May 222022
 


El Greco La Pietà c1575

 

Revealed: Hillary Clinton’s Role In The Alfa Bank Scandal (Turley)
Hillary Clinton’s Trump/Russia Media Strategy Revealed (Techno Fog)
Biden Keeping Up Employment At The Gaffe Factory (Howie Carr)
Russia Rewrites the Art of Hybrid War (Escobar)
Is US Drawing Up Plans To Sink the Russian Black Sea Fleet? (Antiwar)
A Thread on “Azov” (RWA)
Gen. Milley Warns West Point Graduates Of ‘Increasing’ Risk Of Global War (Fox)
mRNA Vaccines Hurt Long-term Immunity To Covid (Berenson)
Once A Liberal Democracy, Canada Is Now An Authoritarian State (Arora)
American Farmer Warns Of Impending Food Shortages (ZH)
Labor Win Presents ‘Great Opportunity’ In Fight To Free Julian Assange (LE)

 

 

 

 

Ed Dowd

 

 

 

 

Malone

 

 

Still waiting to see why Mook did what he did. After all, he knows all about the revenge of the Clintons.

Revealed: Hillary Clinton’s Role In The Alfa Bank Scandal (Turley)

The trial of former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann crossed a critical threshold Friday when a key witness uttered the name “Hillary Clinton” in conjunction with a plan to spread the false Alfa Bank Russian collusion claim before the 2016 presidential election. For Democrats and many in the media, Hillary Clinton has long held a Voldemort-like status as “She who must not be named” in scandals. Yet, there was her former campaign manager, Robby Mook, telling a jury that Clinton personally approved a plan to spread the claim of covert communications between the Trump organization and the Russian bank. It was one of the most successful disinformation campaigns in American politics, and Mook implicated Clinton as green-lighting the gas-lighting of the electorate.

The mere mention of Clinton’s name sent shockwaves through Washington. In past scandals, the Clintons have always evaded direct responsibility as aides were investigated or convicted, from the Whitewater land dealings to cattle futures. Even when long-sought documents in Whitewater were discovered outside of the family quarters and bearing Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints, Washington quickly moved on. Clinton was not supposed to be the object of the Sussmann trial, because Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, issued a series of orders limiting the scope of the trial and its evidence. The orders were viewed as “spar[ing] the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee … potential embarrassment.”

Yet, even after winning such limiting orders, it was the defense that called Mook to the stand — out of order, in the midst of the prosecution’s case, because he was scheduled to leave on vacation — and he proceeded to confirm that Clinton herself approved of the tactic. It was Washington’s worst-kept but least-acknowledged secret. On July 28, 2016, then-CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s alleged plan to tie Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” Obama reportedly was told how Clinton allegedly approved “a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”

Thus, Mook testified that Clinton did precisely what Brennan warned Obama was being planned. The date of Brennan’s warning is important: It was three days before the FBI’s collusion investigation began. It also was a couple of months before Sussmann contacted then-FBI general counsel Jim Baker while claiming he was not representing any client. (He was counsel to the Clinton campaign and, according to prosecutors, billed the meeting time to the campaign.) There is a strikingly familiar pattern in both the Steele dossier — which became the basis for the Russia collusion investigation — and the Alfa Bank tale. Campaign associates developed both claims while actively seeking to conceal their connections from the public and the government, including reportedly denying the funding of the Steele dossier and concealing that funding as legal costs.

Information laundering

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“We authorized a staff member of the campaign to provide it to the media.”

Hillary Clinton’s Trump/Russia Media Strategy Revealed (Techno Fog)

Robert Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, also testified before the jury Friday. In his testimony, he stated that Hillary Clinton personally approved a plan to spread the lie that Trump was colluding with Russia via secret servers to the media. He also admitted to being briefed on the conspiracy.

Q: Okay. In connection with the general focus on Mr. Trump and Russia, did there come a time when you learned of potential links between the Trump organization, Mr. Trump’s business, and a Russian bank called Alfa-bank?
A: I did. Yes, I was briefed on that.
Q: Approximately when were you first briefed on that, if you remember?
A: I honestly can’t recall.
Q: Who participated in the briefing, if you remember?
A: Myself, Marc Elias, Jen Palmieri, Jake Sullivan, John Podesta. There might have been others, but those are the ones I definitely recall being there.

Mook also admitted that the Clinton campaign was focused on Trump’s relationship with Russia before Summer of 2016.
Q: In the Summer of 2016, was Mr. Trump’s relationship with Russia something that the campaign focused on?
A: Yes. I mean, it was frankly something we were focused on before that time. But absolutely.

Mook however did deny that the Clinton campaign directed Sussman to go to the FBI, despite admitting that Clinton approved the Trump-Russia allegations to be shared with the media.
Q: Were you aware that Mr. Sussman went to the FBI in September of 2016 to give them a heads-up about a New York Times story about Trump and Alfa-Bank?
A: No.
Q: Do you have any recollection of anyone talking to you about going to the FBI on behalf of the campaign on the Trump/Alfa-Bank issue?
A: No.
Q: Did you direct Mr. Sussman to go to the FBI on behalf of the campaign?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Did you authorize Mr. Sussman to go to the FBI on behalf of the campaign?
A: No.
Q: Did anyone else from the campaign, to your knowledge, direct or authorize Mr. Sussman to go to the FBI on behalf of the campaign?
A: To my knowledge, no.

Mook also said the decision to push the debunked Russia conspiracy to the media was made by him, Sussman, John Podesta, and Palmeri, and that Hillary Clinton agreed with the decision.
Q: And once you learned about it [the Trump-Russia allegations], you started discussing with the campaign whether the campaign should affirmatively push it in the media, right?
A: Correct.
Q: And you had that discussion with Mr. Sullivan?
A: Correct.
Q: With Mr. Podesta?
A: Just to be clear. This is what – I recall those people, correct.
Q: Okay. You had a discussion with Mr. Sullivan?
A: Yes, I recall, yes.
Q: Whether to push it in the media right?
A: Correct.
Q: With Ms. Palmieri?
A: Correct.
Q: With Mr. Podesta?
A: Correct.
Q: But in any event, the decision to provide this to the media was authorized by the campaign, correct?
A: We authorized a staff member of the campaign to provide it to the media.

Regarding Hillary Clinton, Mook said:
Q: Mr. Mook, before the break you had testified that there was a conversation in which you told Ms. Clinton about the proposed plan to provide the Alfa-Bank allegations to the media; is that correct?
A: Correct.
Q: And what was her response?
A: All I remember is that she agreed with the decision.

Some final thoughts: while this trial is about Sussmann’s false statements to the FBI, it’s also more than that. This is Special Counsel John Durham telling the public the story of the Clinton opposition research machine, and how the campaign, through their lawyers and contractors (Fusion GPS), developed and spread lies to the media to influence the election. It’s the story of Clinton Campaign lawyers to using the FBI to further that strategy of deception. With that in mind, do not forget the Igor Danchenko case. Is it the case that Charles Dolan, a Hillary Clinton friend and supporter, was coincidentally feeding false information to Christopher Steele’s primary sub source? And on that thread, what are the odds that another Clinton ally – Alexander Downer – took his “info” to the FBI?

Read more …

“That’s how it works when leaders derive their powers from the consent of the government from from the consent of the governed.”

Biden Keeping Up Employment At The Gaffe Factory (Howie Carr)

It’s Weekend at Biden’s again, and Dementia Joe Biden has been pondering the dysfunction that plagues these fruited plains. Specifically, Brandon frets about mentally impaired people wandering America’s streets: “(People) who are just deranged, who are, who are susceptible, who are, who are just lost and and don’t know what to do, and they’re easily taken, they’re easily sucked in, and it’s gotta stop, we have to admit it, I don’t know why we don’t admit what the hell’s goin’ on. Anyway …” Got a mirror, Mr. President? As always, all dialogue guaranteed verbatim. Now Biden is in Asia visiting, among other places, South Korea and “President Moon Yoon” (his name is Yoon Seok-Youl). But before Brandon departed the assisted-living facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he warmly welcomed some visitors to the White House:

“I thank all of you for being here, and I want you to enjoy the rest of the recession.” Technically, Mr. President, the recession hasn’t even started yet. You said you’d have to be a “mind reader” to have seen the baby-formula shortage coming. But apparently you are able to foresee what economic calamities your policies are causing in the weeks ahead. FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Now Brandon says, “I want you to enjoy the rest of the recession.” At the White House or on the road, Dementia Joe must sometimes introduce other people. It’s not getting any easier for him to remember who anybody is, or what they do. Just ask “President Harris.” Or the president of “Fine Finland,” whom he called “Nisto.” His name is “Niinisto.” He said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida represents Wisconsin. He called Raytheon “Ray Raython.”

[..] On the teleprompter, he misreads wages as rages, reflect as refect, eligibility as elibility. Wholly becomes holly, only comes out as swonly. The teleprompter says changes, he reads it as charges. Dementia Joe dares to ask questions no one else will: “How many police officers have multiple times and put a lion and had to do things that they’d have to think they’d have to do?” Good question, Brandon! Other than telling everyone to enjoy the recession, Dementia Joe had one other Freudian slip recently. He was discussing how well a system of checks and balances has served the American people, until … Democrats. “That’s how it works when leaders derive their powers from the consent of the government from from the consent of the governed.”

Herridge

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“Fully exposing the whole maze, from the start, was one of Putin’s stated objectives.”

Russia Rewrites the Art of Hybrid War (Escobar)

The ironclad fictional “narrative” imposed all across NATOstan is that Ukraine is “winning”. So why would weapons peddler retrofitted as Pentagon head Lloyd “Raytheon” Austin literally beg since late February to have his phone calls answered by Russian Defense Minister Shoigu, only to have his wish finally granted? It’s now confirmed by one of my top intel sources. The call was a direct consequence of panic. The United States Government (USG) by all means wants to scotch the detailed Russian investigation – and accumulation of evidence – on the US bioweapon labs in Ukraine, as I outlined in a previous column. This phone call happened exactly after an official Russian statement to the UN Security Council on May 13: we will use articles 5 and 6 of the Convention on the Prohibition of Bioweapons to investigate the Pentagon’s biological “experiments” in Ukraine.

That was reiterated by Under Secretary-General of the UN in charge of disarmament, Thomas Markram, even as all ambassadors of NATO member countries predictably denied the collected evidence as “Russian disinformation”. Shoigu cold see the call coming eons away. Reuters, merely quoting the proverbial “Pentagon official”, spun that the allegedly one-hour-long call led to nothing. Nonsense. Austin, according to the Americans, demanded a “ceasefire” – which must have originated a Siberian cat smirk on Shoigu’s face. Shoigu knows exactly which way the wind is blowing on the ground – for Ukrainian Armed Forces and UkroNazis alike. It’s not only the Azovstal debacle – and Kiev’s all-around army breakdown. After the fall of Popasnaya – the crucial, most fortified Ukrainian stronghold in Donbass – the Russians and Donetsk/Luhansk forces have breached defenses along four different vectors to north, northwest, west and south.

What’s left of the Ukrainian front is crumbling – fast, with a massive cauldron subdivided in a maze of mini-cauldrons: a military disaster the USG cannot possibly spin. Now, in parallel, we can also expect full exposure – on overdrive – of the Pentagon bioweapons racket. The only “offer you can’t refuse” left to the USG would be to present something tangible to the Russians to avoid a full investigation. That’s not gonna happen. Moscow is fully aware that going public with illegal work on banned biological weapons is an existential threat to the US Deep State. Especially when documents seized by the Russians show that Big Pharma – via Pfizer, Moderna, Merck and Gilead – was involved in several “experiments”. Fully exposing the whole maze, from the start, was one of Putin’s stated objectives.

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Whether it’s true or not, why would this guy expose it?

Is US Drawing Up Plans To Sink the Russian Black Sea Fleet? (Antiwar)

Shortly after Reuters published an exclusive story that the White House was looking to move advanced anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, an official in Kiev said that the US is making a plan to sink Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko tweeted, “The US is preparing a plan to destroy the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet. The effective work of the Ukrainians on [Russian] warships convinced [the US] to prepare a plan to unblock the [Ukrainian] ports. Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons are being discussed.” Gerashchenko cited the Reuters report on Washington’s effort to ship Harpoon and Naval Strike Missiles to Ukraine. The missiles have a range of up to 300 km and cost $1.5 million each.

Three US officials and two Congressional sources told the outlet the White House was still working out the details for sending the advanced weapons to Ukraine. Logistical issues and the possibility the US would have to remove a launcher from one of its ships to send to Ukraine are current obstacles to completing the transfer. Responding to a question from Newsweek, the State Department did not deny it was working on a plan to take out the Russian fleet. “As the conflict is changing, so too is our military assistance to deliver the critical capabilities Ukraine needs for today’s fight as Russia’s forces engage in a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine,” a spokesperson said.

However, the Department of Defense issued a sharp denial of the claims made by the Ukrainians official. “I can tell you definitively that that’s not true,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday afternoon. The Pentagon denial applied only to the Ukrainian official’s assertion the US was helping sink the Black Sea fleet, and did not refer to the proposed anti-ship weapons transfer. Gerashchenko said the attack would help to open up Ukraine’s ports. Russia currently controls the Black Sea and maintains a blockade. The UN has called for an easing of restrictions in the sea to allow food exports from Ukraine to help alleviate global food shortages.

Moscow has offered a diplomatic solution to the Black Sea standoff. On Thursday, the Kremlin proposed lifting the blockage in exchange for sanctions relief. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the problem goes beyond the blockade and includes Western sanctions restricting fertilizer exports. “You have to not only appeal to the Russian Federation but also look deeply at the whole complex of reasons that caused the current food crisis. [Sanctions] interfere with normal free trade, encompassing food products including wheat, fertilizers and others,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said.

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Thread by Russians With Attitude.

A Thread on “Azov” (RWA)

The roots of “Azov” can be found in the Neonazi soccer hooligan scene of Kharkov. Andrei Biletsky was the central figure of the nascent movement for the longest time. A Kharkov native, he joined numerous nationalist organizations, e.g. the Lvov-based “Tryzub”. He also actively supported the Kharkov cell of the “Social-National Party of Ukraine” (nowadays “Svoboda”). In 2006, Biletsky founded “Patriot of Ukraine”, a nationalist organization that engaged in street violence & even terrorism. Biletsky’s patron during this period was Arsen Avakov, Armenian-Ukrainian “entrepreneur” & politician. In 2005-2010, Avakov was the governor of Kharkov oblast. During this period, “Patriot of Ukraine” was unofficially deputized by Kharkov police. Biletsky’s gang helped the police patrol the streets for illegal immigrants, & also to combat illegal businesses.

Aside from their political activities, they serves as enforcers for Avakov’s “business ventures”. That’s how they reached a significant level of political protection. Avakov, of course, also became Minister of the Interior after the Euromaidan coup d’etat; their fruitful relationship continued. Russian Neonazi Sergei Korotkikh aka “Botsman” is a personal friend of Avakov’s son. Botsman also leads a separate Azov unit, the “Botsman Boys”. In 2011, Biletsky and several of his comrades were arrested for organized robbery; in early 2014, Avakov became Minister of the Interior & had them released from prison. Even before that, Biletsky’s “Patriot of Ukraine” had joined the Euromaidan protests & the “Right Sector”. Biletsky’s men took part in the civil strife that followed the Euromaidan coup d’etat.

Then known as “Little black men from Kharkov”, they published threatening video messages to the Russian population; they rode around the country & engaged in political violence. They came to Odessa & participated in the May 2nd massacre; they attacked Anti-Maidan protests in Kharkov or straight up had pro-Russian acvitists “disappeared” with the help of Ukrainian security services. This is a long introduction, but it’s important. Soon after, the civil strife turned into civil war. The Euromaidan government in Kiev realized that Ukraine doesn’t have an army. Its elite military units were getting humiliated by coal miner militias in Donbass. That’s when, under the patronage of Avakov, the “Volunteer Battalions” were created. Azov, Aidar, Donbas, Tornado, Dnipro — these & many other Ministry of the Interior formations are infamous for their horrifying reign of terror in Eastern Ukraine.

Read more …

To infinity and beyond with Milley Mouse.

Gen. Milley Warns West Point Graduates Of ‘Increasing’ Risk Of Global War (Fox)

Gen. Mark Milley told cadets graduating from U.S. Military Academy West Point Saturday to be prepared for increasing risk of global conflict and a host of new weapons technologies in their careers. “The world you are being commissioned into has the potential for a significant international conflict between great powers. And that potential is increasing, not decreasing,” Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the cadets at the 2022 commencement ceremony in West Point, New York. “And right now, at this very moment, a fundamental change is happening in the very character of war. We are facing right now two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, and both who fully intend to change the current rules based order,” Milley said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is teaching the world that “aggression left unanswered only emboldens the aggressor,” Milley said. “Let us never forget the massacre that we have just witnessed in Bucha nor the slaughter that occurred in Mariupol. And the best way to honor their sacrifice is to support their fight for freedom and to stand against tyranny,” Milley said. The urban character of the war in Ukraine is something Milley sees as a characteristic of future battlefields, which will be “highly complex and almost certainly decisive in urban areas against elusive, ambiguous enemies that combine terrorism and warfare alongside conventional capabilities — all embedded within large civilian populations.” Weapons technology will also change dramatically in future decades, Milley said, and the shift will be as radical as the change from musket to the rifle, the rifle to the machine gun or from sailing to steam ships.

And the technological edge is no longer automatically in America’s favor. “You’ll be fighting with robotic tanks and ships and airplanes,” Milley said. “We’ve witnessed a revolution in lethality and precision munitions. What was once the exclusive province of the United States military is now available to most nation states with the money will to acquire them.” Artificial intelligence is “resulting in that profound change, the most profound change ever in human history,” Milley said. “Whatever overmatch we the United States enjoyed militarily for the last 70 years is closing quickly. And the United States will be, in fact, we already are challenged in every domain of warfare in space and cyber, maritime air and, of course, land.”

Read more …

Want to get Covid? Take a vaccine. Might work for monkeypox too.

mRNA Vaccines Hurt Long-term Immunity To Covid (Berenson)

Unvaccinated people are much more likely to develop broad antibody immunity after Covid infections than people who have received mRNA shots, a new study shows. The gap remains large whether people had mild, moderate, or severe Covid infections, the study showed – undercutting a crucial argument that vaccine advocates have made to defend the shots. The research draws on data from Moderna’s 30,000-person clinical trial for its mRNA shots. It may help explain why so many Americans now suffer multiple Covid infections, sometimes within months. Researchers already knew that many vaccinated people do not gain antibodies to the entire coronavirus after they are infected with Covid.

Unvaccinated people nearly always gain antibodies to the nucleocapsid protein, which covers the virus’s core of RNA, as well as its spike protein, which allows the virus to attack our cells. Vaccinated people often lack those anti-nucleocapsid antibodies and only have spike protein antibodies. Vaccine advocates claim the lack of nucleocapsid antibodies may occur because the mRNA shots prime people to fight off the Covid infections more quickly and have lower viral loads. In this view, the narrow immune response is a feature, not a bug – vaccinated people are less seriously infected and so do not need to generate anti-nucleocapsid antibodies. This study essentially demolishes that theory.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Moderna quietly posted the paper a month ago as a pre-print, but it has received little attention despite its import. The researchers examined the development of anti-nucleocapsid antibodies in people who had been part of Moderna’s clinical trial and were infected with Covid. As they expected, the scientists found that the vaccinated people were far less likely to develop the anti-nucleocapsid antibodies. Only 40 percent of people who received the shots had antibodies, compared to 93 percent of those who did not. But they then went a step further. Because the infected people had been in the trial, their viral loads had been precisely measured when they were found to have Covid.

