Feb 272021
 
 February 27, 2021  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Paul Klee Dancing Under the Empire of Fear 1938

 

House Passes Second Largest Stimulus Package In History At $1.9T (JTN)
What IS the Truth About Covid Deaths? (DM)
Nearly 1 In 5 US Adults Have Now Gotten At Least One Covid19 Vaccine Dose (F.)
Johnson & Johnson One-Shot Covid Vaccine Gets Nod From FDA Advisory Panel (G.)
What The Neera Tanden Affair Reveals About The Washington DC Swamp (Sirota)
Biden Doesn’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince (CNN)
Shadowland (Jim Kunstler)
Trapped (CHS)
IMF To Propose Ways To Improve Transparency Of Trade In SDR (R.)
Bitcoin Energy Use ‘Bigger Than Most Countries’ (BBC)
Congress And The Slippery Slope Of Censorship (Turley)
Durham Steps Down As US Attorney, Remains In Charge Of Russia Probe (JTN)

 

 


Jim Bianco: 13 days past the impeachment vote (Feb 13) and cable news STILL spends more time talking about Trump than Biden.

 

 

Irish scandemic
https://twitter.com/i/status/1365312489198661633

 

 

A highway for Schumer, a bridge for Pelosi… and $1,400, not $2,000 checks.

House Passes Second Largest Stimulus Package In History At $1.9T (JTN)

The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the second-largest stimulus package in U.S. history in the early hours of Saturday that includes a gradual $15 minimum wage hike, despite the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling. Two Democrats, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine and Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The final vote shortly after 2 a.m. was 219 to 212 and the bill now moves to the Democratic-led Senate. Democrats are using budget reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan, which the Senate parliamentarian ruled cannot include a minimum wage increase. Reconciliation allows Democrats to pass the bill without relying on any votes from Senate Republicans. The largest stimulus bill in history was the CARES Act that was passed in March of last year during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits and $1,400 direct payments, the legislation includes more than $100 million for transportation projects in New York and California. “This is not a bailout. It is a rescue package,” House Rules Committee Chair Rep. Jim McGovern said on Friday. House Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole argued that the coronavirus bill is excessive, given that it would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over a 5-year period. “Last year Congress passed and the president signed into law five bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages that appropriated around $4 trillion. Not all of that money has been spent yet. But if the majority has their way, within one year we will have appropriated just shy of $6 trillion for COVID-19 relief packages,” Cole said. “This is one and one-third times the amount of money the federal government appropriated for all of 2019.”

The national debt is approaching $28 trillion, according to the latest Treasury Department data. Cole said there’s about $1 trillion in unspent stimulus funds. “To make matters worse, of the previous COVID-19 relief packages, there remains nearly $1 trillion in unspent funds. Before we leap ahead into another gigantic spending package that drives the American people further into debt, shouldn’t we at least spend down the funds already allocated and see if new money is actually required?” he said. Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess wrote on Twitter before the vote that “the premise of this legislation was to provide relief against COVID-19. Instead it puts forward a partisan agenda.”

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Yes, but .. les jeux sont faits.

What IS the Truth About Covid Deaths? (DM)

Grieving families last night said deaths had been wrongly certified as Covid-19. Demanding an inquiry, top medical experts and MPs also insisted they were ‘certain’ that too many fatalities were being blamed on the virus. One funeral director said it was ‘a national scandal’. The claims are part of a Daily Mail investigation that raises serious questions over the spiralling death toll. More than 100 readers wrote heartbreaking letters following a moving article by Bel Mooney last Saturday. She revealed the death of her 99-year-old father, who suffered from dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was recorded as coronavirus. Dozens expressed similar frustrations that the causes of death of elderly and already-unwell relatives had been wrongly attributed.

Eight of the families who wrote to the Daily Mail have successfully urged doctors to change causes of death previously recorded as Covid-19. Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: ‘The Government should call a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic immediately with an interim investigation into all Covid deaths that should report as soon as possible.’ Tory MP Paul Bristow, a member of the Commons health committee, said: ‘It’s almost certain that a number of deaths have been wrongly attributed to Covid-19. ‘Not only has this skewed figures when data has been so important in deciding how we respond to the pandemic, it has caused distress and anxiety for relatives.

A funeral director in the North West told the Mail: ‘The way Covid has been recorded and reported is a national scandal and a thorough enquiry should be opened immediately.’ Medical experts have cited pressure on doctors to include Covid-19 as a cause of death because it was last year ruled a ‘notifiable disease’, meaning any case needs to be reported officially.

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This is really starting to scare me. 100s of millions will soon have been injected with hardly tested substances designed to play footsie with their genes.

Nearly 1 In 5 US Adults Have Now Gotten At Least One Covid19 Vaccine Dose (F.)

Nearly one in five American adults have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the U.S. reached 50 million vaccine doses ahead of schedule, the White House said Friday, as the pace of vaccinations starts to pick up after a slow start ahead of a substantial increase in the country’s vaccine supply.According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 18.5% of all U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot, and 8.9% of adults have received both doses. The U.S. has doubled its pace of vaccinations since President Joe Biden took office, White House Covid-19 response team advisor Andy Slavitt said at a briefing Friday, and delivered more than 50 million shots in 37 days, which was ahead of the Biden administration’s target.

Nearly half of Americans over age 65 have now gotten at least one shot and nearly 60% of those over 75, the White House advisor said, up from only 8% of Americans over 65 and 14% of over-75s who had been vaccinated six weeks ago. According to the CDC, the states that have the highest vaccination rates are Alaska and New Mexico—where 29.1% and 27% of adults have received at least one dose, respectively—and the lowest vaccination rates are in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, which have all vaccinated approximately 15% to 16% of their adult population. The White House sent out 17.5 million vaccine doses to states this week, up from 13.5 million last week and 8.6 million during Biden’s first week in office—a nearly 70% increase.

As vaccinations ramp up, the share of Americans who are willing to get inoculated soon is increasing: A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted Feb. 15-23 found the percentage of U.S. adults who said they were either already vaccinated or would get one as soon as they could increased to 55%, up from 47% in January, and the share who said they would “wait and see” decreased from 31% to 22%. 70.4 million. That’s how many Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Friday afternoon, according to the CDC. Those doses have covered 47.1 million people who have received at least one dose, with 22.6 million having completed both shots. The KFF poll found that 15% of adults will “definitely not” get the vaccine, as compared with 13% who said the same in January.

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So many questions … under the carpet.

Johnson & Johnson One-Shot Covid Vaccine Gets Nod From FDA Advisory Panel (G.)

The battle against Covid-19 took a major step forward on Friday as the US moved closer to distributing its first one-shot Covid-19 vaccine, after an independent expert advisory panel recommended drug regulators authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. The authorization would be a significant boost to the Biden administration’s vaccination plans, making Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine the third available to the public. Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine subsidiary, told a congressional hearing this week that it expects to deliver 20m doses by March and a total of 100m doses before the end of June.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with those from Pfizer and Moderna, should provide the US with more than enough supply to vaccinate every vaccine-eligible person. “We’re still in the midst of this deadly pandemic,” said Dr Archana Chatterjee, a voting member of the panel and an infectious disease pediatrician at Chicago Medical School, as she explained her vote in favor of recommending the vaccine. “There is a shortage of vaccines that are currently authorized, and I think authorization of this vaccine will help meet the needs at the moment.” While regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not always take the advice of their advisory panels, the agency is expected to authorize the vaccine for emergency use.

[..] The convenience of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes with caveats. The company’s clinical trials were the first to show the potential impacts of Covid-19 variants, or evolutionary changes in the virus. The vaccine was found to 85% effective at preventing severe disease and to provide complete protection against Covid-19-related hospitalization and death after 28 days. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was found to be 72% effective in clinical trials in the US, but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a variant called B1351 originated.

[..] Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses different technology from the two vaccines currently available in the US. The new vaccine uses “viral vector” technology, which introduces the body to the genetic code for the spike protein covering the outside of the coronavirus. This code is transmitted by a second, weakened virus called an adenovirus. Immunity is provoked when the body’s immune system then recognizes the coronavirus by this key structure. Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna also prompt the body to recognize spike proteins on the outside of the coronavirus, but deliver the genetic code through lipid nanoparticles, or tiny molecules of fatty acids.

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Well, she’s out for now.

What The Neera Tanden Affair Reveals About The Washington DC Swamp (Sirota)

When sifting through the wreckage to try to make sense of this epoch, future anthropologists should dust off whatever records will be preserved about Neera Tanden’s star-crossed nomination to an obscure-but-powerful White House office. The whole episode is a museum-ready diorama in miniature illustrating so many things that died in the transition from democracy to oligarchy. And in this affair, all the politicians, pundits, news outlets, and Democratic party apparatchiks involved are very blatantly telling on themselves. Tanden is being nominated to run the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the federal budget. As a political operative and head of a corporate-funded think tank, she does not have especially relevant experience for the appointment — in fact, whether in gubernatorial administrations, mayoral offices, or Capitol Hill budget committees, there are far more qualified experts for this gig.

Moreover, her particular record would raise significant red flags as a job applicant for even a mid-level management position in any organization, much less the White House: during her tenure running the Center for American Progress, she reportedly outed a sexual harassment victim and physically assaulted an employee. While she was running the organization, CAP raked in corporate and foreign government cash and a report was revised in a way that helped a billionaire donor avoid scrutiny of his bigoted policing policy. Critics allege that Tanden busted a union of journalists. And she floated Social Security cuts when Democrats in Congress were trying to stop them.

Even if you discount Tanden’s infamous statement about Libya and oil, as well as her vicious crusade against Senator Bernie Sanders and the progressive base of the Democratic party, all of these other items would seem to disqualify Tanden for a job atop a Democratic administration that claims to respect expertise and want to protect women, workers’ rights, social programs, and government ethics. From the beginning, every single Democratic senator could have simply cited Biden’s promise to be the “most pro-union president” and stated that they would not vote to confirm anyone accused of undermining a union. Or they could have said that they are not going to allow someone who runs a corporate-funded think tank — and whose nomination is being boosted by one of the most diabolical corporate lobbying groups in Washington — to be in charge of the White House office that can grant government ethics waivers. At the absolute barest minimum, these issues should have been major topics of discussion in her confirmation hearings and in the news media.

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No, I’m talking to the father now…

Biden Doesn’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince (CNN)

Despite promising to punish senior Saudi leaders while on the campaign trail, President Joe Biden declined to apply sanctions to the one the US intelligence community determined is responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The choice not to punish Prince Mohammed directly puts into sharp relief the type of decision-making that becomes more complicated for a president versus a candidate, and demonstrates the difficulty in breaking with a troublesome ally in a volatile region. On Friday, Biden’s administration released an unclassified intelligence report on Khashoggi’s death, an action his predecessor refused to take as he downplayed US intelligence.

The report from the director of national intelligence says the crown prince, known as MBS, directly approved the killing of Khashoggi. But while Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions that affected 76 Saudis involved in harassing activists and journalists, he didn’t announce measures that touch the prince. And while a sanctions list from the Treasury Department named a former deputy intelligence chief and the Saudi Royal Guard’s rapid intervention force, the crown prince wasn’t mentioned. Two administration officials said sanctioning MBS was never really an option, operating under the belief it would have been “too complicated” and could have jeopardized US military interests in Saudi Arabia.

As a result, the administration did not even request the State Department to work up options for how to target MBS with sanctions, one State Department official said. When asked in an interview with Univision about how much he’s willing to push the crown prince to observe human rights, Biden said he was now dealing with the Saudi King and not bin Salman. He said “the rules are changing” and that significant changes could come on Monday. “We are going to hold them accountable for human rights abuses and we’re going to make sure that they, in fact, you know, if they want to deal with us, they have to deal with it in a way that the human rights abuses are dealt with,” Biden said, without being more specific about any plans to punish the crown prince.

It was a far cry from a comment in November 2019, in which Biden promised to punish senior Saudi leaders in a way former President Donald Trump wouldn’t. “Yes,” he said when directly asked if he would. “And I said it at the time. Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them the pariah that they are.” “There’s very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “They have to be held accountable.”

Smedley Butler

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“What did they think they were doing when they engineered the election of this empty suit, this blank cartridge, this political mannequin, this man-who-isn’t-there?”

Shadowland (Jim Kunstler)

The State of the Union speech is a somewhat squishy national ritual. Since Franklin Roosevelt, presidents have delivered it early each year in-person to a joint session of congress, with every other dignitary in government on hand — except for one cabinet officer designated the “lone survivior,” who sits it out elsewhere in case, say, the Capitol gets blown up. Before Woodrow Wilson, presidents customarily sent over a written message. Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the constitution only stipulates that a president “from time to time” shall report to Congress on how the nation is doing. Lately, it’s mostly just a made-for-TV special, like the Oscars, allowing a lot of familiar faces to preen before the cameras for the home-folks.

Ronald Reagan introduced the gimmick of showboating heroes or victims of this-and-that seated up in the galleries, which has naturally devolved into a maudlin, cringeworthy feature of the show. But often presidents use the occasion to drop a ripe phrase on the big audience that captures the spirit of the moment: “The era of big government is over” (Bill Clinton); “the axis of evil” (G. W. Bush); FDR’s “four freedoms.” In 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced an instant op-ed closer feature to the proceedings, ripping up Mr. Trump’s speech behind his back in a striking display of pique, much applauded by the avatars of rising Wokesterdom, who had only days earlier seen their half-assed impeachment attempt flop. Kinda looks like our current president, Joe Biden, will skip the grand show this year.

Too busy playing “Mario Kart” with the grandkids, or something like that. The Washington press corps has given him a pass on it, apparently. There’s no chatter, no buzz on the cable channels or in The New York Times, though a few newsies have begun to whine about Mr. Biden’s general unwillingness to hold a routine press conference with freely-pitched questions — not hand-picked, vetted ones, as the president’s handlers have insisted. How long will it be before the public realizes that Mr. Biden is being strictly concealed from view by his managers? And how long can they keep it up? A few more weeks, maybe, I’d guess. What did they think they were doing when they engineered the election of this empty suit, this blank cartridge, this political mannequin, this man-who-isn’t-there?

Of all the hundred-million-odd adults over 35-years-of-age in this country, they picked this empty vessel to lead in a year of obvious crisis? Apparently so — an act so collectively insane it makes you shudder to think about it. Like, the Democratic Party really thought this was a good idea? And who’s calling the shots behind this false front? Some committee chaired by Susan Rice? With directives coming into the Oval Office by messenger from Barack Obama’s Kalorama fortress, with, say, Eric Holder, Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, John Brennan, and a few others charting the daily play-by-play?

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…shadow nationalization..

Trapped (CHS)

Back when prosperity was authentic, the Federal Reserve had little need for public relations. But now that “prosperity” is an illusion that must be managed lest the phantasm vanish, the Fed’s public relations pronouncements are a ceaseless flood as the The Babble-On 7 are the spokespeople for a propaganda machine bent on “managing expectations.” Managing Expectations is the code phrase for “front-run what we say and your profits are guaranteed.” When the Fed says it’s going after X, then simply buy whatever will benefit from X happening, and for 12 long years, X unfolds and those who front-ran the FedSpeak reaped billions in essentially zero-risk profits.

Managing Expectations is part of the Fed’s shadow nationalization of key markets. If price discovery of credit and risk is allowed to live, the Fed’s carefully inflated speculative bubbles pop. And so the Fed’s Job One is killing all price discovery via shadow nationalization. The first market shadow nationalized was the mortgage market, the foundation of the housing market. After Wall Street’s epic swindle (subprime mortgages) imploded in 2008, the Fed printed trillions of dollars out of thin air and bought hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages. The federal government nationalized the quasi-governmental mortgage issuers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the net result was virtually the entire mortgage market was government guaranteed or owned.

Since Wall Street’s fraud had nearly vaporized the entire global financial system, the Fed also shadow nationalized the stock market, which had imploded once the house of cards collapsed. Thus the S&P 500 has advanced from 667 to 3,850 with just enough brief wobbles to maintain the semblance of an organic market. This shadow nationalization has been the most well-promoted PR campaign in the history of central banking. The flood of FedSpeak and trillions of dollars in direct purchases of assets over the past 12 years has relentlessly trained the Wall Street and retail rats to buy the dip because the Fed has your back, meaning the Fed will never let its nationalized stock market decline for more than a few weeks.

The profits from front-running FedSpeak are in the trillions of dollars. No wonder the Wall Street rats scurry over and frantically press the buy button–the rewards and have been both reliable and immense. Now the Fed is in the process of shadow nationalizing the entire bond market. It signaled its intent long ago with quantitative easing, i.e. strangling price discovery in the Treasury market, and recently it began buying corporate bonds (proxies come in handy here).

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Ultimate globalization.

IMF To Propose Ways To Improve Transparency Of Trade In SDR (R.)

The International Monetary Fund on Friday said it would propose ways to improve the transparency and accountability of how its Special Drawing Rights are used, a key U.S. demand for its support of a new issuance of the IMF’s own currency. Geoffrey Okamoto, first deputy managing director of the IMF, said a new allocation of SDRs would boost the reserve positions of all IMF members, calling it “a far superior option to the alternatives” currently available to poorer countries. “The IMF will respond to the #G20’s call for a proposal on a general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs),” he said in a tweet.


“So that countries see maximum benefit from new SDRs, we will propose ways to improve transparency and accountability in how SDRs are allocated and traded,” he added. He gave no details. Finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies on Friday expressed broad support for boosting the IMF’s emergency reserves after U.S. officials dropped the previous administration’s opposition. Italy, which heads the G20 this year, is pushing for a $500 billion issuance of SDRs, a move backed by many other G20 members as a way to provide liquidity to poor countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic without increasing their debt levels. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday expressed her qualified support, but called for greater transparency about the trading and use of SDRs.

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“If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency,” he speculates, “the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity.”

Bitcoin Energy Use ‘Bigger Than Most Countries’ (BBC)

We’ve all heard the stories of Bitcoin millionaires. Elon Musk is the latest. His electric car company Tesla made a paper profit of more than $900m (£646m) after buying $1.5bn (£1bn) -worth of the cryptocurrency in early February. Its high profile support helped pushed the price of a single Bitcoin to more than $58,000. But it isn’t just the digital asset’s price that has hit an all-time high. So has its energy footprint. And that’s caused blowback for Mr Musk, as the scale of the currency’s environmental impact becomes clearer. It also helped prompt a series of high profile critics to slate the digital currency this week, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.


President Biden’s top economic adviser described Bitcoin as “an extremely inefficient way to conduct transactions,” saying “the amount of energy consumed in processing those transactions is staggering”. It’s unclear exactly how much energy Bitcoin uses. Cryptocurrencies are – by design – hard to track. But the consensus is that Bitcoin mining is a very energy-intensive business. The University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) studies the burgeoning business of cryptocurrencies. It calculates that Bitcoin’s total energy consumption is somewhere between 40 and 445 annualised terawatt hours (TWh), with a central estimate of about 130 terawatt hours. The UK’s electricity consumption is a little over 300 TWh a year, while Argentina uses around the same amount of power as the CCAF’s best guess for Bitcoin. And the electricity the Bitcoin miners use overwhelmingly comes from polluting sources.

The CCAF team surveys the people who manage the Bitcoin network around the world on their energy use and found that about two-thirds of it is from fossil fuels. Huge computing power – and therefore energy use – is built into the way the blockchain technology that underpins the cryptocurrency has been designed. It relies on a vast decentralised network of computers. These are the so-called Bitcoin “miners” who enable new Bitcoins to be created, but also independently verify and record every transaction made in the currency. In fact, the Bitcoins are the reward miners get for maintaining this record accurately. It works like a lottery that runs every 10 minutes, explains Gina Pieters, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and a research fellow with the CCAF team.


[..] We can track how much effort miners are making to create the currency. They are currently reckoned to be making 160 quintillion calculations every second – that’s 160,000,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering. And this vast computational effort is the cryptocurrency’s Achilles heel, says Alex de Vries, the founder of the Digiconomy website and an expert on Bitcoin. All the millions of trillions of calculations it takes to keep the system running aren’t really doing any useful work. “They’re computations that serve no other purpose,” says de Vries, “they’re just immediately discarded again. Right now we’re using a whole lot of energy to produce those calculations, but also the majority of that is sourced from fossil energy.” The vast effort it requires also makes Bitcoin inherently difficult to scale, he argues.”If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency,” he speculates, “the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity.”

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“The measures being discussed in Congress have the potential to defeat us all. It is surprisingly easy to convince a free people to give up their freedoms, and exceedingly difficult to regain those freedoms once they are lost.”

Congress And The Slippery Slope Of Censorship (Turley)

Democrats are pushing for cable carriers to explain their “moral” criteria for allowing tens of millions of viewers access to Fox News and other targeted networks. The answer should begin with the obvious principles of free speech and a free press, which are not even referenced in the Eshoo-McNerney letter. Instead, the companies are asked if they will impose a morality judgment on news coverage and, ultimately, public access. This country went through a long and troubling period of morality codes used to bar speakers or censor material that barred atheists, feminists, and others from espousing their viewpoints in newspapers, books, and movies. Indeed, there was a time when the Democratic Party fought such morality rules, in defense of free speech.

Those seeking free-speech limits often speak of speech like it is a swimming pool that must be monitored and carefully controlled for purity and safety. I view speech more as a rolling ocean, dangerous but also majestic and inspiring, its immense size allowing for a natural balance. Free speech allows false ideas to be challenged in the open, rather than forcing dissenting viewpoints beneath the surface. I do not believe today’s activists will succeed in removing the most-watched cable news channel in 2020 from the airways. But, then again, I did not think social media sites — given legal immunity in exchange for being content-neutral — would ever censor viewpoints.

Roughly 70 years ago, Justice William O. Douglas accepted a prestigious award with a speech entitled “The One Un-American Act,” about the greatest threat to a free nation. He warned that the restriction of free speech “is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” The measures being discussed in Congress have the potential to defeat us all. It is surprisingly easy to convince a free people to give up their freedoms, and exceedingly difficult to regain those freedoms once they are lost.

