Apr 042020
 


Anonymous

 

This Crisis Is A Turning Point In History (John Gray)
Asian Development Bank Says Pandemic Could Cost $4.1 Trillion (UPI)
The Keys To Reopening America (BI)
At Least 8 Strains Of The Coronavirus Have Been Identified (Hill)
NY Funeral Homes Struggle As Virus Deaths Surge (AP)
US Doctors On Coronavirus Frontline Seek Protection From Malpractice Suits (R.)
Russian Ventilators Sent To US Made By Firm Under US Sanctions (R.)
US Snatches Masks From Germany In Act Of ‘Modern Piracy’ – Berlin (RT)
US Dairy Farmers Dump Milk As Pandemic Upends Food Markets (R.)
US AG Barr Orders Release Of More Federal Inmates (R.)
Ankle Monitors Ordered For Kentucky Residents Refusing Quarantine (Hill)
The COVID19 Crisis Locked Airbnb Out Of Its Own Homes (G.)
Trump Firing Inspector General Who Flagged Whistleblower Complaint (NBC)
Trump Names White House Lawyer As Watchdog Over Coronavirus Bailout (Solomon)
Translator Exonerated Don Jr. In Trump Tower Meeting (Solomon)
Monsanto Predicted Crop System Would Damage US Farms (G.)
Monsanto & BASF Knew For Years Their Products Destroy US Farms (RT)

 

 

Lots of dry facts today, got to do it. Many people trying to do predictions, but 99% of that is nonsense based on faulty models. People need things, theories, ideas, to drive the spirits of doom from their idle heads. That’s why we need the dry facts, so we don’t get caught up in all that stuff.

 

 

Cases 1,130,575 (+ 100,394 from yesterday’s 1,030,181)

Deaths 60,128 (+ 5,934 from yesterday’s 54,194)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-. Note: New York with over 100,000 cases would be third after Italy and Spain

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 20% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

From covid19.healthdata.org: (A different set of data of projections specific for the US)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have little patience for people who pretend they can see the future from their homes today, but I’ll always make an exception for John Gray.

This Crisis Is A Turning Point In History (John Gray)

The deserted streets will fill again, and we will leave our screen-lit burrows blinking with relief. But the world will be different from how we imagined it in what we thought were normal times. This is not a temporary rupture in an otherwise stable equilibrium: the crisis through which we are living is a turning point in history. The era of peak globalisation is over. An economic system that relied on worldwide production and long supply chains is morphing into one that will be less interconnected. A way of life driven by unceasing mobility is shuddering to a stop. Our lives are going to be more physically constrained and more virtual than they were. A more fragmented world is coming into being that in some ways may be more resilient.

The once formidable British state is being rapidly reinvented, and on a scale not seen before. Acting with emergency powers authorised by parliament, the government has tossed economic orthodoxy to the winds. Savaged by years of imbecilic austerity, the NHS – like the armed forces, police, prisons, fire service, care workers and cleaners – has its back to the wall. But with the noble dedication of its workers, the virus will be held at bay. Our political system will survive intact. Not many countries will be so fortunate. Governments everywhere are struggling through the narrow passage between suppressing the virus and crashing the economy. Many will stumble and fall. In the view of the future to which progressive thinkers cling, the future is an embellished version of the recent past.

No doubt this helps them preserve some semblance of sanity. It also undermines what is now our most vital attribute: the ability to adapt and fashion different ways of life. The task ahead is to build economies and societies that are more durable, and more humanly habitable, than those that were exposed to the anarchy of the global market. [This] does not mean a shift to small-scale localism. Human numbers are too large for local self-sufficiency to be viable, and most of humankind is not willing to return to the small, closed communities of a more distant past. But the hyperglobalisation of the last few decades is not coming back either. The virus has exposed fatal weaknesses in the economic system that was patched up after the 2008 financial crisis. Liberal capitalism is bust.

With all its talk of freedom and choice, liberalism was in practice the experiment of dissolving traditional sources of social cohesion and political legitimacy and replacing them with the promise of rising material living standards. This experiment has now run its course. Suppressing the virus necessitates an economic shutdown that can only be temporary, but when the economy restarts, it will be in a world where governments act to curb the global market. A situation in which so many of the world’s essential medical supplies originate in China – or any other single country – will not be tolerated. Production in these and other sensitive areas will be re-shored as a matter of national security. The notion that a country such as Britain could phase out farming and depend on imports for food will be dismissed as the nonsense it always has been. The airline industry will shrink as people travel less. Harder borders are going to be an enduring feature of the global landscape. A narrow goal of economic efficiency will no longer be practicable for governments.

Read more …

The Asian Development Bank has no more idea than your pet hamster. But they have academic titles, call themselves professionals, get paid the big bucks, and do modeling. One faulty variable in a model is enough to make it useless of course.

Asian Development Bank Says Pandemic Could Cost $4.1 Trillion (UPI)

The Asian Development Bank said Friday that the pandemic could cost the world between $2 trillion and $4.1 trillion, equaling between 2.3 percent and 4.8 percent of global GDP. The figure is a stark increase from the $347 billion at the top end, or equivalent to 0.4 percent of global GDP, the Manila-based regional development bank predicted on March 6. The bank also revised down its growth forecast for Asia to 2.2 percent from the 5.5 percent it had predicted in September. Assuming the pandemic ends, it expects growth to rebound to 6.2 percent next year. However, ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada admitted that these numbers could be off depending on how the world reacts to the pandemic, calling on world leaders to implement measures to lessen the virus’ impact on the markets.


“The evolution of the global pandemic – and thus the outlook for the global and regional economy – is highly uncertain,” Yasuyuki said in a statement. “Growth could turn out lower, and the recovery slower, than we are currently forecasting. For this reason, strong and coordinated efforts are needed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize its economic impact, especially on the most vulnerable.” For China specifically, the bank sees its recent contraction in industry, services, retail sales and investment to drag growth down to 2.3 percent this year though with expectations it will rebound to 7.3 percent in 2021. Excluding the industrialized economies of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taipei, growth in developing Asia was revised down to 2.4 percent from 5.7 percent last year.

Read more …

These folk have no more idea than the Asian Development Bank does. But, again, they have academic titles, call themselves professionals, get paid the big bucks, and do modeling. If they would be honest annd say we don’t have a clue, they might lose their jobs.

The Keys To Reopening America (BI)

It’s going to take a long time for the US to recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both physically and economically. A team of experts— including former Trump Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb — at the Washington D.C. based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), have come up with a plan to reopen the country state-by-state. AEI is a non-partisan think tank closely linked to conservative thought. The four-part plan advocates for a step-by-step approach in first slowing the spread of the disease (Phase I), gradually reopening stores, schools, public areas, and most businesses (Phase II), closely monitoring, identifying, and potentially curing new outbreaks (Phase III), and then creating and investing in a system to ensure the US’s public health infrastructure is prepared for the next pandemic or public health crisis.

As of Thursday afternoon, over 1 million people globally have been infected with the virus. The US has over 234,000 cases, roughly one-quarter of the world’s total. That number is still rising rapidly, and the federal government has extended its social distancing guidelines to April 30 at least. In order to move from Phase I to Phase II, the AEI researchers outline several milestones. They say that there needs to be a sustained reduction in cases over a 14-day period, hospitals should be able to adequately serve all patients, the state has to have the capacity to test all those reporting symptoms, and it should be able to closely monitor those with confirmed cases as well as their social contacts.

In Phase II, states should be able to carefully lift social distancing measures, allow schools and most businesses to reopen, and continue to control the spread of the coronavirus to avoid reverting back to Phase I. One of the critical signs that a state should revert is if confirmed cases increase over a five-day period, or hospitals are no longer able to care for patients due to a lack of resources. Once schools are open, the AEI experts say physical distancing restrictions should still be met, including limiting public gatherings to less than 50 people and encouraging people to maintain “hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.” They say high-touch surfaces should be disinfected regularly and public spaces should be cleaned frequently.

Talking about “phases”:

Read more …

At least some people are being kept busy.

At Least 8 Strains Of The Coronavirus Have Been Identified (Hill)

Researchers have identified at least eight strains of the novel coronavirus that has infected more than one million people across the globe, and say the mutations are useful in determining just how the virus is spreading. Thousands of genetic sequences of the virus have been uploaded to the open database NextStrain, which shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into new but similar subtypes. Researchers said the data show the virus is mutating on average every 15 days, according to National Geographic. NexStrain co-founder Trevor Bedford said, however, the mutations are so small that no one strain of the virus is more deadly than another. Researchers also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve.

“These mutations are completely benign and useful as a puzzle piece to uncover how the virus is spreading,” Bedford told National Geographic. Bedford said the different strains make it possible for researchers to see whether community transmission is widespread in a region, which can show whether stay-at-home measures are working. “We’ll be able to tell how much less transmission we’re seeing and answer the question, ‘Can we take our foot off the gas?” Bedford said. The database also shows how the coronavirus is spreading throughout the U.S. Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, told USA Today that the outbreaks are “trackable,” and “we have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating.”

A majority of cases on the West Coast have been linked to a strain first identified in Washington state, which is three mutations away from the first known strain, while on the East Coast, the virus seems to have come from China to Europe and then to New York, according to USA Today. Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, told USA Today the maps only show a snapshot of the full spread of the virus. “Remember, we’re seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic,” Andersen told USA Today. “We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages we’re missing.”

Read more …

These people appear to be busy as well.

NY Funeral Homes Struggle As Virus Deaths Surge (AP)

Pat Marmo walked among 20 or so deceased in the basement of his Brooklyn funeral home, his protective mask pulled down so his pleas could be heard. “Every person there, they’re not a body,” he said. “They’re a father, they’re a mother, they’re a grandmother. They’re not bodies. They’re people.” Like many funeral homes in New York and around the globe, Marmo’s business is in crisis as he tries to meet surging demand amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed around 1,400 people in New York City alone, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. His two cell phones and the office office line are ringing constantly. He’s apologizing to families at the start of every conversation for being unusually terse, and begging them to insist hospitals hold their dead loved ones as long as possible.

His company is equipped to handle 40 to 60 cases at a time, no problem. On Thursday morning, it was taking care of 185. “This is a state of emergency,” he said. “We need help.” Funeral directors are being squeezed on one side by inundated hospitals trying to offload bodies, and on the other by the fact that cemeteries and crematoriums are booked for a week at least, sometimes two. Marmo let AP into his Daniel J. Schaefer funeral home in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn on Thursday to show how dire the situation has become. He has about 20 embalmed bodies stored on gurneys and stacked on shelves in the basement and another dozen in his secondary chapel room, both chilled by air conditioners.

He estimated that more than 60% had died of the new coronavirus. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death. “It’s surreal,” he said. Hospitals in New York have been using refrigerated trucks to store the dead, and Marmo is trying to find his own. One company quoted him a price of $6,000 per month, and others are refusing outright because they don’t want their equipment used for bodies. Even if he gets a truck, he has nowhere obvious to put it. He’s wondering if the police station across the street might let him use its driveway.


Covid Tracking Project Chart (Mish)

Read more …

They will soon have to decide who to put on a ventilator and who not. This could stop entire hospitals from functioning.

US Doctors On Coronavirus Frontline Seek Protection From Malpractice Suits (R.)

U.S. medical professionals on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic are lobbying policymakers for protection from potential malpractice lawsuits as hospitals triage care and physicians take on roles outside their specialties. State chapters of the powerful American Medical Association and other groups representing healthcare providers have been pressing governors for legal cover for decisions made in crisis-stricken emergency rooms. More than half a dozen emergency room doctors and nurses told Reuters they are concerned about liability as they anticipate rationing care or performing unfamiliar jobs due to staff and equipment shortages caused by the outbreak.


Governors in New York, New Jersey and Michigan have responded with orders that raised the standard for injuries or deaths while working in support of the state’s response to COVID-19 from negligence to gross negligence, or an egregious deviation from standard care. Physicians, who have long blamed malpractice lawsuits for driving up healthcare costs, hope other states will follow. “There are too many variables here. We are going to be second-guessed,” said Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. “We need better protection, if only to guard against unreasonable claims.”

Read more …

Groucho: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others..”

Russian Ventilators Sent To US Made By Firm Under US Sanctions (R.)

Ventilators delivered by Russia to the United States for coronavirus patients were manufactured by a Russian company that is under U.S. sanctions, Russia’s RBC business daily reported on Friday. A Russian military plane carrying the ventilators along with other medical supplies including personal protective equipment landed in New York on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone. Russian state television footage of the plane’s unloading showed boxes of “Aventa-M” ventilators, which are produced by the Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ) in the city of Chelyabinsk, 1,500 km (930 miles) east of Moscow, RBC reported. UPZ is part of a holding company called Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), which itself is a unit of Russian state conglomerate Rostec.


KRET has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014, with U.S. firms and nationals barred from doing business with it. The issue was further complicated by the question of whether it was the United States or Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF, which was added to U.S. sectoral sanctions in 2015, that paid for the ventilators. A senior administration official on Friday said sanctions did not apply to medical supplies. “The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries. The Russian Direct Investment Fund is subject to certain debt and equity-related sectoral sanctions, which would not apply to transactions for the provision of medical equipment and supplies,” the official said.

Read more …

These are the kinds of things that are bound to backfire.

US Snatches Masks From Germany In Act Of ‘Modern Piracy’ – Berlin (RT)

With Covid-19 infections climbing, Washington has diverted shipments of vital protective masks from its allies in Germany and Canada to the US. A Berlin senator described the move as “modern piracy.” As confirmed coronavirus cases passed 250,000 in the US this week, the White House pressured safety gear manufacturer 3M to step up imports of protective masks from its Chinese factories. Trump publicly promised on Thursday that 3M would “have a big price to pay” if it didn’t increase supply to the US. But behind the scenes, American officials were acquiring these masks by more underhand means. A delivery of 200,000 masks left a 3M factory in China this week and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, from where they were supposed to be sent to the German capital.

The masks never got to Berlin, and police in the city told Der Tagesspiegel that the shipment was instead bound for the US. Berlin’s Senator for the Interior Andreas Geisel confirmed on Friday that the masks had been “confiscated.” “We consider this an act of modern piracy. This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners,” Geisel said. Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik told Tagesspiegel that she believes 3M redirected the shipment because of the US government’s export ban. The company denied the charge, while a White House spokesman told another German newspaper that the accusation of piracy was “completely wrong.”

Yet Germany isn’t the only country to see its shipments apparently nabbed by the Americans. In Canada last week, Le Journal de Montreal reported that a shipment of masks bound for hospitals in the city was diverted to the US state of Ohio. Shipping firm DHL later attributed this to a “computer error,” but Montreal hospital supplier Fan Zhou claimed his order eventually arrived 10,000 masks short.

Read more …

It really IS the Grapes of Wrath all over again.

US Dairy Farmers Dump Milk As Pandemic Upends Food Markets (R.)

Dairy farmer Jason Leedle felt his stomach churn when he got the call on Tuesday evening. “We need you to start dumping your milk,” said his contact from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest U.S. dairy cooperative. Despite strong demand for basic foods like dairy products amid the coronavirus pandemic, the milk supply chain has seen a host of disruptions that are preventing dairy farmers from getting their products to market. Mass closures of restaurants and schools have forced a sudden shift from those wholesale food-service markets to retail grocery stores, creating logistical and packaging nightmares for plants processing milk, butter and cheese. Trucking companies that haul dairy products are scrambling to get enough drivers as some who fear the virus have stopped working.


And sales to major dairy export markets have dried up as the food-service sector largely shuts down globally. The dairy industry’s woes signal broader problems in the global food supply chain, according to farmers, agricultural economists and food distributors. The dairy business got hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities because the products are highly perishable – milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain. Other food sectors, however, are also seeing disruptions worldwide as travel restrictions are limiting the workforce needed to plant, harvest and distribute fruits and vegetables, and a shortage of refrigerated containers and truck drivers have slowed the shipment of staples such as meat and grains in some places.

Read more …

As long as Assange keeps being locked up in maximum security, the US doesn’t care one bit.

US AG Barr Orders Release Of More Federal Inmates (R.)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared on Friday that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is facing emergency conditions due to the fast-spreading coronavirus, paving the way for the agency to begin releasing more inmates out of custody and into home confinement. Barr said under his emergency order, priority for releasing vulnerable inmates into home confinement should be given first to those housed in federal prisons that have been hardest hit by COVID-19, including facilities such as Oakdale in Louisiana, Elkton in Ohio and Danbury in Connecticut. Barr’s order comes after five inmates at FCI Oakdale 1 and two at FCI Elkton 1 died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The BOP said Friday that 91 inmates and 50 of its staff throughout its 122 institutions have fallen ill with COVID-19. Union officials and families of prisoners have told Reuters they believe the number of people sickened with the virus is much higher. Earlier this week, the BOP took the unprecedented step of ordering all of its facilities to place inmates into a 14-day quarantine by confining them to their cells or living quarters. The $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump last week included a provision designed to make it easier for federal prisons to release more inmates into home confinement to help control the coronavirus outbreak. Prior to the stimulus law, the BOP could release to home confinement only inmates who had already served at least 90% of their sentence or had no more than six months left to go.

The new law allows the BOP director greater discretion to release a larger cohort of inmates. But it required that Barr first declare a state of emergency for the federal prison system. “For all inmates whom you deem suitable candidates for home confinement, you are directed to immediately process them for transfer and then immediately transfer them following a 14-day quarantine,” Barr directed the BOP in a memo released late Friday.

Read more …

Why not send them to jail, so Bill Barr can release tham?

Ankle Monitors Ordered For Kentucky Residents Refusing Quarantine (Hill)

Despite Governor Andy Beshear ordering all Kentucky residents to stay at home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, some in Louisville are reportedly refusing to self-quarantine. As a response, Jefferson Circuit Court judge Angela Bisig is ordering ankle monitors for those who were exposed to the coronavirus but who won’t stay at home. CNN reports that Bisig ordered an individual identified as D.L. to wear a global positioning device for the next two weeks. D.L is reportedly living with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as someone who is a presumptive case. About a week ago, D.L. was ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, the amount of time it takes for an infected individual to exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus.


Family members, however, said he leaves his home often. Bisig ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to place an ankle monitor on D.L., who will face criminal charges if they leave the house again. CNN cites local outlet WDRB as reporting that other Louisville residents were ordered to don ankle monitors as well after they refused to self-isolate. These individuals were also reported as either having the coronavirus or being in contact with the coronavirus. WDRB reports that Jefferson County has a judge on-call for these types of cases. This concerning report comes after a group of young Kentucky residents reportedly threw a “coronavirus party” that resulted in at least one person catching the virus.

Read more …

Poetic justice. $3 billion in cash reserves for a company that lost $320 in the first 9 months of 2019.

The COVID19 Crisis Locked Airbnb Out Of Its Own Homes (G.)