So the researchers were able to compare vaccinated and unvaccinated people who had the same amounts of virus in their blood. Once again, they found that unvaccinated people were far more likely to develop anti-nucleocapsid antibodies than the jabbed. An unvaccinated person with a mild infection had a 71 percent chance of mounting an immune response that included those antibodies. A vaccinated person had about a 15 percent chance.

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Few countries have fared as poorly as Canada.

Once A Liberal Democracy, Canada Is Now An Authoritarian State (Arora)

Two decades ago, when I was 4 years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from India in search of greater freedoms, autonomy and economic opportunities. They’re core Canadian values — enshrined in our national anthem, which gloriously heralds “The True North strong and free.” However, the past two years have seen a near complete erosion of the foundational liberal values that have attracted millions of immigrants like myself to this country. Under the once-righteous guise of COVID safety and online protections, the Canadian government has taken its power to extreme levels once only imaginable — let alone permissible — in a dissent-stifling authoritarian state. The control has extended to nearly every element of Canadian society, but nowhere more so than in our everyday personal lives.

Take my own case contending with Canada’s COVID bureaucracy a few months back. I was returning to Canada from the US when multiple Air Canada employees refused to let me on the plane. Although I had a negative COVID test, the government was suddenly requiring even returning citizens to be vaccinated (unvaccinated foreigners were already barred from entering). Since the most documented adverse effect associated with COVID vaccination — heart inflammation — is concentrated in young men ages 15 – 25, I chose not to get vaccinated. I am 21 years old, have already recovered from COVID and have no co-morbidities. I’m at low risk from serious COVID illness, which is why I remain unvaccinated. But this can make air travel difficult — especially in Canada. Minutes before my boarding gate was closed, a sympathetic Air Canada staffer “begged” his manager to let me board the plane.

“I just gave you a massive favor. No one else would do this,” he said as I finally made my way down the jetway. In the Canada of Justin Trudeau’s making, you must now go to extreme measures simply to be allowed to return to your own nation. And for what? COVID is just the beginning of the Canadian madness. The internationally recognized trucker protests earlier this year were the most flagrant display of political control ever witnessed within the ranks of the Canadian government. After trying to dismiss the truckers as a “fringe minority” of “swastika wavers,” Trudeau manufactured a National Emergency in order to justify truly outrageous tactics. Not only did he suspend the insurance of the truckers’ vehicles, he regulated the cryptocurrency transfers and froze the bank accounts of folks simply donating to the trucker cause.

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“We only have a short window of opportunity to give farmers funding.”

American Farmer Warns Of Impending Food Shortages (ZH)

NewsNation’s Leland Vittert asked one American farmer: “How close are we to the next food crisis?” The answer: “We are in a crisis right now as far as the food chain goes with the farmer in this country,” John Boyd Jr., the President of the National Black Farmers Association, said. Boyd points out some farmers are unable to plant because of adverse weather conditions. He said farmers in the Northern Plains haven’t been able to get tractors in the fields because of soggy conditions, and the war in Ukraine has knocked out an entire region of food production. He warned, “We’re going to see a lot of empty shelves and a lot more high food prices.” In his forty-year career as a farmer, Boyd said he never imagined he would be “paying $5.63 for a gallon of diesel fuel, $900 a ton for fertilizer, and all-time high prices for soybean seeds.”


All of the prices he mentioned are at record highs, pressuring farmers’ margins. He said the American people need to wake up to the crisis in the farming industry, adding, “farming isn’t Republican or Democratic, it’s food, the land is neutral … this is the time the American people need to support the American farmer and put pressure on the Biden administration to put things in place to help farmers.” He mentioned that banks need to provide emergency funding to farmers to get their crops in the ground. Out-of-control inflation has left some farmers unable to plant because of soaring costs. Boyd said, “We only have a short window of opportunity to give farmers funding.” He stated the worst-case scenario is “a lot of shortages” of food that could materialize later this year.

Read more …

New PM Anthony Albanese looks as inept as his predecessor, but he might have one advantage.

Labor Win Presents ‘Great Opportunity’ In Fight To Free Julian Assange (LE)

The father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the election of a Labor government is a “great opportunity” for the movement to free the WikiLeaks founder from imprisonment. Speaking at a Sydney Q&A screening of documentary Ithaka, which documents his efforts to free Assange, John Shipton said a groundswell of parliamentarian support was growing for his son’s plight and he was buoyed up by the prospect of an incoming Labor government. “Of course things would change [if Labor were elected] … this is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “A fresh parliament has a lot of room to move … I speak to many of them. They don’t want this hanging around their neck like an albatross.”


Shipton said he had had several lunches with Anthony Albanese, and had been assured the opposition leader would do “whatever he can” to free his son and “enough’s enough”. The 76-year-old said when he began advocating for Assange in 2019, two parliamentarians supported him – independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Greens senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson. “Now there are 29 and peripherally, there are other supporters,” he said. “The deputy prime minister while in the US … said publicly … that Julian ought to be charged if he’s done anything in the UK … other than that, send him home. “There’s a core in the Labor party, there’s a core in the National party, the Greens are all supporting [Julian] … it’s a popular concern and parliamentarians recognise that.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Rebel Davos

 

 

 

 

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Jan 312022
 


Pablo Picasso Women running on the beach 1922

 

1 in 5 Canadians May Never Be Comfortable Without Masks, Vaccine Mandates (I.)
Did Justin Trudeau Pick the Wrong Fight With Canadian Truckers? (Bridge)
Unvaccinated and Undeterred: Austria Holdouts Dig In Despite New Law (Y!)
Concern As Republicans Push To Make Dubious Covid Cures Easier (G.)
University of Minnesota Ivermectin Trial Nearing Completion (Star T.)
Japan’s Kowa Says Ivermectin Effective Against Omicron In Phase III Trial (R.)
University Offers Help To Students ‘Affected By A Free Speech Event’ (DM)
US Close To Approving ‘Mother Of All Sanctions’ Against Russia (G.)
EU Threatens To Halt Nord Stream 2 & Cut Russia Off From SWIFT (RT)
Year in Review 2021 Part 3 – Rise of Global Authoritarianism (Dave Collum)
Biden Promises To Replace Tom Brady With A Woman Of Color (BBee)

 

 

Joe Rogan

 

 

We are standing at the battle line.

 

 

U turn

 

 

 

 

Mass formation.

1 in 5 Canadians May Never Be Comfortable Without Masks, Vaccine Mandates (I.)

As we approach the second anniversary of the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic and viral case loads continue to break records, it’s not surprising that many Canadians are wary about “returning to normal.” A new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News shows that while one in five (18%) Canadians feel things are normal now, the same proportion (19%) say they’re not sure they’ll ever be ready to live without masks or vaccine mandates. Regardless of when Canadians feel the new normal will materialize, two thirds (64%) agree (27% strongly, 37% somewhat) that governments are not doing enough to facilitate the return to normal, a figure that is higher among Albertans[..].


How will we reach the new normal? Four in ten (38%) Canadians think mandatory vaccination is the most effective means of getting COVID-19 under control. This opinion is stronger among men (42% vs. 34% women) and Boomers (50% vs. 37% Gen X, 29% Millennials, 27% Gen Z). The use of border closings and rapid tests in the workplace are also both favoured by 14%. Relatively few Canadians believe that removing all public health measures and allowing COVID-19 to spread more quickly (10%), penalizing people who don’t get their vaccines (i.e. a tax, further restrictions, etc.) (9%), or shutting down all non-essential businesses (8%) would be the most effective way to get the pandemic under control.

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“This is, perhaps, the greatest act of cowardice from a sitting Canadian PM in this nation’s history..”

Did Justin Trudeau Pick the Wrong Fight With Canadian Truckers? (Bridge)

Since Jan. 15, unvaccinated truckers entering Canada are required to be tested and quarantined for 15 days; the U.S. mandated similar restrictions on Jan. 22. Naturally such regulations made their job impossible to perform. Thus, the mandates have removed some 20-25% of the estimated 175,000 cross-border American and Canadian truckers due to noncompliance in both countries. But these sidelined workers are not leaving their jobs without a fight, and it seems that many Canadians support the cause.


While mainstream media and social media has largely been able to control the flow of information that Canadians receive with regards to Covid and the vaccination mandates, the trucker convoy has given the public a chance to really express themselves. Judging by early indications it doesn’t look particularly good for the Trudeau administration. Telegram, the censorship-free messenger application, is chockfull of videos and photographs of overpasses near Toronto loaded with placard-waving supporters as the convoy grinds its way towards Ottawa to the east. Other platforms showed the local residents of small towns handing out meals to the truckers despite the frigid temperatures.

Undoubtedly the most influential advocate of the truckers’ cause thus far has been Elon Musk, who tweeted a three-word message that certainly did not sit well with Justin Trudeau: “Canadian truckers rule.” Speaking of Trudeau, the 50-year-old leader of the Labor Party announced just this week that he had been “exposed to Covid-19,” and would therefore be isolating at home for five days. That announcement sparked a small riot on social media, with many suggesting that the Canadian leader had used the excuse of Covid to hopefully avoid the truckers. Keean Bexte, a journalist with Counter Signal, suggested in a tweet that a new variant of “Coward-19” was detected.


“This is, perhaps, the greatest act of cowardice from a sitting Canadian PM in this nation’s history,” Bexte wrote in an accompanying article. “When Canadians finally take a stand, finally take real action, Trudeau merely waves it away, practically flipping them the bird through a single Tweet, ending it with “please get vaccinated” to rub salt in wounds he’s opened.” This is the problem when the media and government refuses to permit any sort of formal debate on a serious issue that affects millions of people on so many different levels. Trudeau has given his countrymen just one option, and that is to get the vaccination or essentially become second-class citizens in their own country. Unlike other effected industries, however, truckers have the option of putting their machines to use for a very effective form of protest, and one that promises to cause severe logistical problems as far as transport goes.

Sikh

Read more …

“..there is already this parallel community. It’s already being built. There is already everything,”

Unvaccinated and Undeterred: Austria Holdouts Dig In Despite New Law (Y!)

Despite vaccination against Covid-19 becoming mandatory in Austria on Friday, musician Katharina Teufel-Lieli insists she won’t bow to pressure to get the jab. “I have the right to decide over my body… to simply say ‘no,'” the harpist told AFP at her home in Neumarkt-am-Wallersee, not far from the western city of Salzburg. Austria this week becomes the first European Union country to make Covid-19 vaccination legally compulsory for adults. Under the new law, those holding out against the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) from mid-March after an introductory phase. Teufel-Lieli, 49, is one of tens of thousands to have joined massive demonstrations against the law and other coronavirus-related measures since November, when plans for the legal change were announced.

The mother of six said that she used to be “apolitical” but the state is “overstepping the mark” by “attacking people” through this act of “totalitarianism”. Access to certain services has already been restricted since last year under government-imposed measures. Entry to restaurants, hairdressers, hotels, non-essential shops, sports and cultural venues has only been permitted since November to those who are vaccinated or recently cured. This has sparked complaints within the retail sector about staff having to act as “an auxiliary police” in checking vaccine passes in shops. Frustrations since the beginning of the pandemic have also led opponents to create a new political party, known by its acronym, MFG which stands for People, Freedom, Fundamental Rights.

One of three MFG representatives to have already won a state legislature seat, Dagmar Haeusler, said that she just did not see the point of compulsory Covid vaccination. “If there was a valid reason, as with smallpox which has a mortality rate of 20 to 30 percent, we could talk about mandatory vaccination, which would benefit everyone. “But in the case of Covid-19, I don’t see the point,” the 38-year-old biomedical scientist and MFG co-founder told AFP. Demonstrators and other opponents say the measures just create a “parallel society” — with the unvaccinated forced to do things under the radar. According to Teufel-Lieli, there are already hairdressers willing to cater to those not vaccinated or cured, while people still have coffee together in private meet-ups, mostly organised over social networks. “In fact, there is already this parallel community. It’s already being built. There is already everything,” she said.

Read more …

“..legislation that they say keeps the government from interfering with doctors..”

Concern As Republicans Push To Make Dubious Covid Cures Easier (G.)

Republican state lawmakers across the United States have proposed – and in some cases passed – legislation that they say keeps the government from interfering with doctors who want to prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to help prevent and treat Covid-19. But those treatments have not proven effective at preventing or treating Covid and infectious disease experts see the bills as examples of right-wing lawmakers politicizing medicine – a trend that is increasing as the pandemic wears on in America in to its third year amid an increasingly fraught political atmosphere. And so it goes with the latest suspect Covid-19 treatment that has become about more than just a drug, but rather about whether to trust established public health organizations or doctors who stray from their guidelines, and podcast and cable news hosts.


“We really need to have the politicians step aside and let scientists and public health officials make the decisions on what is going to be beneficial in preventing and treating Covid,” said Sunil Parikh, an associate professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the Yale School of Public Health. Kansas is one of at least 11 states, according to Buzzfeed, where Republican lawmakers have proposed, and in some cases passed, legislation to limit medical licensing boards’ ability to take action against providers who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, another drug that has not been shown to be effective against Covid but nevertheless promoted by some politicians on the right. “We are leaving it up to medical professionals like it should be, not bureaucrats trying to maintain a single message,” said Kansas state Senator Richard Hilderbrand, the chair of the committee that sponsored the legislation.

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“..the nation’s first clinical trial of ivermectin to treat COVID-19..”

Just how crazy is that?

University of Minnesota Ivermectin Trial Nearing Completion (Star T.)

University of Minnesota researchers expect to finish enrollment this week in the nation’s first clinical trial of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, and the study’s highly anticipated results could be only a month away. The COVID-OUT study is reviewing three common drugs, including the antidepressant fluvoxamine and the diabetes treatment metformin, but gained attention for its inclusion of ivermectin. The controversial drug has been championed by opponents of COVID-19 vaccines, despite a warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that ivermectin is cleared only to treat parasitic infections, head lice and certain skin conditions. Anti-inflammatory benefits of all three medications prompted the U study, which was delayed by slow enrollment over the summer until the delta and omicron waves of the pandemic emerged.

Lead researcher Dr. Carolyn Bramante said the results will provide clinical guidance to doctors who are facing record pandemic cases and to the FDA about whether to authorize the drugs for treatment of COVID-19. “Sooner would have been better, but I’m really proud of my team,” she said. “We will be done very quickly.” Proven outpatient COVID-19 treatments have been limited, and supplies in Minnesota have been scarce. Providers in the state discontinued two types of monoclonal antibody infusions in December because they were ineffective against the omicron variant, and providers had to ration the effective types. New antiviral COVID-19 pills that have received emergency FDA approval are coming in small shipments every other week to Minnesota.

[..] The U trial is enrolling 1,100 patients with COVID-19 to receive fluvoxamine and ivermectin, alone or in combination with metformin, or a nonmedicating placebo for comparison. The study is tracking whether patients taking the drugs for 14 days avoid hospitalization and maintain healthy blood oxygen levels. Bramante said the drugs have potential to reduce excessive inflammation — a hallmark of some of the most severe and fatal COVID-19 cases. Ivermectin has been tried in other countries, such as India, with less access to vaccine, despite a World Health Organization warning against its use outside clinical trials until its benefits are proven. Some global studies of the drug have been debunked while others in the U.S. are behind the U study.

Duluth-based Essentia Health on Monday announced it was joining the ongoing national ACTIV-6 clinical trial that is studying ivermectin in combination with fluvoxamine and fluticasone, an inhaled steroid. “The aim of the study is to see if these medications make you feel better sooner and prevent hospitalization,” said Dr. Rajesh Prabhu, an Essentia infectious disease specialist. Bramante is not allowed to see the patient data from the U study until after enrollment is finished, but she said it is a positive sign that a data safety monitoring board has allowed it to continue. That means the drugs aren’t causing harm but also there is no proof yet they absolutely work or don’t work against COVID-19.

Read more …

Japan goes its own way.

Japan’s Kowa Says Ivermectin Effective Against Omicron In Phase III Trial (R.)

Japanese trading and pharmaceutical company Kowa Co Ltd said on Monday anti-parasite drug ivermectin has been found effective for treating the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in a Phase III trial. The trial found ivermectin has “an antiviral effect” against the variant, Kowa said without providing further details. The firm has been working with Kitasato University, a medical university in Tokyo. Clinical trials evaluating the drug, which is used to treat parasites in animals and humans, are ongoing but promotion of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment has generated controversy. The drug is not approved for treatment of COVID-19 in Japan and the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has repeatedly warned against its use.

Read more …

Yes, it’s about vaccines.

University Offers Help To Students ‘Affected By A Free Speech Event’ (DM)

Colorado State University is promoting resources aimed at students who claim to be ‘affected by a free speech event’ on campus. A sign was spotted on campus and posted to social media which reads: ‘If you (or someone you know) are affected by a free speech event on campus, here are some resources.’ The sign then proceeds to list 17 different departments or offices on the university campus that may be of help. It includes Multicultural Counseling, Incidents of Bias Reporting, the Office of Equal Opportunity, and a Victim’s Assistance Hotline. Even university staff are taken care of with specific services for employees including the Office of Ombuds, and the Employee Assistance Program.

The roll call continues with a host of departments and programs set up to assist minority students, including Student Diversity Program centers for Asian Pacific, Black/African, and Native Americans. LGBTQ+ are not forgotten either with various services and cultural resources designated for the community. Students with disabilities and given their own hotline together with women, through the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. Campus Reform first reported on the sign. The sign was posted on the Instagram account Turning Point USA Rockies Territory. Turning Point Action is an American nonprofit organization that advocates for conservative values on high school, college, and university campuses across the country. The account called out the school for ‘intolerance,’ adding, ‘We haven’t even had an event yet gotta love the intolerance of @coloradostateuniversity.’

Colorado State University, where tuition is $31,712 a year for out-of-state students, has been hostile in recent months to conservative organizations. Several incidents occurred during the fall 2021 semester. In one, a student was filmed harassing Turning Point group members calling them ‘right-wing goons’ and noting that ‘disrupting one of your activities is actually probably one of the most ethical and best things I can do with my time.’ [..]Also in the fall, a student was caught as they stole a sign advocating against vaccine mandates after the university threatened any student who didn’t register their vaccine status with arrest for trespassing. The university later clarified their policy saying that they were ‘not arresting students who are unvaccinated’, so long as they provided their vaccination information or declared an exemption.

Read more …

Whole cloth.

US Close To Approving ‘Mother Of All Sanctions’ Against Russia (G.)

The leaders of the Senate foreign relations committee said on Sunday they were on the verge of approving “the mother of all sanctions” against Vladimir Putin, warning there would be no appeasement as the Russian president contemplates an invasion of Ukraine. “We cannot have a Munich moment again,” the panel’s Democratic chair, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, told CNN’s State of the Union, referring to the 1938 agreement by which allies ceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, believing it would stave off war. “Putin will not stop if he believes the west will not respond,” Menendez said. “We saw what he did in 2008 in Georgia, we saw what he did in 2014 in pursuit of Crimea. He will not stop.”