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Don’t hold your breath.

Durham Steps Down As US Attorney, Remains In Charge Of Russia Probe (JTN)

John Durham, a decorated career prosecutor, announced Friday he is stepping down at the end of the month as a U.S. attorney in Connecticut but will continue as special prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia collusion probe that dogged the early Trump presidency. Durham’s announcement, which was widely expected as part of the transition inside the Biden Justice Department, allows him to focus on wrapping up the Russia investigation from Washington DC where the probe has been ongoing since 2019. “My career has been as fulfilling as I could ever have imagined when I graduated from law school way back in 1975,” Durham said. “Much of that fulfillment has come from all the people with whom I’ve been blessed to share this workplace, and in our partner law enforcement agencies.


“My love and respect for this Office and the vitally important work done here have never diminished.” Durham will be succeeded in Connecticut in the interim by his deputy Leonard Boyle. Durham’s special counsel probe is focused on whether the FBI inappropriately opened an investigation into the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 or committed any criminal acts by continuing the investigation and seeking FISA warrants that contained inaccurate or omitted information. He has secured one criminal conviction of the former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for doctoring evidence submitted to the FISA court. And in December, the Justice Department signaled Durham’s investigation had found further criminal activity, upgrading him to the position of special counsel.

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Jan 312021
 
 January 31, 2021  Posted by at 10:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  37 Responses »


Tamara de Lempicka The refugees 1937

 

Reddit Preparing To Unleash “World’s Biggest Short Squeeze” In Silver (ZH)
Bitcoin Could Be About To Become The New GameStop (F.)
Just 0.04% Of Israelis Caught COVID19 After 2 Shots Of Pfizer Vaccine (JPost)
‘Get to Zero’ or Face Catastrophe (Tyee)
Germany Threatens Legal Action Over Vaccine Delivery Delays (G.)
Mighty Amazon Looks All But Unassailable As Covid Continues (O.)
Navalny Scam Sells Empty Concrete Shell As ‘Putin’s Luxurious Palace’ (MoA)
Trump’s Top Impeachment Lawyer Has Left His Team (Pol.)
Ohio Lawmakers Want To Mark Trump’s Birthday As ‘Donald J. Trump Day’ (JTN)
The Secret Social Network Of Trees (SMH)

 

 

 

 

Most infections are among the youngest. That doesn’t sound good.

 

 

Long John Silver.

Reddit Preparing To Unleash “World’s Biggest Short Squeeze” In Silver (ZH)

While all eyes have been focused on GameStop and a handful of other heavily-shorted stocks as they exploded higher under continuous fire from WallStreetBets traders igniting a short-squeeze coinciding with a gamma-squeeze, the last few days saw another asset suddenly get in the crosshairs of the ‘Reddit-Raiders’ – Silver. On Thursday, we asked “Is The Reddit Rebellion About To Descend On The Precious Metals Market?” … One WallStreetBets user (jjalj30) posted the following last night: “Silver Bullion Market is one of the most manipulated on earth. Any short squeeze in silver paper shorts would be EPIC. We know billion banks are manipulating gold and silver to cover real inflation. Both the industrial case and monetary case, debt printing has never been more favorable for the No. 1 inflation hedge Silver.

Inflation adjusted Silver should be at 1000$ instead of 25$. Link to post removed by mods. Why not squeeze $SLV to real physical price. Think about the Gainz. If you don’t care about the gains, think about the banks like JP MORGAN you’d be destroying along the way. Tldr- Corner the market. GV thinks its possible to squeeze $SLV, FUCK AFTER SEEING $AG AND $GME EVEN I THINK WE CAN DO IT. BUY $SLV GO ALL IN TH GAINZ WILL BE UNLIMITED. DEMAND PHYSICAL IF YOU CAN. FUCK THE BANKS. Disclaimer: This is not Financial advice. I am not a financial services professional. This is my personal opinion and speculation as an uneducated and uninformed person.”

…and judging by the unprecedented flows into the Silver ETF (SLV) they just got started… SLV saw inflows of almost one billion dollars on Friday, almost double the previous record inflow for this 15 year-old ETF.

 

 

Rainman Sacks
https://twitter.com/i/status/1355368285592715265

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There are more candidates.

Bitcoin Could Be About To Become The New GameStop (F.)

Bitcoin has surged this week, climbing after Tesla TSLA -5% chief executive Elon Musk gave the cryptocurrency a tacit endorsement. Musk sent the bitcoin price sharply higher as a long-running battle between bullish retail traders organised via Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum and Wall Street hedge funds that have long been shorting GameStop shares reached its climax—with regulators and brokerages trying to calm frantic markets with heavy-handed restrictions. Now, data has revealed hedge funds are short bitcoin to the tune of more than $1 billion, even as retail traders pile into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Hedge funds have been increasing their bitcoin short positions—effectively bets that the price of an asset will fall—since the bitcoin price began climbing in October, data from crypto news and analysis company The Block showed.

The net short position in bitcoin futures is now the biggest it has ever been, according to the CFTC’s latest Traders in Financial Futures report. The bitcoin price has soared around 200% since October, surging to over $40,000 per bitcoin before falling back slightly. The blistering bitcoin rally has largely been put down to institutional investors warming to the cryptocurrency and payments giants such as PayPal adding their support—though bubble fears have emerged. As hedge funds increasingly bet against the bitcoin price, to some extent covering their long positions, retail traders empowered by apps and bored by lockdowns are speculating on bitcoin and everything else.

“Being stuck at home due to pandemic lockdowns and restrictions seems to have spurred an influx of day traders,” Frédérique Carrier, head of investment strategy at RBC Wealth Management, wrote in a note. “Investor attitudes are being shaped by the headline-making gains of some high-profile issues. For example, the 35% gain made by bitcoin in the first nine days of 2021, on the heels of a fivefold surge in price from March to December 2020; or the more-than-sixfold increase in GameStop shares in less than two weeks to January 26; or even Tesla, now the fifth-largest stock in the S&P 500 by market capitalisation, with a market cap larger than that of the major U.S., European, and Japanese automakers combined.”

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Encouraging, but too early to draw conclusions.

Just 0.04% Of Israelis Caught COVID19 After 2 Shots Of Pfizer Vaccine (JPost)

A total of 371 out of 715,425 Israelis who passed at least a week after receiving two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have contracted the virus – 0.04%, with 16 being sent to the hospital – according to a Health Ministry report released on Thursday. Immunity to COVID-19 is supposed to kick in a week after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. According to the studies conducted by Pfizer, the vaccine had an efficacy of about 95%, which is considered very high. The Israeli data appear to confirm the inoculation’s effectiveness, showing an even more promising result.

Later in the day, Maccabi Healthcare Services – one of the country’s four health maintenance organizations – released the first results of the vaccination campaign of its members, with the organization also comparing the data to a control group that did not get inoculated. Some 248,000 Maccabi members were already a week after the second shot as of Thursday. Of those, just 66 got infected with the virus, the majority of them over the age of 55 and about half of them with preexisting conditions. All those infected experienced only a mild form of the disease, and none were hospitalized.

Over the same period of time, some 8,250 new cases of COVID-19 emerged in the control group of some 900,000 people having a diverse health profile. Those who were not inoculated were therefore 11 times more likely to get the disease than those who were immunized, showing 92% effectiveness. “The fact that seven to 18 days after receiving the second dose the vaccine shows a 92% efficacy is very encouraging data,” according to Dr. Anat Aka Zohar, head of Maccabi’s Information and Digital Health Division. “We will continue to monitor the situation to see if the number increases and reaches the 95% demonstrated during the Pfizer study.”

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“We pretended we could live with this virus and that vaccines would save the day. We were wrong. Dead wrong.”

‘Get to Zero’ or Face Catastrophe (Tyee)

Are you tired of COVID? I fucking am. But as a longtime science writer and the author of two books on pandemics, I have to report what you probably don’t want to hear. We have entered the grimmest phase of this pandemic. And contrary to what our politicians say, there is only one way to deal with a rapidly mutating virus that demonstrates the real power of exponential growth: Go hard. Act early. And go to zero. Last January, one strain of this novel virus began its assured global conquest, and since then our leaders have hardly learned a goddamn thing. So yes, I am angry, and I will not disguise my frustration with comfortable or polite language. In the last three months, several super-variants have emerged that are 30 to 70 per cent more infectious than the original Wuhan strain.

The old COVID-19 doubled its numbers every 40 days under a particular set of restrictions; under the same conditions, the variants double every 10 days. That means they can outrun any vaccination campaign.* That means if you haven’t eliminated — or almost eliminated — cases in your region, you are going to learn the meaning of grief. These highly-contagious variants have emerged in jurisdictions with high infection rates: the U.K., Brazil, South Africa and California. They became global tourists months ago, before you read about them. Meanwhile, governments still do not understand the threat at hand. To illustrate it, British mathematician Adam Kucharski recently compared a virus mutation that was 50 per cent more deadly with one that increased transmission by 50 per cent.

With a reproduction rate of about 1.1 and a death rate of 0.8 per cent, current strains of COVID-19 now deliver 129 deaths per 10,000 infections. A virus that is 50 per cent more lethal will kill 193 people in a month. A variant that is more transmissible wins the game with 978 deaths in just one month. The virus is finding its optimal configuration, its ideal form for contagiousness. And you thought this was over? Now don’t think of these variants as the same old COVID-19. That’s a big mistake. They actually represent an entirely new pandemic. In this new maelstrom, this complex coronavirus is just getting warmed up. It has the potential to become even more infectious than the current variants. We allowed this to happen by not taking the measures needed to go to zero, doing whatever was needed to eliminate COVID-19 in our province or country. We pretended we could live with this virus and that vaccines would save the day. We were wrong. Dead wrong.

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This feels like the wrong fight.

Germany Threatens Legal Action Over Vaccine Delivery Delays (G.)

In case you missed this earlier: Germany’s government on Sunday threatened legal action against laboratories failing to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the European Union on schedule, amid tension over delays to deliveries from AstraZeneca, AFP reports.“If it turns out that companies have not respected their obligations, we will have to decide the legal consequences,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told German daily Die Welt. There has been growing tension in recent weeks between European leaders and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which has fallen behind on promised delivers of its Covid-19 vaccine.The company said it could now deliver only a quarter of the doses originally promised to the bloc for the first quarter of the year because of problems at one of its European factories.


Brussels has implicitly accused AstraZeneca of giving preferential treatment to Britain at the expense of the EU.The EU briefly threatened to restrict vaccine exports to Northern Ireland by overriding part of the Brexit deal with Britain that allowed the free flow of goods over the Irish border. It backed down after British prime minister Boris Johnson voiced “grave concerns”. AstraZeneca is not the only drugs company in the firing line. Last week Italy threatened legal action against US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer over delays. Top German officials are due to meet with the drugs manufacturers to thrash out the problems.On Friday the European Medicines Agency cleared the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca for use inside the EU, the third Covid vaccine it has approved after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

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There goes small business.

Mighty Amazon Looks All But Unassailable As Covid Continues (O.)

The earliest references to the “one-stop shop” emerged during the first decades of 20th century as the fast-growing US economy spurred rapid retail innovation. A single location for various products provides obvious benefits: removing the hassle of travelling around town to visit different stores. Jeff Bezos redefined that logic for the internet age, making Amazon a dominant (and perhaps ambivalent) force first in selling books, and then in pretty much everything else. Before 2020 Amazon was a phenomenon, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it all but ubiquitous. The numbers in its financial results for the last three months of 2020, to be published on Tuesday, will be even bigger than Amazon’s earlier instalments in the first pandemic year.


Christmas and Thanksgiving always make the final quarter of the year the strongest for Amazon. Christmas 2020 will mainly be remembered for locked-down celebrations, but analysts predict that it will also mark the first time Amazon’s revenue surpasses $100bn in one quarter. In fact, consensus estimates collated by S&P Global Market Intelligence are forecasting sales of about $120bn – 37% up on the same period in 2019. Profits before tax are pegged at $4.4bn – shy of the record $6.8bn it made in the three months to September, but higher than any single quarter before the pandemic. It was only in 2016 that single-quarter profits topped $1bn, but that’s because the Bezos strategy is to invest spare cash in relentless, ruthless expansion and innovation, so that rivals cannot creep up on it.

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The story has been sold since 2010. CIA.

Navalny Scam Sells Empty Concrete Shell As ‘Putin’s Luxurious Palace’ (MoA)

In 2010 some minor Russian businessman, Sergei Kolesnikov, who had pissed off people above his pay grade, resettled from Russia to Estonia. To make himself interesting, and likely to get financial support, he made up a story. David Ignatius, the CIA’s resident writer at the Washington Post, picked it up: You can see the sprawling, Italian-style palace on the Black Sea in satellite photos. There’s a fitness spa, a hideaway “tea house,” a concert amphitheater and a pad for three helicopters. It’s still under construction, but already the cost is said to total more than $1 billion. And most amazing of all, according to a Russian whistleblower named Sergey Kolesnikov, it was predominantly paid for with money donated by Russian businessmen for the use of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The funds have come “mainly through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft,” charges Kolesnikov, a businessman who until November 2009 worked for one of the companies he alleges was investing money for Putin. In 2012 BBC Newsnight again picked up the story and made it into a nine minutes long anti-Putin segment. Putin’s Palace? A Mystery Black Sea Mansion Fit For A Tsar “On a thickly wooded mountainside overlooking Russia’s Black Sea coast, an extraordinary building has gradually taken shape. It is alleged to be a palace built for the personal use of Vladimir Putin, with massive and illegal use of state funds. Originally conceived, it is said, as a modest holiday house with a swimming pool, it now boasts a magnificent columned facade reminiscent of the country palaces Russian tsars built in the 18th Century. The massive wrought-iron gates into the courtyard are topped with a golden imperial eagle. Outside are formal gardens, a private theatre, a landing pad with bays for three helicopters, and accommodation for security guards.”

At the end of 2020 the ‘Putin’s palace’ story was recycled to promote the rightwing Russian nationalist and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny. Navalny was at that time in Germany’s Black Forrest area where he recovered from an alleged poisoning. A studio was needed to produce a video about the ‘palace’. A German producer couple who had recently opened a TV-studio received a request. As the German daily Badische Zeitung reported (my translation): “Early December a request arrived via email from a U.S. production company in Los Angeles. There was talk of a documentation. It was looking for adequate locations, people and equipment in southern Germany. The German producers did not know the company, even though they have good contacts in L.A., but the request made a very professional impression.

The studio was rented to create the ‘palace’ material for the Navalny campaign. “The studio was actually only rented for just under a week, but the filmmakers liked the location with its atmosphere and the cinematic possibilities so much that the shooting was extended to a total of two weeks and parts of the 20-person international crew from Berlin, where actually a last shoot was planned before the flight to Moscow came to Kirchzarten.” On January 17 Navalny flew back to Russia and was immediately arrested for having violated his probation in a case where he had been sentenced for funneling a company’s money into his own pockets. On January 19 Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign FBK uploaded a two hour long polemic in which Navalny repeats the decade old claim that there is a palace at the Black Sea that is actually owned by Putin. But none of the many documents he provides proves that Putin is in any way involved in the project.

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Trump and his lawyers. A sordid tale all around.

Trump’s Top Impeachment Lawyer Has Left His Team (Pol.)

Former President Donald Trump has lost his top impeachment lawyer just days before his trial is to begin, a person familiar with his legal strategy and two attorneys close to the team confirmed on Saturday night. Butch Bowers, a South Carolina lawyer who was reportedly set to play a major role in the Senate’s trial of the former president, is now no longer with the team. Deborah Barbier, another South Carolina lawyer, won’t be either. The person described it as a “mutual decision” and said new names will be announced shortly. In addition, CNN reported on Saturday night that a third member of Trump’s prospective legal team, Josh Howard, was also leaving. The network reported that the ex-president had wanted his lawyers to focus on erroneous arguments of mass election fraud rather than the constitutionality of impeaching an ex-president.

The decision by Bowers, Barbier, and Howard to not join the team raised immediate questions, both about what compelled them to part ways and who actually will play the role of lawyer to Trump when the impeachment trial starts in early February. Trump has had difficulty finding legal help for his second impeachment, with some of the lawyers who worked on his first trial saying they wouldn’t do the same this go around. Bowers’ hiring was first announced by Trump ally and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. A longtime Republican attorney, Bowers represented former South Carolina Govs. Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley, and had experience in election law.

News outlets in South Carolina also named trial attorneys Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser as part of Trump’s impeachment team, although aides to Trump never officially confirmed who would be representing the former president. Trump’s first legal filing in the impeachment trial is due this coming Tuesday. In a statement, Trump spokesperson Jason Miller did not address the uncertainty around the legal team but, rather, railed against impeachment itself, noting that the vast majority of Senate Republicans voted that convicting a former president is an unconstitutional act — a conclusion with which legal scholars disagree.

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What do you mean Not The Onion?

Ohio Lawmakers Want To Mark Trump’s Birthday As ‘Donald J. Trump Day’ (JTN)

Two Ohio lawmakers are reportedly seeking support from their fellow legislators to mark former President Donald Trump’s birthday in that state as “President Donald J. Trump Day.” State Reps. Reggie Stoltzfus and Jon Cross reached out to lawmakers in the Ohio House on Friday, asking them to “recognize the accomplishments of [Trump’s] administration, and [show] that the Ohio House believes it is imperative we set aside a day to celebrate one of the greatest presidents in American history.” The lawmakers are seeking to designate June 14, Trump’s birthday, as the holiday in question. The news was first reported in the Ohio Capitol Journal, which said it obtained the co-sponsor request sent by Stoltzfus and Cross. In addition to being Trump’s birthday, the United States also marks June 14 as Flag Day, commemorating the date in 1777 on which the Continental Congress officially adopted the flag of the United States.

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Wonderful.

The Secret Social Network Of Trees (SMH)

By the time she was in grad school at Oregon State University, however, Simard understood that commercial clear-cutting had largely superseded the sustainable logging practices of the past. Loggers were replacing diverse forests with homogeneous plantations, evenly spaced in upturned soil stripped of most underbrush. Without any competitors, the thinking went, the newly planted trees would thrive. Instead, they were frequently more vulnerable to disease and climatic stress than trees in old-growth forests. In particular, Simard noticed that up to 10 per cent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear.

The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail? Simard suspected the answer was buried in the soil. Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizae: threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis. Research had demonstrated that mycorrhizae also connected plants to one another and that these associations might be ecologically important, but most scientists had studied them in greenhouses and laboratories, not in the wild.

For her doctoral thesis, Simard decided to investigate fungal links between Douglas fir and paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Apart from her supervisor, she didn’t receive much encouragement from her mostly male peers. “The old foresters were like, “Why don t you just study growth and yield? ” Simard told me. “I was more interested in how these plants interact. They thought it was all very girlie.” Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned long-standing misconceptions about forest ecosystems.

By analysing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbours.

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Jan 152021
 
 January 15, 2021  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


Salvador Dalí Living still life 1956

 

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)
Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)
After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)
Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)
Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)
Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)
Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)
Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)
Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)
Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)
Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)
ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)
Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

 

 

I can’t unsee this picture. This is not the only one that has the same angle. The photographer knew what he was doing, and moved till he had it just right.

 

 

 

 

Special Russiagate Counsel needed.

Trump Declassifying Trove Of FBI Memos Exposing Steele’s Motivations (JTN)

Delivering in his final days on one of his last unfulfilled promises, President Trump is declassifying a massive trove of FBI documents showing the Russia collusion story was leaked in the final weeks of the 2016 election in an effort to counteract Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. The memos to be released as early as Friday include FBI interviews and human source evaluation reports for two of the main informants in the Russia case, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and academic Stefan Halper. The president authorized the release of a foot-high stack of internal FBI and DOJ documents that detail significant flaws in the investigation and provide a detailed timeline of when the FBI first realized the Steele dossier was problematic, multiple government officials told Just the News.

Among the bombshell revelations is an admission by Steele that he violated his confidential human source agreement with the FBI and leaked information from his dossier to the news media in the final weeks of the election because he wanted to counteract new revelations in the Hillary Clinton email scandal that were hurting her election efforts. The former foreign intelligence officer made the confession in a fall 2017 interview with agents. Steele, who was hired by Clinton’s campaign law firm to compile anti-Trump dossiers attempting to link Trump to Russian influence, told agents he had two clients at the time — Clinton and the FBI — and chose the interests of the Democratic candidate over the bureau in leaking.

Steele told the bureau that then-FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email probe in fall 2016 triggered him to leak his dossier details in what he described as a taking-the-gloves-off moment. The FBI interview summary makes clear that Steele, a British citizen, was allegiant to Clinton, did not like Trump and believed a Trump presidency would be negative for his homeland and thus made a decision to meddle in the U.S. election by leaking information to the news media. The leaks, which led to Steele’s termination as an FBI informant, have been known for more than a year, but his motivation for leaking was hidden in the classified documents. His admission that the Russia collusion narrative, later debunked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was injected into the public as a means of counteracting Clinton’s email scandal corroborates other information obtained by the CIA.

The soon-to-be-released records also expose a tantalizing connection between Steele, his primary source and one of the Democrats’ key impeachment witnesses in the Ukraine scandal, former Trump National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill. Steele divulged to the FBI that he was introduced by Hill to his primary sub-source of information for his anti-Trump dossier and that he later told Hill that the source had provided information for his now infamous memos. [..] The documents also will settle a long-debated question in Washington about whether the FBI’s tactics amounted to spying on the Trump campaign. Tasking instructions the FBI gave to Halper, an academic who long worked as an FBI informant, make clear he was instructed to infiltrate the Trump campaign by posing as someone who wanted to work for the GOP nominee and then targeting campaign advisers to find out what they knew about Trump or his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Solomon

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“These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years.”