Airbnb’s army of 700,000 hosts are distraught at the income they are losing as a result of the company’s generosity to guests. Chesky this week apologised and said the company would spend $250m (£200m) covering 25% of what hosts would have been paid for reservations between 14 March and 31 May. An additional $10m relief fund is being made available to “super hosts” offering grants of up to $5,000 for “hosts who hurt the most”. Airbnb founders will also take no salary for six months, and top executives will have their salaries halved. “Although it may not have felt like it, we are partners,” Chesky said in email to hosts. “When your business suffers, our business suffers. We know that right now many of you are struggling, and what you need are actions from us to help, not just words.”

Airbnb has built up reported cash reserves of $3bn from booking fees charged to both guests and hosts. It collected revenues from the fees in excess of $4.8bn last year, according to Reuters. Hosts are charged 3% of every booking, while guests are charged up to 14.2%. The hangover from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to last far longer than 31 May or whenever governments lift movement restrictions. Hosts report empty booking calendars stretching throughout the summer, and research by analysis website AirDNA shows bookings in some cities has fallen by as much as 96%. For hosts who occasionally rent out their spare room in the style of a real bed & breakfast the lost Airbnb income due the coronavirus is a frustration.

But, for those who have built up mini (or in some cases not-so-mini) property portfolios that rely on a constant stream of guests churning through Airbnb apartments in Bath, Barcelona or Berlin, the prospect of weeks or months without guests spells financial disaster. It is also a disaster for Chesky, 38, and the large number of Airbnb’s employees who hold stock options. The company was lining up for a stock market flotation this year, which some investors hoped would value the 11-year-old tech giant at up to $42bn – even though the Wall Street Journal reported the business lost nearly $320m in just the first nine months of last year. In a video presentation on Thursday, Chesky told staff the company had lowered its valuation to $26bn, down from $31bn when it last raised money from investors in September 2017, according to the Financial Times.

[..] “They are stuffed, the IPO just can’t happen,” Richard Holway, chairman of analyst firm TechMarketView, said. “Airbnb is in the worst of the worst situations. Unlike other tech firms, like Uber which can do deliveries instead of driving people, it can’t diversify. There’s nothing Airbnb can do to make money. “Everything indicates that Airbnb income around the world has just stopped,” he said. “It [coronavirus and lockdown] has exposed the Airbnb business model, and it’s going to pull thousands and thousands of people down with it. People [hosts] have gone into it as an absolute business and they’re in a very, very difficult situation.”

Read more …

The anonymous whistleblower strikes again. And Schiff seeks some exposure, yelling: hey, I’m still here, where are the cameras?

Trump Firing Inspector General Who Flagged Whistleblower Complaint (NBC)

President Donald Trump has informed Congress that he is removing the inspector general who flagged the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, according to a letter obtained by NBC News. “This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community,” the Trump letter to the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees says. The letter also says “it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” The firing is to take effect 30 days from Friday, according to the letter. News of the complaint and the fact it had been withheld from Congress touched off an inquiry and testimony that resulted in Trump’s impeachment. Trump was acquitted by the Senate.

Michael Atkinson deemed the complaint an “urgent concern” that he was required by law to provide to the congressional intelligence committees. But then-Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguirerefused to do so on the advice of the Justice Department, resulting in a standoff. Two Congressional sources told NBC News Atkinson was informed Friday night that Trump had fired him, and he has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately. The statute technically requires that both intelligence committees be notified by Trump 30 days before the effective date of the IG’s removal, and placing him on administrative leave is being viewed by Congress as a way to effectively circumvent this requirement and sideline him right away.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and who played a key role in the impeachment of Trump, called the president’s move an attempt to “retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.” “At a time when our country is dealing with a national emergency and needs people in the Intelligence Community to speak truth to power, the President’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk,” Schiff said, referring to the coronavirus epidemic. “Moreover, this retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” Schiff said in the statement. “It undermines the transparency and oversight the American people expect of their government, and in its absence will undoubtedly lead to even greater corruption in the Administration.”

Read more …

You think Schiff was thinking he’d get the job?

Trump Names White House Lawyer As Watchdog Over Coronavirus Bailout (Solomon)

President Trump on Friday named a White House lawyer to be the chief watchdog to oversee the spending of $2 trillion in coronavirus stimulus money. Brian D. Miller, a special assistant to the president and a senior associate White House counsel, will serve as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery inside the Treasury Department. Miller served as the Senate-confirmed Inspector General for the General Services Administration for nearly a decade, where he led more than 300 auditors, special agents, attorneys, and support staff in conducting nationwide audits and investigations. As the GSA IG, Miller reported on fraud, waste, and abuse, including lavish spending on employee conference trips to Las Vegas. Previously he served inside the Justice Department as a lawyer for the deputy attorney general and as a federal prosecutor in Virginia.

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More info the FBI held back.

Translator Exonerated Don Jr. In Trump Tower Meeting (Solomon)

In Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia investigation, a little-known translator named Anatoli Samochornov played a bit role, a witness sparsely quoted about the infamous Trump Tower meeting he attended in summer 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a mysterious Russian lawyer. The most scintillating information Mueller’s team ascribed to Samochornov in the report was a tidbit suggesting a hint of impropriety: The translator admitted he was offered $90,000 by the Russians to pay his legal bills, if he supported the story of Moscow attorney Natalia Veselnitskya. He declined. But recently released FBI memos show that Samochornov, a translator trusted by the State Department and other federal agencies, provided agents far more information than was quoted by Mueller, nearly all of it exculpatory to the president’s campaign and his eldest son.

Despite learning the translator’s information on July 12, 2017, just a few days after the media reported on the Trump Tower meeting, the FBI would eventually suggest Donald Trump Jr. was lying and that the event could be seminal to Russian election collusion. Samochornov’s eyewitness account entirely debunks the media’s narrative, the FBI memos show. “Samochornov was not particularly fond of Donald Trump Jr., but stated Donald Trump Jr.’s account with Veselnitskya as portrayed in recent media report, was accurate,” according to the FBI 302 report on its interview of the translator. “Samachornov concurred with Donald Trump Jr.’s accounts of the meeting. He added ‘they’ were telling the truth.” So what was that truth, and how did it compare to the media version of events that took root in summer 2017?

The media narrative at the time was that the meeting might be a key piece of evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia: Trump Jr., brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were all lured to a meeting by the Russian lawyer Veselnitskya supposedly to talk about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr.’s account, ridiculed by the media and Democrats at the time, was that the short meeting ended up being about a Russian lobbying campaign to change adoption practices under a U.S. human rights law that punished Moscow and other foreign bad actors known as the Magnitsky Act.

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Funny how the reports come out just as Monsanto is preparing to save American farmers.

Monsanto Predicted Crop System Would Damage US Farms (G.)

The US agriculture giant Monsanto and the German chemical giant BASF were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms, internal documents seen by the Guardian show. Risks were downplayed even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage, according to documents unearthed during a recent successful $265m lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer. The documents, some of which date back more than a decade, also reveal how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators.

And in some of the internal emails, employees appear to joke about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail”. The new crop system developed by Monsanto and BASF was designed to address the fact that millions of acres of US farmland have become overrun with weeds resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, best known as Roundup. The collaboration between the two companies was built around a different herbicide called dicamba. [..] The companies announced in 2011 that they were collaborating in the development of the dicamba-tolerant cropping systems, granting each other reciprocal licenses, with BASF agreeing to supply formulated dicamba herbicide products to Monsanto.

The companies said they would make new dicamba formulations that would stay where they were sprayed and would not volatilize as older versions of dicamba were believed to do. With good training, special nozzles, buffer zones and other “stewardship” practices, the companies assured regulators and farmers that the new system would bring “really good farmer-friendly formulations to the marketplace”. But in private meetings dating back to 2009, records show agricultural experts warned that the plan to develop a dicamba-tolerant system could have catastrophic consequences. The experts told Monsanto that farmers were likely to spray old volatile versions of dicamba on the new dicamba-tolerant crops and even new versions were still likely to be volatile enough to move away from the special cotton and soybean fields on to crops growing on other farms.

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Sue them into oblivion.

Monsanto & BASF Knew For Years Their Products Destroy US Farms (RT)

US agro-chemical firm Monsanto and Germany’s BASF were aware for a long time that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms. According to internal documents seen by the Guardian, the firms disregarded the risks even while they planned on how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage. The documents (some of them date back more than a decade) have been uncovered during a recent successful $265 million lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer. They also revealed how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing, in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators.

In some of the internal BASF emails, employees were joking about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail.” Records showed that at private meetings dating back to 2009, agricultural experts warned that the plan to develop a dicamba-tolerant system could have catastrophic consequences. [..] The experts told Monsanto that farmers were likely to spray old volatile versions of dicamba on the new dicamba-tolerant crops. They have warned that even new versions were still likely to be volatile enough to move away from the special cotton and soybean fields on to crops growing on other farms. What is more important, under the system designed by Monsanto and BASF, only farmers buying Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds would be protected from dicamba drift damage.

[..] According to a report prepared for Monsanto in 2009 as part of industry consultation, such “off-target movement” was expected, along with “crop loss”, “lawsuits” and “negative press around pesticides.” Monsanto’s own projections estimated that dicamba damage claims from farmers would total more than 10,000 cases, including 1,305 in 2016, 2,765 in 2017 and 3,259 in 2018. Both Monsanto and BASF defended their products, claiming dicamba is safe “when used correctly,” and an important tool for farmers. Industry estimates suggest that several million acres of crops have now been reported damaged by dicamba. More than 100 US farmers are engaged in litigation in federal court alleging Monsanto and BASF collaboration created a “defective” crop system that has damaged orchards, gardens and organic and non-organic farm fields in multiple states.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Feb 172020
 


Jack Delano Discarded oil cans at truck service station on U.S. 1, New York Avenue, Washington, DC 1940

 

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)
Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)
Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)
Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)
Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)
Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)
Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)
‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)
Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)
Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)
1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)
German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)
Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)
Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)
US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

 

 

Well, we do have some numbers:

 

• Cases 71,330, up 2,076 from yesterday

• Deaths 1,775, up 106 from yesterday

• 760 million Chinese under quarantine

 

We also have plenty confusion. For instance, Reuters has two headlines that say Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China and China Says New Cases Slow. That clears things up.

But the most dramatic event over the weekend must be the repatration of various nationalities to their homelands. About 400 Americans were evacuated from the Diamond Princess, with Australian Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers set to follow soon. 44 of these Americans are infected with the virus, and they won’t be going home. The rest will, though.

This is happening while “Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond”, says the Guardian. So the Americans that are flown home go into quarantine, right? Well… Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive.”

Remember, as of the start of the evacuation, there were 3,711 people on board. 1,219 had been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus (among them the 44 Americans). Ergo, 2,492 people were not tested, among them the remaining 356 Americans. Who will only go into isolation if they shared a cabin with a positive case. The rest can do what they want.

We see the issue here, don’t we? How many of those 356 Americans may be infected? How many of the other nationalities which will fly home? There have been suggestions that the onboard air circulation system on the ship may have played a role in spreading the virus. If so, it could be everywhere. And yes, there could be “hundreds of additional cases”.

Then there’s the Werkendam cruise ship, from which hundreds were allowed to spread all over the world, taking off from Cambodia and/or Malaysia, before a positive case was found. Now it’s a “Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers”. Sort of like a modern version of the biblical “Go Forth and Multiply”. Where were these decisions made? Anyone ask the WHO, or China?

 

Meanwhile, China keeps trying. In Hubei province, Xiaogan city – with a population of nearly 5 million people, 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the second highest number in China, and 70 deaths, “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Try that in NYC, LA, Paris, Moscow, name a major city.

And the economic effects get increased attention as well. “Barclays analysts estimate that real [Japan] GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus…] Take it from there. At this point hearing from economists, bankers, investors is pretty useless, because they have little idea what goes on, and, like politicians, they won’t consider really bad scenarios until it’s too late.

But it’ll come trickling through. Served in a sauce of “we’ll be fine”.

UPDATE: 99 additional people tested positive aboard the Diamond Princess. 14 American evacuees who tested positive made the flight anyway, in a separate compartment

 

 

 

 

“Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.”

Japan Braces For Hundreds More Cases Onboard Cruise Ship (G.)

Japan is bracing for the possibility of hundreds of additional cases of the coronavirus onboard the stricken Princess Diamond, as experts warned the country was still in the “early stages” of the outbreak. The passengers evacuated from the ship face further uncertainty too, with the US and Australian citizens set for a further two weeks of quarantine after arriving homeHundreds of American passengers have flown back to the US and Australia said it would follow suit on Wednesday. Onboard the Diamond Princess, 355 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 out of an original total of about 3,600 passengers and crew, and after testing 1,219. Forty American passengers who were diagnosed with the virus have been transferred to hospitals in Japan.

Some Diamond Princess passengers face another two weeks in isolation if they have shared a cabin with someone who tests positive. The total number of people infected around the world climbed to more than 71,000 on Monday, including a further 2,048 confirmed cases in China, where the total number of deaths stands at 1,770. Five people have died outside China. Of the 105 deaths reported in China on Monday, 100 were in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak. Cities in Hubei have stepped up measures to stop the virus’s spread.


Xiaogan city – which has a population of nearly 5 million people and the second highest number of confirmed cases in China – ordered residents to stay in their homes or face detention of up to 10 days. State media reported that “all vehicles including motorcycles, electric bikes, bicycles and tricycles are prohibited from driving on the road”. Xiaogan, 70km from the city of Wuhan, has 3,279 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and has recorded 70 deaths.

Read more …

Fifth location outside China.

Taiwan Confirms First Coronavirus Death On Island, Cases At 20 (R.)

A taxi driver has died from the coronavirus in Taiwan, marking the first such death on the island and the fifth fatality outside mainland China from an epidemic that has curbed travel and disrupted global supply chains. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said during a news conference on Sunday that the deceased person was a 61-year-old man who had diabetes and hepatitis B. Taiwan has to date accumulated 20 confirmed cases. The deceased person had not traveled abroad recently and was a taxi driver whose clients were mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, the minister said. One of his family members was also confirmed to have the virus.

The pair constituted Taiwan’s first local transmission cases, the minister said, adding that authorities were trying to find out as soon as possible the source of contraction. “So far, we are not able to gather his contact history, so we are actively making investigations, hoping to find out the source of the contraction,” Chen said. The island will on Monday start testing all patients who show symptoms associated with coronavirus and had traveled abroad recently, the health ministry said.


The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has killed 1,665 people in China with latest figures showing 68,500 cases of the illness. Taiwan has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China and suspended most flights to its giant neighbor. Many schools have also extended their Lunar New Year holiday to late February to curb the spread of the virus. In a response to panic buying of masks on the island, the government scrambled to build several mask production lines and Premier Su Tseng-chang has vowed to more than double its daily mask production to 10 million by early March.

Read more …

Economic consequences. Japan was doing awful under Abenomics already.

Pay Attention To Shanghai, Beijing, Japan Infection Rates (F.)

Beijing and Shanghai have under 1,000 reported cases and only four deaths, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Their data is sourced from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the European Center for Disease Control and two China health agencies. China is the main source of the numbers. There are many people outside of China who doubt Beijing and Shanghai’s low case load. Watch for those numbers to rise in the weeks ahead. [..]

Covid-19 remains a mystery pathogen. It can be deadly. It’s like a bad pneumonia. Scientists believe it came from a species of bat. There is also concern that it escaped a virology research lab in Wuhan. There is no vaccine for Covid-19 yet, so those who have it are being treated with a variety of anti-viral medications and have to wait for the virus to work its way out of the body. Markets are repricing everything China related. Barclays Capital analysts released a 20-page report on the coronavirus on Friday where they said they were pushing out the recovery period, and think Japan heads into a technical recession because of it. Japan will release its fourth quarter GDP numbers on Monday.

Barclays analysts led by Tetsufumi Yamakawa in Tokyo estimate that real GDP contracted 3.2% on a quarterly basis, a little better than market consensus of -3.8%. This is all pre-coronavirus and mostly due to domestic tax matters. Yamakawa does see an increasing risk in first quarter weakness due to the Covid-19 impacts, and if that leads to negative growth, and it could, Japan hits a technical recession with back to back contraction. Weaker China tourism and a decrease in trade with China is a huge headwind for Japan. For Barclays, the probability of a recession there has surged to 69%.


Barclays’ China view is basically Wall Street consensus: so long as the virus stays concentrated in Hubei, they are going to trust China keeps it that way. [..] Xi Jinping last week called for even tighter restrictions on Hubei, and put two new Party bosses in charge to make sure the clampdown is enforced. “We think these efforts showed the urgency and determination of the government to stabilize the epicenter as soon as possible,” says Eric Zhu, an economist with Barclays in Hong Kong. “We expect incremental improvements,” he says.

Read more …

How is Abe still the PM there?

Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Fastest Rate Since 2014 (BBC)

Japan’s economy shrank at the fastest rate in five years at the end of 2019 as it was hit by a sales tax rise, a major typhoon and weak global demand. Annualised GDP fell by a much steeper than expected 6.3% in October-December. There are also concerns the coronavirus outbreak will mean the slump continues this quarter. That has raised fears that the world’s third-biggest economy may fall into recession. During the period Japanese consumer spending fell 2.9% after the country’s sales tax was raised in October to 10% from 8%. In the same month Typhoon Hagibis hit large parts of the country.


Last quarter, capital spending dropped by 3.7% and exports slipped 0.1% amid the ongoing US-China trade war. Investors are now watching to see whether the economy will rebound after the coronavirus forced China to shut down factories and led to a big drop in Chinese tourists visiting Japan. In response to today’s data economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the Japanese government was ready to take all necessary steps to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy and tourism.

Read more …

Recession looms everywhere by now. We just don’t want to know it.

Coronavirus Cases Rise Again In China, Recession Looms In Japan, Singapore (R.)

Japan and Singapore appeared to be on the brink of recession on Monday as the coronavirus epidemic disrupted tourism and supply chains around the world, and as China imposed tougher restrictions to try and stop the virus spreading further. The number of reported new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic, rose on Monday by more than 1,933, after two days of falls, and there were 100 deaths reported since Sunday. Across mainland China, officials said the total number of cases rose by 2,048 to 70,548, with 1,770 deaths. Nearly 90% of new cases were in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have originated at a market illegally trading wildlife late last year.

The virus, which is believed to have a 14-day incubation period, has forced thousands of people to be quarantined around the world. In Cambodia, authorities were scrambling to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked from the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam after an American woman left the ship and was tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. More than 100 have already left the country, while some 300 are reportedly still in Cambodia. “I believe there’s 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health,” said passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.


“We have no idea when we get to get home…” American passengers were taken off another cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan. Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board the Carnival Corp. Diamond Princess in Yokohama. The 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3. Some 355 people on board have tested positive for the disease, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Those with the disease have been taken to hospital in Japan and no one from the ship has died. Around half of the guests onboard are from Japan.

Read more …

It’s just a matter of waiting for new clusters to pop up now.

Americans Disembark From Virus-Hit Cruise; China Says New Cases Slow (R.)

