Dec 022020
 


Ford Madox Brown King Lear and Cordelia c1851

 

UK Becomes First Country To Approve Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 Vaccine (NBC)
With Tanden Choice, Democrats Stick it to Sanders Voters (Taibbi)
We Know Joe (Jacobs)
Putting a BlackRock Alum in Charge of Greening the Economy (TNR)
Trump Raises At Least $150 Million Since Election Day (JTN)
Whistleblowers Allege Ballots Crossed State Lines, Disappear, Backdating (JTN)
Why the Fed Needs Public Banks (Ellen Brown)
The Rich Cheer Wall Street’s Latest Records. The Rest Drain 401(k)s (CP)
Ray Dalio’s Chart Hints At What Beijing Is Really Up To (Xie)
Debenhams ‘Never Recovered From Private Equity Ownership’ (G.)
One Of Biology’s Biggest Mysteries ‘Largely Solved’ By AI (BBC)

 

 

 

 

The rest of us should be happy they will be the guinea pigs. I’ve seen one too many doctors and scientists say they’ll sit this one out.

UK Becomes First Country To Approve Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 Vaccine (NBC)

The U.K. has become the first country to approve the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and will begin inoculations next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said early Wednesday. “For so long we’ve been saying that if a vaccine is developed, then things will get better in 2021, and now we can say when this vaccine is rolled out things will get better,” Hancock told the BBC. The U.K. has ordered 40 million vaccine doses from Pfizer — enough for up to a third of the population. The vaccine was found to be 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, the drugmaker said after clinical trials.


The pharmaceutical giant submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 20 for an emergency use authorization in the U.S. A vaccine committee will now decide which groups will first get the vaccine, such as care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically vulnerable. “This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a news release. The Pfizer shots must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit — far colder than standard cooling systems. To help accommodate the extra refrigeration requirement, Pfizer has developed a supercool storage unit packed with dry ice.

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She looks like a no-go. But many of the other neocons will be in.

With Tanden Choice, Democrats Stick it to Sanders Voters (Taibbi)

The Democratic Party is not known for its sense of humor, but news that Joe Biden will appoint longtime Center for American Progress chief Neera Tanden to his government qualifies as a rare, well-earned laugh line. Tanden is famous for two things: having a puddle of DNC talking points in place of a cerebrum, and despising Bernie Sanders. She was #Resistance’s most visible anti-Sanders foil, spending awe-inspiring amounts of time on Twitter bludgeoning Sanders and his supporters as a deviant mob of Russian tools and covert “horseshoe theory” Trump-lovers. She has, to put it gently, an ardent social media following. Every prominent media figure with even a vague connection to Sanders learned in recent years to expect mud-drenched pushback from waves of “Neera trolls” after any public comment crossing DNC narratives.

No name in blue politics is more associated with seething opposition to Sanders than Tanden. Biden is making this person Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.” The Democrats still have to reckon with Trumpism in both the short and long term, but the Sanders movement on their other flank has at least temporarily been routed as a serious oppositional force. The Democrats know this, which is part of the joke of the Tanden appointment. While the party’s labors to oppose Trump have been incoherent at best, the campaign to kneecap Sanders has been, let’s admit it, brilliant.


The Blue Apparat has always despised Bernie and his various precursor movements far more than it hated Republicans, and for good reason. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Clintonite hacks in cushy Washington sinecures who would have retained their spots in the event of a loss to Trump. A Sanders win would have put them all out of the politics business for a while. It was unsurprising to see the party mainstream marshaling all of what passes for its brainpower to devise a long game to crate-train Sanders, who in less than a year went from oppositional favorite to seize the Democratic nomination to obedient afterthought.

Tucker Greenwald on Tanden

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And Joe knows everyone who counts. Except perhaps himself.

We Know Joe (Jacobs)

We know this man Joe Biden. We know the politics he champions. We know his corporate and financial backers. We know what we’re up against. Barack Obama and the Clintons operated in the same neoliberal and essentially reactionary sphere. The faces in power may be female, Black, Latino and gay, but the policies are designed to keep the power from the people, the money from the vast numbers of working people, and the war machine’s troops around the globe. We cannot afford to get fooled again. Inauguration Day is the opening of a new front in the battle for the planet and those creatures who live on it. The Trump years were, more than anything, a forced retreat. The fascist and other reactionary forces unleashed by his occupation of the White House made major gains and they are determined to hang on to those gains.

The eight years that preceded him were, in essence, not a forced retreat but part of a decades long retreat, nonetheless. It’s good that Biden is a conventional establishment politician. It is also bad. The history of the last four decades (with the exception of the Trump years) is the history of a nation ruled by conventional establishment politicians. It is good because we know their strategies and tricks. It is bad because those strategies and tricks can lull people into a political sleep. Without the personal outrage a Trump can cause, elected officials, their appointees, and the monetary forces they serve can do a lot of damage under the guise of doing good. Whether it is Reagan’s privatization of the government, Clinton’s destruction of the social welfare system, the Bush’s bloody wars on the people of the Mideast, or Obama’s continuation of all those policies, the reality is these actions took place with most US residents’ assent.

Liberals fell for Reagan’s folksy lies, letting themselves be led by their investments into a world where the poor were once again blamed for their circumstances. When their man Clinton was in office, they supported his intensification of the war on the poor, all the while pointing to their 401Ks as proof the American Dream still worked. And the wars just went on. There was opposition, but never to the point that the troops would not be sent to fight or completely withdrawn once they got there. Indeed, too much of the antiwar leadership abandoned its constituents and joined up with the Obama campaign in 2007, just as the war on Iraq was escalating. That war, and the war on the Afghans continues to this moment. In addition, there are tens of thousands of US forces—military and mercenary—wreaking death and destruction around the globe.

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Predictable.

Putting a BlackRock Alum in Charge of Greening the Economy (TNR)

This week, the Biden campaign is expected to announce officially that it’s tapped former Obama adviser and current BlackRock executive Brian Deese to head the National Economic Council. The appointment will make Deese the president’s top economic adviser. And in addition to worrying climate activists, the news has again raised concerns about BlackRock’s outsize influence in U.S. politics. Deese has long been on the no-go lists of progressives tracking Biden appointments, thanks to his BlackRock background. New York Communities for Change and the Sunrise Movement protested the rumors of Deese’s appointment outside the company’s Manhattan headquarters last week.

His advocates and defenders, including climate wonks and Obama alums, have praised his character, record on conservation, role in helping negotiate the Paris Agreement, as well as the fact that he joined BlackRock to head the investment management giant’s sustainable investment strategy after his brief stint working on climate issues for Obama. Many are excited by the prospect of having an NEC head who spends time thinking about climate change. By all accounts, Deese is indeed a nice guy. But to suggest his record makes him a good fit for a position steering and greening the U.S. economy rests on fundamental misunderstandings of Deese’s climate credentials, BlackRock’s ambitions, and the crisis at hand.