Trump Declassifies ‘Foot-High’ Stack Of Russiagate, Obamagate Documents (ZH)

President Trump has declassified and authorized the release of “more than a foot-high stack of documents” related to the Obama administration’s surveillance and espionage committed against the 2016 Trump campaign, as part of a larger campaign to discredit and undermine the incoming US president. According to journalist and Trump insider John Solomon, the documents would be released as soon as Friday, but no later than Monday. “He has delivered in a big way. More than a foot-high stack of documents he has authorized to be released by the FBI and the DOJ. These are the things that the FBI has tried to keep from the public for 4 years. They have amazing, big picture revelations,” Solomon told Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” According to Solomon’s website, Just The News, the release will support claims that the entire Russia narrative was created and leaked to the news media to upstage concerns over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.

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Dorsey and Zuckerberg have hugely overestimated their powers. Their investors will be very unhappy.

After Trump Bans, Facebook, Twitter See Combined $51 Billion In Losses (JTN)

Facebook and Twitter have lost a combined $51 billion in market cap following their bans of President Donald Trump last week as investors balked at the tech giants’ surprise censorship of Trump roughly two weeks before his term was set to end. Facebook bore the overwhelming brunt of the market plunge, according to Business Insider, seeing gargantuan losses of $47.6 billion following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Trump would remain suspended from the social media platform “indefinitely,” until at least after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.


Twitter, meanwhile, saw its market cap plunge by $3.5 billion after it permanently suspended Trump from its servers due to claims that the president was inciting violence among his supporters with his posts. In the week since the bans were announced, users have reportedly been flocking to alternative social media sites, ones that have touted a commitment to censorship-free services in contrast to the heavier hands of the mainstream social media platforms.

@jack Veritas

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People will contend this is just the Mexican president, and AP even tries to paint him off as a Trump sympathizer. But this is a global issue. Twitter and Facebook will soon be subject to strong regulations, or they will be banned from many countries.

“..the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law.”

Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans (AP)

Mexico’s president vowed Thursday to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration is reaching out to other government to form a common front on the issue. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” he asked. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico is starting to build an international campaign around the issue.


“Given that Mexico, through our president, has spoken out, we immediately made contact with others who think the same,” Ebrard said, noting they had heard from officials in France, Germany, the European Union, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. “The president’s orders are to make contact with all of them, share this concern and work on coming up with a joint proposal,” Ebrard said. “We will see what is proposed.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those who have publicly criticized the action against Trump. Her spokesman said Monday the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, later called for new regulations that would govern the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the European Union.

Tucker @jack

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“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland..”

Poland Plans To Make Censoring Of Social Media Accounts Illegal (G.)

Polish government officials have denounced the deactivation of Donald Trump’s social media accounts, and said a draft law being readied in Poland will make it illegal for tech companies to take similar actions there. “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not,” wrote the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, on Facebook earlier this week, without directly mentioning Trump. “There can be no consent to censorship.” Morawiecki indirectly compared social media companies taking decisions to remove accounts with Poland’s experience during the communist era. “Censorship of free speech, which is the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now returning in the form of a new, commercial mechanism to combat those who think differently,” he wrote.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is ideologically aligned with Trump on many issues, has itself been accused of trying to limit freedom of speech in recent years. Some of its members have made a habit of posting anti-LGBT or anti-refugee rhetoric. However, government officials have long claimed that people with rightwing views in Poland and abroad have been the victims of biased decisions by international tech companies. Sebastian Kaleta, secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of Justice, said Facebook’s decision to remove Trump’s account was hypocritical, politically motivated and “amounts to censorship”. He said the draft law prepared by the justice ministry would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that did not break Polish law.

“Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland,” Kaleta told Rzeczpospolita newspaper. In recent years, Facebook has moved to block content from far-right Polish organisations and politicians on numerous occasions. The MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, aligned with the Konfederacja party, was in November shut out of his account, which had 780,000 followers, for what Facebook called repeated violations of community standards. Korwin-Mikke accused Facebook of being run by “fascists and Bolsheviks”.

Under the provisions of the Polish draft law, users would be able to file a court petition to force social media companies to restore removed content if they believed it did not violate Polish law. The court would rule within seven days and the process would be fully electronic. Morawiecki called on the EU to introduce similar regulations. Other European politicians, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, have also expressed unease at the ban on Trump by various social media outlets, and a new EU proposal, the Digital Services Act, envisions tougher regulations on tech companies, including tough fines for failure to block illegal content.

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Just an experiment…

Google Refuses To Answer Questions About Removing Australian News Sites (G.)

Google has refused to answer questions on its secret trial of removing news sites from search results in Australia, with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, saying the company should focus on paying for news, not blocking it. Google blindsided news consumers and media outlets this week with a trial that removed Australian media outlets such as the ABC, Nine, the Guardian and others from its search results. Users were not informed of the change, or advised how to find news articles when searching, with some reporting they initially believed it was an issue only affecting them.


People affected by the trial can get around the block by searching in a private browser window, such as in incognito mode in Google Chrome. The move by Google came as a Senate committee is reviewing legislation that would force Google and Facebook to negotiate with Australian news media companies for a fair price for displaying local news content. Google has argued strongly against the code since it was first announced last year, by alerting users to the proposed changes in search and in Google Chrome.

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Joe Lauria goes through the law chapter by chapter. Excellent read.

Trump Impeached Amid Efforts to Silence Him (Lauria)

The Congressional Republicans who challenged the electoral college results last Wednesday are guilty of one transgression: wasting Congress’ time. There was no way the electoral college votes would be overturned. However those Republicans were completely within their rights to challenge the results and spur debate and a vote in both chambers. To suggest that that Constitutional right constituted incitement or support for the riot is extraordinary overreach. There have been Democratic calls for these Republicans to be unseated and even investigated for possible prosecution. During the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler said the rioters’ “accomplices in this House will be held to account.” Numerous corporate donors have said they will no longer contribute to these Republicans’ campaigns.

There is even wild speculation by some Democrats that some Republican members gave Capitol “reconnaissance” tours to the rioters the night before. The New York Times posted photos of all Republican members who challenged the electoral college votes as if they were on a wanted poster. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan in the impeachment debate pointed out that more Democrats in Congress objected to more states’ electoral college results in 2017’s certification than had Republicans last Wednesday. A Republican member responded that Hillary Clinton had conceded, unlike Trump, and that the objections were based on “Russian interference” in that election. He accused the Republicans, with a straight face, of engaging in “conspiracy theories” about a stolen 2020 election.

Such Democratic hypocrisy was underscored on 60 Minutes Sunday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous.” But is he any more “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous” than Democrats who joined Republicans to vote in 2003 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to the United States? How would one describe Pelosi’s response in 2019 when asked why she opposed impeaching George W. Bush for that invasion, a crime of “aggression,” the worst war crime according to the Nuremberg Tribunal? Because of that invasion Bush was still a far worse and more dangerous president than even Trump.

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“..the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.”

Impeachment Is More Dangerous Than Trump (Tracey)

The most apt parallel for the second impeachment of Donald Trump may not be any other of the three previous presidential impeachments, including his own just over a year ago. It may instead be the PATRIOT Act, which was passed in the heated emotional aftermath of the September 11 attacks, with negligible debate afforded to the long-term implications of what Congress was enacting. Reason and deliberation had given way to a collective desire for security and revenge, and thus the most sweeping curtailment of civil liberties in the modern historical record was approved. Those who departed from the swiftly assembled consensus could expect to be denounced as sympathisers to terrorists.

Likewise, if you deign to raise concerns about the implications of this sudden impeachment sequel — or any of the other extraordinary actions taken in the past week, such as an ongoing corporate censorship purge of unprecedented proportions — you can expect to be accused of defending or supporting the “domestic terrorists” who carried out the mob attack on the Capitol. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, rationalised rushing through Wednesday’s impeachment resolution at spell-binding speed — by far the fastest impeachment process ever — on the grounds that Trump posed a “clear and present danger” to the country, and needed to be removed immediately. “Imminent threats” of various stripes also have a long history of being cited to justify sweeping emergency action, such as the invasion of Iraq. Often upon further inspection, the purported “threat” turns out to have been not so “imminent”, or in fact to have never existed at all.

But as rushed as the impeachment was, if the purported emergency conditions were truly so dire as Pelosi maintained, she could have theoretically summoned the House to convene the day after the mob attack and impeach Trump right away. Congress convened the very next day after the attack on Pearl Harbor to declare war on Japan, for example. Instead, Pelosi waited a full week, and gave everyone the weekend off in the interim. Trump, alleged to be in the process of orchestrating a violent “coup”, was allowed to remain in office unimpeded with access to the nuclear codes for seven days. Nonetheless, with a total of two hours of perfunctory debate — and no hearings, fact-finding or meditation on the relevant Constitutional Law considerations — Trump was impeached for the second time. As such, the text of the impeachment article will now be permanently embedded in the fabric of American governance.

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Both sides say Jake Sullivan belongs to the other side.

Liberal Activist Arrested, Charged With Participating In Capitol Riot (JTN)

A progressive activist has been arrested and charged with participating in last week’s U.S. Capitol riot a week after he uploaded footage of the event to YouTube. Utah resident and anti-Trump activist John Sullivan told Just the News last week that he had been present at the riot, including inside the Capitol, “specifically [as] a journalist, just to record the events that were going down.” Yet FBI agent Matthew Foulger alleged in an affidavit on Wednesday that, rather than merely act as a journalist during the riots, Sullivan “knowingly and willfully joined a crowd of individuals who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted, and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.”


Foulger in the affidavit said that footage taken by Sullivan at the riot shows the activist accompanying and cheering on the rioting crowd by saying things such as “Let’s go. This shit is ours!” and “Let’s burn this shit down.” Sullivan has been arrested and charged pursuant to the incident, Salt Lake City station Fox 13 reported on Thursday evening. The station said the activist has been charged with “rioting and criminal mischief.”

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The details are terrible, the language is terribly polite.

“Corporate nominees are insulting against the backdrop of complete economic destruction that Americans are grappling with in the pandemic.”

Biden’s Cabinet Picks Are A Missed Opportunity For Change (USAT)

As the 2020 Democratic primaries were heating up last year, then-candidate Joe Biden assured his wealthy campaign donors in Manhattan that “nothing would fundamentally change” for their luxurious standard of living under his presidency. Based on the majority of his Cabinet picks, he wasn’t kidding. Biden will maintain a cozy relationship with corporate America by lubricating the hinges of the ever revolving door of politics. Take Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of State, as an example. In 2017, Blinken transitioned out of the Obama administration and founded a consulting firm called WestExec Advisors. The majority of its staffers — 21 out of 38 — personally donated to Biden’s campaign. WestExec co-founder Michele Flournoy alone raised more than $100,000 for the former vice president.

Was Blinken chosen for the job because he’s best suited, or is Biden trading favors based on campaign fundraisers and donations? Sure, Blinken and Biden have worked together in the past, and that could have factored into his decision. But aside from the transparent “favor for a favor” deal-making taking place in plain sight, Blinken’s opaque work at WestExec Advisors could be rife with conflicts of interest. The firm’s website boasts about selling influence to the White House by stating that its name “is derived from ‘West Executive Avenue,’ the closed street that runs between the West Wing of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It is, quite literally, the road to the Situation Room, and it is the road everyone associated with WestExec Advisors has crossed many times en route to meetings of the highest national security consequences.”

While it’s clear that this consulting firm’s services mostly revolve around helping corporate clients and defense contractors win favorable government treatment, little is known about its client list because its staffers aren’t considered lobbyists. They’re labeled strategic advisers, which means they don’t have to disclose whom they’re working for. As The Intercept noted, the Biden team is squandering an opportunity for reform by sticking to conventional nominees like Avril Haines for director of national intelligence. While serving in the CIA under the Obama administration, Haines was an architect of the disastrous drone program that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Later, Haines worked as a consultant for WestExec Advisors and Palantir — a controversial data mining firm that has provided the Trump administration intel to perform mass deportations.

Janet Yellen, who has been tapped to serve as Treasury secretary, is another example. When Politico reported that Yellen made $7.2 million in the past two years for giving closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms, Biden supporters brushed it off as nothing more than a misogynistic attack. However, there should be an overwhelming consensus that Americans deserve to know about any lucrative ties politicians and government officials have to bankers and hedge funds.

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By now I think she may be out.

Will the Senate Confirm Coup Plotter Victoria Nuland? (Benjamin)

Who is Victoria Nuland? Most Americans have never heard of her because the U.S. corporate media’s foreign policy coverage is a wasteland. Most Americans have no idea that President-elect Biden’s pick for Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs is stuck in the quicksand of 1950s U.S.-Russia Cold War politics and dreams of continued NATO expansion, an arms race on steroids and further encirclement of Russia. Nor do they know that from 2003-2005, during the hostile U.S. military occupation of Iraq, Nuland was a foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney, the Darth Vader of the Bush administration. You can bet, however, that the people of Ukraine have heard of neocon Nuland. Many have even heard the leaked four-minute audio of her saying “Fuck the EU” during a 2014 phone call with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

During the infamous call on which Nuland and Pyatt plotted to replace the elected Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, Nuland expressed her not-so-diplomatic disgust with the European Union for grooming former heavyweight boxer and austerity champ Vitali Klitschko instead of U.S. puppet and NATO booklicker Artseniy Yatseniuk to replace Russia-friendly Yanukovych. The “Fuck the EU” call went viral, as an embarrassed State Department, never denying the call’s authenticity, blamed the Russians for tapping the phone, much as the NSA has tapped the phones of European allies. Despite outrage from German Chancellor Angela Markel, no one fired Nuland, but her potty mouth upstaged the more serious story: the U.S. plot to overthrow Ukraine’s elected government and America’s responsibility for a civil war that has killed at least 13,000 people and left Ukraine the poorest country in Europe.

In the process, Nuland, her husband Robert Kagan, the co-founder of The Project for a New American Century, and their neocon cronies succeeded in sending U.S.-Russian relations into a dangerous downward spiral from which they have yet to recover. Nuland accomplished this from a relatively junior position as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. How much more trouble could she stir up as the #3 official at Biden’s State Department? We’ll find out soon enough, if the Senate confirms her nomination.

Joe Biden should have learned from Obama’s mistakes that appointments like this matter. In his first term, Obama allowed his hawkish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and military and CIA leaders held over from the Bush administration to ensure that endless war trumped his message of hope and change. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, ended up presiding over indefinite detentions without charges or trials at Guantanamo Bay; an escalation of drone strikes that killed innocent civilians; a deepening of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; a self-reinforcing cycle of terrorism and counterterrorism; and disastrous new wars in Libya and Syria.

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Central banks will demand control.

ECB’s Lagarde Calls For Regulating Bitcoin’s “Funny Business” (R.)

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde called on Wednesday for global regulation of Bitcoin, saying the digital currency had been used for money laundering activities in some instances and that any loopholes needed to be closed. Bitcoin has come out of its niche in recent years and is now bought by ordinary people, investment funds and even large corporations. Some have even taken out loans to buy more of the cryptocurrency, whose value has increased almost tenfold since last March. But its largely anonymous nature has raised concerns that it could be used for money laundering and other illegal activities.


“(Bitcoin) is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity,” Lagarde said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. Lagarde did not provide specific examples of money laundering cases but said she understood there had been criminal investigations into illegal activity. She did not elaborate. The cryptocurrency sector is still mostly lightly overseen or unregulated, although global standards on areas such as anti-money laundering (AML) have emerged. She joined a number of regulators from across the world in calling for implementing global rules for cryptocurrencies.

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The WaPo tries more smear, but the story is 100% bogus, and they are forced to correct within hours. Meanwhile, it’s been gleefully quoted by a million outlets all over the globe.

This has been the MO for over 4 years now. Question: what can they do next? Turn on Biden? Where’s my clickbait?

Secret Service Barred From Using Ivanka Trump’s Bathrooms (G.)

The dying days of the Trump administration have been plagued by yet more scandal in the form of riots, Twitter bans and impeachment. Now the Washington Post has added another: water closet gate. In a multi-bylined article one of America’s top investigative news outlets has chronicled in leg-crossing detail the apparently extreme difficulty that the Secret Service detail assigned to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have had in finding a place to go to the bathroom. According to the Washington Post the president’s daughter and her top White House adviser spouse have apparently exiled the squad of men and women assigned to keep them from harm’s way from using the toilets in their sprawling Washington DC mansion.

“Instructed not to use any of the half-dozen bathrooms inside the couple’s house, the Secret Service detail assigned to President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law spent months searching for a reliable restroom to use on the job,” the paper reported, citing neighbors and law enforcement official. It quoted one law enforcement official as saying: “It’s the first time I ever heard of a Secret Service detail having to go to these extremes to find a bathroom.” It added that Secret Service members in the couple’s detail who were desperate to relieve themselves had resorted to a porta-potty, as well as bathrooms at the homes of Barack Obama and Vice-President Mike Pence.

The solution to the problem was not a cheap one. Since September 2017, the paper reported, the federal government rented the stricken Secret Service members a basement studio with a bathroom for the purposes of them going to the loo. The cost to taxpayers? Some $3,000 a month. A White House spokesperson denied the couple restricted agents from their home. But the Post stuck by its investigative guns, saying: “That account is disputed by a law enforcement official familiar with the situation, who said the agents were kept out at the family’s request.” The Post’s story is unlikely to endear Washington citizens – or indeed many other Americans – to Ivanka Trump and her husband as they leave office after four high-profile years in Donald Trump’s administration.

Read more …

 

 

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May 122020
 


Edward Hopper Night in the park 1921

 

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)
14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)
As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)
Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)
Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)
The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;
Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)
The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)
Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)
BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)
Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)
Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)
List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)
Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)
2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

 

 

• US registers less than 900 #coronavirus deaths in 24-hours for second day

• US records 830 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 80,352, according to Johns Hopkins University. The figure followed Sunday’s toll of 776, the lowest daily tally since March,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,273,104 (+ 72,174 from yesterday’s 4,200,957)

Deaths 287,621 (+ 3,471 from yesterday’s 284,150)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong [..] is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.”

Letter from Hong Kong to Covid Ravaged UK: What On Earth Are You Doing? (HKFP)

Five years ago I passed a landmark of no significance to anyone else but me: I had spent more than half of my life in Hong Kong. But I still wish you well. [..] And I need to ask, from one crowded island to another, what the hell have you been getting up to. My Facebook feed is bulging with lockdown stories. And it is horrifying to read the news that total deaths from Covid 19 in your place have passed, at the time of writing, 30,000. It seemed to me entirely irrelevant that, the week before, the total casualty toll had passed the tally of British Army deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. When two highly industrialised nations put hundreds of thousands of young men in a field with instructions to kill each other you expect the blood to flow.

But we are all, give or take a few civil wars a safe distance away, at peace at the moment. And the excuse that this massacre is all inevitable, the result of a medical problem which nobody could have foreseen and for which there was no immediate remedy, doesn’t wash because the consequences have been so variable. I understand it is too early to say whether the UK will achieve the unwanted distinction of the highest death rate in Europe. But why is it even in the running for this title? At the moment the number of deaths in Hong Kong, whose government enjoys neither democratic legitimacy nor a reputation for unusual efficiency, is four. Not 4,000, not 400, not 40. Four, as in number of gospel writers.

This is in a territory with a land border to the mainland, where it all started. So we had less warning and more opportunities for imported infections. Taiwan and Thailand, similarly disadvantaged, have also managed strikingly low numbers, and Viet Nam claims to have no cases at all. [..] There is an interesting irony here, at least for the moment. It seems your government is not getting the blame it has richly earned. Ours, which has had a good epidemic so far, is not getting much credit. Partly, this is because of events in the year before the arrival of the new disease. Our Chief Executive has trodden in too many political cowpats to have a shot at the Hong Kong’s sweetheart title, whatever she does about viruses.

It is also partly because the government was propelled towards some precautions, like closing the border, by public agitation. But I think the main reason is because Hong Kong people, while they do not trust the words of their government, and still less those of the government over the boundary on the mainland, did not need to be persuaded to take the whole matter seriously. This made a big difference. Why so serious? We participated extensively in the SARS epidemic in 2003, still fresh in many memories. Indeed I imagine many households, like mine, still had a box of face masks which were tucked away when that epidemic subsided. Hygiene was already a thing.

In countries that have not seen a real epidemic since the Spanish flu in 1918 this awareness would of course be absent. But this is where, in a democratic society with a literate population and free media, public information should have come in. Instead governments dithered, at best, or denied there was a problem, at worst. I do not allow the defence that they were relying on scientific opinion. This is a contradiction in terms. Science, in its slow, tentative way, produces factual observations. The opinions of scientists about matters on which science has not yet determined the facts are not scientific. They are just opinions. You may think they are expert opinions, but expert opinions about the future (see the works of Philip Tetlock) are lamentably unreliable.

Read more …

I suggest we call this a test drive.

We can only wish the west would be as thorough. China understands Crush the Curve. It just took them a fateful 5-6 weeks too long to figure it out.

14 Million Wuhan Residents To Be Tested For COVID19 In 10 Days (SCMP)

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic coronavirus was first detected, have ordered fresh Covid-19 tests for all of its 14 million residents after a cluster of new community cases. The Wuhan Covid-19 Epidemic Prevention Headquarters ordered all districts in the city to come up with plans for a 10-day barrage of nucleic tests and submit the plans by noon on Tuesday. The tests should cover both permanent residents and mobile populations, and target residential estates and densely populated areas, the headquarters said in the orders. The unprecedented move came after reports on the weekend of six new coronavirus cases from the same residential compound, known as Sanmin.

The cases were the first in the city since its last local Covid-19 patient was reported on April 3. One Sanmin resident, an 89-year-old man, showed symptoms as early as March but was not confirmed as a coronavirus patient until Saturday. The confirmation prompted authorities to test around 5,000 people from the complex, uncovering five more cases. Zhang Yuxin, who had been serving as the Communist Party secretary in charge of the Sanmin area, was sacked for poor management, state media reported on Monday. A Chinese professor of epidemiology, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said large-scale testing was needed to prevent a new wave of infections.


