained in the IMF’s forthcoming World Economic Outlook (WEO) did not mention any company by name, it said the past two decades had seen the concentration of market power among a small number of productive and innovative firms. Market concentrations tended to be higher in the US than in Europe, the IMF said, and in part reflected the growth of firms that exploited intangible assets. “Over the past two decades, a generally moderate but broad-based rise in corporate market power has been observed across advanced economies, driven primarily by a small fraction of firms.”

The chapter from the WEO noted that the big-picture economic implications of the trend had so far been “rather modest” and that the impact of rising market power on innovation had so far been positive. But the IMF said impact would become “increasingly negative if the market power of high mark-up firms, in particular, were to continue to rise in the future.”

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Just a cycle?!

Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)

This is one of the most cyclical industries, with legendary boom-and-bust cycles: Orders for Class-8 trucks plunged 67% in March compared to March last year, to 15,200 orders, the lowest March for orders since 2010, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. These are the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US. This plunge comes after orders had already plunged 58% year-over-year in February and January and 43% in December. The chart shows the percent change of Class-8 truck orders for each month compared to the same month a year earlier. The year-over-year collapse in orders over the past four months are of the same or greater magnitude as those during the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016:

The recipients of these orders are the truck manufacturers Peterbuilt and Kenworth (divisions of Paccar); Navistar International; Freightliner and Western Star (divisions of Daimler); and Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks (divisions of Volvo Group). The industry is notorious for over-ordering, which then, once these trucks are built, leads to overcapacity, at which point freight rates take a hit. Trucking companies see this coming and slash their orders in advance. Hence the bust that inevitably follows the boom. The last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016 led to waves of layoffs at truck and engine manufacturers. But at the moment, truck manufacturers are sitting on what was a historic backlog of orders dating from the phenomenal boom that peaked last August at 52,400 orders, as this chart of total monthly class-8 truck orders shows (data via FTR):

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Alastair’s starting to feel goal-seeked. Like many Belt&Road views.

‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a mini ‘Belt & Road’ unfolding across the northern Middle East – linking Iran to Iraq, to Syria, and to Lebanon – a ‘Belt and Road’ that, it is envisaged, ultimately will be assimilated into China’s greater BRI project. And – as telling – Lebanon, the eternal weathervane for the Middle East wind direction, seems to be cutting a 500-year-old umbilical linking it to Rome and Europe, to look rather to Moscow (to protect the regions’ Christians, to get its Syrian refugees home to Syria, and to move under President Putin’s protective ‘wing’ in preventing Bolton and Netanyahu from detonating chaos on their patch) – and to China.

More recently, the New Silk Road infrastructure initiative landed squarely in Italy, potentially giving some real substance (i.e. infrastructure) – especially in the case of Sicily – to the notion of a Mediterranean commonality. Both these events are linked by a single motive: How to return autonomy to these states; how to recover at least a modicum of decision-making – and to break free from the strait-jacket of economic stagnation, and the deadweight of stale political shackles. As Christina Lin has noted: “China for one takes the view that security follows economic development, and has made it clear that reconstruction comes before political settlement. It is adopting a regional approach to the Levant and now views Lebanon as a platform for reconstruction in Syria and Iraq”.

[..] Both Italy and the Levant are ‘civilisation-states’ in their own right. They do not need the EU ‘brand’ to reassure them of their status as ‘civilisation-states’. As Lebanon’s former Minister of Economy noted last year, China doesn’t “look at Lebanon as a small country of 4 million citizens, but as a country with huge potential given its geographical location”. The point here is precisely that ‘the West’ is no longer the West. There is the belligerent ‘West’ of Trump, Pence, Bolton and Pompeo – and this is the ‘West’ that is incrementally losing traction across the Middle East, and beyond.

