May 172020
 


Dorothea Lange Plantation overseer and his field hands, Mississippi Delta 1936

 

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)
China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)
May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)
Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)
Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)
Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)
Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)
Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)
Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)
Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)
Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)
Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

 

 

• Over the past 24 hours US had +23,117 new cases (total 88,851) and +1,277 new deaths.
Note: both numbers are still well below White House predictions for the summer of 30,000 and 3,000, respectively

• Reported global new cases yesterday reached 100,184, new high.

• Russia reports 9,709 new coronavirus infections (yesterday: 9,200)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: new global cases yesterday 100,184

Cases 4,743,181 (+ 97,795 from yesterday’s 4,645,386)

Deaths 313,703 (+ 4,723 from yesterday’s 308,980)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

This by now is obvious. But I have my doubts over the following: “..This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs..”, because I haven’t seen any proof that it’s the immune system which makes the blood clot. Far as I can see, the stickiness could occur (e.g if virus impacts hemoglobin) before the blood reaches the lungs, and maybe even worsen the inflammation.

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)

Up to 30% of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus are developing dangerous blood clots, according to medical experts. They say the clots, also known as thrombosis, could be contributing to the number of people dying. Severe inflammation in the lungs – a natural response of the body to the virus – is behind their formation. Patients worldwide are being affected by many medical complications of the virus, some of which can be fatal. Back in March, as coronavirus was spreading across the globe, doctors started seeing far higher rates of clots in patients admitted to hospital than they would normally expect. And there have been other surprises, including the discovery of hundreds of micro-clots in the lungs of some patients.

The virus has also increased cases of deep vein thrombosis – blood clots usually found in the leg – which can be life-threatening when fragments break off and move up the body into the lungs, blocking blood vessels. [..] “With a huge outpouring of data over the past few weeks I think it has become apparent that thrombosis is a major problem,” says Roopen Arya, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College Hospital, London. “Particularly in severely affected Covid patients in critical care, where some of the more recent studies show that nearly half the patients have pulmonary embolism or blood clot on the lungs.” He believes the number of critically ill coronavirus patients developing blood clots could be significantly higher than the published data in Europe of up to 30%.

The professor’s blood sciences team in the hospital has been analysing samples from patients showing how coronavirus is changing their blood making it much more sticky. And sticky blood can lead to blood clots. This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs, a natural response of the body to the virus. “In severely affected patients we are seeing an outpouring of chemicals in the blood and this has a knock-on effect of activating the blood clotting,” says Prof Arya. And all this ultimately causes a patient’s condition to deteriorate. According to thrombosis expert Prof Beverley Hunt, sticky blood is having wider repercussions than just blood clots – it’s also leading to higher rates of strokes and heart attacks. “And yes sticky blood is contributing to high mortality rates,” she says.

Read more …

Which may all occur because of the impact on hemoglobin.

China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)

Understanding is growing of the effects of Sars-CoV-2, the official name of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, on the organs of patients – even after they apparently recover. While most patients, especially those with mild and moderate symptoms, can recover without long-term consequences to their health, studies indicate that those with severe symptoms can have organ damage and require a much longer time for rehabilitation. The commission said some Covid-19 patients might also develop heart problems such as angina and arrhythmia – conditions that could result directly from the virus or arise after a patient has been bedridden for a long time. The guidelines also list potential mental health problems resulting from Covid-19, including depression, insomnia, eating disorders and various changes in cognitive functions.


Other problems identified in the guidelines include muscle and limb-function loss. But kidney damage was not among the conditions named, despite a number of studies citing it as a potential long-term consequence. According to a study published in the journal Kidney International on Wednesday, one-third of 5,449 Covid-19 patients surveyed by researchers at Northwell Health, the biggest health provider in New York state, developed acute kidney failure. Lead researcher Kenar Jhaveri, associate chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, told Reuters that 14.3 per cent of those with kidney failure required dialysis. There have also been reports of the coronavirus attacking the skin, the central nervous system and blood vessels, resulting in clogging and strokes.

Read more …

The myth that 1 million tests per day would be enough is persistent. A myth because it would take a full year to test everyone.

May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)

The US might be able to test 400,000 to 600,000 people per day sometime in May according to Dr. Fauci – and that might be enough for test and trace. However, the US might need more than 900,000 tests per day according to Dr. Jha of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. There were 356,994 test results reported over the last 24 hours. This data is from the COVID Tracking Project. The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 7.0% (red line). The US probably needs enough tests to keep the percentage positive well below 5%. (probably much lower based on testing in New Zealand). NOTE: A few states are apparently including antibody tests with virus tests. The Covid tracking project is working to straighten that out.

Read more …

Just let them spit in your face and you’re fine.“In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies..”

Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)

The solution to the coronavirus may have been staring us in the face this whole time, lazily chewing on a carrot. All we need, it seems, is llamas. A study published last week in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus. In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies, helping them to fend off the threat. The hope is that the llama antibodies could help protect humans who have not been infected. International researchers owe their findings to a llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium.

Her antibodies had already proven themselves able to fight Sars and Mers, leading researchers to speculate that they could work against the virus behind Covid-19 – and indeed, in cell cultures at least, they were effective against it. Researchers are now working towards clinical trials. “If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue,” Dr Xavier Saelens, a Ghent University virologist and study author, told the New York Times. To any llama aficionado, this news should come as no surprise. The animals have developed a reputation for healing. Llama antibodies have been a fixture in the fight against disease for years, with researchers investigating their potency against HIV and other viruses.

And their soothing powers go beyond the microscopic. Llamas have become exam-season fixtures at a number of top US colleges. George Caldwell, who raises llamas in Sonora, California, brings his trusted associates to the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford, and other northern California universities and high schools, where their tranquility is contagious, helping students overcome end-of-term anxiety. “When you’re around a llama, you become very calm and at peace,” one Berkeley senior said at a campus event last year.

Read more …

CNN has an article on Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, who, as featured prominently at the Automatic Earth at the time, infamously claimed in late January that the epidemic would be over in 10 days, so early February.

Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)

China still faces the “big challenge” of a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, the country’s top respiratory authority has warned, with the lack of immunity among the community a serious concern as the race to develop a vaccine continues. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser and the public face of the country’s fight against Covid-19, also confirmed in an exclusive interview with CNN on Saturday that local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the novel coronavirus was first reported in December, had suppressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outbreak.

China has reported more than 82,000 coronavirus cases, with at least 4,633 deaths, according to data from the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). The number of new infections surged quickly in late January, prompting city lockdowns and nationwide travel bans. By early February, China was reporting as many as 3,887 fresh cases a day. A month later, however, daily cases had dropped into the double digits — while in the US, the number of daily infections skyrocketed, from 47 new cases on March 6 to 22,562 by the end of the month. Having now largely contained the virus, life in China is slowly returning to normal. Lockdowns have eased and some schools and factories have reopened across the country.

But Zhong said Chinese authorities should not be complacent, with the danger of a second wave of infections looming large. Fresh clusters of coronavirus cases have emerged across China in recent weeks, in Wuhan as well as the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. “The majority of … Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong said. “We are facing (a) big challenge, it’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”

[..] Three US companies are already testing their vaccines on humans, according to the World Health Organization. They’re still in phase 1 or phase 2 trials, which typically involve giving the vaccine to dozens or hundreds of study subjects. Zhong said three Chinese vaccines are under clinical trials in the country — however a “perfect” solution was likely to be “years” away. “We have to test again and again and again … by using different kinds of vaccines. It’s too early to draw any conclusion which kind of vaccine is available for this kind of coronavirus … that’s why I suggest that the final approval of vaccine (will) take much longer,” he said.

Read more …

China’s going to stall.

Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation has been on the front line coordinating the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. When its decision-making body gathers, virtually, for its annual meeting on Monday, it will have another battle on its hands, as tensions escalate between China, the United States and other countries over Beijing’s response to the outbreak. The coronavirus will be the focus for the World Health Assembly meeting, to be attended by all 194 WHO member states plus observers, and where policies and budgets are reviewed and approved. But all eyes will be on how countries – including the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany – pursue an investigation into China’s handling of the pandemic within the framework of the global health body.

That could include taking the Chinese government to the international court. Leaders of these countries have already made clear that they want an inquiry, including investigating the origin of the virus, whether it was initially covered up by China, and if Beijing was slow to tell the world that the virus was being transmitted between humans. The WHO has itself been under fire, attacked for praising China’s pandemic response as “transparent” despite Beijing’s suppression of whistle-blowers and information at the start of the outbreak. Under the WHO constitution, the global health agency can refer unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the main legal organ of the United Nations. But health and legal experts said that was unlikely – and even if it did happen, the ICJ would not be able to enforce a decision.

“The WHO has never taken another state to the ICJ, and I do not anticipate that,” said Steven Hoffman, professor of global health, law and political science at York University’s Global Strategy Lab in Toronto. “If it happens it will be unprecedented.” Atul Alexander, assistant professor of law at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, said it would be impossible to enforce a decision by the ICJ as it would need to be enacted by the UN Security Council, where China has veto power as one of five permanent members. “China would have to consent to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, which is never going to happen,” Alexander said.

Read more …

Only, that’s not what he said: “Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”

Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)

President Donald Trump said his administration was considering restoring partial funding to the World Health Organization Saturday morning after suspending U.S. support a month ago in a row over how the group has handled the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday evening, reports began to surface that Trump was prepared to restore about 10% of previous U.S. payments to WHO, reported to roughly match China’s share. Trump hit back at those reports Saturday morning, saying in a tweet that “this is just one of numerous concepts being considered… Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”


He announced he would withhold U.S. funding from the WHO on April 14, and accused the group of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus pandemic, and said he wouldn’t consider funding until a “60-to-90-day” investigation was completed. WHO officials and China have denied Trump’s claims. The U.S. was the group’s biggest financial supporter, and reportedly provided about $400 million to $500 million of the WHO’s $4.8 billion budget, or about 15%. According to NPR, the U.S. was already nearly $200 million behind on payments to the WHO when Trump announced he would halt future contributions.

Read more …

We’re going to have to look at how sick the economy was beforehand, or we’ll never get any wiser.

Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)

Important: GDP is reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). So a 30% Q2 decline is around 7% decline from Q1 (SA).
• From Merrill Lynch: “We are tracking -5.2% qoq saar for 1Q GDP and expect a -30% qoq saar plunge in 2Q. [SAAR May 15 estimate]”.

• From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report “The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at -31.1% for 2020:Q2. [May 15 estimate]”.

• And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow “The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the second quarter of 2020 is -42.8 percent on May 15, down from -34.9 percent on May 8. [May 15 estimate]”

Read more …

Chinese trolling. Still, reopening New York is a major gamble.

Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)

Life came to a grinding halt for about 8.3 million residents in New York City when a statewide “PAUSE” order went into effect to curb the spread of COVID-19 nearly two months ago. So far, schools, businesses, and Broadway theaters have been shuttered, with health care workers fighting tirelessly to save lives in overwhelmed hospitals. On Friday, five regions in the central and northern parts of New York state reopened following a phased strategy. Those regions, largely remote and account for less than one-fifth of the state’s population, have not been hit hard by the pandemic. New York City still has to wait, as it has not met the requirements for reopening in new hospitalization, share of total hospital beds and ICU beds available — three of the seven benchmarks set by the state government.


Mayor Bill de Blasio said this month that the city would not see eased restrictions before June, and a true reopening will be “a few months away at minimum.” Despite a flattened curve, the data in New York City remain staggering. By Saturday afternoon, the city’s health department has reported 189,031 cases, more than those of countries including France and Germany. A death toll of 20,576 accounts for nearly a quarter of the national total. “While the (daily new) case count appears to be decreasing, there is still a need for it to go lower, and to have the ability to detect and trace the contacts of cases to prevent a major resurgence in the virus,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told Xinhua.

“In a densely populated place like New York City, none of these things are simple, and all of this needs to be done at a large scale with quick reaction to changes in conditions,” he noted. Experts and officials underlined the significance of testing at the beginning of the crisis in early March. Both the mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly vowed to expand testing capacity, especially in lower-income and minority communities. After more than two months’ efforts, however, the supply still falls short of the demand. “Lack of widespread testing was our Achilles’ heel from day one,” said de Blasio on Thursday. “We’re still playing catch-up.”


Also on Thursday, the mayor announced that any person with COVID-19 symptoms as well as anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case is now eligible to receive a test in New York City, which means these basic containment measures have never been fully conducted in the epicenter of the pandemic. Notably, the importance of contact tracing was largely ignored or deemed a mission impossible by local officials. During a press briefing on April 3, New York City’s Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said contact tracing was “not a good use of our resources” and the city has gone “past the point of contact tracing.” It was not until late April that both Cuomo and de Blasio announced their plans to hire thousands of people to get trained to be contact tracers. The tardy response at the local level reflects the whole picture of the nation. “The United States in general is behind the curve, literally and figuratively, in terms of testing and contact tracing,” said Schlegelmilch.

Read more …

Is this just desperation? He’s one of the names, after all. He wanted to unmask Flynn, but doesn’t want to be unmasked himself.

Also, I’m so tired of hearing how the Russians are going to try again. It shows you how an absolutely dead meme can live on as a zombie in partisan media.

Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)

Former CIA director John Brennan, one of the officials who sought to “unmask” Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, claimed Thursday the release of Obama-era names was an “abominable abuse of authority.” He called the recent actions by the Department of Justice to drop the case against Flynn combined with the release of names “blatant political corruption at the highest levels of U.S. government.” “When you have the administration– the White House, the attorney general, the acting head of the intelligence community all acting in concert to try to advance the personal interests of Mr. Trump… I think this is very, very serious,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace.

“I’m just hoping that individuals like Chris Wray who is a remarkable public servant, will continue to stay strong in the face of this type of abominable abuse of authority,” he said. Brennan, however, was not pressed by MSNBC’s Wallace and Brian Williams on why he sought the name of Flynn in the intercepted phone conversations of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Rather, he lashed out over the disclosure of the names of the Obama administration officials who purportedly requested to “unmask” Flynn’s identity. Brennan also said he feared Trump officials were not going to stop Russian interference in the presidential election.

“As we have talked about the upcoming November election, how the Russians and others are going to seek to try to once again interfere and influence the outcome, I just am very concerned that some of those at the very top are not going to fulfill the duties that are entrusted to them by the American people,” Brennan remarked.

Read more …

How desperate is Obama’s renewed attack on Trump? What’s with the timing?

Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)

Last weekend, in a well-leaked conference call, it appears, Judge Sullivan took marching orders from former President Obama who suggested snaring General Flynn on a perjury rap for withdrawing his guilty plea, and whaddaya know, the stratagem laid itself out this past week like a fully-crafted macramé, all the little tufts and knots neatly in place – thanks to the busy little fingers of Lawfare attorneys burning the midnight oil all week to get the thing hoisted up on the wall. The tortured logic of the scheme was really something to behold: by withdrawing a guilty plea Flynn had entered under oath, he would be guilty of lying to the court about being guilty in the first place, and therefore had perjured himself. Imagine the interior of the legal minds responsible for that: dank chambers of rot crawling with centipedes and mealybugs of subterfuge.


The judge’s transparently perfidious moves revealed the desperation of Mr. Obama and scores of former and current officials allied with him, who are themselves liable for prosecution in the unraveling tapestry of RussiaGate. There is a sentiment welling up in this land that enough is enough with these devious pranks of crooked lawyers, and today, being Friday, would be an excellent moment for the DC District US Court of Appeals to issue a writ of mandamus for Judge Sullivan to cut the shit and get on with his bound duty to put the Flynn case to rest. A nice added touch, if necessary, would be to kick Judge Sullivan’s seditious ass off the case and replace him with a judge who understands established law and precedent.

Read more …

Always a relevant question, but perhaps not most appropriate when the walls are caving in.

Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

Ardern hasn’t claimed to be post-growth, but her government’s aim of well-being provided a simpler, faster response to the pandemic than U.S. officials worried by GDP. In early March, with only eight reported cases of COVID-19 in a population of 4.8 million people, New Zealand anticipated the impact on an economy dominated by tourism. They quickly created a twelve billion Kiwi (NZ$) stimulus package (about $7.3 billion in US$), equal to about four percent of their nation’s GDP. Ninety percent of those Kiwi’s went directly to people for income support, wage subsidies, and tax relief for small businesses. Only a fraction went to their airline industry.

By comparison, in late March, the US reported 136,880 cases of COVID-19 in a population of 327 million. Our $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security) stimulus equaled 9.8 percent of GDP, yet only thirty percent, or about $604 billion, was slotted for direct payments and expanded unemployment benefits. Some mortgage and student loan payments were suspended, but not forgiven. Fully a quarter of CARES money went to big corporate loans, mostly for airlines to the tune of about $58 billion. A set aside for “national security” is widely believed to be for Boeing—remember them?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) got $350 billion, nearly 20 percent, but almost entirely for loans, and to businesses not as small as most women-owned micro-businesses. Another quarter of the CARES Act increases health and education funding through state block grants, municipal funding and increases for SNAP and WIC food programs. All bring with them a world of bureaucratic complications for the majority women in this crisis.