American passengers were taken off a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home after being quarantined for two weeks off Japan, while China said the rate of new coronavirus cases had slowed, calling that proof its steps to fight the outbreak were working. An announcement aboard the Diamond Princess, where 3,700 passengers and crew have been held since Feb. 3, told Americans to get ready to disembark on Sunday evening for charter flights home. Passengers wearing masks could later be seen waving through the windows of buses parked near the ship. Of the roughly 400 Americans on the cruise, more than 40 are infected with the virus and will stay in Japan for treatment, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

“They are not going to go anywhere. They’re going to be in hospitals in Japan,” Fauci told the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” “People who have symptoms will not be able to get on the evacuation plane. Others are going to be evacuated starting imminently to air force bases in the United States.” Kyodo News Agency said the flights carrying U.S. passengers left Haneda Airport at around 1700 ET (2200 GMT). Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow soon, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers. “Leaving in a few hours. No details. Might be going to Texas or Nebraska,” U.S. passenger Gay Courter told Reuters.


Seventy new coronavirus cases were confirmed on board, bringing the total on the ship to 355, by far the largest cluster of cases outside China. Fauci told the Washington Post there were 44 infected Americans. Within China, authorities reported 2,009 new cases on Sunday, noting that this was down from more than 2,600 the previous day. They said this showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.

Read more …

Is anyone criminally responsible?

Scramble To Track Cambodia Cruise Ship Passengers After Virus Case Found (R.)

Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia. The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms. “Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information,” a statement from the company said. Passengers had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.


But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China. The woman’s husband tested negative for the coronavirus. About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said. Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said. At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Read more …

Did you know the Chinese see the world the same way Christian religions do? G-d appointed man the master of the world! Must be the dumbest facet of religion: man declares himself G-d.

‘Animals Live For Man’: China’s Appetite For Wildlife To Survive Virus (R.)

For the past two weeks China’s police have been raiding houses, restaurants and makeshift markets across the country, arresting nearly 700 people for breaking the temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals. The scale of the crackdown, which has netted almost 40,000 animals including squirrels, weasels and boars, suggests that China’s taste for eating wildlife and using animal parts for medicinal purposes is not likely to disappear overnight, despite potential links to the new coronavirus. Traders legally selling donkey, dog, deer, crocodile and other meat told Reuters they plan to get back to business as soon as the markets reopen. “I’d like to sell once the ban is lifted,” said Gong Jian, who runs a wildlife store online and operates shops in China’s autonomous Inner Mongolia region.

“People like buying wildlife. They buy for themselves to eat or give as presents because it is very presentable and gives you face.” Gong said he was storing crocodile and deer meat in large freezers but would have to kill all the quails he had been breeding as supermarkets were no longer buying his eggs and they cannot be eaten after freezing. Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins, a small ant-eating mammal whose scales are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. [..] “In many people’s eyes, animals are living for man, not sharing the earth with man,” said Wang Song, a retired researcher of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


[..] Much of the farming and sale of wildlife takes place in rural or poorer regions under the blessing of local authorities who see trading as a boost for the local economy. State-backed television programs regularly show people farming animals, including rats, for commercial sale and their own consumption. However, activists pushing for a ban describe the licensed farms as a cover for illegal wildlife trafficking, where animals are specifically bred to be consumed as food or medicine rather than released into the wild.

Read more …

Brace for much more of this.

Armed Robbers Steal Hundreds Of Toilet Rolls In Hong Kong (BBC)

Armed robbers in Hong Kong made off with hundreds of toilet rolls worth more than HKD1,000 ($130). Toilet rolls are currently in short supply in Hong Kong due to shortages caused by panic-buying during the coronavirus outbreak. Knife wielding men robbed a delivery man outside a supermarket in the Mong Kok district, police said. Police have arrested two men and recovered some of the stolen loo rolls, local media reports said. The armed robbery took place in Mong Kok, a district of Hong Kong with a history of “triad” crime gangs, early on Monday.


According to local reports, the robbers had threatened a delivery worker who had unloaded rolls of toilet paper outside Wellcome Supermarket. An Apple Daily report said that 600 toilet paper rolls, valued at around HKD1,695 ($218), had been stolen. Stores across the city have seen supplies massively depleted with long queues when new stock arrives. Despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak, residents have been stocking up on toilet paper. Other household products have also seen panic-buying including rice, pasta and cleaning items.

Read more …

“What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco…”

Devin Nunes Says Trump ‘Has To Tweet’ To Combat ‘Hard Left’ Media (Fox)

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., fired back at Democrats who criticized Attorney General William Barr for his role in former Trump associate Roger Stone’s sentencing and defended the president’s use of Twitter after he used the platform to comment about the ongoing criminal case. “What’s happening here with Barr, I think people need to understand that he’s cleaning up the mess from not only the Obama administration, but also the mess that was left with the whole Russia-gate fiasco,” Nunes told “Fox & Friends Weekend,” saying taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to fund then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team “that went chasing and trying to put us into a status of a permanent coup against the president of the United States.”

Nunes’ comments came days after Barr himself publicly swiped at Trump, declaring Thursday that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and open cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.” [..] “I think what the attorney general said was very clear, that the president should be careful making comments about criminal investigations. One should not see that as anything other than but what it is,” Nunez said, adding that Barr “didn’t say to stop tweeting, because the fact of the matter is, with 90 percent of the media being hard left and really just working for the Democratic Party, the president has to be able to tweet.”


Earlier in the week, Trump applauded Barr on Twitter for the decision to reverse the sentencing recommendation, writing: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” “He’s built a powerful tool reaching millions of Americans, millions of people around the globe,” Nunes added, “so the president has to tweet. At the same time, the attorney general has to be able to do his job.” He also said, “It’s understandable that the president can be frustrated,” and called Stone’s dramatic early-morning arrest by federal agents in January 2019 “ridiculous.”

Read more …

It’s ilke the interagency debate in the House testimonies. The civil servants think they have the right to set policy. And don’t you dare question that. But wasn’t it perhaps high time someone did?

1,100 Former DOJ Employees Call On Barr To Resign (NPR)

More than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign after his department lowered the prison sentence recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, in a move that’s led to accusations of political interference. In a letter released Sunday, the former DOJ officials, who have worked across Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote that Barr’s intervention in the Stone case has tarnished the department’s reputation. “Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice,” the former officials wrote.

“In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.” On Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for Stone’s 2019 conviction on charges including making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. On Twitter, Trump said the sentencing recommendation amounted to “a horrible and very unfair situation.” But then on Tuesday, the Justice Department intervened, ordering a new sentencing memo and calling for lighter punishment. A senior DOJ official told NPR that officials were “shocked” at the original recommendation.


[..] To Julie Zebrak, who’s among the former DOJ officials who signed the letter, Barr’s behavior shatters a cardinal norm that has been in place for decades: that the Justice Department’s prosecutorial decisions should not be influenced by the White House. Zebrak told NPR that Barr’s move “sent shockwaves through the former DOJ alumni.” She added: “We are all watching in a really rapid and terrifying way the undermining of the department and the diminishment of the rule of law. We have to sort of speak up and speak out when we can.”

Read more …

“Clean cars” require cutting forests. This is where the environmental movement meets its Armageddon; there’s just not enough knowledge, they’ll believe anything that sounds good.

German Court Halts Work On New Tesla ‘Gigafactory’ (BBC)

Tesla has been ordered to temporarily halt preparations for a car factory in Germany after environmentalists won a court injunction on Sunday. The electric carmaker had been clearing forest land near the capital, Berlin, ahead of building its first European car and battery plant. The court emphasised the injunction was temporary and subject to further hearings, probably this week. Protesters say the factory is a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. To much fanfare, Tesla’s boss Elon Musk announced plans last November to build a European facility known as a “gigafactory” in Grünheide, in the eastern state of Brandenburg.


But the factory has become a flashpoint between environmentalists and Germany’s pro-business Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties, who fear the issue could damage the country’s image as a place to do business. The dispute highlights the risks for the US carmaker, which has not been officially granted permission to build the factory. Tesla was, however, granted permission by Germany’s environment ministry to begin site preparations “at its own risk”. This has involved clearing about 91 hectares (225 acres) of forest and the felling of thousands of trees – something that outraged an alliance of environmentalists called the Green League. In a statement on Sunday, the court representing the Berlin and Brandenburg region cautioned: “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.”

Read more …

If the goverment can let its journalists rot in Belmarsh, this shouldn’t be a surprise. How loud has ABC been in its defense of Assannge?

Australia Broadcaster Loses Newsroom Raid Case (BBC)

Australia’s national broadcaster has lost its legal challenge to controversial police raids on its Sydney newsroom last year. In June, police searched the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a newspaper journalist over articles which relied on leaks from government whistleblowers. The raids sparked public outrage and protests across the nation’s media. However, the Federal Court of Australia has ruled the searches were legal. ABC’s managing director David Anderson said the decision was “disappointing”. He said the raids had been a high-profile “attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their job”. Australian Federal Police alleged the stories and reporters at the centre of its searches had breached national security laws.


In the raid last year, they seized thousands of documents over a 2017 ABC investigation which alleged Australian armed forces had committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Police also raided the home of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst. In 2018, she had reported an alleged attempt by a government agency to spy on Australian citizens. Australia’s conservative government tightened its security laws in 2018 to make it a criminal offence for journalists to receive classified information from military or intelligence sources. Canberra has previously said it backs press freedom but that “no one was above the law”.

Read more …

Never voluntarily.

Breakdown or Breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition (NC)

When mainstream approaches to sustainability fail to challenge economic growth they provide limited, sometimes even false solutions to today’s crises. Technological and political interventions that reduce environmental impacts and enhance overall efficiency – though contributing to sustainability in a narrow sense – end up adding to global inequality and ecological overshoot, insofar as they accelerate growth. Growth is one of the chief drivers of social inequality and environmental degradation; it is also what sustains the global capitalist economy. Sustainability solutions that promote growth under the banner of “green growth” are the easiest to accept and implement, but they are the least able to address the roots of today’s crises.

Proponents of green growth believe that growth can be decoupled from environmental impacts, yet there is no empirical evidence that this is possible. Meanwhile, acting on such an unproven assumption obscures the real harm being done by sustaining extractive and exploitative capitalism. We have already surpassed the known limits to growth, so degrowth is our only option. Sustainability is an outcome of healthy metabolic relationships between an organism and its environment. When consumption depletes resources faster than their rate of regeneration – which is what we are currently doing – it is by definition unsustainable.

Although essential, today’s most progressive reforms, including the Green New Deal and the circular economy, will only be effective when combined with a more equitable distribution of resources and decreasing per capita consumption in advanced economies. For sustainability efforts to be effective, they must be part of a comprehensive degrowth agenda focused on systems change. Contrary to common misunderstandings, degrowth does not mean negative growth or imply sacrifices to one’s quality of life. Rather, it is focused on reducing a society’s material and energy throughput while actually enhancing quality of life. [..]


The next 30 years constitute what systems theorists call a ‘decision window.’ How societies decide to respond to mounting social and ecological pressures will determine whether the system evolves or collapses. Once the decision window ends and the global system passes the chaos point, the system irreversibly changes, and there are only two futures left – breakthrough or breakdown. There is no chance that a wildly optimistic techno-future can sustain growth beyond social and planetary boundaries. Civilization will either collapse or it will follow a path of managed descent and sustainable reorganization. The only breakthroughs remaining follow paths of degrowth.

Read more …

They’ll appeal. Check back in a decade.

US Peach Grower Awarded $265 Million From Bayer, BASF In Weedkiller Suit (R.)

A Missouri jury’s $265 million award to peach grower Bill Bader in his lawsuit against herbicide providers Bayer and BASF has raised the stakes for the two companies as at least 140 similar cases head to U.S. courts later this year. A jury in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, handed Bader, the state’s largest peach farmer, $15 million in actual and $250 million in punitive damages. He sued the companies saying his 1,000-acre orchard was irreparably harmed by herbicide that they produce, which drifted onto its trees from nearby farms. The three-week trial was the first case in the United States to rule on the use of dicamba-based herbicides alleged to have damaged tens of thousands of acres of U.S. cropland.

The herbicide can become a vapor and drift for miles when used in certain weather, farmers have claimed. Bayer said it was “disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” and plans to appeal. BASF also said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision and plans to appeal. Both companies said their dicamba-based herbicides are safe when used as directed. Bayer faces separate multi-billion-dollar litigation over the Roundup weedkiller made by Monsanto, the U.S. firm it took over for $63 billion in 2018. Monsanto made Roundup and dicamba, and Bayer is being sued over both products.


[..] Bayer and BASF face other dicamba lawsuits that could begin late his year before the same judge in Missouri, said attorney Billy Randles, whose firm represented Bader and also represents dozens of others with similar claims. “These are all the same” allegations, said Randles. “They claim negligent design, failure to warn and all allege a joint venture” between Bayer and BASF. The jury found the two equally liable for the damages.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 152020
 


Harris & Ewing Gettysburg 50th reunion: Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans 1913

 

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)
Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)
Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)
Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)
Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)
Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)
Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)
Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)
DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)
Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)
Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)
United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)
Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)
US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)
Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)
Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

 

 

And we’re off to the races again. With the renewed attention for the FBI and DOJ shenanigans in the cases past and present of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and even Andrew McCabe, it’s easy to get too many articles for an effective aggregator.

 

• Cases 67,102, up 2,661 from yesterday. 11,053 – 18% of cases listed as severe.

• Deaths 1,526, up 143 from yesterday

First death in Europe, a Chinese tourist in France. Close the borders!

• 2,420 new cases (total 54,406) and 139 new deaths in Hubei province

• Chinese experts expect surge in confirmed cases inn coming days.

• 4 more cases in Japan, 3 more cases in Hong Kong

• Infected passengers and crew aboard ‘the Diamond Princess’ climbs to 218

• Lockdown in Beijing

• 217 medical teams sent to provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei, in addition to 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and 36 army medical teams across Hubei

 

 

 

 

They’re even sanitizing coins and bank notes with UV light.

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,526. There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 – 18 per cent – are severe. In Hubei province – epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday. National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan – provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged – about a week ago. Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus. Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.


[..] Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with 4 billion yuan (US$572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei before the Spring Festival holiday. Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash. Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises. Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation.

Read more …

Imagine this in Paris, London, New York.

Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)

The Chinese capital Beijing on Friday imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and threatened to punish those who failed to comply. It was not immediately clear how the restriction, relayed by the official Beijing Daily newspaper, would be enforced, or whether it would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad. [..] Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the outbreak began, has the most acute problem. With all public transport, taxis and ride-hailing services shut down in the city, volunteer drivers are responding to requests on ad hoc messaging groups to ferry medical staff and others in vital jobs to and from work, risking their own health.


Others work round the clock to find accommodation for medical workers in hotels that have volunteered rooms. Many of the drivers keep their identities secret to avoid objections from family and friends. “Everyone in our group has such a strong sense of mission,” said 53-year-old Chen Hui, who runs one of the ad hoc ride services. [..] “From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” read the notice from Beijing’s virus prevention working group cited by the Beijing Daily. “Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law.”

Read more …

He’s starting to acknowledge he can’t do both. How to save face?

Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)

Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Politburo Standing Committee is the inner circle of China’s power structure. The seven-member body, which is the core of the 25 member Politburo cabinet with general secretary Xi Jinping as its head, rarely publishes meeting schedules or agendas before or even after meetings. The details of only four standing committee meetings have been published in the two and half years since Xi consolidated his power in late 2017, even though the group is believed to have met on a weekly basis. Two of the meetings were to listen to work reports from China’s government, parliament and the top court, one was a discussion about a grand plan to build an entirely new city in Xiongan, Hebei province, and the fourth concerned a low-quality vaccine scandal.

This all changed last month with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. The conclusions of three standing committee meetings in three consecutive weeks have since been published, an attempt to make it clear that China’s leadership, in particular Xi himself, has a strong message to send to the country’s ruling apparatus and the general public. During Wednesday’s meeting, Xi said control of the coronavirus had entered a critical stage despite “positive developments” in containing the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, Xi emphasised that the outbreak of coronavirus should not stop China from achieving its social and economic goals, while also continuing the country’s long-term rise.


“This year is the last year to complete the goal of building up a comprehensively well-off society” said Xi, with all levels of the government expected to ensure economic stability and social harmony to achieve set goals despite the coronavirus. The meeting came just a day after Xi told his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, that China “has the capability, confidence and certainty to score an outright victory over the epidemic”. “We must see that the long-term sound fundamentals of our economy haven’t changed. The impact of the outbreak will only be short-term and [China] won’t be intimidated by the current problems and difficulties,” Xi said according to Xinhua.

Read more …

Africa is an ideal breeding ground for a virus like this. But who’s going to do the testing, and with what? A hospital in Cairo may do it, but what about the Congo for instance? There are at least a millionn Chinese working in Africa. Come to think of it, what will COVID19 mean for Belt and Road?

Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)

Egypt has confirmed its first case of a deadly coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said in a statement on Friday that the affected person was a “foreigner” who did not show any serious symptoms. Officials were able to confirm the case through a follow-up programme implemented by the government for travellers arriving from countries where the virus has spread. The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry. The development made Egypt the first country in the African continent to report a confirmed case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates late last month diagnosed its first cases.

Read more …

China must ask for mass assistance.

Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)

More than a thousand health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, many of whom contracted the virus that causes the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak when there was a shortage of protective equipment and the authorities said there had been few cases of human-to-human transmission. One specialist warned that frontline medical workers were paying “too high a price” in the battle to contain the disease and warned that the high number of infected health care staff increased the risk of cross-infection in hospitals. On Friday the government said a total 1,716 health care workers had been infected with the disease. The number is far higher than that recorded during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, although there have been 12 times more confirmed cases of Covid-19.

[..] Cai Haodong, a communicable diseases specialist from Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the absolute number of health care worker infections was far higher than during the Sars epidemic because there were many patients who had not initially shown any symptoms. “The enemy (coronavirus) is in the dark. The awareness of doctors of non-communicable disease was not strong. They may have lowered their guard when the patient did not show any symptoms.” Health care workers were also forced to go to the frontline without proper protective clothing and masks, she added. “The doctors in Wuhan don’t have sufficient protective gear and they are forced to go to the frontline. The price is just too high,” she said.


The large number of health care worker infections increases the risks of cross-infection in hospitals. “When doctors are infected, they may infect patients and cause cross-infections. That is why the United States requires doctors to have influenza vaccines so that they won’t pass it on to patients,” Cao said.

Read more …

How much did the industry pay for this commercial?

“We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice..”

Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)

After nearly two weeks cast away in search of a port that would take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was anything but harrowing. “Everyone says ‘poor you’. But there was no poor you. We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice,” said Zahra Jennings, a retired staff nurse from Britain. How was it? “Lovely,” she said. The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had never expected a port stop in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown fear that some of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and has killed more than 1,500 people.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that finally let the lost ship dock – and it was discovered there that none of the passengers was infected. The only complaint aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a couple of days ago, and tomato sauce,” said Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical company employee from New Zealand. “But that was it. It was fine, really.” Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus since it was found aboard the Diamond Princess that is now at anchor in Yokohama and where 218 of the passengers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday. It was Valentine’s Day when the first passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking hands with passengers and handing out roses. Government officials draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers were given free visas. Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western countries for human rights abuses said: “Our current disease around the world is fear and discrimination,” he said. “If Cambodia didn’t allow this ship to dock, where should these 2,000 passengers go?”