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Nov 102018
 
 November 10, 2018  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Peter Stackpole SophiaLoren in a Manhattan Coffee, NYC 1958

 

Burying the Other Russia Story (WSJ Op-Ed)
No Blue Wave In 2018, But A Tsunami Of Hate (ZH)
Post Mortem (Kunstler)
‘Democrats Won The House But Trump Won The Election’ – And 2020 Is Next (G.)
Federal Court Asks How Sessions Ouster Impacts Lawsuit Challenging Mueller (R.)
Tech’s Big Five Lost A Combined $75 Billion In Market Value On Friday (CNBC)
Yelp Craters As Much As 32% As Advertisers Abandon The Site (CNBC)
Jeremy Corbyn Says Brexit ‘Can’t Be Stopped’ (Ind.)
New Blow To Theresa May As EU Leaders Demand Scrutiny Of Brexit Deal (G.)
US Crude Oil Posts Longest Losing Streak In Over 34 Years (CNBC)
There Will Be An Oil Shortage In The 2020s, Goldman Sachs Says (CNBC)
EU Version Of Budget Would Be Economic ‘Suicide’ For Italy – Tria (CNBC)
US Won’t Refuel Saudi Coalition Planes Bombing Yemen Anymore (RT)
UK Supermarket Anti-Palm Oil Ad Banned For Being Too Political (R.)

 

 

As the post-midterms wars of words escalate, the Wall Street Journal’s editors try to provide some balance.

Burying the Other Russia Story (WSJ Op-Ed)

Arguably the most important power at stake in Tuesday’s election was Congressional oversight, and the most important change may be Adam Schiff at the House Intelligence Committee. The Democrat says his top priority is re-opening the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but more important may be his intention to stop investigating how the FBI and Justice Department abused their power in 2016. So let’s walk through what we’ve learned to date. Credit for knowing anything at all goes to Intel Chairman Devin Nunes and more recently a joint investigation by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Judiciary) and Trey Gowdy (Oversight).

Over 18 months of reviewing tens of thousands of documents and interviewing every relevant witness, no Senate or House Committee has unearthed evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidential election. If Special Counsel Robert Mueller has found more, he hasn’t made it public. But House investigators have uncovered details of a Democratic scheme to prod the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. We now know that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS, which hired an intelligence-gun-for-hire, Christopher Steele, to write a “dossier” on Donald Trump’s supposed links to Russia.

Mr. Steele fed that document to the FBI, even as he secretly alerted the media to the FBI probe that Team Clinton had helped to initiate. Fusion, the oppo-research firm, was also supplying its dossier info to senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion. House investigators have also documented the FBI’s lack of judgment in using the dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. The four FISA warrants against Mr. Page show that the FBI relied almost exclusively on the unproven Clinton-financed accusations, as well as a news story that was also ginned up by Mr. Steele.

[..] All of which puts an additional onus on Mr. Trump to declassify key FBI and Justice documents sought by Mr. Nunes and other House investigators before Mr. Schiff buries the truth. A few weeks ago Mr. Trump decided to release important documents, only to renege under pressure from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and members of the intelligence community. Mr. Sessions resigned this week and perhaps Mr. Rosenstein will as well. Meantime, Mr. Trump should revisit his decision and help Mr. Nunes and House Republicans finish the job in the lame duck session of revealing the truth about the misuse of U.S. intelligence and the FISA court in a presidential election.

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What happened to Tucker Carlson’s wife is inexcusable.

No Blue Wave In 2018, But A Tsunami Of Hate

In the early evening following the midterm elections, Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s wife was home alone when she suddenly became startled by a loud thumping at her door. The thumping came from a group of Antifa radicals, whose desire it was to strike terror into the hearts of Carlson’s family. Susan Carlson ran upstairs as the mob that CNN refers to as “protesters” screamed disgusting threats at the Carlson residence, spray-painted the driveway and continued to try to force entry through the front door, which they broke. The only thing seemingly missing from this display of intimidation and hatred were burning tiki torches.

While the radical left seems preoccupied with labeling everyone that disagrees with their political views as white supremacist Nazis, including Israel-loving Middle Eastern women such as myself, threatening displays like this seem awfully similar to the days of the KKK burning crosses on the lawns of blacks they wanted to leave town. That was the message these radicals wanted to send to Tucker Carlson, along with his wife and children, who thank God were not home at the time: leave town and shut up. As someone who has had my own personal address posted publicly by a leftist reporter, the thought of a mother of four hiding in her upstairs closet fearing for her life sends chills down my spine, as it should any decent human being.