Read more …

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Dec 212019
 
 December 21, 2019  Posted by at 10:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Unknown Butler’s dredge-boat, sunk by Confederate shell, James River, VA 1864

 

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)
Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)
Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)
It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)
Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)
China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)
How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)
Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)
Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)
Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)
Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)
How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

 

 

The only coverage of Julian’s court appearance yesterday that I could find is from RT. ¿Perqué?

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly stepped out of maximum security prison in the UK to testify via video-link in a Spanish case against a company that spied on him inside the Ecuadorian embassy, allegedly on the US’ behalf. Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in southern London pending his hearing on extradition to the US, was driven over to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where a video-link was set up for him to speak with a judge in Madrid. The proceedings were closed to the press on the grounds of “national security.” The High Court in Madrid is hearing Assange’s case against Undercover Global Ltd, a Spanish security company that allegedly bugged him during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Undercover Global was contracted to provide embassy security between 2015 and 2018, and in that capacity secretly recorded Assange’s every move via hidden cameras, microphones and electronic surveillance, the lawsuit says. Assange told the court “he was absolutely unaware that the cameras recorded audio, that hidden microphones had been introduced” into the fire extinguisher mounts inside the embassy, his attorney Aitor Martinez told reporters in Madrid after the testimony. Assange was “an absolutely passive subject of an illegitimate interference that would have been eventually coordinated by the United States,” Martinez added. If the illegal surveillance targeted Assange’s legal team and violated his attorney-client privilege, that has ramifications on the proceedings against him in both the UK and the US, his lawyers have argued.

Read more …

Rand Paul: “In the advocacy culture of our new media, ex-government officials such as Brennan, Clapper and McCabe can be paid to appear on news programs to analyze (or vindicate) their own unethical behavior.”

Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)

Former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have lots of things in common. One, they ran the nation’s key intelligence and investigatory agencies under former President Barack Obama. They were deeply involved in the “Russian collusion” hoax. And they participated in the surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition. Comey and McCabe both signed applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants requesting surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized Comey and McCabe’s FBI for falsehoods and misrepresentations during its investigation of the Donald Trump campaign.

Clapper, Brennan and the FBI helped to disseminate the fallacious Steele dossier to the press and among government agencies. Two, Comey, McCabe, Brennan and Clapper have all lied either under oath or in the public sphere. Horowitz has said that he referred Comey for criminal prosecution for leaking classified memos he wrote about his confidential conversations with the president, but the Justice Department did not pursue charges. Comey signed FISA warrant applications that the inspector general has determined were misleading at best and at worst simply flat-out wrong. In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, there were 245 occasions on which Comey claimed he couldn’t remember details or couldn’t answer questions. Comey did not tell the truth when he said the Steele dossier was not the prime evidence that he submitted to the FISA court.

He also lied about when he was briefed on the dossier. McCabe was given a criminal referral for lying to federal investigators. His story about conspiring to catch Trump on tape in an effort to remove him under the 25th Amendment cannot be reconciled with the version of the account told by his apparent partner in that gambit, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Brennan has on two occasions lied under oath to Congress, first about collateral deaths caused by drone strikes abroad, then about CIA spying on Senate staffers’ computers. Clapper got caught lying about the surveillance of U.S. citizens and claimed he gave the “least untruthful” answer. Both have given accounts of their knowledge of the Steele dossier that are contradicted by a number of sources. Clapper falsely claimed of the dossier that “more and more of it has been corroborated.”

Three, all four of these former intelligence chiefs detest the president of the United States. Comey has compared Trump to a Mafia don and stated that he is morally unfit to be president. McCabe, who was likewise fired from the FBI, has called Trump’s behavior “disgusting.” Clapper said that Trump may be working with Putin as a Russian “asset.” Brennan called Trump a “disgraced demagogue” as well as venal, corrupt and amoral.

Read more …

“..when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?”

Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Trump appears eager and avid to go to trial, where his side could call witnesses to his heart’s delight while denying the opposition any witnesses, just as the Dems did in the house. His managers could call in the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, to explain their 2014 adventures in Ukraine, and the impressive payments tendered to them — for what? The defense could compel the testimony of the rogue CIA agent, Eric Ciaramella, to explain his pretensions of whistleblowing, and also his enabler, Intel IG Michael Atkinson, who left a procedural slime-trail in his handling of the “whistleblower” ruse. They could call in the fact-witness to all that, Rep. Adam Schiff, who would excite the wonder and loathing of the nation in being forced to reveal his part in that charade and to recount the myriad falsehoods he has spawned in three years of RussiaGate chicanery — which, in a truly just world, would prompt his expulsion from the house.

They could haul in Messrs Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Mueller, Weissman, Rosenstein, McCabe, Ohr, Lynch, Strzok, Ms. Page, Ms. Yates, Mrs. Lynch, Mr. Halper — though I suspect that bunch would be better left to the ministrations of John Durham, just as the Democratic primaries roll out. A trial like that would be a rich spectacle for sure after subjecting the nation to three years of malicious, perfidious sedition. But other gusts of rumor intimate that senators on the Republican side would prefer to not open any cans of Ukrainian worms in a trial, since money laundered through the Ukrainian oligarch mills may have found its way into their pockets as well. Who knows…?

The simplest explanation for this hot mess is that Mrs. Pelosi’s team wanted desperately to just distract the country’s attention from the Horowitz report — which it pretty much failed to do — and now that she’s shot her wad with that gambit, she’s left holding a bag of meritless impeachment bullshit that will disappoint and embarrass the Resistance just as much as the Mueller investigation managed to do. Which leads to the question: when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?

Read more …

There you go. Put Schiff in charge.

It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)

For the last four years, we have been living a collective nightmare. Our shared values have been undermined. Our cherished culture has come under attack. At its least harmful, this nightmare has taken the form of empty nostalgia, in which the leaders who have been entrusted with ushering us into the next era have instead looked into the past, distracting us with symbolic gestures that serve no purpose except to cover up a lack of vision. At its worst, a combination of incompetence, erraticness, and sometimes sheer malice has squandered decades of progress. The ensuing conversation has been fruitless and ugly, and the experience has left many of us polarized, angry, and exhausted.


This week, it finally started to look as if that nightmare might end—but only in the weakest and most slapdash manner. This resolution, which is not really a resolution, is not only a disaster: It’s a disappointment, a pointless, abysmal letdown that is virtually certain to fully satisfy almost no one. The result is a rushed and poorly executed product of bad management, empty thinking, and shallow wish-fulfillment that will only further the public’s loss of faith in the entire enterprise. I speak, of course, of the Star Wars franchise, which in late 2015 returned to movie theaters under the managerial oversight of Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, with a strong creative influence from Hollywood’s reigning prince of blockbuster mediocrity, J.J. Abrams.

Read more …

Close to what I recently wrote on capitalism and free markets, but from a professional investor point of view. Problem is, what does John Mauldin mean when he says “socialism”? Everyone means something different. That also makes polls on socialism suspect.

Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)

When you write for a wide audience, no matter what you say, or how carefully you say it, some people will misunderstand. Sometimes it’s amusing. Reading through my feedback (and I do read all of it), I get called both heartless capitalist and bleeding-heart socialist in reaction to the same article. In fact, I’m neither. I am a capitalist, and proudly so. I believe free markets are the best way to bring maximum prosperity and peace for everyone. But I’m not heartless, nor do I think markets are perfect. Even the best medicines can have serious side effects. That is doubly so when you aren’t taking the medicine correctly. I also don’t think the word capitalism means what we think it means, at least those of us of a certain age.

Take a look at the data from an interview Charles Payne did with David Bahnsen on Fox Business a few weeks ago. Asked if they favor capitalism or socialism, 49% of Millennials favored socialism. But if you ask if they favor big business or “free enterprise,” the numbers change significantly. In the future, I intend to substitute “free market” for capitalism where possible. Capitalism, at least the free market version, can’t work without competition. It motivates producers to offer the best products at the lowest prices, and lets consumers choose whatever best fits their needs. Yet instead of encouraging and protecting competition, the US government increasingly suppresses it. Last February I wrote about a then-new book, The Myth of Capitalism, by old friend Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. They aren’t leftists at all. They respect classical capitalism and want it to work better than it is.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book. “Free to Choose” sounds great. Yet Americans are not free to choose. In industry after industry, they can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The US now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely. We’ve already described the airline industry. Here are other examples: • Two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink. • Five banks control about half of the nation’s banking assets. ª Many states have health insurance markets where the top two insurers have an 80 percent to 90 percent market share. For example, in Alabama one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has an 84% market share and in Hawaii it has 65% market share.


Getty

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Just like America’s.

China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)

China’s Xi Jinping probably tops any list of people who can’t wait to see the back of 2019. These last 12 months produced the slowest mainland growth since the early 1990s, the biggest pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s history and mounting criticism of Beijing’s human rights record. By taking such an authoritarian stance, Taiwan has slipped further away from Beijing’s grip, while some political wags questioned whether Communist Party members were losing faith in President Xi’s governing style. But Xi has an even bigger challenge on his hands, and not just Donald Trump’s trade war antics. Make that 13 trillion challenges.

This figure refers to the size, in U.S. dollar terms, of China’s onshore bond market. And generally, its growth and development have long been touted as a vital rite of passage for the second-biggest economic power. The trouble with debt markets, though, is they tend to expose cracks in financial systems. Herein lies Xi’s biggest problem. Keeping growth north of 6% is reasonably easy for a command economy. Even amid the trade war, Xi’s party can order up giant infrastructure projects, slash taxes and cajole local governments to ramp up fiscal stimulus. It has its own ATM—the People’s Bank of China.

Trouble is, the more you borrow, the more investors can push back and the more even the most authoritarian of governments can lose control as punters vote with their feet. That risk is increasing along with a recent jump in private-sector debt defaults to a record high. According to Fitch, 4.9% of private companies missed bond payments from January to November, up from 4.2% for all of 2018. When you combine state and private companies, China Inc.’s onshore defaults risks are growing apace—from none a few years back to at least $18 billion so far this year. There’s an obvious caveat here. We can only discuss the default risks we know about—the ones regulators in Beijing cop to, not those that are being papered over with public assistance.

Signs of stress are also emerging in the offshore debt market. So are this year, there have been at least $75 billion defaults. With well over $200 billion of debt maturing over the next 24 months, Standard and Poor’s warns of increasing missed payments episodes. This trajectory collides with U.S. President Trump’s trade war. Ignore all that excitement over Trump’s “phase one” deal with Xi. It’s a polite ceasefire than won’t hold. With Trump getting zero from Xi in terms of re-ordering U.S.-China trade dynamics and facing the risk of removal from office, the odds of him lashing out anew at Asia are growing, not waning. It means that Xi’s annus horribilis won’t end even as calendars switch to 2020. The year ahead may very well be the one in which China’s debt troubles supersede all else.

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Very long, certainly for Reuters. But useful background.

How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the plan that ignited the revolt in her city was born of a straightforward quest for justice. While on a trip to Taiwan, a Hong Kong man strangled his Hong Kong girlfriend, then returned home and confessed. The city lacked an extradition pact with Taiwan, and Lam argued the only way to send him back for trial was new laws that also would enable sending criminal suspects to mainland China. She dismissed fears about the proposal – which would mean Hong Kong residents could face trial in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts – and pushed ahead. As protests raged this summer, even in private Lam kept to her story that she, not Beijing, was the prime mover, driven by “compassion” for the young victim’s devastated parents.

“This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” she told a room of Hong Kong businesspeople at a talk in August. A Reuters examination has found a far more complicated story. Officials in Beijing first began pushing for an extradition law two decades ago. This pressure to extend the arm of Chinese law into Hong Kong’s independent British-style legal system intensified in 2017, a year before the slaying and two years before Lam’s administration announced its extradition bill. The impetus came from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Communist Party’s powerful internal anti-corruption body, which has been spearheading Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mass anti-graft campaign.

Xi’s crackdown spilled over dramatically into the streets of Hong Kong in the early hours of January 27, 2017. Among the targets of CCDI investigators at the time, two mainland Chinese officials with knowledge of the probe told Reuters, was a Chinese billionaire living in the city named Xiao Jianhua. A businessman with close ties to China’s political elite, Xiao was abducted that morning from his serviced apartment at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel. Unidentified captors whisked him out the entrance in a wheelchair with his head covered, a witness told Reuters.

The sensational kidnapping, widely reported at the time, was assumed by most people in this city of 7.5 million to have been the work of Chinese agents; Beijing has never commented publicly on the matter. Frustrated at the lack of legal means to get their hands on Xiao, the two Chinese officials told Reuters, the CCDI that same year began pressing mainland officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement. The CCDI wanted a less politically damaging method than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong, the officials said. The two sides failed to strike a deal, but the killing in Taiwan would provide a new opening.

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People book Ryanair 6-8 weeks before the flight, but planes are assigned less than 24 hours before.

Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)

As Boeing winds down production of the 737 Max aircraft, the Ryanair boss has said passengers will “love them” when the planes are finally flying again. Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest budget airline, has ordered 210 of a special version of the Max, seating eight extra passengers. None has so far been delivered, as the Boeing jet is grounded worldwide. The no-fly stipulation was declared worldwide after a second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max. [..] Boeing had initially predicted that software fixes would enable the 737 Max to be flying by the end of 2019. But as that hope faded, airlines have gradually removed it from the schedules in early 2020.


Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “As every day passes, it keeps moving backwards. “We originally hoped we’d get 30 aircraft for the summer, then it was 20, now it’s only 10. “If there really is more, another one month’s delay, it looks much more likely we will get zero aircraft in advance of the June-July-August summer peak.” But when the Boeing 737 Max is flying for Ryanair, anxious passengers who do not wish to travel on it will have no advance warning. “You won’t know, because on average you book seats on Ryanair six to eight weeks in advance of travel,” said Mr O’Leary. “We only do the aircraft allocations the night before, because we don’t know which aircraft is where. “During the first year, you’ll have a 10 per cent chance you’ll be on a Max aircraft. “Will anyone know or care? Frankly, I don’t think they will.”

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The airlines will demand compensation. But what about the crews, who work far fewer hours and lose wages?

Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)

The effluence of Boeing’s long-avoided decision, announced Monday, to halt production of 737 MAX aircraft until the plane is recertified for service has begun rolling downhill, causing the biggest third-party supplier to the program to suspend production of MAX fuselages. Spirit AeroSystems, a former division of Boeing based in Wichita, Kansas, said today it will stop making MAX fuselages – effectively the body of the plane, excluding its small nose cone and large tail section – effective Jan. 1. That’s the same day Boeing will stop building MAX planes, about 400 of which currently are finished but undeliverable and parked on ramps, unused taxiways and even employees’ parking lots at Boeing facilities.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, which had to park 14 MAX planes and stop taking delivery of others nine months ago when the Federal Aviation Administration took away the MAX’s certification, said today that it has pushed back plans to bring the MAX back into its schedule all the way to June 4. Most recently it had been targeting an April restart of MAX flying. But continued delays in getting the plane recertified by the FAA (and ultimately by the aviation safety regulators of other nations) has made it very difficult for airlines to predict when they’ll be able to fly MAX planes once again. United has the smallest batch of MAX planes in its fleet of the three U.S. carriers that have bought the newest, and significantly re-designed version of the venerable 50-year-old 737 line.

Southwest had 34 copies of the MAX when the grounding took place, while American had 24. All three carriers also have large orders for more MAX planes and have been unable to add them to their fleets since March, reducing their ability to retire older planes or to grow their fleet size. That reduced growth opportunity has affected the airlines’ abilities to grow their revenue and profits as planned, and has increased their costs somewhat by forcing them to underuse the pilots, flight attendants and other employees who were expected to staff the now-grounded MAX planes.

[..] leaders of the Transport Worker Union unit that represents Southwest’s 17,00 flight attendants today released a letter they sent this week to Southwest president Gary Kelly and vice president of inflight operations Sonya Lacore. The union leaders asked for additional help in addressing the “financial toal” on flight attendants whose pay has been reduced significantly while the MAX planes have been idled. The MAX groundings have left Southwest with more flight attendants on the payroll that it need. But rather than lay off hundreds of them and incur huge costs for retraining and re-scheduling attendants who’d be displaced by the resulting wave of seniority displacements, Southwest has retained all those extra attendants. But that means many attendants now are being assigned fewer flight hours, which diminishes their earnings.

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Are Colombia’s laws that much different from other countries?

Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)

Colombia on Friday ordered Uber to cease its ride-hailing operations in the Andean country, effective immediately, after a judge ruled the company violated competition rules. Following a lawsuit filed against Uber by COTECH SA, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) said the U.S. company had breached market rules. Uber has more than 2.3 million active users in Colombia and around 88,000 driver partners. The app, however, has existed in a regulatory no-man’s land in Colombia. The Technology Ministry deems ride-hailing apps legal while transport authorities say they are against the law.