Holland America sent letters to all passengers saying it would reimburse the cost of the cruise, give them another free 14-day cruise, and charter them flights home. The company, it said, would do its best to match the class of flight they had originally booked. The cruise had been scheduled to end in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

Read more …

He was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated, so he didn’t need a lawyer, and now we’re off to the races.

Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told Sean Hannity on Friday that there has been “one atrocity after another” in the proceedings. “So not only was [Michael Flynn] not warned of his rights, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated,” Powell told host Sean Hannity. “In fact, he was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated.” Powell added that Michael Flynn’s case was the first instance she had heard of in which a defendant accused of making false statements to the FBI was not warned of his rights or informed that he was under investigation. “They say they can’t find [it], he can’t produce it [the 302 form],” she said of Michael Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. who she claimed has a separate conflict of interest in the case. “There is one atrocity after the other in this case.”

Read more …

Would this have happened if Powell hadn’t taken over? I don’t believe it for a second.

Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)

A week of two-tiered legal shenanigans was capped off on Friday with a New York Times report that Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the government’s case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, which the Times suggested was “highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” Notably, the FBI excluded crucial information from a ‘302’ form documenting an interview with Flynn in January, 2017. While Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to misleading agents over his contacts with the former Russian ambassador regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to oppose a UN resolution related to Israel, the original draft of Flynn’s 203 reveals that agents thought he was being honest with them – evidence which Flynn’s prior attorneys never pursued.

His new attorney, Sidney Powell, took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019 – while Flynn withdrew his guilty plea in January, accusing the government of “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.” In addition to a review of the Flynn case, Barr has hired a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review several other politically sensitive national-security cases in the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to the Times sources. Of particular interest will be cases overseen by now-unemployed former US attorney for DC, Jessie Liu, which includes actions against Stone, Flynn, the Awan brothers, James Wolfe and others. Notably, Wolfe was only sentenced to leaking a classified FISA warrant application to journalist and side-piece Ali Watkins of the New York Times – while prosecutors out of Liu’s office threw the book at former Trump adviser Roger Stone – recommending 7-9 years in prison for process crimes.


[..] New York Times: “The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office. They are part of a broader turmoil in that office coinciding with Mr. Barr’s recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim United States attorney in the District of Columbia, after Mr. Barr maneuvered out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie K. Liu. Mr. Flynn’s case was first brought by the special counsel’s office, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation, before the Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia’s election interference”.

Read more …

But that’s not the end of the line for McCabe, says Jason Chaffetz. Stay tuned.

DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)

The Justice Department has dropped its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over accusations he leaked information to news media, his attorneys said Friday. A letter to McCabe’s lawyers said the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he’d authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to media about an investigation related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


The IG report accused McCabe of subsequently misleading investigators about his role in the matter. McCabe had stepped down from his role as deputy director of the FBI months earlier. McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C., notified them the case was closed.

Read more …

How can the request be refused? Hard to see.

Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)

Attorneys for Roger Stone on Friday requested a new trial, a day after saying they were looking into potential bias by a juror who voted to convict the longtime Trump associate of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The request also comes after President Trump accused the juror of harboring “significant bias” following reports that her social media activity contained posts that were critical of Trump. “Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Stone’s attorneys would not reveal the contents of the motion, which was filed under seal to protect sensitive information, saying only that an un-redacted version will be submitted later for public filing. However, a day earlier they indicated they were looking into the newly surfaced social media activity of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart. “Mr. Stone and his defense team are diligently reviewing the newly reported information to determine any appropriate next steps,” said attorney Grant Smith, who did not refer to the juror by name. Hart’s role as the jury foreperson became publicly known Wednesday when she confirmed to CNN that she had written a Facebook post defending the prosecutors in Stone’s case.


The four-person prosecution team quit Tuesday after their recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison was overruled by top Justice Department officials, sparking questions about whether the White House had put undue political pressure on the department to seek a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime associate. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. [..] It was unclear if the request for a new trial — Stone’s second attempt after the first was denied — would delay his scheduled Feb. 20 sentencing.

Read more …

Carville is THE symbol of the demise of the Democratic Party in the past 30 years. He’s a sleaze like Roger Stone, only he’s free.

Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)

James Carville fired back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling him “a political hack,” calling the self-described democratic socialist “a communist.” The back and forth follows a week in which Carville has repeatedly sounded the alarm about a potential Sanders match-up against President Trump in November, calling the scenario “the end of days” for the Democratic Party while referring to Sanders supporters as “a cult.” Sanders returned fire on Wednesday night during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arguing that “political hack” Carville represents the establishment his campaign is running against.

“James, in all due respect, is a political hack,” Sanders said. “We are taking on Trump, the Republican establishment, Carville and the Democratic establishment. But at the end of the day, the grassroots movement that we are putting together — of young people, of working people, of people of color — want real change.” Carville, who worked as a campaign strategist for former President Clinton, escalated the feud Thursday on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack,” Carville said. “That’s exactly who the f— I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kind of like it! At least I’m not a communist.”


Trump also recently referred to Sanders as a communist. “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl. Sanders dismissed Trump’s comment a week later in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders said, adding that maybe Trump “doesn’t know the difference.”

Read more …

Does anyone think the 737 MAX will fly again this year? How about ever?

United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)

United Airlines said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights until Sept. 4, a fresh delay that comes as sources told Reuters that the timing of a key certification flight may not happen until at least April. U.S. airlines that operate Boeing’s737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide last March after two fatal crashes, had last pulled the jet from their flight schedules until early June. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines extended its MAX cancellations until Aug. 10.

Read more …

“..it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality..”

Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)

..companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions. Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money.


This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

Read more …

Time to go before things get out of hand.

US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles. Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another.


A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier. The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

Read more …

After the Greek House speaker refused to accept the recordings, Varoufakis -through DiEM25- said this:

“No one has the right to keep a sovereign Parliament, nor citizens, in the dark. This is why by the end of February we will release all recordings, so that all European citizens finally get to see the hypocrisy of the Establishment and the despicable way in which governments behave, in their name, behind closed doors.”

Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)

The head of Mera25 party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday submitted to Parliament an envelope allegedly containing his secret audio recordings from the Eurogroup meetings while he was negotiating for Greece’s SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Varoufakis said he expected House speaker Kostas Tasoulas to forward the content to Greek lawmakers. Tasoulas, however, said he had no intention of sharing the recordings. “Parliament will not shoulder [Varoufakis’] responsibilities,” he said. The exchange took place during a debate on labor issues.


Tasoulas’ reaction was welcomed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a statement, Mera25 said that Tasoulas’ refusal to accept the transcripts “confirms that Eurogroup’s wall of intransparency suited and still suits many people, while truth and transparency terrifies [them].” “All European citizens have a right to directly access the statements, the dialogues and the decisions that shape their future,” it said. Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

Read more …

Intruiging. But no answer.

Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

Every so often you encounter a chart that takes your breath away. This week I saw just such a graph and I’m still struggling to get my head round it. It depicts something which on the face of it sounds mundane — exports of gold from the UK — and it looks like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen a hockey-stick chart before. There’s the one Al Gore put up on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth showing temperatures hovering at about the same level for century after century before shooting up in recent decades. Or the one of GDP going back to the dark ages: for most of history we subsisted on meagre earnings until the industrial revolution came along and catapulted GDP into the stratosphere.

The one this week has much the same shape. Not much of anything for month after month from 1998 when it begins until October 2019. Sure, there were occasional months when the amount of gold leaving British hands would hit a few hundred million pounds. Once or twice it ticks over a billion. But nothing like what occurs in November and December last year: in those months it skyrockets at a rate that doesn’t make any sense. Until then, the monthly average of gold exports was £126 million. Then in November they leapt to £4 billion. In December they doubled to £8 billion. [..] Britain does not mine any significant quantity of gold yet we are the world’s hub for the trade in physical bullion.

This is something of an accident of history, in much the same way as we are also the world’s centre for the trade in fine wine, despite the fact that we produce very little of the stuff ourselves. Yet gold bullion is so valuable that every time it changes hands it massively distorts the trade figures. Consider: Britain has not achieved a goods trade surplus, which is where we export more goods than we import, in any single month since comparable records began more than two decades ago. Yet in December that astonishing leap in gold exports meant that the headline figures published this week showed Britain achieving its first goods trade surplus in modern times. That this was almost entirely down to a mysterious movement of gold bars was seemingly lost on Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, who promptly issued a press release hailing a “record-breaking year for UK exports”.

[..] why did gold exports soar at the end of last year? Was it down to Brexit, with traders switching out of gold in the run-up to Brexit day? Was it to do with the election? Was it central banks repatriating gold or investment banks shifting their portfolios from UK-domiciled funds to EU ones? We still don’t know. I have spoken to statisticians, to gold analysts and economists, to traders and industry experts. None of them have the foggiest idea what is going on. One analyst took a look at the chart and spluttered a four-letter word. “That’s crazy,” he said. “Must be a mistake.” Another person pointed to the fact that Poland flew back about £4 billion worth of gold from the UK last year, before remembering that this happened before December and, oh, these kinds of things don’t count as official exports anyway.


The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that this was simply an accounting change: one of London’s leading gold custodians, an American investment bank, shifted some of the gold from one column of its accounts to another. The gold didn’t leave the country; someone simply fiddled with a spreadsheet. Even so, that raises further questions: is that bank in trouble? Why do it now? Who ordered it: the bank holding the gold or the gold’s owners? If the latter, then who owns so much gold that they could single-handedly distort this country’s trade figures and surface in Britain’s national accounts?

Read more …

 

Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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Feb 142020
 
 February 14, 2020  Posted by at 10:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  24 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Halftrack scout car brought up to Army standards of smartness. White Motor Company, Cleveland Dec 1941

 

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)
Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)
Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)
WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)
Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)
Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)
Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)
Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)
Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)
Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)
Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)
UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

 

 

I noticed late last night my time that the COVID19 death tally went from an initial 1486 all the way back to 1380. Found that very curious, thought it was an error. But woke up this morning to find they really did it. As Tyler put it at the time: “Hubei province reports 116 new coronavirus deaths and 4,823 cases, bringing the overall official count to 1,486 deaths and 65,213 confirmed. China must feel its credibility is completely shot by now, or they’d be much more careful.

As I wrote this, the numbers are (from various sources, fluid):

• Cases: 64,443 (from yesterday’s 60,108)

• Deaths: 1,383 (from yesterday’s 1,363)

• Suspected cases 10,109

• In serious/critical condition 10,227

• Recovered 6,801

• Health workers infected 1716

• Hubei deducted 1,043 older cases and 108 deaths due to double counting

• 267 new cases and 5 new deaths outside Hubei province

• First death in Japan, 15th case in US

 

 

 

 

The “double-counted” deaths can’t have anything to do with the new accounting measures that lifted the numbers of cases yesterday. So what happened? No explanation. Something Beijing cannot afford.

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)

..while China “can now claim it wants to be more transparent (which is odd for a nation that is still refusing to admit the US CDC on the ground) and wants a more comprehensive definition of “infection” because it is suddenly so concerned about all those people it ordered to go back to work on Monday, it somehow also changed the definition of “death”, because at the same time as the explosion in new cases, which clearly indicates that the pandemic is now clearly out of control, the number of reported deaths in Hubei alone spiked by 242 to 1,310.”

One day later China appears to have realized just how flagrant this “mistake” – which exposed the lie which Chinese officials had used until now to avoid a panic, and reset the infection count to a sharply higher number – was, because even as Hubei reported an additional 4,823 cases as of Thursday (and the Chinese National Health Commission said this number was up 5,090 for all of China), there was some major confusion about what the actual number of deaths was. Here’s why. In its official daily update on the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday, Feb 13 – the day of the great surge in infections and deaths – the NHC reported that across all of China, there was an increase of 242 death cases in China, of which 216 in Wuhan to 1,367..

… which is bizarre, because one day later, in its latest update from Friday, Feb 14, the NHC said that while the number of deaths – which as of Thursday recall were 1,367 (see above) – increased by 121, the total number of declared deaths across China was just 1,380. In other words, somehow the jump from 1,367 deaths to 1,380 was an increase of 121 deaths!? But don’t take our word for it: here is JPMorgan’s official count of all related data as of this morning, showing that indeed, as of Feb 13 (so for Feb 12), there was a total of 1,367 deaths reported by the National Health Commission.

Is this just pro-forma, adjusted death math with Chinese characteristics? As it turns out no, because recall that while China may have reset the number of new cases sharply higher, it certainly did not mean to also send the number of deaths surging, as it would means that this had nothing to do with a change in the definition of infection, and everything to do with undercounting the number of infected and dead. So what did Beijing do?


Well, as the NHC “explained” in its Friday statement, that 242 increase in deaths officially reported on Thursday somehow also included 108 deaths that were “double counted.” There was no explanation how or why it was possible to “double count” a death. Which of course, it isn’t and what really happened is that China, having realized its glaring mistake which prompted us to mock its “data” yesterday, had to quickly cut by roughly half the surge in Thursday deaths to make the progression in the number of new deaths “smooth.” And sure enough, this is what the revised death chart looks like after the “double counting” revision: compare the chart up top of the number in new deaths before today’s “revision”, with what the death number looks like now, after the latest “data.”

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The sign suggests wearing a mask only when you’re already sick. Someone tell 500 million Chinese.

Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)

Singapore on Thursday reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with eight newly infected patients bringing its total to 58, the health ministry said. All of the new patients were linked to previous cases, the ministry said. Of the 58 confirmed cases reported, 15 have recovered and been discharged from hospital while seven are in critical condition in intensive care, it added.


REUTERS/Feline Lim

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This has been a He Said She Said all week. It gets serious if false reports make shares surge, though.

Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)

Foxconn denied a report that it plans to resume over half its production by the end of February, as the Covid-19 outbreak worsens. The report via Reuters noted that 50% of Foxconn’s production would come back online by the end of the month, and the aim for full production for next month. This sent Apple shares to near record highs this week; however, Foxconn ruined the party and said Reuters was incorrect about plant resumptions. The statement by the world’s largest contract electronics maker was published via the Taipei stock exchange on Thursday, and first cited by Reuters. Foxconn is Apple’s main iPhone assembler in China and offered no timetable of when its factories would reopen. Foxconn received the go-ahead to reopen some plants in China this week. However, only about 10% of its workforce had returned to several plants in southern Shenzhen and central Zhengzhou on Monday.


Apple has also extended the shutdown of its retail stores across the country. Stores were supposed to open earlier this week but have now delayed until February 15. TrendForce Corp. said Apple could see a 10% decline in iPhone sales in 1Q, from 45.5 million to about 41 million units, due mostly because of factory shutdowns tied to the virus outbreak. We’ve noted, in the last several weeks, that if Foxconn factories cannot resume production by early February and have full production by the end of the month, shortages would develop for Apple iPhones and AirPods. The one sector with the most exposure to Greater China and the Asia Pacific is also the sector that has outperformed the most in recent months: Tech. This means that supply chain disruptions are about to cause one of the most significant shocks since the financial crisis.

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Second expert to say this. The media should set the proper context: this is true if no measures to contain the disease are taken.

WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)

In yet another sign of the World Health Organization’s about-face on the coronavirus outbreak, a top epidemiologist and advisor to the organization said Thursday that if the virus isn’t contained soon, it could infect 60% of the global population – or more than 5 billion people – echoing projections made by a Hong Kong scientist who was once labeled an alarmist despite his pioneering work in the fight against SARS. According to Bloomberg, that’s what WHO advisor Ira Longini said after finishing a study of the virus’s transmissibility. His estimates suggest that the virus could one day infect billions of people, far more than the ~60,000 or so cases as of earlier on Thursday.

If the virus truly has a mortality rate of 2% (around the low end of current estimates), at this rate, it would kill more than 100 million. Of course, if the virus manages to spread so widely, it will unequivocally prove that China’s draconian quarantines weren’t effective enough, and that the government effectively set itself up for failure when it hesitated to try and contain the outbreak after it first emerged in Wuhan late last year. In recent days, growing attention has been paid to the lack of reliable virus tests, not just in China, but in virtually all countries where the virus has spread. The difficulties in diagnosing the virus could mean we see another sudden surge of cases – but this time, it could be even larger than last night’s dump from officials in Hubei.

Even if we could find a way to reduce the virus’s ability to spread by half, it would could still wind up infecting more than 2 billion people. “Unless the transmissibility changes, surveillance and containment can only work so well,” Longini, co-director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, said in an interview at WHO headquarters in Geneva. “Isolating cases and quarantining contacts is not going to stop this virus.”

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Excuse me, but doesn’t this give Trump exactly what he would want, a bipartisan vote against the swamp, the War Party, without him having to do the heavy lifting?!

In taking the power away from him, you also absolve him of any responsibility. And that power, BTW, is only that involving Iran. Or course Trump puts up token resistance, but…

Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)

The Senate passed an Iran War Powers resolution on Thursday, a rare measure that was approved with bipartisan support despite the fact that it has been opposed by President Donald Trump and aims to rein in his ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. The vote was 55-45. Eight Republicans voted in favor of it: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure on Wednesday, tweeting that “it is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”

The White House has also issued a veto threat against it. Despite that, the resolution, chiefly authored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, won bipartisan support. Several Republican senators, including Lee, Paul and Collins, signed on as co-sponsors. Earlier on Thursday, potential problems threatened to derail the resolution ahead of an the final vote, with Senate Democrats warning that an amendment filed late Wednesday by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton – that Democrats described as a poison pill – could draw enough support to pass and possibly make it difficult for the underlying bipartisan War Powers Resolution to maintain majority support.

Ultimately, however, the Senate defeated the controversial amendment, clearing the way for final passage. The Senate voted to table — or kill — the amendment. The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.” It includes a provision stating that no part of the resolution “shall be construed to prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack.”

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There were calls for an investigation into Barr and Trump interfering in the Roger Stone case. Barr just reduced Trump’s role to a bunch of tweets. They’re going to investigate a bunch of tweets? And what is there about Barr to investigate when he’s just publicly put a distance between him and Trump? Or do the want to investigate the Attorney General over a decision he hasn’t even made yet?

Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump for publicly commenting on sensitive investigations but insisted the Justice Department had acted appropriately after an extraordinary falling out with career prosecutors who had handled the case of Roger Stone earlier this week. In an interview with ABC News, Barr provided a robust defense of the department’s rank-and-file and said Trump’s online missives made it “impossible” to do his job. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said.

“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” he said. The criticism was a notable zag for Barr after days of mounting scrutiny over his role in the fraught decision to publicly disavow prosecutors who had sought a stiff punishment for Stone, a longtime friend of Trump. The President had tweeted congratulations Barr for the move, provoking protest from Democrats who demanded an investigation.