Menendez said he believed bipartisan negotiations for severe sanctions were “on the one-yard line”, despite disagreements with Republicans over whether measures should be imposed before or after any Russian invasion. The UK government promised to ramp up sanctions against Putin and his associates. The negotiations come ahead of an expected UN security council meeting on Monday, at the request of the US, to give Russia the opportunity to explain its actions. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “We’re going to go into the council prepared to listen to Russia’s security concerns, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda.”

On Sunday, Kyiv urged Moscow to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s border and continue dialogue with the west if it was “serious” about de-escalating tensions that have soared amid fears of a Russian invasion. Canada moved its Ukraine-based military units westward on Sunday and announced the temporary withdrawal of all non-essential employees from its Kyiv embassy, citing ongoing Russian threats along the border. “We will continue to take all precautions necessary to keep our Canadian Armed Forces safe and secure,” said Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand at a press conference in Kyiv. Canada has 900 military members supporting the Nato mission in Ukraine via “land, air and sea,” she said.

Read more …

Eurocrat

EU Threatens To Halt Nord Stream 2 & Cut Russia Off From SWIFT (RT)

The EU is discussing the possibility of excluding Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system and completely putting a halt on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Moscow launches an invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has revealed. Speaking to CNN on Thursday, the Eurocrat said the EU would not rule out any possible angles for sanctions, adding that nothing is “off the table.” The EU and the US are currently working on a package of measures designed to deter Russia from considering a military incursion into Ukraine. Moscow stands accused of placing 100,000 troops on the border, with some alleging it is planning an attack. This claim has repeatedly been denied by the Kremlin.

Von der Leyen’s latest statement comes despite some reports that many foreign leaders have given up on some of the harshest sanctions, including on the financial and energy sectors, due to fears that the European economy and the continent’s energy security could see significant blowback. These include the suggestion that the EU could place a total ban on the usage of Nord Stream 2, a controversial gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany. “I want to be very clear: Nothing is off the table, everything is on the table,” von der Leyen said when asked directly if the EU would make sure the energy system is stopped from ever being used. She repeated the same line when also asked about SWIFT. “The Commission is responsible for designing, shaping, and developing the sanctions – in the financial field, in the economic field, in the technology field. This includes everything,” she explained.

According to von der Leyen, any EU sanctions against Russia would have a devastating effect. Brussels is Moscow’s largest trading partner, and 75% of direct foreign investment in Russia comes from the EU, she explained, suggesting that economic measures would be painful. Earlier in January, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that the EU and the US had refused to consider disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international bank payment system. It noted that it could destabilize financial markets and help create an alternative payment infrastructure that would no longer be dominated by Western nations.

Read more …

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
~ Albert Einstein

Year in Review 2021 Part 3 – Rise of Global Authoritarianism (Dave Collum)

So, here we are at the third and final part of the 2021 Year in Review and it’s no longer 2021. Sorry about that pfuck-up. Think of it as not in 2021 but from 2021. You may have noticed that the first 200 pages (parts 1 and 2) were laced with a recurring catchphrase, “WTF is happening?” It was a literary device for noting that the events ceased to make sense within a conventional worldview, suggesting it is time to torch the old model and start anew. Our response to a disease that was killing a very small slice of the population was to sequester and vaccinate the entire population with an experimental drug of real but unquantified fatality rate. The apparent scientific illiteracy was not some mass psychosis. Y’all just got suckered by America’s Most Trusted Psychopathic Mass Murderer assisted by an epic media blitz sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry that had a distinct authoritarian quality.

During the brief period after uploading part 2 while grinding on this last portion, the Supreme Court took on the vaccine mandate issue, ruling that the only people forfeiting control of their own healthcare are the healthcare workersref 2 The court also illustrated their profound ignorance of the pandemic and what they were even charged to assess—the Constitutionality of mandates, not the efficacy.ref 3 The CEO of a major insurer reported a 40% spike in fatalities within the 18–65 age bracket that was not from Covid.ref 4 He said 10% would be a 3-sigma, once-every-200-year event: 40% is unheard of. Although he refrained from identifying a cause—deaths of despair, neglected healthcare, or a toxic vaccine—he knows precisely what did them in. They have been studying this stuff for centuries. I suspect his real message was that the insurance industry is about to contribute to inflation with rising premiums.

Meanwhile, the pathological liars running the covid grift decided after two years the masks you’ve been wearing served no medical purpose and that the vaccines don’t work either. Wait: who said the masks and vaccines don’t work?

Read more …

“I was a civil rights hero, darn it! It’s time for the rest of the world to catch up!”

Biden Promises To Replace Tom Brady With A Woman Of Color (BBee)

Legendary quarterback Tom Brady has announced his plan to retire from the NFL to spend more time carving little wooden toys for his grandkids. In response to the earth-shattering news, President Joe Biden has announced his commitment to replace the outgoing football star with a woman of color. “Listen, folks, it’s time,” said Biden to the press. “In the hundred-year history of the NFL, not a single quarterback has ever been a woman of color. That’s racist! We all know that poor women are just as smart and powerful as white kids. As president, I will nominate a new quarterback to replace Tom Brady that reflects America’s diversity.”


When told he doesn’t have the authority to nominate quarterbacks to the NFL, Biden told his staff he would just sign the executive order and let the courts deal with it later. “There’s no excuse,” said Biden. When I used to play Nine Pins with Jehoshaphat Jenkins and the townsfolk, we always used to let the black women play with us. I was a civil rights hero, darn it! It’s time for the rest of the world to catch up!” So far, candidates being considered for the empty position include Michelle Obama, Tyler Perry, and Colin Kaepernick in a woman’s wig.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

McCullough

 

 

Super immunity

 

 

 

 

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Oct 122020
 


Edward Hopper The barber shop 1931

 

 

How their beloved neighbors see America, a comment by Automatic Earth commenter ByronBishop. I don’t think I need to add much. Took the title from a comment on the comment.

 

 

ByronBishop: I live in rural Canada and I do not have television, so my information on the American presidential election comes from newspapers and some online blogs. But what impresses me the most in this cycle is what good theatre it is!

It is my view that the choice for American voters is simply this: which collection of billionaires will run the country? The Democrats or Republicans? At root, their policies are not very different; their principal goal is to maintain and extend their privilege, and to continue to develop the legal and fiscal framework that supports their activities. This framework consists of, among other things, the following policies, and most crucially, broad public acceptance of the righteousness of these policies:

• To maintain very low taxes on income and capital gains, favourable treatment of dividend and interest income, and no inheritance tax

• In the financial manipulation field, improve public and regulatory acceptance of the attitude usefully articulated by JH Kuntsler as “nothing matters and anything goes”. This allows (among many other things) private equity firms to buy up useful and productive enterprises, strip out all the assets in fees and special dividends and through the sale of high-yield (and chancy) bonds, and to then release the debt-ridden hulk back into the marketplace to sink (mostly) or swim (rarely). Also supports share buybacks, collateralised debt instruments, relocation of factories to low-wage states and countries.

• Keep the American military actively working around the world, preferably using expensive armaments. Where possible avoid stationing troops in warzones as casualties provoke bad publicity. Promote demand for novel and very expensive war materiel. (Smart bombs and drones sell to government on a cost-plus basis.)

• Support the National Rifle Association, which is in fact an association of arms manufacturers and merchants with a noisy public relations arm consisting of private members defending their Second Amendment rights. Until forty years ago the Second Amendment right was the right to join a well-regulated militia, but now it is the right to have many expensive weapons in your house.

• Everyone must recognise that public healthcare is un-American. It is a moral issue: if you cannot afford healthcare you do not deserve it. Some of the highest paid executive teams in the US are in the healthcare field, while executive teams in Canadian and European countries are mostly paid on a civil service scale. Shareholders in American healthcare companies become very rich. Were healthcare to become nationalised like in Canada and most European nations, most of the private profit would be lost

• Large corporations must be permitted to manipulate share prices through buybacks and curious business practices (Boeing, the airlines), but must then be protected by bailouts if their business falters.

• The financialisation of the economy must be regulated as lightly as possible so that fees can continue to flow.

• Regulatory capture must be celebrated (under a different name). The two-way flow of personnel from regulated industries to regulatory government departments ensures that little impedes business development.

• To ensure that the courts at all levels are staffed with conservative, business-friendly judges.

• To ensure that environmental protection regulations do not unduly interfere with business operations

I do not for a moment think that the billionaires and multi-millionaires conspire to run the American system. They are not a cabal; they do not meet. Rather, theirs is an emergent system: many individuals working towards their own goals will thus help others pursuing their own goals. It is like a flock of shorebirds wheeling and swooping in perfect unison; they are not directed, but they are simply responding to the actions of their neighbouring birds.

The billionaires achieve this through owning mainstream media companies, funding think tanks and policy research institutes, and supporting lobbyist groups and public relations shills. And they have been astonished , I am sure, to discover how cheaply they can buy the support of members of Congress. Chump-change donations to campaign funding pays off in spades. Lobbyists have language ready to drop in to any bill, to achieve corporate aims. That’s how emergency support of American workers became bailouts for cruise companies, who are based offshore and pay few American taxes.

And then members of Congress have to be made part of the investing class. For example, a fabulous oil & gas play is spun off into a Special Purpose Vehicle whose success is assured, and select politicians are invited to invest in it. If they cannot afford to purchase shares a private loan is arranged and documented and subsequently repaid, all above board. The company is spectacularly successful and the “investors” score big-time and repay any loans. Didn’t George W Bush succeed in an investment in professional sports in Texas, in a similar way? And by the way, how did Senate Majority Leader McConnell amass a self-declared net worth of $10 million after a lifetime of working as a civil servant at $200k per year?

All of the rest is theatre. In this election cycle the hot-button issues are access to abortion (again), racism and social justice (again), overseas wars, China as an economic threat, Russia! Russia! Russia!, voting systems and practices, and the age and personalities of the presidential candidates. All theatre. The billionaires don’t care about any of these things, as almost none of these things personally affect them. Safe and discreet abortion is always available somewhere in the world where private jets fly. Billionaires do not ever see people of different colour or status or class unless they choose to, and then only in circumstances they control. Russia and China are opportunities, not threats. And the presidential candidates can be influenced very cheaply. A Nevada casino magnate had the American embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for only $25 million in campaign donations to a notoriously cheap candidate.

The one thing that most amazes me is how the billionaires can continue to convince people to vote against their own best interests, whether economic interest, social interest or even national interest. At one time they used “race” quite openly, appealing to feelings of racial superiority or to fears of being electorally overwhelmed by “those people”, whether black or brown or oriental or poor. When openly racist campaigning became no longer acceptable, some genius concluded that “abortion” would make an excellent substitute, as it can combine all of the race and class issues and can bring in all of the family values baggage as well. Few other issues can motivate such a wide cross-section of the American public, and it can motivate people on either side of the issue. With so much focus on abortion who has time to worry about the domination of government by corporate interests?

Many commentators focus on the gross inequality of incomes and wealth in the USA, and a recent report by the Rand Corporation brings this in to clear focus. They analysed the growth in incomes across the entire working population of the USA for the period from the end of World War II to the present, and they found that up until 1975 or so the increase in general prosperity in the nation was shared equally across all income groups. Starting in the mid-1970’s however, most of the increase in prosperity was arrogated by the top income earners, so that the rich got richer and no-one else shared in the good times. The astonishing figure that the Rand researchers came up with was that the top 1% has actually taken all of the $50 trillion dollars in new wealth from everyone else in the 45 year period to 2020. There is a reason why so many people feel that the American Dream has passed them by – it’s because it actually has.

The usual remedy for this sort of gross inequality of power and wealth in society is revolution. The French Revolution comes to mind, but also the Russian Revolution. I wonder what was the root cause of the great social and political upheavals in Europe in 1848? (I can’t remember.) A less frequent remedy is the rise of a genuine populist movement, one that can actually re-distribute power (and thus wealth and opportunity). As Gwnne Dyer usefully says: populism is not an ideology, it is a technique. In America, I suspect that a true populist leader could only arise at the state level, and then from outside the two main parties.

If the current polarisation in American politics continues, the states may become the primary protector of social values (progressive or conservative) and the regulations that flow from them (access to abortion, gun rights and restrictions, access to health care, role of religion in public life, etc), and it may be that a true populist, charismatic leader can emerge and accrue the political power and authenticity to restrict the ability of the elites to organise state society. And that might spread, state by state. We outsiders can only hope that our fellow citizens in the USA can get their sh!t together at some point. Watching civil unrest unfold is no fun – I have cousins in America.

 

 

 

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May 142020
 


Byron Street haberdashery, New York 1900

 

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)
Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)
Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)
Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)
Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)
Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)
72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)
36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)
Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)
Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)
COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)
FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)
US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)
Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

 

 

• US New cases 21,449

• New deaths 1,896 (yesterday 1,894, Monday: 830, Sunday: 776)

• Russia breaks its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with 9,974

 

 

 

Cases 4,451,226 (+ 93,006 from yesterday’s 4,358,220)

Deaths 298,520 (+ 5,284 from yesterday’s 293,236)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The UK never had an actual lockdown, they just pretended they did.

18.1 million arrivals to the UK by air, land and sea from 1 January to 23 March, pre-“lockdown”. Another 95,000 just by air between 1 April and 26 April, during the lockdown. With tons of stories of very few if any checked out.

The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed.

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)

At least 95,000 people have entered the UK from overseas since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, one of the government’s chief scientific advisers has revealed, while repeatedly failing to provide an estimate of how many of these people had Covid-19. Appearing before MPs on the science and technology committee, Prof John Aston, the chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, admitted that had tougher restrictions been introduced at the border, the peak of the virus may have been delayed – but he did not say by how long, or if this would have saved lives. Aston, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is advising the government during the crisis, was asked repeatedly for the estimated proportion or number of people arriving in the UK with Covid-19.

He insisted instead that a more “robust” assessment was the ratio of imported cases to domestic cases. This model, formulated by Sage, estimates 0.5% of all cases on any given day are imported from overseas. The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed. Since then, there has been little intervention other than advice provided on leaflets and posters. Arrivals will have been subjected to the same lockdown restrictions imposed on the wider population since 23 March. [..] Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, [..] asked Aston if ministers had a central estimate of the number of people arriving each week who might have Covid-19 when the decision to stop asking any arrivals to self-isolate was made.

[..] Cooper [..] said: “Previously people were asked to self-isolate at the border for 14 days. Inexplicably when other countries were increasing their restrictions or their requirements to self-isolate, the UK lifted them all. It was before the peak in Spain, it was still around the peak in Italy, it was several weeks before the peak in UK.” Aston’s evidence comes as the government prepares to enforce a 14-day quarantine for arrivals by air at the UK border – a policy that some have suggested would have been more appropriate prior to the UK lockdown on 23 March. There were 18.1 million arrivals to the UK in the period from 1 January to 23 March across air, land and sea, of whom 273 air passengers were formally quarantined. Aston told the committee that between 1 April and 26 April there were 95,000 arrivals into the UK by air, of whom about 53,000 were UK citizens.

Read more …

This looks more like a lockdown. Just 6,500 non-Australians arrived in April.

Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)

Australia saw overseas arrivals collapse to almost nothing in April as it closed its borders to fight the coronavirus pandemic, in a massive blow for the tourist industry. Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed arrivals of 21,600 in April, down 98.7% from a year earlier. Returning Australian citizens accounted for 15,100 of them. The biggest decline was in arrivals from New Zealand, which dived by 161,950 to just 1,180. Arrivals from China, where closures had already badly curbed tourism in March, dropped 132,040 to only 320. Departures from Australia likewise plunged 96.5% to 63,500, mostly foreigners returning home.

Read more …

50% of people still leave their homes every day. Not a lockdown.

Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)

The Times asked UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford, a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about why the plateau persists. “As long as it’s going up, it has not ended. It’s got to come down for it to end,” he said. Rutherford offered two reasons why the disease is persisting: a certain percentage of people still must go out to work, and others are getting fed up with staying at home. A significant part of the population has chosen not to say home or has been unable to do so because they’re essential workers manning supermarkets, meat processing plants, prisons and nursing homes.

A CDC study estimated that around April 1, about two weeks into a regional stay-at-home order, nearly 50% of residents in five Bay Area counties were still leaving home, down from 80% in late February. “That’s still 50%,” Rutherford said, adding that people can still get infected even if they limit their trips outside the home to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket. Essential workers who must leave home — people working in the food industry, making deliveries and staffing medical facilities — are among those contracting the coronavirus. A UC San Francisco study of thousands of residents and workers in the city’s Mission District found that 57% of those tested must leave their homes for work, and those who had to leave home to work accounted for 90% of the positive cases.

Nearly 89% of those who tested positive earn less than $50,000 a year, and most live in households with three or more people. While Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. Many residents and workers in the Mission District are employed in essential services such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, restaurants, grocery stores and janitorial and domestic services, the university said. Staying home, the researchers said, clearly seemed to make a difference.

Read more …

Ambrose Evans Pritchard quotes a “London cardiologist friendly to Boris”:

“We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that the patients were infected, no testing available, and no PPE to prevent transmission.”

Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)

More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19, academics have calculated – more than double the number stated as passing away from the disease in official figures. Academics at the London School of Economics found that data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to the virus published by the Office for National Statistics significantly underestimated the impact of the pandemic on care home residents and accounted for only about four out of 10 of the excess deaths in care settings recorded in recent weeks in England and Wales. ONS statisticians said on Tuesday that 8,314 people had died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in English care homes up to 8 May.

The figures suggest the impact of the virus in care homes is finally reducing. They are based on reports filed directly from care home operators to the regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Care Inspectorate Wales has said Covid was confirmed or suspected in a further 504 cases in homes up to the 8 May in Wales. But academics at the care policy and evaluation centre at the LSE found that when excess deaths of other care residents and the deaths of care home residents from Covid-19 in hospitals are taken into account, the toll that can be directly and indirectly linked to the virus pandemic is likely to be more than double the current official count.

[..] Care homes have been running at 10% to 20% staff absence rates and many homes have been trying to isolate residents in their rooms to reduce infection spread, but this can also make their normal care more difficult and residents’ needs less visible.

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Well, if you put them all together and insert known patients, no wonder. Do the same with younger people and you get the same result.

Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)

As Britain edges back to work and employees consider the risks of moving beyond lockdown, official figures underscore that working-age Britons are 34 times less likely to die of coronavirus than over-65s. About 12% of all deaths relating to Covid-19 have occurred among those under 65 – a total of 4,066 deaths. Most victims have been in the over-65 category, accounting for 30,978 fatalities. There have been 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people among the under-65 category, which rises to 286 deaths per 100,000 in the over-65 group, meaning pensioners are 34 times more likely to die of the illness. The contrast is even starker in data concerning those under 45. According to the Office for National Statistics figure, there have been just 401 deaths in this age group – one death for every 100,000 people, or around 1% of the overall death toll.

However, age is just one of the factors that will affect a person’s vulnerability to the virus. Research has shown that ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing health conditions and occupation also contribute to an individual’s risk of dying. The death rate among the working population differs by gender. The death rate for men is 9.9 per 100,000 people and 5.2 per 100,000 women. This may also be driven by the death rate in particular occupations, as some workers appear to be more vulnerable depending on exposure to the virus.