Deese has now spent more time advising BlackRock on climate than the White House. But his governmental record deserves scrutiny, too. Before taking over the climate portfolio from John Podesta, he worked for the NEC and as deputy and then acting director of the Office of Management. He described his role as “showing the American people how we can do more effectively with less” and preached “fiscal discipline”—a troubling inclination given how desperately the current economy and climate crisis need government spending. He also championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have doubled U.S. exposure to pernicious investor-state dispute settlements, allowing companies to sue governments that infringe on their profits (for example, through robust climate policy). During his two years as Obama’s climate adviser, Deese defended Arctic drilling and boasted about increases in “both renewable and traditional” energy production, though he did also work to withdraw certain portions of the Arctic Ocean from mineral leasing.

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Dind’t Trump just yesterday say: See you in 2024?

Trump Raises At Least $150 Million Since Election Day (JTN)

President Trump has raised at least $150 million since Election Day nearly one month ago, according to multiple news reports. The donations have poured in, as the Trump campaign continues to solicit donations to fuel its legal efforts in several key states to uncover voter fraud and overturn the results of the election. The campaign has raised as much as $170 million, according to The New York Times, while other news outlets have reported an amount closer to $150 million. Either amount is approximately equivalent to the numbers coming in to the campaign coffers at the height of the president’s reelection bid.


The Times also reports that 75% of each donation will go to a new political action committee established by Trump and his staff called “Save America.” The other 25% will go to the Republican National Committee. The donations will allow the campaign to pay off outstanding, post-election debt. It will also allow the president to fund post-presidency political activities. Trump has not publicly stated his political intentions should his election challenges fail.

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Everyone deserves to be heard.

Whistleblowers Allege Ballots Crossed State Lines, Disappear, Backdating (JTN)

Sworn testimony of several whistleblowers on Tuesday alleged what one election integrity activist is calling “potential ballot fraud on a massive scale,” with multiple eyewitnesses testifying to alleged suspicious behavior in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In a press conference in Arlington, Va., the Amistad Project — a civil liberties initiative of the Thomas More Society — presented the testimony of three individuals who claim to have witnessed apparent voting malfeasance during the 2020 election. One, Jesse Morgan, a truck driver for a subcontractor with the United States Postal Service, claimed that a trailer he was driving, one full of potentially upwards of 288,000 ballots, disappeared from its parked location at a Lancaster, Pa. USPS depot after Morgan dropped it off there. Morgan had transported those ballots from Bethpage, N.Y.

The subcontractor also reportedly experienced “odd behaviors” from USPS personnel, behaviors which postal experts have said in sworn statements “grossly deviate[d] from normal procedure and behavior,” according to a press release from the Amistad Project. Another whistleblower, Nathan Pease of Madison, Wisc. — himself also a subcontractor for USPS — alleged that he was told the postal service was planning to backdate tens of thousands of ballots in the days after the Nov. 3 election in order to circumvent the ballot submission deadline. A third witness, Gregory Stenstrom — who testified at a Pennsylvania legislature hearing in Gettysburg last week — claimed to have witnessed a Dominion Voting Systems vendor inserting jump drives into voting aggregation machines in Delaware County, Pa.

Election officials also reportedly commingled various jump drives from aggregation machines, potentially frustrating the ability of auditors to properly certify the election results. In its press release, Amistad Project Director Phill Kline said the testimonies are “compelling” and that they provide “powerful eyewitness accounts of potential ballot fraud on a massive scale.” “This evidence joins with unlawful conduct by state and local election officials, including accepting millions of dollars of private funds, to undermine the integrity of this election,” Kline said. In the press release, the Amistad Project says it has collected sworn expert testimony alleging that “over 300,000 ballots are at issue in Arizona, 548,000 in Michigan, 204,000 in Georgia, and over 121,000 in Pennsylvania.”

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Bernie’s ideas.

Why the Fed Needs Public Banks (Ellen Brown)

The Fed’s policy tools – interest rate manipulation, quantitative easing, and “Special Purpose Vehicles” – have all failed to revive local economies suffering from government-mandated shutdowns. . The Fed must rely on private banks to inject credit into Main Street, and private banks are currently unable or unwilling to do it. The tools the Fed actually needs are public banks, which could and would do the job. [..] Private banks are not following through on the Fed’s attempted money injections, but publicly-owned banks would. In countries with strong government-owned banking systems, public banks have historically increased their lending when private banks pulled back. Public banks have a mandate to stimulate their local economies; and unlike private banks, they can do it and still turn a profit, because they have lower costs.

They have eliminated the parasitic profit-extracting middlemen, and they do not have to focus on short-term profits to please their shareholders. They can pour their resources into improving the long-term prospects of the economy and its infrastructure, stimulating local productivity and strengthening the tax base. Three promising new bills are before Congress that would facilitate the establishment of a public banking system in the US. HR 8721, ”The Public Banking Act”, was introduced on Oct. 30, 2020. As described on Vox, the Act would “foster the creation of public [state and local government-owned] banks across the country by providing them a pathway to getting started, establishing an infrastructure for liquidity and credit facilities for them via the Federal Reserve, and setting up federal guidelines for them to be regulated. Essentially, it would make it easier for public banks to exist, and it would give some of them grant money to get started.”

In September, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand also introduced The Postal Banking Act, which they said would • Create $9 billion in revenue for the postal service, saving it from privatization; • Protect low-income or rural families and communities from predatory lending; and • Reestablish postal banking to provide basic, low-cost financial services to those who cannot access banks. The third bill, HR 6422, “The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2020,” is modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which funded the rebuilding of the US economy in the Great Depression of the 1930s. According to its advocates, HR 6422 will build or restore over $4 trillion in infrastructure and create up to 25 million union jobs, while being “revenue neutral” (not burdening the federal government’s budget).

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Trickling up.

The Rich Cheer Wall Street’s Latest Records. The Rest Drain 401(k)s (CP)

The all-time record highs that Wall Street has registered this week have given some Americans — the nation’s already rich — considerable cause for celebration. And the rest of the nation? Tens of millions of Americans are paying precious little attention to the chirpy tale of Wall Street’s ticker. The simple reason: They own no stocks at all. Millions of other Americans who do own stocks don’t see any reason to celebrate either. They’re finding themselves forced, amid pandemic economic collapse, to start selling the stocks that make up the bulk of their retirement savings. How best to start understanding this story? The best place to begin: The latest numbers on stock ownership from the Federal Reserve. Fed researchers have been tracking who exactly owns the stocks that trade every business day on Wall Street ever since 1989.