How did we get here? Let’s take a trip down memory lane: “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up … If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Those were the exact words of Congresswoman Maxine Waters at a rally in June 2018. Waters then doubled down on her calls for intimidation and harassment in an MSNBC interview, declaring that she has “no sympathy” for Trump supporters. “The people are going to turn on them. They’re going to protest. They’re going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they’re going to tell the president, ‘No, I can’t hang with you.’

[..] Former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder recently corrected Michelle Obama’s notion that “when they go low, we go high,” referring of course to anyone who didn’t support her husband’s political agenda. “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democrat party is all about.” Holder proclaimed to a crowd of cheering supporters. Or how about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

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As we’ve said many times: declassify the whole thing.

Post Mortem (Kunstler)

Of course The New York Times is no longer a newspaper in the traditional sense, but an advocacy and propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. They’re pushing this desperate gambit because it’s clear that Mr. Trump is taking the gloves off now in this long-running battle. What’s at stake is whether the DOJ will prosecute the actual and obvious collusion that occurred during and after the 2016 election — namely, the misconduct of the highest DOJ and FBI officials in collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign to cook up the bogus Russia-gate case, and the subsequent scramble to cover up their activities when Mrs. Clinton lost the election and they realized the evidence trail of this felonious activity would not be shoved down the memory hole by Clinton appointees.

The result has been two years with no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and two years of DOJ / FBI stonewalling over the release of pertinent documents in the matter. There is already an established and certified evidence trail indicating that James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Lisa Page, and others (including former CIA Director John Brennan and former DNI James Clapper) acted illegally in politicizing their offices. Some of these figures have been subject to criminal referrals by the DOJ Inspector General, Mr. Horowitz. Some of them are liable to further criminal investigation Many of them have been singing to grand juries out of the news spotlight.

Whether Mr. Whitaker remains in his new role, or is replaced soon by a permanent AG confirmed by the Senate, the momentum has clearly shifted. The Democrats, and especially the forces still aligned with Hillary, are running scared all of a sudden. Thus, all the bluster coming from party hacks such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10th Dist), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Mr. Nadler takes the gavel of the House Judiciary Committee in January and is promising a three-ring circus of investigations when he does. If the House moves to a quixotic impeachment effort, they will find that to be a dangerous two-way street, since Mr. Trump’s legal team can also introduce testimony in his defense that will embarrass and incriminate the Democrats. Anyway, the Senate is extremely unlikely to convict Mr. Trump in a trial.

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I understand the thinking, but really, Nikki Haley?!

‘Democrats Won The House But Trump Won The Election’ – And 2020 Is Next (G.)

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center thinktank, said Trump had both won and lost. “There’s a split verdict. The voters who made him came back and he maintained a 46% coalition. He lost the voters he lost two years ago in slightly bigger numbers. The Clinton coalition is strong and growing stronger, but it’s electorally inefficient. Trump has kept his minority coalition together and all he needs is a slight improvement to be assured of re-election.” Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) thinktank on Thursday, Olsen noted the growing percentage of women in the Democratic party and suggested: “I think it’s very likely that Donald Trump will be facing a woman.”

“And if Donald Trump, who’s known to be ruthless to subordinates, wanted to change the odds in his favour, I think he should dump Mike Pence and select [former UN ambassador] Nikki Haley. “The biggest thing that the Democrats continually push, and the media continually push, is that he is a racist and a sexist, and that is one of the things that weighs very heavily on the Rino- [“Republican in name only”] educated person. So you say: ‘I’ve changed America and the person who’s going to continue this is going to be a competent executive who understands foreign policy and ran her state and is a woman of colour, Nikki Haley.’ It will flummox the left.”

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How legal is Mueller’s appointment, and his investigation? If there is genuine doubt, the legal system should speak.

Federal Court Asks How Sessions Ouster Impacts Lawsuit Challenging Mueller (R.)

A federal appeals court that is weighing a legal challenge to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s authority said Friday it wanted to know whether the sudden ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions could impact or change the outcome of how it should rule. The court’s order directed each party in the case to file briefs by Nov. 19 outlining, “what, if any effect, the November 7, 2018 designation of an Acting Attorney General different from the official who appointed Special Counsel Mueller has on this case.” The order came one day after a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments on whether Mueller was unlawfully appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May 2017 and wielded too much power.