“The new cases in Wuhan show there is a real risk of a second wave of potential transmission in the community by the asymptomatic carriers or mild symptoms. Covid-19 started with a few after all,” he said. “Tests on such a broad scale can help find these hidden carriers and eliminate that risk.”

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If so many people get infected in meat plants, there appears to be a serious hygiene problem right where your food comes from, and maybe the entire industry should be revised.

Q: what are the similarities between meat plants and care homes, other then they’re all virus clusters?

As US Meat Workers Fall Sick And Supplies Dwindle, Exports To China Soar (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered meat processing plants to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply even as workers got sick and died. Yet the plants have increasingly been exporting to China while U.S. consumers face shortages, a Reuters analysis of government data showed. Trump, who is in an acrimonious public dispute with Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act on April 28 to keep plants open. Now he is facing criticism from some lawmakers, consumers and plant employees for putting workers at risk in part to help ensure China’s meat supply.

Meat buyers in China ramped up imports from around the world as a pig disease decimated its herd, the world’s largest, and pushed Chinese pork prices to record highs. The supply shock drove China to pay more for U.S. meat than other countries, and even U.S. consumers, since late 2019. “We know that over time exports are critically important. I think we need to focus on meeting domestic demand at this point,” said Mike Naig, the agriculture secretary in the top U.S. pork-producing state of Iowa who supported Trump’s order. Processors including Smithfield Foods, owned by China’s WH Group Ltd, Brazilian-owned JBS USA and Tyson Foods Inc temporarily closed about 20 U.S. meat plants as the virus infected thousands of employees, prompting meatpackers and grocers to warn of shortages.


Some plants have resumed limited operations as workers afraid of getting sick stay home. The disruptions mean consumers could see 30% less meat in supermarkets by the end of May, at prices 20% higher than last year, according to Will Sawyer, lead economist at agricultural lender CoBank. While pork supplies tightened as the number of pigs slaughtered each day plunged by about 40% since mid-March, shipments of American pork to China more than quadrupled over the same period, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

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Makes me think of how the Japanese 500 years ago called westerners dirty pigs.

Mexican Border Town Uses ‘Sanitizing Tunnels’ To Disinfect US Visitors (G.)

Fears of foreigners bringing infectious disease into the country. Enhanced border checkpoints. And the use of disinfectant spray to sanitize human beings. These aren’t notes from one of Donald Trump’s freewheeling press conferences. The United States’ troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic is such that the Mexican border city of Nogales, Sonora, has set up “sanitizing tunnels” to disinfect people leaving the US through Nogales, Arizona. On the Mexican side of two major border crossings, drivers coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution.

Videos posted to social media by the municipal government of Nogales, Sonora, show people rotate under the vapor, stretch their arms and lean over to allow the disinfectant to reach their entire bodies. In a press release, the Nogales government states that the cleansing solution is biodegradable and protects from “any virus or bacteria, including Covid-19” for up to 24 hours. It adds that the tunnels “reduce the chances that a foreign citizen or citizen of this city who presents symptoms of the disease will infect other people on the Mexican side”.


The border city’s mayor has told Mexican news outlets that a majority of the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nogales, Sonora, had recently returned from the US. The Mexican border city plans to install five sanitizing tunnels to disinfect people arriving through its two main ports of entry from Nogales, Arizona. A sanitizing tunnel is also stationed outside a hospital in Nogales, Sonora, where visitors must brush open or duck through clear plastic curtains to be washed with the disinfectant mist.

https://twitter.com/Underground_RT/status/1259856428145278976

Read more …

Now talk to the shareholders.

Tesla’s Musk Says Ready For Arrest As He Reopens California Plant (R.)

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk on Monday said production was resuming at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle factory, in California, defying an order to stay closed and saying if anyone had to be arrested it should be him. The move comes as states and cities around the United States experiment with ways to safely reopen their economies after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work. Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from U.S. President Donald Trump.

In an email on Monday, Tesla referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status. “We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” according to the email seen by Reuters and titled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!” Musk in a tweet said production was resuming on Monday, adding that he would join workers on the assembly line. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.


[..] Health officials in Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is based, late on Monday said they were aware that Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan. In a statement, officials said they expected a proposal from Tesla later on Monday and “hope Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”

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People have been getting so used to dire stories about the economy, they can no longer tell when things are really going south.

The Sum of All Broken Promises (Kunstler) ;

[..] one reason the markets may not keep chugging is that money is disappearing into the ol’ black hole of extinction even faster than the Fed can enter keystrokes that magically represent new money. The reason: if, in fact, money is loaned into existence, it is defaulted out of existence when the loans are not paid back. After all, that’s what a loan is: money advanced on a promise to be paid back, generally at interest, interest representing the time-value of money, that is, the duration of the loan. Do you have any idea how many loans are not being paid back, and may now never be paid back?

Start with houses. 63 percent of homeowners pay a mortgage (a loan) every month. The national average outstanding mortgage debt is $148,000. Total mortgage debt is $10.3 trillion. Now cars: There are roughly 260 million passenger vehicles registered in America, with upward of 100 million of them bought on loans that are still active, amounting to $1.2 trillion, enough to buy 53 million Ford Fusions at $23,000 each. Now credit card debt: total for the US is $3.9 trillion with an average carried balance of $9,333. Meanwhile, 45 percent of adult Americans have no savings.


[..] Consider that a trillion is a thousand billion (and a billion is a thousand million). In an ordinary reality, a reality-based reality, that is, with reality-based money, that would be a lot of money (and a lot of debt)! It’s hard to project an exact figure, but with over 20 percent of the US work-force idle, with no income, there’s liable to be a lot of debt that’s not being paid back, will never be paid back, and a lot of money headed into extinction. That will translate into a lot of people with no money. Until all that money they owed is finished not being paid back, and the new money that Fed is busy creating, with no relationship to the production of things of value, overcomes the old money that’s finished disappearing. Then Americans will have plenty of money. The catch is that the money will be worthless. Thus, the two ways of going broke: having no money; or having lots of money that’s too worthless to buy anything. So it goes.

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Oh well, houses are way overpriced anyway.

Record Unemployment Drives Forbearances Up (NMN)

The number of mortgages in coronavirus-related forbearance rose by 37 basis points between April 27 and May 3 as the unemployment rate kept growing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Nearly 4 million mortgages sat in forbearance plans as of May 3. About 7.91% of all outstanding loans went into forbearance, compared to 7.54% the week before. The share of loans in forbearance at independent mortgage bank servicers saw a greater increase than the industry-wide average, growing to 7.54% from 7.13% over that period. At depositories, that share increased to 8.75% from 8.41%.


“With the calendar turning to May, the share of loans in forbearance increased, but the pace of the increase and incoming forbearance requests continued to slow,” Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. “The dreadful April jobs report showed a decline of more than 20 million jobs, and a spike in the unemployment rate to the highest level since the Great Depression. It will not be surprising if the forbearance numbers continue to rise.” In April, the largest spike came in the first full week of the month. Some projections show the same could be in store for May. Forbearance requests as a percentage of servicing portfolio volume declined 12 basis points for the week ended May 3 to 0.51 % from 0.63. But call center volume as a percentage of portfolio volume increased to 8.6% from 7.2% the previous week.

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That’s the whole idea. But the rich still live in the same country. Let the economy fail and they’re no longer rich.

A bit unreal that the Fed uses the language of MMT.

The Bailout Is Working — for the Rich (Eisinger)

Ten weeks into the worst crisis in 90 years, the government’s effort to save the economy has been both a spectacular success and a catastrophic failure. The clearest illustration of that came on Friday, when the government reported that 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April. It marked a period of unfathomable pain across the country not seen since the Great Depression. Also on Friday, the stock market rallied. The S&P 500 is now up 30% from its lows in mid-March and back to where it was last October, when the outlook for 2020 corporate earnings looked sunshiny. Companies have sold record amounts of debt in recent weeks for investment-grade companies. Junk bonds, historically dodgy during an economic swoon, have roared back.

If you’re looking for investors’ verdict on who has won the bailout, consider these returns: Shares of Apollo Group, the giant private equity firm, have soared 80% from their lows. The stock of Blackstone, another private equity behemoth, has risen 50%. The reason: Asset holders like Apollo and Blackstone — disproportionately the wealthiest and most influential — have been insured by the world’s most powerful central bank. This largess is boundless and without conditions. “Even if a second wave of outbreaks were to occur,” JPMorgan economists wrote in a celebratory note on Friday, “the Fed has explicitly indicated that there is no dollar limit and no danger of running out of ammunition.”


Many aspects of the coronavirus bailout that assist individuals or small businesses, meanwhile, are short-term or contingent. Aid to small businesses comes with conditions on what they can do with the money. The sums allocated by the CARES Act for stimulus and expanded unemployment insurance are vast by historical standards. But the relief they provide didn’t prevent tens of millions from losing their jobs. The assistance runs out in weeks, and the jobless live at the mercy of a divided Congress, which will decide whether that help gets extended and, if so, for how long.


The Nasdaq has put in six consecutive daily gains of 0.50% or more. The last time we saw such a streak was 17 years ago on 9/4/2003

Read more …

The Fed props up the stock market, not bitcoin.

Bitcoin Goes Through Third ‘Halving’ (R.)

Bitcoin slid on Monday in volatile trading, after it went through a technical adjustment that reduced the rate at which new coins are created, but the outlook remained upbeat as the increase in supply slows down. Monday’s “halving” cuts the rewards given to those who “mine” bitcoin to 6.25 new coins from 12.5. The next halving will be in 2024. Bitcoin relies on so-called “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. In return, the first to solve the puzzle and clear the transaction is rewarded new bitcoins. In late afternoon trading, bitcoin was last down 1.3% at $8,620.43 against the dollar on the Bitstamp platform. It briefly turned higher.

“The incentive is less for miners now to mine bitcoin and they will probably switch to more profitable cryptocurrencies. So in the short term, there’s going to be pressure for bitcoin,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York. “But longer term, you’re probably going to see higher prices. With all the fiscal and monetary stimulus that’s being pumped into the global economy, there’s renewed interest from institutional traders looking for alternatives to modern government-backed currencies.” Bitcoin has gained more than 20% since the beginning of the year. It touched $10,000 last week, a roughly three-month high, after Bloomberg reported that hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones has backed bitcoin as a hedge against inflation.


Traders said the prospect of bitcoin’s halving has fueled gains in the asset this year. Bitcoin two earlier “halvings”— one in November 2012 and the other in July 2016 — had signaled the start of bitcoin’s most dramatic bull runs over a period of several years, although not before a brief sell-off. The previous two bitcoin events propelled rallies of about 10,000% from late 2012 to 2014, and roughly 2,500% from mid-2016 to the currency’s all-time high just shy of $20,000 in December 2017, according to traders.

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Kuroda’s been head of the BOJ for over 7 years. The outcome? “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state…”

BOJ Will Do ‘Whatever It Can’ To Combat Pandemic Fallout: Kuroda (R.)

The Bank of Japan will do “whatever it can” to mitigate the growing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday, warning that a collapse in global activity has had severe consequences on the the economy. The central bank has various tools at its disposal if it were to ramp up stimulus such as accelerating money printing, increasing market operation tools and cutting interest rates, Kuroda said in a semi-annual testimony to parliament. He signalled that any further steps the BOJ takes will focus on helping cash-strapped firms, rather than stimulating demand. “What’s most important for us is to take steps to smoothen corporate financing and stabilise markets,” Kuroda said.

“We will do whatever we can as a central bank, working closely with the government.” Kuroda ruled out the possibility of adding municipal bonds to the list of assets the BOJ buys, however, saying he saw no need to do so for the time being. The world’s third-largest economy is on the cusp of a deep recession with many analysts projecting a double-digit contraction in the current quarter, as the pandemic forces households to stay home and businesses to shut down. While the government plans to lift the state of emergency for some prefectures that saw infection numbers stabilise, many big cities including Tokyo will likely see current restrictions kept in place at least for the rest of this month.


Kuroda said Japan did not face an imminent risk of a sharp credit contraction, as many financial institutions have sufficient buffers to weather the pain from the pandemic. But he warned the outlook for Japan’s economy was “highly uncertain” and dependent on when the pandemic is contained, with risks skewed to the downside. “Japan’s economy is in an increasingly severe state. The outlook will remain severe for the time being,” he said.

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When will Biden start up the anti-Putin ads?

Trump And Biden Trade Anti-China Ads (IC)

As coronavirus deaths mount, President Donald Trump’s China-bashing has evolved from a short-term political tactic into a full-fledged election strategy. Take the ad “Travel Ban,” which was unveiled last week by pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action. The spot is one of several anti-China ads released by the group over the past few weeks, and it revisits some standard Trump campaign tropes: There are images of Biden from the Obama years, clips of the former vice president stumbling over his words, and allusions to the decades Biden spent in Washington. But the ad, which is part of a larger attempt to dub the presumptive Democratic nominee “Beijing Biden,” reserves its greatest ire for Biden’s purported ties to China, zooming in on a shot of him shaking hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“China is killing our jobs and now killing our people,” a male voice intones ominously. Instead of taking the high road, the Biden campaign has offered its own version of xenophobic hype. A Biden campaign spot released in mid-April juxtaposes Chinese medical workers in Tyvex suits with lines of Americans waiting to get tested for the virus. “Trump rolled over for the Chinese,” a narrator says. Both ads have angered Asian American activists. The Biden spot in particular has upset people who view him as a potential ally at a time of rising xenophobia.


They worry that even without going to extremes like calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and the “kung-flu” — terms used by Trump and officials in his administration over the past few months — images of Asian faces and offhanded mentions of “the Chinese” are just a slightly subtler form of racist dog-whistling, and harmful at a moment when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise. “There’s a clear link between the rhetoric that’s being used and the increased harm to our community,” said John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC. “We are equally concerned about both parties. We are concerned that there will be a race to the bottom.”

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I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.

Jan 5 Oval Office Meeting Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation (Hemingway)

Information released in the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case it brought against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn confirms the significance of a January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama White House. It was at this meeting that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration. “President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,”

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote in an unusual email to herself about the meeting that was also attended by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, and Vice President Joe Biden. A clearer picture is emerging of the drastic steps that were taken to accomplish Obama’s goal in the following weeks and months. Shortly thereafter, high-level operatives began intensely leaking selective information supporting a supposed Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the incoming National Security Advisor was ambushed, and the incoming Attorney General was forced to recuse himself from oversight of investigations of President Trump. At each major point in the operation, explosive media leaks were a key strategy in the operation to take down Trump.

Not only was information on Russia not fully shared with the incoming Trump team, as Obama directs, the leaks and ambushes made the transition chaotic, scared quality individuals away from working in the administration, made effective governance almost impossible, and materially damaged national security. When Comey was finally fired on May 9, in part for his duplicitousness regarding his handling of the Russia collusion theory, he orchestrated the launch of a Special Counsel probe that continued his efforts for another two years. That probe ended with Mueller finding no evidence of any American colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, much less Trump or anyone connected to him.

An analysis of the timeline from early 2017 shows a clear pattern of behavior from the federal officials running the collusion operation against the Trump campaign. It also shows how essential media leaks were to their strategy to sideline key law enforcement and intelligence officials and cripple the ability of the incoming Trump administration to run the country. Here’s a timeline of the key moments and news articles of the efforts, per Obama’s direction, to prevent the Trump administration from learning about the FBI’s operation against it.

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Can I get this straight? Susan Rice was Obama’s national security advisor. She unmasked US officials while she was no longer at the job. Even if individuals are unmasked, their identities remain highly classified. But they were leaked in substantial numbers. Which is in turn highly illegal.

Samantha Power was United Nations Ambassador. She also unmasked Trump officials. In fact she made 260 requests for unmasking. Only, she didn’t. Someone else did in her name.

List Of Obama Officials Involved In Unmasking Declassified (SAC)

In 2017, information published by this reporter and John Solomon, then with Circa, a online news organization under Sinclair Media, exposed that former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice had unmasked a number of U.S. officials connected to then President Donald Trump’s campaign. On Monday night, reports surfaced, first with ABC News and then others, that the acting Director Of National Intelligence Richard Grenell had authorized the declassification of the list of senior Obama officials that had unmasked Americans exponentially in the last months of the Obama administration. A U.S. official familiar with the declassification process confirmed to SaraACarter.com that the list of officials has been declassified and should be made public shortly.

In May, 2019 President Donald Trump authorized the Department of Justice to declassify the list, as well as all the other documentation pertaining to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant used to spy on short term campaign volunteer Carter Page. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed in several recent reports that the FBI and DOJ failed to validate the evidence used to obtain the warrants to spy on Page and omitted evidence that would have stopped the secret court from authorizing the warrant to spy on the campaign. The most egregious unmasking was that of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose prosecution has now been overturned by the Justice Department.

In January, 2017 Flynn’s name and the contents of his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was revealed to a Washington Post reporter by a senior official in the Obama administration. The contents of the conversation were later outed in a column by Washington Post writer David Ignatius. The highly classified information led to the false allegations that Flynn and the Trump campaign were conspiring with Russia. Still, no one has been held accountable for the highly classified leak. However, sources tell this reporter there has been an ongoing DOJ investigation into the matter.

Rice, who hid her role in unmasking Trump officials, eventually admitted that she had requested unmasking of officials in the campaign. However, it was in April, 2017, when Trump White House lawyers were informed that Rice had requested the identities of U.S. persons in the raw intelligence reports. Usually in the raw reports Americans are identified as U.S. Person 1 or U.S. Person 2. Those identities are considered top secret and are limited to only a few persons. Further, there was an abundance of evidence that former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, unlike any former U.N. Ambassador before her, was also unmasking American’s identities in these highly classified reports at an extraordinary rate.

Then, in October, 2017, House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy revealed that Power had admitted under testimony that not all the “unmaskings” attributed to her were made by her but instead were done by someone else who signed in her name. She allegedly made 260 requests to “unmask” Americans who had been in communication with non-U.S. citizens that were under surveillance. Recent testimony, declassified by Grenell has shown that to be the case and Power’s testimony coincides with Gowdy’s recollection of the events. “I think if she were on your show, she would say those requests to unmask may have been attributed to her, but they greatly exceed by an exponential factor the requests she actually made,” said Gowdy, in October 2017 to Fox News.

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There are now quite a few people known who said completely different things in public from what they said under oath.

Another Former Obama Official Contradicts Her Public Statements (Turley)

The long-delayed release of testimony from the House Intelligence Committee has proved embarrassing for a variety of former Obama officials who have been extensively quoted on the allegedly strong evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign and the Russians. Figures like James Clapper, who is a CNN expert, long indicated hat the evidence from the Obama Administration was strong and alarming. However, in testimony, Clapper denied seeing any such evidence.

One of the most embarrassing is the testimony of Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama Administration official who was widely quoted in her plea to Congress to gather the evidence that she knew was found in by the Obama Administration. In her testimony under oath Farkas repeatedly stated that she knew of no such evidence of collusion. Farkas, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, was widely quoted when she said on MSNBC in 2017 that she feared that evidence she knew about would be destroyed by the Trump Administration.

She stated: “..was urging my former colleagues, and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left. So it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy . . . the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.”

MSNBC never seriously questioned the statements despite the fact that Farkas left the Obama Administration in 2015 before any such investigation could have occurred. As we have seen before, the factual and legal basis for such statements are largely immaterial in the age of echo journalism. The statement fit the narrative even if it lacked any plausible basis. Not surprisingly, the House Intelligence Committee was eager to have Farkas share all that she stated she “knew about [“the Trump folks”], their staff, the Trump’s staff’s dealing with Russian” and wanted to get “into the open.” After all, she told MSNBC that “I knew that there was more.”

She was finally put under oath in the closed classified sessions and there was nothing but classified crickets. Farkas was repeatedly asked to share that information that electrified the MSNBC hosts and audience. She repeatedly denied any such knowledge, telling then Rep. Trey Gowdy (R, S.C.), “I didn’t know anything.” Gowdy noted that Farkas left the Obama administration in 2015 and asked “Then how did you know?” She repeated again “I didn’t know anything.”

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“If any of us [..] were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation..”

Isn’t that exactly the point? Barr said it was not properly predicated?!

2,000 Former DOJ, FBI Officials Demand Barr Resign Over Flynn Case (UPI)

Almost 2,000 former federal prosecutors and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation published an open letter Monday calling for the resignation of Attorney General William P. Barr over the dropping of the Michael Flynn case in federal court. Former U.S. Department of Justice and FBI officials, identifying themselves as both Republicans and Democrats, said Barr’s decision to drop prosecution of Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor, was a case of using “the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests,” the letter said. “Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented,” the letter added.

“If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.” Last week, Barr’s prosecutors asked a U.S. District judge to dismiss the charge of making false statements to the FBI with prejudice against Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general. Co-signers of the letter said Barr earlier overruled sentencing recommendations to seek favorable treatment for President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, showing that Barr was doing the president’s bidding as Attorney General.


[..] “[Barr’s actions flout] the core principle that politics must never enter into the Department’s law enforcement decisions and undermined its mission to ensure equal justice under the law,” the letter said. Co-signers included former federal prosecutors and some former presidential appointees. The highest-ranking signee was Stuart Gerson, who served during the Clinton administration as acting attorney general, NBC News reported. The letter urged District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who’s in charge of the Flynn case, to examine the DOJ’s rationale for dismissing the charges, and to hold hearings with witnesses if necessary, then to “deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.” Along with urging Barr’s resignation, the group urged Congress to reschedule a House Judiciary Committee meeting to censure Barr, “and demand that he answer for his abuses of power.”

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Dec 172019
 


Dorothea Lange “Men on ‘Skid Row’, Modesto, California” 1937

 

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)
Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)
What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)
Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)
College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)
Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)
Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)
Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)
Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)
Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

 

 

Almost no Russia/Ukrainegate today! Just a little Michael Flynn.

We’ll havt to do with Boeing, which suspended its production of … what exactly. Below is a Reuters article which I picked up late yesterday. Ita talks about 737 production being suspended, not just 737 MAX. At that same URL, a different headline and article today, which says:

Boeing’s 737 Crisis Deepens As Production Stops For First Time In Two Decades
Boeing Co said on Monday it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner in January, its biggest assembly-line halt in more than 20 years, as fallout from two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft drags into 2020.