Back nearly 30 years ago, in 1992, the share of stock nationally that belongs to America’s poorest half of households hit an all-time high. That “high” amounted to all of a miniscule 1.6 percent. How much of America’s stock wealth does the bottom 50 percent hold these days? At the end of this past June, the most recent Federal Reserve data point available, the nation’s poorest half held less than 1 percent of the nation’s stock holdings, just 0.6 percent. The nation’s poorest 90 percent, all combined, now hold just 11.8 percent of the nation’s stocks. Numbers like these help explain why massive numbers of Americans didn’t rush out onto the streets to cheer earlier this week when two top Wall Street benchmarks, the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500, hit their own all-time record summits.

Shares of stock — either held directly or through mutual funds — make up just 2.3 percent of the total assets of households in the bottom 50 percent and a mere 7.6 percent of the assets the rest of the bottom 90 percent hold. America’s richest 1 percent, on the other hand, have plenty of reason to celebrate Wall Street records. Stock holdings make up over 40 percent of top 1 percent household wealth. These 1 percenters, overall, hold 52.4 percent of the nation’s stock, a share almost five times greater than all the stock that households in the bottom 90 percent hold. This top 1 percent share has been steadily increasing. Since 1989, the year the Fed started keeping track, the top 1 percent share of the nation’s stock holdings has jumped 22 percent. The bottom 90 percent share has dropped 33 percent.

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“..the buzz in Beijing is that the financial industry should serve the real economy and people..”

Ray Dalio’s Chart Hints At What Beijing Is Really Up To (Xie)

Another day, another stock record. The S&P 500 soared to a fresh all-time high on Tuesday, while the yield curve steepened on optimism about more fiscal stimulus and the imminent deployment of vaccines. The seeming disconnect between financial markets and the economy is kind of surreal, considering that 11 million people remain unemployed and the virus is spiraling out of control. The fact that U.S. policy makers are still pedal-to-the-metal with monetary stimulus stands in sharp contrast to China, where officials have set their sights on an exit from loose policy. Consider recent events: Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, described China’s property market as the biggest “gray rhino” – an obvious yet ignored financial risk.


Guo also pledged to impose “special and innovative regulatory measures” on financial technology behemoths such as Jack Ma’s Ant Group. The recent regulation changes have essentially put these fin-tech companies under the similar supervision umbrella as traditional banks to avoid excessive leverage. Beijing has allowed a number of SOEs to default, breaking the implicit government guarantee. PBOC Governor Yi Gang vowed to avoid monetizing government debt. In addition, officials have said low interest rates contributed to social inequality. Clearly, there’s a sense of urgency to address financial risks and close the gap between markets and the economy. In the meantime, the buzz in Beijing is that the financial industry should serve the real economy and people.

What China is doing makes perfect sense in the context of the big economic cycle described by Ray Dalio. In his latest essay published Tuesday, Bridgewater’s founder showed that China is in the midst of a debt bubble and the beginning of widening wealth gap. Apparently, China wants to tackle both before it’s too late. In contrast, the U.S. has passed the peak of its economic power, settling into the stage of money printing after the burst of the debt bubble, according to Dalio. “It is in this stage when there are bad financial conditions and intensifying conflict,” wrote Dalio. “Classically this stage comes after periods of great excesses in spending and debt and the widening of wealth and political gaps and before there are revolutions and civil wars. United States is at a tipping point in which it could go from manageable internal tension to revolution and/or civil war.”

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Vultures all around.

Debenhams ‘Never Recovered From Private Equity Ownership’ (G.)

Coronavirus store closures may have been the final nail in the coffin for Debenhams but retail experts argue the department store chain never recovered from a brutal period in the hands of priv ate equity. The retailer was taken over in 2003 by a private equity consortium. The trio of funds, TPG, CVC Capital and Merrill Lynch, made huge returns from their £600m investment, collecting £1.2bn in dividends despite owning the company for less than three years. Debenhams owed around £100m when it was taken private but, by the time it returned to the stock market in 2006, that debt had swollen to more than £1bn. After the retailer’s subsequent poor performance, the deal came to epitomise the worst excesses of the private equity model – the “quick flip” whereby investors buy a listed business cheaply, load it with debt and then refloat it at a big profit.


The private equity consortium installed Rob Templeman, fresh from lucrative private equity revamps of Homebase and Halfords, to overhaul Debenhams. His plan was to cut costs at the same time as increasing sales and profit margins. He also used price cuts to clear products that weren’t selling, but regular discounting was blamed for dragging the brand downmarket. The consortium had used £1.1bn of debt to acquire the business and Templeman cut borrowing costs by remortgaging some of the stores. In 2005, 23 shops were sold for £495m. Debenhams leased the stores back, on expensive rent deals up to 35 years in length. Blaming private equity for Debenhams’ demise is “100% justified”, said veteran retail analyst Richard Hyman. “At the very time when the sort of massive changes we’re seeing today were embryonic, Debenhams’ wherewithal to react, ie money, was removed. It was removed into the bank accounts of private equity investors. That is the truth of it.”

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AI and complexity.

One Of Biology’s Biggest Mysteries ‘Largely Solved’ By AI (BBC)

One of biology’s biggest mysteries has been solved using artificial intelligence, experts have announced. Predicting how a protein folds into a unique three-dimensional shape has puzzled scientists for half a century. London-based AI lab, DeepMind, has largely cracked the problem, said the organisers of a scientific challenge. A better understanding of protein shapes could play a pivotal role in the development of novel drugs to treat disease. The advance by Google-owned DeepMind is expected to accelerate research into a host of illnesses, including Covid-19. Their program determined the shape of proteins at a level of accuracy comparable to expensive and time-consuming lab methods, said independent scientists.

Dr Andriy Kryshtafovych, from University of California (UC), Davis in the US, one of the panel of scientific adjudicators, described the achievement as “truly remarkable”. “Being able to investigate the shape of proteins quickly and accurately has the potential to revolutionise life sciences,” he said. Proteins are present in all living things where they play a central role in the chemical processes essential for life. Made up of strings of amino acids, they fold up in an infinite number of ways into elaborate shapes that hold the key to how they carry out their vital functions.Many diseases are linked to the roles of proteins in catalysing chemical reactions (enzymes), fighting disease (antibodies) or acting as chemical messengers (hormones such as insulin).

“Even tiny rearrangements of these vital molecules can have catastrophic effects on our health, so one of the most efficient ways to understand disease and find new treatments is to study the proteins involved,” said Dr John Moult of the University of Maryland, US, the chair of the panel of scientific adjudicators. “There are tens of thousands of human proteins and many billions in other species, including bacteria and viruses, but working out the shape of just one requires expensive equipment and can take years.”