In a statement the SIC said Uber generated “a significant advantage in the market” by rendering transport services for individuals via its application. The SIC said that following analysis, it ordered Uber’s ride-hailing services “through the use of the Uber application to cease immediately.” The order applies to Uber, Uber X and Uber VAN. Uber said in a statement that it rejects the ruling and immediately appealed it. “This decision reflects an act of censorship and infringes on the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, which has already condemned attempts to block Uber for violating the neutrality of the web, liberty of expression and freedom of internet,” Uber said in a statement.

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Interesting, but since this is CNN, they blame Russia China, not America. A deepfake group that spends $10 million on Facebook ads sounds like a professional campaign.

Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)

Artificially-generated faces of people who don’t exist are being used to front fake Facebook (FB) accounts in an attempt to trick users and game the company’s systems, the social media network said Friday. Experts who reviewed the accounts say it is the first time they have seen fake images like this being used at scale as part of a single social media campaign. The accounts, which were removed by Facebook on Friday, were part of a network that generally posted in support of President Trump and against the Chinese government, experts who reviewed the accounts said. Many of the accounts promoted links to a Facebook page and website called “The BL.” Facebook said the accounts were tied to the US-based Epoch Media Group, which owns The Epoch Times newspaper, a paper tied to the Falun Gong movement that is similarly pro-Trump.

The publisher of the Epoch Times denied that Epoch and The BL were linked in emails to the fact-checking organization Snopes earlier this year. The dystopian revelation of the use of artificially-generated images in this way points to an increasingly complicated online information landscape as America enters a presidential election year. Silicon Valley and the US intelligence community are still struggling with the fallout from widespread online interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Facebook accounts used profile pictures that appeared to show real people smiling and looking directly into a camera. But the people do not and have never existed, according to Facebook and other researchers. The images were created using artificial intelligence technology.

The same basic methods are used to produce deepfake videos — fake videos that the US intelligence community has warned could be used as part of a foreign disinformation campaign targeting Americans. [..] In all, Facebook said Friday, it had removed a network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, 90 groups, and 72 Instagram accounts. About 55 million accounts followed one or more of the pages, and the vast majority of followers were outside the United States, Facebook said. Facebook did not say if all of all these followers were real — some of them may themselves have been fake accounts. The network of pages removed on Friday had spent almost $10 million on Facebook ads, according to Facebook.

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It’s a question of organization.

How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

Fragments of pre-Aztec murals recently unearthed on the outskirts of what was once the largest city of the Americas are adding to mounting evidence that even commoners there enjoyed the finer things in life. Each year, millions of tourists visit the towering pyramids and temples of the sprawling metropolis of Teotihuacan, far from the latest discoveries on the city’s southern edge. “We’re now finding that life on the periphery was pretty good,” said Boston University archeologist David Carballo, who discovered brightly-colored paintings over fine stucco on three buildings he began excavating there in July.

Decorated with flowers and birds that appear to be singing, the murals evoking a paradise found nearly three kilometers (2 miles) from Teotihuacan’s core came as a complete surprise, he said. Carballo and his team have also found other signs of wealth nearby, including jade, a finely carved stone mask, and shells from Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. The unpublished mural discoveries point to the radically different path charted by Teotihuacan, which thrived from about 100 B.C. to 550 A.D., compared to other ancient civilizations. At a time when daily life in the biggest contemporary Mayan cities, or ancient Rome and Egypt, was marked by a tiny elite lording over impoverished or enslaved masses, most of Teotihuacan’s estimated 100,000 inhabitants fared far better.

[..] In the city’s La Ventilla district, another aspect of Teotihuacan’s egalitarian character comes into view: stone, multi-family apartment compounds where over 90% of Teotihuacanos lived. Off limits to tourists despite extremely rare glyphs painted on a plaza, the narrow streets of La Ventilla’s residential compounds suggest a densely-packed urban existence. The compounds boast white lime-plaster floors, built-in drainage systems, open-air courtyards and murals. Lying 48 km northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan has more than 2,000 such compounds, thanks to a century-long building boom that ended around 350 A.D.

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

“Let Them Impeach And Be Damned” (Turley)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where is he on Clapper?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Scary people.

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

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


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

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

Sturgeon Demands Independence Referendum Powers Be Devolved (G.)

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

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

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

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No surprise.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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Nov 162019
 
 November 16, 2019  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate (Maté)
The Deep State’s Deep State Department (Kunstler)
Dems Switched From “Quid Pro Quo” To “Bribery” Because Of A Focus Group (HA)
Bloomberg To Spend $100m On Anti-Trump Ads In Battleground States (Hill)
Obama Cautions 2020 Hopefuls Against Going Too Far Left (Hill)
Obama Left An Ambassador to Die (PJMedia)
When Did Ukraine Become a ‘Critical Ally’? (Buchanan)
Aviation Academic: I Wouldn’t Ride A 737 MAX No Matter What Boeing Says (ND)
Arbuthnot Out as Assange’s Judge, Says Wikileaks Lawyer Jen Robinson (CN)
Julian Assange’s Lawyer Says His Health Is ‘Seriously Deteriorating’ (SMH)

 

 

Aaron Maté has delved deep into the material. John Durham could use this.

The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate (Maté)

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. intelligence community produced a report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump. The January 2017 report, called an Intelligence Community Assessment, followed months of leaks to the media that had falsely suggested illicit ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin while also revealing that such contacts were the subject of a federal investigation. Its release cast a pall of suspicion over Trump just days before he took office, setting the tone for the unfounded allegations of conspiracy and treason that have engulfed his first term.

The ICA’s blockbuster finding was presented to the public as the consensus view of the nation’s intelligence community. As events have unfolded, however, it now seems apparent that the report was largely the work of one agency, the CIA, and overseen by one man, then-Director John Brennan, who closely directed its drafting and publication with a small group of hand-picked analysts.

Nearly three years later, as the public awaits answers from two Justice Department inquiries into the Trump-Russia probe’s origins, and as impeachment hearings catalyzed by a Brennan-hired anti-Trump CIA analyst unfold in Congress, it is clear that Brennan’s role in propagating the collusion narrative went far beyond his work on the ICA. A close review of facts that have slowly come to light reveals that he was a central architect and promoter of the conspiracy theory from its inception.

Read more …

“The president dispatched Mr. Giuliani to Ukraine because he didn’t trust the State lifers to get to the bottom of the mischief emanating from Kiev during the 2016 election..”

The Deep State’s Deep State Department (Kunstler)

For now, it comes down to this: the US State Department is at war with the White House. State’s allies in the Democratic majority congress want to help overthrow the occupant of the White House because he’s interfering in the department’s foreign policy. The lifers at State are the same ones who executed a coup in 2014 against Ukraine’s government and threw out the elected president Victor Yanukovych because he tilted to join a Russian-backed regional customs union rather than NATO. State’s diplomatic lifers are old hands at coups. Now they’re at it at home, right here in the USA.

Ever since the Maidan Revolution of 2014, they have worked sedulously to exert control over Ukrainian affairs. And they especially can’t stand that the recently elected president Zelensky declared that he wants to improve his country’s relationship with next-door-neighbor (and ex-sovereign) Russia. The occupant of the White House, Mr. Trump, had often expressed a similar interest to improve the USA’s relations with Russia. State would prefer to amp up a new cold war. Mr. Trump has some nerve interfering with that!

The lifers at State also have something to hide: their exertions to connive with Ukraine government officials they controlled to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election in favor of their former boss, Mrs. Clinton. The current impeachment spectacle is an attempt to pitch a smokescreen over that embarrassing mess, which includes the CIA’s and FBI’s efforts to blame Russia for their own illegal interventions in the 2016 election — the heart of the three-year impeachment narrative. The Joe-and-Hunter Biden affair is the left anterior descending artery in that heart.

The current testimony in the House Intel Committee raises another question. Whose back-channel diplomats are legitimate in US foreign policy: Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani, or State’s own boy, billionaire freelance international political adventurer George Soros? The president dispatched Mr. Giuliani to Ukraine because he didn’t trust the State lifers to get to the bottom of the mischief emanating from Kiev during the 2016 election, in which State lifers played an active role, along with Mr. Soros and his agents — in particular an outfit called the AntiCorruption Action Center, jointly funded by Mr. Soros and State (i.e. US taxpayers).

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Ha ha ha!

Dems Switched From “Quid Pro Quo” To “Bribery” Because Of A Focus Group (HA)

WaPo reported on it last night: “Several Democrats have stopped using the term “quid pro quo,” instead describing “bribery” as a more direct summation of Trump’s alleged conduct. The shift came after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted focus groups in key House battlegrounds in recent weeks, testing messages related to impeachment. Among the questions put to participants was whether “quid pro quo,” “extortion” or “bribery” was a more compelling description of Trump’s conduct. According to two people familiar with the results, which circulated among Democrats this week, the focus groups found “bribery” to be most damning. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the results have not been made public.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a House Intelligence Committee member, kicked off the effort to retire “quid pro quo” from the Democratic vocabulary during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said “it’s probably best not to use Latin words” to explain Trump’s actions.”

It makes me laugh to think of Dems needing a focus group to explain to them that “bribery,” a concept even kindergarteners grasp as wrong, is a bit more effective than “quid pro quo” when trying to turn public opinion against the president. That’s so elementary that I assumed they switched to bribery in their messaging for legal reasons, because it’s an impeachable offense specified in the Constitution. No more hiding by the GOP behind the vagueness of the term “high crimes and misdemeanors”! Pelosi was about to put them on the spot: This is bribery, son. It’s right there in black and white in Article II. If the facts are there, you must vote to remove.

But no, turns out she and Schiff needed a group of average joes to officially confirm that bribe sounds worse than some Latin term known mainly to lawyers. I’m surprised Trump hasn’t highlighted the focus-grouping on Twitter yet. Not only does it underline that impeachment is a political process, being run by people who stand to gain electorally by investigating him, but it leaves Democrats open to the claim that they’re not just tweaking the terminology based on public opinion, they’re tweaking the actual charges. If the facts, which haven’t changed materially since this started, told a straightforward story of bribery all along then why was the less definitive “abuse of power” cited until recently as the core claim against POTUS?

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States for sale.

Bloomberg To Spend $100m On Anti-Trump Ads In Battleground States (Hill)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to drop $100 million on anti-Trump ads in key swing states during the 2020 election. The digital ad campaign will focus on Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and will run starting Friday through the end of the primary season, according to multiple news reports. The ads will not feature Bloomberg himself. “Mike believes that Trump is an existential threat to the country,” Bloomberg spokesman Jason Schechter told CNN. “He’s not waiting to take on the President, he’s starting now. This is all hands on deck.”


The announcement of the ad campaign comes as Bloomberg takes steps to plunge into the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, a move that could potentially upheave the party’s presidential nominating contest. The former mayor filed paperwork to appear in the Alabama and Arkansas primaries, but did not file paperwork for the crucial New Hampshire primary by the Friday deadline. The $100 million investment could serve as a counterbalance to President Trump’s gargantuan war chest – the president and the Republican National Committee combined to raise $308 million so far this year, and started November with $156 million in cash reserves.

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Odd. He hasn’t said a word so far and now this? Paving the way for Hillary? Piling on Sanders AGAIN?

Obama Cautions 2020 Hopefuls Against Going Too Far Left (Hill)

Former President Obama cautioned the crowded Democratic 2020 primary field from moving too far to the left, saying voters could be turned off by messages calling for massive societal and government transformations. “Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality,” Obama said at a meeting of fundraisers, according to The New York Times, which was in attendance at the event. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” The former president cited health care and immigration as issues where certain proposals from 2020 contenders, none of whom he mentioned by name, may be beyond the pale for many voters.


His comments could be implied as critiques of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have called for a “political revolution” and “big structural change,” introducing policies that would eliminate private health insurance and place a moratorium on deportations. Obama, who is still widely liked among the Democratic Party faithful, recognized that 2020 candidates would have to move beyond his White House’s platforms, but that there could be a limit to how far left the contenders’ plans could go. “I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that’s going to activate them,” he said.

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“..Yovanovitch wouldn’t even had known about the tweet until after her testimony had Schiff not posted the tweets in the first place..”

Obama Left An Ambassador to Die (PJMedia)

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.” “They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President,'” Trump continued. “The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First!” Trump also noted that he’s done far more for Ukraine than his predecessor than Obama.

This triggered Adam Schiff. “What we saw today is it wasn’t enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared. It wasn’t enough she was attacked. It wasn’t enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason. But we saw today witness intimidation in real-time by the president of United States,” Schiff said. “Once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chilled her but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of the inquiry very seriously,” he added. Really? First of all, Yovanovitch wouldn’t even had known about the tweet until after her testimony had Schiff not posted the tweets in the first place, but regardless, where’s the intimidation? I can’t see any. If Schiff was taking this seriously, he wouldn’t be lobbing absurd charges for the purpose of piling on more ridiculous charges against Trump hoping something will stick.

But what really gets me is how it’s been almost seven years since Barack Obama left one of his ambassadors to die in a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate, and the same people who defended the Obama administration endlessly over that, are feigning outrage over Trump’s tweet expressing his opinion. Democrats have been crying “impeach!” over everything for years, and now every time Trump expresses an opinion, we’re hearing “intimidation.” The same party that defended the Obama administration’s failure to protect our consulate in Libya from an attack that claimed four American lives, including that of a U.S. ambassador, are now trying to tell us that we should be outraged over a harmless tweet—a tweet that, regardless of what one thinks of the content, was written after Yovanovitch started testifying, and as far as Trump knew, she wouldn’t have even had an opportunity to see until well after her testimony concluded? A tweet that she’d have been oblivious to had Schiff not brought it up.

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“Despite constant pressure from Sen. John McCain and our neocons to bring Ukraine into NATO, wiser heads on both sides of the Atlantic rejected the idea.”

When Did Ukraine Become a ‘Critical Ally’? (Buchanan)

Indeed, Ukraine has never been a NATO ally or a “critical ally.” Three decades ago, George H.W. Bush implored Ukraine not to set out on a course of “suicidal nationalism” by declaring independence from the Russian Federation. Despite constant pressure from Sen. John McCain and our neocons to bring Ukraine into NATO, wiser heads on both sides of the Atlantic rejected the idea. Why? Because the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Ukraine is not now and has never been a vital interest of ours that would justify a U.S. war with a nuclear-armed Russia. Instead, it was the avoidance of such a war that was the vital interest that nine U.S. presidents, from Truman to Bush I, secured, despite such provocations as the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the building of the Berlin Wall.

In February 2014, the elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by U.S.-backed protesters in Maidan Square, cheered on by McCain. This was direct U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Victoria Nuland of the State Department conceded that we had dumped billions into Ukraine to reorient its regime to the West. To Vladimir Putin, the Kyiv coup meant the loss of Russia’s historic Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea. Rather than let that happen, Putin effected an uprising, Crimea’s secession from Ukraine, and the annexation by Russia. In eastern Ukraine, the pro-Russian Donbass rose up in rebellion against the pro-NATO regime in Kyiv. Civil war broke out. We backed the new regime. Russia backed the rebels. And five years later, the war goes on. Why is this our fight?

During the Obama years, major lethal aid was denied to Ukraine. The White House reasoned that arming Ukraine would lead to an escalation of the war in the east, greater Russian intervention, defeat for Kyiv, and calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily, risking a war with Russia. Not until Trump became president did lethal aid begin flowing to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles.

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The FAA is getting into trouble.

Aviation Academic: I Wouldn’t Ride A 737 MAX No Matter What Boeing Says (ND)

Monash University aviation expert and co-author of Up in the Air Greg Bamber said that he would not feel safe flying on the 737 MAX under current circumstances. “I would not be getting on one at the moment,” Professor Bamber said. “Boeing has made several earlier forecasts of the planes being back in the air very soon which it did not keep. “I think there’s a lot of ground still to cover.” Boeing’s behaviour has created a “trust deficit”, Professor Bamber said. “They are saying that the first people that will be flying on these planes will be Boeing executives and airline executives, and they will be on a big push to try to reassure the public and on a charm offensive to convince people to trust Boeing again,” he said.

He outlined two ongoing areas of concern. The first is the technical issue of fixing the fault with the 737 MAX planes – the MCAS system, which was designed to prevent the plane stalling, but was not disclosed to pilots – and led to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air tragedies. Boeing misled both “the airlines it was selling these planes to”, and the pilots, by not disclosing the new MCAS system and putting it in their manuals, Professor Bamber said. “Boeing did this for commercial reasons, putting profits before people. They wanted to pretend that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 was not a new aircraft on a new system, and they wanted to persuade airlines to buy it on the grounds that pilots wouldn’t need new training,” he said. “Just fixing the technical issue is one thing … but once that’s done and the regulators are convinced that has been done, it is then going to be necessary to try to fix the trust deficit and retrain the pilots and convince the travelling public that the planes are safe.”