Not sure what this means. Did they cut only MAX, or all models? Or was MAX the only model they were still producing? There is one other model: “Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.”

Boeing Crisis Escalates As Planemaker Halts 737 Production (R.)

Boeing Co is temporarily halting 737 production in January for the first time in more than 20 years as the grounding of the planemaker’s best-selling MAX after two fatal crashes looks set to last well into 2020. Boeing, which builds the 737 south of Seattle, said it will not lay off any employees during the production freeze, though the move could have repercussions across its global supply chain and the U.S. economy. The decision, made by Boeing’s board after a two-day meeting in Chicago, follows news last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would not approve the plane’s return to service before 2020.


[..] Until now Boeing has continued to produce 737 MAX jets at a rate of 42 per month and purchase parts from suppliers at a rate of up to 52 units per month, even though deliveries are frozen until regulators approve the aircraft to fly commercially again. Halting production will ease a severe squeeze on cash tied up in roughly 375 undelivered planes, but only at the risk of causing industrial problems when Boeing tries to return to normal, industry sources said. Supply chains are already under strain due to record demand and abrupt changes in factory speed can cause snags. In 1997, Boeing announced a hit of $2.6 billion including hundreds of millions to deal with factory inefficiencies after it was forced to suspend output of its 737 and 747 lines due to supply chain problems. Boeing said it will continue P8 production of the military version of the 737.

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A judge refusing access to evidence for the lawyer of an accused is always suspicious. And will be overruled by a next court. Flynn said he didn’t discuss -or didn’t recall it because he talked with so many people at the time- Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016, with Kislyak. He did tell him Russia should lay low until Trump became president. It was his job at the time to talk to people. The judge says the FBI had “sufficient and appropriate basis” to interview Flynn because the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. But that is the same basis that Horowitz has called into serious question.

Judge Denies Flynn’s Requests for Exculpatory Information, Case Dismissal (ET)

A federal judge has denied requests by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to prompt the government to give him information he deems exculpatory and to dismiss the case against him. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan sided with the government in arguing that Flynn was already given all the information to which he was entitled. The judge also dismissed Flynn’s allegations of government misconduct, noting that Flynn already pleaded guilty to his crime and failed to raise his objections earlier when some of the issues he now complains about were brought to his attention. “The sworn statements of Mr. Flynn and his former counsel belie his new claims of innocence and his new assertions that he was pressured into pleading guilty,” Sullivan said in his Dec. 16 opinion.

Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2017, to one count of lying to the FBI. He’s been expected to receive a light sentence, including no prison time, after extensively cooperating with the government on multiple investigations. In June, he fired his lawyers and hired former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who has since accused the government of misconduct, particularly of withholding exculpatory information or providing it late. Powell has argued that Flynn’s previous lawyers had a conflict of interest because they testified in a related case against Flynn’s former business partner. Flynn had previously told the court he would keep the lawyers despite the conflict, but Powell said prosecutors should have asked the judge to dismiss the lawyers anyway.

Sullivan disagreed, saying Flynn failed to show a precedent that the prosecutors had that obligation. Powell also said the government had no proper reason to investigate Flynn in the first place and that it had set up an “ambush interview” with the intention of making Flynn say something it could allege was false. Sullivan disagreed again and said that previously, with the advice of his former lawyers, Flynn never “challenged the conditions of his FBI interview.”

The prosecutors argued that the FBI had a “sufficient and appropriate basis” for the interview because Flynn days earlier told members of the Trump campaign, including soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, that he didn’t discuss with the Russian ambassador the expulsion of Russian diplomats in late December 2016 by then-President Barack Obama. Flynn later admitted in his statement of offense that he asked, via Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, for Russia to only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner and not escalate the situation. The FBI was at the time investigating whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russian 2016 election meddling.

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Where is the outrage? h/t Tyler

What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers (TMU)

If you need more proof that lawmakers in the U.S. couldn’t care less about America’s woeful commitment to human rights abroad—or even care about the public who vote them into office—look no further than the recent Afghanistan papers and the reaction to the publications from Congress. According to the Washington Post, the outlet had obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 generals, diplomats, and other officials directly involved in the war. The documents showed that U.S. officials were lying about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of Afghanistan, were hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable, and wasted close to $1 trillion in the process.

Barely a few hours following the Post’s publication, Congress rewarded the Pentagon for its stellar efforts with a $22 billion budget increase. How can we as a society justify this? One stand-out statistic—among the many concerning ones—is the fact that before the U.S. invasion the Taliban had almost completely put to bed Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade. Since the U.S. invasion, combined with $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs, the Taliban is not only stronger than it ever was but sits cemented in a country that now supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium. I can’t help but think this was done on purpose.

Still, it would be worth re-thinking our outrage over the Afghanistan papers and determining what exactly it is we are outraged about. Are we simply angry because top U.S. officials lied to us about the fact they weren’t winning the war, making it a less worthwhile venture? If the U.S. were winning the war, spending $1 trillion in the process, killing record numbers of civilians, ramping up night raids to terrorize local populations, committing war crimes left right and center, would that suddenly make it all okay? As long as the war is being won, right? The truth is, like most wars the U.S. finds itself prosecuting; this was yet another war based entirely on lies and misconceptions—right from the outset.

As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild famously said: “The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law. Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men—15 from Saudi Arabia—did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.” If that was the case in 2001, how this war has continued for close to another two decades begins to beggar belief.

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Below $7,000.

Chinese Crypto Scammers Helped Inspire Recent Bitcoin Market Carnage (ZH)

If you’re hoping to make money shorting bitcoin this holiday season, you might be in luck: Analysts say the price of a bitcoin is set to fall even further as the perpetrators of a massive Chinese crypto scheme dump their ill-gotten gains. Several of the participants in the $2 billion PlusToken scheme are dumping crypto from anonymous accounts. The sales are believed to be the reason fro bitcoin’s 50% drop since its peak in late June, which was around the time that some of the perpetrators of PlusToken were arrested in China. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities didn’t manage to nab them all, and a team of analysts at the blockchain consultancy Chainalysis are warning that the fallout isn’t over yet, according to Bloomberg.

“The largest cryptocurrency is likely to remain under pressure as perpetrators of the estimated more than $2 billion PlusToken scandal dump coins to cash out, the New York-based firm said Monday in the wake of a five-month investigation that continues to track the tokens as they filter through various blockchain ledgers. Bitcoin has tumbled almost 50% from its 2019 peak in late June, when Chinese authorities arrested multiple suspects in the pyramid scheme that promised returns as high as 600% and guaranteed that investors would be rewarded for inviting new members. Since that time, market observers have often pointed to possible sales tied to PlusToken suspects not in custody as one of many reasons for price declines.”

According to Chainalysis, PlusToken conspirators have already sold 25,000 bitcoins, and it’s believed another 20,000 (worth nearly $142 million at current prices). The coins are spread across some 8,700 anonymous bitcoin wallets.

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Fewer students, more debt. Number of male students plummets much faster than female. Does this look healthy to you?

College Enrollment Skids 8th Year in a Row, But Student Loans Skyrocket (WS)

With college costs blowing through the roof, with “luxury student housing” and not so luxury “student housing” having become asset classes – including, of course, CMBS, now in rough waters – for global investors, with textbook publishers gouging students to the nth degree, and with the monetary value of higher education questioned in more and more corners, the inevitable happened once again: College enrollment dropped for the eighth year in a row. The post-secondary student headcount – undergraduate and graduate students combined – in the fall semester of 2019 fell 1.3% from the fall semester last year, or by over 231,000 students to 17.97 million students, according to the Student Clearing House today. In the fall of 2011, the peak year, 20.14 million students had been enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped by 10.8%, or by 2.17 million students:

This is based on enrollment data submitted to the Student Clearing House by the schools. It does not include international students, which account for just under 5% of total student enrollment in the US. Duplicate headcounts – one student enrolled in two institutions – are removed from the data to eliminate double-counting. The 10.8% decline in enrollment since 2011 comes even as student loan balances have surged 74% over the same period, from $940 billion to $1.64 trillion:

[..] Women by far outnumbered men in total enrollment in the fall semester of 2019 with 10.63 million women enrolled and just 7.61 million men, meaning that overall there are now 40% more women in college than men: • At public four-year schools, there were 30% more women (4.51 million) than men (3.48 million) • At private non-profit four-year schools, there were 50% more women (2.32 million) than men (1.54 million) • At private for-profit four-year schools, there were more than twice as many woman (508,000) than men (241,000). • At public two-year schools, there were 38% more women (3.11 million) than men (2.26 million). Over the past three years, enrollment has declined for both men and women, but faster for men (-5.2%) than for women (-1.4%). Since 2011, enrollment has declined by 13% for men and by 9.4% for women.

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Estimates vary, but it appears that Europe’s total population in 1500 was some 60 million. North America’s was 50 million.

Erdogan Threatens To Recognise Killings Of Native Americans As Genocide (Ind.)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to recognise the killing of Native Americans at the hand of European settlers in a tit-for-tat attack on Washington’s decision to rebuke Ankara for the Armenian genocide. The US Senate voted in favour of recognising the genocide last week, a move initially stalled by Republicans at the urging of Donald Trump – who had been due to meet with the Turkish leader at the time. However, with the bill now passed, Mr Erdogan has threatened to respond by recognising US killings of Native Americans – saying the deaths of millions of indigenous people at the hands of European settlers should also be viewed as a genocide.

Speaking on the pro-government A Haber news channel, he said: “We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do. “Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history” Around 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed by modern-day Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, in the early 20th century. But Turkey denies the killings amounted to genocide, instead marking up the deaths of Armenians and Turks as the consequences of the ongoing war. It claims a lower death toll of hundreds of thousands. While the ramifications of the US legislation are largely symbolic, its timing and the targeting of a sore spot for the Turkish state have been seen by many as a direct challenge to the Middle Eastern country’s foreign policy.

A University College London team estimates that 55 million indigenous people died following the conquest of the Americas that began at the end of the 15th century. The majority of these deaths are believed to have been caused by disease – with indigenous people unable to build immunities to diseases that had never previously crossed over the Atlantic to the Americas. War, slavery and displacement also contributed to the decline of indigenous populations.

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Yes, Larry. Of course, Larry.

Kudlow: US-China Deal ‘Absolutely’ Done, US Exports To China Will Double (R.)

The so-called Phase One trade deal between Washington and Beijing has been “absolutely completed,” a top White House adviser said on Monday, adding that U.S. exports to China will double under the agreement. “They’re … going to double our exports to China,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox News Channel. Under the trade agreement announced last week, Washington will reduce some tariffs on Chinese imports in exchange for Chinese purchases of agricultural, manufactured and energy products increasing by about $200 billion over the next two years.


While U.S. officials have touted the deal, Chinese officials have been more cautious, emphasizing that the trade dispute has not been completely settled. “Make no mistake about it: the deal is done, the deal is completed,” Kudlow later told reporters at the White House. “The deal is absolutely completed.” Asked if officials still planned to sign the deal the first week of January, Kudlow said: “That’s the hope.” Translations were still being worked out but he did not expect any changes to the final Phase One agreement, he added.

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“The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains..”

“The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed.”

Put them in jail pending trial.

Sacklers Took $11 Billion Out Of Purdue Pharma As Opioid Crisis Worsened (AP)

The wealthy owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma started taking far more money out of the company after it was fined for misleading marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller. A court filing made by the company Monday evening shows Purdue made payments totaling $10.7 billion from 2008 through 2017 for the benefit of members of the Sackler family who own the company. That includes taxes and other payments. Family members received $4.1 billion in cash over that period. By contrast, distributions for the benefit of family members from 1995 through 2007 totaled $1.3 billion. The total amount family members received from the company was made public in an October filing, but the new report offers new details on when the money was distributed.

“Today’s report confirms what we revealed in our lawsuit: The Sacklers pocketed billions of dollars from Purdue while thousands of people died from their addictive drugs. This is the very definition of ill-gotten gains,” Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, the first attorney general to sue Sackler family members, said in a statement. The Sacklers’ wealth has received intense scrutiny from Healey and 23 other states’ attorneys general, who are objecting to a plan to settle about 2,700 lawsuits against Purdue over the toll of opioids, including those filed by nearly every state.

The objecting attorneys general say that the settlement does not do enough to hold the family accountable for an opioid crisis linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The settlement calls for the family to contribute at least $3 billion in cash over time and give up control of the company. In all, the plan could be worth up to $12 billion over time. But the offer comes with a major catch: The company says the family may back out if lawsuits against family members are allowed to proceed. They are all on hold for now as the company’s settlement efforts play out in bankruptcy court.

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The Guardian reporting on Assange. Forever tainted.

Assange Extradition Fight Could Turn On Reports He Was Spied On For CIA (G.)

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the US could last years, and his argument could hinge on reports he has been illegally spied upon and his sensitive information given to the CIA. Meanwhile, more than 100 doctors from across the world have written to the Australian government, urging it to act and “protect the life of its citizen”, in a letter to be delivered to the foreign affairs minister on Tuesday, amid warnings Assange’s health continues to deteriorate. A judicial investigation by the Audiencia Nacional in Spain, the country’s national court, is acting on allegations that while Assange held asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the Wikileaks founder was spied on, listened to and had his computer data scraped and that this information was sold to US intelligence agencies.

Speaking to the International Law Association in Sydney, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of law at the University of New South Wales who has provided advice on asylum issues to the Assange legal team, said Assange’s fight against extradition would be a long contest and that allegations he was being spied on would likely form part of legal arguments he could not receive a fair trial in the US. Assange is currently being held in London’s Belmarsh prison, ahead of an extradition hearing that will begin in February. A US grand jury has indicted him on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – around conspiracy to receive, obtaining and disclosing classified diplomatic and military documents.

[..] medical doctors have banded together to urge authorities to halt any extradition plans, as well as urgently release him for medical care outside of the prison. “That we, as doctors, feel ethically compelled to hold governments to account on medical grounds speaks volumes about the gravity of the medical, ethical and human rights travesties that are taking place,” their letter, seen by the Guardian, states. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health. It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice.”

A group of Australian MPs from across party lines have gathered to discuss what can be done for Assange, with hopes of meeting with him in Belmarsh ahead of his extradition hearing.

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You’ve had many years to do this. Where were you?

Doctors Ask Government To Evacuate Assange To An Australian Hospital (SMH)

A group of doctors has asked Foreign Minister Marise Payne to evacuate Julian Assange to an Australian hospital amid claims the WikiLeaks founder’s health is rapidly deteriorating and that he “might die” in a London prison. Detailing allegations of “psychological torture” inflicted on Assange during efforts to extradite the 48-year-old to the United States, 100 medical doctors have urged Senator Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene. “It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizen’s survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health,” the doctors say in a letter.

“It is an even more serious matter for that citizen’s own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death.” While the Australian government is highly unlikely to ask the UK government for permission to bring Assange home, there are concerns within some members of the Coalition about the asserted deterioration of his health in the months since he has been imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. Doctors have said Assange is suffering from depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

[..] “The term psychological torture is not a synonym for mere hardship, suffering or distress,” they said. “Psychological torture involves extreme mental, emotional and physical harm, which over time causes severe damage and disintegration of a number of critical psychological functions, involving emotions, cognitions, identity and interpersonal functioning.” They warned the physical effects of psychological torture caused susceptibility to a range of illnesses and diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. “The potentially fatal medical consequences of prolonged psychological torture are inherently unpredictable, and could strike at any time. Accordingly, no doctor, no matter how senior, can offer any legitimate assurances regarding Julian Assange’s survival or medical stability while he continues to be held in Belmarsh Prison.”

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May 082019
 


 

 

The Psychology of Russiagate (Gabor Maté)
Trump Tax Returns Show Over $1 Billion In Business Losses In A Decade (G.)
White House Orders Don McGahn Not To Comply With Congressional Subpoena (G.)
‘Bond King’ Gundlach: US National Debt ‘Totally Out Of Control’ (CNBC)
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019 (WS)
Stocks Could Drop 10-20% If China And US ‘Dig In’ On Trade War – Siegel (CNBC)
China Says April Trade Surplus $13.84 Billion, Far Below Expectations (CNBC)
Germany, Wealthy Regions Are Biggest Winners Of EU Single Market (R.)
Hackers Steal $41 Million Worth Of Bitcoin From Binance Crypto Exchange (R.)
A War Is Brewing Over Lithium Mining At The Edge Of Death Valley (LA Times)
People Who Publicly Fret About Assange Rape Allegations Are Lying (CJ)
Humanity Is About to Kill 1 Million Species in a Murder-Suicide (NYMag)

 

 

This is fantastic. Please watch. Trump as a traumatized man. Elected by a society deeply in denial about its own trauma.

The Psychology of Russiagate (Gabor Maté)

What’s interesting is that in the aftermath of the Mueller thunderbolt of no proof of collusion, there were articles about how people are disappointed about this finding. Now, disappointment means that you’re expecting something and you wanted something to happen, and it didn’t happen. So that means that some people wanted Mueller to find evidence of collusion, which means that emotionally they were invested in it. It wasn’t just that they wanted to know the truth. They actually wanted the truth to look a certain way. And wherever we want the truth to look a certain way, there’s some reason that has to do with their own emotional needs and not just with the concern for reality.

And in politics in general, we think that people make decisions on intellectual grounds based on facts and beliefs. Very often, actually, people’s dynamics are driven by emotional forces that they’re not even aware of in themselves. And I, really, as I observed this whole Russiagate phenomenon from the beginning, it really seemed to me that there was a lot of emotionality in it that had little to do with the actual facts of the case. There is no question that for a lot of people in this country, the election of Trump was a traumatic event. Now, when a trauma reaction happens, which is to say you’re hurt and you’re pained and you’re confused and you’re scared and you’re bewildered, there’s basically two things you can do about it.

One is you can own that I’m pained and I’m hurt and I’m bewildered and I’m really scared. And then try and look at what happened to bring me to that situation. Or you can instead of dealing with those emotions come up with some kind of explanation that makes me feel better about them. So that I’ve got this pain. I’ve got this bewilderment. I’ve got this fear. So what I’m looking at, what does it say about American society that a man like this could even run for office, let alone be elected? What does it say about American society that so many people are actually enrolled in believing that this man could be any kind of a savior? What does that say about the divisions and the conflicts and the contradictions and the genuine problems in this culture? And how do we address those issues?

You can look at that. Or you can say there must be a devil somewhere behind all this, and that devil is a foreign power, and his name is Putin, and his country is Russia. Now you’ve got a simple explanation that doesn’t invite you or necessitate that you explore your own pain and your own fear and your own trauma.

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Read more …

Is it just me, or is this a really strange way to present old news as new? They really can’t find anything on the man? Didn’t he even write a book about this?

Trump Tax Returns Show Over $1 Billion In Business Losses In A Decade (G.)

Donald Trump’s businesses lost a total of more than $1bn from 1985 to 1994, enabling him to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The newspaper, which said it obtained printouts from Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, found that Trump’s core businesses, including casinos, hotels and apartment buildings, lost $1.17bn over a decade. Trump posted losses in excess of $250m in both 1990 and 1991, according to the records, which appeared to be more than double any other individual US taxpayer in an annual IRS sampling of high-income earners.


The New York Times report comes amid a fresh battle between Democrats in Congress and the Trump administration over the release of the president’s tax returns. On Monday, the US Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, refused a request by the congressman Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House ways and means committee, for Trump’s tax returns. Democrats want Trump’s tax data as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves as president. Responding to the New York Times’ revelations, Charles Harder, a lawyer for the president, said the tax information was “highly inaccurate”.

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Yeah, well, if they try to keep Russigate going at this point in time, it’s not going to be easy.

White House Orders Don McGahn Not To Comply With Congressional Subpoena (G.)

The White House has informed Congress that it has ordered the former counsel Don McGahn not to hand over documents subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller. In a letter to the House judiciary committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler, the White House lawyer Pat Cipollone cited “significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege”. McGahn’s refusal is sure to set the Trump administration on course for another collision with the Democratic-led House over lawmakers’ pursuit of documents related to the Russia investigation.


In a subpoena, Congress had requested documents from McGahn pertaining to 36 matters, including discrete episodes in the Russia affair ranging from the resignation of the former national security adviser Michael Flynn to the 9 June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Cipollone said McGahn “does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third persons”. In a follow-up letter to Congress, a lawyer for McGahn said he intended to follow the White House direction. “Where co-equal branches of government are making contradictory demands on Mr McGahn concerning the same set of documents,” the letter reads, “the appropriate response for Mr McGahn is to maintain the status quo unless and until the committee and the executive branch can reach an accommodation.”

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“Using leverage ratios alone, “45%, not just of the BBB but the entire corporate bond market would be junk right now..”

‘Bond King’ Gundlach: US National Debt ‘Totally Out Of Control’ (CNBC)

U.S. debt has climbed to an alarming level, according to DoubleLine CEO Jeffrey Gundlach. “People are starting to realize that the deficit and debt are totally out of control,” Gundlach said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report” Tuesday. Gundlach said the “main reason” the yield curve between 3-year and 5-year Treasury notes is steepening is the ballooning deficit. Last year, U.S. national debt increased by more than 6% of GDP, he said. An even bigger deficit could mean trouble in a recession, said Gundlach, whose DoubleLine has $130 billion in assets under management. Gundlach — sometimes known as the “bond king” — also flagged trouble in the corporate bond market, which got “dragged down” in the “economic mess that we’re in.”


“The corporate bond market is so much worse today than it was in 2006,” he said. Among Gundlach’s concerns: a corporate bond market that has tripled in size, and a BBB-rated bond market that is now bigger than the junk-bond market. Using leverage ratios alone, “45%, not just of the BBB but the entire corporate bond market would be junk right now,” he said, citing figures from Morgan Stanley. A recession or downturn could “spark” a wave of downgrades from investment grade bonds into junk bonds, he said. “The economy is in such bad shape to withstand a downturn again,” Gundlach said. “The national debt is exploding while we’re having some of the best GDP year over year that we’ve had in recent years.”