A DeepMind model of a protein from the Legionnaire’s disease bacteria (Casp-14)

Read more …

 

 

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Prisons are built with stones of law; brothels with bricks of religion

– William Blake

 

 

 

 

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Jun 232020
 


G. G. Bain Katherine Stinson, “the flying schoolgirl,” Sheepshead Bay Speedway, Brooklyn 1918

 

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)
To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)
WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)
Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)
Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)
Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)
Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)
Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)
Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)
Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)
Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)
BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

 

 

I have a hard time getting back to the daily grind. Also think maybe I should adapt the format somewhat. It’s clear that the virus will be with us for a long time. Deaths are increasing again:

 

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 22 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 138,975 .

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1274940547824783360

 

 

 

 

I told you guys: you’re going to have to rename the capital AND the country.

Protesters Fail To Bring Down Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House (R.)

Protesters tried tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, in a park near the White House on Monday, scrawling “killer scum” on its pedestal and pulling on the monument with ropes before police intervened. The confrontation unfolded in Lafayette Square, where crowds peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer were forcibly displaced three weeks ago to make way for staged photos of President Trump holding up a bible in front of a nearby church. The thwarted effort to topple the famed bronze likeness of Jackson astride a rearing horse was the latest bid, in protests fuelled by Floyd’s death, to destroy monuments of historical figures considered racist or divisive.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter here saying that many people were arrested for the “disgraceful vandalism” in Lafayette Park and also for defacing the exterior of St. John’s Church. “Ten years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!” he warned. Monday’s incident began around dusk with scores of protesters, most wearing masks against coronavirus infection, breaking through a 6-foot-tall fence erected in recent days around the statute at the center of the park.

Protesters then climbed onto the monument, fastening ropes and cords around the sculpted heads of both Jackson and his horse and dousing the marble pedestal with yellow paint before the crowd began trying to yank the statute from its base. Dozens of law enforcement officers, led by U.S. Park Police, stormed into the square, swinging batons and firing chemical agents to scatter protesters. By dark, police had taken control and outnumbered demonstrators in the immediate area. Jackson, a former U.S. Army general nicknamed “Old Hickory,” served two terms in the White House, from 1829 to 1837, espousing a populist political style that has sometimes been compared with that of Trump.

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This is a story that has no beginning and no end. There are some pretty offensive stories in the Bible. Go for it.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn Banned From Minnesota Syllabuses (SOTT)

Two classic American novels have been banned from syllabuses at schools in Minnesota, USA. The reason being a concern that racial slurs used in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, could make pupils feel “humiliated or marginalised”. According to The Telegraph, The Duluth school district, which includes over 20 schools, is removing the books from the curriculum for ninth and 11th grade English classes. However, copies of Lee and Twain’s classics will remain in the school libraries. While Duluth district’s curriculum director Michael Cary has said To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn will be replaced by books that “teach the same lessons” without using racial slurs.

The American Library Association have listed the two novels as among the most banned books from 2001-2009, mainly due to the offensive language used by some characters. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with racial injustice in segregated 1930s Alabama. While Huckleberry Finn is set in the 19th century before slavery was abolished. The American Library Association stated that most of the complaints were from black parents concerned about books on the curriculum containing racial slurs. Both books were temporarily removed from Virginia schools in 2016 after a parental complaint. While just this October Mississippi schools banned To Kill a Mockingbird from their syllabuses. However, students with parental permission can take part in a study of Lee’s novel.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author died in 2016 after publishing just two books. The second was Go Set a Watchman, her first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, written decades ago and published in 2015. Amazon said it was their most pre-ordered book ever since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Last year, Harry Potter books were banned from a school in Nashville, Tennessee. According to The Tennessean, pupils at St Edward Catholic School will no longer be able to borrow JK Rowling’s fantasy books to read from its library. The magical adventures have been censored from the school library because of their content, after Reverend Dan Reehil, a pastor of the Roman Catholic school wrote an email voicing his concerns. The email said: “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception.”

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They did it only 3 days after I signaled this. Keep your eye on India, Mexico.

WHO Reports Largest Single-Day Increase In COVID19 Cases (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours. The UN health agency said Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied. The Brazilian government has since announced that the country’s death toll has passed 50,000. The US was next at 36,617 infections, while over 15,400 were in India. Experts said rising case counts can reflect multiple factors including more widespread testing as well as broader infection. Testing continues to be a contentious issue in the US, with a White House aide defending President Donald Trump’s latest remarks on the issue.

Trump had drawn criticism after saying at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that the US has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please’.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” and made the comment in a “light mood.” Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaign accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people”.

The US has the world’s highest number of reported infections, over 2.2 million, and the highest death toll, at about 120,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Health officials say robust testing is vital for tracking outbreaks and keeping the virus in check. Overall in the pandemic, WHO reported 8,708,008 cases – 183,020 in the last 24 hours – with 461,715 deaths worldwide, with a daily increase of 4,743. More than two-thirds of those new deaths were reported in the Americas. Brazil’s Health Ministry said on Monday that the country had a total of 1,085,038 confirmed cases and 50,617 deaths.

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This was on Sunday. Yesterday they had “only” 758 deaths.

Mexico Reports 5,343 New Coronavirus Infections And 1,044 Deaths (R.)

Mexico on Sunday reported 5,343 new infections and 1,044 additional deaths from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the health ministry said, bringing the totals for the country to 180,545 cases and 21,825 deaths. The government has said the actual number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

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Party!

Surge In Coronavirus Cases Linked To More Texans In Their 20s (TT)

Texans under the age of 30 are testing positive for the new coronavirus at a higher rate than previously seen since the pandemic began, contributing to a recent surge in the number of cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference Tuesday. Data from several counties and health experts confirms the trend in younger people testing positive across Texas. “There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said during the conference. “That is the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County.” mAbbott said that it’s unclear why more young people are contracting the virus, but he speculated that it could be from increased activity over Memorial Day weekend, visits to bars or other types of social gatherings.


This comes as Texas businesses have begun to reopen with relaxed restrictions under Abbott’s executive orders. As of last Friday, restaurants can operate at 75% capacity, while almost all other businesses can operate at 50%. Texas water parks and amusement parks have been allowed to reopen as well. In recent weeks, thousands of Texans have also flooded the streets of some of the largest cities to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. One of the areas of concern Abbott mentioned was Hays County, where 476 of the 938 confirmed cases are people ages 20 to 29. People in their 20s accounted for 50.7% of all the cases in Hays County as of Monday, an increase from Friday, when the age group made up 42% of total cases.

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Not just in Utah, I would venture.