The four career attorneys who had worked on the Stone case and signed off on the original sentencing memorandum each withdrew from the case on Tuesday in an apparent protest. On Thursday, Barr said he was “a little surprised” that the prosecutors had stepped down, and told ABC News that it was “preposterous” to characterize his role in the developments this week as an intervention. He argued he had merely acted to resolve an internal department dispute. He has not spoken with the prosecutors, he added. Barr told ABC that he hoped the President would react and respect the criticism of his tweets delivered in the interview. “I hope he will react,” Barr said.

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Jurors are supposed to be vetted to make sure they’re impartial. This woman may have been selected for being the opposite. She should never have been selected.

Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)

The foreperson on the jury that convicted Roger Stone has come forward, and is revealed to be a failed Democrat candidate for Congress and activist vehemently opposed to President Donald Trump. Tomeka Hart, a former Memphis City Schools Board President, came forward as the Stone jury foreperson in a Facebook post on Wednesday, voicing support for prosecutors in the case. Hart confirmed to The Daily Memphian that she wrote the Facebook post, but she declined an interview with the newspaper. Stone supporters were shocked when a review of Hart’s social media posts showed that she posted on Twitter mocking Stone’s dramatic arrest prior to being seated on the jury, and frequently denounced Trump, including calling the president and his supporters racists.

It’s unclear whether Stone’s political views and social media history were disclosed during jury selection, potentially raising questions about fairness that could impact the verdict on appeal. [..] Hart unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, and is an activist who has participated in anti-Trump rallies and protests. Immediately, journalists and Trump supporters began scouring Hart’s social media history, finding a trove of anti-Trump sentiment. Independent journalist Mike Cernovich was the first to report on Hart’s extensive history of anti-Trump social media posts. In January 2019, Hart also re-tweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers mocking Stone’s arrest, and suggesting that racism was the reason conservatives were upset about the use of force in the FBI’s armed pre-dawn raid on his home.

Months later, Hart was impaneled on Stone’s jury. On the day the jury convicted him, she posted emojis of hearts and fist pumps.

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She was tweeting about the case while it was going on, and she was the lead juror. How ridiculous can it get?

Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)

Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Thursday that former Trump adviser Roger Stone deserves a new trial in light of resurfaced tweets that indicate partisanship and “inherent bias” from a jury member against Stone. Former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart revealed Wednesday that she was the foreperson of the jury that convicted Stone on obstruction charges last year — and soon afterward, her history of Democratic activism and a string of her anti-Trump, left-wing social media posts came to light. “[Stone is] absolutely entitled to a new trial with a member of a jury making these types of revelations about the politics involved in the decisions to prosecute him,” Napolitano told “Fox & Friends.”

Hart even posted specifically about the Stone case before she voted to convict, as she retweeted an argument mocking those who considered Stone’s dramatic arrest in a predawn raid by a federal tactical team to be excessive force. She also suggested President Trump and his supporters are racist and praised the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to Stone’s prosecution. Some of Hart’s posts were written as Stone’s trial was in progress. Hart, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, quoted someone in an August 2017 tweet referring to Trump as a member of the KKK. In January 2019, she retweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers, who noted that “Roger Stone has y’all talking about reviewing use of force guidelines,” before suggesting that racism was the reason for all the attention Stone’s arrest had received from conservatives.

Napolitano said that he presided over 150 jury trials and “most were criminal.” “It is the duty of the judge to ensure that both the government and defendant get a fair trial and if the judge discovers afterward that there was a built-in inherent bias on the part of a member of a jury against the defendant, that is an automatic trigger for a new trial,” he explained.

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Can the Fed deal with diversity of opinion?

Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)

Today the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for President Trump’s two most recent Federal Reserve nominees. In one chair sat Christopher Waller, vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, whose dreadfully dull answers could have been the product of a bot forced to watch 1,000 hours of central bank testimony. Luckily for those watching, most of the questions were directed towards the far more intriguing – and controversial – Judy Shelton. While by no means an Austrian, Judy Shelton’s record includes public support for a modern gold standard, criticism of the Fed’s response to the financial crisis, and even compared America’s central bank to Soviet central planners.

On the topic of competing currencies, Ms. Shelton once referred to Bernard von NotHaus, a man arrested by the US government for the production of silver “Liberty Dollars”, as the “Rosa Parks of monetary policy” for his willingness to challenge the Fed. Beyond monetary policy, she cited government deposit insurance as a program that risks creating moral hazard, suggested that the US could pay off its public debts by selling off assets like the US Postal Service and Federally-held public lands, and even publicly questioned the accuracy of government inflation measures. The recounting of the Greatest Hits of Judy Shelton offered a glimpse of what it would look like to actually drain the swamp of central bankers.

Of course, all of this was sharply – and at times uncivilly – criticized by duly-elected economic midwits that sought to lecture to Ms. Shelton while desperately relying upon the prepared questions of legislative aides. Senator Richard Shelby, at one point the Chairman of the Banking Committee, was particularly appalled at the notion of nominating a Federal Reserve candidate so outside the mainstream. His grilling of Ms. Shelton included sagely pointing out that the amount of gold in the world is worth less than the American GDP, and suggested that the gold standard was a product of the days when the US was a “barter economy.” Of course, it is a reflection of the dilapidated state of modern economics that Shelby’s ignorance would make him a safer choice for the Federal Reserve than either Shelton or her friend James Grant.

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All the racism and sexism he can buy for $1650 million and counting.

Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)

In December 2015, employees at Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control organization funded by Mike Bloomberg, arrived at work to find a holiday gift on their desks from their employer: the former mayor’s 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg. Flipping through the book, staffers found themselves uncomfortably reading their billionaire founder’s boasts about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” and other womanizing exploits as a Wall Street up-and-comer. “A few people started immediately going through it and sending the cringe-iest parts around on email chains,” one former Everytown employee told me. “Hardly the most controversial things he’s said, but it’s still a bad look.”

Indeed, Bloomberg’s casual boasts about his sex life in his own autobiography are now some of the least problematic parts of the his candidacy for president. In recent days, the former New York City mayor’s track record on race is undergoing renewed scrutiny: Bloomberg oversaw and expanded the racist and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” program, and a newly unearthed video shows him blaming the end of a racially discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining” for the 2008 economic recession.

But it takes a telling amount of gall and cluelessness to gift a book with anecdotes about your own womanizing to employees at your gun safety non-profit in the year 2015, especially for a politician with presidential ambitions who has been vigorously denying allegations of misogyny throughout his entire career—including some 40 sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits brought against him and his organizations by 64 women over the past several decades. Bloomberg’s sexism, like that of fellow New York City billionaire Donald Trump, has been prolific and well-documented, but for some reason, the stories about him don’t seem to have taken hold. He is still being embraced by the Democratic establishment as a viable option for its presidential nominee. He surged to third place in several 2020 polls this week; the DNC changed its rules to allow him to participate in the next primary debate; Nancy Pelosi said his presence in the primary is a “positive one.”

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Priceless how the speaker first has to wait for the translation in his earphone. Wonder what the translation was.

Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)

Irish MEP Mick Wallace has been reprimanded for referring to Venezuela’s self-declared president Juan Guaido as an “unelected gobshite” during remarks at the European Parliament. Wallace, an Independents 4 Change MEP, was speaking Wednesday about Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis and the European Parliament’s recent decision to recognize Guaido as the country’s interim president, when he slipped the insult in. Dressed in a neon green t-shirt, the clearly irate MEP said the decision was “an absolute embarrassment to anyone who has to occupy this chamber” and a “disgrace on the part of the member states of Europe” that so many of them have recognized an “unelected gobshite.”


“Gobshite” is a favorite Irish term for a less-than-competent individual. The Ireland South MEP was quickly admonished by the parliament’s vice president Rainer Wieland. “Now, you did use the word ‘gobshite’ sir, and I would reprimand you over that,” he said. Wallace wasn’t in the mood for apologies, however. He later doubled down on the comment on Twitter, saying that Guaido “is” in fact a gobshite and the parliament’s recognition of him is “outrageous.” Fellow Independents 4 Change MEP Clare Daly also tweeted in support of Wallace, saying that his remark was “probably the best contribution EVER” on Guaido at the European Parliament.

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Just another chapter in the UK morality tale, (mal-)functioning at a 1780 AD level. Fits right in with more Jamaicans being sent back in Windrush fashion.

UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

A 100-year-old Italian man was told his parents must confirm his identity if he wants to stay in the UK after Brexit. Giovanni Palmiero, who has lived in London since 1966, went to an advice centre in Islington, north London, to apply for settled status. But when a volunteer scanned his passport using the Home Office EU settled status app, it misinterpreted his birth year to be 2019 instead of 1919. An apparent glitch means the system does not recognise triple digit ages and misinterpreted the “19” in 1919 to be 2019. Since the app believed the great-grandfather was only a baby, it asked him to enter his father’s residency details to complete the application.


Mr Palmiero, who will turn 101 on 28 February, moved to London in 1966, before the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973. He worked at a restaurant in Piccadilly and in a fish and chip shop until the age of 94. He has been married to his wife Lucia, 92, for 75 years and they have four children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren together. Their son Assuntino Palmiero said it was “like a humiliation” because his father has lived in the UK for so long. He told The Guardian: “I am not worried about him because he has got us but it’s completely unfair on old people.”

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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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Dec 202019
 
 December 20, 2019  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Butter bean vines across the porch, Negro quarter, Memphis, Tennessee 1938

 

“Let Them Impeach And Be Damned” (Turley)
House-Senate Impeachment Impasse Would Mean Trump Wasn’t Impeached At All (ZH)
Durham Reportedly Seeking Ex-CIA Director Brennan’s Emails, Call Logs (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Fall Below 2014 Level. Answers Emerge (WS)
Japan Cabinet Approves Record $939 Billion Budget Spending Plan (R.)
Fukushima Daiichi No.1 Reactor To Be Covered (NHK)
Sturgeon Demands Independence Referendum Powers Be Devolved (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill ‘Tears Up’ Protections For Child Refugees (Ind.)
Assange CANNOT Be Extradited Because Of Treaty Between US-UK: Legal Team (RT)

 

 

One of the few good things to emerge from the impeachment tragedy: Jonathan Turley’s clear voice.

“Let Them Impeach And Be Damned” (Turley)

“Let them impeach and be damned.” Those words could have easily come from Donald Trump, as the House moves this week to impeach him. They were, however, the words of another president who not only shares some striking similarities to Trump but who went through an impeachment with chilling parallels to the current proceedings. The impeachment of Trump is not just history repeating itself but repeating itself with a vengeance.

The closest of the three prior presidential impeachment cases to the House effort today is the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson. This is certainly not a comparison that Democrats should relish. The Johnson case has long been widely regarded as the very prototype of an abusive impeachment. As in the case of Trump, calls to impeach Johnson began almost as soon as he took office. A southerner who ascended to power after the Civil War as a result of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Johnson was called the “accidental president” and his legitimacy was never accepted by critics. Representative John Farnsworth of Illinois called Johnson an “ungrateful, despicable, besotted, traitorous man.”

Johnson opposed much of the reconstruction plan Lincoln had for the defeated south and was criticized for fueling racial divisions. He was widely viewed as an alcoholic and racist liar who opposed full citizenship for freed slaves. Ridiculed for not being able to spell, Johnson responded, “It is a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.” Sound familiar? The “Radical Republicans” in Congress started to lay a trap a year before impeachment. They were aware that Johnson wanted their ally, War Secretary Edwin Stanton, out of his cabinet, so they then decided to pass an unconstitutional law that made his firing a crime.

To leave no doubt of their intentions, they even defined such a firing as a “high misdemeanor.” It was a trap door crime created for the purposes of impeachment. Undeterred, Johnson fired Stanton anyway. His foes then set upon any member of Congress or commentator who dared question the basis for the impeachment. His leading opponent, Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania demanded of them, “What good did your moderation do you? If you do not kill the beast, it will kill you.”

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Feldman also makes a solid argument, instead of the opinionated statements he made in the House.

House-Senate Impeachment Impasse Would Mean Trump Wasn’t Impeached At All (ZH)

While Nancy Pelosi threatens to withhold articles of impeachment passed Wednesday night by the House, Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman says that President Trump isn’t technically impeached until the House actually transmits the articles to the Senate. Feldman, who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings earlier this month, argues in a Bloomberg Op-Ed that the framers’ definition of impeachment “assumed that impeachment was a process, not just a House vote,” and that “Strictly speaking, “impeachment” occurred – and occurs — when the articles of impeachment are presented to the Senate for trial. And at that point, the Senate is obliged by the Constitution to hold a trial.”

“If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all. That’s because “impeachment” under the Constitution means the House sending its approved articles of to the Senate, with House managers standing up in the Senate and saying the president is impeached. As for the headlines we saw after the House vote saying, “TRUMP IMPEACHED,” those are a media shorthand, not a technically correct legal statement. So far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message.” -Noah Feldman

Pelosi, meanwhile, won’t transmit the articles until the Senate holds what she considers a “fair” trial. Roughly modeled after England’s impeachment procedures, the framers in Article I of the constitution gave the House “the sole power of impeachment,” while giving the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” [..] In closing, Feldman says “if the House never sends the articles, then Trump could say with strong justification that he was never actually impeached,” adding “And that’s probably not the message Congressional Democrats are hoping to send.”

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Where is he on Clapper?

Durham Reportedly Seeking Ex-CIA Director Brennan’s Emails, Call Logs (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr told “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that by the time Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, it had become clear that allegations raised by the FBI against a former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos were largely baseless, and that pursuing George Papadopoulos’ “had very little probative value.” Additionally, Barr admitted, in a very candid (for him) moment, that federal prosecutor John Durham (who is scrutinizing the Russia investigation) “isn’t just looking at the FBI, he’s looking at other agencies, departments, and private actors,” but that “the other agencies are cooperating very well.”

Which is all the more intriguing as, at the same time as his interview aired, The New York Times dropped a bombshell, reporting that, according to three people briefed on the inquiry, Durham’s investigation has begun examining the role of the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference. Specifically, Durham has requested Brennan’s emails, call logs, and other documents from the C.I.A. (and judging by Barr’s statement that “other agencies are cooperating very well,” we suspect Durham will get what he wants. Additionally, NYT reports that Durham is also examining whether Mr. Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including May 2017 testimony to Congress, about both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia’s interference.

Of course, NYT is quick to ‘warn’ readers that Durham’s decision to probe Brennan’s actions deeper will “add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.” But we ask, just as with Ukraine and the Bidens, is it only ‘not allowed’ to root out corruption if the corrupt is a representative of ‘the other’? We will let AG Barr respond to that implied problem: “The president bore the burden of probably one of the greatest conspiracy theories – baseless conspiracy theories – in American political history.” [..] We suspect that if Durham cracks Brennan, he will take everyone else down with him. Maybe Nancy will hand the impeachment articles over at that moment… as a distraction from the real threat to America’s democracy, constitution, and common man.

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If you’re into climate issues, this should make you rejoice.

US Freight Shipments Fall Below 2014 Level. Answers Emerge (WS)

Freight shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge of consumer and industrial goods but not bulk commodities declined 3.3% in November from a year ago, the 12th month in a row of year-over-year declines, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. This follows a huge boom in shipments through much of 2018, but by November last year, that boom was already fizzling, and by December last year, shipments declined on a year-over-year basis for the first time since the last freight recession. Note the infamous boom-and-bust cycles of the business:

The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods, industrial products such as construction materials, equipment and components being shipped to or by manufacturers, supplies and equipment for oil & gas drilling, and many other things. But it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. Cass derives the data from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of its clients ($28 billion in 2018). The boom levels last year had been stimulated by pandemic efforts all around to front-run the tariffs by loading up on merchandise. But November’s drop in shipment volume didn’t just put the index below November last year, but also below 2017 levels and 2014 levels and nudged it closer to the lows of the 2015 and 2016 freight recession. In the stacked chart below – note the seasonality of the business – the red line represents the index for 2019. The top black line represents 2018, the purple line 2017, and the yellow line 2014:

The Oil-and-Gas-Bust Factor. For more granularity, we’ll look at durable goods shipments – which include anything from washing machines (knock on wood in term of “durable”) to industrial equipment. Durable goods shipments in November fell 1.5% year-over-year. But within that group, shipments of machinery and equipment for agriculture, construction, and mining, which is dominated by equipment for shale oil-and-gas drilling, plunged 13.6% year-over-year. During the peak of the Oil Bust in late 2015 and early 2016, shipments of equipment to these sectors plunged by as much as 37% year-over-year, much worse than the plunge during the Financial Crisis when they’d bottomed out at -29%. This is how important the oil-and-gas sector has become to US industry.

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Take a spoonful of Abenomics, add several pounds of sugar.

Japan Cabinet Approves Record $939 Billion Budget Spending Plan (R.)

Japan’s government has approved a record budget spending plan worth $939 billion for the coming fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday, as it struggles to curb spending and manage the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden. The 102.7 trillion yen ($939 billion) general-account budget for the year beginning April 1 marks a 1.2% rise from the current year, boosted by record outlays for welfare and the military and other spending aimed at boosting the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prioritized growth over fiscal reform under his “Abenomics” reflationary policy of monetary stimulus and flexible spending, and planned spending has increased for eight straight years.


Part of the planned spending will help finance a $122 billion fiscal package put together this month by Abe’s cabinet to shore up growth beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after hits from the U.S.-China trade war and an Oct. 1 sales tax hike to 10%. [..] Japan’s public debt is more than double the size of its $5 trillion economy, by far the highest among advanced economies. Bond yields have been suppressed by Bank of Japan money printing under a policy that caps 10-year JGB yields around 0%, allowing the government to rely on cheap borrowing. Perhaps mindful of fiscal discipline, Japan aims to cut new bond issuance for a 10th straight year – to 32.6 trillion yen from 32.7 trillion yen this year, helped in part by additional revenues from the sales tax hike.

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Scary people.

Fukushima Daiichi No.1 Reactor To Be Covered (NHK)

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will install a giant cover over one of the reactors that underwent a nuclear meltdown as part of its dismantling process. Tokyo Electric Power Company announced the decision on Thursday regarding the No.1 reactor building, which was affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The covering will measure 65 meters high, 65 meters long and 50 meters wide. Its ceiling will have cranes that can be used to remove debris. The reactor’s fuel storage pool still holds 392 nuclear fuel units. As part of their removal process, TEPCO is clearing scattered debris from the building.


TEPCO says that by installing the cover, it aims to lower the risks of radioactive dust spreading outside during the debris removal process. It added that the device will also prevent rainwater from getting into the reactor building, thereby helping to reduce the volume of newly contaminated water. TEPCO says it cannot tell when the device will be completed, as it is still in the process of making a detailed construction plan.

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Self-determination in 2020. Scotland has to ask the country they want to separate from if that’s okay.

Sturgeon Demands Independence Referendum Powers Be Devolved (G.)

Nicola Sturgeon has called for the Scottish parliament to be given permanent powers to hold subsequent referendums on independence from the UK. Describing the SNP’s success in last week’s general election as an “unarguable mandate by any normal standard of democracy”, Scotland’s first minister confirmed on Thursday morning that she had formally written to Boris Johnson to request the powers to legally stage another referendum under section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act. Alongside this, the SNP leader published a 38-page document that also sets out draft amendments to the statute, which would devolve the right to hold votes on leaving the UK to Holyrood.