Death rates among some minority ethnic groups are also disproportionately high, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals was more than 2.5 times that of the white population. Guardian reporting also found that areas with high BAME populations tended to have higher death rates.

New data released by the ONS on Monday showed for the first time that people in low-paid manual jobs were at much greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Men in low-paid jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than professionals, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.6 among white-collar male workers, according to the analysis. Jobs which were found to have high death rates included security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers. Commenting on the findings, Professor Neil Pearce, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The observations are almost certainly due to … exposure to people….”

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Probably a lowball, but very far from herd immunity.

Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)

A study led by the Pasteur Institute says a mere 4.4% of the French population – or 2.8 million people – have been infected by the novel coronavirus, much higher than the official count of cases but way too low to achieve so-called “herd immunity”. In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science, researchers say the infection rate in the worst-hit parts of France – the eastern part of the country and the Paris region – is between 9 and 10 percent on average. “Around 65% of the population should be immune if we want to control the pandemic by the sole means of immunity”, the study says. Herd immunity refers to a situation where enough people in a population have immunity to an infection to be able to effectively stop that disease from spreading. The rate of infection was measured by the Pasteur Institute as of May 11, the day when France started to unwind its almost two-month-long national lockdown.


“As of a consequence, our results show that, without a vaccine, the herd immunity alone will not be enough to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Efficient control measures must thus be upheld after May 11”, researchers say. France’s overall death toll from the virus rose to 27,074 on Wednesday, the fifth-highest in the world, and total number of cases officially stood at 177,700, the seventh-highest total. The Pasteur Institute also said the lockdown put in place on March 17 in France led to a drastic decline of the coronavirus’ reproduction rate, going from 2.9 to 0.67 over the 55-day virtual standstill of the country. A Spanish study also published on Wednesday showed similar results, saying about 5% of the country’s population had contracted the disease and that there was no herd immunity in Spain, also emerging progressively for long lockdown.


Large sero-survey in Spain with 60,000 participants shows ~5% of population tested positive for #coronavirus antibodies, 11% in region with highest incidence (Madrid)
1) Infection fatality rate ~1.2%
2) Herd immunity is not an option

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Why then have a law that says you can’t drive through city center at 200 mph? Same difference. “I will not give up my freedom for your safety”.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority. In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.” The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.


The ruling says the judges weren’t challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature. One of the dissenting justices, Rebecca Dallet, said her conservative colleagues in the majority were the ones who were exceeding their authority, and she noted precedent for Palm’s directives — a monthslong stay-at-home order during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history,” she said. “And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.” [..] During oral arguments, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested that the order amounted to “tyranny,” and at another point, she referred to Japanese Americans’ internment during World War II.

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A protest meeting.

72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)

More than 70 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for coronavirus after admitting they attended a ‘large gathering’ in the state – around the same time that thousands of protesters were pictured ignoring social distancing and shunning face masks at a mass anti-lockdown rally. The state’s Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed that 72 individuals who were diagnosed with the deadly virus on or after April 26 had all attended a large gathering not long before their diagnosis. ‘We were able to pull some limited data – out of 1,986 cases with onset/diagnosis on or after 4/26, there were seventy-two cases who reported attending a large gathering,’ DHS spokesperson Jennifer Miller told The Progressive.


Two days earlier on April 24, thousands of protesters gathered outside Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison demanding Democratic Governor Tony Evers reopen the state for business. It marked one of the largest anti-lockdown rallies to take place across the country. At the time there were 5,356 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin and 262 people had died. As of Wednesday, cases have almost doubled to 10,611 and the death toll has reached 418. [..] ‘Possible exposures during protests haven’t been specifically added to the database because we already ask about large gatherings,’ Miller told The Progressive. ‘Contact tracers do ask if patients attended mass gatherings, but not specifically about protests, so there’s really no data on who may have contracted COVID-19 at a protest.’ Miller added: ‘No, it doesn’t specifically state that the 72 were at a rally, but this is the data we have.’

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Right before they go on the ventilator.

36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)

Over a third of patients treated for COVID-19 in a large New York medical system developed acute kidney injury, and nearly 15% required dialysis, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The study was conducted by a team at Northwell Health, the largest health provider in New York state. “We found in the first 5,449 patients admitted, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury,” said study co-author Dr. Kenar Jhaveri, associated chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, whose findings were published in the journal Kidney International. Acute kidney injury occurs when the kidneys fail and become unable to filter out waste. Of those patients with kidney failure, 14.3% required dialysis, Jhaveri said in a phone interview.


The study is the largest to date to look at kidney injury in COVID-19 patients. It may be helpful, Jhaveri said, as other hospitals face new waves of patients with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.3 million people and killed over 295,000 globally. Several groups have noted increased rates of kidney failure among patients with COVID-19. Jhaveri and colleagues set out to quantify it by combing through medical records of 5,449 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March 1 and April 5. They found that kidney failure occurred early on, with 37.3% of patients arriving at the hospital with failing kidneys, or developing the condition within the first 24 hours of being admitted. In many cases, the kidney failure occurred around the time severely ill patients needed to be placed on a ventilator, Jhaveri said.

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Canada’s not doing well.

Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)

The Canadian province of Ontario is allowing its education staff, including teachers and custodians, to voluntarily redeploy into the province’s long-term care homes, the provincial government said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak at just one Toronto-area home alone has killed dozens. Coronavirus deaths in long-term care nursing homes account for 815 of 1,765 total deaths in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, according to provincial data released on Wednesday. Camilla Care Community recorded 56 deaths, according to the home’s owner, Sienna Senior Living, on Wednesday. The regional health authority reported 179 residents and 39 staff have tested positive at the facility.


In March, Ontario closed schools in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, requiring many educators and other staff to leave their jobs. This latest redeployment focuses on training and moving any employees who volunteer into nursing homes. Ontario has previously moved workers from hospitals into long-term care homes, and Wednesday’s announcement expands the province’s support for the facilities, which have been hit hard by the virus. The province also issued an emergency order on Wednesday morning, allowing the provincial government to issue mandatory management orders to any long-term care home struggling to deal with an outbreak.

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Not just care homes, poor parts of town as well.

Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)

Springtime in Montreal is normally a cause for celebration. After the city’s long, arduous winters, people emerge from the confines of their apartments at the first inkling of warmth to lounge in parks and on patios – or terrasses – and enjoy a meal, beverage and the company of friends. Not this year. Montreal, a city touted by tourist guides as “North America’s Europe” for its rich culture and joie de vivre, is Canada’s centre for Covid-19. Of the entire country’s 70,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, the city of 2 million people has 20,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, or about 64% of the entire province’s death toll. Those numbers have catapulted Quebec into an unfavourable position: it is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily coronavirus deaths, according to Quebec newspaper La Presse.


[..] Earlier this month, the province admitted that its effort to manage staffing shortages by moving workers around the long-term care network could be spreading the virus. Montreal North feels the consequences of that. One in five Montrealers infected with Covid-19 are healthcare workers – none of whom are receiving danger pay. In Montreal North, 23% are infected, said community organizer Will Prosper. “It’s these people who are still taking care of us, when not too long ago they were the people who we wanted to kick out,” said Prosper.

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Just a bigger casino.

COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)

The $2.3 trillion CARES Act, the Donald Trump-led rescue package signed into law on March 27th, is a radical rethink of American capitalism. It retains all the cruelties of the free market for those who live and work in the real world, but turns the paper economy into a state protectorate, surrounded by a kind of Trumpian Money Wall that is designed to keep the investor class safe from fear of loss. This financial economy is a fantasy casino, where the winnings are real but free chips cover the losses. For a rarefied segment of society, failure is being written out of the capitalist bargain. This is a fresh take on a long-developing dynamic. Dating to the late Eighties, when then-Fed-chief Alan Greenspan slashed interest rates after the 1987 stock-market crash, there’s been an understanding that the government would be there to help Wall Street back on its feet in hard times.

[..] What’s happening in the COVID-19 crisis is the next step: a financial bubble where the Fed isn’t the cleanup mechanism, but the source of the mania itself. While the real economy is seeing record disruptions, Wall Street has seen prolonged rallies of “rational exuberance” over the Fed’s decision to usher in “QE infinity” and essentially ban losing in finance capitalism. Though this is a Trump bill — El Pompadour is so determined that the CARES Act be remembered as his work, he fought to get his signature on relief checks — it passed unanimously, by voice vote in the House, and 96-0 in the Senate. Talk to Democrats on the Hill and they will tell you this is a bailout to be cheered and supported, nothing like the 2008 rescue. This time is different, the argument goes: Three-quarters of the money goes to real people.

[..] Technically, “only” about $500 billion of the congressionally passed rescue package goes to “big business.” Moreover, the big-business aid ostensibly comes with a range of draconian-sounding conditions barring greedy hijinks, meaning no layoffs, no stock buybacks, no big bonuses, etc., if companies want the handout. The loophole comes via $454 billion created as part of that big-business package. This “emergency fund” will be dumped into a “special-purpose vehicle” used to backstop further lending by the Federal Reserve. That $454 billion is designed to grow by a factor of 10 or more. “We can lever up to $4 trillion,” said Steve Mnuchin, playing the “free-spending Goldman Sachs-trained Treasury secretary” role that apparently is a prerequisite for financial-disaster narratives in modern America.

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Lovely.

FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks. The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot. It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public. “This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it. Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.

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Or should the FBI be held in contempt?

US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)

A U.S. judge on Wednesday signaled reluctance to allow the Justice Department to drop its criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn, tasking a retired judge with advising on whether the former Trump administration official should face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury. In a short written order, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to present arguments in the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. Sullivan said he was seeking Gleeson’s recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury because he testified under oath that he was guilty of lying to the FBI but then reversed course and said he had never lied. Sullivan also said he wanted Gleeson to make the case for why a motion to dismiss the Flynn case filed by the Justice Department last week should be rejected.


The Justice Department’s bombshell May 7 decision to drop its case against Flynn came on the heels of growing pressure from Trump and Trump’s political allies who repeatedly accused the FBI of improprieties in how it handled the investigation. Up until that point, the Justice Department had staunchly defended the FBI’s actions in the case. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russia’s U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. However, later in the case he switched lawyers and tactics, accusing the FBI of tricking him and seeking to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

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Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Patrick M. McLaughlin served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio from 1984-1988 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1984.

Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

For most Americans, it must be absolute confusion trying to decipher truth from non-truth as charges and countercharges are leveled by the Democrats and Republicans, and the media weigh in on the Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn case. My suggestion is to ignore the talking heads and read the DOJ’s 20-page motion to dismiss the criminal information against Flynn, and all the exhibits attached to that motion. Then, you will have the facts necessary to come to an informed opinion. I have done that, so let me give a primer. The DOJ determined that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice” because the interview of Flynn by the FBI was unjustified by the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, since that investigation “had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.’”

The DOJ is unpersuaded that Flynn’s interview “was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis” and does not believe that Flynn’s statements “were material even if untrue.” In addition, in consideration of all the evidence “including newly discovered and disclosed information,” the government doubts that it can prove “either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.” The motion, plus 86 pages of exhibits, provides evidence, at best, of the dereliction of duty by the FBI under James Comey and, at worst, possible criminal misconduct. Only a full disclosure of all relevant information, documents, and testimony under oath by participants will satisfy the right of Americans to have the evidence we deserve in order to form our opinions unfiltered by the talking heads. Let the real facts fall where they may.

[..] When you review the DOJ’s filing, put yourself in Flynn’s shoes and consider how you would feel if the government treated you in the same manner and, to top it off, hid material exculpatory information from your defense team and the court. Overlay on that: How would you handle it if legal fees had wiped you out financially and the agents and prosecutors were threatening to indict a member of your family to pressure you to cave? The conduct of Comey’s FBI, of the Special Counsel, and of some at Main Justice should be placed under the microscope of a truth-seeking, nonpartisan inquiry with the interests of the nation in mind. Find out what happened and why — then fix it.

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Jun 142019
 


Henri Matisse Woman with a hat 1905

 

US Consults Allies On How To Protect Shipping In Wake Of Tanker Attacks (R.)
Julian Assange Is Not On Trial, British Justice Is (Wight)
The Hitlerization of Jeremy Corbyn – Among Others (Hopkins)
US Retirement Savings Gap Grows By $3 Trillion Each Year (MW)
The Fed Is Pushing On A String
The State of the Canadian Debt Slaves (WS)
Canada Rejects Idea Of Halting Extradition Of Top Huawei Executive To US (R.)
Elizabeth Warren To Propose Cancelling Up To $50,000 In Student Debt (MW)
UK Government Blew Billions on “Help to Buy” Scheme (DQ)
Varoufakis, Kotzias And The Dwindling ‘Progressive Army’ (K.)
School’s Purpose is Indoctrination (Carbone)
Carnival Cruise Ships Pollute 10 Times More Than All Cars in Europe (D.)

 

 

There are Japanese ships in the Persian Gulf literally every moment of every day. But Iran only decides to attack them when the first Japanese PM ever(?!) visits the country. Bolton is dementing.

US Consults Allies On How To Protect Shipping In Wake Of Tanker Attacks (R.)

The United States is discussing with its allies a variety of options on how to protect international shipping in the Gulf of Oman in the wake of tanker attacks that Washington has blamed on Iran, senior Trump administration officials said on Thursday. Two officials, speaking to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States wants to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and make sure international commerce is not disrupted. Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman. “We don’t think this is over,” one official said of the possibility of more such attacks. The official said options are being reviewed.


“We’re discussing and will be discussing with our partners and allies suggestions on how we collectively can take steps to ensure, one, that we maintain freedom of navigation and international commerce is not disrupted and, second, that we protect our forces’ interests and our commercial assets and those of our partners and allies,” the official said. The official said the attacks appeared “designed to have a political outcome” and suggested it could have been an attempt to disrupt a visit to Tehran by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “We are going to obviously evaluate our presence in the region and the growing threat and make subsequent decisions,” the official said. “We have to look at the threat, as we always do, to our personnel and our forces but the threat to a strategic chokepoint. There’s a significant amount of trade that transits the Strait of Hormuz every day.”

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Another hearing today.

Julian Assange Is Not On Trial, British Justice Is (Wight)

The most honest man in Britain today is Julian Assange, while the most dishonest are those who are engaged in his ongoing persecution. The latest instalment in that persecution is a court hearing in London on June 14, where details of the request for his extradition to the US, it is expected, will be revealed for the first time. The formal request for the extradition of the founder of WikiLeaks was made to the UK by US authorities earlier in the week – and with British Home Secretary Sajid Javid signing the relevant papers sanctioning it, the final decision on whether Julian Assange’s extradition to the US goes ahead now rests with the courts.

[..] In revealing to the world the beast of US hegemony that resides behind the velvet curtains of democracy and human rights, Julian Assange exposed the lie upon which this American Empire (and make no mistake, it is an empire) depends. It depends on it in order to persuade its supposed beneficiaries – i.e. people living in the West – to continue to suspend disbelief as to the reality of a system they’ve been conditioned to believe is rooted in values that emanate from the human heart rather than from the heart of the machine. The end result is that in exposing this lie, Assange and WikiLeaks became a bigger threat to the ability of US hegemony to function normally than a million bayonets. As such, it became imperative that he, as the founder and face of WikiLeaks, be destroyed.

Britain’s role in this process couldn’t be any more sordid or shameful. Its legal system and judiciary has effectively been turned into a subsidiary of its US counterpart; its function not to dispense justice but to deliver a man into the arms of injustice. The fate to befall Assange proves that there’s a world of difference between believing that you live in a free society and behaving as if you do. He is the canary down the coalmine of Western democracy, signalling the warning that its foundations are rotten to the core.

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“..American Hitler (i.e., Donald Trump) will “push back” (i.e., intervene) against British Hitler (i.e., Jeremy Corbyn)..”

The Hitlerization of Jeremy Corbyn – Among Others (Hopkins)

Apparently, American Hitler and his cronies are conspiring with some secret group of “Jewish leaders” to stop British Hitler from becoming prime minister and wiping out all the Jews in Great Britain. Weird, right? But that’s not the weird part, because maybe American Hitler wants to wipe out all the Jews in Great Britain himself, rather than leaving it to British Hitler … Hitlers being notoriously jealous regarding their genocidal accomplishments. No, the weird part is that everyone knows that American Hitler does not make a move without the approval of Russian Hitler, who is also obsessed with wiping out the Jews, and with destroying the fabric of Western democracy. So why would Russian Hitler want to let American Hitler and his goons thwart the ascendancy of British Hitler, who, in addition to wanting to wipe out all the Jews, also wants to destroy democracy by fascistically refunding the NHS, renationalizing the rail system, and so on?

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? In any event, here’s the official story. In “a recording leaked to The Washington Post,” and then flogged by the rest of the corporate media, Reichsminister des Auswärtigen, Mike Pompeo, told a group of unnamed “Jewish leaders” that American Hitler (i.e., Donald Trump) will “push back” (i.e., intervene) against British Hitler (i.e., Jeremy Corbyn) to protect the lives of Jews in Great Britain if British Hitler becomes prime minister (and is possibly already doing so now). The identities of these “Jewish leaders” have not been disclosed by the corporate media, presumably in order to protect them from being murdered by Corbyn’s Nazi hit squad.

Whoever they were, they wanted to know whether American Hitler and his fascist cabinet were “willing to work with [them] to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews” after Jeremy Corbyn seizes power, declares himself Führer of Communist Britannia, and orders the immediate invasion of France. To anyone who has been closely following the corporate media’s relentless coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult (i.e., the UK Labour Party) and the global Anti-Semitism Pandemic, it comes as no real surprise that this group of “Jewish leaders” (whoever they are) would want to stop him from becoming prime minister. I doubt that their motives have much to do with fighting anti-Semitism, or anything else specifically “Jewish,” but … well, I’m kind of old-fashioned that way. I still believe there’s a fundamental difference between “the Jews” and the global capitalist ruling classes.

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Thanks to the Fed.

US Retirement Savings Gap Grows By $3 Trillion Each Year (MW)

Many Americans haven’t saved as much money as they need for retirement — and the gap is expected to widen dramatically in the next 30 years. The retirement savings gap — between what people have and should have — was $28 trillion in the U.S. in 2015, but by 2050, it’s expected to swell to $137 trillion, according to the World Economic Forum, a Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland-based nonprofit that researched international financial affairs. The disparity grows $3 trillion every year in the U.S.

The organization calculated this gap assuming most individuals’ retirement income sources would include a combination of government-provided pensions (such as Social Security), employer pensions in the public or private workforce and individual savings. They also analyzed the level of savings across expectations of income needs and life expectancies, assuming individuals would retire between 60 and 70 years old, for countries including China, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. The gap is most pronounced in the U.S., followed by China and Japan tied for $11 trillion in 2015. China is also expected to see a significantly wider discrepancy in 2050, at $119 trillion, followed by India, with an $85 trillion gap. Overall, the eight countries the WEF analyzed will see a $400 trillion disparity.

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Velocity of money and inflation.

The Fed Is Pushing On A String (Roberts)

Historically, the reason the Fed cuts rates, and interest are falling, is because the Fed has acted in response to a crisis, recession, or both. [..] Secondly, after a decade of QE and zero interest rates inflation, outside of asset prices, (as measured by CPI), remains muted at best. The reason that QE does not cause “inflationary” pressures is that it is an “asset swap” and doesn’t affect the money supply or the velocity of money. QE remains confined to the financial markets which lifts asset prices, but it does not impact the broader economy.