Complete Shutdown Could Be Only Way To Stop Coronavirus in Utah (SacBee)

With coronavirus cases climbing fast in Utah, the state’s top health official is warning that if something doesn’t change soon, a full-scale shutdown will be the only way to control the virus’ spread, outlets report. “We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown,” a memo state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn shared with state and local health officials, said, according to KUTV Dunn went on to say that Utah must achieve an average daily case count of 200, for seven consecutive days, by July 1, KUTV reported, or else raise the threat level to orange.


Doing so “will send the message to Utahns that this outbreak continues to be a serious problem, and state leadership is committed to saving lives and preventing a complete economic shutdown.” Gov. Gary Herbert downgraded the alert status to yellow on May 15, and 12 days later, coronavirus spread began to accelerate, Dunn said, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The memo, released on Friday, came the same day Gov. Herbert downgraded most of rural Utah’s status to green, the lowest alert level, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

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“These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves..”

Judge’s Ruling Opens Door For Bolton To Be Sued Or Prosecuted (JTN)

John Bolton’s legal troubles may be far from over. The former National Security Advisor won a limited but notable victory in court Saturday when a federal judge ruled that he would not prevent his tell-all book, “The Room Where It Happened,” from being published. The Trump administration had sued to stop the book’s publication, claiming it contained classified information that would endanger national security if it were to be released to the general public. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of Bolton, stating that since the book has already been circulated among numerous journalists and media outlets the question of injunction was mostly moot. Yet he acknowledged in his ruling that Bolton may still have “expose[d] himself to criminal liability” in publishing the exposé.

Alan Dershowitz agreed. Dershowitz, the storied Harvard law professor and noted proponent of civil liberties, told Just the News on Saturday that there “may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.” Dershowitz pointed to the 1980 Supreme Court case Snepp v. United States as the controlling precedent. In that case, Frank Snepp — a CIA intelligence analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War —published the book “Decent Interval” following his departure from the agency. The government sued Snepp over the book, which was drawn from an after-action report he had written for the CIA following his service in Saigon. The government argued that Snepp had broken his contractual obligation to submit his book to the CIA prior to publication.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled against Snepp, forcing him to surrender his monetary earnings to the federal government and enjoining him from future publication without prepublication review from the government. Dershowitz represented Snepp in the controlling case. “We argued the rule was unconstitutional. We lost,” he told Just the News. “I don’t approve of that decision,” he said. “I think it’s wrong on the law, and I think it’s wrong on the Constitution. But it may be a basis for a lawsuit against Bolton by the government.”

Kevin Brock, meanwhile — the former FBI assistant director for intelligence — suggested that it appeared Bolton had worked for the Trump administration just to line his own pockets. “Everybody who’s at the SCS level in government has to sign documentation that they’re not going to disclose information that they collect while they’re performing their duties without first getting approval,” Brock said. “It seems like more and more executives are ignoring that, and the courts haven’t really tested it or enforced it that I’m aware of.” “These guys shouldn’t be joining administrations to write books and enrich themselves,” he said. “It’s like they’re accepting jobs with an eye to enriching themselves after serving.”

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Sure, subpoena people who are willing to come voluntarily, and then talk about it on the Rachel Maddow show. Prediction: Barr will come when he wants, not Nadler.

Jerry Nadler Preparing To Subpoena Bill Barr (NBC)

The Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee is set to subpoena Attorney General William Barr for testimony early next month, NBC News has confirmed. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is preparing to subpoena testimony on July 2, a committee spokesperson confirmed Monday night. “We have begun the process to issue that subpoena,” Nadler said Monday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” News of the planned subpoena was reported earlier Monday by Axios. Barr has been criticized in recent days for the abrupt removal of the top prosecutor for the influential Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, over the weekend.

Nadler said Sunday on CNN that Barr deserves to be impeached but that doing so would be a waste of time because the majority-Republican Senate would never convict him. Barr had been scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee in March, but his testimony was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that Nadler intends to subpoena Barr, but he objected to it. “Attorney General Barr remains willing to testify voluntarily once the pandemic concludes,” wrote Jordan, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump’s. “Accordingly, there is no legitimate basis for you to compel his testimony at this time.”

Jordan also wrote that circumstances had not changed enough since March to warrant a subpoena. When Barr and House Democrats reached an agreement on testimony this spring, Democrats wrote that they planned to ask him about the Justice Department’s decision to overrule career prosecutors and propose a reduction in the prison sentence for Trump confidant Roger Stone.

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To be continued.

Fired NY Prosecutor Given Biden-Ukraine Info In 2018, Didn’t Follow Up (JTN)

Could the impeachment scandal have been prevented if the now-fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman had followed up on Ukrainian allegations about Joe Biden and his family in 2018? That’s the tantalizing question raised by emails from fall 2018 between an American lawyer and the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan that were obtained by Just the News. The memos show that well before Ukrainian prosecutors reached out to Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, in 2019 to talk about the Bidens and alleged 2016 election interference they first approached Berman’s office in New York in October 2018 via another American lawyer.

The memos show Little Rock, Ark., lawyer Bud Cummins, a former U.S. attorney himself, reached out at least five times in October 2018 to Berman seeking to arrange a meeting with then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko.Lutsenko, who emerged as a key figure in the impeachment scandal, wanted to confidentially share with federal prosecutors in New York evidence he claimed to possess that raised concerns about the Bidens’ behavior as well as alleged wrongdoing in the Paul Manafort corruption case. “Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko is offering to come to U.S. meet with high-level law enforcement to share the fruits of investigations within Ukraine which have produced evidence of two basic alleged crimes,” Cummins wrote Berman on Oct. 4, 2018, one day after the two had talked on the phone about the allegations.

The allegations included that Joe Biden had “exercised influence to protect Burisma Holdings” after his son Hunter and his son’s business partner Devon Archer had joined the Ukrainian gas company’s board of directors and “substantial sums of money were paid to them,” Cummins wrote. At the time Hunter Biden and Archer joined Burisma in 2014, the company was under criminal investigation in both England and Ukraine for alleged corruption. The British case was dropped in 2015, and the Ukraine cases were eventually settled in the final days of the Obama administration.

Joe Biden boasted during a 2018 public appearance that he forced the firing on Lutsenko’s predecessor, Viktor Shokin, back in 2016by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine. At the time, Shokin was leading the investigation into Burisma. Biden denies the investigation factored into his decision. Biden’s and Archer’s firm received more than $3 million in payments from Burisma between 2014 and 2016, bank records obtained by the FBI show.

