Mar 192019
 


René Magritte The conquerer 1926

 

Boeing, FAA Under Intense Scrutiny Over 737 MAX Certification (AFP)
7 In 10 Americans Say Economy In Good Shape (CNN)
UK In Constitutional Chaos After Speaker Blocks Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)
Are The English Ready For Self-Government? (Fintan O’Toole)
Hardline Tory Brexiteers Threaten Strike If Brexit Delayed By A Year (Sun)
UK Students Studying Abroad Left In Limbo (G.)
Deadly Serious (Jim Kunstler)
Paris Police Chief Sacked After Riots (G.)
Merging Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Won’t Solve Their Problems (Coppola)
China’s Banks Have a Hidden Wave of Bad Debt (Balding)
Chelsea Manning and the New Inquisition (Chris Hedges)
Bumblebee Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species (SNR)

 

 

 

 

“Unlike France, where criminal investigations into aviation accidents seems common, it is very, very rare in the US..”

Boeing, FAA Under Intense Scrutiny Over 737 MAX Certification (AFP)

Boeing and US aviation regulators are coming under intense scrutiny over the certification of the 737 MAX aircraft after news that two recent crashes share similarities. On March 11, just a day after the Ethiopia crash left 157 dead, a grand jury in Washington issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the plane’s certification, according to a Wall Street Journal article citing people close to the matter. The subpoena, which came from a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s criminal division, seeks documents and correspondence related to the plane, according to the report. A criminal inquiry is “an entirely new twist,” said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company, who recalled a probe of a 1996 ValuJet crash as the only other aviation probe that was not a civil investigation.

“Unlike France, where criminal investigations into aviation accidents seems common, it is very, very rare in the US,” Hamilton added. The Transportation Department’s inspector general also is probing the approval of the 737 MAX by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The Wall Street Journal also reported. The probe is focusing on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, implicated in the Lion Air crash, which authorities have said shared similarities with the latest accident. The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 came less than five months after a 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia, killing 189. While it may take months for definitive conclusions, Ethiopian officials said Sunday there were “clear similarities” between the two catastrophes based on information from the flight data recorder.

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Still only 19% of Democrats report an improved financial situation?!

7 In 10 Americans Say Economy In Good Shape (CNN)

Americans give the nation’s economy glowing reviews in a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, and Donald Trump’s approval rating may be reaping the benefits. Overall, 71% say the nation’s economy is in good shape, the highest share to say so since February 2001, and the best rating during Trump’s presidency by two points. A majority give the President positive reviews for his handling of the nation’s economy (51% approve), and his overall approval rating has ticked up to 42% in the new poll. The 51% who say they disapprove of the President’s job performance overall represent the lowest share to do so in CNN polling since the start of his presidency.

Trump’s 42% approval rating at this point in his presidency puts him near the bottom of the list of modern elected presidents, between President Bill Clinton in 1995 (44%) and President Ronald Reagan in 1983 (41%). Both were re-elected to second terms. The President’s approval ratings for other major issues have largely held steady or turned downward. On handling foreign affairs, 40% approve – the same share who said so in early February before the President’s abruptly-ended summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. About 4 in 10 approve of Trump’s handling of taxes (42%), roughly the same as just before the midterm elections last year.

[..] The President’s strong reviews on the economy come as a plurality say their personal financial situation is better off today than it was three years ago — before Trump took office. About 4 in 10 (42%) say they are better off now, a similar share (41%) say they’re about the same, and 15% say they’re worse off than they were three years ago. Those results are closely tied to partisanship, with Republicans most apt to report an improved financial situation (65%), and Democrats far less so (19%).

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Because 1604.

UK In Constitutional Chaos After Speaker Blocks Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May’s government has been plunged into constitutional chaos after the Speaker blocked the prime minister from asking MPs to vote on her Brexit deal for a third time unless it had fundamentally changed.
With 11 days to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, May was forced to pull her plans for another meaningful vote because John Bercow said she could not ask MPs to pass the same deal, after they rejected it twice by huge margins. EU officials, meanwhile, were considering offering her a new date for a delayed Brexit to resolve the crisis. Quoting from the guide to parliamentary procedure, Erskine May, Bercow said the question “may not be brought forward again during the same session” and that it was a “strong and longstanding convention” dating back to 1604.

It must be “not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance”, he said, suggesting there must be a change in what the EU is offering. Bercow’s surprise intervention means May is likely to have to go to Thursday’s Brussels summit with a request for a long extension to article 50, which could mean the UK has to spend more than £100m on participating in European parliament elections. During the delay, parliament would have to make a decision on how to break the deadlock, potentially with a second referendum, an election or a cross-party proposal for a softer Brexit. Alternatively, government sources suggested May could negotiate a lengthy extension with the EU, with a “get-out clause” enabling it to be cut short if her Brexit deal is passed by parliament before the European parliamentary elections.