Unfortunately, the Fed is still misdiagnosing what ails the economy, and monetary policy is unlikely to change the outcome in the U.S., just as it failed in Japan. The reason is simple. You can’t cure a debt problem with more debt. Therefore, monetary interventions, and government spending, don’t create organic, sustainable, economic growth. Simply pulling forward future consumption through monetary policy continues to leave an ever growing void in the future that must be filled. Eventually, the void will be too great to fill.

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Time to start defaulting?

The State of the Canadian Debt Slaves (WS)

Canadian households are known around the world for their uncanny ability to pile on debt. And American debt slaves, who’d gotten trampled during the Great Recession, turn out to be lackadaisical these days in comparison. The share of disposable income (total incomes from all sources minus taxes) that Canadian households spent on making principal and interest payments on their ballooning mortgage debts and non-mortgage debts reached a new record of 14.9% in the first quarter, despite still ultra-low interest rates and despite the highest disposable income ever, according to data released today by Statistics Canada:

[..] So how do Canadian debt slaves stack up against American debt slaves? Statistics Canada released a report on just this topic at the end of March perhaps because authorities in Canada should get a tad nervous. [..] The annualized data it provided included the household debt-to-disposable income ratios for Canada and for the US through 2018. The ratio shows how large debt is relative to disposable income. For Canada, this ratio was 175% annualized in 2018, one of the highest in the world, and rising. For the US, it was 103%, and declining:

Canada’s household debts have continued to surge since the year 2000 except for a brief dip during the Financial Crisis. But US household debts plunged during years of deleveraging after the Financial Crisis, in part by consumers defaulting on their mortgages and credit cards. Household debts didn’t start growing again until 2013. And it took until 2017 before they surpassed the pre-Financial Crisis peak. But over the decade since the Financial Crisis, the US population has grown, and the number of working people has grown, and the national disposable income has increased, and so the ratio of household debt to disposable income has continued to drop.

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“..could make Canadians around the world less safe..”

Canada Rejects Idea Of Halting Extradition Of Top Huawei Executive To US (R.)

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday dismissed a suggestion that Ottawa block the extradition of a top executive from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to the United States, saying it would set a dangerous precedent. Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on U.S. fraud charges in Vancouver last December, will challenge Washington’s extradition request at hearings that are set to begin next January. China angrily demanded Canada release Meng and detained two Canadians on spying charges. It has also blocked imports of Canadian canola seed and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he fears further retaliation.


The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday said former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien had floated the idea of the government intervening to stop the extradition case and thereby improve ties with Beijing. “When it comes to Ms Meng there has been no political interference … and that is the right way for extradition requests to proceed,” Freeland told a televised news conference in Washington. “It would be a very dangerous precedent indeed for Canada to alter its behavior when it comes to honoring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure,” she added, saying to do so could make Canadians around the world less safe.

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And what about all the others?

Elizabeth Warren To Propose Cancelling Up To $50,000 In Student Debt (MW)

Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to cancel student debt will soon be one step closer to reality — even if she doesn’t become president. The Democratic Senator of Massachusetts plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that mirrors her presidential campaign proposal to cancel at least a portion of the student debt held by many of the nation’s 44 million borrowers, her Senate office announced Thursday. Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the house majority whip, will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Warren’s office hasn’t yet released a draft of the legislative text, but the bill is slated to propose cancelling up to $50,000 in student debt for the bulk of student loan borrowers, her office said.


Under the proposal Warren released as part of her presidential campaign in April, borrowers with a household income of less than $100,000 would have $50,000 of their student debt cancelled and borrowers with an income between $100,000 and $250,000 would be eligible for some student debt cancellation — though not the full $50,000. Borrowers earning $250,000 or more would receive no debt cancellation. Her campaign estimated the plan would cost $640 billion, which would be paid through a tax on the ultra-wealthy. The idea of student debt cancellation has been popular in some circles for years, but Warren’s campaign proposal nudged it into the mainstream. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent seeking the Democratic nomination, has vowed to cancel “massive amounts of student debt,” though hasn’t offered specifics.

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All governments blow housing bubbles.

UK Government Blew Billions on “Help to Buy” Scheme (DQ)

Here’s how the scheme works: First-time property buyers get to put down a deposit of as little as 5% on a new-build home worth as much as £600,000 ($761,000) and receive an “equity loan” from the government. The size of the loan varies depending on where borrowers live. In London, where the price of property is an order of magnitude higher than in most other places, buyers can receive as much as 40% of the property price. Across the rest of the country the upper limit is 20%. The rest of the financing is covered by a traditional mortgage. While Help to Buy may have had a limited effect in terms of making housing affordable for first time buyers who are genuinely priced out of the market, it has proven to be effective at sustaining the UK’s all-important housing bubble by jacking up the prices of new-build houses, resulting in even less affordable housing.


Since Help to Buy was first launched in 2013, average UK house prices have increased by 35%, from £167,000 to £226,000, according to the Office for National Statistics. Through the scheme, the government has so far issued around 211,000 loans worth £11.7 billion ($14.8 billion) to home buyers. According to the NAO, this has helped increase sales of new-build properties from 61,357 a year in 2013-14 to 104,245 a year in 2017-18. That, in turn, has helped fuel a spike in profits for the UK’s biggest home builders. The nine largest builders dished out £2.3 billion in dividends in their most recent financial year, 39 times greater than the £53 million they paid out in 2012, a year before the scheme was introduced.

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Greeks have had enough of ‘left’; look what it brought them.

Varoufakis, Kotzias And The Dwindling ‘Progressive Army’ (K.)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been blindsided and thrown completely off his game plan. His narrative of a “progressive army” and a fresh rally of forces for elections “that will determine the future” is coming under constant attack. The Progressive Alliance was intended to move SYRIZA closer to the center so that it could resonate more strongly with the broader “progressive” section of voters – though what constitutes progressive and conservative in today’s world is a matter of debate – and to more fully acquire the characteristics of one of the two pillars of the two-party system, pushing center-left Movement for Change to the sidelines.

Tsipras’ plan, however, has been scuppered by two developments in the broader area of the Left, which are of significant symbolic importance and may affect the balance of power. What he hopes to achieve in the next few weeks is to convince many of the voters who chose not to vote in the European elections and who are mainly former supporters of SYRIZA to return to the fold and put their weight behind the big battle against the “socially insensitive, neoliberal” Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the opposition New Democracy party. His path in this ambitious plan, however, is littered with obstacles. The first was the surprisingly strong performance of Yanis Varoufakis’ DiEM25 party in the European elections, which shook things up.

There is now a party to the left of SYRIZA that is pro-European and has a leader with what a leftist voter might see as a convincing position. Moreover, he is neither Zoe Constantopoulou nor Panagiotis Lafazanis. He is a TV star who is in a position to boost his popularity thanks to his strong social media presence. It is also quite likely, if not certain, that he will make it into Parliament next month, and not just by scraping by with 3 percent. You can say a lot about Varoufakis, but what is certain is that he represents the thinking of a significant portion of the people who voted for SYRIZA in January 2015. He exercises charm over this portion of voters, and this is something that will be evident at the polls.

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Has been true for a very long time. Still poorly written though.

School’s Purpose is Indoctrination (Carbone)

The near sole purpose of present-day academia is indoctrination. This is a fairly bold thesis, but the evidence is in its favor. The increasingly progressive leftist agenda is sweeping through academia and conservatives are passively watching it happen. The main indoctrination stories you hear are those of radical professors on college campuses, outlandish majors created to forward social justice movements, and, on occasion, a political outburst by a high school teacher. Although these issues need addressing, by far the biggest – and the one that should scare everyone the most – is the silent indoctrination.


Indoctrination is no longer dependent upon the political beliefs of teachers. We are now past that. Course material is blatant political propaganda. Not just the course material for gender studies and similar. The core curricula of grade school through college. Sciences, economics, literature – any core course you can think of is politically influenced. The only course that may still be an exception is mathematics. Unless you account for the left-wing system of common core – which is a complete disaster. If you don’t believe this, sit through a grade school math class or open up your child’s text book. Disaster.

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But who ever measures sulfur oxides?

Carnival Cruise Ships Pollute 10 Times More Than All Cars in Europe (D.)

Commercial cruise lines are some of the world’s worst polluters, and Carnival is near the top of that list according to a study of European cruise line operators. Research found that Carnival alone is responsible for almost 10 times as much sulfur dioxide release as all 260 million of Europe’s cars combined. The study from Transport & Environment says that the 203 cruise ships that operated in European waters in 2017 emitted a combined total of 62 kilotons of sulfur oxides (SOx), which form airborne gases known to cause lung cancer and acid rain. During the same period, Europe’s 260 million known registered vehicles let out just 3.2 kilotons, the study found.

Of these 62 kilotons of SOx, more than half allegedly were the product of the 47 ships operated by Carnival Cruise Lines or its subsidiaries. Of the 20 worst offenders, seven are Carnival properties, which together made up half of the industry’s SOx emissions in Europe. Carnival denied any wrongdoing when asked for comment by Fast Company, pointed the finger at the rest of the maritime transportation industry, and insinuated that the study’s methodology was unscientific. [..] This statement arrived days after Carnival agreed to a $20 million fine and undergo increased scrutiny of its plastic and sewage disposal practices, which included dumping both directly into the ocean in large quantities. Carnival allegedly tried to hide these activities from regulators by falsifying records or pressuring the United States Coast Guard to relax the terms of its environmental compliance agreement.

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Jun 042019
 


Henri Matisse Still Life with Apples on Pink Cloth 1925

 

Repeal the Espionage Act (FFF)
Swedish Court Rejects Request To Detain Julian Assange (G.)
US Moving Toward Major Antitrust Probe Of Tech Giants (R.)
Tech Stocks Crushed by Potential “Unprecedented, Wide-Ranging Probe” (WS)
Amazon and Facebook Both Want To Read Human Emotions (Kesel)
House To Vote Next Week On Whether To Find Barr, McGahn In Contempt (R.)
The Zeitgeist Knows (Kunstler)
New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Referendum (TNE)
Canadian Inquiry Calls Deaths Of Indigenous Women ‘Genocide’ (R.)
The Great Insect Dying (Hance)
Arctic Is Thawing So Fast Scientists Are Losing Their Measuring Tools (TO)
High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End in 2050 (Nafeez Ahmed)

 

 

A good place to start.

Repeal the Espionage Act (FFF)

World War I is the gift that just keeps on giving. Although the U.S. government’s intervention into this senseless, immoral, and destructive war occurred 100 years ago, the adverse effects of the war continue to besiege our nation. Among the most notable examples is the Espionage Act, a tyrannical law that was enacted two months after the U.S. entered the war and which, unfortunately, remained on the books after the war came to an end. In fact, it is that World War I relic that U.S. officials are now relying on to secure the criminal indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks head who released a mountain of evidence disclosing the inner workings and grave wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. national-security establishment, especially with respect to the manner in which it has waged it undeclared forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Some news media commentators are finally coming to the realization that if the Espionage Act can be enforced against Assange for what he did, it can be enforced against anyone in the press for revealing damaging inside information about the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Therefore, they are calling on the Justice Department to cease and desist from its prosecution of Assange. Of course, they are right, but the problem is that they don’t go far enough. Their mindsets reflect the customary acceptance of the status quo. The mindset is that we Americans simply have to accept the way things are and plead with the government to go easy on us.

That’s just plain nonsense. It is incumbent on the American people to start thinking at a high level, one that doesn’t just accept the existence of tyrannical laws and instead calls for their repeal. [..] Wilson had to force American men to fight in World War I. He conscripted them. Enslaved would be a better word. When a government has to force its citizens to fight a particular war, that’s a good sign that it’s a bad war, one that shouldn’t be waged. In fact that was one of the reasons for the Espionage Act—not to punish people for spying but rather for criticizing the draft and the war. The law converted anyone who publicly criticized the draft or attempted to persuade American men to resist the draft into felons. And make no mistake about it: U.S. officials went after such people with a vengeance, doing their best to punish Americans for doing nothing more than speaking.

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The only thing that makes any sense is to close the case immediately.

Swedish Court Rejects Request To Detain Julian Assange (G.)

An attempt to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden has suffered a setback after a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevents Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its grant of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.

The 47-year-old Australian was too ill to appear last week at the latest hearing at Westminster magistrates court in relation to a rival US extradition request. US government lawyers are seeking his removal to the US where he is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years. He also faces additional charges of violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks. If both Sweden and the US present competing extradition requests, it will be up to the UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, to decide which application takes priority. At the Swedish court on Monday, a judgment was read out saying that since Assange was already in a British prison he did not need to be formally detained to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors.

“As Julian Assange is currently serving a prison sentence, the investigation can proceed with the help of a European investigation order, which does not require Julian Assange’s detention (in Sweden). The court therefore does not find it proportional to detain Julian Assange,” the judgment said. Assange’s Swedish defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, argued that Assange’s imprisonment in Britain meant there was no flight risk. “He is in prison for half a year at least, and he is detained on behalf of the United States. So there is no point detaining him in Sweden too,” Samuelson said.

Responding to the ruling, the Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said: “The investigation continues with interviews in Sweden. I will also issue a European investigation order in order to interview Julian Assange. No date has been set yet. We will constantly review the state of the investigation.” Before the judgment, the prosecutor confirmed that if the court granted her request she intended to issue a European arrest warrant for Assange “concerning surrender to Sweden”.

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May take years.

US Moving Toward Major Antitrust Probe Of Tech Giants (R.)

The U.S. government is gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google misuse their massive market power, sources told Reuters on Monday, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which enforce antitrust laws in the United States, have divided oversight over the four companies, two sources said, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department.


With jurisdiction established, the next step is for the two federal agencies to decide if they want to open formal investigations. Results are not likely to be quick. A previous FTC probe of Google took more than two years. Technology companies face a backlash in the United States and across the world, fueled by concerns among competitors, lawmakers and consumer groups that the firms have too much power and are harming users and business rivals. Shares of Facebook Inc fell 7.5% on Monday while Google’s owner Alphabet Inc shed more than 6%. Amazon.com Inc shares fell 4.6% and Apple Inc dipped 1%.

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Pretty wild swings.

Tech Stocks Crushed by Potential “Unprecedented, Wide-Ranging Probe” (WS)

It’s a rare moment in recent years that US government regulators are suddenly going after four tech and social media giants simultaneously – Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple. These four companies are part of my FANGMAN index that also includes Microsoft, Nvidia, and Netflix. The index dove 4.3% today, the biggest percentage decline since the infamous 4.6% drop on December 24, 2018. In terms of dollars, $137 billion in market capitalization was wiped out. Over the past four trading days the FANGMAN index has dropped by 6.6%. I highlighted today’s move in red (market cap data via YCharts):

The index has gone through some brain-twisting surges and plunges over the past two years. It peaked on August 31, 2018 (at $4.63 trillion), then plunged 29% by December 24 (to $3.29 trillion), then exploded 40% higher by April 29. But that day, at $4.61 trillion, it failed to take out the August high. And then the selling started. Since April 29, the FANGMAN index has dropped 14.0%, or by $645 billion in market cap, giving up 49% of the post-Christmas rally in just five weeks.

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And here’s that Orwell guy again.

Amazon and Facebook Both Want To Read Human Emotions (Kesel)

Facebook and Amazon’s insanity only seems to continue with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Now, the two big conglomerate giants want to move into the uncharted territory of reading human emotions, both in their own ways. Facebook wants a robot that has five senses which can read human emotions. Facebook wants “emotionally sensitive” robots that can explore the world, identify objects and people and enable its users to make more friends, Dailymail reported. The robots would be fitted with wheels or tank-like caterpillar treads that would allow them to trundle about their environment. Alternatively, such robots could be fitted out with drive systems that would allow them to move around underwater, fly through the air or float in space, Facebook suggest in their patent.


I am not sure why anyone would trust Facebook with data ever again, let alone biometric data, after all the numerous scandals Activist Post has documented including data mining. But to each their own I guess. Amazon is also looking into reading human emotions in a completely different way by utilizing a voice-activated wearable device, that will sense its wearer’s state of mind by the tone of voice, Bloomberg reported. It’s worth noting that both companies have a smart home device, and after reading this you should fear what information is being gathered by the cameras and microphones attached to those electronics … besides the typically targeted advertising to turn consumers into the product.

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The Democrats need to hurry with that impeachment plan, lest ‘the other side’ starts handing out indictments.

House To Vote Next Week On Whether To Find Barr, McGahn In Contempt (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the No. 2 House official said on Monday. “Next Tuesday, I will bring a resolution to the House floor forcing Attorney General Barr and former White House counsel McGahn to comply with congressional subpoenas that have been duly issued by the House Judiciary Committee,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement. “The resolution will authorize the Judiciary Committee to pursue civil action to seek enforcement of its subpoenas in federal court,” said Hoyer, a Democrat.


The House move escalated the fight between the Republican White House and Democrats who control the House and are seeking documents and testimony relating to various investigations, ahead of the 2020 presidential election in which President Donald Trump is seeking a second term. The House Judiciary Committee voted on May 8 to recommend that the full House cite Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, for contempt of Congress after he defied its subpoena to hand over an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on 2016 Russian election interference. Democrats had also subpoenaed McGahn to testify before the Judiciary Committee last month, but he did not appear after the White House directed him not to comply.

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“Everybody’s broke, one way or another, even though they are up to their eyeballs in products designed to fall apart in a few years.”

The Zeitgeist Knows (Kunstler)

Who said the global economy was a permanent installation in the human condition? The head cheerleader was The New York Times’s Tom Friedman, with his 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the trumpet blast for the new order of things. Since then, we partied like it was 1999, with a few grand mal seizures of the banking system along the way, some experiments in creating failed states abroad, and the descent of America’s middle-class into a Disney version of Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgment — which is kind of what you see on the streets of Los Angeles these days.

Guess what: the global economy is winding down, and pretty rapidly. Trade wars are the most obvious symptom. The tensions underlying that spring from human population overshoot with its punishing externalities, resource depletion, and the perversities of money in accelerated motion, generating friction and heat. They also come from the fact that techno-industrialism was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end — and we’re closer to the end than we are to the middle. There will be no going back to the prior party, whatever way we pretend to negotiate our way around or through these quandaries.

The USA-China romance was bound to end in divorce, which Mr. Trump is surreptitiously suing for now under the guise of a negotiated trade rebalancing. The US has got a chronic financial disease known as Triffin’s Dilemma, a set of disorders endemic to any world reserve currency. The disease initially expressed itself in President Nixon’s ditching the US dollar’s gold backing in 1971. By then, the world had noticed the dollar’s declining value trend-line, and threatened to drain Fort Knox to counter the effects of holding those dollars. Since then, all world currencies have been based on nothing but the idea that national economies would forever and always pump out more wealth.

It turns out that they pump out more debt in the pursuit of that chimerical wealth until the economic viziers and banking poohbahs begin to declare that debt itself is wealth — and now all the major players around the world are choking to death on that debt, especially the USA and China, but also Japan and the dolorous commune known as the EU. Everybody’s broke, one way or another, even though they are up to their eyeballs in products designed to fall apart in a few years. Better learn how to fix stuff, especially machines, because a lot of it won’t be replaced going forward.