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“Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

Ghislaine Maxwell Hiding Behind French Extradition Laws (ZH)

Jeffrey Epstein’s accused ‘madam’ is reportedly holed up in a luxury apartment on Paris’s Avenue Matignon – just a five minute drive from the dead pedophile’s $8.6 million flat, according to the Daily Mail. Maxwell “is moving locations every month to keep private investigators off her tail and is staying at the residences of trusted colleagues and contacts,” according to a source. “She wants to remain in France for as long as she can to take advantage of extradition laws and has a huge network of contacts willing to keep her hidden,” they added. “Under French law anyone born on French soil is safe from extradition to another country, regardless of the alleged crime.”

It doesn’t mean she won’t be prosecuted for her links to Epstein but if she does end up facing charges it will be in France and not the US. The French apartment is linked to a Normandy-based business contact, according to the report. Epstein and Maxwell began dating in the early 1990s, after which she became his ‘madam’ and helicopter pilot – allegedly ferrying underage girls to his multiple properties around the world. In 2003, Epstein told a reporter with Vanity Fair that Maxwell was his “best friend.”

Maxwell comes from money. Her father was publisher Robert Maxwell – who himself faced accusations of being a Mossad double (and possibly triple) agent and a “bad character” who was “almost certainly financed by Russia,” according to the British Foreign Office. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 when he fell from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine – however the circumstances surrounding his demise have been rife with speculation (including that it was a Mossad assassination – a theory which attorney and longtime Epstein associate Alan Dershowitz slammed in a 2003 op-ed). Ghislaine has been accused by three women of procuring and training young girls to perform massage and sexual acts on Epstein and his associates.

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Whenever Bayer wins, everyone else loses..

Bayer Wins Court Ruling Restricting California’s Roundup Warning (R.)

Bayer AG won a court ruling blocking California from requiring the German-based company to tell consumers that a chemical in its Roundup herbicide is known to cause cancer, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. A federal judge in Sacramento on Monday granted Bayer’s request to block the state from requiring the company or any businesses from providing a “clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate,” the report said. Bayer, which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto in a $63 billion deal in 2018, to date has faced three juries over claims that Roundup causes cancer. The company has denied the allegations made by more than 42,700 plaintiffs in the United States, saying decades of studies have shown Roundup and glyphosate are safe for human use.

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“It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China)..”

BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid (Ellen Brown)

To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through “passive” investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called “the most powerful institution in the financial system,” “the most powerful company in the world” and the “secret power.” It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called “the fourth branch of government” and “almost a shadow government”, but no part of it actually belongs to the government.

Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had “cozy” relationships with government officials. BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature).

They proposed that the central bank maintain a “Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility” that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an “independent expert” appointed by the central bank. The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the US, with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the “fourth branch of government,” managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money.

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 January 17, 2020  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Jack Delano Mrs. Marcella Hart, mother of three, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse. Chicago & North Western R.R. 1943

 

BlackRock Will Start Moving Away from Fossil Fuels (NewYorker)
Microsoft Pledges To Eliminate Carbon Footprint By 2050 (Ind.)
With Rivals Stuck In Impeachment Trial, Biden, Buttigieg To Barnstorm Iowa (R.)
Parnas Now Denies Speaking With Trump (WE)
Putin Purged the West from the Kremlin (Luongo)
China’s Economic Growth Hits 29-Year Low (BBC)
Manhattan’s Homeless Shelters Are Full, Luxury Skyscrapers Are Empty (Atl.)
The Loss of Truth In the Media Is a Threat to Our Democracy (Ray Dalio)
Bayer Close To Roundup Settlement – Mediator (R.)
Chemicals In Tap Water Cause Thousands Of Cancer Deaths Across Europe (RT)

 

 

Next week brings not only the Capitol Hill Bizarro circus, there’s also Davos. So we have BlackRock and Microsoft making their solid pledges. Because they see profit in playing nice.

“..there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files”

BlackRock Will Start Moving Away from Fossil Fuels (NewYorker)

If you felt the earth tremble a little bit in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, it was likely caused by the sheer heft of vast amounts of money starting to shift. “Seismic” is the only word to describe the recent decision of the asset-management firm BlackRock to acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and begin (emphasis on begin) to start redirecting its investments. By one estimate, there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files, mostly in the form of stocks it invests in for pension funds and the like. So when BlackRock’s C.E.O., Larry Fink, devoted his annual letter to investors to explaining that climate change has now put us “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” it marked a watershed moment in climate history.

He’s right about the financial future, of course—one can’t look at the clouds of smoke now obscuring the Australian continent and come away thinking that we can maintain our present course. But anyone paying attention—which includes investment-fund C.E.O.s—has known the score for years. What’s changed now are a couple of factors. For one, fossil-fuel stocks have begun to drag down portfolios. As the Times observed, “Had Mr. Fink moved a decade ago to pull BlackRock’s funds out of companies that contribute to climate change, his clients would have been well served. In the past 10 years, through Friday, companies in the S&P 500 energy sector had gained just 2 percent in total. In the same period, the broader S&P 500 nearly tripled.”

But, at least as important, public pressure just keeps mounting. Activist campaigns have been working to make the financial industry start to pay attention. (I’m involved with one, and was among those arrested, on Friday, after a sojourn in the lobby of a Chase branch.) In the past few months, Goldman Sachs, Liberty Mutual, and the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., have all put forth new climate policies, and the European Investment Bank—the largest international public bank in the world—announced that it would stop lending to fossil-fuel projects altogether.

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CEO Satya Nadella said on the BBC this morning that the world needs much more energy by 2040. Grow the world cleaner! Disregard these lying fools.

Microsoft Pledges To Eliminate Carbon Footprint By 2050 (Ind.)

Microsoft has promised to remove as much carbon as it has put into the atmosphere by 2050 – a goal critics say is undermined by the tech-giant’s ongoing contracts with some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The pledge – one of the most ambitious to be undertaken by a Fortune 500 company – includes the creation of a “Climate Innovation Fund”, which will invest $1bn (£760m) over the next four years to speed up the development of carbon removal technology. Speaking from Washington, chief executive Satya Nadella said the company would seek to be carbon-negative – taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than it puts in – by 2030. “If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that technology built without these principles can do more harm than good,” he said.

“We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change,” Mr Nadella added, commenting that if global temperatures continue to rise unabated “the results will be devastating”. The move was lauded by politicians with the US – with Democratic senator Chris Coons and Republican Mike Braun, both chairs of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, describing the mood as “exactly the kind of bold action we need from the business community”. However, it is unclear how the pledge will run alongside Microsoft’s work with giants in the oil industry including Chevron and Exxon Mobil – both of which were identified among the globe’s top companies for greenhouse gas emissions from 1988 to 2015, placing in 12th and 5th respectively according to environmental non-profit CDP.