The challenge to Mueller’s authority was being brought by Andrew Miller, an associate of President Donald Trump’s long-time political adviser, Roger Stone. Several of Stone’s associates have been subpoenaed by a grand jury in recent months, as part of Mueller’s probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Miller defied the subpoena in May, was later held in civil contempt, and filed a lawsuit alleging that Mueller’s appointment violated the U.S. Constitution and also that Rosenstein had no authority to hire him. Mueller was named special counsel by Rosenstein after Sessions recused himself from the probe. However, Rosenstein lost his role as Mueller’s supervisor on Wednesday after Trump forced Sessions to resign and replaced him with Matt Whitaker.

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The losses continue to add up.

Tech’s Big Five Lost A Combined $75 Billion In Market Value On Friday (CNBC)

It was a down day for big tech. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook — the five most valuable U.S. tech companies — lost a combined $75 billion in market value on Friday. They led a 1.7 percent drop in the S&P 500 tech index and a similar slide in the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Amazon was the worst performer of the group, dropping 2.4 percent. Stocks fell across the board Friday as declines in oil prices and skepticism about a trade deal with China raised concerns that economic growth is headed for a slowdown. Thursday’s report from the Federal Reserve pointing to future rate hikes compounded worries and sent investors fleeing from tech companies, which are particularly susceptible to swings in the economy.

Tech stocks are coming off their worst month since 2008. The Nasdaq closed October down 9.2 percent, with Amazon and Alphabet leading the decline down 20 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively. Analysts were underwhelmed by recent tech earnings reports, including those from Amazon, Apple and Alphabet. Amazon gave lower-than-expected guidance going into the holiday season and Apple announced it would no longer disclose unit sales for iPhone, iPad and Mac devices.

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Because Google, Facebook have monopolized ads.

Yelp Craters As Much As 32% As Advertisers Abandon The Site (CNBC)

Yelp cratered as much as 32 percent Friday, a day after releasing third-quarter earnings that revealed advertisers are abandoning the site and denting revenue. Shares fell as low as $29.33, a new 52-week low, before paring some losses to close nearly 27 percent down at $31.92. The plunge makes for the stock’s worst day of trading since going public in 2012. Yelp added zero net new advertising customers during the quarter. Yelp earlier this year switched from long-term advertising contracts in local markets to more flexible, nonterm contracts. That change resulted in significant contract cancellations. Though the cancellations were expected, Yelp failed to compensate with lower-than-expected gross customer adds.

The company reported revenue of $241 million for the quarter, just shy of analyst projections of $245 million. “We do not believe that there was any one single factor behind the new sales shortfall relative to our expectations. Instead, a number of smaller, compounding issues arose, including slower-than-expected sales head count growth, a change in advertising promotions, a technical issue in flowing leads to our reps and a lower success rate in contacting business decision-makers by our outbound sales calls,” Chief Financial Officer Charles Baker said on the company’s earnings call.

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Not sure Corbyn defying his own party is all that wise.

Jeremy Corbyn Says Brexit ‘Can’t Be Stopped’ (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Brexit cannot be stopped in a blow to Labour MPs trying to inch the party towards backing a second referendum. The Labour leader’s comments mark a departure from the party’s official position, which leaves the prospect of fresh vote firmly on the table, including the option to remain in the European Union. Labour’s preferred option is to campaign for a general election but as the Brexit talks enter the chaotic final stages, the party is under pressure to soften its stance towards a new public vote. It comes as transport minister Jo Johnson dramatically resigned in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plan, saying Britain is “barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit” and demanding a Final Say referendum.

Delegates at Labour’s conference in September, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion saying the party “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer also received a standing ovation when he told the conference hall that remaining in the EU could be on the ballot paper in a future vote. But tensions remain over the issue, as influential figures such as Unite boss Len McCluskey and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are unenthusiastic about a re-run of the Brexit vote. Labour has agreed to vote down the prime minister’s Brexit deal if it fails to measure up to its tests on jobs and workers’ rights, which senior figures believe could allow Labour to pursue its preferred option – a general election.