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Explosive.

New Poll Finds 61% Would Back Remain In A Second Referendum (TNE)

New polling has found that 61% of those who would vote in a second referendum would vote to Remain in the European Union. The YouGov survey for KIS Finance found that between the choice of Theresa May’s Brexit deal or remaining in the EU, 61% of those who confirmed they would vote stated they wanted the UK to stay in the European Union. When a no-deal scenario is added into the mix, 53% of people would vote to Remain, while 34% would vote for no-deal, and just 12% would vote for Theresa May’s deal. The research also uncovered that 1 in 10 have put off important financial decisions, such as buying their first home, moving house, spending money on home improvements, investing and making major purchases such as a car, until the future of Brexit is clear. In London this figures rises to 1 in 5 who have delayed key financial decisions as a direct result of Brexit.

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No words. How can a country allow this to happen?

Canadian Inquiry Calls Deaths Of Indigenous Women ‘Genocide’ (R.)

The deaths in Canada of more than a thousand aboriginal women and girls in recent decades was a national genocide, a government inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women concluded in a report on Monday. The 1,200-page report, which resulted from an inquiry launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in 2016, blamed the violence on long-standing discrimination against indigenous people and Canada’s failure to protect them. It also made sweeping recommendations to prevent future violence against indigenous women. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed in 2014 that 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012.


The inquiry, which was beset by delays and staff resignations, opened painful wounds as it heard testimony from 468 family members of missing or murdered women. “This colonialism, this discrimination and this genocide explains the high rates of violence against indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA people,” Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry, said at a ceremony held to present the report. The 2SLGBTQQIA group refers to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people. “An absolute paradigm shift is required to dismantle colonialism in Canadian society. And this paradigm shift must come from all levels of government and public institutions,” Buller said.

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“To assess the range of scientific opinion, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists working on six continents, in more than a dozen countries, to better determine what we know, what we don’t, and, most importantly, what we should do about it. This is part one of a four-part exclusive series by Mongabay senior contributor Jeremy Hance.”

The Great Insect Dying (Hance)

Humans like to think we run the world, believing in our omnipotence. But while we shape and engineer — make, muddle and destroy — we are not, according to scientists, the world’s ultimate controllers. That role clearly falls to insects, “the little things that run the world,” as E.O. Wilson, the world’s pre-eminent entomologist, told us back in 1987. Insects may be tiny, but they are mighty and superabundant. British entomologist and ecologist C.B. Williams once estimated a population of one million trillion insects on Earth at any given time. They are everywhere that there is land and sky — intimately involved with everything.


Mirror image? Two look-alike insects photographed in Southeast Asia. Image by Tan Ming Kai

Insects tend to every square centimeter of living soil; they aerate and fertilize; they breakdown the billions of bits of organic debris and waste that other Earth residents produce, disposing of everything from leaf litter to elephant dung. Insects are the original recyclers, digesting dead wood and dead bodies. They also reside at the base of the food chain, feeding tens of thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish — and, by extension, us. More than 300,000 known plants are pollinated by animals, most of them insects.


It’s estimated that all the world’s arthropods, a group that includes insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes and crustaceans, weigh 17 times more than the planet’s 7.5 billion humans. Take away this vast mass of crawling, fluttering, skittering insects — comprising maybe 90 percent of all animal species — and you’re truly staring planetwide ecological breakdown in the eye. Waste will pile up; soil will shed nutrients without replacement; animals will starve; and potentially hundreds of thousands of plant species will vanish. Extinction would stalk the land like a famished beast, and the future of humanity would be at stake.


The Schoenherr blue weevil (Eupholus schoenherrii) is a spectacular blue and turquoise beetle from New Guinea. Image by Rhett Butler/Mongabay

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Tools swallowed up by thawing soil.

Arctic Is Thawing So Fast Scientists Are Losing Their Measuring Tools (TO)

Greenland is melting much faster than previously understood, as melting has increased six-fold in recent decades, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We wanted to get a long precise record of mass balance in Greenland that included the transition when the climate of the planet started to drift off natural variability, which occurred in the 1980s,” study co-author Eric Rignot told CNN. “The study places the recent (20 years) evolution in a broader context to illustrate how dramatically the mass loss has been increasing in Greenland in response to climate warming.”

Rignot added, “As glaciers will continue to speed up and ice/snow melt from the top, we can foresee a continuous increase in the rate of mass loss, and a contribution to sea level rise that will continue to increase more rapidly every year.” The study also shows how sea level rise is accelerating, and will continue to do so with each passing year, as the effects compound upon themselves. On that note, Indonesia recently announced it will be moving its capital city of Jakarta, partly due to the sinking of the land and sea level rise. This is a city of 10 million people.

Permafrost in the Arctic is now thawing so fast that scientists are literally losing their measuring equipment. This is due to the fact that instead of there being just a few centimeters of thawing each year, now several meters of soil can become destabilized in a matter of days. Adding insult to injury, another study revealed that this permafrost collapse is further accelerating the release of carbon into the atmosphere, possibly even doubling the amount of warming coming from greenhouse gases released from the tundra. Already in Greenland, the ice sheet’s melt season began about a month early while in Alaska, several rivers saw winter ice break up on their earliest dates on record.

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It’s life, captain, but no longer as we know it.

The headline may look crazy, but Nafeez is not a crazy man.

High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End in 2050 (Nafeez Ahmed)

A harrowing scenario analysis of how human civilization might collapse in coming decades due to climate change has been endorsed by a former Australian defense chief and senior royal navy commander. The analysis, published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, describes climate change as “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” and sets out a plausible scenario of where business-as-usual could lead over the next 30 years. The paper argues that the potentially “extremely serious outcomes” of climate-related security threats are often far more probable than conventionally assumed, but almost impossible to quantify because they “fall outside the human experience of the last thousand years.”

On our current trajectory, the report warns, “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.” The only way to avoid the risks of this scenario is what the report describes as “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization”—but this time focused on rapidly building out a zero-emissions industrial system to set in train the restoration of a safe climate.

The scenario warns that our current trajectory will likely lock in at least 3 degrees Celsius (C) of global heating, which in turn could trigger further amplifying feedbacks unleashing further warming. This would drive the accelerating collapse of key ecosystems “including coral reef systems, the Amazon rainforest and in the Arctic.” The results would be devastating. Some one billion people would be forced to attempt to relocate from unlivable conditions, and two billion would face scarcity of water supplies. Agriculture would collapse in the sub-tropics, and food production would suffer dramatically worldwide. The internal cohesion of nation-states like the US and China would unravel.

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“If we are (almost) the only animal with a sense of justice, it is because we also are (almost) the only animal with a sense of cruelty.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

 

Apr 142019
 


Edward Hopper The Sheridan Theatre 1937

 

Draghi Worries About Fate Of Fed’s Independence (MW)
The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)
UK Tories Face European Elections Drubbing (Ind.)
Corbyn Told To Promise Final Say Referendum (Ind.)
It’s The UK Political System, Not Just MPs, That Is Failing (G.)
UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception (Cook)
American Values: Embassies Are For Chopping Up Journalists (McDonald)
Assange Is In The Dock, But Investigative Journalism Is On Trial (Crikey)
The Obvious Dirty Dealings Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest (OG)
Anonymous Attacks Continue Against Ecuadorian Government Websites (Cassandra)

 

 

Independence from what? Reality?

Draghi Worries About Fate Of Fed’s Independence (MW)

Concerns about central-bank independence are on the rise.Take, for example, the cover of this week’s edition of the Economist. And while not solely a U.S. concern, a steady stream of complaints by President Donald Trump about the Federal Reserve’s earlier string of interest-rate hikes and his announcement he would nominate Stephen Moore and Herman Cain — both widely criticized as unqualified and likely to act at the behest of the White house on policy decisions — to the central bank’s governing board have sparked fears the central bank’s policy independence could be at risk. (Four Republican senators have said they would vote against Cain if he were formally put forward, likely sinking his chances.)

On Saturday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi appeared to take notice: ‘I’m certainly worried about central bank independence in other countries, especially…in the most important jurisdiction in the world.’ Draghi’s remarks, as reported by Reuters, came at a news conference at the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington. They also marked a rare instance of a central banker opining about the operations of a foreign central bank. “If the central bank is not independent, then people may well think that monetary policy decisions follow political advice rather than objective assessment of the economic outlook,” said Draghi.

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Amid all the loud news, both Canada and Australia are slipping fast.

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada Deflate (WS)

Canada’s housing markets barely dipped during the Financial Crisis when US housing markets ran into deep trouble, causing the Mortgage Crisis that begat all kinds of other crises. Canadian homeowners and banks watched the mess from across the border and shook their heads. But now, after an 18-year housing boom, the downturn has arrived in Vancouver and Toronto, among the formerly hottest housing bubbles in the world.


The Teranet-National Bank House Price Index tracks single-family house prices, based on “sales pairs,” similar to the S&P CoreLogic Case Shiller index for US housing markets. It compares the sales price of a house in the current month to the prior sale of the same house years earlier. Using “sales pairs” eliminates the issues that affect median-price indices. But the median-price data for Vancouver is a lot more disconcerting than the Teranet data. So let’s compare how Vancouver’s housing bubble stacks up against the legendary but now also deflating housing bubble in San Francisco.

House prices in the Greater Toronto Area fell 0.3% in March from February and are down 4.3% from the peak in July 2017, the steepest 20-month decline since May 2009. From January 2002 through the peak in July 2017, the index soared 218% — meaning that house prices more than tripled. But that pales compared to Vancouver, where house prices more than quadrupled. I converted this Teranet index for Toronto house prices to “percent-change since January 2002” and overlaid the insane mind-boggling housing bubble in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it shows just how majestic the 18-year Toronto housing bubble has been:

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European elections in Britain do seem surreal.

UK Tories Face European Elections Drubbing (Ind.)

The Conservatives are facing a humiliating defeat at the European elections next month after support for the party slumped to its lowest level since 2013, according to a new poll. The survey shows the Tories on just 28 per cent when it comes to general election voting intention – a four-point fall which leaves them trailing Labour on 32. When voters were asked which party they will vote for at the European elections, Theresa May’s party languished on 16 per cent, eight points behind Labour on 24. In a clear sign support for the Conservatives is crumbling over the failure to deliver Brexit, 56 per cent of people who voted to leave at the 2016 referendum said they would back Ukip or Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party during next month’s vote.


The Brexit Party is on 15 per cent, while Ukip stands at 14 per cent when it comes to European voting intention, the YouGov poll for The Times indicated. By comparison, the Lib Dems and the Greens are both on 8 per cent, while Change UK has 7 per cent support. No 10 is still hoping to get a deal through parliament in time to avoid participation in the European elections on 23 May. But the UK is formally on track to hold the poll, having informed the EU authorities ahead of Friday’s deadline that it would be taking part. Boris Johnson’s backers have suggested he may not even campaign on behalf of his party next month in an effort to show his displeasure at the UK’s involvement. “Boris won’t campaign in European elections. He believes the prospect of the UK fielding candidates is utterly preposterous,” a source told The Times.

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Something only a small group wants. But then, that’s true of all Brexit issues and ‘solutions’.

Corbyn Told To Promise Final Say Referendum (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn is under intense pressure from within his shadow cabinet to give a strong commitment to a new Brexit referendum as part of Labour’s European election campaign offer. A string of senior shadow ministers are advocating a new public vote, alongside MPs from the left and right of the party, buoyed by a groundswell of support from the membership. The Independent understands Labour is now beginning the process of drawing up its manifesto with those wanting to give the public a final say on Brexit pushing the leader to make a strong bid for the Remain vote on polling day. Mr Corbyn’s team is currently engaged in talks with the Conservatives in an effort to find a Brexit compromise deal that can enjoy majority support in the House of Commons, with a referendum having been discussed during the negotiations.


The leader’s office emphasised that decisions on the manifesto were yet to be discussed, with the party simultaneously defending its majorities against the pro-Remain Change UK party run by Labour defectors and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party. One shadow cabinet source told The Independent: “We can’t credibly agree to any deal unless there is a confirmatory referendum attached to it. “We should be telling people about that, the support is there to be had.” The European elections are set to become a rerun of the 2016 referendum campaign with parties positioning themselves along the Brexit spectrum from Leave to Remain.

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Party before country.

It’s The UK Political System, Not Just MPs, That Is Failing (G.)

Brexit has prompted a recurring nightmare among an increasingly incredulous population: our very own Groundhog Day. Two weeks after the EU granted us an 11th-hour extension to prevent us crashing out without a deal, we are back in exactly the same position. The only thing standing between us and next Friday’s cliff edge is the hope the EU gifts us another extension. Meanwhile, the political turmoil engulfing the country worsens, the two main parties increasingly consumed by division and disarray and the political leadership we so desperately need to avert crisis as elusive as ever. It’s hard to believe that the Westminster model of democracy was one prized by constitutional theorists for the stability it purportedly delivers. As the stakes get higher, our political system has proved less and less capable of delivering a resolution to the gridlock that has infected Westminster.

Brexit has been a story of the favouring of party management over the national interest. From the very beginning, Theresa May’s approach to Brexit – from her premature decision to trigger article 50 to her red lines on freedom of movement and the customs union – has been driven not by a strategy to unite the country in the wake of a divisive referendum but to keep her Brexit ultras on side. Only now it has become clear that there are MPs in her party so fanatically dogmatic that they would rather hold out for no deal than vote for her deal has she opened compromise talks with Labour. But Labour emerged from the talks on Friday complaining that no changes to the political declaration were on offer, suggesting that this move may have been more about trying to lay blame for any further delay on the opposition.

Labour’s strategy has been no less determined by party interest. Jeremy Corbyn has kept a position of barely credible ambiguity for as long as possible to avoid alienating any of its voters. Labour has maintained the charade that it could deliver a Brexit deal that delivers all the benefits of EU membership with none of costs. And Labour has failed to provide any leadership support for a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal, with the shadow cabinet split on the issue. Time is running out for Labour to decide once and for all whether it will properly swing its weight behind a referendum. Thanks to the mess the Tories are in, Corbyn is in a position of power, if he only chooses to use it.

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Another excellent essay from Jonathan Cook.

UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception (Cook)

[..] the public conversation in the UK, sympathetically reported by the Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange. Here’s the first paragraph of the Guardian front-page article: “Political pressure is mounting on [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape.” So the concern is not that Assange is facing rendition to the US, it is that the US claim might “overshadow” an outstanding legal case in Sweden. The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.

First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first. It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes. But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative. The Swedish claim, if it is revived, is an entirely separate matter.

[..] In another article on Assange on Friday, the Guardian – echoing a common media refrain – reported as fact a demonstrably false claim: “Assange initially took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.” There could be no possible reason for its reporters to make this elementary mistake other than that the Guardian is still waging its long-running campaign against Assange, the information revolution he represents and the challenge he poses to the corporate media of which the Guardian is a key part.

[..] Assange was previously wanted for questioning, and has never been charged with anything. If the Swedish extradition request is revived, it will be so that he can be questioned about those allegations. I should also point out, as almost no one else is, that Assange did not “flee” questioning. He offered Swedish prosecutors to question him at the embassy. Even though questioning overseas in extradition cases is common – Sweden has done it dozens of times – Sweden repeatedly refused in Assange’s case, leading the Swedish appeal court to criticise the prosecutors. When he was finally questioned after four years of delays, Swedish prosecutors violated his rights by refusing access to his Swedish lawyer.

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First amendment anyone?

American Values: Embassies Are For Chopping Up Journalists (McDonald)

202310Fair-minded people across the world have rightly condemned the US-ordered arrest of Julian Assange. However, few have noted how it fits part of a pattern of American hypocrisy when it comes to the treatment of journalists. Only six months ago, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and hacked to pieces by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. He was a columnist at the Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the Al-Arab News Channel, known for his sharp criticism of the illegal US-backed Saudi war on Yemen. Despite a CIA conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome assassination, President Donald Trump stood by his ally and no meaningful sanctions or penalties were directed towards Riyadh.


Turkey itself remains a NATO member, and close US partner, despite holding more journalists behind bars than any other nation on earth. This figure stood at 68, at the end of last year, around one-quarter of the global total of 251. Now we have the indictment of Assange, which seeks to criminalize basic functions of journalism. For instance, keeping sources anonymous or deleting records of conversations. Indeed, it also appears to be a breach of America’s own First Amendment. He has been targeted by Washington for exposing evidence of appalling atrocities, carried out by the US military, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, as a result, Assange sought sanctuary in the small London embassy of Ecuador. What followed was relentless pressure on Quito to reverse the asylum it granted the Wikileaks founder and it culminated in his arrest.

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“That would forestall extradition for long enough for Jeremy Corbyn to become PM, at which point extradition would be refused. But it may be just all screaming chaos.”

Assange Is In The Dock, But Investigative Journalism Is On Trial (Crikey)

Team Assange had a defence on the jumping bail thing: “Your honour, my client had a reasonable fear that from remand he would be extradited to the US.” That was received reasonably. “Also that the previous presiding judge Lady Arbuthnot, did not recuse herself …” That was not. “You had ample time to raise this issue, and now you are traducing the reputation of a fine judge…” Snow went on. I thought of Peter Cook’s great monologue of the summing-up of the Jeremy Thorpe trial: “You have ruined the reputation of one of the most pretty defendants.” Once Assange had been found guilty of skipping bail, it got even weirder. “Your situation is a product of your narcissism,” said the magistrate clearly riled. He did not want the situation of Justice Lady Arbuthnot further explored. I am happy to do so.


Lady Arbuthnot, who ruled on the lawfulness of Assange’s continued criminalisation in the UK in 2015, is the wife of Lord Arbuthnot, a Conservative who has held multiple defence industry posts over the last two decades. This sally got short shrift, but it seemed to me intended to do so. Although when I asked a member of the legal team how it had all gone, they said “well, you saw that shit show in there”. So perhaps not. Assange is now on remand awaiting sentencing for the fleeing bail charge — the Magistrates Court having transferred it to the Crown Court, so a larger maximum sentence of 12 months instead of six, can be awarded. Is that a plan too? That would forestall extradition for long enough for Jeremy Corbyn to become PM, at which point extradition would be refused. But it may be just all screaming chaos.

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“Of course, the idea that Moreno is handling the economy brilliantly, but somehow also needs over $10 billion dollars in loans is never addressed.”

The Obvious Dirty Dealings Behind Julian Assange’s Arrest (OG)

The US has been planning to have Julian Assange handed over for a longtime, that much is obvious. Mike Pence, the Vice President, was visiting Ecuador last year, notionally to discuss the Venezuela situation, and trade. But it was fairly obvious at the time, and even more so now, that they were discussing the details of Assange being handed over to UK authorities, and eventually extradited to the US. “Trade”, indeed. In terms of quid pro quo, the situation is clear-cut – In February, Ecuador got a $4.2 BILLION loan approved by the International Monetary Fund (amongst other pay-outs). Reuters reported on February 19th of this year:

“Ecuador has reached a $4.2 billion staff-level financing deal with the IMF, President Lenin Moreno said on Wednesday, as the Andean country grapples with a large fiscal deficit and heavy external debt. The country will also receive $6 billion in loans from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF Andean development bank…” So, less than 2 months ago, it was announced Ecuador was going to receive over 10 billion dollars of loans. Where all that money will eventually end up is anyone’s guess, it certainly isn’t being spent on infrastructure or state enterprise: “Moreno has begun to implement an austerity plan that includes layoffs of workers at state-owned companies and cuts to gasoline subsidies, also plans to find a private operator for state-run telecoms company CNT and other state-owned firms.”