Insisting that she was not advocating for a third independence referendum – “not least because I think when Scotland gets the chance to vote again, it will vote for independence” – she refused to rule one out for ever, underlining that no first minister could bind the hands of their successors over the right to self-determination. Entitled Scotland’s Right to Choose, the publication argues that there has been a “material change of circumstance” since the independence referendum of 2014, based on “the prospect of Scotland leaving the EU against its will and what EU exit has revealed about Scotland’s position within the UK”.

Launching the document at an event at her official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said she “fully expected to get a flat no” from Westminster initially. “I’m going to stand my ground. I fully expect today we will get the flat no of Westminster opposition, but that will not be the end of the matter and Boris Johnson should not be under any illusion that it is.”

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No surprise.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill ‘Tears Up’ Protections For Child Refugees (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans “tear up” a government pledge to protect child refugees in Europe seeking to reunite with family in the UK, campaigners have said. The Prime Minister’s new withdrawal agreement bill, which sets out plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, has scrapped a previous commitment to negotiate a new deal for child refugees after Brexit. The explanatory notes of the bill observe that the obligation to negotiate an agreement that “an unaccompanied child who has made a claim for international protection in a member state can come to the UK to join a relative” has been dropped. That obligation, which was pushed for and celebrated by Lord Alf Dubs and the wider Labour Party as well as refugee charities, has been replaced with a requirement only to make a statement to parliament.


Reacting to this, Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “During the last Parliament, Labour’s Alf Dubs led the campaign to protect child refugees post-Brexit. The Tories now want to tear up those protections. “As we leave the EU we cannot abandon our values of human rights and internationalism. Labour must continue to stand up for the most vulnerable people in the world.” Lord Alf Dubs told The Independent it was a “retrograde step” that could leave hundreds of children with relatives in the UK stranded alone in Europe. “It’s deeply depressing and deeply disappointing. We’re talking about children and young people who had some hope of a decent life with their relatives,” he said.

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Today Assange is set to be moved to the courtroom to face the Spanish judge via videolink.

Assange CANNOT Be Extradited Because Of Treaty Between US-UK: Legal Team (RT)

Lawyers for journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will argue that a treaty between the US and UK explicitly bans extradition for political offenses when his hearing begins in early 2020. Assange faces 18 counts in the US including conspiracy to hack government computers and violating espionage laws with a possible penalty of decades in prison. His full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020 and his defense team have made clear their intention to fight his extradition using any and all means at their disposal. “We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offense and these offenses as framed and in substance are political offenses,” Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.


Assange’s defense lawyers will also submit medical evidence, public comments made by US officials and details from the Chelsea Manning case to fight the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US and are also expected to call up to 21 witnesses to testify. Manning is currently in prison for contempt of court after she refused to testify before a federal grand jury seeking to level additional charges against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Assange appeared via video link but the whistleblower is due to make an in-person appearance in court tomorrow to answer questions from a Spanish judge in relation to “revelations about bugging of conversations with his lawyers” during his prolonged seven-year exile at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegations of rape which have subsequently been dropped.

Medical observers from #Doctors4Assange were denied access to Thursday’s case management hearing for #JulianAssange, despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 102019
 
 December 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


John Vachon Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit, largest open pit iron mine in the world, Hibbing, Minnesota Aug 1941

 

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)
Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)
IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)
The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)
The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)
Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)
Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)
Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)
Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

 

 

It has become inevitable in America that completely different conclusions are drawn based on the same facts. Here’s the Guardian for the “left”…

FBI’s Trump-Russia Inquiry Wasn’t Biased Against President – IG (G.)

An FBI investigation into the Donald Trump election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia was justified and not motivated by political bias against him, a government watchdog has concluded. A report by the justice department’s inspector general demolished three years of claims by the president that he was the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy and that the investigation was based on a dossier compiled by an ex-British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele. “The report issued today by the inspector general debunks the conspiracy theories about the Mueller report and the Russia investigation that President Trump and Republicans in Congress have pushed for years,” Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House judiciary committee, and Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House oversight committee, said in a joint statement.

“Those discredited conspiracy theories were attempts to deflect from the president’s serious and ongoing misconduct, first urging Russia and now extorting Ukraine into interfering with our elections to benefit himself personally and politically.” But the inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report did pinpoint “serious performance failures” in the monitoring of a Trump aide, which the president’s allies seized on in an attempt to claim vindication. Horowitz identified 17 “significant inaccuracies or omissions” in applications for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance or Fisa court to monitor the communications of the former Trump adviser Carter Page and subsequent warrant renewals.

The errors resulted in “applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case”, the report said, although the FBI had a legal “authorized purpose” to ask for court approval. The attorney general, William Barr, rejected Horowitz’s conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to open the investigation. “The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.

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…and Sara Carter for the right:

Barr: FBI Launched An Intrusive Investigation’ Of A Presidential Campaign (SAC)

Department of Justice Attorney General William Barr responded Monday to the release of the DOJ Inspector General’s report stating that the FBI ‘launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr blasted the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team that led the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and the evidence uncovered by Inspector General Michael Horowitz that the bureau agents withheld exculpatory information from the secret court, failed to adequately vet the information supplied by former British spy Christopher Steele and moved forward to spy on the Trump campaign knowing they misled the FISA court.

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” said Barr. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.” “In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source,” Barr said.

“The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.”

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And then there’s John Solomon:

IG Report Lays Out Compelling Evidence FBI Misled FISA Court (Solomon)

The Justice Department inspector general’s report into the Russia collusion investigation lays out incontrovertible evidence that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court through false information and omissions, according to sources familiar with its findings. The evidence that the judges were misled is so sweeping that it could provide grounds, if Attorney General William Barr chooses, to withdraw the FBI’s application for the surveillance warrants that began in October 2016 to target ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the sources added. Such a move, while mostly legally symbolic since the probe is long since closed, would still amount to a resounding rebuke to an FBI probe that the bureau, Democrats and their media allies relentlessly defended.

[..] “The evidence of false statements, false information, deception through omission is going to raise an important debate about FISA,” one source told me. The report is expected to conclude the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia in 2016 was adequately predicated but that its subsequent reliance on the so-called Steele dossier and execution of FISA warrants to assist the probe were problematic. That reliance became even more troubling in early 2017 when the FBI conducted an interview with one of Christopher Steele’s sources that raised further concerns about the reliability of a dossier that was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

One question, the sources said, is whether FBI officials with access to the facts failed to adequately divulge issues in the case to those officials who signed the warrant, which was approved Oct 21, 2016 and renewed three times in 2017. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is slated to release the report midday Monday after briefing certain congressional oversight committees.

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“The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality..”

The War of the Narratives (Kunstler)

Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Stzrok, Lisa Page, Michael Atkinson — all either discharged or moved onto other thickets in the reeking wetland of Washington DC. Anyway, the coup ranged far beyond the bounds of Mr. Horowitz’s scope on FISA abuse. Among those many others, the IG was not authorized to interrogate former CIA chief John Brennan, the Lone Ranger of RussiaGate, or James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Brennan’s faithful Tonto in the scam. Mr. Horowitz’s report will be necessarily incomplete. At most, it might provide a preview of the comprehensive legal review being carried out by the attorney general, Mr. Barr, and his deputy, the Connecticut federal prosecutor, John Durham.

I suspect that Mr. Barr has instructed Mr. Horowitz to be careful with his conclusions, since any further attempts to obfuscate the facts and excuse official misconduct on squishy grounds such as intent will tend to worsen the already gross institutional damage done to federal law enforcement. One character who has not been heard from lo these many months is former deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, who was not fired, but transferred to some harmless backwater of the Justice Department to answer agency parking violations, or something equally harmless. I suspect Mr. Ohr may have played a decisive role in the IG inquiry, and possibly flipped on his colleagues, since Mr. Ohr was in the uniquely uncomfortable position of having a wife, Nellie Ohr, in the direct employ of Fusion GPS, Hillary Clinton’s oppo research contractor. Mr. Ohr additionally consorted with Fusion’s front man, Mr. Steele, after Steele was officially fired as a paid FBI source. Mr. Ohr will surely play a role on the Durham side of things.

[..] The New York Times is the Resistance’s obverse measuring device for divining reality — whatever they report is likely to be the opposite of the facts. So, naturally, the Monday morning edition is playing-up the supposedly nefarious doings of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine. In fact, Mr. Giuliani has managed to depose (and record on video) two Ukrainian chief prosecutors, Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko who are deeply familiar with the machinations around the inquiries into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company that put coke-head Hunter Biden on its board of directors while dad Joe Biden was directing on-the-ground US policy there — and bribed the Ukraine government to back off its investigations.

The essence of this colossal radioactive hairball of an historic scandal pulsates in the malicious prosecution of General Michael Flynn. Weeks ago, his new attorney, Sidney Powell, filed requests for DOJ documents containing exculpatory information in the case. The prosecutors, put in by Robert Mueller, stalled on the request, so Ms. Powell asked for an official pause until the Horowitz report is issued, possibly containing information pertinent to the general’s case. Be alert to developments on that front.

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Chris Hedges sums up how “The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership [..] have squandered their credibility”.

The Great American Shakedown (Chris Hedges)

The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership have failed, even after their defeat in the 2016 presidential election, to understand that they, along with the traditional Republican elites, have squandered their credibility. No one believes them. And no one should. They squandered their credibility by promising that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would, as claimed by President Bill Clinton, create 200,000 new, well-paying jobs per year; instead, several million jobs were lost. They squandered it by allowing corporations to move production overseas and hire foreign workers at daily wages that did not equal what a U.S. unionized worker made in an hour, a situation that obliterated the bargaining power of the American working class.

They squandered it by allowing corporations to use the threat of “offshoring” production to destroy unions, suppress wages, extract draconian concessions and push millions of workers into the temp and gig economies, where there are no benefits or job security and pay is 60% or less of what a full-time employee in the regular economy receives. They squandered it by forcing working men and women to take two or three jobs to support a family, jacking up household debt to $13.95 trillion. They squandered it by redirecting wealth upward, so that during the Clinton administration alone 45 percent of all income growth went to the wealthiest 1%. They squandered it by wiping out small farmers in Mexico, driving some 3 million of them off their lands and forcing many to migrate in desperation to the United States, a human tide that saw the U.S. right wing and President Trump direct mounting rage toward immigrants.

They squandered it by turning our great cities into urban wastelands. They squandered it by slashing welfare and social service programs. They squandered it by supporting endless, futile wars that have an overall price tag of between $5 trillion and $7 trillion. They squandered it by setting up a surveillance system to spy on every American and then lying about it. They squandered it by catering to the big banks and gutting financial regulations, precipitating the 2008 economic meltdown. They squandered it by looting the U.S. Treasury to bail out banks and financial firms guilty of massive financial crimes, ordering the Federal Reserve to hand over an estimated $29 trillion to the global financiers responsible for the crash.


Mr. Fish / Truthdig

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Tulsi has not explained why she won’t be in the debate.

Why Tulsi Gabbard Should Not Skip The Next Debate (Mercier)

On the morning of December 9th, Americans woke up to devastating and shocking news that was the Afghanistan papers. Generals and leaders from the highest echelons of the American military apparatus — the Blob — admitting confusion, defeat, and carelessness in an effort that cost the American people trillions of dollars and countless lives. That night, the only candidate running for President to end these wars and bring our troops home, Tulsi Gabbard, announced that she would not be attending the December democratic debate, whether or not she met the threshold, and provided no explanation (other than the fact that she would instead spend that time in New Hampshire and South Carolina).

Congresswoman Gabbard is only one qualifying poll away from making the important debate and has crossed the 200,000 donor threshold as well. Just last week, the once self-proclaimed “top-tier” candidate Kamala Harris dropped out after a sharp decline in polling and fundraising that started with Tulsi’s blistering public attack of her record during the July debate. Since then, Tulsi has seen her poll numbers remain fairly steady around 2–4%, but has seen some strong polling performances in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Another presidential debate is arguably one of the best ways to reach a large number of people and to generate media coverage. She should not sit on the sidelines.


Tulsi Gabbard is not Joe Biden now or Trump in 2016. Stepping away to protest unfair rules or bias against her would not make an impact at her polling level. She should utilize every chance in these critical days before the Iowa caucuses to put her ideas in front of the American people. While much of the attacks come to her from the Democratic party, she is, in fact, one of the most progressive candidates on the stage. She should’ve made it a mission to expand her base by talking about her landmark ‘single-payer-plus’ healthcare plan, climate change, education, and other issues of importance at the next debate. Two months before the first votes are cast, she is still virtually unknown by most Americans and has not been able to prove her policy chops on issues outside that of foreign policy.

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It appears very likely Hillary will jump in. But not because of Bloomberg.

Bannon: Hillary Will Run In 2020 To ‘Save Dems From Michael Bloomberg’ (ZH)

Steve Bannon thinks that Hillary Clinton is waiting for just the right moment to enter the 2020 race and “save the Democratic Party” from billionaire Michael Bloomberg. According to Bannon, Clinton’s recent interview with Howard Stern – under the guise of promoting her book – signals that she’s absolutely running. “Hillary Clinton is waiting for her shot to come in and say, ‘I’m going to save the Democratic Party,’ that Michael Bloomberg is a liberal or moderate Republican. He’s not a Democrat,” Bannon told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” The former Trump strategist added that he doesn’t think any of the current Democratic candidates are strong enough to beat Trump, and that Clinton is “waiting in the wings” to take him on again. That said, if Hillary is going to run, she better do so quickly as filing deadlines to be included on Super Tuesday primary ballots in several key states are rapidly approaching or have passed.

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Along with FAA staff who met his warnings -4 months before the first crash -“with indifference”.

Ex-Boeing Employee Who Warned About 737 Problems To Testify At Hearing (R.)

A former Boeing employee who warned of problems with 737 production will testify on Wednesday at a U.S. House hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review of the grounded 737 MAX. The aircraft has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Federal officials say the FAA is not expected to authorize the plane to fly until January at the earliest. Former Boeing employee Edward Pierson, who had worked as a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit, will testify before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Pierson’s concerns were referenced at an Oct. 30 hearing – though he had not been named previously.

“All my internal warning bells are going off and for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing airplane,” Pierson wrote to Boeing management before the first crash, according to an email obtained by the committee. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Monday that “although Mr. Pierson did not provide specific information or detail about any particular defect or quality issue, Boeing took his concerns about 737 production disruption seriously.” He added that after Pierson retired and raised the issue again “those concerns received renewed scrutiny at the highest levels of the company.”

Johndroe added “the suggestion by Mr. Pierson of a link between his concerns and the recent MAX accidents is completely unfounded.” Eric Havian, a lawyer for Pierson, said in a statement that Boeing refused to act on his client’s warnings, which came four months before the first crash, and that Pierson was speaking out “to ensure that Boeing can no longer place profits above safety.” He also said Pierson raised concerns with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board and was met with “indifference.”

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Zelensky is under a lot of pressure from the Ukraine right. But he did it. Next up, Putin wants him to change the Ukraine constitution to give the Donbass special status.

Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Ceasefire In East Ukraine Before 2019-End (R.)

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed on Tuesday to exchange all remaining prisoners from the conflict in east Ukraine by the end of the year, but left thorny questions about the region’s status for future talks. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in their first face-to-face meeting, took part in nine hours of talks in Paris, brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The conflict in eastern Ukraine that broke out in 2014 has killed more than 13,000 people, left a large swathe of Ukraine de facto controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and aggravated the deepest east-west rift since the Cold War.

The body language between Putin and Zelenskiy, a comedian-turned-politician elected earlier this year on a promise to resolve the conflict, was chilly. There was no public handshake, and they avoided eye contact. But the talks did deliver specific commitments. A final communique set out the prisoner exchange and a renewed commitment to implement an existing ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region that has never fully taken hold as well as enhanced powers for international ceasefire monitors.

The sides also said they had agreed, over the next four months, to work toward local elections in Donbass, a major stumbling block up to now. There were no details though on how the votes would be conducted, and Macron acknowledged there were still disagreements on the subject. “We have made progress on disengagement, prisoner exchanges, ceasefire and a political evolution,” Macron said at a news conference at which Zelenskiy and Putin sat separated by Merkel and Macron.

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No idea if this is true.

Ghislaine Maxwell Planning TV Tell-All About Epstein Scandal (NYPost)

Accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell is the latest in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal planning a major TV interview — in part to defend her disgraced pal Prince Andrew, according to a report Monday. The British media heiress, who has been repeatedly accused of procuring young girls for her pedophile ex, may already be in talks with a major US network, according to The Sun. A TV special would follow the Duke of York’s own disastrous BBC sit-down about his close ties to Epstein, as well as the tearful accusations key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre made in an hourlong special for the same UK broadcaster.


“Ghislaine is in hiding and knows the only way to stop being hunted is to speak on her own terms,” a source told the paper. “She will do a sit-down interview with a big US network and defend the duke. Apparently, she’ll say Virginia Giuffre is lying and Andrew never had sex with her,” the source told the UK paper. Maxwell, 57, is understood to be at the heart of the FBI’s ongoing probe into Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring since his death in August. She has not been seen in public since he was arrested on federal charges in July.

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Dec 032019
 
 December 3, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Texas Panhandle Dust Bowl Mar 1936

 

There Is No More Accurate Way To Describe All That Than As A Coup (Kunstler)
Republicans Issue 123-Page Defense Of Trump (G.)
Barr Disputes Major Horowitz Finding Based On Durham, CIA Evidence (ZH)
Leaked NHS Papers ‘Put Online By Posters Using Russian Methods’ (G.)
As Trump Heads To London For NATO Summit, Warnings On British Election (R.)
Japan Preparing $120-$230 Billion Stimulus Package As Recession Risks Grow (R.)
Third Bond Default By Chinese Electronics Firm Within A Month (SCMP)
Virginia Giuffre In Plea To Public Over Prince Andrew Scandal (G.)
EU Leaders To Push For Climate Neutrality By 2050 (R.)
Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction (Time)
At Least 135,000 Children In Britain Will Be Homeless At Christmas (G.)

 

 

The discussions are about to heat up, with different sides drawing entirely different conclusions from the same “facts”. It’ll be a spectacle.

Jim Kunstler is not about to let up.

There Is No More Accurate Way To Describe All That Than As A Coup (Kunstler)

Then there is the “Whistleblower,” this would-be pimpernel of perfidy hiding behind Adam Schiff’s apron under the false assertion that he is entitled to everlasting anonymity. What an idea under our system of jurisprudence! In fact, contrary to Mr. Schiff’s public pronouncements, there is no law that states what he claims — one of several things Mr. Schiff can be called to account for. And that is even if you accept the dishonest proposition that the fugitive who started this fiasco even was a whistleblower, rather than a rogue CIA officer acting on explicitly illegal political motives to interfere in the 2020 election. The CIA, you must know, is forbidden by charter and statute from operating against American citizens in-country, including the president of the United States. Under the circumstances, the so-called “Whistleblower” might fairly be accused of treason.