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“..the House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity”

Are The English Ready For Self-Government? (Fintan O’Toole)

“The alleged aptitude of the English for self-government,” wrote Bernard Shaw in his preface to Androcles and the Lion, “is contradicted by every chapter of their history.” Shaw was, of course, parodying British imperialist rhetoric and its insistence that lesser peoples – including his own nation, the Irish – were not ready to govern themselves. He was being naughtily provocative, which only the most irresponsible of commentators would dare to be in these grave times. But there is nonetheless some tinge of truth in his words. Aptitude for self-government is not what comes to mind when one looks in from the outside at the goings-on in Westminster last week, when, as Tom Peck so brilliantly put it in the London Independent, “the House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity”.

Let’s just say that if Theresa May were the head of a newly liberated African colony in the 1950s, British conservatives would have been pointing, half-ruefully, half-gleefully, in her direction and saying “See? Told you so – they just weren’t ready to rule themselves. Needed at least another generation of tutelage by the Mother Country.” There is a surreal kind of logic to this. If, as the Brexiteers do, you imagine yourself to be an oppressed colony breaking away from the German Reich aka the European Union, perhaps you do end up with a pantomime version of the travails of newly independent colonies, including the civil wars that often follow national liberation.

And without wishing to rub it in, Shaw’s quip does point up two of the deep problems that underlie, and undermine, the whole Brexit project. First, the problem of this imagined effort at self-government is the “self” bit. What is the self of the British polity? As in all nationalist revolts, the easy bit of “Them against Us” is Them: in this case the EU. The hard bit is Us. Brexit appeals to a collective British self but it is itself the most dramatic symptom of the unravelling of that very thing. The anarchy at Westminster is the political expression of anarchy in the UK, the sundering of a common sense of belonging. Brexit is a fabulous form of displacement – it acknowledges a profound and genuine unhappiness about how the British are governed but deflects it on to Europe.

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Get in line.

Hardline Tory Brexiteers Threaten Strike If Brexit Delayed By A Year (Sun)

Hardline Tory Brexiteers have threatened Theresa May they will go on strike if she carries out her vow to delay Brexit by a year. No10 on Monday set a deadline of late on Tuesday for MPs to agree the PM’s exit deal before Thursday’s European summit. But instead of buckling to the pressure, diehard Tory MP Leavers raised the stakes back on the PM with a pledge to withdraw their cooperation. As many as 20 members of the hardline European Research Group have told whips they will carry out “vote strikes” – a move that would push Mrs May’s minority government to the verge of collapse. On another dramatic day in Westminster:

Fears among Tory Brexiteers began to rise that the PM is preparing to put her Brexit deal to a second In/Out referendum rather than go ahead with a long delay, Mrs May was given a boost when ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg signalled he was ready to switch his vote to support her deal, Boris Johnson was accused by his own allies of torpedoing his fading hopes of taking the Tory leadership after he vowed to block Theresa May’s Brexit deal. As Conservative tensions over Brexit reached boiling point around the PM’s ultimatum strategy, one senior Tory backbencher told The Sun: “If she tried to go ahead with a long extension, there will be vote strikes on all Government legislation.

“She will lose us, and lose us permanently if she goes ahead with this, and that has been made crystal clear to her.” Staring down Mrs May in the ultra-high stakes game of bluff, ERG member Lee Rowley added: “The Prime Minister is going to have to reflect very carefully over the next few days. “I don’t think she wants to be a PM who has failed to get a deal through, and then has to enforce a two-year extension. “That won’t look very good.”

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One of countless issues they had over 2 years to prepare for.

UK Students Studying Abroad Left In Limbo (G.)

For Alice Watkins, a Manchester University student, a year in Paris, then Madrid, as part of her degree was a dream. Now, with the turmoil of Brexit, she is preparing to arrive in France this summer with nowhere to live and no idea whether the money will still be there to support her. “It’s horrible not knowing,” Watkins says. “We’ve been told to take at least £1,200 of our own cash to cover us for the first six weeks, and that we can’t realistically sort any accommodation before we arrive. Turning up abroad with nowhere to live is a big stress.” Last Wednesday the European parliament voted to guarantee funding for UK students already studying abroad on the Erasmus+ student exchange programme, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

It also promised to continue supporting European students already in the UK on the scheme. But uncertainty hangs over the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from this September. A technical note, published by the government at the end of January, failed to guarantee any funding for the scheme if Britain leaves the EU with no deal. In recent weeks both Spain and Norway have advised their students planning to study in the UK to go elsewhere. [..] Vivienne Stern, director of the international arm of Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ body, says the organisation had been under the impression that the government would create a national alternative to the Erasmus+ scheme to protect students in the event of no deal. She says, however, there is no evidence of this happening. “As we understand it, there is no money on the table for an alternative scheme, and no work is under way in the DfE to prepare one.”