President Moreno has already been the subject of numerous corruption accusations. So these “loans”, nominally for “[creating] work opportunities for those who have not yet found something stable”, could more realistically be described as “a pay-off”. More than just money, Lenin Moreno has been gifted something all insecure third-world leaders crave: Western approval. The Economist ran a story on April 12th, the day after Assange was arrested, praising Lenin Moreno’s economic policies, and blaming the previous administration for the “mess” that Moreno has to clear up. (Of course, the idea that Moreno is handling the economy brilliantly, but somehow also needs over $10 billion dollars in loans is never addressed. A tiny logical contradiction compared with the nonsense the MSM dish-up on a daily basis).

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Expect it to be used against Assange.

Anonymous Attacks Continue Against Ecuadorian Government Websites (Cassandra)

Over 30 websites belonging to the Ecuadorian government are now offline — some of them defaced — in protest of the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The hackers are calling their efforts #OpEcuador, and are also promoting #OpUS and #OpUK. The United States and United Kingdom have not yet been hit with any cyber attacks, that we know of. It is important to note that none of this was directed by WikiLeaks or Assange himself. Supporters are acting on their own with the attacks. A data dump from the hackers warns that “Ecuador Government websites has been taken #Offline with 1 Direct attack. There are few most important websites that’s still down at this time. If some of their servers comes up again, we will fire again to take them down!”

Websites that have been hit include the Central bank of Ecuador, their Ministry of Interior, the Ecuadorian Assembly in UK and the main website for the Government of Ecuador — mot of which had been down for over twelve hours by Saturday evening. The hackers primarily appear to be speaking and coordinating in Spanish — though one of the data dumps was in Indonesia. A Twitter account belonging to the hackers stated that if the websites come back online they will “burn their servers.” The hacking group also called for other supporters to join them.


An InfoSec expert and Assange supporter who has been monitoring the situation told the Gateway Pundit that he is concerned that the attacks will be used against Assange by the media. “My opinion is that it’s deserved karma, but it could enable the anti-Assange media to divert attention away from Julian’s value to journalism by wrongly associating him with reckless hacktivism culture.” He also expressed concern about there being collateral damage within the large data dumps that are being posted online. Other supporters expressed similar concerns, though many still agreed that the attacks are warranted.

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Mar 042019
 


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

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Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

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Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

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This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

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25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

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Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

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You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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Feb 222019
 


Salvador Dali The ghost of Vermeer of Delft which can be used as a table 1934

 

US Housing Market In Freefall As New Buyers Can’t Afford A Home (ZH)
Canadians Continue To Plunder Equity From Their Homes (ZH)
Bursting Of Australia’s Housing Bubble Could Topple The Government (ZH)
EU Expects May to Request Three-Month Delay to Brexit (BBG)
Theresa May Warned Dozens Of Tories Could Rebel Over No-Deal Brexit (BBC)
Record Surplus Gives UK Pre-Brexit Boost (G.)
Anti-Semitism Is Cover For A Much Deeper Divide In UK Labour Party (Cook)
Macron Calls Anti-Zionism A Form Of Antisemitism (Ind.)
Philadelphia Sues Seven Big Banks For Bond Collusion (RT)
FBI Lawyer Reveals Infiltration In Trump Campaign (ET)
Judge Imposes Sweeping Gag Order On Roger Stone (MW)
Hungary Takes ‘Hundreds Of Venezuelan Refugees With Hungarian Ancestry’ (Ind.)
Julian Assange Gets A New Australian Passport (SMH)
US Cities Burn Recyclables After China Bans Imports (G.)
World Food Supply Under ‘Severe Threat’ From Loss Of Biodiversity (G.)

 

 

Meanwhile in the real world that central bankers don’t want you to see:

US Housing Market In Freefall As New Buyers Can’t Afford A Home (ZH)

[..] with consensus expecting a tiny rebounding in January following December’s sharp drop, the deterioration in the US home market continued, and January existing home unexpectedly dropped 1.2% (exp. +0.2%), to 4.94 million, missing expectations of a rebound to 5.00 million. After December’s revision higher to 5.00 million, the January SAAR of 4.94 million was the first sub-5MM print since 2015, while the parallel pending home sales series confirms even more weakness is in store. Needless to say, it is very troubling that Americans are unable to afford home purchases with the 30% mortgage at just 4.5%, and suggests that even if inflation picks up, the Fed may have no choice but to keep rates flat to avoid a housing market crash.

As usual, NAR chief economist Larry Yun was optimistic, saying that he does not expect the numbers to decline further going forward. “Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low. Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.” One wonders what “gains in household income” he is talking about. Meanwhile, properties are failing to sell as the slowdown spreads: Properties remained on the market for an average of 49 days in January, up from 46 days in December and 42 days a year ago. Thirty-eight percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

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“Vancouver [..] saw home sales fall about 40% in January from the same month a year earlier.”

Canadians Continue To Plunder Equity From Their Homes (ZH)

Canadians are accelerating the rate at which they borrow cash against their homes, despite the fact that the real estate market is slumping in the country. This exposes the country’s financial system to obvious vulnerabilities, according to rating company DBRS and Bloomberg. Home equity lines of credit in Canada reached a record $184.5 billion (USD) as of October 31, which equates to 11.3% of total household credit. This is the highest share since mid 2015, according to a report released last Thursday. Canadians are drawing on their home’s equity to fund everything from home renovations to car purchases. And they’re doing it so quickly that borrowing has grown faster than mortgages since 2017.

Analyst Robert Colangelo, who published the report on Thursday, commented: “The flexibility of Helocs could increase financial system vulnerabilities. In the event of a correction, borrowers could find themselves with a debt load that exceeds the value of their home, which is often referred to as negative equity.” Obviously, home equity lines of credit can decrease visibility for lenders to identify credit problems as consumers use the equity in their homes to consolidate high interest loans and unsecured debt into one lump sum at a lower rate. Out of all of the Canadian banks, Toronto Dominion bank has the largest exposure to Helocs at about 39%, followed by Royal Bank of Canada which has 18% exposure. Other large banks are averaging 11% exposure, according to the report.

And the timing for Helocs to grow couldn’t be worse. Toronto’s real estate market continues to feel pain. Sales of new homes in the city fell to the lowest in almost 2 decades in 2018 and a glut of unsold condominiums continue to pile up, according to a Building Industry and Land Development Association report released February 1. Vancouver, still feeling the deflationary effects of a foreign real estate bubble popping, saw home sales fall about 40% in January from the same month a year earlier.

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People aged 65-74: A$566,000 wealthier in 2015-16 than the same age group was 12 years earlier. People aged 25-34: A$38,000.

That could topple a lot more than only a government.

Bursting Of Australia’s Housing Bubble Could Topple The Government (ZH)

In one of the world’s most developed economies, soaring costs for housing and education are rapidly widening the wealth-distribution gap between the younger and older generations amid the backdrop of one of the longest economic expansions in the country’s history. As younger workers grapple with the notion that they may never be able to afford a home, a backlash is stirring in the political arena, as younger voters embrace progressive (some would say “socialist”) politicians. No, we’re not talking about the US. We’re talking about Australia. After six years of tumultuous Liberal rule, the Labour Party is hoping to wrest back control of the government during elections later this year.

And it sees tackling this intergenerational divide as the best way to do it. And combating the country’s increasingly unaffordable housing bubble is a key plank of its proposals. The party has pledged to curb tax breaks for property investors that helped drive up home prices (alongside an influx of foreign capital). Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to scrap tax refunds worth A$5 billion ($3.6 billion) a year for share investors. The benefits are already being seen in the polls, where Labour is seeing a slight advantage. After 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth, Australians are struggling with the fact that the wealthy have enjoyed the bulk of the economic benefits.

While Australia has avoided recession for 27 years, the spoils have not been shared evenly as older people capture a greater share of the nation’s wealth. According to the Grattan Institute, households headed by people aged 65-74 were on average A$566,000 wealthier in 2015-16 than the same age group was 12 years earlier. That far outstrips growth in other bands and compares with just A$38,000 for the 25-34 age group. [..] While Sydney’s median house price is still more than A$900,000 [..] prices have already fallen 12% since their mid-2017 peak.

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Doesn’t she want to run down the clock?

EU Expects May to Request Three-Month Delay to Brexit (BBG)

The European Union expects U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to be forced to request a three-month delay to Brexit, two EU officials said. Discussions between the two sides suggest May will ask for an extension to the two-year negotiating period if the British Parliament backs the Brexit deal but it isn’t signed off until an EU summit on March 21-22. That is emerging as the EU’s current plan. The EU sees this as a “technical extension” to give British Parliament time to pass necessary legislation related to its departure from the bloc. Anything longer than three months would put the U.K. under pressure to take part in European elections on May 23-26, something that both sides are keen to avoid.

May is racing against the clock to change a controversial part of her deal, known as the “backstop,” in a way that would be acceptable to both the U.K. Parliament and the EU. However, with just five weeks to go until the U.K.’s scheduled departure from the EU and talks at an impasse, ministers and lawmakers in her own party are threatening to vote against her next week to give Parliament control of the process. The prime minister has repeatedly spoken out against a delay, saying she wants to take the U.K. out of the EU as scheduled at the end of March. She’s never completely ruled it out, however. Any postponement would have to be requested by the U.K. and accepted by all the remaining 27 EU governments.

EU officials say the three-month extension would happen under their most optimistic scenario. The risk remains that the U.K. could leave the bloc March 29 without a deal. Alternatively, May could be forced to contemplate a longer delay if she can’t get backing for the agreement, according to one official.

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Chances that Parliament will vote her deal through are slim.

Theresa May Warned Dozens Of Tories Could Rebel Over No-Deal Brexit (BBC)

Dozens of normally loyal Conservative MPs could rebel against the government in a bid to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit, Downing Street has been warned. Leaders of the Brexit Delivery Group of both Leavers and Remainers say MPs may back alternatives if Mrs May’s reworked deal cannot command a Commons majority. Co-chairman Andrew Percy told the BBC more than 30 may try to block no deal. The government says “productive” talks in Brussels aimed at addressing MPs’ concerns continue “urgently”. The UK remains on course to leave the European Union on 29 March. But the government has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of the UK leaving without a formal deal, in the event that Mrs May cannot get MPs to approve the deal she negotiated with Brussels in time.

Many MPs fear that scenario would be damaging to business and cause chaos at ports. However, Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs insist the “no-deal” option must be preserved as negotiating leverage in Brussels. Mr Percy told the BBC members of his group were becoming “tired” of the ERG’s refusal to back the prime minister. In a letter to government whips, he and co-chairman Simon Hart write: “Not only does this risk damaging the national interest, but also… we are putting in jeopardy the very thing many colleagues have spent decades campaigning for; our exit from the European Union.”

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The wonders of strip-mining social programs.

Record Surplus Gives UK Pre-Brexit Boost (G.)

Britain has recorded the biggest-ever monthly surplus in public finances since the early 1990s, putting the government on a strong footing in the run-up to Brexit, now less than 40 days away. In a rare piece of positive economic news for Philip Hammond as he prepares for his spring statement next month, income from taxes outstripped public spending by £14.9bn, the biggest January surplus since records began in 1993. Although January is typically a surplus month for the exchequer because of seasonal trends in the payment of taxes, the Office for National Statistics said last month’s surplus was £5.5bn larger than a year ago. Income and capital gains tax receipts increased by 14%, twice the average growth rate earlier in the year.

Combined, the income from self-assessed income taxes and capital gains tax receipts was £21.4bn, the highest in January since comparable records began in 2000. The data comes after several disappointing months for the chancellor, as borrowing came in worse than forecast. Government borrowing for the first 10 months of the financial year has, however, fallen almost by half, as tax receipts have been much stronger than expected. The exchequer has borrowed about £21.2bn this year so far, £18.5bn lower than at the same point a year ago, and the lowest since the 10 months to January 2001. The latest update means the government could be on track to reduce the deficit – the gap between spending and tax income – close to its target of £25.5bn set by the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is 39% less than in 2017-18.

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Who in the party will defend Corbyn?

Anti-Semitism Is Cover For A Much Deeper Divide In UK Labour Party (Cook)

The announcement by seven MPs from the UK Labour Party on Monday that they were breaking away and creating a new parliamentary faction marked the biggest internal upheaval in a British political party in nearly 40 years, when the SDP split from Labour. On Wednesday, they were joined by an eighth Labour MP, Joan Ryan, and three Conservative MPs. There are predictions more will follow. With the UK teetering on the brink of crashing out of the European Union with no deal on Brexit, the founders of the so-called Independent Group made reference to their opposition to Brexit. The chief concern cited for the split by the eight Labour MPs, though, was a supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in the party.

The breakaway faction seemingly agrees that anti-semitism has become so endemic in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader more than three years ago that they were left with no choice but to quit. Corbyn, it should be noted, is the first leader of a major British party to explicitly prioritise the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s continuing belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories. Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who has highlighted what she sees as an anti-semitism problem under Corbyn, led the charge, stating at the Independent Group’s launch that she had reached “the sickening conclusion” that Labour was “institutionally racist”. She and her allies claim she has been hounded out of the party by “anti-semitic bullying”.

[..] The timing of the defections was strange, occurring shortly after the Labour leadership revealed the findings of an investigation into complaints of anti-semitism in the party. These were the very complaints that MPs such as Berger have been citing as proof of the party’s “institutional racism”. And yet, the report decisively undercut their claims – not only of endemic anti-semitism in Labour, but of any significant problem at all. That echoed an earlier report by the Commons home affairs committee, which found there was “no reliable, empirical evidence” that Labour had more of an anti-semitism problem than any other British political party. Nonetheless, the facts seem to be playing little or no part in influencing the anti-semitism narrative. This latest report was thus almost entirely ignored by Corbyn’s opponents and by the mainstream media.

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Macron gambles that he can silence the Yellow Vests with antisemitism smear.

Macron Calls Anti-Zionism A Form Of Antisemitism (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has declared anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism as he ramps up France’s crackdown on racism against Jewish people. Speaking at the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Mr Macron said a surge in antisemitic attacks in his country had not been seen since World War Two. He promised a new law to tackle hate speech on the internet and said France would adopt the definition of antisemitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA definition does not use the phrase “anti-Zionism” but does say denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination “e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour,” is antisemitic.

Some critics of Israel, its occupation of territory internationally recognised as Palestinian, and its isolation of the Gaza Strip, say they risk being unfairly branded antisemitic, although the IHRA definition says: “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country” is not. Mr Macron’s words were well received from the World Jewish Congress which said: “This is just the beginning of a long road ahead. Adopting this definition of anti-Semitism must be followed by concrete steps to encode into law and ensure that this is enforced.”

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Stop suing the banks. Sue their execs instead.

Philadelphia Sues Seven Big Banks For Bond Collusion (RT)

The city of Philadelphia is suing Bank of America and six other major banks for conspiring to manipulate the rates of municipal bonds, illegally making millions of dollars while depriving the city of funds for public services. Pennsylvania’s largest city, with over 1.5 million residents, filed the complaint late on Wednesday in the federal court in Manhattan. The city accuses Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo of colluding to manipulate rates of variable-rate demand obligations (VRDO), of which Philadelphia has issued over $1.6 billion-worth. The fees the banks collected, in violation of federal antitrust laws, have deprived Philadelphia and other jurisdictions of critical funding for public services, the lawsuit claims.

According to the court documents, the banks are already being criminally investigated by the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, while the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has contacted four of the defendants with questions about their conduct. The lawsuit claims that phone and email records will show that the banks agreed not to compete with each other for VRDO remarketing services between February 2008 and June 2016, resulting in artificially high rates and banks collecting fees “for doing, essentially, nothing.”

Similar lawsuits are already being litigated in Massachusetts, California, Illinois and New York, accusing major banks of conspiring to “robo-reset” the rates of state VRDOs without any considerations for the local markets or investor demand, violating the requirement to market and price the bonds at the lowest possible interest rates. Plaintiffs in those four lawsuits are seeking to recover over $1 billion in fees, ranging from $100 million in Massachusetts and $349 million in Illinois to $719 million in California, while the New York numbers have not been made available yet.

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Some things are impossible to properly summarize in a few lines. Read the whole thing at Epoch Times.

And again: the US needs a Special Counsel for this. The FBI cannot be a state within the state.

FBI Lawyer Reveals Infiltration In Trump Campaign (ET)

A key player in the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign was Trisha Anderson, who, at the time, was the No. 2 lawyer at the agency’s Office of General Counsel. Despite having no specific experience in counterintelligence before coming to the FBI, Anderson was, in some manner, involved in virtually all of the significant events of the investigation. Anderson told members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in August last year during closed-door testimony that she was one of only about 10 people who had known about the Trump–Russia investigation prior to its official opening.

A transcript of Anderson’s testimony, which was reviewed for this article, reveals that she had read all of the FBI’s FD302 forms detailing information that the author of the Steele dossier, former British spy Christopher Steele, had provided to high-ranking Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr. Anderson also told lawmakers that she personally signed off on the original application for a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page without having read it. The FBI relied heavily on the unverified information in the Steele dossier—which was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee—to obtain the FISA warrant.

Anderson also was part of a small group of FBI personnel who got to read then-FBI Director James Comey’s memos about conversations he had with President Donald Trump. Besides the investigation into Trump, Anderson also was involved in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton for sending classified information using a private server. Anderson’s testimony reveals that she received the original referral from the inspectors general for both the State Department and Intelligence Community on Clinton after hundreds of classified emails had been found on her server. Her testimony also raises questions as to whether then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict of interest.

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Get the impressions Stone’s getting bored sitting at home.

Judge Imposes Sweeping Gag Order On Roger Stone (MW)

A judge imposed a sweeping gag order on Roger Stone, the former political adviser to President Donald Trump, after he created an Instagram post of the judge presiding over his criminal case next to an image that appeared to show the crosshairs of a gun. Stone told the judge at a hearing Thursday he made an “egregious error.” The new gag order prevents Stone from making any public comments on the case or investigation other than to solicit funds for his legal defense. If Stone violates the new gag order, his bond will be revoked and he’ll be detained. “There will not be a third chance,” District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said.

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I had no idea.

Hungary Takes ‘Hundreds Of Venezuelan Refugees With Hungarian Ancestry’ (Ind.)

Hungary has accepted around 300 refugees from crisis-hit Venezuela, according to media reports from the country – surprising observers of its usually anti-immigration government. The refugees, who are thought to have Hungarian ancestry, are understood to have been welcomed into the country with the tacit support of the Orban administration and the help of the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta. The news has come as a surprise in the conservative central European state, given the anti-immigration stances and refugee crackdowns of premier Viktor Orban.

“We are speaking about Hungarians and we do not consider Hungarians migrants,” Mr Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, told a press conference in response to the report. Confirming that the programme began in April 2018, he added: “They, like any other Hungarian, have a right to return home.” A controversial law passed by the Orban government last year restricted the activities of NGOs and charities that provide assistance to migrants. The law was de facto targeted at those groups helping people arriving by land from the Middle East and Africa. The Hungarian opposition seized on the latest developments, claiming the government was acting hypocritically.