The second issue is that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States allowed Boeing to act with little oversight and “almost self-regulate”, Professor Bamber said. “The FAA In the US is also to some extent at fault here,” he said. “The primary fault is with Boeing, but the American authority had been captured by Boeing. The FAA allowed Boeing to almost self-regulate.” Boeing has a “major challenge ahead”, Professor Bamber said. “Even if the FAA does reverse the grounding its likely that other regulators in Australia, Asia, and Europe, won’t necessarily follow suit any longer. “They will want to take time to do their own investigations because they now have a trust deficit with the FAA.”

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It took her all this time to recuse herself. But they have more of these people.

Arbuthnot Out as Assange’s Judge, Says Wikileaks Lawyer Jen Robinson (CN)

WikiLeaks lawyer Jen Robinson said Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the judge presiding over Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings who is embroiled in a conflict of interest, will no longer be be sitting on the case. Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate enmeshed in a conflict of interest, will no longer be presiding over the extradition proceedings of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, said WikiLeaks lawyer Jen Robinson, at an event in Sydney on Friday night. “Yes, there was some controversy about her sitting on the case,” Robinson said. “She won’t be sitting on the case going forward.” Robinson told Australian journalist Quentin Dempster at the event that she was “not sure” who would take over from Arbuthnot.

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis of the Daily Maverick reported on Friday: “The son of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate overseeing the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange, is the vice-president and cyber-security adviser of a firm heavily invested in a company founded by GCHQ and MI5 which seeks to stop data leaks, it can be revealed. Alexander Arbuthnot’s employer, the private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, has a multimillion-pound investment in Darktrace, a cyber-security company which is also staffed by officials recruited directly from the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

These intelligence agencies are behind the US government’s prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secret documents. Darktrace has also had access to two former UK prime ministers and former US President Barack Obama. The revelations raise further concerns about potential conflicts of interests and appearance of bias concerning Lady Arbuthnot and the ties of her family members to the UK and US military and intelligence establishments. Lady Arbuthnot’s husband is Lord James Arbuthnot, a former UK defence minister who has extensive links to the UK military community.

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“The Australian government has not, as far as I am aware, raised any objection to the treatment of Julian Assange by the US or his indictment under the espionage act”

Julian Assange’s Lawyer Says His Health Is ‘Seriously Deteriorating’ (SMH)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains ill and effectively isolated in a high-security prison alongside inmates facing charges for violent offences and terrorism, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson told a Sydney audience on Friday night. “I was with Julian on Tuesday… and his health is obviously significantly and seriously deteriorating,” said Ms Robinson, a prominent human rights advocate and barrister who has defended Mr Assange since 2010. Ms Robinson was in Sydney as a guest of the global association of Writers, PEN International, which was marking its Day of the Imprisoned Writer in support of free speech.

She said that during his seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mr Assange had not been able to access proper sunlight or space to exercise and the UK had refused permission to let him access outside medical care, forcing him to “choose between his right to asylum and his right to health”. Mr Assange, 48, has now completed his sentence for breaching bail as a result of that asylum. He is being held in Belmarsh Prison outside London as the British government considers an extradition application from the United States over allegations he conspired to break into a classified Pentagon computer. Should he be convicted he faces 175 years in prison. His hearing will be heard in February.

Ms Robinson said Mr Assange should be supported as a journalist and publisher for his release of millions of pages of secret US military and diplomatic cables, and criticised Australian governments of both parties for failing to intervene on his behalf. “The Australian government has not, as far as I am aware, raised any objection to the treatment of Julian Assange by the United States or an objection to his indictment under the espionage act,” she said. “One wonders, had the Australian government raised their concern about this treatment of an Australian citizen whether the Trump administration would have pursued these charges.” She said that it would have a devastating effect on free speech around the world if the US was able to successfully prosecute a journalist who was not a US citizen for actions he had not undertaken on US soil.

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David Graeber tweeted: “if there was anything that really set my thinking on the path that led to the bullshit jobs book, it was probably this brilliant meme”

 

 

 

 

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Nov 022019
 
 November 2, 2019  Posted by at 8:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Woman with blue collar (Portrait d’Inez) 1941

 

Christopher Steele Gave Evidence To UK Intrusion Inquiry (G.)
Trump-Ukraine Whistleblower Suddenly Won’t Testify (ZH)
Former CIA Heads Praise Deep State, Admit They Want to ‘Take Out’ Trump (SN)
A Partisan Impeachment Vote Is Exactly What The Framers Feared (Dershowitz)
Horse-Trading Is Not An Impeachable Offense (HE)
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard (Sjursen)
Trevor Noah Asks Hillary: “How Did You Kill Jeffrey Epstein?” (ZH)
Halloween is Over and the Jig is Up (Kunstler)
Greek Refugee Camps ‘On Edge Of Catastrophe’ – EU Watchdog (BBC)
28,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse To Work On 737 Max (ZH)
Apple Introduces Gender-Neutral Versions Of Nearly Every Human Emoji (RT)

 

 

A fine piece of garbage co-authored by the least trustworthy man in UK media, Luke Harding, notorious for multiple fact-free Assange smear pieces. And really, Steele hasn’t been discredited enough?

Christopher Steele Gave Evidence To UK Intrusion Inquiry (G.)

A report on Russian interference in British politics allegedly being sat on by Downing Street includes evidence from Christopher Steele, the former head of MI6’s Russia desk whose investigation into Donald Trump’s links with Moscow sparked a US political scandal. Steele made submissions in writing to parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), it is understood. [..] In April the US special counsel Robert Mueller corroborated Steele’s central claim that the Russians ran a “sweeping and systematic” operation in 2016 to help Trump win.


[..] on Thursday, Dominic Grieve, the MP who chairs the committee, accused Boris Johnson of sitting on the report – potentially preventing its publication before the general election. [..] Two sources told BuzzFeed that British intelligence found no evidence of Russian meddling in either the 2016 referendum vote or the 2017 general election. However, Steele’s involvement in the committee’s unpublished dossier raises the stakes considerably. [..] Experts who gave evidence were informed on Wednesday evening that the report was due to be published imminently. The decision to stop it from coming out is being seen inside Whitehall as unusual.

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Completely, completely nuts. They appear to have nothing, and try to drag that nothing out until the 2020 elections. This faultily labeled ‘whistleblower’ worked for Obama, Biden and Brennan, and was heavily coached by Schiff. And they STILL are afraid to use him. But Trump is the one under investigation?

If Trump did anything truly impeachable, and not merely “made up because you want to get rid of him”, by all means, impeach him. But in a regular way, one that includes Republicans. I can see now why Trump talks about impeaching Adam Schiff. Do the CNN, NYT and WaPo audience realize how damaging this whole affair is to their country?

Trump-Ukraine Whistleblower Suddenly Won’t Testify (ZH)

A CIA officer who filed a second-hand whistleblower complaint against President Trump has gotten cold feet about testifying after revelations emerged that he worked with Joe Biden, former CIA Director John Brennan, and a DNC operative who sought dirt on President Trump from officials in Ukraine’s former government. According to the Washington Examiner, discussions with the whistleblower – revealed by RealClearInvestigations as 33-year-old Eric Ciaramella have been halted, “and there is no discussion of testimony from a second whistleblower, who supported the first’s claims.” Ciaramella complained that President Trump abused his office when he asked Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as claims related to pro-Clinton election interference and DNC hacking in 2016.

On Thursday, a top National Security Council official who was present on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky testified that he saw nothing illegal about the conversation. “I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” said Tim Morrison, former NSC Senior Director for European Affairs who was on the July 25 call between the two leaders. “There is no indication that either of the original whistleblowers will be called to testify or appear before the Senate or House Intelligence committees. There is no further discussion ongoing between the legal team and the committees,” said the Examiner’s source.

“The whistleblower is a career CIA officer with expertise in Ukraine policy who served on the White House National Security Council during the Obama administration, when 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was “point man” for Ukraine, and during the early months of the Trump administration.” -Washington Examiner In other words, House Democrats are about to impeach President Trump over a second-hand whistleblower complaint by a partisan CIA officer, and neither he nor his source will actually testify about it (for now…).

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No, you can NOT make this up: “This is the institution within the U.S. government — that with all of its flaws, and it makes mistakes — is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth,” McLaughlin claimed.

The CIA is committed to telling the truth… You heard it here first.

Former CIA Heads Praise Deep State, Admit They Want to ‘Take Out’ Trump (SN)

Two former intelligence heads bragged about how the deep state is engaged in a coup to remove President Trump Thursday, with one even praising God for the existence of the deep state. During an interview with Margaret Brennan of CSPAN, former CIA head John McLaughlin along with his successor John Brennan both basically admitted that there is a secretive cabal of people within US intelligence who are trying to ‘take Trump out’. “Thank God for the ‘Deep State,’” McLaughlin crowed as liberals in the crowd cheered. “I mean I think everyone has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are people who are doing their duty or responding to a higher call.” he added.


“This is the institution within the U.S. government — that with all of its flaws, and it makes mistakes — is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth,” McLaughlin claimed. “It is one of the few institutions in Washington that is not in a chain of command that makes or implements policy. Its whole job is to speak the truth — it’s engraved in marble in the lobby.” he continued to blather. Brennan also expressed praise for the deep state and admitted that the goal is to remove the President. “Thank goodness for the women and men who are in the intelligence community and the law enforcement community who are standing up and carrying out their responsibilities for their fellow citizens.” he said.

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Derhowitz has been heavily tainted by the Epstein saga, but he does make sense here. The Founding Fathers knew the risk involved in impeachment proceedings.

A Partisan Impeachment Vote Is Exactly What The Framers Feared (Dershowitz)

The House vote to establish procedures for a possible impeachment of President Trump, along party lines with two Democrats opposing and no Republicans favoring, was exactly was Alexander Hamilton feared in discussing the impeachment provisions laid out in the Constitution. Hamilton warned of the “greatest danger” that the decision to move forward with impeachment will “be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties than the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” He worried that the tools of impeachment would be wielded by the “most cunning or most numerous factions” and lack the “requisite neutrality toward those whose conduct would be the subject of scrutiny.” It is almost as if this founding father were looking down at the House vote from heaven and describing what transpired this week.

Impeachment is an extraordinary tool to be used only when the constitutional criteria are met. These criteria are limited and include only “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Hamilton described these as being “of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” His use of the term “political” has been widely misunderstood in history. It does not mean that the process of impeachment and removal should be political in the partisan sense. Hamilton distinctly distinguished between the nature of the constitutional crimes, denoting them as political, while insisting that the process for impeachment and removal must remain scrupulously neutral and nonpartisan among members of Congress.

Thus, no impeachment should ever move forward without bipartisan support. That is a tall order in our age of hyperpartisan politics in which party loyalty leaves little room for neutrality. Proponents of the House vote argue it is only about procedures and not about innocence or guilt, and that further investigation may well persuade some Republicans to place principle over party and to vote for impeachment, or some Democrats to vote against impeachment. While that is entirely possible, the House vote would seem to make such nonpartisan neutrality extremely unlikely. It is far more likely that, no matter how extensive the investigation is and regardless of what it uncovers, nearly all House Democrats will vote for impeachment and nearly all House Republicans will vote against it. Such a partisan vote would deny constitutional legitimacy to impeachment.

[..] the partisanship strongly suggests that what Hamilton regarded as the greatest danger may be on the horizon, namely a vote to impeach a duly elected president based not on “real demonstrations of innocence or guilt” but rather on “comparative strength of parties.”

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Good find from Tyler. Go back to the Blagojevich case and take it from there. “[A] proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.”

Horse-Trading Is Not An Impeachable Offense (HE)

Horse trading is the oxygen of politics; it is how politicians are persuaded to care about things that otherwise would not make their radar. Not only does it happen all the time, but it is a core feature of our political system; representative government relies on this kind of political trading to ensure a plurality of interests and needs are satisfied. Members of Congress routinely trade “policy for policy.” You sponsor my bill, and I’ll sponsor yours, you vote for a road in my district, and vice versa. Members even trade policy for personnel and hiring purposes: you support my bill, and I’ll let so-and-so’s hearing move forward, you appoint me to this, and I’ll recommend your protege for that.

These deals can even cross the blood/brain barrier between states and the federal government. It is not corruption. It’s the warp and woof of a democratic political system. But in routinely branding President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as potential “corruption,” and pointing to the exchange of unrelated asks as proof of that corruption, our friends in the fourth estate are acting in willful ignorance and bad faith. The President has taken a firm position that he did not hold out foreign aid to Ukraine as a condition for investigating Hunter Biden’s activities there. But, even if he did, bargaining isn’t corruption—it’s policymaking.

An esteemed panel of federal judges in Chicago made precisely this point a few years ago. You may recall the prosecution of former-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on various federal charges. And although the judges largely upheld his conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit commentary on the affair was crystal clear. At least one of the counts that the trial judge had sent to the jury was just politics, pure and simple, and could not have been a crime. “[A] proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.” In other words, swapping one policy for another is a political commonplace. “Governance would hardly be possible without these accommodations,” the court went on to observe.

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View from the military. Hillary has opened the door for any and all of them to be accused of working for Putin.

In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard (Sjursen)

“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” – Arundhati Roy

Once again, Arundhati Roy – the esteemed Indian author and activist – more eloquently described what I’m feeling than I could ever hope to. After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, a lifetime in the Army and burying several brave young men for no good reason, I couldn’t remain silent one moment longer. Certainly not about the madness of America’s failed forever wars, nor about domestic militarization of the police and the border, nor about the structural racism borne of our nation’s “original sin.” Still, most of my writing and public dissent has stayed within the bounds of my limited expertise: the disease of endless, unwinnable and often unsanctioned American wars.

At times it’s been a decidedly lonely journey, particularly in the many years I remained on active duty while actively dissenting. I was, and remain, struck by how few of my fellow soldiers, officers and recent post-9/11 veterans felt as I did—strongly enough, at least, to publicly decry U.S. militarism. Then I discovered Tulsi Gabbard, an obscure young congresswoman from Hawaii who, coincidentally, serves in the Army and is herself a veteran of the war in Iraq. In the current climate of Gabbard-bashing, where even sites like Truthdig offer measured criticism, it’s hard to convey the profound sense of relief I felt that someone as outspokenly anti-war as Gabbard even existed way back in 2016. She said things I only dared think back then; and as I did, she backed Bernie Sanders—a risky endeavor that likely doomed her to the recent slanderous accusations of treason by Hillary Clinton. That’s called courage.

Perhaps the appropriate place to begin my qualified defense of Gabbard is with Clinton’s outrageous—and unsubstantiated—assertion that the long-shot 2020 presidential candidate is being “groomed” by the Russians to run a third-party spoiler campaign in the general election. First off, Gabbard should seriously consider suing for libel. Clinton has veritably, and without a shred of evidence, accused her of treason, a crime that, due to Gabbard’s continued military service, is punishable by death. This is no small matter.

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I wasn’t going to include this, thought it’s a nice thing for Tyler to run with and that’s it. But I am still hurt and surprised by the total demise of American late night TV. Saw Noah the other day on Seinfeld’s Comedians with Coffee series, and he seemed like an okay guy. But they are all caught in the Jeff Zucker/NYT et al thing, of How Do You Make Money?: By Dumping On Orange Man Bad. It’s a scam for dollars. And Noah gets paid off of that.

But I used to like Letterman and Jon Stewart, and I don’t like that being taken away from me for scraps off the table. All the media made the same calculation: sure, we’ll lose half the audience, but the one half we get to keep, they’ll be fully addicted to us as long as we dump on Trump. Because Trump Sells Better Than Sex.

Trevor Noah Asks Hillary: “How Did You Kill Jeffrey Epstein?” (ZH)

In what was oh-so-transparently aimed a debunking a so-called “right-wing-conspiracy,” Daily Show host Trevor Noah jokingly asked, during an interview with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton on Thursday, “How did you kill Jeffery Epstein?” “I have to ask you a question that has been plaguing me for a while: How did you kill Jeffrey Epstein?” asked Noah to laughter from the New York studio audience. “Because you’re not in power, but you have all the power. I really need to understand how you do what you do, because you seem to be behind everything nefarious, and yet you do not use it to become president.” “Honestly, what does it feel like being the boogeyman to the right?” the host asked.


Clinton responded by saying it was a “constant surprise.” “Well, it’s a constant surprise to me,” she said. “Because the things they say, and now, of course, it’s on steroids with being online, are so ridiculous, beyond any imagination that I could have. And yet they are so persistent in putting forth these crazy ideas and theories. Honestly, I don’t know what I ever did to get them so upset.” Of course, it would not be Hillary Clinton if she did not take a jab at President Trump proclaiming that, “I don’t think his real philosophy is America First, I think it’s Trump First… [Trump]…clearly does Putin’s bidding…” Forward to around 6:09 for Noah’s Epstein question…

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Jim has a lot of faith in Bill Barr. I am a bit more reserved on that one.