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American pitchforks.

Deadly Serious (Jim Kunstler)

Last week, coincidental with the New Zealand mosque massacre, Mr. Trump said the following: “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

As usual, his syntax is disastrous as well as his habit of placing himself at the center of every issue. But, also as usual with Mr. Trump, and because of his filter-less tongue, he lays out matters that should be extremely troubling to all Americans: that the land is full of men with tremendous potential for violence — and most particularly men with military and paramilitary training in killing and warfare, who have, so far, barely expressed in action their discontent with the tactics of their adversaries on the Left. This Pandora’s box of calamity includes the Left’s recent campaign to denigrate men as toxic and without value, especially white men wearing their scarlet letter “P” for privilege.

The Left had better sober up and join an intelligible good faith debate about US immigration policy and the enforcement of existing laws or this will lead to exactly what Brent Tarrant laid out and what Mr. Trump maladroitly hinted at. Instead, of course, we will more likely commence another bootless campaign over guns. Here are some plain facts about that. There are already enough firearms of every sort loose in this land to commence hot civil warfare and they will not be surrendered by their owners. The horses are out of the barn on that one, even if sales of military-style weapons are outlawed. Any effort to confiscate them from people already possessing them will only provoke more overt antagonism between the two poles of American politics — and would probably lead to exactly the sort of violence that sober observers discern on the horizon.

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Basically, for not using enough violence.

Paris Police Chief Sacked After Riots (G.)

The French government has removed the Paris police chief and announced it will shut down all anti-government street protests by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in central parts of Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse if violent groups are spotted in the crowds. The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, announced the hardline measures on Monday after the government admitted failures in dealing with rioting and arson in Paris this weekend. “From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Philippe said in a televised statement. He replaced the Paris police chief, Michel Delpuech, with Didier Lallement, a colleague serving in western France.

The government was on the defensive after security forces were again unable to prevent violence, arson and looting on the Champs Élysées at the weekend. Several hundred black-clad rioters caused havoc for more than seven hours as 10,000 gilets jaunes protesters marched in the capital. More than 90 shops and businesses, including luxury stores such as Longchamp and Bulgari, were damaged and looted, and a bank and a restaurant were burnt. Since the end of December the number of protesters has fallen, but each Saturday thousands of people still take to the streets in the movement, which began as a fuel tax revolt and morphed into a protest against the government. The interior ministry has said violence at the demonstrations is carried out by rioters from far-right and far-left groups as well as anarchists.

The police have been criticised for alleged excessive use of force and weapons against protesters, and the United Nations recently called for a full investigation. Rights groups have tried to force a ban on the handheld rubber bullet launchers used by police, noting that France is one of only a handful of western countries to use them. Lawyers have said a number of people have lost eyes or hands as a result of the use of rubber-bullet launchers and explosive sting grenades. However, the French government argued that not enough force was used by police at the weekend, and urged a greater use of weapons by police.

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A $2 trillion zombie in the heart of Europe. This can blow up the ECB.

Merging Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Won’t Solve Their Problems (Coppola)

Rumors of a potential merger between Germany’s two biggest banks have now crystallized. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are officially engaged in talks. Not that either bank seems enthusiastic about being dragged to the altar. The broker of this marriage appears to be the German government, which has ideas about creating a national bank large enough to compete with American investment banks. But it is not at all clear that a merger would solve the banks’ problems, let alone create a “national champion.” Both banks are zombies. Commerzbank, the smaller of the two, was bailed out after swallowing up Germany’s third largest bank, Dresdner Bank, in the 2007-8 financial crisis: the German government still holds 15% of its shares.

Despite years of “restructuring” (aka cost-cutting), Commerzbank is still struggling to deliver much in the way of returns to shareholders: return on equity for the third quarter of 2018 was a pathetic 4% and earnings per share only 60 euro cents (which is less than 1 dollar). Unsurprisingly, investors are encouraged by the merger talks: the share price rose by 6.81% today. Investors are less impressed with the merger prospects for Deutsche Bank: the share price was only up 4.15%. This might be because Deutsche Bank is in very deep trouble. Although it has now put behind it most of its litigation and conduct issues, the business has enormous structural problems. It has a very high cost/income ratio, large debts and no profitable business lines.