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Jubilee.

The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019 (WS)

Consumer debt – or consumer “credit” more euphemistically – includes auto loans, student loans, credit-card debt, and personal loans, but it excludes housing related debt, such as mortgages and HELOCs. Growing consumer debt helps prop up the US economy because it means that consumers – they’re called “consumers” not “people” for a reason – spend money they don’t have. There is always a reckoning in the future, but to heck with the future, and so here we go. Credit card debt and other revolving credit, such as personal lines of credit, in Q1 rose 3.4% compared to Q1 last year, to $1.0 trillion (not seasonally adjusted), according to the Federal Reserve Tuesday afternoon. This was a record for a first quarter, when consumers cut back while they try to dig themselves out from under their shopping season debts. But it wasn’t good enough. Credit card balances in Q1 were flat with Q4 2008, despite a decade of inflation, population growth, and economic growth. Our debt slaves are lackadaisical:

The thing is, over the same period, nominal GDP rose 5.1%. And in terms of GDP, credit card debts actually fell, which explains the soft-ish retail data in the first quarter. In a very un-American way, consumers were again lackadaisical in charging up their credit cards to the max. Credit cards are a key element in the banking industry’s profits. At commercial banks, the average interest rate on credit-card plans is 15.1% and the average assessed interest rate is 16.9%, on $1 trillion in outstanding credit balances. This amounts to around $150 billion to $169 billion a year in interest income! These banks rely on consumers to spend money they don’t have. So why don’t they consume with sufficient energy? That’s a baffling question for economists.


Total auto loans and leases outstanding for new and used vehicles in Q1 rose by $44.5 billion from a year ago, or by 4.0%, to a record of $1.16 trillion, despite new-vehicle sales that declined in Q1 by 3.2%, though there was some strength in used vehicles sales. The increase in borrowing was due to higher transaction prices of new and used vehicles, the rising average loan-to-value ratio, and the lengthening average duration of loans:

Student loans rose by 4.9% year-over-year in Q1, or by $74 billion, to a new record of $1.6 trillion (not seasonally adjusted). It has doubled since the beginning of 2010. Confusingly, enrollment in higher-education, based on the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics fell by 7% between 2010 and 2016. In other words, fewer students are enrolled, but all combined they borrow more as tuition continues to rise, and as the entire industry feeds on those government-guaranteed student loans. This ranges from device makers, such as Apple, text-book publishers, concert-ticket sellers, and commercial real estate investors specializing in student housing. Every dime a student borrows is spent, and it props up Corporate America, the university financial complex (UFI, my term), and the US economy overall – with heck to pay later:

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The Fed is the only thing dominating markets. Not China.

Stocks Could Drop 10-20% If China And US ‘Dig In’ On Trade War – Siegel (CNBC)

Stocks could drop significantly if the United States and China dig in during trade talks, Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel told CNBC on Tuesday. Tensions between the U.S. and China are high as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday that new tariffs on 25% of goods will go through on Friday. Siegel said this causes major risk to the downside. “If both sides dig in this market could go down 10% to 20%,” Siegel said on “Squawk Alley. ” “It’s a question of what happens on Friday. If it does happen on Friday, what is the retaliation of the Chinese? And that’s totally dominating the market for the next two or three weeks.”


Siegel said the market built in about a 90% chance that trade negotiations with China would be resolved. Since Trump’s tweets on Sunday threatening to raise tariffs the market, the market now projects no more than a 70% chance of a resolution, he said. This change is what is shocking the market downward, he said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all closed down more than 1.6% on Tuesday. Investors are waiting to see how the trade talks with China go this week but Trump will be watching the market, Siegel said. “The strongest thing that Donald Trump has going for him in next year’s election is the economy and the stock market. He cannot afford that to falter,” said Siegel.

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Why is Reuters still polling economists?

China Says April Trade Surplus $13.84 Billion, Far Below Expectations (CNBC)

China posted a big miss in its overall trade surplus for April, as exports unexpectedly fell and imports surprisingly rose. The numbers came on Wednesday as the trade impasse between the U.S. and China continues to drag on. Customs data on Wednesday showed that trade surplus for April came in at $13.84 billion. That was far lower than the $35 billion economists polled by Reuters had expected, and below the $32.65 billion posted in March. Dollar-denominated exports also missed expectations in April, falling 2.7% from a year ago, according to data from the China’s General Administration of Customs. Economists polled by Reuters expected an increase of 2.3% from a year earlier.


However, April imports unexpectedly rose by 4% from a year ago, compared to a decline of 3.6% that economists predicted. Imports in March fell 7.6%. China’s trade surplus with the U.S., meanwhile, rose to $21.01 billion in April from $20.5 billion in March, the data showed. U.S. and Chinese officials have met several times in a bid to hammer out a trade deal, but Washington said this week that tariffs on Chinese products will increase on Friday, fueling fears that negotiations could be derailed. The outlook for Chinese exports will remain challenging even if a trade deal is reached with the U.S. soon, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

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In other news: the sky is blue. What I like here is they state everyone is better off because of the single market. I don’t even want to see their ‘proof’ for that.

Germany, Wealthy Regions Are Biggest Winners Of EU Single Market (R.)

The European Union’s industrial heartlands, its urban regions and Germany are the biggest beneficiaries of the bloc’s single market, according to a study that highlights the economic and social inequalities plaguing the bloc. The single market seeks to guarantee free movement of goods, capital, services and labor across the 28-nation EU. A report by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, benefited most in absolute terms from the single market, earning an extra 86 billion euros ($96 billion) a year because of it. It found that each German was on average 1,046 euros richer as a result of single market membership, while on average EU citizens were only 840 euros richer. “Not everyone profits equally from the single market, but everyone does gain,” said Aart De Geus, president of the Germany-based foundation.


The inequalities highlighted in the report are shaping EU politics ahead of this month’s European Parliament elections, in which some have called for a continent-wide minimum wage, while Italy, wrestling with low growth, has demanded the right to break European fiscal rules to finance tax cuts. Wealthy, advanced economies near the EU’s economic core such as Austria and the Netherlands are also far richer as a result of being members, the report showed, while poorer southern and eastern European countries benefit far less. “For countries like the Netherlands or Austria, the internal market is gold, since they have competitive sectors but are reliant on exports because they have small domestic markets,” said Dominic Ponattu, one of the study’s authors.

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Call me crazy, but isn’t this happening a little too often?

Hackers Steal $41 Million Worth Of Bitcoin From Binance Crypto Exchange (R.)

Hackers stole bitcoin worth $41 million from Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, the company said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of thefts from cryptocurrency exchanges around the world. The 7,000 bitcoin were withdrawn by hackers using a variety of techniques, “including phishing, viruses and other attacks”, according to a post on Binance’s website by chief executive officer Zhao Changpeng. The post said user funds would not be affected because the company would use its secure asset fund for users to cover the loss.


Bitcoin’s price dropped by as much as 4.2 percent in early Asian trading as news of the hack broke, although it later recovered some of its losses. Zhao said on Twitter other crypto exchanges, including Coinbase, had blocked deposits from addresses linked to the hack. Last year, $950 million of cryptocurrencies was stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges and infrastructure services such as wallets, up nearly 260 percent from the previous year, research from U.S.-based cyber security firm CiptherTrace showed. Exchanges in Japan and South Korea accounted for 58 percent of the thefts last year, the research found.

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It ain’t easy being green.

A War Is Brewing Over Lithium Mining At The Edge Of Death Valley (LA Times)

A small Cessna soared high above the Mojave Desert recently, its engine growling in the choppy morning air. As the aircraft skirted the mountains on the edge of Death Valley National Park, a clutch of passengers and environmentalists peered intently at a broiling salt flat thousands of feet below. The desolate beauty of the Panamint Valley has long drawn all manner of naturalists, adventurers and social outcasts — including Charles Manson — off-road vehicle riders and top gun fighter pilots who blast overhead in simulated dogfights. Now this prehistoric lake bed is shaping up to be an unlikely battleground between environmentalists and battery technologists who believe the area might hold the key to a carbon-free future.


Recently, the Australia-based firm Battery Mineral Resources Ltd. asked the federal government for permission to drill four exploratory wells to see if the hot, salty brine beneath the valley floor contains economically viable concentrations of lithium. The soft, silvery-white metal is a key component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and is crucial to the production of electric and hybrid vehicles. The drilling request has generated strong opposition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife, who say the drilling project would be an initial step toward the creation of a full-scale lithium mining operation. They say lithium extraction would bring industrial sprawl, large and unsightly drying ponds and threaten a fragile ecosystem that supports Nelson’s bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Panamint alligator lizard, among other species.

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Why go into allegations that have no proven substance? There is no point in that which supports Assange. Tons of sympathy for Caitlin, but I really think this should be about Julian, not about her.

People Who Publicly Fret About Assange Rape Allegations Are Lying (CJ)

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, I have found it unspeakably infuriating the way this same patriarchal imperialist system which has allowed rape culture to thrive throughout the entirety of its existence has suddenly become deeply, deeply concerned about plot hole-riddled and completely unproven allegations against a man who just so happens to have published humiliating truths about that very same imperialist system. This same warmongering power structure which has never given a shit about women beyond our ability to fly a stealth bomber and squeeze new recruits out of our vaginas suddenly has the full force of its propaganda machine whipping liberals into a hysteria about allegations of acts that aren’t even illegal in the nations those liberals live in. Acts that these liberals have never even thought about pushing to make laws against in their own governments.


Do you know how you can be absolutely certain that anyone you see on social media rending their garments about Assange’s Swedish allegations is completely full of shit? Because no matter how hard you search through their post history, you will never, ever find any similarly enthusiastic push to ban the actions that Assange is accused of in their own government. In their own land, where their own daughters and sons will be impacted. They focus solely on shaky allegations against a target of the CIA and the Pentagon which are alleged to have happened in Sweden, a nation with very different sexual consent laws than the nations of these English-speaking concern trolls.

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Good headline.

Humanity Is About to Kill 1 Million Species in a Murder-Suicide (NYMag)

Human beings are more prosperous and numerous than we’ve ever been, while the Earth’s other species are dying off faster than at any time in human history. These two conditions are related. But if the second one persists long enough, we will be following our fellow organisms into the dustbin of geological history. This is the primary takeaway from a new United Nations report on our planet’s rapidly diminishing biodiversity. Humanity is reshaping the natural world at such scale and rapidity, an estimated 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, according to the U.N. assessment.

Climate change is a major driver of all this death, but burning fossil fuels is far from our species’ only method of mass ecocide. We are also harvesting fish populations faster than they can reproduce themselves, annually dumping upward of 300 million tons of heavy metals and toxic sludge into the oceans, introducing devastating diseases and invasive species into vulnerable environments as we send people and goods hurtling across the globe, and simply taking up too much space — about 75 percent of the Earth’s land, and 85 percent of its wetlands, have been severely altered or destroyed by human development.

All this plunder has worked out fairly well for us, thus far. But all of our prosperity depends upon the natural world reproducing itself. As the New York Times notes, the U.N. has previously estimated that nature provides the economies of the Americas with $24 trillion worth of non-monetized benefits each year: “The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines. But as these natural landscapes wither and become less biologically rich, the services they can provide to humans have been dwindling.”

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There is no man or woman who can’t be touched

But you who come between them will be judged

-Leonard Cohen

 

 

 

 

Dec 162018
 
 December 16, 2018  Posted by at 10:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Paul Klee Carnival in the snow 1923

 

Why The Fed Won’t Save The Stock Market (MW)
Why The US-China Trade Talks Will Work: The Personal Touch (Kuhn)
12 Months Of Bitcoin Misery (MW)
Failed By Both Major Parties, Betrayed Britain Lurches Towards The Abyss (G.)
British Minister Warns Brexit Is Stuck As No-Deal Or Referendum Loom (R.)
UN Climate Change Talks Avoid Contentious Issues In Draft Agreement (O.)
Deportations Under Trump Are On The Rise But Still Lower Than Obama’s (WaPo)
How The ‘Five Eyes’ Cooked Up The Campaign To Kill Huawei (SMH)
The Russia Investigations: A Case Still Unproven (NPR)
How Putin’s Russia Turned Humour Into A Weapon (BBC)
Late Night Swapped Laughs For Lusting After Mueller (S.us)

 

 

Where do we start? Because they killed it beyond salvation? Because to save it they would have to retreat completely? Because they have no idea what’s going on since all they know is based on false assumptions? Take your pick.

Why The Fed Won’t Save The Stock Market (MW)

Another brutal week left the stock market with its worst start to a December in 38 years, and a meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers might not offer the relief some investors are pining for when they conclude a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, says one economist. How bad was it? Stocks ended a week of often whipsaw trading with a decided move to the downside Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 500 points, leaving it more than 10% below its early October all-time closing high, meeting a widely used definition of a market correction. It joined the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite which were already in correction mode. The S&P and Dow are negative for 2018, while the Nasdaq is clinging to a 0.1% year-to-date rise.

And it’s hardly an auspicious start to a month that’s historically a positive one for equities. Over the first nine trading days of the month, the Dow is down 5.6%, the S&P is off 5.8% and the Nasdaq is 5.7% in the red. That’s the worst start to a December for all three benchmarks since 1980, according to Dow Jones Market Data. That sounds bad, but it probably isn’t bad enough to convince the Fed to pause when it comes to interest-rate rises, said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, in a note. Remarks by Fed officials, including Jerome Powell, have led some investors to look for the central bank to potentially end the rate-hike cycle after delivering a December increase, but Porcelli argued that still strong economic data meant the debate should be more focused on the merits of policy makers’ expectations for three or more rises in 2019.

And while stock-market volatility has seen a significant uptick, “equities have not deteriorated enough to warrant a pause,” Porcelli said, noting that unlike, say, the emerging-market crisis of 1998 when stocks fell sharply, U.S. equities today are still basically flat year-to-date when it comes to total returns. “On that basis, it is also worth pointing out that you cannot make the case that there is a negative wealth effect at play that is feeding through to the macro backdrop,” he wrote.

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Everybody knows a solution must be found.

Why The US-China Trade Talks Will Work: The Personal Touch (Kuhn)

The dinner meeting between the two presidents, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, lasted well longer than planned. Xi began with a well-prepared, detailed presentation that lasted 45 minutes and impressed even the US hardliners in attendance with its substance and resolve. Trump, as expected, extolled the meeting, but more meaningfully, I believe, China’s Ministry of Commerce immediately went on record to call the talks “very successful”. Other Chinese officials quickly affirmed that new measures would combat intellectual property theft. Even more significant, perhaps, rumours were afoot that major changes were in the works for “Made in China 2025,” including reductions in state subsidies for new technologies and a greater openness to participation by foreign companies.

The announcement that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a China hawk, was placed in charge of negotiations was greeted positively by Chinese officials who have long requested clarity in a single US point person with whom to negotiate. It is a socio-political principle that nationalistic hawks can often achieve peace more easily than globalist doves because it is more difficult for domestic detractors to undercut them as being “soft”. Regarding the apparent 90-day “drop dead” date, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said “If there’s good, solid movement and good action, he ‘[Trump] might be willing to extend.”

The arrest of Huawei’s CFO triggered accusations and counter accusations, but neither side, tellingly, called the trade talks into question. In fact, there were parallel affirmations the talks would continue. Peter Navarro, the White House adviser considered with good reason to be the most hawkish on China, said that stock markets should be “patient and optimistic”. Navarro, he of the “death by China” screed, said what? Optimistic! Moreover, when I speak to Chinese economists, I hear the conviction that many of the US demands – IPR protection, opening up markets, reductions in state subsidies – are precisely what China needs to do anyway.

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The swings forbid any notion of it being an investment.

12 Months Of Bitcoin Misery (MW)

Monday, Dec. 17, will mark one year since the price of bitcoin — the best-known cryptocurrency — hit an all-time high just shy of $20,000. For bulls who bought the hype, it’s been a long — and painful — ride down. At the time, the digital currency was up more than 1,000% for 2017, both the CME Group and Cboe had just launched bitcoin futures contracts, and everyone seemed to be making money as talk about the previously obscure crypto market made its way into the mainstream media. In retrospect, it appeared all too easy: Bitcoin rose 11 of the 12 weeks leading up to the Dec. 17 peak and logged gains in eight of the last nine months in 2017. Day traders were millionaires, analysts were predicting further drastic price increases and investors jumped on what looked like an endless gravy train.

According to Crypto Fund Research, 85 crypto-related funds launched in the first three months of 2018, and at Jan. 1 2018, there was $5.8 billion of assets under management in the crypto hedge fund industry, compared with $675 million a year earlier. But, in the blink of an eye, the tide turned: A January correction soon turned into a collapse and then turned into what was dubbed a prolonged crypto winter — a season that has yet to end. From their peaks, most major coins lost more than 80%. Bitcoin has shed as much as 85%. Ether, the popular currency that runs on the ethereum blockchain, fell as much as 95%, losing its title of the second-largest digital currency.

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Britain’s been too slow to ditch its old parties. Same as US. All over continental Europe, the process has started already.

Failed By Both Major Parties, Betrayed Britain Lurches Towards The Abyss (G.)

The seesaw is smashed. The pendulum is stuck. The tides are frozen. All the trusty images that used to help explain British politics have been scrambled by Brexit. Back in simpler times, a bad week for one politician or party translated into a good one for a rival. Seesaws went up and down. Pendulums swung. Tides flowed in and out. It is one of the unique characteristics of the Brexit crisis that it makes winners of none and losers of all. The past seven days have demonstrated that this is a wind so ill that it blows no one any good. The most deserved losers are the Brexit ultras. They finally launched their leadership coup and failed miserably. Without a plausible plan or a credible leader, these are the men who put the ass into assassin.

After all their prating about “taking back control”, they couldn’t even organise the removal of a mortally wounded prime minister. The Brexit fanatics have always been a minority of a minority and now no one can be in any doubt about that. And this same gang claim they could negotiate a superior agreement with the EU or handle a no-deal Brexit in 100 days that are left? Oh, please. Yet there was no humility in defeat from the ultras. It was with a poisonous lack of grace that they continued to demand Mrs May’s resignation even after she had prevailed in the confidence vote that they forced upon their party. You are entitled to belly laugh the next time that anyone tries to commend Jacob Rees-Mogg as a courteous gentleman.

The mask of phoney civility slipped when this serpent in a double-breasted suit continued to hiss for Mrs May’s head after his coup had failed. Alas for her, the defeat of her tormentors did not amount to a victory for the prime minister. To keep her job for now, she had to pledge to give it up before the next election. Mrs May purchased her survival in the currency of humiliation. [..] Mrs May remains imprisoned by the parliamentary maths, her past mistakes and her lack of dexterity. After all the to and fro between Westminster and European capitals, pinging from one side of the Channel to the other like a battered shuttlecock, there is no better prospect of her deal passing the Commons than there was on Monday when she swerved the vote.

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Now the Tories want a second vote?!

British Minister Warns Brexit Is Stuck As No-Deal Or Referendum Loom (R.)

Britain’s exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister said on Saturday, after a week in which Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win EU assurances on her deal and pulled a vote because UK lawmakers would defeat it. With just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in the air with growing calls for a no-deal exit, a potentially disorderly divorce that business fears would be highly damaging, or for a second referendum. May pulled a vote on her deal on Monday after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the “backstop”, an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.

Two days later, she survived a plot to oust her from those in her own party who support a hardline Brexit, showing the level of opposition she faced. May herself has acknowledged that Britain’s parliament appears deadlocked with no clear support for any option, with the small Northern Irish party that props up her government leading the criticism of her deal. “Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in Saturday’s Daily Mail newspaper. “If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the prime minister’s deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”

[..] Rudd – one of five ministers who, according to newspapers, are leaning toward having a second referendum – said a no-deal scenario “mustn’t be allowed to happen” and urged lawmakers from all parties come together to stop it. “We need to try something different. Something that people do in the real world all the time, but which seems so alien in our political culture – to engage with others,” she said. “We need to acknowledge the risk that parliament could spend the next precious few months debating about preferred solutions and end up with no compromise, no agreement and no deal.”

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These conferences are simply the wrong way to treat the issue. Incumbent governments and industries owe their powers to what they must now change radically. That threatens those powers, so they’ll delay where they can.

UN Climate Change Talks Avoid Contentious Issues In Draft Agreement (O.)

The UN met on Saturday in Poland to discuss a draft agreement on climate change, which sources said was likely to pass, as exhausted delegates made compromises on some key issues but left other contentious problems to be resolved next year. The result will not be the breakthrough campaigners and some countries were hoping for, but will keep discussions alive on formulating key aspects of the implementation rules for the 2015 Paris accord. Delegates have been thrashing out a text on the complex mechanisms required to put the Paris goals into effect for the past two weeks, and appeared partly successful as the talks overran their Friday deadline and looked likely to continue into late afternoon on Saturday at least.

The text will give countries clarity on key points such as accounting for their greenhouse gas emissions and recording their carbon reductions. They will also go some way to encourage the stepping up of each country’s climate change efforts. Among the issues holding up progress is the highly technical question of what should happen to the market for carbon credits, held by some countries in recognition of their emissions-cutting efforts and their carbon sinks, such as forests. These credits count toward countries’ emissions-cutting targets. Brazil introduced wording that would benefit the country for its huge rainforest cover, but critics said contained loopholes that allowed for double counting of carbon credits would severely undermine the integrity of the system.

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Not to say what happens today is not bad, but that it’s happened for many years. it’s America, not Trump.

Deportations Under Trump Are On The Rise But Still Lower Than Obama’s (WaPo)

Amid President Trump’s push for tighter immigration policies, the United States deported more than 256,000 people in 2018 — the highest number since the Obama administration, new data shows. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Ronald D. Vitiello announced Friday that in the past fiscal year, which ended in September, ICE has detained “a record number” of people in the country illegally and that the number of those deported has risen about 13 percent since 2017. The data, which comes from a new agency report, shows that 145,262 of those deported were convicted criminals and that 22,796 had criminal charges pending against them. In addition, 5,872 were reported as known or suspected gang members, and 42 were believed to be terrorists, according to the report.