Has anyone failed to notice that one of the “Whistleblower’s” attorneys, Mark Zaid, tweeted notoriously on January 30, 2017 that “Coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers.” Mr. Zaid later explained, “I was referring to a completely lawful process.” Yeah, sure. I think he meant a completely Lawfare process. Of course, the engineered “Whistleblower” escapade was only the latest (perhaps the last) chapter in the annals of nefarious events and actions carried out far-and-wide by several government agencies for three years, and by many officials working within them, and not a few freelance rogues in their service. There is no more accurate way to describe all that except as a coup. The authorities looking into all that have not been heard from yet. The portentous silence is making a lot of people in Washington edgy.

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View from the anti-Trump camp.

Republicans Issue 123-Page Defense Of Trump (G.)

Donald Trump’s actions towards Ukraine were “entirely prudent” and involved “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power”, according to a draft Republican report on last month’s impeachment inquiry hearings. Designed as a pre-emptive strike on an imminent report from the Democratic majority, the GOP document underlines how evidence presented at the hearings failed to shatter Republicans’ united front. It also provides a blueprint for House Republicans to defend the US president at Wednesday’s judiciary committee hearing and for their Senate counterparts to acquit him in a trial.

Democrats accuse Trump of attempting to bribe the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, by making a White House meeting and nearly $400m in military aid conditional on Ukraine announcing two investigations that would boost Trump politically. The 123-page Republican report was prepared for Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Michael McCaul, the ranking members on the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees, respectively. It directly contradicts the testimony of career diplomats and makes little attempt to get to grips with the devastating evidence of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who spoke about the existence of a quid pro quo, or Fiona Hill, former top Russia expert at the White House, who warned against falling for Moscow’s propaganda about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.

Instead it spins the affair as a Democratic plot. Its executive summary begins with the premise that nearly 63 million Americans from around the country elected Trump in 2016 but now 231 House Democrats in Washington are “trying to undo the will of the American people”. It accuses the party of seeking to impeach the president from day one. “They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” it says.

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Durham knows things that Horowitz doesn’t. Expect an anti-Barr campaign.

Barr Disputes Major Horowitz Finding Based On Durham, CIA Evidence (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr will dispute a fundamental finding in the upcoming Inspector General report – namely that the FBI was justified in launching an operation Crossfire Hurricane, the agency’s official covert counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, according to the Washington Post. While IG Michael Horowitz is said to have concluded that the agency had enough information to launch the probe on July 31, 2016 after Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos repeated a rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, Barr has reportedly told associates that Horowitz does not know about – or did not include – potentially exculpatory evidence held by other US agencies such as the CIA, which could alter his report’s conclusion.

In July, Fox News reported that exculpatory evidence existed which the FBI failed to include in surveillance warrant applications in which Papadopoulos denies having any contact with the Russians, when he was in fact told about the ‘Clinton dirt’ byJoseph Mifsud, a mysterious Maltese professor (and self-professed member of the Clinton foundation) who has ties to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Many believe Papadopoulos was the victim of an entrapment scheme, by which Mifsud would seed him with information that Australian diplomat would later extract from him in a London bar, which made its way to the FBI – officially leading to the launch of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. And the exculpatory evidence? Downer – a Clinton ally – likely recorded Papadopoulos saying he had no Russian contacts.

Barr’s information also comes from a concurrent, ongoing investigation into the Obama DOJ conducted by Connecticut US Attorney John Durham. Part of Barr’s reluctance to accept that finding is related to another investigation, one being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, into how intelligence agencies pursued allegations of Russian election tampering in 2016. Barr has traveled abroad to personally ask foreign officials to assist Durham in that work. Even as the inspector general’s review is ending, Durham’s investigation continues. -Washington Post

Barr, through Durham, has been investigating Mifsud – who told Italian media “I never got any money from the Russians: my conscience is clear,” adding “I am not a secret agent.” The Maltese professor is currently MIA. As the Post’s Devlin Barrett (who spoke with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page) notes, Barr’s disagreement with Horowitz not only sets the stage for a showdown within the DOJ, it will spark partisan outrage among Democrats who have already accused the AG of being Trump’s personal lawyer.

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The anti-Trump camp, are we surprised?, is also the anti-Corbyn camp. But this is quite the stretch. Putting Russia in the headline of an article that says there is no proof that Russia is involved.

Leaked NHS Papers ‘Put Online By Posters Using Russian Methods’ (G.)

Leaked documents said by Labour to prove that the NHS was “on the table” in trade talks with the US were initially disseminated online by anonymous posters operating in a way similar to a Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion, according to a social media research firm. A 19-page report published on Monday by the consultancy Graphika said that while it could not conclusively prove a Russian origin to the leak, the early distribution of the cache of files via Reddit, three German-language websites and an anonymous Twitter account reflected a method of operation seen repeatedly over recent years.


There is no suggestion either that the NHS documents, produced by Jeremy Corbyn at a dramatic press conference last week, were fake, but the Graphika investigation highlights an intriguing series of efforts to get the leak picked up more widely at the end of October and beginning of November. Ben Nimmo, the head of investigations at Graphika, said: “What we are saying is that the initial efforts to amplify the NHS leak closely resembles techniques used by Secondary Infektion in the past, a known Russian operation. But we do not have all the data that allows us to make a final determination in this case.”

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Can Trump damage Boris?

As Trump Heads To London For NATO Summit, Warnings On British Election (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves on Monday for a NATO summit in London, where he is under pressure from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resist the temptation to wade into the looming British election. As a presidential candidate in 2016 and then as president since early 2017, Trump has shown no restraint in pushing for Britain’s exit from the European Union and critiquing the politicians involved in the country’s long-running Brexit debate. But with Johnson leading polls as he faces Dec. 12 elections, the prime minister who is hosting the London NATO summit wants Trump to mind the guard-rails, putting Trump in the unusual position of being asked to avoid his normal impulse to comment on whatever he wishes.


Trump waded into the election in October by saying opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad” for Britain and that Johnson should agree on a pact with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Johnson’s pressure prompted the White House to stress, as a senior administration official said, that Trump “is absolutely cognizant of not, again, wading into other country’s elections.” That strategy could be put to the test as Trump faces reporters a number of times on the trip, including at a news conference on Wednesday.

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Abenomics continues unabated.

Japan Preparing $120-$230 Billion Stimulus Package As Recession Risks Grow (R.)

Japan is preparing an economic stimulus package worth $120 billion to support fragile economic growth, two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday, complicating government efforts to fix public finances. The spending would be earmarked in a supplementary budget for this fiscal year to next March and an annual budget for the coming fiscal year from April. Both budgets will be compiled later this month, the sources told Reuters, declining to be identified because the package has not been finalised. While the package would come to around 13 trillion yen ($120 billion), that would rise to 25 trillion yen ($230 billion) when private-sector and other spending are included.


However, the spending could strain the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden, which tops more than twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy. And despite the headline size of the stimulus, actual spending would be smaller in the current fiscal year, and economists are not expecting much of a boost. “We expect this fiscal year’s extra budget to total around 3-4 trillion yen. We should not expect it to substantially push up the GDP growth rate,” said Takuya Hoshino, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The 13 trillion yen includes more than 3 trillion yen from fiscal investment and loan programmes, as the heavily indebted government seeks to take advantage of low borrowing costs under the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy.

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Just 2 weeks ago they announced a plan to sell a majority stake to the local government. How did that work out?

Third Bond Default By Chinese Electronics Firm Within A Month (SCMP)

Tunghsu Optoelectronic Technology has failed to make good on a bond – its third in less than a month – as the struggles point to poor corporate governance among Chinese companies. The maker of electronic display panels, which reported ample cash holdings of more than 18 billion yuan as of September, missed an interest payment on its 1.7 billion yuan (US$241 million) onshore bond due on Monday, according to an exchange filing. The latest default has cast doubt on whether Tunghsu could meet its obligations on a US$44 million bond maturing in June 2020, after it defaulted two notes totalling 3 billion yuan on November 18.


Tunghsu is the latest in a growing list of Chinese defaulters this year, as banks have tightened their funding to private companies amid China’s slowest economic growth rate in nearly three decades. As of November 12, 45 Chinese corporate issuers had defaulted on interest or principal payments on bonds totalling 85.16 billion yuan, compared with 39 defaults on bonds worth 102.48 billion yuan for all of 2018, according to Reuters. Falling export orders as a result of the US-China trade war has strained the cash flow of manufacturers, while Beijing’s crackdown on shadow banking has also cut off alternative sources of capital for many small companies.

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Charles to the rescue?

Virginia Giuffre In Plea To Public Over Prince Andrew Scandal (G.)

A beleaguered Prince Andrew faced fresh embarrassment after his accuser Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked as a teenager to have sex with him, appeared on television to implore the British public to “not accept this as being OK”. In her first UK broadcast interview, Giuffre repeated allegations she had sex with the prince when she was aged 17 on the instructions of Ghislaine Maxwell, a socialite and close friend of the US financier and sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in August. The prince, 59, whose relationship with Epstein has led to him standing down from public duties, has consistently and categorically denied the allegations, which Buckingham Palace said were “false and without foundation”.


BBC Panorama said it had uncovered a 2015 email from Andrew to Maxwell asking for help dealing with the allegations by Giuffre, previously Virginia Roberts. He wrote: “Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,” to which Maxwell replied: “Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.” In the interview that was broadcast on Monday, Giuffre said: “I implore the people in the UK to stand up beside me, to help me fight this fight, to not accept this as being OK. “This is not some sordid sex story. This is a story of being trafficked. This is a story of abuse and this is a story of your guy’s royalty.”

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When someone says 2050, ignore them.

EU Leaders To Push For Climate Neutrality By 2050 (R.)

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels next week will push to agree to put the bloc on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, their draft joint statement showed on Monday, heralding a bitter fight looming at their gathering. The Dec. 12-13 summit of the bloc’s national leaders will aim to endorse “the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050”, according to the document seen by Reuters. Previous attempts, however, were blocked by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, who rely on highly polluting coal. They have previously said they oppose climate neutrality by 2050 for fear cutting greenhouse emissions will stifle their economies.


To convince the reluctant camp, the draft summit conclusions refer to “just and socially balanced transition”, the European Investment Bank’s announcement to unlock 1 trillion euros worth of green investment until 2030, the need to ensure energy security and competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign powers not pursuing such climate goals. The draft, prepared in advance of the leaders’ discussions, may still change. But it will eventually need unanimous backing of all EU national leaders for there to be agreement at the summit. The bloc’s new executive European Commission also aims to push for climate neutrality by mid-century and wants to make the EU’s 2030 climate targets more ambitious.

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You want your food good or cheap?

Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction (Time)

In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.


Farm debt, at $416 billion, is at an all-time high. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since since 2013, and lost more than $1,644 this year. Farm loan delinquencies are rising. Suicides in farm communities are happening with alarming frequency. Farmers aren’t the only workers in the American economy being displaced by technology, but when they lose their jobs, they also ejected from their homes and the land that’s been in their family for generations. “It hits you so hard when you feel like you’re the one who is losing the legacy that your great-grandparents started,” said Randy Roecker, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who has struggled with depression and whose neighbor Leon Statz committed suicide last year after financial struggles forced him to sell his 50 dairy cows. Roecker estimates he’s losing $30,000 a month.

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Third world. Rich ruling class, and then the rest.

At Least 135,000 Children In Britain Will Be Homeless At Christmas (G.)

At least 135,000 children will be homeless and living in temporary accommodation across Britain on Christmas day – the highest number for 12 years – according to the housing charity Shelter. It estimates that a child loses their home every eight minutes – 183 children per day. At this rate, 1,647 children will become homeless between now and the general election on 12 December, and more than 4,000 by 25 December. London has the highest concentration of homeless youngsters, up 33% since 2014. About 88,000 children were homeless and in temporary accommodation in the capital at the beginning of 2019 – equivalent to one in every 24 children.


The capital has 26 of the 30 British local authorities with the highest rates of homeless children. Four councils – Haringey, Newham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea – had homeless rates of one in every 12 children. Outside London, the places worst affected were: Luton (one in 22 children); Brighton & Hove (one in 30); Manchester (one in 47); and Slough (one in 53). In Wales, one in 412 children are homeless, up 28% since 2015, while in Scotland one in 160 children were homeless, up 64% since 2014.

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Nov 232019
 
 November 23, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Drought hit OK farm family on way to CA Aug 1936

 

Former Ukraine MP: Bidens Got $12M Kickback From Burisma Owner (CDM)
MSM Ignores Hunter Biden Buds’ $130 Million Taxpayer Cookie Jar Raid (ZH)
The Ukrainian Influence-Peddling Rings, Part 2 (Stockman)
Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman About My Ukraine Columns (Solomon)
The Storms of December (Kunstler)
‘No One Out There’: The Democrats’ Lack Of Star Power (G.)
The All-Women MSNBC Debate Panel Was a Right-Wing Disaster (Lazare)
JFK’s Vision For The Future (Ehret)
The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)
Barr Says Epstein Died By A Series Of Coincidences (CJ)
Light Pollution Is Key ‘Bringer Of Insect Apocalypse’ (G.)

 

 

There’s a new Orange Man Bad “bombshell” going around, something about Giuliani and Mike Pompeo being in cahoots about Ukraine and “dirt on Biden”. It’s trying to make John Solomon part of the “conspiracy” as well. You’ll hear a lot about it. Meanwhile, CD Media continues:

Former Ukraine MP: Bidens Got $12M Kickback From Burisma Owner (CDM)

Update: In further clarification of information provided, CD Media can now report that the $32M referenced below was sent to London, where it was seized by British officials and criminal charges were levied against Zlochevsky. Vice President Biden actively sought to have the charges thrown out in the United Kingdom for Zlochevsky in exchange for the $12M being diverted to Hunter Biden, according to Onyshchenko. Hunter Biden was then brought onto the board of directors at Zlochevsky’s company Burisma and received further payments of $3.1M over a period of months.

KYIV — Former Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Onyshchenko has provided CD Media with information on a transaction in 2013 where Biden family-related companies allegedly received a $12 million illegal kickback while Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States. Onyshchenko alleges the payment was made to gain Biden’s influence in affairs of the group of companies called Burisma owned by Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, who sold a port facility in Ukraine and shifted partial proceeds of the sale to Hunter Biden. CD Media has already reported on ‘off the books’ payments to Hunter Biden by Burisma.

Onyshchenko alleges that during the sale of the port of Kherson on the Dnepr River in Ukraine in 2013 for approximately $32M, Biden received $12M of that amount illegally. Onyshchenko declared to CD Media that he is providing this information on the money flows to Biden to the U.S. Department of Justice

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It wasn’t all Burisma.

MSM Ignores Hunter Biden Buds’ $130 Million Taxpayer Cookie Jar Raid (ZH)

On Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported that an investment firm central to Hunter Biden’s financial dealings received more than $130 million in federal bailout loans while Joe Biden was vice president. Rosemont Capital – named after former Secretary of State John Kerry’s 90-acre Heinz family estate outside of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania – was founded by Hunter Biden, Christopher Heinz, and longtime friend Devon Archer. According to the report, Rosemont was one of just 177 firms to participate in Obama’s 2009 Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), which issued billions of dollars in favorable loans to investors who agreed to buy bonds from struggling banks, including college and auto loans.

“The Federal Reserve funded as much as 90% of the investments. If the bonds were profitable, the borrowers benefited. If not, the department agreed to take over the depreciated assets with no repercussions for the borrowers. Under the terms for the program, any U.S. company looking to invest in select categories of bonds was eligible to apply for the loans. However, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve maintained the “right to reject a borrower for any reason,” and the internal selection process was criticized by some lawmakers as opaque and open to corruption. One of the firms that benefited was Rosemont Capital, a company led by Hunter Biden’s business partners, Chris Heinz and Devon Archer. The firm received the loans at a crucial time for Hunter Biden. The younger Biden had stepped down from his lobbying business in late 2008, reportedly due to pressure on his father’s vice presidential campaign.” -Washington Examiner

And while the Examiner reviewed “federal banking and corporate records” for their report, the MSM is completely silent about this obvious graft. CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and FOX have all been radio silent on this report.

Read more …

Davis Stockman in excellent -long- form. There’s a link to part 1 in the article.

The Ukrainian Influence-Peddling Rings, Part 2 (Stockman)

Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade, and Tuesday’s testimony before Adam’s Schiff Show by former NSC official Tim Morrison is just such an occasion. In spades! In his opening statement, this paranoid moron uttered the following lunacy, and it’s all you need to know about what is really going on down in the Imperial City. “I continue to believe Ukraine is on the front lines of a strategic competition between the West and Vladimir Putin’s revanchist Russia. Russia is a failing power, but it is still a dangerous one. The United States aids Ukraine and her people so they can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Folks, that just plain whacko. The Trump-hating Dems are so feverishly set on a POTUS kill that they have enlisted a veritable posse of Russophobic, right-wing neocon cretins – Morrison, Taylor, Kent, Vindman, among others – to finish off the Donald. But in so doing they have made official Washington’s real beef against Trump crystal clear; and it’s not about the rule of law or abuse of presidential power or an impeachable dereliction of duty. To be sure, foolish politicians like Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and the Clintonista apparatus at the center of the Dem party are so overcome with inconsolable grief and anger about losing the 2016 election to Trump that their sole purpose in life is to drive the Donald from office. But that just makes them “useful idiots” or compliant handmaids of the Deep State, which has a far more encompassing and consequential motivation.

To wit, whether out of naiveté, contrariness or just plain common sense, the Donald has declined to embrace the War Party’s Russian bogeyman and demonization of Putin. He thereby threatens the Empire’s raison d’être to the very core. Indeed, that’s the real reason for the whole concerted attack on Trump from the Russian Collusion hoax, through the Mueller Investigation farce to the present UkraineGate and impeachment inquisition. The Deep State deeply and profoundly fears that if Trump remains in office – and especially if he is elected with a new mandate in 2020 – he might actually make peace with Russia and Putin. So in Part 1 we advert to the basics. Without the demonization of Russia, Ukraine would be the no count failed state and cesspool of corruption it actually is, and not a purported “front line” buffer against Russian aggression.

Likewise, it would not have been a recipient of vast US and western military and economic aid – a condition that turned it into a honeypot for the kind of Washington influence peddling which ensnared the Bidens, induced its officials to meddle in the 2016 US election, and, in return, incited Trump’s justifiable quest to get to the bottom of the malignancy that has ensued.

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I have no space for all 28 “primary factual elements” here. But do read them.

Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman About My Ukraine Columns (Solomon)

I honor and applaud Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s service to his country. He’s a hero. I also respect his decision to testify at the impeachment proceedings. I suspect neither his service nor his testimony was easy. But I also know the liberties that Lt. Col. Vindman fought on the battlefield to preserve permit for a free and honest debate in America, one that can’t be muted by the color of uniform or the crushing power of the state. So I want to exercise my right to debate Lt. Col. Vindman about the testimony he gave about me. You see, under oath to Congress, he asserted all the factual elements in my columns at The Hill about Ukraine were false, except maybe my grammar

Here are his exact words: “I think all the key elements were false,” Vindman testified. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y, pressed him about what he meant. “Just so I understand what you mean when you say key elements, are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?” “All the elements that I just laid out for you. The criticisms of corruption were false…. Were there more items in there, frankly, congressman? I don’t recall. I haven’t looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right.” Such testimony has been injurious to my reputation, one earned during 30 years of impactful reporting for news organizations that included The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Daily Beast/Newsweek.