Halloween is Over and the Jig is Up (Kunstler)

And so Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff take the Republic into a dangerous defile on a dark day as they engineer a House resolution with rules for a medieval-style inquiry on the existence of phantoms. The phantom du jour, of course, is the fabled “whistleblower,” a CIA ectoplasm identified by everybody and his uncle in Swampland as one Eric Ciarmarella, 33, a former Joe Biden staffer, Obama White House low-level NSC holdover, and John Brennan “asset” deeply involved in Ukrainian pranks during the 2016 election and subsequent disinformation leakage to the media since the early days of the Trump administration.

The “whistleblower’s” trail winds through every shadowy turn of RussiaGate to the current phantasmagoria of UkraineGate, and connects the principal misdeeds carried out along the way including Hillary Clinton’s devious operations with Fusion GPS, the Comey-led FBI’s illegal entanglement with CIA spying on US citizens (including occupants of the White House), and lately the mendacious maneuvers of House Intel Committee chair Mr. Schiff. The notion that Mr. Ciamarella’s identity will remain officially hidden much longer is a joke, since his “complaint” lies at the center of the impeachment process underway, and sooner or later he will be compelled to make public testimony — unless Ms. Pelosi’s House majority votes to rename the USA the Haunted Forest of North America.

And when this unmasked phantom finally faces legitimate cross examination his mischief will be plain for all to see. Do you also suppose that Mr. Ciamarella’s revealed adventures in perfidy have not been noticed by the attorney general, Mr. Barr, and his deputy John Durham? It seems obvious that the Democrats’ mad rush to this wholly irregular impeachment happened in direct, proportional response to the encroaching danger to them posed by the DOJ inspector general’s imminent report and the news a week ago that the AG upgraded his “review” of all things RussiaGate to a criminal inquiry, with grand juries assembled to process indictments.

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Yes, the new rightwing government is screwing things up even more than they were. But this is on the EU.

Greek Refugee Camps ‘On Edge Of Catastrophe’ – EU Watchdog (BBC)

Thousands of people living in “abysmal” refugee camps on two Greek islands are “on the edge of catastrophe”, Europe’s human rights watchdog has said. Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke of an “explosive situation” on the Aegean islands, home to 36,000 asylum seekers. Hours later, Greece’s parliament passed a bill to fast-track deportations. The prime minister said refugees would be protected but Greece’s gates would not be thrown open to everyone. The left-wing opposition has criticised the law and some humanitarian groups, including United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, have warned it could restrict protection for asylum seekers.


But centre-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the move would deter those not entitled to asylum, telling parliament: “Enough is enough.” Nearly one million migrants refugees, including many fleeing war in Syria, crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands in 2015. Turkey agreed a financial deal with the EU to curb the influx but is still hosting 3.6 million Syrians. In recent months the numbers have surged and all the camps on the Greek islands are filled beyond capacity. [..] In a scathing assessment, Ms Mijatovic said: “The situation of migrants, including asylum seekers, in the Greek Aegean islands has dramatically worsened over the past 12 months. Urgent measures are needed to address the desperate conditions in which thousands of human beings are living.” She described the camps as “vastly overcrowded” places where people “queue for hours to get food and to go to bathrooms, when these are available”.

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Saw the Reuters piece early Friday, thought bigger version would follow. Relevant, though, because WHO would want to fly 737MAX? Not passengers, not crew.

28,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse To Work On 737 Max (ZH)

Tens of thousands of American Airlines’ flight attendants fear for their safety and will not work on Boeing 737 Max planes if they return to the air in 2020, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) union’s president wrote in a letter to Boeing’s CEO this week, reported Reuters. “The 28,000 flight attendants working for American Airlines refuse to walk onto a plane that may not be safe and are calling for the highest possible safety standards to avoid another tragedy,” APFA President Lori Bassani said in the letter (seen by Reuters). Reuters noted the letter was dated Oct. 30, which followed several days of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg being grilled by lawmakers in Washington after two Max crashes killed 346 people and led to a worldwide grounding of the plane in March.

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Don’t know about you, but I like pretty girls in their summer dresses. Should I feel guilty about that now? This feels like something well-intentioned that has gone terribly off the rails.

Apple Introduces Gender-Neutral Versions Of Nearly Every Human Emoji (RT)

The latest iOS 13.2 update is dividing digital fans with dozens of new genderless emoji characters. More choice or a step too far? iOS updates – they drain your battery and cause social anxiety – but the world can relax as the flamingo and otter emojis have finally been released. The update has delivered almost 400 images in total…. and it even includes a gender free vampire. But it seems the new mix of identity politics can stimulate confusion and division. Many online supporters have given a thumbs up to the Unicode Consortium team (that approves new emojis) as gender neutral choices and people with disabilities are now listed. But some fear too many choices are dividing society. Do we really need to be placed into so many boxes and categories?


Emoji characters now have a genderless character as well as male and female. Whoever thought a non-binary vampire even existed? Perhaps the emoji mafia are trying too hard. We have come such a long way since the original emoticon. What started off as a smiley face text two decades ago now equates to hundreds of people that can be represented. But this wasn’t enough, so Emojipedia declared the year 2015 as “the year of Emoji diversity” adding different skin colours, more female characters, gender inclusive people and more hair colours.

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Sep 102019
 
 September 10, 2019  Posted by at 1:43 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Composition “Peasants” 1906

 

It’s undoubtedly better to leave some stories alone, and this may be one of them. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov perhaps put it best when he called it “pulp fiction” (and what’s more American than that?). But this one is so exemplary of how the news is cooked up for you these days, let’s have a go anyway.

What makes this story so ideal for its purpose is that it involves intelligence and state secrets, so the news outlet that runs it doesn’t have to prove a thing; it can simply say it’s not authorized to divulge what it doesn’t write, while hinting it does know. Plus, it can use any number of covert sources.

But in the process, a damning picture can still be painted. And if that picture involves Donald Trump, and it’s CNN that’s painting it, well, we know what it’s going to look like. Here’s how it started at CNN yesterday (with some additions from today):

 

US Extracted Top Spy From Inside Russia In 2017

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel. The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.

At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset.[..]

Asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: “CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.”

[..] White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”

The removal happened at a time of wide concern in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress. Those concerns continued to grow in the period after Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter’s notes.

Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community’s response to the Trump-Putin meeting. Knowledge of the Russian covert source’s existence was highly restricted within the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was “no equal alternative” inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information on Putin.

 

Pretty bad, right? Well, we’re not done just yet. Here’s the BBC adding its two cents:

 

US Extracted High-Level Spy From Inside Russia In 2017, Reports Say

Russian media named the spy as former presidential administration official Oleg Smolenkov. The Kommersant newspaper said Mr Smolenkov went on holiday with his family to Montenegro in 2017 and disappeared, before a man with the same name and a woman with the same name as Mr Smolenkov’s wife purchased a house in the US state of Virginia, near Washington DC. Russian reports said Mr Smolenkov had worked for Yury Ushakov, a senior aide to President Putin.

Asked by the BBC on Tuesday about the reports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Mr Smolenkov had worked for the presidential administration but denied that he had held a high-level position, adding that he had been sacked. Mr Peskov described the US media coverage of the reported extraction as “pulp fiction”.

There was no suggestion on Tuesday that President Trump directly compromised the source in Russia, and reports said that widespread media speculation about US intelligence conclusions had contributed to the decision to extract the source. Last year, Russian operatives travelled to England and used a nerve agent in an assassination attempt against a former Russian military intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, who had spied for the British.

 

Isn’t it just lovely how they manage to throw in Skripal there at the end? Took a bit of stretching, but the BBC is plenty flexible.

Okay, so this alleged spy is extracted (or “exfiltrated”) by US intelligence, and then buys a home in Virginia. But not only that, he buys it under his own name. Presumably so that if Putin wants to find the man who divulged all those secrets for 10 years+, he can just Google him. Here’s NBC:

 

Possible Russian Spy For CIA Now Living In Washington Area

A former senior Russian official is living in the Washington area under U.S. government protection, current and former government officials tell NBC News. NBC News is withholding the man’s name and other key details at the request of U.S. officials, who say reporting the information could endanger his life. Yet the former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name.

An NBC News correspondent went to the man’s house in the Washington area and rang the doorbell. Five minutes later, two young men in an SUV came racing up the street and parked immediately adjacent to the correspondent’s car. The men, who identified themselves only as friends of the Russian, asked the correspondent what he was doing there.

[..] The [New York] Times said the source was “the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders” from Putin, and was key to the CIA’s assessment that Putin favored Donald Trump’s candidacy and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The Times previously reported that the source was considered so sensitive that then-CIA Director John Brennan had declined to refer to the person in the top secret Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration. Brennan sent reports from the source to the president and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security, the Times reported.

[..] NBC News has not confirmed that the Russian living near the nation’s capital fed the CIA information about Russian election interference. But for reasons that NBC News is withholding, he fits the profile of someone who may have had access to information about Putin’s activities and who would have been recruitable by American intelligence officials.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News they believe he is the source referred to in the CNN and New York Times report. The Russian will likely be moved from the place he is currently living in the interest of keeping him safe, current and former officials said.

 

He will be moved in the interest of keeping him safe. That is just brilliant. What, you think Putin will be upset at no longer being able to Google his whereabouts?

To remain fair, let’s give RT some space, too, shall we?

 

Was Key CIA Spy ‘Extracted’ From Moscow Over #Russiagate Fears?

Media outlets in Russia immediately began speculating as to the identity of the alleged mole, quickly settling on Oleg Smolenkov, state advisor of the third class who had worked at the Russian embassy in Washington before 2010. Smolenkov took his wife and three children on vacation to Montenegro on July 14, 2017, whereupon they vanished without a trace. The police have been investigating their disappearance as possible murder.

[..] Russian Senator Franz Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense and Security Committee, dismissed CNN’s story as “fake” and “carrying out orders for another attempt to discredit Trump,” according to TASS. Most of the US mainstream media outlets spent the past three years promoting the notorious ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory on behalf of the Democrats, and have refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing even though special counsel Robert Mueller failed to find anything to incriminate the president after a two-year investigation.

Moreover, CNN and MSNBC have hired a number of former intelligence officials, whose fingerprints have been all over ‘Russiagate,’ as anti-Trump pundits.

 

John Brennan, James Clapper, here’s looking at you. There was no need today to read much further in order to find out that the secret info Trump is accused of divulging to “the Russians” had already been published first by no other than…CNN on March 31 2017. There was no secret. Other than perhaps, says Aaron Maté, that Israel was the source. But trust us, Putin would have known that.

After the Mueller report fiasco, one would think the media who don’t like Trump would be more careful with their reporting, and before reporting it. But they just keep at it.

In the process, as quoted above, through their false reporting and false claims, it’s they who are endangering lives, not Donald Trump:

Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: “CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.” [..]

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”

It’s not just the White House, the CIA itself says it too.

Asking for a friend: You think the country’s still capable of having a normal conversation?

 

 

 

 

Jun 152019
 


Arnold Böcklin Mermaids at play 1886

 

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)
Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)
DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)
System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)
Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)
Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)
All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)
US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)
The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)
Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)
Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

 

 

Trump was merely added years after the Russia-WikiLeaks slander had started.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)

The public has been led to believe that the 2016 election and the resulting Mueller Report is the definitive evidence that WikiLeaks was somehow in cahoots with Russia, reinforcing the premise that they were in a political alliance with, or favoured, Donald Trump and his Presidential election campaign. Prominent Russiagate-skeptics have long pointed out the multitude of gaping holes inherent in those theories, including the advocacy group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who have produced credible forensic work analysing the 2016 WikiLeaks releases, that resoundingly debunks officials claims.


In the course of researching this article, I stumbled across a major discovery that augments that: the false notion of WikiLeaks being a front for Russian intelligence isn’t new – it has been pushed by media since 2009. It turns out the circulation of the WikiLeaks-Russia myth was a tried and true diversionary, smear tactic that was simply regurgitated in 2016. Julian Assange believed that UK intelligence agencies were behind the pushing of that narrative, and he was publicly stating so at the end of last decade. He wouldn’t make such claims lightly, and other emerging facts support his suspicion.

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“Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.”

Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)

“Today’s the day that journalism gets put on trial,” Dimmack said. “And it’s interesting that behind me there are this many cameras. There haven’t been this many cameras for quite a while. It’s interesting that when Julian was dragged out and kidnapped from within that Ecuadorian embassy, all of you guys had actually gone home, and it was a Russian TV station that actually caught it, Ruptly. It’s almost as if you don’t care.”

“For seven years you have smeared and slandered that man who is going to appear on video in that court in about fifteen minutes,” Dimmack told the mainstream press, right to their fucking faces. “You are all responsible for what has happened today! All of you in the media! Every one of you. You have got blood on your hands. When he released those documents that Chelsea Manning gave him, all he did was the job of a publisher. That’s it. Right now Julian Assange is going to court and put on trial for exposing war criminals as war criminals. And all of you for seven years have smeared and slandered him. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“You have all got a chance right now to actually do a U-turn and repair some of the damage that you have done over the last seven years,” Dimmack roared. “The Fourth Estate is extremely important. You know this. This is why journalism is such a noble profession; you are meant to hold power accountable, not to suck up to it sycophantically and just repeat propaganda. Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.” “Stand up for Julian Assange and tell the truth,” he continued. “Ask yourselves why is it for seven years you have printed lie after lie after lie about him? Why is it for seven years you have said that he went to the Ecuadorian embassy to escape a rape charge? No he didn’t! How many times have I said it? He went in there to escape extradition to the United States.” “Well guess what?” Dimmack concluded, gesturing to the courthouse. “He was right again! Free Julian Assange.”

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More Russiagate.

DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan. The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish. Despite the collusion conspiracy theory having been put to rest, many Americans, including members of Congress, right and left, continue to accept the evidence-impoverished, media-cum-“former-intelligence-officer” meme that the Kremlin interfered massively in the 2016 presidential election.

One cannot escape the analogy with the fraudulent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As in 2002 and 2003, when the mania for the invasion of Iraq mounted, Establishment media have simply regurgitated what intelligence sources like Brennan told them about Russia-gate. No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.” As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else.

So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists. With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks.

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From Monday. A few days later, the tankers were attacked. And not with mines either.

System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)

A European payment system designed to circumvent US sanctions on Iran will be ready soon, Germany announced on Monday. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran as part of European efforts to salvage the historic JCPOA nuclear pact and defuse rising US-Iranian tension. Iran and Germany held “frank and serious” talks on saving the 2015 deal with world powers, Zarif told a joint press conference. “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the deal to save it,” Zarif said. Maas said earlier the payment system, known as INSTEX, (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) will soon be ready to go after months of work.


“This is an instrument of a new kind so it’s not straightforward to operationalise it,” he said, pointing to the complexity of trying to install a totally new payment system. “But all the formal requirements are in place now, and so I’m assuming we’ll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future,” added Maas about the system for barter-based trade with Iran. A cautious thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington began in 2015 when the deal was struck between six world powers and Iran, limiting its nuclear activity. But tensions with the US have mounted since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Iran has criticised the European signatories of the JCPOA for failing to salvage the pact after Trump pulled the US out. “There is a serious situation in the region. An escalation of tension is becoming uncontrollable and military action wouldn’t be in line with the interests of any party,” Maas said.

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From Skripal to Iran.

Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn has questioned whether the government has “credible evidence” to show Iran is behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said responsibility for Thursday’s attack in the Gulf of Oman “almost certainly” lies with the Iranian regime. But the Labour leader tweeted that there was no evidence for this. Mr Hunt responded that Mr Corbyn’s comments were “pathetic” and said he should back British intelligence. It is the second time in the past few weeks that tankers appear to have been attacked in the region and comes amid escalating tension between Iran and the United States.


The US military released video footage which it said proved Iran was behind Thursday’s attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese tankers – something Iran has categorically denied. The UK Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – attacked the two tankers on 13 June, adding that “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible”. “These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region,” Mr Hunt said. However, in a tweet Mr Corbyn questioned that assessment and said the UK should ease tensions in the region, not fuel a military escalation.

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And it works!

Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)

Launching his bid for the Tory leadership this week, Dominic Raab announced, histrionically: “We’ve been humiliated as a country.” For those of us who do not live on planet Brexit, this might have been mistaken for a belated reaction to the genuinely demeaning spectacle of Donald Trump’s state visit a week earlier. But, of course, like almost all of his fellow contenders to be the next prime minister, Raab was playing his part in a strange performance in which the national honour has been so horribly besmirched by the European Union that it can be salved only by taking the pain of a no-deal Brexit.