In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Mr Corbyn was asked if he would stop Brexit. He replied: “We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave.” Mr Corbyn said the Brexit vote was triggered by people who were “totally angered” by the way their communities had been left behind. He also indicated he felt sorry for the prime minister over the “impossible task” of reaching agreement with Brussels and uniting the Tory party, Mr Corbyn said: “I am a decent human being, I feel sorry for anyone in distress. But the best way for anyone to alleviate distress is to take yourself away from the source of it.”

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Everyone wants a say, of course they do, both in Europe and in the UK.

New Blow To Theresa May As EU Leaders Demand Scrutiny Of Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May has been dealt a blow in the Brexit negotiations by EU leaders ahead of a crunch week during which the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, had been expected to visit Brussels to unveil the negotiated agreement. Ambassadors for the EU27, including France and Germany, told the European commission that they would need to scrutinise any deal reached with the British before it was made public and a special summit called. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has largely been given free rein until now. An “optimistic” timetable would have seen Raab arrive on Tuesday to present the legal text agreed between the commission and the British government.

But during a two-hour meeting with the the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, the member states’ representatives insisted they would not be steamrollered into accepting the agreement secured between the two negotiating teams. They told the commission they would need the best part of a week to go through the text should there be an agreement in a sign of the growing nervousness over the prospect of giving away an all-UK customs union in the withdrawal agreement. The development makes it less likely that a November Brexit summit could be convened. EU officials have privately said that 25 November is the last possible date for a summit, and that it would need to be called early next week to allow preparations in EU capitals. May’s chief Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, is expected to visit Brussels on Sunday given the lack of time to find agreement.

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Hmmm. China shutting down? Note that this happens as the Iran sanctions are still waiting in the wings.

US Crude Oil Posts Longest Losing Streak In Over 34 Years (CNBC)

U.S. crude prices fell Friday for a 10th consecutive session, sinking deeper into bear market territory and wiping out the benchmark’s gains for the year. The 10-day decline is the longest losing streak for U.S. crude since mid-1984, according to Refinitiv data. Crude futures fell for a fifth straight week as growing output from key producers and a deteriorating outlook for oil demand deepen a sell-off spurred by October’s broader market plunge. The drop marks a stunning reversal from last month, when oil prices hit nearly four-year highs as the market braced for potential shortages once U.S. sanctions on Iran snapped back into place.

“The market’s not tight. I think there are windows where you could perceive it to be tight, and I think the markets got caught into that,” Christian Malek, head of EMEA oil and gas research at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC on Friday. “The reality is that we’re still in a world where we’re overproducing and we’ve got surplus.” U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 48 cents lower at $60.19 on Friday. The contract is now down nearly half a percent this year. It fell as low $59.26 on Friday, its weakest level in about nine months.

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Ha! Help is on the way for Big Oil.

There Will Be An Oil Shortage In The 2020s, Goldman Sachs Says (CNBC)

An oil shortage is coming says Goldman Sachs, because firms cannot fully invest in future production. Global oil majors are increasingly looking to invest in lower-carbon areas of the energy sector, as they react to pressure for cleaner energy, both from government policy and investors. “In the 2020’s we are going to have a clear physical shortage of oil because nobody is allowed to fully invest in future oil production,” Michele Della Vigna, Head of EMEA Natural Resources Research at Goldman Sachs told CNBC Friday. “The low carbon transition will come through higher, not lower oil prices,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

Della Vigna said “Big Oils” are starting to understand that if they want to be widely owned by investors, they need to show that they are serious about minimizing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The Goldman analyst said oil firms only had to look at the steep derating of coal companies over the last 5 years to understand the shift in investor sentiment. Della Vigna said until a transition to full renewables is made, the interim battle will be to own a greater market share of gas-based power. The analyst said with a huge capital cost of gas infrastructure, big state-backed companies looked best placed. “We talk about the new seven sisters emerging, dominating the global oil and gas market because nobody else can finance these mega-projects,” he said.

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Brussels is risking its own powers.