The number of families and unaccompanied children who were deported also increased. ICE said that 2,711 who were traveling in families and 5,571 unaccompanied children were removed from U.S. soil. “We’ve continued to achieve gains in all meaningful enforcement measurements,” Vitiello said, despite significant underfunding. The strain on resources is a consequence of current border crisis, he said. “With the continued surge and without congressional action to fund the agency at adequate levels, ICE may be forced to make difficult choices that could hamper our ability to fulfill our public safety or national security mission,” he added, noting that the agency does not want to release detainees as a result of budgetary constraints because it would create a public safety risk.

[..] Mary Bauer, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it is “appalling and morally unconscionable that this is the place where we find ourselves” — deporting people “without a sense of priorities.” “It used to be that there was a sense that they were looking for people who had committed serious crimes,” she said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. In fact, U.S. deportation numbers were higher during the Obama administration, reaching 409,849 in 2012, according to ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations reports. Data shows that in 2015 and 2016, however, the number of those deported dropped to 235,413 and 240,255, respectively.

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They’re all ruled by their intelligence services.

How The ‘Five Eyes’ Cooked Up The Campaign To Kill Huawei (SMH)

The man who runs an agency that unlocks electronic secrets had a poacher’s view of the threat: “Offence informs defence and defence informs offence. Or to put it another way, to catch a thief, you will need to think like one (or perhaps, be one).” Since then he has given a TV interview and opened a Twitter account with a lively first post; “Hi internet, ASD here. Long time listener, first time caller.” Burgess has even dabbled in some light trolling of Huawei. On November 21 when a Huawei executive boasted of successfully separating the core and access parts of a 5G network in New Zealand he tagged the ASD boss on his post. To the surprise of most Burgess replied; “Thanks for sharing. In my business I’ve never seen anything “fully isolated…”.

Seven days later New Zealand banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to mobile phone company Spark. Then on December 6, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, David Vigneault, who had hosted the annual Five Eyes gathering, used his first ever public speech to warn of an emerging threat. “CSIS has seen a trend of state-sponsored espionage in fields that are crucial to Canada’s ability to build and sustain a prosperous, knowledge-based economy,” he said. “I’m talking about areas such as AI [artificial intelligence], quantum technology, 5G, biopharma and clean tech. In other words, the foundation of Canada’s future growth.”

No one was in any doubt he was talking about China. A formal ban on Huawei and ZTE from Ottawa is expected within weeks. A day after the Canadian spy boss spoke, the head of MI6 was on his feet at his old Scottish university, St Andrews. In a speech described as “rare” he warned that “much of the evolving state threat is about our opponents’ increasingly innovative exploitation of modern technology”.

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Weakish piece, but the point must be made.

The Russia Investigations: A Case Still Unproven (NPR)

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to make it clear that it is analysis and that the allegations of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians remain unproven.

Political and legal danger for President Trump may be sharpening by the day, but the case that his campaign might have conspired with the Russian attack on the 2016 election is still unproven despite two years of investigations, court filings and even numerous convictions and guilty pleas. Trump has been implicated in ordering a scheme to silence two women ahead of Election Day in 2016 about the alleged sexual relationships they had with him years before. That is a serious matter, or it might have been in other times, but this scheme is decidedly not a global conspiracy with a foreign power to steal the election.

More broadly, the president and his supporters say, the payments to the women in 2016 are penny ante stuff: Breaking campaign finance law, if that did take place, isn’t like committing murder, said one lawyer for the president. The “biased” Justice Department is just grasping at straws to use something against Trump because it hasn’t been able to locate a “smocking gun,” as Trump wrote this week, that would tie his campaign in with Russia’s active measures in 2016.

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What does the BBC want? For Russia to stop laughing? Look through your own coverage and see where Russia was accused of god knows what without proper evidence. If that happened to you, you’d be laughing too. There’s nothing else left. it’s not as if Russia is allowed to defend itself.

How Putin’s Russia Turned Humour Into A Weapon (BBC)

In the dying days of the Soviet Union, Russians used humour to escape the bleak reality of economic stagnation, food shortages and long queues. Political satire flourished on TV in the form of latex puppets during the 1990s, but it was quickly slapped down when Vladimir Putin came to power. In today’s Russia, where the media is largely controlled by the Kremlin and its allies, there is little room for genuine political humour unless it is used to deflect the blame from the government. Humour and ridicule were a key part of Moscow’s response when the UK said it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury.

Russian officials and media figures have since tried to turn the English phrase “highly likely” into a mocking catchphrase that implies Russia is being blamed for everything with the flimsiest of evidence. They have enlisted a range of popular figures from English literature, such as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, to ridicule British allegations of Russian involvement in the poisoning which they denounce as unfounded. [..] One spoof job advert joked that the GRU was “looking for employees for its cyber-attack department, chemical weapons department and election-meddling unit. There is no need to apply – we will find you ourselves”. Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as “disinformation for the information age”.

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Late night talk shows are dead. Smothered in the echo chamber.

Late Night Swapped Laughs For Lusting After Mueller (S.us)

If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy. One feature of the Mueller saga is the enormous amount of energy that has been expended on venerating and defending him; energies which, at least theoretically, could have been directed toward doing something useful. The trend seems to reflect the total political enervation of this class of people – elite liberal culture-producers and consumers – who are still whipsawing between two-bit schemes to topple Trump, while in the process glossing over (or ignoring, or ridiculing) the structural forces which gave rise to Trump in the first place.

Their expressions of comedic angst actually render them more and more politically impotent. Democrats’ success in the midterms may have given the false assurance that a critical mass of the country actually respects this drivel. To understand how late night comedy got so uniquely tedious, it’s instructive to consider Colbert in particular. He first emerged as a protegée of Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show received such adulation in the early-and-mid 2000s because Stewart appeared to be doing something different and, yes, subversive – castigating the media for its illogical deference to power, a sorely needed antidote in the years of George W. Bush. (Whether this schtick was truly subversive is another question, but it did at least seem that way for a time.)

The popular TV comedians of today, conversely, are the polar opposite of subversive. Nothing about their daily pillorying of Trump challenges conventional wisdom, because unrestrained personal animus for Trump is the defining characteristic of conventional wisdom. When Bush was waging the Iraq War, he did so bolstered by a media consensus that cast him and his cause in an honorable light, and depicted his critics as screeching anti-war freaks. Even before he was inaugurated, Trump has been heaped with a level of scorn so ferocious that it would have made Dick Cheney blush.

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Nov 272018
 
 November 27, 2018  Posted by at 10:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Otto Dix Ice drift 1940

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)
The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)
Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)
GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)
Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)
May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)
Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)
Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)
Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)
The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)
Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)
Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)
Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)
The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

 

 

Here’s what this is about:

“Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation..”

Russia came close to losing its only warm water ports in early 2014. They won’t let that happen again.

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, as the simmering confrontation between Moscow and Kiev sparked a new global crisis. In a phone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin also said he hoped the German leader could intervene to rein in Kiev. Putin “expressed a serious concern over Kiev’s decision to put its armed forces on alert and to introduce martial law,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the call. He also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” it added.

The political efforts came after Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews in the Kerch strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland. Ukrainian MPs responded by voting to impose martial law. Six Ukrainians were reported to be injured, one of them critically, in the clash at the mouth of the Sea of Azov, where Russia has been building up its naval presence and seeking to restrict Ukrainian access since completing a bridge across the strait in May. The Ukrainian government released video footage of one of its ships being rammed by a Russian vessel. The incident sparked an emergency debate at the UN security council, where the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors accused each other’s governments of seeking to trigger a conflict to deflect from their own domestic unpopularity.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, said the Russian naval authorities had been notified that the three Ukrainian vessels – two cutters and a tugboat – wished to pass through the strait, and had been waiting to hear confirmation on Sunday morning when the vessels were attacked. [..] Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation and also to reinforce a very small Ukrainian naval presence in the Sea of Azov.

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“..Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected ..”

The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)

Second, let me give you the single most important element to understand what is (and what is not) taking place: the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea are, in military terms, “Russian lakes”. That means that Russia has the means to destroy any and all ships (or aircraft) over these two seas: on the Black Sea the life expectancy of any intruder would be measured in minutes, on the Sea of Azov in seconds. Let me repeat here that any and all ships deployed in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are detected and tracked by Russia and they can all easily be destroyed. The Russians know that, the Ukrainians know that and, of course, the Empire knows that. Again, keep that in mind when trying to make sense of what happened.

Third, whether the waters in which the incident happened belong to Russia or not is entirely irrelevant. Everybody knows that Russia considers these waters are belonging to her and those disagreeing with this have plenty of options to express their disagreement and challenge the legality of the Russian position. Trying to break through waters Russia considers her own with several armed military vessels is simply irresponsible and, frankly, plain stupid (especially considering point #2 above). That is simply not how civilized nations behave (and there are plenty of contested waters on our planet).

Fourth, one should not be too quick in dismissing Poroshenko’s latest plan to introduce martial law for the next 60 days. Albeit Poroshenko himself declared that this mobilization does not mean that the Ukronazi regime wants war with Russia, the fact is that the first-line reserves will be mobilized. This is important because the situation resulting from the introduction to martial law could be used to covertly increase the number of soldiers available for an attack on Novorussia or, God forbid, Russia herself. In fact, Poroshenko also officially appealed to the veterans of the war against Novorussia to be ready for deployment.

[..] Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected it is pretty darn obvious of why the Ukronazi regime in Kiev decided to trigger yet another crisis and then blame Russia for it. The very last thing Russia needs is yet another crisis, especially not before a possible Putin-Trump meeting at the G20 Buenos Aires summit later this month. In fact, Ukrainian bloggers immediately saw this latest provocation as an attempt to scrap upcoming elections.

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Remind me, what did it cost to keep GM alive?

Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)

General Motors has announced it will halt production at five North American facilities and cut 14,700 jobs as it deals with slowing sedan sales and the impact of Donald Trump’s tariffs. More than 6,000 blue-collar jobs will be hit by GM plans to stop production at a car plant in Canada and two more in Ohio and Michigan. Two transmission plants in the US will also be mothballed, putting the future of those plants in doubt. The cuts will also include 15% of GM’s 54,000 white-collar workforce, about 8,100 people, and come as 18,000 GM workers have been asked to accept voluntary redundancy. Trump, who won over voters in many of the states affected by GM’s decision by promising to save their jobs, told reporters he was not happy with the decision.

“We don’t like it,” he told reporters. “This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get back to Ohio, and soon.” Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, was due to meet with top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later on Monday. “We are taking this action now while the company and the economy are strong to keep ahead of changing market conditions,” Barra said in a conference call. GM’s share price rose 5.5% on the news. The car plants – Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Oshawa Assembly – all build slow-selling cars. Trump held a rally close to the Lordstown plant in July and told workers not to sell their homes because “jobs are coming back”.

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Fiat/Chrysler increased sales (but its CEO died recently), Ford and GM lost big.

GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)

On Monday, General Motors announced that it will cut 14,700 jobs or 15% of its North American workforce in addition to closing three assembly plants and two other facilities: While GM’s CEO Mary Barra is spinning this move as a positive, I am highly suspicious because it is taking place at the same time that global auto sales are plunging (see chart below). Ford also said recently that it will cut more than 20,000 jobs across the globe as part of an $11 billion restructuring.

The reason why I criticized President Trump’s excitement about Ford’s decision was because I’ve been warning (then and now) that the U.S. automobile sales boom was driven by a debt bubble that would end very badly. Since 2010, total outstanding U.S. auto loans increased by $445 billion or 64% to over $1.1 trillion as Americans took advantage of record low interest rates to finance automobile purchases.

U.S. Auto Loans

After the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to record low levels and held them there for a record length of time, making it much cheaper to take out loans of all kinds. Notice how the total outstanding U.S. auto loans in the chart above start to soar shortly after interest rates were cut to record lows (based on the chart below)? That is certainly no coincidence. Low interest rates lead to borrowing booms that end when interest rates go back up, which is what has been happening over the last few years. Rising interest rates are threatening the U.S. automobile sales and loan bubble and will eventually cause its popping.

Interest Rates

It’s entirely possible that GM is aware of the risk of a more serious auto sales downturn ahead as higher interest rates start to bite, which is why they decided to cut jobs and close the plants before it’s too late. If that’s the case, it’s a smart move on CEO Mary Barra’s part.

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70% may seem a lot, but the remaining 30% consisted of just 211 cars. Non-story.

Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)

Tesla Inc’s vehicle sales in China sank 70 percent last month from a year ago, the country’s passenger car association told Reuters on Tuesday, underscoring how the Sino-U.S. trade war is hurting the U.S. electric carmaker. An official from China Passenger Car Association said data from the industry body showed Tesla sold just 211 cars in the world’s largest auto market in October. The electric carmaker, which imports all the cars it sells in China, said in October that tariff hikes on auto imports were hammering its sales there. In July, Beijing raised tariffs on imports of U.S. autos to 40 percent amid a worsening trade standoff with the United States. While so-called new-energy vehicle sales have continued to climb in China, wider auto sales have slowed sharply since the middle of the year, taking the market to the brink of its first annual sales contraction in almost three decades.

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First vote is December 11, the second around Christmas time.

May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)

Donald Trump has delivered a weighty blow to Theresa May’s hopes of steering her Brexit deal through parliament, saying it sounded like a “great deal for the EU” that would stop the UK trading with the US. Trump was speaking to reporters outside the White House when he was asked about the deal May struck with the EU’s other 27 heads of state and government on Sunday. “Sounds like a great deal for the EU,” the president said. “I think we have to take a look at, seriously, whether or not the UK is allowed to trade. Because, you know, right now, if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us … I don’t think that the prime minister meant that. And, hopefully, she’ll be able to do something about that.”

Trump’s intervention caught Downing Street off-guard and is likely to weaken May’s hand at a time when she is seeking to get the deal approved by parliament, where she faces determined resistance from 89 Tory backbenchers who argue the deal does not secure sufficient freedom of action for the UK. A vote is due on 11 December after a five-day debate. A No 10 spokesman argued that Trump’s take on Brexit was wrong: “The political declaration we have agreed with the EU is very clear we will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world – including with the US.”

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Insert any number you can think of. And then realize that people actually get paid to issue these fully hollow reports.

Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is expected to cost the UK economy as much as £100bn over the next decade compared with remaining in the EU, according to one of the country’s leading economic thinktanks. An analysis of the prime minister’s EU withdrawal agreement from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggested that by 2030, Britain would lose GDP growth equivalent to the annual economic output of Wales. The study, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, found GDP over the long term was forecast to be about 4% less than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU.

It comes as the government prepares to publish its own analysis of the impact of the deal this week, possibly on Wednesday, to help inform MPs before they vote on whether to back it in parliament. NIESR said the cost to the economy of the prime minister’s deal would be the equivalent of losing about £1,000 a year for every person in the UK. Garry Young, the director of macroeconomic modelling and forecasting at NIESR, said: “Leaving the EU will make it more costly for the UK to trade with a large market on our doorstep and inevitably will have economic costs.” The NIESR report found May’s deal would not be as damaging for the economy as Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, which would cost the economy about £140bn over the next 10 years.

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The emptiness of the rumors that drive this stuff is deafening. These are not markets.

Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)

Italy has shown the first signs of backing away from a budget clash with Brussels, sparking a share rally in Rome. On a day when equities rose across the globe, tentative signs of progress in negotiations between the European commission and Italy’s populist leaders resulted in the key barometer of the Italian stock market rising by almost 3%. Bank shares – seen as particularly vulnerable in the event of a loss of confidence in Italian assets triggered by a prolonged confrontation – were up by 5% on Monday. Reports that Rome was willing to cut its budget deficit from 2.4% of national output to as low as 2% also led to a fall in the interest rate the Italian government pays to borrow on the world’s financial markets.

Italy’s main stock market index – the FTSE MIB – was the best performer of the leading European bourses on a day of across-the-board gains, closing 2.8% higher. Frankfurt’s Dax index rose by 1.45%, while the City’s FTSE 100 ended the day up by 1.2% at 7,036. After sharp falls last week, shares rallied on Wall Street and the Dow Jones industrial average ended Monday trading 1.5% higher amid signs of strong Black Friday spending by American consumers. Ever since it came to power in the spring, Italy’s coalition government has been on a collision course with the commission over its plans to stimulate growth by running a bigger budget deficit. The proposed move would violate the eurozone’s fiscal rules and in the past few weeks investors have become increasingly more nervous about Italy’s public finances.

The concessions hinted at by the Rome government would go nowhere near far enough to meet the demands made by Brussels, however. A proposed budget deficit of 2% of GDP would still leave open the possibility of Rome being fined by the commission’s excessive deficit procedure rules but even a partial climbdown was enough to trigger a fall in 10-year Italian bond yields – a key benchmark of official borrowing costs. The spread between the interest rate Italy pays and the much cheaper interest rates for Germany fell to its lowest in more than a month.

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Nice try, but Bitcoin no longer is what it was 10 years ago at birth. So fluctuations aren’t either. Who’s going to put serious money into something that loses 81% in less than a year?

Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)

Bitcoin is only 10 years old, but the cryptocurrency has already seen its fair share of bear markets. The most recent one, which some are dubbing “crypto winter,” worsened over the weekend. The cryptocurrency slid below $3,500 for the first time in 14 months, then later recovered toward the $3,900 level by Monday, according to data from CoinDesk. That brings its decline from last year’s peak to more than 81 percent. That loss isn’t the worst bitcoin has suffered, but the world’s largest digital currency is getting close. Bitcoin’s current level is still well above the fraction of a penny price where it first began trading in 2010— and its early investors are mostly wealthier because of it. By June 2011, it had risen to a new all-time high of roughly $30. But by that November, the cryptocurrency was back below $2.50, tumbling more than 92 percent from their high.

That year, volume was still low and the dozens of now popular trading exchanges like Coinbase didn’t exist yet. Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was handling roughly 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world. [..] Roughly $700 billion has been wiped off cryptocurrencies’ global market capitalization since the high, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. The price of one bitcoin has dropped more than $15,000 since December. Bitcoin skyrocketed to current its all-time high of almost $20,000 in December 2017. Coinbase’s CEO said this summer that at the height of that boom, the exchange was opening up 50,000 new accounts a day, for mostly retail investors. The all-time high also came ahead of the availability of bitcoin futures. Those products have also fallen. On Monday, they dropped to their lowest levels since launching.

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Not going to happen. Unless they find a vigilante prosecutor.

Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)

Human Rights Watch has asked Argentina to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Argentina’s constitution recognizes universal jurisdiction for war crimes and torture, meaning judicial authorities can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed. Human Rights Watch said its submission was sent to federal judge Ariel Lijo.

HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said the international rights group took the case to Argentina because Prince Mohammed, also known as MbS, will attend the opening of the G20 summit this week in Buenos Aires. “We submitted this info to Argentine prosecutors with the hopes they will investigate MbS’s complicity and responsibility for possible war crimes in Yemen, as well as the torture of civilians, including Jamal Khashoggi,” Whitson told Reuters. Argentine media cited judicial sources as saying it was extremely unlikely that the authorities would take up the case against the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

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Gee, what a surprise. Downplaying the economic losses to communities caused by Airbnb, Uber and Amazon doesn’t help.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)

[..] The year 2018 is to the sharing economy what 2006 was to user-generated content: it can only go downhill. Platforms won’t disappear; far from it. However, the initial lofty objectives that legitimised their activities will give way to the prosaic and occasionally violent imperative imposed by the iron law of competition: the quest for profitability. Uber may help some make ends meet through occasional driving gigs. The need to achieve profitability, however, means that it will have no qualms about ditching its drivers for fully automated vehicles; a company that lost $4.5 bn in 2017 alone would be silly to do otherwise.

Airbnb may have presented itself as an ally of the middle classes against entrenched economic interests. But the drive for profits already forces it to partner with the likes of Brookfield Property Partners, one of the world’s largest real-estate firms, to develop Airbnb-branded hotel-like residencies, often by purchasing and converting existing apartment blocks. Few entrenched interests – save, perhaps, for the tenants who see their apartment blocks become Airbnb-run hotels – get disrupted here. Given the huge sums involved, the most likely outcome of current battles in sectors such as ride-sharing will be more centralisation, with just one or two platforms controlling each region. Uber’s surrender – in China, India and Russia, as well as much of southeast Asia and Latin America – to local players, many of them also backed by Saudi money, suggests as much.

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What ails the Automatic Earth: “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook..”. But Facebook shut down access to our account, and thousands of ‘friends’, without one single word of explanation. So what now? Set up a new accoint, only for them do to it again? Are you beginning to see what’s wrong here?

Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)

James Reader tried to do everything right. No fake news, no sloppiness, no spam. The 54-year-old teamster and San Diego resident with a progressive bent had a history of activism, but itched to get more involved. So a few years ago he tinkered with a blog called the Everlasting GOP Stoppers, and it did well enough to persuade some friends and investors to take a bigger step. “We got together and became Reverb Press,” he recalls. “I didn’t start it for the money. I did it because I care about my country.”

[..] The site took off, especially during the 2015-16 election season. “We had 30 writers contributing, four full-time editors and an IT worker,” Reader says. “At our peak, we had 4 million to 5 million unique visitors a month.” Through Facebook and social media, Reader estimates, as many as 13 million people a week were seeing Reverb stories. Much of the content was aggregated or had titles like “36 Scariest Quotes From the 2015 GOP Presidential Debates.” But Reverb also did original reporting, like a first-person account of Catholic Church abuse in New Jersey that was picked up by mainstream outlets.