Perhaps if you keep acting out phoney feelings, you end up not being able to recognise the real thing. Brexit Britain has been wallowing in a hyped-up psychodrama of national humiliation. It is, indeed, one of the very few things that remainers and leavers still share, even if they feel mortified for very different reasons. In relation to the EU, this sense of humiliation is wildly overplayed. But when Trump comes to town and really does degrade Britain, the sense of wounded dignity that ought to be felt seems curiously absent.

[..] how come the idea of national humiliation has loomed so large in Brexit? Shortly before the missed departure date of 29 March, a Sky Data poll asked: “Is the way Britain is dealing with Brexit a national humiliation?” Ninety per cent of respondents said yes. This idea of collective abasement is everywhere in the Brexit narrative. A random sample of headlines from across the spectrum tells the story: “Brexit and the prospect of national humiliation” (Financial Times); “Voice of the Mirror: Theresa May’s Brexit is a national humiliation”; “A national humiliation: Never was so much embarrassment caused to so many by so few” (Telegraph); “‘Humiliating to have to beg’ for EU exit, says Arlene Foster” (Irish Times). And so, endlessly, on.

There is something hysterical in this constant evocation of humiliation. It is a cry of outraged self-regard: how dare they treat us like this? Yes, of course, the Brexit debacle has reduced Britain’s prestige around the world. And the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May is indeed a miserable thing when compared with the glorious visions that preceded it. But Britain has not been humiliated by the EU – the deal was shaped by May’s (and Arlene Foster’s) red lines. Britain did not get what the Brexiters fantasised about, but it did get what it actually asked for. That’s not humiliation.

Read more …

Markets my ass. The only thing that’s left is the Fed. Markets are dead.

All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting next week is shaping up as a pivotal one for Wall Street, with stocks primed for a selloff should the Fed fail to take an even more dovish tilt after policymakers raised expectations for a rate cut in recent weeks. The benchmark S&P 500 has rallied more than 5% this month as softening economic data coupled with comments by Fed officials heightened expectations the Fed will cut rates by the end of the year and, at the very least, telegraph it is leaning toward a later rate cut at its June 18-19 meeting. Those gains came on the heels of a selloff in May of nearly 7% in the S&P, largely fueled by investor concerns that trade wars were escalating, slowing the economy and putting it at risk of falling into a recession.


Bets for a rate cut were amplified by comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on June 4, who said the central bank will respond “as appropriate” to the risks from a global trade war and other developments, and after a weak May payrolls report on June 7. Bank of America Merrill Lynch Chief Economist Michelle Meyer expects the Fed’s “dot plots” projection of interest rates, which represents the anonymous, individual rate projections of Fed policymakers for the next few years, to shift lower as officials start to factor in cuts. However, “the median dot will signal a Fed on hold,” Meyer said in a note. “The market has somehow convinced themselves that we are in an easing cycle. I am not sure how we got so far ahead of ourselves,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

Read more …

Virtual wealth in a virtual reality.

US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)

As a result of the Fed’s ZIRP and QE programs in the past decade, virtually all types of assets soared in value: stocks, bonds, art, classic cars, farmland, residential real estate, and commercial real estate. On average, U.S. commercial real estate prices have surged by 111%, or more than double, since their 2009 low. Interestingly, most people don’t realize that U.S. commercial real estate also experienced a bubble from 2004 to 2008 at the same time as the U.S. housing bubble. This early bubble inflated for many of the same reasons as the housing bubble, which were ultra-low borrowing costs and loose lending standards. From 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate prices rose 66%, but crashed by nearly 40% during the 2008 financial crisis. Commercial real estate prices have increased even more in the current bubble (111% vs. 66%), which means that the coming commercial real estate bust is likely to be even worse than the 2008 bust.

As discussed earlier, low interest rate environments often cause dangerous bubbles to develop by encouraging borrowing booms. Like the U.S. commercial real estate bubble of 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate lending has flourished during the current bubble. Since 2012, total commercial real estate loans at U.S. banks have increased by an alarming $700 billion or 50%.

Read more …

“There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)

Well, that was timely. The US Treasury just posted a record $207 billion deficit for May and record monthly spending of $440 billion. That brought the rolling 12 month deficit to just shy of the trillion dollar mark at $986 billion. The timely part is two-fold. First, it just so happens that May marked month #119 of the current expansion, making it tied for the duration record with the 1990s cycle. But even JM Keynes himself would be rolling in his grave in light of the chart below. To wit, even by the lights of hardcore Keynesians of yore, fiscal deficits were supposed to be falling sharply at the end of a business cycle or even moving into surplus as they did in 1999-2000, not erupting toward 5% of GDP as has now happened.

The second timely note, of sorts, is that the Wall Street Journal was Johnny on the Spot this AM with a front page story entitled, “How Washington Learned to Love Debt and Deficits”. The story’s quote from the current Dem Chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmouth, says it all. There simply has never been such bipartisan complacency about the nation’s public finances in all of modern history – including during the biggest borrow and spend days of FDR, LBJ and every president since Gerald Ford: “Rep. John Yarmuth (D., Ky.), House Budget Committee chairman, says he rarely hears from constituents concerned about rising deficits and debt. Many voters’ attitudes, he says: “There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The WSJ story is a dog’s breakfast of rationalizations, non sequitirs, political double-talk and Keynesian tommyrot. What is the most telling, however, is that it was co-authored by Jon Hilsenrath, who was the paper’s long-time Fed reporter. Yet it contains not a single word about the role of central banks in fostering the utter collapse of fiscal responsibility described by his lengthy report. So for want of doubt, here is the culprit. The central banks of the world have expanded their balance sheets by upwards of $22 trillion since the turn of the century, thereby massively monetizing the erupting public debt of the US and most of the world via fiat credit snatched from thin air.

So did that massive $22 trillion “buy” order from the central banks weigh heavily on the supply of funds side of the scales in the fixed income market, thereby driving bond prices skyward and yields ever lower? Why, goodness gracious, yes it did!

Read more …

Really?

Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)

Beijing has yielded to Hong Kong’s unique economic status. Carrie Lam, chief executive of the special administrative region, on Saturday indefinitely suspended a bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland, responding to mass rallies and violent street protests that rocked the city. It’s a defeat for her, and leaves the central government embarrassed. But for the Chinese Communist Party, preserving Hong Kong’s financial role still trumps the desire for more political control. Lam took office in 2017, and is considered a reliable Beijing loyalist. Pushing through the extradition bill, however, came from her, she said. Either way, the central government endorsed it enthusiastically as well. Yet the strength and breadth of the protests caught both Lam and Beijing off guard.


The backlash was not confined to democracy advocates, much less to a radical minority that began calling for independence after the Occupy movement in 2014. It extended to anyone who distrusted the Chinese legal system. In the end, that seemed to be almost everyone. Some tycoons began moving funds out of Hong Kong to Singapore in advance of the bill’s passage, Reuters reported, a hint of the outflows before the 1997 handover from Britain. And not only did the pro-Beijing camp fail to mobilise against the demonstrations in force – as it did in 2014 – the conservative business community began expressing public doubts about the agenda almost immediately. Financial markets wobbled. Worse still, U.S. politicians threatened to re-evaluate Hong Kong’s unique status, which could affect everything from visas to trade.

Read more …

We’re all on planet Japan. Pension systems everywhere are imploding.

Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

It was only a few days ago that the Japanese government’s Financial Services Agency published its oddly-titled “Annual Report on Ageing Society”. (Like everything in Japan, English translations often hilariously miss the mark…) This is a report that the Ministry of Finance puts out every year. And as the name implies, the report discusses the state of Japan’s pension fund, and its future prospects for taking care of its senior citizens. Bear in mind that Japan has the oldest population in the world; Japan ranks #2 in the world for average age (46.9, just behind Monaco), #1 in the world for the greatest percentage of citizens over the age of 70, and #1 in the world for life expectancy. In a nutshell, this means that Planet Japan has more people collecting pension benefits, for more years, than anywhere else.

Yet at the same time, Japan’s pension fund is completely insolvent. There simply aren’t enough people paying into the system to make good on the promises that have been made. At present there are only 2 workers paying into the pension program for every 1 retiree receiving benefits in Japan. The math simply doesn’t add up, and it’s only getting worse. Planet Japan’s birth rate is infamously low, and the population here is actually DECLINING. So, fast forward another 10-15 years, and there will be even MORE people collecting pension benefits, and even FEWER people paying into the system. This year’s ‘Annual Report on Ageing Society’ plainly stated this reality; it was a brutally honest assessment of Japan’s underfunded pension program.

The report went on to tell people that they needed to save their own money for retirement because the pension fund wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. This terrified a lot of Japanese workers and pensioners. So the government stepped in to quickly solve the problem… by making the report disappear. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for the report, calling it “inaccurate and misleading.” And Finance Minister Taro Aso– himself a pensioner at age 78 (though in typical Japanese form he looks like he’s 45)– simply un-published the report.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 042019
 
 June 4, 2019  Posted by at 7:30 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Francisco Goya The dog 1820-23

 

What follows are items from sources not everyone may like, such as Fox and The Hill. But please bear with me, because if you want to understand what is about to happen in the US, you’re going to need this kind of info, and you’re not likely to get it from the mainstream media.

The overall term here is questions. There are too many to list. Some will merely be asked, some will be asked and answered, others will not be asked at all. It’s going to be a jousting match between lawyers and prosecutors, investigators and politicians. It’s safe to say it’s going be ugly.

First off, as Zero Hedge reports, Christopher Steele, after long refusing to, has agreed to talk to investigators from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

 

Steele Agrees To Discuss Trump Dossier With DOJ Inspector General

Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele has finally agreed to meet with US officials to discuss his relationship with the FBI, and the now-infamous dossier of unfounded claims against Donald Trump which he assembled on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The 54-year-old Steele has agreed to meet with investigators from the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), according to The Times of London, after a former US official told Politico that the OIG report would “try to deeply undermine” Steele.

The news marks a 180-shift in Steele’s past refusals to engage with US authorities. In April, Politico reported that Steele would not meet with the OIG to assist them with their investigation, while just last week, Reuters reported that he wouldn’t meet with US attorney John Durham, who was handpicked by AG William Barr to review the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Steele, a MI6 Russia specialist for more than two-decades, has worked with the FBI as a confidential source since 2010. According to the report, he will retain the services of a top American attorney if the interview goes ahead, and is only willing to discuss the narrow scope of his dealings with US intelligence. Steele also wanted US officials to seek the approval of the British government.

Steele’s lawyers will try to limit the topics on the table as much as they can. But that may not be enough. There are very serious doubts and allegations surrounding the Steele Dossier, as well as the clients he prepared the report for. There’s Hillary Clinton, there’s the DNC, there’s their law firm Perkins Coie, there’s Fusion GPS, there’s its CEO Glenn Simpson, there’s the FBI, there’s the 2016 DOJ, and then there’s John Brennan and James Clapper. All these parties have played roles in making sure the dossier was ‘prepared’.

That is a lot of parties. How Steele is going to talk under oath without implicating one or more of them in shady dealings if not downright criminal activities is hard to imagine. If only because the dossier leads straight to the Mueller report, which would never have been written if the Steele dossier had not been used to -possibly illegally- get FISA warrants.

Moreover, Robert Mueller is now being accused of tampering with evidence he used in his report. I know I seem to be jumping from Steele to Mueller kind of suddenly, but these things are very closely connected, so I’ll allow myself that freedom.

It appears from files released on the order of judge Sullivan that Mueller has tampered with his own evidence. He omitted part of a phone conversation between lawyers for Trump and those for Michael Flynn, ostensibly to create the impression that the former sought confidential information.

 

Ex-Trump Lawyer John Dowd Slams Mueller Report As A ‘Fraud’

Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was reacting to the release of a voicemail message that John Dowd, a former lawyer for President Trump, had left for a lawyer representing former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in which Dowd asks for a “heads up” if Flynn planned to say anything damaging about Trump to Mueller’s team. Nunes retweeted a side-by-side comparison of the Dowd transcript text and the Mueller report text, suggesting that the Mueller report did not disclose the full Dowd message.


The Mueller report had redacted the part of the voicemail where Dowd said he wanted the heads up “not only for the president but for the country” and that he wasn’t asking for “any confidential information.” Alan Dershowitz claimed on “Hannity” Monday night that the quotation was “distorted.” “This is a very, very serious issue,” he said. “The distortion of the Dowd quote is very serious. Especially since, remember, that a report by a special counsel is always going to be one-sided. Therefore, you have to trust it.”

 

Totally separate from the above development, Democrat House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wants Mueller to talk to Congress no matter what. The Dems of course want to get dirt on Trump from Mueller, but given that development, added to many other questions GOP Congressmen already wanted to ask him, the Mueller testimony may well backfire in spectacular fashion. Do they realize this?

 

Hoyer: Democrats Should Subpoena Mueller If Necessary

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democrats should insist on special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress, even if it requires a subpoena. “I think he ought to testify. He may want a subpoena, for all I know,” Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in his Capitol office. “He indicated that his report speaks for itself. Very frankly, … questioning is an important fact-finding pursuit.”

Mueller said last week during brief remarks at the Justice Department that he hoped those statements — combined with his 488-page report — would be his last word on the topic. It was a clear indication that the former FBI chief — who’s built a reputation for nonpartisanship over his long career in Washington — is hoping to avoid the political circus that would surely accompany his return to Capitol Hill.

But Democrats are fighting to secure his testimony, emphasizing the importance of hearing the author of the report elucidate its conclusions. Both Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, are in negotiations with Mueller’s team in an effort to secure the special counsel’s testimony. [..] Another Democratic lawmaker familiar with the talks said a major sticking point remains Mueller’s reluctance to testify publicly, as Democrats are insisting.

“We’re trying to do everything possible to get him out in the open,” said the lawmaker, who spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive negotiations. Democrats are also wary that Mueller will be unwilling to answer clarifying questions outside the literal text of his report, the lawmaker said. “The concern is that Mueller is just going to sit there like a parrot and parrot the report,” the lawmaker said. “And there’s not going to be anything meaningfully new coming out of the testimony.”

Here are a few questions Mueller may be called upon to answer, courtesy of Sharyl Attkisson at The Hill. Most if not all appear to me to be reasonable, and there seems to be little reason not to demand they are answered. The credibility of the entire American political system, as well as the intelligence community, is at stake.

 

Robert Mueller’s Parting Shot: 10 Questions I’d Like To Ask

The statement Mueller chose to give carries with it an implication that his team looked for evidence of President Trump’s innocence but simply could not find it. With that in mind, I thought of a short list of questions I’d like to ask Mueller, if ever permitted to do so:

1) What witnesses did you interview and what evidence did you collect in an attempt to exonerate Trump or prove him not guilty? (I believe the answer would be, “None. It’s not the job of a special counsel or prosecutor to do so.” Therefore, was Mueller’s comment appropriate?)

2) Does it concern you that the FBI claimed “collection tool failure” in stating that 19,000 text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strozk had been deleted and were unavailable for review by the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general? Is it worth investigating how the inspector general was able to recover the messages, when the FBI said it could not? Does the FBI lack the technical expertise, or the will? Isn’t it a serious issue that should be addressed, either way?

3) Along the same lines, do you think it strange or inappropriate that the DOJ wiped text messages between Strzok and Page from their special counsel cell phones? The deletions happened shortly after they were ejected from the team and before the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General could review them — at a time when all had been informed that their actions were under review. Did technicians attempt to recover the messages? Were the circumstances of the deletions thoroughly investigated?

4) When did you first learn that the FBI and DOJ signed off on and presented unverified, anti-Trump political opposition research to a court to get wiretaps on an innocent U.S. citizen? Doesn’t this violate the strict procedures enacted while you were FBI director, intended to ensure that only verified information is seen by the court? Who will be held accountable for any lapses in this arena?

5) Do these issues point to larger problems within our intelligence community, in terms of how officials operate? Does that put you in a position where there’s a conflict of interest since you were in charge of the FBI when prior surveillance abuses were identified by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? Did you consider disclosing this potential conflict and stepping aside, or referring any issues that overlap with your interests?

6) What steps did you take after Strzok and Page were exposed, to try to learn if other investigators on your team likewise were conflicted? Did you take action to segregate the work of these agents and any potential biases they injected into your investigation and team? Wasn’t their behavior a beacon to call you to follow an investigative trail in another direction?

7) Did you become concerned about foreign influence beyond Russia when you learned that a foreign national, Christopher Steele, claimed to have obtained opposition research from Russian officials connected to Putin — and that the FBI and DOJ presented this material to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain wiretap approvals?

8) Were you aware that some Democratic Party officials acknowledged coordinating with Ukraine in 2016 to undermine Trump and his associates and to leak disparaging information to the news media?

9) Is it true that you applied for the job as FBI director but Trump rejected you, the day before then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed you as special counsel to investigate Trump? Does that put you in a potentially conflicted position?

10) Do you think Donald Trump is guilty of a crime? If so, then do you believe he is perhaps the most clever criminal of our time since he was able to conceal the evidence despite all the government wiretaps, investigations, informants, surveillance and hundreds of interviews spanning several years?