Last February the firm announced it had the potential to expand Exxonmobil’s production by up to 50,000 barrels of oil a day by 2025 from the Permian Basin in the southwest US – and in 2017 it announced a multi-year deal to sell cloud services to US energy giant Chevron Corp. Bill Weihl, former director of sustainability at Facebook Inc, said Microsoft does not take into account that its work with oil companies could outweigh the gains Microsoft makes on its own carbon reduction. “There is good stuff here,” Mr Weihl said of the carbon capture plan. “But the topline message, that this is urgent, is not matched by what they’re focusing on.”

[..] The announcement follows a December lawsuit in which Microsoft was named alongside the likes of Tesla and Google parent firm Alphabet – with the companies accusing the company of being complicit in the deaths of children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were mining a metal integral to their devices. The children cited in the landmark lawsuit had been put to work to find cobalt – a precious metal vital to the production of modern batteries that has been intensively mined since the dawn of smartphones.

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Unless Biden is called as a witness?!

With Rivals Stuck In Impeachment Trial, Biden, Buttigieg To Barnstorm Iowa (R.)

Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg will blitz Iowa before the state kicks off the party’s nominating contest on Feb. 3, while their key rivals will be largely unable to campaign because they must sit as Senate jurors in Republican President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Aides to Biden and Buttigieg, locked in a tight four-way battle with U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would not comment on the unprecedented advantage next week’s Senate trial presents them. Yet newly released schedules reveal an intense on-the-ground push by both candidates in the final stretch in Iowa, while Sanders, Warren and another senator, Amy Klobuchar, will miss most remaining campaign days to participate in the impeachment trial.

“I would rather be in Iowa today,” Sanders told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday after the trial formally kicked off. “I would rather be in New Hampshire and in Nevada and so forth. But I swore a constitutional oath as a United States senator to do my job, and I’m here to do my job.” A senior aide to former Vice President Biden, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the campaign has not recalibrated its Iowa strategy because of the Senate trial. But their No. 1 priority is getting Biden talking to as many voters as possible in Iowa in the final days of what polls suggest is a virtual tie among the four.

Biden heads to Iowa on Friday and will spend nearly every day between then and the Feb. 3 caucuses in the state, the aide said. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, who has been campaigning heavily on behalf of her husband in Iowa and other early-voting states, will also spend much of the final 18 days in the state. [..] To be sure, Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar are not ceding Iowa. They plan to campaign there during the final three weekends and will rely on representatives traveling the state for them on weekdays when the Senate trial is in session. Warren’s campaign has said they are considering remote appearances and events hosted by key supporters or family members.

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Parnas is a natural born liar, as the MSM said until now. But not anymore? Now his words “change the entire impeachment trial”? He’s just a guy who’s been indicted and seeks relief.

Parnas Now Denies Speaking With Trump (WE)

Indicted businessman Lev Parnas said he did not speak directly with President Trump about a pressure campaign against Ukraine that sought to benefit Trump politically, despite earlier reports to the contrary. Last November, CNN reported that Parnas told close associates he had spoken to Trump. “At one point during the party that night, Parnas and Fruman slipped out of a large reception room packed with hundreds of Trump donors to have a private meeting with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances in whom Parnas confided right after the meeting,” CNN wrote. “Eventually, according to what Parnas told his confidants, the topic turned to Ukraine that night,” the article continued.


“According to those two confidants, Parnas said that ‘the big guy,’ as he sometimes referred to the President in conversation, talked about tasking him and Fruman with what Parnas described as ‘a secret mission’ to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.” The New York Times told a different story Wednesday, reporting: “Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.” Parnas’s decision to go public has led to congressional Democrats demanding that he and other key players in the pressure campaign be called to testify in next week’s Senate impeachment trial.

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A success story like none other these days.

Putin Purged the West from the Kremlin (Luongo)

[..] the next thing to do was to reform an economy rightly criticized for being too heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues. And that is a much tougher task. It meant getting control over the Russian central bank and the financial sector. Putin was given that opportunity during the downturn in oil prices in 2014. Using the crisis as an opportunity Putin began the decoupling of Russia’s economy from the West. During the early boom years of his Presidency oil revenue strengthened both the Russian state coffers and the so-called oligarchs who Putin was actively fighting for control. He warned the CEO’s of Gazprom, Rosneft and Sberbank that they were too heavily exposed to the U.S. dollar this way in the years leading up to the crash in oil prices in 2014-16.

And when the U.S. sanctioned Russia in 2014 over the reunification with Crimea these firms all had to come to Putin for a bailout. Their dollar-denominated debt was swapped out for euro and ruble debt through the Bank of Russia and he instructed the central bank to allow the ruble to fall, to stop defending it. Taking the inflationary hit was dangerous but necessary if Russia was to become a truly independent economic force. Since then it’s been a tug of war with the IMF-trained bureaucracy within the Bank of Russia to set monetary policy in accordance with Russia’s needs not what the international community demanded. That strong Presidency was a huge boon. But, now that the job is mostly done, it can be an albatross.

Putin understands that a Russia flush with too much oil money is a Russia ruled by that money and becomes lazy because of that money. Contrary to popular opinion, Putin doesn’t want to see oil prices back near $100 per barrel. Because Russia’s comparative advantage in oil and gas is so high relative to everyone else on the world stage and to other domestic industries that money retards innovation and investment in new technologies and a broadening of the Russian domestic economy. And this has been Putin’s focus for a while now. Oil and gas are geostrategic assets used to shore up Russia’s position as a regional power, building connections with its new partners while opening up new markets for Russian businesses. But it isn’t the end of the Russian story of the future, rather the beginning.

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There’s still not enough salt to take the numbers with. But at least at 6.1%, Xi can claim he meant to do this.

China’s Economic Growth Hits 29-Year Low (BBC)

China’s economy grew last year at the slowest pace in almost three decades. Official figures show that the world’s second largest economy expanded by 6.1% in 2019 from the year before – the worst figure in 29 years. The country has faced weak domestic demand and the impact of the bitter trade war with the US. The government has been rolling out measures over the past two years in an attempt to boost growth. It comes after almost two years of trade tensions with the US – although hopes of a better relationship with America have seen improvements in manufacturing and business confidence data. This week Washington and Beijing signed a “phase one” trade deal. However, analysts remain unsure whether those recent gains will continue.

In response to the lower growth rate, Beijing is now widely expected to roll out yet more stimulus measures. The government has used a combination of measures aimed at easing the slowdown, including tax cuts and allowing local governments to sell large amounts of bonds to fund their infrastructure programmes. The country’s banks have also been encouraged to lend more, especially to small firms. New loans in the local currency hit a record high of $2.44 trillion (£1.86tn) last year. So far the economy has been slow to pick up, with investment growth falling to record low levels. Historically, China has seen much stronger economic expansion, with the first decade of the 21st Century seeing double-digit percentage growth.