EU Version Of Budget Would Be Economic ‘Suicide’ For Italy – Tria (CNBC)

Brussels and Rome are in a constant back and forth over budget negotiations but analysts told CNBC that it is the markets that matter the most. Officials from the European Union (EU) and Italy have found themselves in a deadlock after the former’s economic forecasts showed the Italian economy would grow at a slower pace in the next two years than Rome thinks. The Italian government was quick to dismiss, blaming the EU for its “inadequate and partial” analysis of the country’s spending plans. These comments came after Brussels said earlier on the day that Italy’s 2019 deficit will reach 2.9 percent and not 2.4 percent as Rome insists.

Both sides have clashed over Italy’s 2019 budget plans after the anti-establishment government promised to increase spending, challenging European fiscal rules. On Friday, Italy’s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria said Brussels’ proposed deficit cuts would be “suicide” for the country’s economy. The unyielding stance from Rome triggered a rise in the yield spread between German and Italian debt, a common measure of risk for European investors. Analysts told CNBC the standoff looks set to continue, and that the EU is laying the ground to open the process that could eventually lead to sanctions — though no EU country has ever been fined for breaching spending limits.

[..] Yields on Italian debt have risen significantly since May — when the two populist parties, Five Star Movement and Lega, joined forces to form the next cabinet. Investors have fretted about the government’s spending plans given that Italy has a massive debt pile — the second largest in the EU at about 130 percent of GDP. In the last seven days alone, the yield on the 10-year Italian bond is up by about 12 basis points. Looking at its performance throughout the year, there has been an increase of about 172 basis points. “The true guardians of fiscal discipline will be, as usual, financial markets,” Lorenzo Codogno, chief economist at LC Macro Advisors said in a note to clients Thursday.

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WIll Khashoggi’s death be good for something after all?

US Won’t Refuel Saudi Coalition Planes Bombing Yemen Anymore (RT)

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is opting to refuel its aircraft independently going forward, ending a controversial collaboration with US military assets. The Saudi Press agency released a statement on Saturday explaining that the coalition was able to “increase their capacity” for refueling their aircraft and would do so independently going forward. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed the decision was made in consultation with the US government. On Friday, Reuters reported, citing unnamed US officials, that Washington considering ending the refueling of coalition aircraft in Yemen, citing both the coalition’s own increased capabilities and growing international outrage over the human consequences of the war in Yemen.

Opposition to US collaboration with the Saudi coalition in Yemen has increased following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of targeting hospitals, water infrastructure, and other civilian targets, and raids on wedding parties and the recent bombing of a school bus have sparked international condemnation. The US and UK have both been criticized for continuing to sell arms to the coalition despite their targeting of civilians and alleged war crimes.

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If ever you want to know who f*cked and f*cked up we are. Supermarkets can sell a million products for which a million acres of rainforests are burned and cut down. But when one of them decides not to play that game, its message is forbidden because it’s too political.

What a lovely Christmas ad. We should have tons of those. And of course you can ask how much of it is aimed at profits, but banning it is insane.

“There’s a human in my forest and I don’t know what to do. He destroyed all of our trees for your food and your shampoo.”

UK Supermarket Anti-Palm Oil Ad Banned For Being Too Political (R.)

British supermarket chain Iceland has been banned from showing its Christmas advert on television because it has been deemed to breach political advertising rules. The discount supermarket company planned to use a Greenpeace-made animated short film, voiced by actress Emma Thompson, called “Rang-tan”, about the destruction of the rainforest caused by palm oil production and its impact on endangered orangutans. Iceland, which earlier this year announced its intention to remove palm oil from its products by the end of 2018, said the film fitted its agenda, leading to its decision to use the film as its Christmas advert.

The film was banned by Clearcast, which is responsible for the clearance of television ads before they are broadcast, on the grounds of it being seen to support a political issue. Under the 2003 Communications Act, an advert is deemed to contravene the bar on political advertising if it is “wholly or mainly of a political nature” or is “directed towards a political end”. Iceland, which trades from 900 stores and specializes in frozen food, said it hoped the advert would raise awareness and improve people’s understanding of rainforest destruction from palm oil production, which it said appears in more than 50 percent of all supermarket products.

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