And then when the DOJ, as well as AG William Barr’s team, are done with Mueller, The Hill’s John Solomon has another set of questions, this time for Hillary Clinton. And again, the credibility of the entire American political system, as well as the intelligence community, is at stake. Is Hillary untouchable?

 

Hillary Clinton’s Russia Collusion IOU: The Answers She Owes America

Here are 10 essential questions:

1) In January 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a formal investigative request for documents and written answers from your campaign. Do you plan to comply?

2) Please identify each person in your campaign who was involved with, or aware of, hiring Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele.

3) Please identify each person in your campaign, including Perkins Coie lawyers, who were aware that Steele provided information to the FBI or State Department, and when they learned it.

4) Describe any information you and your campaign staff received, or were briefed on, before Election Day that was derived from the work of Simpson, Steele, Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr or Perkins Coie and that tried to connect Trump, his campaign or his business empire with Russia.

5) Please describe all contacts your campaign had before Election Day with or about the following individuals: Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele, former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, former foreign policy scholar Stefan Halper and Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud.

6) Did you or any senior members of your campaign, including lawyers such as Michael Sussmann, have any contact with the CIA, its former Director John Brennan, current Director Gina Haspel, James Baker, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page or former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe?

7) Describe all contacts your campaign had with Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal concerning Trump, Russia and Ukraine.

8) Describe all contacts you and your campaign had with DNC contractor Alexander Chalupa, the Ukraine government, the Ukraine Embassy in the United States or the U.S. Embassy in Kiev concerning Trump, Russia or former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

9) Why did your campaign and the Democratic Party make a concerted effort to portray Trump as a Russian asset?

10) Given that investigations by a House committee, a Senate committee and a special prosecutor all have concluded there isn’t evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, do you regret the actions by your campaign and by Steele, Simpson and Sussmann to inject these unfounded allegations into the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community and the news media?

The Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, had their day in the sun with the 2 years Mueller probe. Now ‘the other side’ has its turn. And it makes no difference what side you are on, or even whether you think that is fair, this is going to happen. How it can go down without people being indicted, I can’t see. Same as with some Trump allies. Paul Manafort was sent to Rikers Island today.

Still, in the same way that it’s impossible to predict which questions will eventually be asked, and which the legal experts on all sides decide should not be asked, it’s not possible at this point to foresee where the hammer will come down hardest. But it’s not going to be pretty.

Then again, we’re looking, down the line, at Brennan and Clapper and the entire intelligence community. Do Barr and IG Horowitz have the clout and the strength and determination to clean up that mess? Here’s hoping that they do. America needs a thorough cleansing, badly.

 

 

 

 

Jun 032019
 


Paul Ranson Apple tree with red fruit 1902

 

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)
How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)
Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)
Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)
Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)
The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)
Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)
US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)
Science institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)
EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)
Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

 

 

One tool left: lower interest rates.

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)

Factory activity contracted in most Asian countries last month as an escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing raised fears of a global economic downturn and heaped pressure on policymakers in the region and beyond to roll out more stimulus. Such growth indicators are likely to deteriorate further in coming months as higher trade tariffs take their toll on global commerce and further dent business and consumer sentiment leading to job losses and delays in investment decisions. Some economists predict a world recession and a renewed race to the bottom on interest rates if trade tensions fail to ease at a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan at the end of June, when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could meet.


In China, Asia’s economic heartbeat, the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed modest expansion at 50.2, offering investors some near-term relief after an official gauge on Friday showed contraction. The outlook, however, remained grim as output growth slipped, factory prices stalled and businesses were the least optimistic on production since the survey series began in April 2012. PMIs were below the 50-point mark separating contraction from expansion in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan, came below expectations in Vietnam and improved slightly in the Philippines. “The additional shock from the escalated trade tensions is not going to be good for global trade and if demand in the U.S., China and Europe continues to soften, which is very likely, it will bode ill for Asia as a whole,” said Aidan Yao, senior emerging markets economist at AXA Investment Managers.

Read more …

And because of those lower interest rates, very few Americans will be able to retire, let alone at 65. Which makes this St. Louis Fed article outright insane, insulting even.

How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)

In this post, I will describe a preliminary estimate of the number of people retiring each month over the next 20 years. I started with the population of workers between the ages of 40 and 65 in 2018 using data gathered by IPUMS-USA. I then used age- and gender-specific mortality rates from the Human Mortality Database to compute how many people are expected to still be alive the next year (at only one year older). I continued iterating this procedure for a few years, assuming that the age-specific mortality rates remain constant over the years I specify. Finally, I counted the number of people reaching age 65 each year, further breaking it down to the averages of those reaching 65 each day and each month. The figure below shows the result of this calculation.

Initially, it is evident that there will be around 10,000 people (taking the total of retiring males and females) turning 65 each day for the next two decades. The right axis indicates the number of people turning 65 each month, which is an easier number to compare with the BLS monthly report on the current employment situation in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the peak corresponds to the retiring of the baby boomers. From 2025 onward, the trend is declining, which is likely because of the baby bust that followed the baby boom.

Read more …

Don’t worry, growth will soon be a thing of the past.

Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)

In 2012, writing as a lone economics blogger, I put forward a case for why countries should ditch economic growth as a political priority. Long revered as a stalwart of a capitalist society the need to grow has come to overshadow everything else. We prioritise it over our personal health, we prioritise it over the health of the planet and we prioritise it over our happiness. But given that the function of any economy is to provide an environment of subsistence, that could be little short-sighted. Economist Kenneth Boulding once said that we eat in order to achieve the state of being well-fed, and moving our jaws is simply the ‘cost’ of getting there.

We would therefore be mistaken to focus our attention on the act of chewing as the desired end-state when it is simply the price we pay to become fed. But as long as growth is the target of our economic systems people will continue to focus on chewing, which is neither a sustainable nor desirable trait of an economy. Which is why I welcomed news that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put out a national budget where spending is dictated by what best encourages the “well-being” of citizens, rather than focussing on traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth.

The government will put an emphasis on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations in what has been described as a “game-changing event” by LSE professor Richard Layard. As part of the framework Ardern has set aside more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence and included a promise to provide housing for the homeless population. New guidance on policy suggests all new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.

Read more …

But he said he wouldn’t say another word…

Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)

In that twinkling zone between man and myth, Robert Mueller transcends the mundane. Even in refusing to reach a conclusion on criminal conduct, he is excused. As Mueller himself declared, we are to ask him no questions or expect any answers beyond his report. But his motivations as special counsel can only be found within an approved range that starts at “selfless” and ends at “heroic.” Representative Mike Quigley defended Mueller’s refusal to reach a conclusion as simply “protecting” President Trump in a moment of “extreme fairness.” Yet, as I noted previously, Mueller’s position on the investigation has become increasingly conflicted and, at points, unintelligible.

As someone who defended Mueller’s motivations against the unrelenting attacks of Trump, I found his press conference to be baffling, and it raised serious concerns over whether some key decisions are easier to reconcile on a political rather than a legal basis. Three decisions stand out that are hard to square with Mueller’s image as an apolitical icon. If he ever deigns to answer questions, his legacy may depend on his explanations. One of the most surprising disclosures made by Attorney General William Barr was that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expressly told Mueller to submit his report with grand jury material clearly marked to facilitate the release of a public version.

The Justice Department cannot release grand jury material without a court order. Mueller knew that. He also knew his people had to mark the material because they were in the grand jury proceedings. Thus, Barr and Rosenstein reportedly were dumbfounded to receive a report that did not contain these markings. It meant the public report would be delayed by weeks as the Justice Department waited for Mueller to perform this basic task. Mueller knew it would cause such a delay as many commentators were predicting Barr would postpone the release of the report or even bury it. It left Barr and the Justice Department in the worst possible position and created the false impression of a coverup.

Why would a special counsel directly disobey his superiors on such a demand? There is no legal or logical explanation. What is even more galling is that Mueller said in his press conference that he believed Barr acted in “good faith” in wanting to release the full report. Barr ultimately did so, releasing 98 percent of the report to select members of Congress and 92 percent to the public. However, then came the letter from Mueller.

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“..the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well..”

Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)

Bringing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is one thing, but legal extradition is going to be far more difficult for merely publishing stolen material, not actually stealing it, according to legal expert Alan Dershowitz. “I think the Trump administration has overplayed its hand, so did the Justice Department,” Dershowitz told “The Cats Roundtable” on 970 AM-N.Y.. “They had a very strong case for extradition when they initially accused him of breaking into a password [-protected machine] to try to get classified material, that’s a crime. “But publishing materials? That’s very different. That’s The New York Times and The Washington Post, and I think Great Britain is going to have a lot of difficulty extraditing Assange to the U.S. to face trial for merely publishing material stolen not by him but by others.”


The case will not be one of espionage but a case of free speech and the First Amendment, according to Dershowitz. I think we’re in for a very interesting First Amendment case, probably the most interesting First Amendment case involving national security since Pentagon Papers.” Dershowitz was one of the lawyers of the Pentagon Papers case related to Watergate and the ultimate impeachment proceedings and resignation of former President Richard Nixon, taking the case to the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well,” Dershowitz told host John Catsimatidis.

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“Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.”

The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)

CIA director Gina Haspel crowed to the Washington Post a year ago that disclosing the name of informant Stefan Halper “could risk lives.” It turned out Halper had been outed as a spook in the pages of the New York Times back in 1983, and openly traded on his intelligence past as a professor in England. Where were lives at risk, in the Cambridge University Botanical Garden? We also saw reports that revealing the name of former British spy Christopher Steele would imperil his life. When the Wall Street Journal outed him in January of 2017, Steele responded by telling British media that he was “terrified for his safety.” He added he was going into hiding because he feared a “potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow.”

We later found out Steele had more media contacts than the Kardashian family, meeting with (at minimum) the Times, Post, Yahoo!, The New Yorker, CNN and Mother Jones in the space of about seven weeks in September-October 2016. In the years since his report became public, Steele fought through his terror to keep commiserating with the media. He invited a sprawling, laudatory 2018 profile in The New Yorker that described him answering “one of his two phones” in Farnham, a Surrey town with a “beautiful Georgian high street,” where he and his four children live on “nearly an acre of land.” He’s given depositions, negotiated to testify before congress, and been a primary source in several bestselling books. Thanks to such elaborate precautions, he’s managed somehow to avoid assassination since 2016.

[..] The release of the Page warrant turned out to not to compromise anything but the reputation of the FBI and other agencies. The major revelation was the FBI had indeed used Steele, a “compensated” FBI informant as well as a private oppo researcher, as a source despite having “suspended its relationship” with him in October 2016, ostensibly over failure to disclose media contacts. House Intel committee ranking member Adam Schiff knew this information when he conducted his “bombshell” hearing” on March 20, 2017. That was the one in which he and other members questioned not-yet-fired FBI chief James Comey and Rogers, and read out information from the Steele report as if it were factual, not giving any hint that there might be issues with it.

Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.” The hemming and hawing about “sources and methods” is really a pre-emptive ass-covering campaign. A bunch of these people are about to be highlighted in the upcoming review by Justice IG Michael Horowitz, as well as the larger probe led by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. This is why we’ve seen stories that essentially show James Comey and Brennan pointing fingers and blaming the other for using the Steele material.

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“..a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office..”

Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged member states not to name short-term replacements for the Commissioners that have been elected as MEPs, insisting there is not enough work for 28 Commissioners anyway. Five of Juncker’s Commissioners have been elected as MEPs: First Vice President Frans Timmermans, vice-presidents Andrus Ansip and Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioners Corina Cretu and Mariya Gabriel. In an interview with BILD am Sontag yesterday (2 June), Juncker made a strong appeal that the member states should not replace them until the end of the mandate in November.


The elected MEPs must decide whether to take their seats before 1 July. If some of the elected Commissioners take their MEP seats, their countries will be without a Commissioner for four months. “Each member state has the right to appoint a new Commissioner for the remaining four months,” Juncker said, adding that “this would cost the European taxpayer a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office, because the member states have decided that this is so. I’m trying to stop this.”

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“If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view..”

US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday disclosed a new problem involving Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX, saying that more than 300 of that troubled plane and the prior generation 737 may contain improperly manufactured parts and that the agency will require these parts to be quickly replaced. The FAA said up to 148 of the part known as a leading-edge slat track that were manufactured by a Boeing supplier are affected, covering 179 MAX and 133 NG aircraft worldwide. Slats are movable panels that extend along the wing’s front during takeoffs and landings to provide additional lift. The tracks guide the slats and are built into the wing.

[..] In a statement issued after the FAA announcement, Boeing said it has not been informed of any in-service issues related to this batch of slat tracks. Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, said it has identified 20 737 MAX airplanes most likely to have the faulty parts and that airlines will check an additional 159 MAXs for these parts. Boeing said it has identified 21 737 NGs most likely to have the suspect parts and is advising airlines to check an additional 112 NGs. The NG is the third-generation 737 that the company began building in 1997. The affected parts “may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said.

[..] Boeing in April said the two fatal crashes had cost it at least $1 billion as it abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and lowered production. The company’s shares have fallen by nearly 20 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. Some international carriers are skeptical the plane will resume flying by August as some U.S. airlines have suggested. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told reporters in Seoul that it could take six months to restore operations as other regulators re-examine the U.S. delegation practices. “If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view,” he said.

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And there’s Monsanto again.

Science Institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)

An institute whose experts have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels is, in reality, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity, according to a peer-reviewed study. The Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan, and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence-peddling.

The paper’s lead author, Dr Sarah Steele, a Cambridge university senior research associate, said: “Our findings add to the evidence that this nonprofit organisation has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. ILSI should be regarded as an industry group – a private body – and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good.” In a 2015 email copied to ILSI’s then director, Suzanne Harris, and executives from firms such as Coca-Cola and Monsanto, ILSI’s founder Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola vice-president, complained bitterly about new US dietary guidelines for reducing sugar intake.

“These guidelines are a real disaster!” he wrote. “They could eventually affect us significantly in many ways; Soft drink taxations, modified school luncheon programs, a strong educational effort to educate children and adults to significanty [sic] limit their sugar intake,, curtail advertising of sugary foods and beverages and eventually a great pressure from CDC [the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention] and other agencies to force industry to start deducing [sic] drastically the sugar we add to processed foods and beverages.”

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And more Monsanto. Europe is losing.

EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)

Europe’s candidate to run the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which guides policymakers around the world, has promised the US she will “not defend the EU position” in resisting the global spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In a bid for US support, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle told senior US officials at a meeting in Washington on 15 May that under her leadership the FAO would be more open to American interests and accepting of GMOs and gene editing, according to a US official record of the meeting seen by the Guardian. The issue has been a longstanding point of conflict in trade talks with the EU, which has adopted a far more cautious approach to biotechnology in food and agriculture.

All GMO imports are subject to strict safety assessments imposed on a case-by-case basis. Plants and animals whose genome has been manipulated through gene editing are deemed to be GMOs and are subject to similar restrictions. The US portrays such restrictions as trade barriers and has demanded they be dropped. In the meeting with officials from the US agriculture and state departments, Geslain-Lanéelle, a former director general of the French agriculture and food ministry who also ran the European Food Safety Authority, signalled she would veer to the US side if she ran the FAO. “She is proud to be European, who she is, and where she comes from; however, she will promote FAO from a global perspective rather than with European Union or French views,” said a US government internal memo.

“She will not defend the EU position on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. This is not what agriculture needs. She will defend a global project that includes US interests.”

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“..you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”

Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward. “We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C. The city’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa says that in her childhood, “hundreds in the whole country slept in the parks and forests. We hardly have that any more. Street sleeping is very rare now.” In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers – a small fraction of the total homeless population – climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher).

But Housing First is not just about housing. “Services have been crucial,” says Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, who was housing minister when the original scheme was launched. “Many long-term homeless people have addictions, mental health issues, medical conditions that need ongoing care. The support has to be there.”

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It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
– Noel Coward

 

 

 

 

May 172019
 


Carl Bloch The transfiguration c1865

 

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever
The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)
UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)
FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)
A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)
Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)
How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)
Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)
US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)
Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)
Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)
Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

 

 

“I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard.”

They have 60 days from Assange’s arrest to make her talk.

Chelsea Manning Jailed Again For Refusing To Testify Against WikiLeaks (RT)

A federal judge has ordered Chelsea Manning to be jailed again for refusing to testify in a grand jury probe of Julian Assange, threatening the whistleblower with fines if the defiance continues. Manning says she would rather die. “I would rather starve to death than to change my opinion in this regard. And when I say that, I mean that quite literally,” Manning said during a hearing at a federal courthouse in Virginia on Thursday. The US Army intelligence specialist has already spent seven years behind bars for handing over classified military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks in 2010, and another 62 days in jail until last week for refusing to testify before another grand jury.