Like most independent publishers, he relied heavily on a Facebook page to drive traffic and used Facebook tools to help boost his readership. “We were pouring between $2,000 and $6,000 a month into Facebook, to grow the page,” Reader says. “We tried to do everything they suggested.” Publishers like Reader jumped to it every time Facebook sent hints about changes to its algorithm. When it emphasized video, he moved to develop video content. Reader viewed Facebook as an essential tool for independent media. “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook,” he says. “At the same time, it was really small blogs that helped Facebook explode in the first place.”

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The investors are not the answer to the problem. The links to secret services are.

Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)

It’s been a brutal few months for Facebook investors. Shares of the social network have tumbled almost 40 percent since reaching a high on July 25, even after a modest rebound on Monday. The company has faced a barrage of attacks related to the numerous ways the platform has been manipulated to spread false information and for leadership’s insufficient and controversial response, which the New York Times detailed in a lengthy investigative report earlier this month. Some of the almost $200 billion of market value that’s been wiped out since the stock’s peak can be attributed to a broader sell-off in tech stocks, which have plummeted since August amid concern about a slowdown in global economic growth and President Trump’s threats of a trade war.

But Facebook’s slide started well before that and the stock has badly underperformed the Nasdaq and its big-tech peers this year. The problem for Facebook is in finding a way out. Facebook’s business model, which relies on a growing number of users to share more information and for advertisers to continue to pay up to reach them, starts to look shaky as trust in the network deteriorates. Yet at the top of the company, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 34, has so much ownership and control that the board and shareholders have a very limited ability to exert any influence.

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Might as well give up on people ever understanding that climate change is not an economic problem, and can therefore not be solved by economics.

Whoever links the demise of the planet to solutions offered by the same money that is causing it, is blind.

Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)

Fighting climate change can be America’s new New Deal. The effects of global warming on virtually all aspects of U.S. society could be devastating, according to a government report released on Friday. Rather than seize on its findings as a way to boost American innovation, economic output and jobs, President Donald Trump’s administration snuck the report out late on Friday after Thanksgiving – and then played down its devastating findings. That’s a big missed opportunity Unchecked, climate change could lop as much as a tenth off the nation’s GDP by the end of the century, according to the authors of Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

That overall figure doubtless underestimates regional variances. The overall cost of the wildfires that hit California in 2017, for example, amounted to 6.5 percent of the Golden State’s economic output, estimated AccuWeather. Factor in everything from water scarcity to pollution to energy production to human health, and in some parts of the country the economic impact could be far worse. The cost in financial and human terms drops by up to 70 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions peak before the middle of the century and then drop, the report says. It requires investment, of course – which some Republicans like Senator Mike Lee deride as being harmful to the economy.

That’s clearly a ruse. Fully decarbonizing by 2050 the world’s cement, steel, plastics, trucking, shipping and aviation sectors could require investing some 0.5 percent of global GDP a year using mostly existing technology, according to the Energy Transitions Commission. But it would bring efficiencies, employment and advances in technology that could more than offset the costs. Similarly, modernizing aging infrastructure has multiple benefits. Investing the $800 billion or so needed to upgrade America’s water systems could generate an almost 300 percent return, according to the U.S. Water Alliance – and generate 1.3 million jobs.

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Stefania Maurizi gained access to Assange recently. The cat is gone. So sorry for Julian. Maurizi makes a point that everyone should make: the role of the UK press. I wrote earlier this year about a series of smear pieces the Guardian published. Nothing has changed. These are the same folk that shout out about freedom of the press when Trump is concerned. They’re at the very least no better than he is.

The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

They are destroying him slowly. They are doing it through an indefinite detention which has been going on for the last eight years with no end in sight. Julian Assange has become one of the most widely known icons of freedom of the press and the struggle against state secrecy. [..] After eight months of failed attempts, la Repubblica was finally able to visit the WikiLeaks founder in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the current Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno had cut him off from all contacts last March with the exception of his lawyers.

[..] The friendly atmosphere we had always experienced during our visits over the last six years is now gone. The Ecuadorian diplomat who had always supported the WikiLeaks founder, Fidel Narvaez, has been removed. Not even the cat is there anymore. With its funny striped tie and ambushes on the ornaments of the Christmas tree at the embassy’s entrance, the cat had helped defuse tension inside the building for years. But Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.

The news that surfaced last week, revealing the existence of criminal charges against Julian Assange by the US authorities, charges which were supposed to remain under seal until it was impossible for Assange to evade arrest, vindicates what Assange has feared for years. He is now waiting for the charges to be unsealed, but in the meantime he is silent: the risk that he could suddenly lose Ecuador’s protection due to some public statement is not improbable these days. Two years ago, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) established that the UK (at that time Sweden as well) is responsible for detaining Assange arbitrarily: it should free him and compensate him. London did not welcome this decision: they tried to appeal it, but lost the appeal and since then have simply ignored it.

The British media has never called on the UK authorities to comply with the UN body’s decision, quite the opposite: some even lashed out against the UN body. If Julian Assange ends up in the hands of the UK authorities in the upcoming months and the US asks for his extradition, where will the British medial stand? Never before has the life of the WikiLeaks founder been so crucially in the hands of public opinion and in the hands of one of the few powers whose mission it is to reign in the worst instincts of our governments: the press.

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Jun 242018
 
 June 24, 2018  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky The Ninth Wave 1849

 

Mueller’s Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (WSJ)
Refugees Now Make Up 1% Of The World’s Population (Wef)
There’s No Migration Crisis – The Crisis Is Political Opportunism (G&M)
Divided EU Leaders Convene For Emergency Talks On Migration (R.)
Italy Says ‘Arrogant’ France Could Become Main Enemy On Migration (R.)
Xi Says China Must Lead Way In Reform Of Global Governance (R.)
Turkey’s Erdogan Faces Resurgent Opposition In Twin Election Test (AFP)
Huge Anti-Brexit Demonstration Throngs Central London (G.)
Airbus Warns Of Harsh Brexit Reality With 100,000 Jobs Under Threat (Ind.)
Bitcoin Drops to $5,860, Lowest since October 2017 (WS)
The Eurozone Isn’t Ready For The Next Big Shock (Pol.eu)
Shooting The Messenger: Criminalising Journalism (G.)

 

 

Two lawyers in the WSJ warning that the FBI had so tainted the process, Mueller should at a minimum pause his investigation.

Mueller’s Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (WSJ)

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation may face a serious legal obstacle: It is tainted by antecedent political bias. The June 14 report from Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, unearthed a pattern of anti-Trump bias by high-ranking officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some of their communications, the report says, were “not only indicative of a biased state of mind but imply a willingness to take action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” Although Mr. Horowitz could not definitively ascertain whether this bias “directly affected” specific FBI actions in the Hillary Clinton email investigation, it nonetheless affects the legality of the Trump-Russia collusion inquiry, code-named Crossfire Hurricane.

Crossfire was launched only months before the 2016 election. Its FBI progenitors—the same ones who had investigated Mrs. Clinton—deployed at least one informant to probe Trump campaign advisers, obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wiretap warrants, issued national security letters to gather records, and unmasked the identities of campaign officials who were surveilled. They also repeatedly leaked investigative information.

Mr. Horowitz is separately scrutinizing Crossfire and isn’t expected to finish for months. But the current report reveals that FBI officials displayed not merely an appearance of bias against Donald Trump, but animus bordering on hatred. Peter Strzok, who led both the Clinton and Trump investigations, confidently assuaged a colleague’s fear that Mr. Trump would become president: “No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” An unnamed FBI lawyer assigned to Crossfire told a colleague he was “devastated” and “numb” after Mr. Trump won, while declaring to another FBI attorney: “Viva le resistance.”

[..] The totality of the circumstances creates the appearance that Crossfire was politically motivated. Since an attempt by federal law enforcement to influence a presidential election “shocks the conscience,” any prosecutorial effort derived from such an outrageous abuse of power must be suppressed. The public will learn more once the inspector general finishes his investigation into Crossfire’s genesis. But given what is now known, due process demands, at a minimum, that the special counsel’s activity be paused. Those affected by Mr. Mueller’s investigation could litigate such an argument in court. One would hope, however, that given the facts either Mr. Mueller himself or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would do it first.

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War and peace.

Refugees Now Make Up 1% Of The World’s Population (Wef)

If all the world’s refugees came together as a single nation they would collectively create one of the largest countries on Earth. According to the UNHCR, there are now almost 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, around 1% of the world’s population – the highest number in modern history. The number of refugees has steadily increased since 1951 but has jumped dramatically in the last 10 years. That’s mostly because of the Syrian civil war which began in 2011 and has since forced millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries and in Europe. The most recent Global Peace Index, an annual report produced by Australian think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace, has found that for the fourth year in a row, overall levels of peace around the world have deteriorated.

92 countries have seen declining peace, while 71 countries have improved. Increased terrorist activity, conflicts in the Middle East and rising tensions in Eastern Europe and north-east Asia have all contributed to declining levels of peace. Even the most peaceful regions in the world according to the index – Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, and South America – have all recorded declines. The rising number of refugees and heightened political tensions in Europe and the US have meant that even stable countries have seen their scores lowered. For instance, 23 out of 36 countries in Europe deteriorated last year. Now in its seventh year of civil war, Syria is the least peaceful country in the world, along with Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia.

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But the article above talks about the highest number of refugees in history.

There’s No Migration Crisis – The Crisis Is Political Opportunism (G&M)

“Desperate times at our southern border call for desperate measures on the other side:” That was the very loud message from right-wing leaders in the United States and Europe this week. Their desperate measures shocked the world. The Trump administration’s policy requiring thousands of infants and children to be seized from their parents and held in detention left leaders and citizens aghast (and its most inhumane elements remain in place). On the other side of the Atlantic, we watched the new Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini order boatloads of migrant families turned back into the sea, following his call last year to deal with immigration with a “mass cleansing, street by street, quarter by quarter.”

Most reasonable people agree that these are not humane ways to deal with what these politicians call a “migration emergency.” But too many people take their word that there actually is some sort of a migration emergency. To be clear: There is no immigration crisis in 2018. Not in the United States, not in Europe, not in Canada. “It is not a migration emergency – it’s a political emergency,” William Lacy Swing, the American director-general of the International Organization for Migration, said this week. The IOM’s 8,400 staff monitor the movement of people around the world, and while they’ve identified plenty of challenges, there aren’t any overwhelming or unmanageable movements of people this year. “The overwhelming majority of migration is taking place in a regular, safe and orderly fashion,” he said.

“There is a very serious problem of communication, but what we’re seeing is that the numbers are pretty modest,” said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD, which advises 34 countries (including the United States and Canada) on immigration policy, this week released its annual report on migration levels in OECD countries. It showed a fall in numbers to ordinary, non-crisis levels. The United States has always had movement, some of it undocumented, across its southern border. The 2018 numbers are somewhat higher than the 2017 numbers – but they’re a small fraction, less than a third, of the rate experienced in the 2000s under George W. Bush, or in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, or in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. Since 2008, illegal crossings have fallen to lows not seen since the early 1970s.

What has risen, since 2014, has been the far smaller fraction of people on the Mexican border who are refugee claimants from Guatemala, Honduras and especially El Salvador. Those countries are experiencing crises of political and civic violence, and those fleeing have legitimate claims for asylum under the Refugee Convention, to which Washington subscribes. They are not illegal and they’re certainly not dangerous.

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No agreement seems possible anymore.

Divided EU Leaders Convene For Emergency Talks On Migration (R.)

European Union leaders gather in Brussels on Sunday in an attempt to bridge their deep divisions over migration, an issue that has been splitting them for years and now poses a fresh threat to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Though arrivals across the Mediterranean are only a fraction of what they were in 2015, when more than a million people reached Europe, a recent opinion poll showed migration was the top concern for the EU’s 500 million citizens. Under heavy pressure from voters at home, EU leaders have been fighting bitter battles over how to share out asylum seekers in the bloc. Unable to agree, they have become more restrictive on asylum and tightened their external borders to let fewer people in.

They have given money and aid to countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East to keep people from heading for Europe. Only 41,000 refugees and migrants have made it to the EU across the sea so far this year, U.N. figures show. But the issue has in the meantime won and lost elections for politicians across the bloc from Italy to Hungary, with voters favoring those advocating a tougher stance on migration. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France favored financial sanctions for EU countries that refuse migrants with proven asylum status. Merkel is under pressure because her longtime conservative allies, Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), have threatened to start turning away at the German border all asylum seekers already registered elsewhere in the EU unless the bloc reaches an agreement on distributing them more evenly.

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Not smart Macron.

Italy Says ‘Arrogant’ France Could Become Main Enemy On Migration (R.)

Italy on Saturday said “arrogant” France risked becoming its “No.1 enemy” on migration issues, a day before European leaders convene in Brussels for a hastily arranged meeting on the divisive topic. In answer to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said migration flows toward Europe had reduced compared with a few years ago, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Macron’s words showed he was out of touch. “Italy indeed faces a migration emergency and it’s partly because France keeps pushing back people at the border. Macron risks making his country Italy’s No.1 enemy on this emergency,” Di Maio wrote on his Facebook page.

Macron said European cooperation had managed to cut migration flows by close to 80 percent and problems stemmed from “secondary” movements of migrants within Europe. “The reality is that Europe is not experiencing a migration crisis of the same magnitude as the one it experienced in 2015,” the French president said. “A country like Italy has not at all the same migratory pressure as last year. … The crisis we are experiencing today in Europe is a political crisis.” But Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said his country had faced 650,000 arrivals by sea over the past four years, 430,000 asylum requests and the hosting of 170,000 “alleged refugees” for an overall cost of more than 5 billion euros ($5.8 billion).

“If for the arrogant President Macron this is not a problem, we invite him to stop insulting and to show instead some concrete generosity by opening up France’s many ports and letting children, men and women through at Ventimiglia,” he said in a statement, referring to the northwestern Italian town at the border with France.

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Filling a void.

Xi Says China Must Lead Way In Reform Of Global Governance (R.)

China must lead the way in reforming global governance, the foreign ministry on Saturday cited President Xi Jinping as saying, as Beijing looks to increase its world influence. China has sought a greater say in global organizations such as the World Bank, the IMF and UN, in line with its growing economic and diplomatic clout. Since taking office in late 2012, Xi has taken a more muscular approach, setting up China’s own global bodies like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and launching his landmark Belt and Road project to build a new Silk Road. Beijing has cast itself a responsible member of the international community, especially as President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from agreements on climate change and Iran, and as Europe wrestles with Brexit and other issues.

China must “uphold the protection of the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, proactively participate in and show the way in reform of the global governance system, creating an even better web of global partnership relationships”, Xi said in comments reported at the end of a two-day high-level Communist Party meeting. This would help create conditions for building a modern, strong socialist country, the ministry cited him as saying at the meeting attended by officials from the foreign and commerce ministries, the military, the propaganda department and the Chinese embassy in the United States.

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Blocking the opposition from TV.

Turkey’s Erdogan Faces Resurgent Opposition In Twin Election Test (AFP)

Turks began voting Sunday in dual parliamentary and presidential polls seen as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s toughest election test, with the opposition revitalised and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles. Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and displaying autocratic behaviour. Polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and were due to close at 1400 GMT, with the first results expected late in the evening.

Over 56 million eligible voters can for the first time cast ballots simultaneously in the parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But both these goals are in doubt in the face of an energetic campaign by his rival from the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, who has mobilised hundreds of thousands in mega rallies, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative polls. Erdogan remains the favourite to hold on to the presidency – even if he needs a second round on July 8 – but the outcome is likely to be much tighter than he expected when calling the snap polls one-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.

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It’s going to take demos ten times that size. You need millions on the streets.

Huge Anti-Brexit Demonstration Throngs Central London (G.)

At least 100,000 people took to the streets yesterday as part of the largest ever demonstration of support for a new referendum over Britain’s final Brexit deal. With more businesses poised to issue dire Brexit warnings this week and senior Tories already drawing up plans to soften Theresa May’s exit proposals, organisers of the march on Sunday said it showed Britain’s departure from the European Union was not a “done deal”. A former aide to Margaret Thatcher, several Labour MPs and pro-EU campaigners from across Britain took part in the demonstration, marking two years since the Brexit vote. Organisers said that people from every region and walk of life were among those who took part in the march down Whitehall.

Conservative supporters marched alongside Labour voters and Liberal Democrats during the protest, which saw angry denunciations of the chaos that has ensued inside government since the Brexit vote. Labour’s leadership also came under pressure at the march for refusing to back a second public vote. There were chants of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn” from the crowd. The Labour leader was on a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp. Anger on the streets at the prime minister’s handling of the Brexit negotiations is being accompanied by a renewed push from industry to ensure that trade with Europe is not disrupted as a result of leaving. More prominent manufacturing firms are set to issue warnings about Britain’s Brexit negotiations within days, after Airbus and BMW broke cover to say they could reconsider their UK investment plans unless a Brexit deal was reached keeping Britain closely aligned with Europe.

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Reality should dawn on the British people.

Airbus Warns Of Harsh Brexit Reality With 100,000 Jobs Under Threat (Ind.)

“The dawning of reality,” is how Tom Williams, the chief operating officer of Airbus, described it, after warning that Airbus is seriously considering pulling out of the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit. It’s worth taking a moment to consider what that would mean. The firm employs 14,000 people directly in this country. It has provided 4,000 high quality apprentices over the last decade, thus supporting a flagship policy of the Government. It contributed £1.7bn to the UK exchequer in tax last year, before you consider the economic contributions of its employees, who are in well paid, unionised jobs. It is estimated that Airbus supports another 86,000 people through its supply chain, bringing the total number of jobs at risk to 100,000.

The companies in that supply chain, and their employees, further add to the tax take, and contribute to the economy. If, when, Airbus does go, if it seeks alternatives when it comes to the production of its wings, those jobs will not be replaced. Once they are gone, they are gone. Perhaps the Brextremists expect the people who held them to pick the fruit that the soft fruit industry has been warning about rotting in the fields for months? It once again puts the shockingly mendacious talk by ministers of a “Brexit dividend” to fund the NHS – even Chancellor Philip Hammond has now descended into that pit – into context. The economic damage if Airbus goes, and if other companies; car makers, and their suppliers, for example, do the same, no one will be talking about dividends. Quite the reverse.

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Wolf Richter is no fan.

Bitcoin Drops to $5,860, Lowest since October 2017 (WS)

Bitcoin dropped to $5,860 at the moment, below $6,000 for the first time since October 29, 2017. It has plummeted 70% in six months from the peak of $19,982 on December 17. There have been many ups on the way down, repeatedly dishing out fakes hopes, based on the ancient theory that nothing goes to hell in a straight line (chart via CoinMarketCap): If you’re a True Believer and you just know that bitcoin will go to $1 million by the end of 2020, as promised by a whole slew of gurus, including John McAfee – “I will still eat my dick if wrong,” he offered helpfully on November 29 – well you probably don’t need this sort of punishment. You’re suffering enough already. And I apologize. I feel your pain.

I was a true believer too a few times, and every single time it was a huge amount of fun, and I felt invincible and indestructible until I got run over by events. With 17.11 million bitcoins circulating today, if bitcoin were at $1 million today, it would amount to a market cap of $17 trillion. But new bitcoins are constantly being created out of nothing (“mined”) by computers that suck up enormous amounts of electricity. And by the end of 2020, there will be many more bitcoins, and if the price were $1 million each, the total would amount to about the size of US GDP. This doesn’t even count all the other cryptos that would presumably boom in a similar manner, amounting perhaps to half of global GDP, or something.

People who promote this brainless crap are either totally nuts or the worst scam artists. But I feel sorry for the True Believers whose fiat money got transferred and will continue to get transferred from them to others. So OK, there’s still some time left. It’s not the end of 2020 yet. And True Believers still have room for the fake hope of a $1-million bitcoin. But at the moment, bitcoin is even worse – incredibly – than one of the worst fiat currencies in the world, the Argentine peso, which has plunged “only” 35% over the period during which bitcoin plunged 70%. That takes some doing!

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France and Germany should stop trying to dictate the future. It will backfire.

The Eurozone Isn’t Ready For The Next Big Shock (Pol.eu)

The return to economic growth in the eurozone has produced a dangerous sense of complacency on the Old Continent, especially in the richer countries of the north. But Italy’s flirtation with an exit from the euro under a populist government is a stark reminder that, if left unaddressed, the deep structural weaknesses that plague the single currency could trigger an existential crisis across the EU. It would be a mistake, therefore, to believe we can drive along in business-as-usual mode, or just take a few small steps toward more European integration. This week’s Meseberg Declaration signed by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, although a step in the right direction, is part of a collective denial about what needs to be done.

You don’t need to be a populist to recognize that Europe’s monetary union is dysfunctional and in dire need of more substantial reforms than those proposed by Germany and France. To keep the single currency alive, it needs two major structural improvements. First, it needs to reduce the fragmentation in Europe’s banking system that has caused the Continent to experience more severe crises than other parts of the world — most notably in comparison to the U.S. Second, it has to develop a streamlined and legitimate decision-making process to respond quickly and boldly to the next major recession.

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Amen.

Shooting The Messenger: Criminalising Journalism (G.)

The fact that during the 10 years he was in office, the US president, Barack Obama, prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the presidents in US history combined is an indication of the increasing threat to journalism. In 2017 the head of the CIA questioned the first amendment rights which protect free speech, and the US attorney-general threatened that the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, would be prosecuted (for what he was not clear). Both are acts of intimidation designed to silence. It has been argued that governments are not that concerned about most of the work that journalists do so, for most, concerns about surveillance are unnecessary. But the problem there is that, generally speaking, if governments are not worried about what journalists are doing, the journalists are not doing their jobs.

Reporting local news may be a useful social function, but the issues that arise where nations go to war, or where countries are involved in breaking the law, or plundering the treasure of other nations, are of great importance and need investigating. It is in these significant areas that journalists must be protected from the vested interests of the executive state; where the very people who make the decisions, as in the Iraq war, need to be exposed and held to account before the event, not after it. What is so disturbing is that the media has often aided and abetted governments and the intelligence agencies – who always want more access to information – as they invoked the fear of terrorism as grounds for introducing tougher surveillance laws.

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