And so Lt. Col. Vindman, here are the 28 primary factual elements in my Ukraine columns, complete with attribution and links to sourcing. Please tell me which, if any, was factually wrong.

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“The parade of State Department diplomats in charge of this-and-that suggests that Ukraine is virtually an occupied territory.”

The Storms of December (Kunstler)

If the senate majority poohbahs were wise, they would warmly welcome a trial based on articles of impeachment, which would, of course, feature no artificial limits on the witness list, nor on questions that might be asked. The list might start with the UkraineGate “Whistleblower.” Among the many untruths uttered by Adam Schiff was the nonexistent law that gave that shadowy figure a right to anonymity. And besides, in any trial based on due process, the accused has an absolute right to face his accuser. Oddly, a month ago Mr. Schiff was avid to stick his “Whistleblower” in the witness chair, and perhaps not with a black hood over his head.

Then it was discovered that the “Whistleblower” had been consorting at least with Mr. Schiff’s staff members before blowing his fabled whistle, and that they had likely assisted in the assembly of his complaint, and in connecting him to the right lawyers in the Great Blue Okefenokee backwaters of DC lawyerdom, and, naturally, nobody from sea to shining sea over age nine who had paid attention to these antics believed that Mr. Schiff could not know who this “Whistleblower” was. Likewise, the brave Col. Vindman. Both of them deserve some time in a senate witness chair, and Mr. Schiff especially is due some sort of penalty for subjecting the country to his three years of dishonorable, seditious shenanigans — beginning with expulsion from the House and perhaps proceeding to a trial of his very own.

These UkraineGate hearings of the past two weeks raised some additional questions that have not otherwise been aired much in the public arena, chiefly, exactly how much does the US government seek to control the affairs of Ukraine? And how did we become the superintendent of this partially failed state? The parade of State Department diplomats in charge of this-and-that suggests that Ukraine is virtually an occupied territory. Do we realistically suppose that, in the natural course of things, we can shield Ukraine forever from the influence of its neighbor (and former sovereign), Russia?

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Bit of a problem perhaps.

‘No One Out There’: The Democrats’ Lack Of Star Power (G.)

Too old. Too young. Too white. Too leftwing. Anxiety over Democrats’ failure to find a standout candidate is raising fears that, despite astounding unpopularity and potential impeachment, Donald Trump could win re-election by default. The Democratic primary’s top tier of candidates does not include a person of colour even in the biggest and most diverse field in history. The leader of national opinion polls turned 77 this week and delivered another stumbling debate performance while fending off questions about his son’s foreign business dealings. The poll leader in Iowa, which will get the first say, is the 37-year-old mayor of a small city who in some surveys is polling close to zero with African American voters.

Two more septuagenarians have seen their momentum stall amid criticism that their healthcare reforms are too radical and unaffordable. And then there are two last-minute would-be saviours: an ageing billionaire from New York and a former east coast governor who this week cancelled a campaign event when only two people showed up. Watching it all with glee are Trump and Republicans, hardly able to believe their luck that they might not have to win next year’s election so much as watch Democrats lose it, just as Hillary Clinton did by failing to motivate turnout in crucial states in 2016. This week’s debate in Atlanta showed that the party is struggling again to find a nominee as inspiring as Barack Obama. “When I ask my students, is there anyone on that debate stage tonight who you see as being presidential, most of them say no, there’s no one out there,” said Monika McDermott, a political science professor, at Fordham University in New York.

“And they’re political junkies so they know as much as any of us do. ..] Indeed, Trump is showing resilience in the polls. A survey of 801 registered voters by the Marquette Law School in the all-important state of Wisconsin over 13-17 November showed only the long shot Cory Booker beating Trump in a head-to-head match up (45% to 44%). The president led Biden 47% to 44%, Sanders 48% to 45%, Warren 48% to 43% and Buttigieg 47% to 39%. John Zogby, a Democratic pollster, said: “In most polls nationwide and in the key states, the president is competitive against every one of the major candidates. The Democrats are still kind of fumbling for a message: it’s really not enough to be against Trump.

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Anything that has Rachel Maddow in it is a disaster.

The All-Women MSNBC Debate Panel Was a Right-Wing Disaster (Lazare)

The fifth Democratic presidential debate received an outpouring of praise for its all-woman cast of moderators: Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, and Kristen Welker of NBC. Writing in the Nation, Joan Walsh asserted that the event “showed us what American political life would look like if women’s concerns were routinely at the center of the conversation.” “Democratic Debate Moderator Panel Of All Women Is Celebrated By Viewers,” reads a Huffington Post headline. “Female moderators = more questions to the rights and burdens of women,” tweeted Clara Jefferey, editor in chief of Mother Jones. “When all the moderators are women, issues that affect women get more attention. Funny how that works,” said Michelangelo Signorile, host of the Michelangelo Signorile Show.

The idea that women’s representation in itself — regardless of who those women are — is a boon to women everywhere is hardly new to US political discourse. But what makes the fawning over the November 20 debate particularly tone-deaf is that the moderators’ questions were both inane and right-wing. Their inquiries were almost entirely premised on defending the benevolence of US empire, marginalizing political positions deemed too far left, and asking “gotcha” questions from the right on issues from health care to immigration. Trapped within these ideological constraints, the debate actually struck a blow against feminism — and was a blessing to the forces of chauvinism and austerity.

[..] Andrea Mitchell was responsible for another low point in the moderation when she said: “President Trump has dramatically changed America’s approach to our adversaries by holding summits with Kim Jong-un, getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, and at times embracing Vladimir Putin and other strongmen. So let’s talk about what kind of commander-in-chief you would be. Senator Harris, North Korea is now threatening to cancel any future summits if President Trump does not make concessions on nuclear weapons. If you were commander in chief, would you make concessions to Kim Jong-un in order to keep those talks going?” Mitchell has long doubled as a stenographer for the national security state, but this question was hawkish even by her standards.

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Don’t fight the Deep State. It’s bad for your health.

JFK’s Vision For The Future (Ehret)

Wall Street’s Dulles Brothers who together ran the CIA and the State Department had made several major efforts to sabotage Kennedy’s “new frontiers” initiative that gripped the imaginations of young and old alike. Kennedy’s program was driven by large scale infrastructure at home and advanced scientific and technological progress in the Developing sector abroad. Attempting to break that trajectory, Allen Dulles had prepared the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba months before Kennedy entered the scene which was a near disaster for the world.

Just days before Kennedy’s inauguration, Allan Dulles ensured that a pro-Kennedy ally who had just recently gained power in the Congo named Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in cold blood knowing that JFK would be blamed, and every effort was made to back up the French fascists trying to stop the Algerian independence movement behind JFK’s back. Both the Cuban invasion and the assassination of Lumumba have been blamed on Kennedy to this day. In response to this treachery, JFK made the bold move of firing CIA director Allan Dulles, and two Wall Street-connected CIA directors on November 29, 1961 saying that he would soon “splinter the C.I.A. in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Recognizing the insanity of the zero sum Cold Warriors who could only look at the world through the perversity of a Hobbesian leans of “each against all”, JFK not only stood alone against the entire array of war-hungry Joint Chiefs calling for war with Russia during the infamous “13 day showdown” and parodied by Kubrick’s brilliant Dr. Strangelove, but also took the advice of Generals MacArthur, and Charles de Gaulle who warned him to avoid all entrapments of a “land war in Vietnam”. On this point, JFK introduced NSAM 263 in October 1963 to begin a full withdrawal from Southeast Asia.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1197290359228944384

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All these waves have been.

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the IIF (Institute of International finance), global debt has soared to a new record high. The level of government debt around the world has ballooned since the financial crisis, reaching levels never seen before during peacetime. This has happened in the middle of an unprecedented monetary experiment that injected more than $20 trillion in printed money into the economy and lowered interest rates to the lowest levels seen in history. The balance sheet of the major central banks rose to levels never seen before, with the Bank of Japan at 100 percent of the country’s GDP, the European Central Bank (ECB) at 40 percent, and the Federal Reserve at 20 percent.

If this monetary experiment has proven anything it’s that lower rates and higher liquidity are not tools to help deleverage debt, but to incentivize it. Furthermore, this dangerous experiment has proven that a policy that was designed as a temporary measure due to exceptional circumstances has become the new norm. The so-called normalization process of raising interest rates lasted only a few months in 2018, only for asset purchases and rate cuts to resume. Despite the largest fiscal and monetary stimulus in decades, global economic growth is weakening, and the productivity growth of leading economies is close to zero. Money velocity, a measure of economic activity relative to money supply, thus, goes down.

It’s been explained many times why this happens. Low rates and high liquidity are perverse incentives to push the crowding-out of the private sector by government; they also perpetuate overcapacity due to endless refinancing of non-productive and obsolete sectors to lower rates, and the number of zombie companies—those that cannot pay their interest expenses with operating profits—rises.

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Barr is simply saying you’ll never find out. Too many “upstanding” people would be damaged goods.

Barr Says Epstein Died By A Series Of Coincidences (CJ)

In an interview with Associated Press, US Attorney General William Barr put all conspiracy theories to rest once and for all by assuring the world that alleged sex trafficker and alleged billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s death was simply the result of a very, very, very long series of unfortunate coincidences. “I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Barr told AP on Thursday.

This perfect storm of unlucky oopsies include Epstein being taken off suicide watch not long after a previous suicide attempt and shortly before his successful suicide, suggestions that the first attempt may have actually been an assault via attempted strangulation inflicted by someone else, two security guards simultaneously falling asleep on the job when they were supposed to be checking on Epstein, one of those guards not even being an actual security guard, security footage of two cameras outside Epstein’s cell being unusable due to a mysterious technical glitch, at least eight Bureau of Prisons officials knowing Epstein wasn’t meant to be left alone in his cell and leaving him alone in his cell anyway, Epstein’s cellmate being transferred out of their shared space the day before Epstein’s death, Epstein signing a will two days before his death, unexplained injuries on Epstein’s wrists and shoulder reported by his family after the autopsy, and a forensic expert who examined Epstein’s body claiming that his injuries were more consistent with homicide than suicide.

“The attorney general also sought to dampen conspiracy theories by people who have questioned whether Epstein really took his own life, saying the evidence proves Epstein killed himself,” AP reports. “He added that he personally reviewed security footage that confirmed that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed on the night he died. Well if reporting that he’s reviewed footage which we were previously told didn’t exist isn’t enough to dampen those kooky conspiracy theories, I don’t know what is. So there you have it. The US government says that an intelligence asset with damning information on many powerful individuals did in fact kill himself due to an admittedly bizarre and wildly unlikely series of strange coincidences. I for one have no more questions. Checkmate, conspiracy theorists.

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The whole world as a Christmas tree.

Light Pollution Is Key ‘Bringer Of Insect Apocalypse’ (G.)

Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date. Artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives, the researchers said, from luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, to spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads, to obscuring the mating signals of fireflies. “We strongly believe artificial light at night – in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species, and climate change – is driving insect declines,” the scientists concluded after assessing more than 150 studies. “We posit here that artificial light at night is another important – but often overlooked – bringer of the insect apocalypse.”


However, unlike other drivers of decline, light pollution was relatively easy to prevent, the team said, by switching off unnecessary lights and using proper shades. “Doing so could greatly reduce insect losses immediately,” they said. Brett Seymoure, a behavioural ecologist at Washington University in St Louis and senior author of the review, said: “Artificial light at night is human-caused lighting – ranging from streetlights to gas flares from oil extraction. It can affect insects in pretty much every imaginable part of their lives.” Insect population collapses have been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, and the first global scientific review, published in February, said widespread declines threatened to cause a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”. The latest review says: “Insects around the world are rapidly declining. Their absence would have devastating consequences for life on this planet.”

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A poster that was put up around Houston in the weeks before JFK visited.

 

 

 

 

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Nov 222019
 
 November 22, 2019  Posted by at 2:24 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Claude Monet O Rio 1881

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party presented a big plan yesterday which, as the Guardian ever so subtly put it, “would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany”. My first reaction to it is that this is inevitable. My second reaction is that it is also too early.

After decades of being squeezed by both the Tories and Tony Blair’s “New” Labour, both the British themselves, and their economy, are so parched that they will vote for something like Corbyn’s plan at some point. Unavoidable. The same on all counts I think is true for Bernie Sanders’ plans.

The wealthier classes don’t appear to be smart enough to understand that they can’t take it all, that they have to leave something for everybody else. But there’s no brake on such currents, they all get carried away, it happens all the time. One side takes too much, and the other side fights back.

Still, while what leads to Corbyn and Sanders rising may be the same, the reasons they fail to attract enough votes is different. In the US, people start shouting: socialism, communism, or maoism, leninism, stalinism, and that will do. These words are fully interchangeable for 99.9% of Americans. If there are 3 of them left that know the difference, you’re lucky.

The reason Sanders is popular is to a large extent that his Democrat competitors are so godawful. For Corbyn, there are other factors in play. But first, a bit about that plan:

Jeremy Corbyn Urges Public To Vote For ‘Manifesto Of Hope’

Jeremy Corbyn has urged the public to vote for his “manifesto of hope” as he unveiled plans for the most dramatic increase in tax and spending in more than half a century if Labour wins power next month’s general election. In an upbeat launch event at Birmingham City University, the Labour leader said he welcomed the hostility of the billionaires, bad bosses and dodgy landlords who would lose out from his policies. Experts were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s spending plans, which dwarfed the substantial increase in the size of the state envisaged in the party’s 2017 manifesto.

“See this [2019] manifesto and vote for the person who’s struggling who you don’t even know,” Corbyn urged the public, adding: “How can any government claim it cares about our country when it cares so little about the people who live here?” With Labour still trailing significantly behind the Conservatives in the polls, party strategists hope the manifesto will help to tempt wavering voters. Corbyn said it was “full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation”. The slim red volume, titled It’s Time for Real Change, included a number of fresh announcements, in addition to the policies announced earlier in the campaign. Key plans include:

• Universal free broadband, delivered by part-nationalising BT and paid for with a tax on tech companies.
• An immediate 5% pay rise for public sector workers, plus above-inflation increases for future years.
• 100,000 new council houses a year by the end of the parliament.
• 1 million new jobs as part of a “green industrial revolution”.
• Nationalisation of rail, water and mail, and new powers to allow councils to take control of bus services.

Corbyn promised an “investment blitz”, which he said would leave no part of the country untouched, and suggested the deindustrialisation that begun in the 1980s would be reversed. “Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out huge swathes of Britain’s industry. We will rebuild it, as green industry,” he said. Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “This spending increase would be comparable to the first Wilson government and would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany.”

As the graph shows, the “giant state” idea is not what it’s made out to be, compared to many countries. So on the face of it, what’s not to like for the impoverished millions in Britain? The answer is easy: there has been a large campaign of people perpetuating whole-cloth out of thin air accusations about Corbyn being an anti-semite, including from his own party (Tony Blair and his ilk).

Sure enough, the Brexit campaigners have gone through an entire litany of outrageous claims and promises, but it’s the anti-semite smear that looks likely to decide not only the December 12 elections, but also the Brexit matter. Yeah, that is deplorable. But it’s the time we live in. Some memes are funny, others are seriously misleading, and many strongly influence people’s way of thinking.

In the US, it’s enough to say that Bernie is a socialist or a leninist, in Britain you need a somewhat stronger and bigger cannon. Anti-semitism in just the thing. What makes these smears and/or memes so effective is repetition. At some point people think: I’ve seen this from ten different sources now, that means it must be true. And social media are all about endless repetition, which makes them perfect for the job.

 

That is of course also how they got to Julian Assange. A rape allegation was all it took. And then they waited 9 years to declare it false, by which point he had been silenced, drawn and quartered. Same mechanism. Jeremy Corbyn is no anti-semite, anymore than Julian Assange is a rapist, but that makes no difference whatsoever.

If you manage to plant the seed of an idea, no matter how ridiculous, in enough people’s heads, and then you make sure it’s repeated every day, you can today make anyone believe anything. Perhaps it’s time to re-label “social” media. Really, social? But the term “mass media” has already been taken.

 

And though many people will not be ready to acknowledge it, what goes for Corbyn and Assange also goes for Donald Trump. Only in his case the old mass media have been much more massively involved, not just the new not-so-terribly social media. But that principle is identical: plant an idea in people’s heads and repeat it ad nauseam.

In Trump’s case, it’s been so successful that entire media organizations that were about to croak were revived by it, at least financially. At this point it’s probably good to illuminate the role intelligence agencies play in the entire meme/smear ‘politics’. They are all over it, they hardly even attempt to hide their roles.

In the cases of Assange and Corbyn, there have been no large-scale investigations. In Corbyn’s case, none at all, and in Assange’s case, probes hidden from view that would not stand any legal daylight, in Sweden, the UK and the US. These investigations always seem directed at ‘affirming the accusers’ case, not at finding if the accused are actually guilty of what they are charged with.

As for Trump, we have of course lived through years of Mueller’s probe, which ended in nothing, seamlessly transitioning into Ukrainegate, in which another stream of potential accusers saw the limelight to provide their particular version of what “hearsay” means in legalese.

I’ve remarked before that Adam Schiff’s little theater wouldn have been throw out of a court in one second flat, because there is no proof and hearsay is inadmissible. I also think Corbyn should have taken one of his many accusers to court, simply to have a judge or jury state publicly that he is not a -proven- anti-semite. Assange obviously was never allowed any such route.

And if you looked and listened closely at the Ukrainegate spectacle, it was clear that the Mueller disaster has not closed the RussiaRussia meme/smear. Russia wants to conquer Europe. The president wanting to direct his own foreign policy was anathema for the “regular channel” crowd. “We have this thing that works beautifully”. And it ain’t the Constitution.

 

What Trump has going for him is that IG Michael Horowitz and Special Counsel John Durham are set to release their respective reports on how Russiagate came about. It looks as if they will have to do without any info of Burisma or its links to the Bidens, because the “regular channel” has frustrated efforts into finding out their roles, but then that was never their probes’ concern.

We now have the first allegation against an FBI lawyer for tampering with FISA documents, through the unusual leakage stream of CNN, which happens to employ lots of ex-FBI people. There is no doubt that we’ll see a whole lot more where that came from. It’ll be an entertaining holiday season, because of course the FBI and CIA will want to (pre-emptively) strike back. And they’re all working at CNN et al.

Their problem is they’ve been working this for years now, and came up zilch. The other side is just getting started. Looks like there’ll be more fireworks than candlelight dinners going into 2020. But perhaps it would still be a good idea for Bill Barr to find himself a good meme or smear, just to be sure.

 

 

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