This time, Manning faces a fine of $500 a day if she continues to refuse cooperation after 30 days in jail. The fine will go up to $1,000 a day after two months. “I have never heard of jailing a witness for this long,” former FBI agent and whistleblower Colleen Rowley told RT. If the grand jury term goes on for 18 months, the fines could exceed half a million dollars, she added, calling it “draconian.” Rowley added that the jailing of Manning is either illegal retaliation by the Trump administration, “or the case against Julian Assange is just that weak that they absolutely need Chelsea Manning’s testimony in order to firm up these specious charges.”

[..] The new grand jury subpoena appears to be related to the US prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was arrested last month and is currently awaiting his extradition hearing in the UK. Assange is officially accused of conspiring with Manning to hack into Pentagon computers, while acknowledging the hack never actually happened. “I’ve read the indictment and the affidavit that came with the indictment” against Assange, Manning said on Thursday, “and the case doesn’t make sense, it seems kind of bananas.” If there is already an indictment against Assange, what’s the purpose of another grand jury, Manning asked reporters.

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Where are they now? “WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde ..”

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak Ever

For WikiLeaks, 2010 was an exceptionally eventful year. In April the transparency organization released “Collateral Murder,” the video of U.S. Army helicopters as they shot more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad. That proved a worldwide shock and put the 4-year-old publisher on the global media map. “Afghan War Diaries,” a cache of 75,000 documents, followed in July. Three months later, on Oct. 22, 2010, WikiLeaks released an even more explosive trove: 391,831 documents and videos it named “Iraq War Logs.” This superseded “Afghan War Diaries” as by far the most extensive leak of classified material in U.S. history. It shone a stark light on the U.S.–led coalition’s conduct in Iraq after its 2003 invasion, when the nation had erupted into a violent sectarian war.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, said the Logs “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.” The source for the “Iraq War Logs” was once again Chelsea Manning, who by then was in a military prison awaiting trial on charges connected to “Collateral Murder” that wound up including 22 counts of theft, assisting the publication of classified intelligence and aiding the enemy. With the publication of the “Iraq War Logs,” WikiLeaks disgorged an unprecedented profusion of documents, military reports and videos. The Logs cover the six-year period from Jan. 1, 2004, (a matter of months after the 2003 invasion) to Dec. 31, 2009.

WikiLeaks partnered with The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Al Jazeera and Le Monde to disseminate the Iraq Logs. Taken together, the Logs portray Iraq under allied occupation as the scene of lawless mayhem and violence. Codes of conduct were routinely ignored, shootings were often indiscriminate and torture of detainees was regularly treated as acceptable practice. Innocent civilians were under constant threat of U.S.-led coalition gunfire and arrest, interrogation, and mistreatment by allied military units and the Iraqi army and police.

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Americans who want peace have nobody left to talk to.

The Liberal Embrace of War (Matt Taibbi)

The United States has just suspended flights to Venezuela. Per the New York Times: “CARACAS — The United States banned all air transport with Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the troubled South American nation…” A disinterested historian — Herodotus raised from the dead — would see this as just the latest volley in a siege tale. America has been trying for ages to topple the regime of President Nicholas Maduro, after trying for years to do the same to his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The new play in the Trump era involves recognizing Juan Guaidó as president and starving and sanctioning the country. Maduro, encircled, has been resisting.

The American commercial news landscape, in schism on domestic issues, is in lockstep here. Every article is seen from one angle: Venezuelans under the heel of a dictator who caused the crisis, with the only hope a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States. There is no other perspective. Media watchdog FAIR just released results of a study of three months of American opinion pieces. Out of 76 editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, the “big three Sunday morning talk shows” or PBS News Hour, zero came out against the removal of Maduro. They wrote: “Corporate news coverage of Venezuela can only be described as a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change.”

Allowable opinion on Venezuela ranges from support for military invasion to the extreme pacifist end of the spectrum, as expressed in a February op-ed by Dr. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs called “An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela”: “We strongly urge… a peaceful and negotiated transition of power rather than a winner-take-all game of chicken…” So we should either remove Maduro by force, or he should leave peaceably, via negotiation. These are the options. After the disaster of Vietnam eons ago, American thought leaders became convinced we “lost” in Indochina because of — get this — bad PR. The real lesson in Vietnam should have been that people would pay any price to overthrow a hated occupying force. American think-tankers and analysts however somehow became convinced (and amazingly still are) that the problem was Walter Cronkite and the networks giving up on the war effort.

[..] Earlier this month, onetime fierce Iraq war opponent Rachel Maddow went on TV to embrace John Bolton in a diatribe about how the poor National Security Adviser has been thwarted by Trump in efforts to topple Maduro. “Regardless of what you thought about John Bolton before this, his career, his track record,” Maddow said. “Just think about John Bolton as a human being.” The telecast was surreal. It was like watching Dick Cheney sing “Give Peace a Chance.”

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We already knew that. It’s called pattern recognition: “No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria..”

UK-US Row Over Iran Intel Unleashes Storm Of Behind The Scenes Infighting (ZH)

A new report in Britain’s The Times says the UK’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) is standing by its senior officer in the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, who earlier this week publicly contracted the Pentagon and US administration by appearing to dismiss US intelligence claims over the heightened Iran threat. The awkward public exchange unfolded between the US military and its closest allied military coalition force during a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday wherein a top British commander in charge of anti-ISIS coalition forces rebuked White House claims on the heightened Iran threat.

“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a deputy head of the US-led coalition, asserted confidently in a video link briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon in response to a CNN question. Essentially this meant the powerful number two commander of “Operation Inherent Resolve” Combined Joint Task Force was questioning the entire basis on which the “imminent threats” and “high level of alert” shift in mission readiness decision was made. But now Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is said to be fuming over the handling of the situation. The public disagreement, quickly picked up in world headlines, and further weakening the White House’s stance on the “Iran threat”, has unleashed a storm of controversy among allies behind the scenes.

The Times report includes the following bombshell details: “Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are understood to be angry at the MoD’s handling of the situation. The row raises questions about the extent of intelligence that the US has shared with Britain about the alleged threat from Iran. Israeli media reported that the warnings were passed on by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. The US State Department has ordered non-emergency employees to leave Iraq.”

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US intelligence agencies fighting over a fake document.

FBI-CIA Dispute Erupts Over Whether Comey Or Brennan Pushed Steele Dossier (ZH)

A dispute has erupted over whether former FBI Director James Comey or his CIA counterpart, John Brennan, promoted the unverified Steele dossier as the Obama-era intelligence community targeted the Trump campaign. According to Fox News, an email chain exists which indicates that Comey told bureau subordinates that Brennan insisted on the dossier’s inclusion in the intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference. Also interesting is that the dossier was referred to as “crown material” in the emails – a possible reference to the fact that Steele is a former British spy. In a statement to Fox, however, a former CIA official “put the blame squarely on Comey.”


“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” said the official. “They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA,” the official continued. “The intelligence analysts didn’t include it when they were doing their work because it wasn’t corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn’t used and it wasn’t included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document.”

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Start with ending Russophobia, and take it from there.

A World Aching For Peace & Stability Can No Longer Afford NATO (Wight)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling for an end to the fighting in Libya is like an arsonist calling for the house he’s just burned to the ground to stop emitting smoke. For this reason it can only be an excess of black humor or wilful amnesia on the part of Mr Stoltenberg that explains his perverse call for this particular conflict to end in this particular country, eight years after it received a prolonged visit from a Western military alliance over which he currently presides. Along with recent NATO exercises in Estonia, involving 9,000 troops operating just 15km from Russia’s border, Jens Stoltenberg’s call for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in Libya suggests that the pride of place above the entrance to NATO headquarters in Brussels should be inscribed in bold letters with the Orwellian mantra of ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery’.

Because ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO has been engaged in a perennial quest for meaning and relevance, which means to say for opportunities to unleash its democracy missiles and drop its democracy bombs. It is a quest that has and continues to involve ideologues in the media, neocon think tanks, and governments going out of their way to convince people across Europe and the US that without NATO manning the ramparts of Western civilization, the barbarians located to the North, South, East and West of them will come and destroy everything they hold dear.

Stripped of obfuscation, what we have here is a tawdry and base exercise in scaremongering; its aim to inculcate the belief that Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela (you can take your pick) is their enemy and a threat to their security. Thus it is that the extent to which people living in the West refuse to internalise the propaganda of their own ruling class and its functionaries is determined by their ability to see the world as it truly is, rather than continue to exist in the darkened room of Western exceptionalism.

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Tories see big losses in the polls. Boris to the rescue. But pushing through Brexit at this point is going to get real ugly.

Brexit Talks About To Fail As May’s Premiership Fades (R.)

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever indeed quit the European club it joined in 1973. Brexit talks between May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are about to close without an agreement, the BBC said, hours after May agreed on Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June. “If the talks are not going anywhere, from my point of view that leads to only one conclusion,” Hilary Benn, the chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, told BBC radio. “There are only two ways out of the Brexit crisis that we’ve got: either parliament agrees a deal or we go back to the British people and ask them to make the choice.”


After the Brexit deal that May struck with Brussels was defeated a third time by parliament, she announced on April 2 that she would open talks with Labour. But the two parties have failed to agree on major issues such as the opposition party’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist who voted against membership of the EU in 1975, has said that May refused to budge on key demands. May’s hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her divided party. Labour has feared that any compromises on issues such as workers’ rights would be torn up by May’s successor. The two party leaders will now move to a second phase, aimed at agreeing on a process for parliamentary votes designed to find a consensus, the BBC said.

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Boeing blames the pilots. Easy because they’re dead.

How Much Was Pilot Error A Factor In The Boeing 737 MAX Crashes? (ST)

In his opening statement Wednesday at the House Aviation subcommittee hearing on the 737 MAX in Washington, D.C., the lead Republican congressman blamed errors by the Indonesian and Ethiopian pilots for the two deadly MAX crashes in those countries. “Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle” the emergencies on both jets, said Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He added that preliminary reports about the accident “compound my concerns about quality training standards in other countries.” Graves was repeating the main points in a report written by two pilots at a major U.S. airline that pointed to pilot error as “the most consequential factor” in both crashes.

Their report was commissioned and paid for by institutional investors with large holdings in Boeing stock. That case for pilot error as the major cause of the crashes seems close to a surrogate for what Boeing has only hinted at, and may be a key part of the manufacturer’s legal defense in liability lawsuits. Yet two flight-simulator sessions replicating the conditions on the doomed flights contradict Graves’ contention that better trained pilots would have escaped disaster. And some Western-trained pilots criticize the report as based on unverified assumptions and minimizing the intense stress Boeing’s runaway flight-control system imposed on the two flight crews.

“I’m disappointed with those who sit in their lofty chairs of judgment and say this wouldn’t have happened to U.S. pilots,” said a veteran captain with a major U.S. airline, who asked not to be named to avoid involving his employer. The flight crew on the March 10 Ethiopian flight faced a barrage of alerts in the flight that lasted just 6 minutes. Those alerts included a “stick shaker” that noisily vibrated the pilot’s yoke throughout the flight, warning the plane was in danger of a stall, which it wasn’t; repeated loud “DON’T SINK” warnings that the jet was too close to the ground; a “clacker” making a very loud clicking sound to signal the jet was going too fast; and multiple warning lights telling the crew the speed, altitude and other readings on their instruments were unreliable.

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Don’t forget: Boeing faces Ralph Nader. And his entire network.

Boeing Faces a Possible Legal Nightmare With Airlines for 737 MAX (TPG)

Boeing could be on the hook for enough to bankrupt a small country — but it the Chicago-based company were found not to bear any responsibility for the issues with the 737 MAX, then it could have to pay nothing, though whoever is found to be at fault would still be liable, of course. If Boeing were found liable, then the court would have to decide the appropriate award Boeing would have to pay out to the airlines — enough to compensate the plaintiff for the damage to its business from lost fares, sunk costs in the defective aircraft, etc.


If, in the least likely but most sensational possibility, Boeing officials are found to have actively covered up a problem with the aircraft in what amounts to a crime, then the plaintiffs would probably be awarded not just compensatory damages but punitive damages — typically three times the amount of the compensatory damages. None of this, however, addresses the likely wrongful-death lawsuits from the families of the passengers who perished in the 737 MAX crashes. In those cases, the airlines and Boeing will probably be sitting on the same side of the courtroom — as co-defendants. But Dedmon stressed that, as the 737 MAX crisis is still unfolding, it’s still hard to speculate where things will go, in the courtroom or outside it. “It’s the tip of the spear,” he said.

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But CIA wants it just the way it is.

US Must Break Up Facebook ‘Monopoly’ (FT Op-Ed)

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the US government to be more proactive in regulating social media. His former dorm mate Chris Hughes went a step further last week. Mr Hughes wants to break up the social network he co-founded. The controversies surrounding Facebook point to a broader need for a new competition law. At a time when governments in Europe are already moving against Big Tech’s excesses, the US should take the chance to reform its own outdated rules. In his article, Mr Hughes excoriates Mr Zuckerberg for chasing profits over user security.

The Facebook co-founder is alarmed by Mr Zuckerberg’s ability to decide what millions of people read via the network. Mr Hughes goes on to criticise the US government for its relative inaction, emphasising that fining Facebook or instituting new privacy rules is insufficient. In calling for the company to be broken up, Mr Hughes rejects the school of competition law dominant in the US since the 1980s. This views pricing as the only metric for assessing competition. Such a narrow focus collapses when applied to Facebook and other Big Tech firms, which provide services for “free” in return for taking users’ data, rather than their cash.

Facebook epitomises the dangers of data oligopolies, with its plan to tie WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram into a single encrypted messaging system. With control of three major platforms, it can use metadata such as contacts or external pages to provide useful data to advertisers and to train algorithms. New competitors without access to these data reservoirs will inevitably struggle to compete. In the past, Big Tech firms have simply acquired them and folded them into their business or copied their ideas at scale. The data rich get data richer, even though there is no apparent cost to consumers under current competition law.

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“HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years..”

Huawei’s Chip Maker Says It Has Long Been Preparing For US Ban Scenario (R.)

Huawei Technologies’ chip arm HiSilicon said on Friday it has long been prepared for the “extreme scenario” that it could be banned from purchasing U.S. chips and technology, and is able to ensure steady supply of most products. HiSilicon, which mainly designs chips for Huawei equipment, made the comments in a letter to staff attributed to President He Tingbo dated “the small hours of May 17”, shortly after the United States officially banned Huawei from buying U.S. technology without special approval. The ban has thrown into disarray prospects for sales at some of the largest tech companies and drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, further ratcheting up tensions over trade.


Huawei confirmed authenticity of the letter seen by Reuters and published by Chinese media on Friday. HiSilicon has been secretly developing back-up products for years in anticipation of the unlikely scenario that Huawei may one day be unable to obtain advanced chips and technology from the United States, He said in the letter. HiSilicon’s efforts have ensured a steady supply and “strategic safety” of most products, He said, adding that Huawei will aim to be technologically self-sufficient. He described HiSilicon’s efforts as a “long march in the history of technology” that would now pay off with the United State’s “crazy decision” that brought this “extreme and dark moment”.

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The currency union is more important than the people. Some mutti. Some union.

Greek Austerity Policy ‘Proven To Be Right,’ Says Merkel (K.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended austerity policy in Greece and other debt-hit countries in the eurozone, however acknowledging that the people had to shoulder a “considerable” burden. “What counts is that the currency union and the euro were maintained,” Merkel said in an interview with Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung. Merkel, who is in her fourth and final term in office, said that reforms in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain “have proven to be right, even if I don’t dispute that the burden for the population was considerable.” Speaking about Europe’s refugee crisis, Merkel said that the problem requires greater burden-sharing among EU members as well as efforts to tackle the roots of the problem.

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Pheww…. Saved by the bell.

Tower Of London Saved From Prophesy As First Ravens In 30 Years Hatch (Tel.)

The Tower of London will be protected from a prophesied demise for years to come, after the first ravens in 30 years were born inside its walls. At least six ravens have been kept at the fortress since the days of King Charles II, who feared the Tower and the kingdom would fall if they were ever allowed to leave. Ruination loomed large last year as the number of legal raven breeders continued to shrink across the UK, making it harder for the ancient quota to be honoured. A new aviary was eventually installed inside the London landmark, into which two breeding ravens – Huginn and Muninn – were brought at the end of last year.


Few expected the couple to be settled in time for the 2019 mating season, but, not without some sense of occasion, new life began emerging on April 23 – St George’s Day. All four chicks have now hatched, the first to do so at the Tower since 1989. They join seven other ravens in addition to the breeding couple and shore up the Tower’s safety for the foreseeable future. Chris Skaife, ravenmaster at the Tower of London, said: “My suspicions were first piqued that we might have a chance of baby chicks when the parents built a huge nest suddenly overnight and then almost immediately the female bird started to sit on it, then on the April 23 I noticed the birds going to the nest with food.”

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