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He got it back in October apparently, so no big immediate change.

And Center Alliance Senator Patrick having asked for the passport only so Julian can give himself up to the UK police doesn’t help either.

Julian Assange Gets A New Australian Passport (SMH)

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official confirmed in a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that Mr Assange’s 2018 application for a new passport had been accepted. Consular and Crisis Management Division first assistant secretary Andrew Todd said, “Mr Assange does have an Australian passport”. [..] The department is understood to have issued Mr Assange with his new passport in October. A DFAT official at an estimate’s hearing in October said Mr Assange’s passport application had “not been rejected”. But absolute confirmation that he has actually received a new passport did not come until Thursday’s heading. DFAT officials told the estimates hearing they had no knowledge of legal proceedings against Mr Assange in the United States.

Documents show Mr Assange’s UK-based lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, applied for a new passport on his behalf in mid-2018. DFAT replied that it was of the belief that Mr Assange’s entitlement to a passport may be affected by ongoing legal proceedings in the United Kingdom. “Specifically, we understand you may be the subject of an arrest warrant in connection with a ‘serious foreign offence’ within the meaning of section 13 of the Australian Passports Act 2005,” DFAT replied. “In order to progress your application, we require confirmation that section 13 is not enlivened by your circumstances. To this end, we ask that you provide us with confirmation that section 13 no longer applies to you. Until this time, your passport application will remain on hold.”

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who has pursued Mr Assange’s right to a passport in recent estimates hearings, said that, given Mr Assange’s failing health, the best thing would be for him to leave the Ecuador embassy and face the British justice system over breaching his bail conditions. After that, he should return to Australia, Senator Patrick said.

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“Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24% higher..”

US Cities Burn Recyclables After China Bans Imports (G.)

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins. But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government. It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse. The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.

About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says. [..] Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64% higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24% higher, according to state health statistics. The dilemma with what to do with items earmarked for recycling is playing out across the US. The country generates more than 250m tons of waste a year, according to the EPA, with about a third of this recycled and composted.

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Monoculture ‘R’ Us. You add it all up, the soil is poisoned, the food is poisoned, vertebrates are disappearing, insects are going gone, and how much longer for the human species?

World Food Supply Under ‘Severe Threat’ From Loss Of Biodiversity (G.)

The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates. The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals. Over the last two decades, approximately 20% of the earth’s vegetated surface has become less productive, said the report, launched on Friday. It noted a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested.

Many species that are indirectly involved in food production, such as birds that eat crop pests and mangrove trees that help to purify water, are less abundant than in the past, noted the study, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries. It found 63% of plants, 11% of birds, and 5% of fish and fungi were in decline. Pollinators, which provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops, are under threat. As well as the well-documented decline of bees and other insects, the report noted that 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats and birds, were threatened with extinction. Once lost, the species that are critical to our food systems cannot be recovered, it said. “This places the future of our food and the environment under severe threat.”

“The foundations of our food systems are being undermined,” wrote Graziano da Silva, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in an introduction to the study. “Parts of the global report make sombre reading. It is deeply concerning that in so many production systems in so many countries, biodiversity for food and agriculture and the ecosystem services it provides are reported to be in decline.” Agriculture was often to blame, he said, due to land-use changes and unsustainable management practices, such as over-exploitation of the soil and a reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other agro-chemicals. Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include overexploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change.

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Dec 092018
 
 December 9, 2018  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Edouard Manet Berthe Morisot with a bouquet of violets 1872

 

Incoming House Judiciary Chair Planning To End Probe Into FBI, DOJ (ZH)
France Is The New Tax Hell In Europe And Beyond (RT)
Paris Under Siege As Gilets Jaunes Open ‘Act IV’ – 4th Weekend Of Protest (O.)
No Hope Of Success And No Plan B – But Theresa May Won’t Blink (O.)
UK Cabinet Splits Over Second Referendum On Brexit Deal (G.)
Majority Of UK Now Wants To Remain In The EU – Poll (Ind.)
Theresa May Warns Of ‘Uncharted Waters’ Ahead Of Key Vote (BBC)
EU Will Negotiate If May Loses Commons Brexit Vote – Prodi (G.)
China Threatens Canada With ‘Grave Consequences’ If Huawei CFO Not Freed (R.)
Putin Doesn’t Rule Out Extending Turkish Stream Pipeline Into Greece (RT)
COP24 Fails To Adopt Key Climated Change Report (BBC)

 

 

But of course. Let’s invite more chaos in.

Incoming House Judiciary Chair Planning To End Probe Into FBI, DOJ (ZH)

During a break during former FBI Director James Comey’s heated closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill on Friday, incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler confirmed to reporters what many had already suspected: That Nadler (and probably his fellow Democratic leaders) would put the kibosh on the House’s investigation into alleged political bias at the highest levels of the FBI and DOJ as they launched an investigation into the Trump campaign – an investigation that eventually morphed into the Mueller probe. While Democrats prepare to ramp up investigations into everything from Trump’s “war on the media” to his involvement in his family business, Nadler told a group of reporters that he intends to end the House Judiciary Committee’s involvement in the Congressional probe as soon as he takes the reins next year.

Asked why he intends to end the committee’s involvement in the probe, Nadler responded that “it was a waste of time to begin with” and a “distraction” from the real-wrong doing here – that is, lawbreaking committed by Republicans, according to the Hill. “Yes, because it is a waste of time to start with,” Nadler said in response to a question about whether he would end the probe. Nadler characterized the Republican investigation as a political sideshow that aims to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. “The entire purpose of this investigation is to be a diversion of the real investigation, which is Mueller. There is no evidence of bias at the FBI and this other nonsense they are talking about,” he continued.

If the House investigation into suspected FBI malfeasance is just a “sideshow”, as Nadler claims, how would he explain the fact that the FBI knew the allegations contained in the Steele dossier – the linchpin of the FBI’s FISA warrant application that kicked off the Russia probe in earnest – were bogus before applying for surveillance? Or the many conflicts of interest between senior FBI officials involved with the probe (Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and, yes, Comey himself) – or the fact that McCabe was fired following after the DOJ’s inspector general confirmed that McCabe had lied under oath to try and conceal the fact that he told an FBI spokesman to leak a story about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation just days before the election. McCabe could still face criminal charges from his lies. But Congress’s attempt to hold the FBI accountable is just a “distraction?”

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Not unimportant when it comes to the yellow vests.

France Is The New Tax Hell In Europe And Beyond (RT)

While the dust has not yet settled in the streets of Paris, after sweeping protests against fuel tax hikes, it just so happens that France has taken the crown from Denmark as the most taxed country in 2017, the OECD found. Among the 34 developed members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Emmanuel Macron leads the nation with the highest tax-to-GDP ratio, the organization reported. France leads with 46.2% of GDP against the average of 34.2% of other members, thus dropping the long-standing leader in the rating, Denmark.

The Scandinavian country’s numbers, meanwhile, shrank to 46%, down by 0.2 since last year. Sweden, Italy, and Greece round out the top five, while Mexico is the last on the list at 16.2%. Notably, tax revenues for OECD member states, on average, reached historically high levels in 2017, rising to 34.2% of GDP. It is up only slightly from 34%, the previous peak recorded by the organization in 2016.

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Quite the series of demands. But hard to gauge how much support they have; there are not leaders or anything.

Paris Under Siege As Gilets Jaunes Open ‘Act IV’ – 4th Weekend Of Protest (O.)

A charter of gilets jaunes’ “suggestions to end this crisis” has been circulating on Facebook. While far from “official” – the movement has no agreed representatives – it does illustrate the diverse, and sometimes contradictory, nature of their demands:

Economy/work A full review of taxation, with no citizen to be taxed at more than 25% of income; an immediate 40% increase in the minimum wage, pensions and benefits; “mass hirings” in the state sector to restore quality of services in hospitals, schools, etc; 5m new homes; make banks “smaller”.

Politics France’s constitution to be rewritten “by the people and for the interests of the people”; lobbying to be banned; France should leave the EU; recover €80bn lost to tax evasion each year; halt and/or reverse all privatisations; removal of “useless” speed cameras; reform of education system, removal of all “ideologies”; quadruple budget of judicial system, which must be simplified, free and accessible for all; break up media monopolies and end cosy relationship between media and the political class; open media up to the people.

Health/environment 10-year guarantee on products to end planned obsolescence; ban plastic bottles; limit power of pharmaceutical companies; ban GM foods, carcinogenic pesticides, monoculture; reindustrialise France to reduce imports and therefore pollution.

Geopolitics Pull France out of Nato and foreign wars; end the plunder of French-speaking Africa; prevent migration flows that cannot be welcomed or integrated given current “civilisational crisis”; scrupulous respect for international law and engagements.

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Tuesday is the big vote in the Commons. May looks certain to lose big. So, chaos in France AND the UK. Where are Britain’s yellow vests anyway?

No Hope Of Success And No Plan B – But Theresa May Won’t Blink (O.)

For several weeks Theresa May has been holding private meetings in Downing Street and the Commons with MPs [..] She has used all her powers of persuasion to try to win them around ahead of Tuesday’s historic “meaningful vote” on her deal. Tory whips have tried to cajole their wavering backbenchers day and night, arguing the case for the May deal and reminding the more ambitious among them where their best career interests lie. Two weeks ago May made the campaign a national one – writing directly to the people of Britain and asking them to put more pressure on their MPs to support her. A special Tory website called Back the Brexit Deal was launched by the party to rally grassroots Tories behind the cause, with limited success.

Constituency chairmen were lobbied heavily, too. Ominously for the prime minister, however, the ultra-hard sell has achieved almost nothing. Some Tories even think it has had the reverse effect to that intended – making people focus in more detail on her deal than they would have done, only for them to conclude they could never back it. One senior Conservative said the party machine had deployed every resource it could muster but had failed totally. “Whether it is our backbenchers, or the party faithful, or the public, it is the same. If anything, I think the whole ‘going to the country thing’ has made things worse.”

[..] By this weekend more than 100 backbench Tory MPs had declared themselves ready to vote against May’s deal. Surveys of Tory members show they are against, too, by a big majority. After a dreadful week in which May’s government was found to be in contempt of parliament for refusing to publish the full legal advice on Brexit, the chief whip, Julian Smith, has been telling No 10 that it is on course for a huge defeat. [..] More junior members of the government are rumoured to be ready to quit before Tuesday because they can’t live with the deal as it is. With two days to go, there is no sign May is ready to delay, change course or blink at all. One senior Tory said: “If she has a plan B, no one knows what it could be. It looks like a crisis with no solution. She seems ready to march on into the gunfire.”

Labour is keen to make out that Tuesday’s vote will be tighter than everyone expects. It is desperate to promote this view in case May limits a defeat to far less than 100. [..] But with all but a handful of the 257 Labour MPs, the entire block of 35 SNP members, all but one of the 11 Liberal Democrats, and the 10 DUP members set to vote against it – and more than 100 Tories on record as being opposed – the arithmetic points to a far worse outcome for the prime minister.

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Divisions everywhere. And opportunism. If you’re in the Cabinet, and May loses real bad, what’s your political future?

UK Cabinet Splits Over Second Referendum On Brexit Deal (G.)

A deep cabinet split has opened up over whether Theresa May should back a second referendum in a final attempt to end the political deadlock over Brexit, as senior Conservatives predicted on Saturday night that her blueprint for leaving the EU was heading for a crushing House of Commons defeat. Adding to a mounting sense of constitutional crisis ahead of Tuesday’s crucial parliamentary vote, No 10 is braced for more resignations of ministers and aides who want another referendum, or who believe May’s deal fails to deliver on Brexit. Will Quince, the Colchester MP and aide to the defence secretary Gavin Williamson, quit his post on Saturday night in protest at the Brexit deal.

Cabinet ministers have told the Observer that attempts to convince May to delay the vote to avoid one of the largest and most humiliating defeats in recent parliamentary history had not been heeded. This was despite what they saw as a clear danger that such a result could provoke a leadership challenge and split the party irrevocably. Some cabinet ministers now believe that May is so wedded to her Brexit deal that her only method of gaining approval will be through another referendum – and that the arguments for a second vote are emerging as stronger than those for a soft Brexit. The prime minister has so far refused to entertain any idea of a second public vote.

One cabinet source said it might prove to be the only way of saving May’s deal and her reputation. “She is so committed to her deal, and a second referendum could now be the only way of getting it. The polls have been remarkably stable for a while, but there does seem to be some kind of movement [to Remain], and that could well develop in the coming days and weeks.”

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1,500 people is not a large enough poll.

Majority Of UK Now Wants To Remain In The EU – Poll (Ind.)

A majority of the country now think Britain should remain inside the European Union, according to a new poll released days before the critical Brexit vote in parliament. The exclusive research for The Independent shows that, as of this month, 52% favour staying in the trading bloc. The data from pollsters BMG Research reveals support for remaining has grown month by month since the summer, and broke past 50% in December as the complex realities of Brexit were brought home to the country. The poll also revealed that almost half of people think the withdrawal agreement settled by Theresa May is a “bad deal” for Britain, with around as many saying MPs should reject the deal outright when they take the critical decision on Tuesday.

The BMG Research study lays waste to any hope that a concerted publicity drive, which has seen Ms May and her ministers tour the country to persuade people of its merits, has been a success. Instead it shines a light on the deep divisions that still exist, with none of the immediate alternative paths beyond Ms May’s plan – a second referendum, a Norway-style relationship or no deal – enjoying majority support. [..] In a further development ex-European Commission president Romano Prodi said Brussels could renegotiate the deal if MPs vote against it, creating the opportunity for Ms May to seek further concessions.

[..] When BMG asked some 1,500 respondents, “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union”, 52% said “remain”, 40% said “leave”, six% said they did not know and one% refused to say. The remain option has been in the high 40s most of this year, but from September to October it rose one point and then another point to 49% in November, meaning it rose three points in December to its current level. When respondents were asked whether they believed the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the future relations secured by Ms May are a “good deal” or a “bad deal”, 49% chose the latter. Just over one in ten, 13%, said it was a good deal,

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As in something to fear. Whereas her party strangling the poorer is not.

Theresa May Warns Of ‘Uncharted Waters’ Ahead Of Key Vote (BBC)

With two days to go until the crucial Brexit vote, the prime minister has warned MPs they face “uncharted waters” if they reject her deal. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the PM said a rejection of her proposals would mean “grave uncertainty” for the UK. She warned MPs their actions could lead to a general election, and there was a “very real risk of no Brexit”. Downing Street has also denied newspaper suggestions that Theresa May could postpone Tuesday’s vote. “The vote is going ahead,” a spokesman said. Last month, the UK agreed a Brexit deal with the EU – but it still needs to be approved by Parliament. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the DUP, and dozens of Conservative MPs have said they cannot support the deal, meaning it is unlikely to pass.

If the deal is rejected, it is unclear what happens next – with Mrs May insisting her deal was best for the country. “When I say if this deal does not pass we would truly be in uncharted waters, I hope people understand this is what I genuinely believe and fear could happen,” Mrs May said. “It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal. “We have a leader of the opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election, no matter what the cost to the country. “As someone who cares passionately about my country and my party, I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

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Who asked Prodi?

EU Will Negotiate If May Loses Commons Brexit Vote – Prodi (G.)

The EU will come back to the negotiating table if parliament votes down Theresa May’s deal with Brussels, according to Romano Prodi, a former European commission president. Prodi, who twice served as Italian prime minister and had Jean-Claude Juncker’s job until 2004, said that the EU needed to do everything it could to avoid the “economic catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit. On signing an agreement with the British prime minister last month, Juncker described the draft withdrawal treaty and accompanying political declaration on the future relationship as “the deal – the only deal possible”.

May has also said there is no scope for any further negotiation in Brussels if her deal is rejected when it comes to a vote in the Commons on Tuesday, and that the consequence of it being rejected would be “no deal or no Brexit”. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, described those who believed there could be a renegotiation as “delusional”. But in an interview with the Observer, Prodi suggested it would still be possible to find a negotiated settlement in the increasingly likely event May suffers a heavy defeat in the Commons.

Asked how he expected the commission to respond after the vote, Prodi said: “Negotiate. We must keep free trade between us because it is in the British interests and European interest. The UK has no alternative – the EU is a large part of its trade. Always the problem of Northern Ireland, but it is possible. Common sense helps.” On the EU’s insistence there could be no more negotiations, Prodi added: “Look, when the British parliament has still to vote you are obliged to be in this position. But then of course the day after you start dealing. This is politics.”

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And Canada will seek to blame the US.

China Threatens Canada With ‘Grave Consequences’ If Huawei CFO Not Freed (R.)

China has warned Canada there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Huawei’s chief financial officer, calling the case “extremely nasty”. Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on 1 December and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. The executive is the daughter of Huawei’s founder. If extradited to the US, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, a Canadian court heard on Friday, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge. No decision was reached at the extradition hearing after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

In a statement on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the vice-foreign minister, Le Yucheng, had issued the warning to release Meng to Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, summoning him to lodge a “strong protest”. China’s official news agency Xinhua reported Le summoned the Canadian ambassador, John McCallum, in protest and urged Ottawa to release Meng immediately or face “grave consequences that the Canadian side should be held accountable for”. Adam Austen, a spokesman for the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said on Saturday there was “nothing to add beyond what the minister said yesterday”. Freeland told reporters on Friday the relationship with China was important and valued, and Canada’s ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese that Meng would receive consular access.

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Greece wants to be everyone’s friend.

Putin Doesn’t Rule Out Extending Turkish Stream Pipeline Into Greece (RT)

Russia is ready to cooperate with Athens in the energy sector, President Vladimir Putin has said, not ruling out the prospect of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Greece. “We are ready to carry out large infrastructural energy projects together with Greece. It includes the possibility to link Southern Europe through Greece to the Turkish Stream,” Putin said on Friday during a joint conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Moscow. “A pipeline from Greece to Italy has been nearly completed. The pipe is built, yet there’s no gas there. Yet we’ll think together on how to fill this line with some real product,” Putin added.

“It’s certainly possible, I don’t rule it out, moreover I believe it to be quite realistic.” Such a project increases the significance of Greece as the “regional energy hub,” Tsipras said on his part, complaining, however, over “double standards” the EU bureaucrats have been showing over the Turkish Stream and other projects involving Russia. Greece used to be one of the countries to host a section of the now-deprecated South Stream gas pipeline. The project, however, met stiff resistance in Brussels, which pressed participating countries – namely Bulgaria – to stop working on it. The project was scrapped late in 2014, ultimately giving way to the Turkish Stream

The Turkish Stream was agreed by Russia and Turkey in October 2016. The first branch will deliver gas to Turkish consumers, while the second one will bring it to countries in southern and south-eastern Europe. In November, Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unveiled the offshore section of the pipeline, which is expected to be fully completed late in 2019. So far, there are plans to extend it into Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia.

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Useless reports anyway. These conferences will not solve a thing. Our political systems don’t allow for that.

COP24 Fails To Adopt Key Climated Change Report (BBC)

Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report. It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study. The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C. Keeping to the preferred target would need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world. But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference “welcoming” the document. Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report. Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland. The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording. None was forthcoming. With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.

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