Since 2010 its share price has collapsed from over 76.00 to 8.00, and its market cap is now a paltry $18.35bn, the lowest it has been since the 2008 financial crisis. And after years of losses, it is still barely making a profit, though it has now restored a small dividend. Earnings per share and return on equity are both negative. Quite why the German government thinks that merging two zombie banks would create a national flag-carrier capable of competing successfully with the giant American banks is a mystery. It is surely much more likely that this merger would just create a much larger zombie.

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“..newly soured debt was coming through the front door as fast as banks could shovel it out the back.”

China’s Banks Have a Hidden Wave of Bad Debt (Balding)

China’s banks may have a flood of bad loans waiting in the wings. Not that you’d know it from looking at official levels for 2018, which suggest the problem was broadly contained. The reality is that newly soured debt was coming through the front door as fast as banks could shovel it out the back. Authorities worked hard to restrain financial-system leverage in 2018. Outstanding credit increased a relatively modest 10 percent, with growth in new loans falling 14 percent. The government accomplished this primarily by tightening restrictions on shadow banking and moving that lending into the formal banking system, which recorded a 13 percent jump in new loans last year.

To make way for that increase, and with new deposits falling 1 percent last year, banks sold a lot of nonperforming debt to asset management companies. Sales to AMCs and other disposals totaled almost 1.8 trillion yuan ($268 billion), according to a report by Jason Bedford, executive director of Asian financials research at UBS Group AG in Hong Kong. To put that in perspective, China began the year with 1.7 trillion yuan in bad loans and ended it with 2 trillion yuan. In other words, after selling roughly their entire declared stock of soured advances, lenders still closed the year with more than they started with.

This has a couple of implications. First, banks are having to dedicate more earnings to loan loss-provisions. In the first half of 2018, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. allocated 43 percent of pre-provision profit to boosting capital reserves. At Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., impairment losses were equal to 56 percent of first-half profit, up from 41 percent a year earlier.

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Who among the two dozen Democrat candidates will stand up for her?

Chelsea Manning and the New Inquisition (Chris Hedges)

Manning has always insisted her leak of the classified documents and videos was prompted solely by her own conscience. She has refused to implicate Assange and WikiLeaks. Earlier this month, although President Barack Obama in 2010 commuted her 35-year sentence after she served seven years, she was jailed again for refusing to answer questions before a secret grand jury investigating Assange and WikiLeaks. While incarcerated previously, Manning endured long periods in solitary confinement and torture. She twice attempted to commit suicide in prison. She knows from painful experience the myriad ways the system can break you psychologically and physically. And yet she has steadfastly refused to give false testimony in court on behalf of the government.

Her moral probity and courage are perhaps the last thin line of defense for WikiLeaks and its publisher, whose health is deteriorating in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up since 2012. Manning—who was known as Bradley Manning in the Army—has undergone gender reassignment surgery and needs frequent medical monitoring. Judge Claude M. Hilton, however, dismissed a request by her lawyers for house arrest. Manning was granted immunity by prosecutors of the Eastern District of Virginia, and because she had immunity she was unable to invoke the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination or to have her attorney present. The judge found her in contempt of court and sent her to a federal facility in Alexandria, Va.

Hilton, who has long been a handmaiden of the military and intelligence organs, has vowed to hold her there until she agrees to testify or until the grand jury is disbanded, which could mean 18 months or longer behind bars. Manning said any questioning of her by the grand jury is a violation of First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights. She said she will not cooperate with the grand jury. “All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013,” she said on March 7, the day before she was jailed. “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” she said later in a statement issued from jail. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.”

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Maybe the saddest thing is the lack of alarm.

Bumblebee Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species (SNR)

The bumblebee has been officially added to the list of endangered species along with the gray wolf, grizzly bear, the northern spotted owl, and about 700 other extinct animal species. According to National Geographic: “The rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once thriving in 28 states and the District of Columbia, but over the past two decades, the bee’s population has plummeted nearly 90 percent. There are more than 3,000 bee species in the United States, and about 40 belong to the genus Bombus—the bumblebees.” ”Advocates for the rusty-patched bumblebee’s listing are abuzz with relief, but it may be the first skirmish in a grueling conflict over the fate of the Endangered Species Act under the Trump administration.”

According to James Stranger, a research entomologist, and Bumblebee ecologist: “There are a few little spots where we know they are. But only a really few spots.” The scientific name of the bee, Bombus affinis, was given due to the red patch in its abdomen. Even though the original listing date as an endangered species was set for April 2018, it was not until now that it was listed. According to Xerces Society director of endangered species Sarah Jepsen: “We are thrilled to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs. Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces — from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover, and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes. The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.” One of the main factors in the declining trend of its population was the human encroachment which led to the subsequent loss of their natural habitat. Therefore, this classification will protect the grasslands needed by these bees and other pollinators.

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