But – although that 6.1% growth rate is China’s weakest expansion in almost three decades – it is much higher than other leading economies. The US central bank, for example, has forecast that the American economy will grow by around 2.2% this year. As part of the phase one deal, China pledged to boost US imports by $200bn above 2017 levels and strengthen intellectual property rules. In exchange, the US agreed to halve some of the new tariffs it has imposed on Chinese products. Speaking in Washington, US President Donald Trump said the pact would be “transformative” for the American economy.

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The long term effects of the Fed’s bubbles are disastrous. That’s why they should be taken out of the equation.

Manhattan’s Homeless Shelters Are Full, Luxury Skyscrapers Are Empty (Atl.)

In Manhattan, the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant. Such is the tale of two cities within America’s largest metro. Even as 80,000 people sleep in New York City’s shelters or on its streets, Manhattan residents have watched skinny condominium skyscrapers rise across the island. These colossal stalagmites initially transformed not only the city’s skyline but also the real-estate market for new homes. From 2011 to 2019, the average price of a newly listed condo in New York soared from $1.15 million to $3.77 million. But the bust is upon us. Today, nearly half of the Manhattan luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold, according to The New York Times.

What happened? While real estate might seem like the world’s most local industry, these luxury condos weren’t exclusively built for locals. They were also made for foreigners with tens of millions of dollars to spare. Developers bet huge on foreign plutocrats—Russian oligarchs, Chinese moguls, Saudi royalty—looking to buy second (or seventh) homes. But the Chinese economy slowed, while declining oil prices dampened the demand for pieds-à-terre among Russian and Middle Eastern zillionaires. It didn’t help that the Treasury Department cracked down on attempts to launder money through fancy real estate. Despite pressure from nervous lenders, developers have been reluctant to slash prices too suddenly or dramatically, lest the market suddenly clear and they leave millions on the table.

[..] In the past decade, New York City real-estate prices have gone from merely obscene to downright macabre. From 2010 to 2019, the average sale price of homes doubled in many Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Prospect Heights and Williamsburg, according to the Times. Buyers there could consider themselves lucky: In Cobble Hill, the typical sales price tripled to $2.5 million in nine years. This is not normal. And for middle-class families, particularly for the immigrants who give New York City so much of its dynamism, it has made living in Manhattan or gentrified Brooklyn practically impossible. No wonder, then, that the New York City area is losing about 300 residents every day.

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Look, if you quote the Washington Post’s Executive Editor to make this point, you’ve already lost.

The Loss of Truth In the Media Is a Threat to Our Democracy (Ray Dalio)

While I have reflected on the corrosive effects that fake and distorted media are having on our society’s well-being for the past few years, I am now more concerned about it than ever. To me media distortions + great polarity + the upcoming elections = a significant risk to quality democracy. It is no longer controversial to say that media distortions are a serious problem. Even most of the media folks I speak with share my concern. As Martin Baron, the Washington Post’s Executive Editor, said in reflecting on the problem, “If you have a society where people can’t agree on the basic facts, how do you have a functioning democracy?” This is not just a fringe media problem; it is a mainstream media problem. A 2019 Gallup study said that only 13 percent of Americans surveyed have “a great deal” of trust in the media.


Only 41 percent of those surveyed said that they have either a “fair” or “great deal” of trust in media. That compares with 55 percent having such confidence in 1999 and 72 percent in 1976. The dramatically decreased trustworthiness has even plagued icons of journalistic trust such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as sensationalism and commercialism have superseded accuracy and journalistic integrity as primary objectives. A number of media writers have in private told me that their editors have specifically hired them to write negative, sensationalistic stories because they sell best. They explained that the financial decline of print media and the public’s short attention span have required them to produce such attention-grabbing headlines and stories or face financial decline.

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This doesn’t smell right at all.

Bayer Close To Roundup Settlement – Mediator (R.)

Bayer is close to settling more than 75,000 cancer claims related to its Roundup herbicide, mediator Ken Feinberg told Bloomberg in an interview, saying he was “cautiously optimistic” a deal could be reached in about a month. Feinberg was quoted as saying that the number of cases had grown to between 75,000 and 85,000 and “maybe more”. Bayer in October said it was now facing 42,700 U.S. plaintiffs blaming its glyphosate-based weedkillers for their cancer. Bayer has ruled out withdrawing from the market in the U.S., saying regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe.


A spokesman for Bayer said: “The number reported by Bloomberg includes potential plaintiffs with unserved cases and is a speculative estimate about the numbers of plaintiffs who might be included in a potential settlement.” He added: “The number of served cases as reported on a quarterly basis remains significantly below 50,000. Bayer does not report or speculate about potential plaintiffs with unserved cases.”

Read more …

Mass suicide continues. We cannot help ourselves, it’s a force that’s bigger than us.

Chemicals In Tap Water Cause Thousands Of Cancer Deaths Across Europe (RT)

Each year, more than 6,500 cases of bladder cancer, roughly five percent of all cases in Europe, are found to be attributable to exposure to trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water – and it’s all perfectly legal. For a study of countries’ water quality, the EU28 became the EU26, as adequate data for Bulgaria and Romania could not be obtained. Nevertheless, the project covered 75% of the total EU population, and a reading of its findings is ominous.

What the hell are THMs?THMs are a class of molecule that appear as a by-product of the disinfectants used to clean drinking water. When chlorine, the main chemical used to clean drinking water, comes into contact with organic matter, it breaks down into THMs. And despite being legal up to certain levels, long-term exposure to them has been consistently associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The EU has set that legal limit at 100 lg=L, but anything over 50 lg=L causes a 51 percent increase in the probability of bladder cancer, in men at least. This study was undertaken at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, in a city which has THM levels above the present regulatory maximum limit of 100 lg=L. Astonishingly, there is no provision for the lowering of this maximum in the latest European Council directive.

How common is bladder cancer?Bladder cancer is only the tenth most common form of cancer in the UK; 135,000 people in the EU were diagnosed with it in 2016. It is usually quite treatable with a simple surgical procedure as long as it is caught before spreading to other body parts. Some evidence suggests it affects men more than women (although this could be down to lifestyle differences, such as higher rates of smoking).

The countries with the highest percentages of bladder cancer cases attributable to THM exposure were Cyprus (23 percent), Malta (18 percent) and Ireland (17 percent). In other words, 23 out of 100 Cypriot people who are diagnosed with cancer in a given year are likely to have contracted it from their drinking water. Meanwhile, the greatest number of attributable cases actually occurred in Spain (1,482 attributable cases) and the United Kingdom (1,356) although this is a function of population as well as THM contamination.

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